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Chapter 11 Newman Noggs inducts Mrs and Miss Nickleby into their Ne_welling in the City

  • Miss Nickleby's reflections, as she wended her way homewards, were of tha_esponding nature which the occurrences of the morning had been sufficientl_alculated to awaken. Her uncle's was not a manner likely to dispel any doubt_r apprehensions she might have formed, in the outset, neither was the glimps_he had had of Madame Mantalini's establishment by any means encouraging. I_as with many gloomy forebodings and misgivings, therefore, that she looke_orward, with a heavy heart, to the opening of her new career.
  • If her mother's consolations could have restored her to a pleasanter and mor_nviable state of mind, there were abundance of them to produce the effect. B_he time Kate reached home, the good lady had called to mind two authenti_ases of milliners who had been possessed of considerable property, thoug_hether they had acquired it all in business, or had had a capital to star_ith, or had been lucky and married to advantage, she could not exactl_emember. However, as she very logically remarked, there must have been SOM_oung person in that way of business who had made a fortune without havin_nything to begin with, and that being taken for granted, why should not Kat_o the same? Miss La Creevy, who was a member of the little council, venture_o insinuate some doubts relative to the probability of Miss Nickleby'_rriving at this happy consummation in the compass of an ordinary lifetime; but the good lady set that question entirely at rest, by informing them tha_he had a presentiment on the subject—a species of second-sight with which sh_ad been in the habit of clenching every argument with the deceased M_ickleby, and, in nine cases and three-quarters out of every ten, determinin_t the wrong way.
  • 'I am afraid it is an unhealthy occupation,' said Miss La Creevy. 'I recollec_etting three young milliners to sit to me, when I first began to paint, and _emember that they were all very pale and sickly.'
  • 'Oh! that's not a general rule by any means,' observed Mrs Nickleby; 'for _emember, as well as if it was only yesterday, employing one that I wa_articularly recommended to, to make me a scarlet cloak at the time whe_carlet cloaks were fashionable, and she had a very red face—a very red face, indeed.'
  • 'Perhaps she drank,' suggested Miss La Creevy.
  • 'I don't know how that may have been,' returned Mrs Nickleby: 'but I know sh_ad a very red face, so your argument goes for nothing.'
  • In this manner, and with like powerful reasoning, did the worthy matron mee_very little objection that presented itself to the new scheme of the morning.
  • Happy Mrs Nickleby! A project had but to be new, and it came home to her mind, brightly varnished and gilded as a glittering toy.
  • This question disposed of, Kate communicated her uncle's desire about th_mpty house, to which Mrs Nickleby assented with equal readiness, characteristically remarking, that, on the fine evenings, it would be _leasant amusement for her to walk to the West end to fetch her daughter home; and no less characteristically forgetting, that there were such things as we_ights and bad weather to be encountered in almost every week of the year.
  • 'I shall be sorry—truly sorry to leave you, my kind friend,' said Kate, o_hom the good feeling of the poor miniature painter had made a dee_mpression.
  • 'You shall not shake me off, for all that,' replied Miss La Creevy, with a_uch sprightliness as she could assume. 'I shall see you very often, and com_nd hear how you get on; and if, in all London, or all the wide world besides, there is no other heart that takes an interest in your welfare, there will b_ne little lonely woman that prays for it night and day.'
  • With this, the poor soul, who had a heart big enough for Gog, the guardia_enius of London, and enough to spare for Magog to boot, after making a grea_any extraordinary faces which would have secured her an ample fortune, coul_he have transferred them to ivory or canvas, sat down in a corner, and ha_hat she termed 'a real good cry.'
  • But no crying, or talking, or hoping, or fearing, could keep off the dreade_aturday afternoon, or Newman Noggs either; who, punctual to his time, limpe_p to the door, and breathed a whiff of cordial gin through the keyhole, exactly as such of the church clocks in the neighbourhood as agreed amon_hemselves about the time, struck five. Newman waited for the last stroke, an_hen knocked.
  • 'From Mr Ralph Nickleby,' said Newman, announcing his errand, when he go_pstairs, with all possible brevity.
  • 'We shall be ready directly,' said Kate. 'We have not much to carry, but _ear we must have a coach.'
  • 'I'll get one,' replied Newman.
  • 'Indeed you shall not trouble yourself,' said Mrs Nickleby.
  • 'I will,' said Newman.
  • 'I can't suffer you to think of such a thing,' said Mrs Nickleby.
  • 'You can't help it,' said Newman.
  • 'Not help it!'
  • 'No; I thought of it as I came along; but didn't get one, thinking yo_ightn't be ready. I think of a great many things. Nobody can prevent that.'
  • 'Oh yes, I understand you, Mr Noggs,' said Mrs Nickleby. 'Our thoughts ar_ree, of course. Everybody's thoughts are their own, clearly.'
  • 'They wouldn't be, if some people had their way,' muttered Newman.
  • 'Well, no more they would, Mr Noggs, and that's very true,' rejoined Mr_ickleby. 'Some people to be sure are such—how's your master?'
  • Newman darted a meaning glance at Kate, and replied with a strong emphasis o_he last word of his answer, that Mr Ralph Nickleby was well, and sent hi_OVE.
  • 'I am sure we are very much obliged to him,' observed Mrs Nickleby.
  • 'Very,' said Newman. 'I'll tell him so.'
  • It was no very easy matter to mistake Newman Noggs, after having once see_im, and as Kate, attracted by the singularity of his manner (in which on thi_ccasion, however, there was something respectful and even delicate, notwithstanding the abruptness of his speech), looked at him more closely, sh_ecollected having caught a passing glimpse of that strange figure before.
  • 'Excuse my curiosity,' she said, 'but did I not see you in the coachyard, o_he morning my brother went away to Yorkshire?'
  • Newman cast a wistful glance on Mrs Nickleby and said 'No,' most unblushingly.
  • 'No!' exclaimed Kate, 'I should have said so anywhere.'
  • 'You'd have said wrong,' rejoined Newman. 'It's the first time I've been ou_or three weeks. I've had the gout.'
  • Newman was very, very far from having the appearance of a gouty subject, an_o Kate could not help thinking; but the conference was cut short by Mr_ickleby's insisting on having the door shut, lest Mr Noggs should take cold, and further persisting in sending the servant girl for a coach, for fear h_hould bring on another attack of his disorder. To both conditions, Newman wa_ompelled to yield. Presently, the coach came; and, after many sorrowfu_arewells, and a great deal of running backwards and forwards across th_avement on the part of Miss La Creevy, in the course of which the yello_urban came into violent contact with sundry foot-passengers, it (that is t_ay the coach, not the turban) went away again, with the two ladies and thei_uggage inside; and Newman, despite all Mrs Nickleby's assurances that i_ould be his death—on the box beside the driver.
  • They went into the city, turning down by the river side; and, after a long an_ery slow drive, the streets being crowded at that hour with vehicles of ever_ind, stopped in front of a large old dingy house in Thames Street: the doo_nd windows of which were so bespattered with mud, that it would have appeare_o have been uninhabited for years.
  • The door of this deserted mansion Newman opened with a key which he took ou_f his hat—in which, by-the-bye, in consequence of the dilapidated state o_is pockets, he deposited everything, and would most likely have carried hi_oney if he had had any—and the coach being discharged, he led the way int_he interior of the mansion.
  • Old, and gloomy, and black, in truth it was, and sullen and dark were th_ooms, once so bustling with life and enterprise. There was a wharf behind, opening on the Thames. An empty dog-kennel, some bones of animals, fragment_f iron hoops, and staves of old casks, lay strewn about, but no life wa_tirring there. It was a picture of cold, silent decay.
  • 'This house depresses and chills one,' said Kate, 'and seems as if some bligh_ad fallen on it. If I were superstitious, I should be almost inclined t_elieve that some dreadful crime had been perpetrated within these old walls, and that the place had never prospered since. How frowning and how dark i_ooks!'
  • 'Lord, my dear,' replied Mrs Nickleby, 'don't talk in that way, or you'l_righten me to death.'
  • 'It is only my foolish fancy, mama,' said Kate, forcing a smile.
  • 'Well, then, my love, I wish you would keep your foolish fancy to yourself, and not wake up MY foolish fancy to keep it company,' retorted Mrs Nickleby.
  • 'Why didn't you think of all this before— you are so careless—we might hav_sked Miss La Creevy to keep us company or borrowed a dog, or a thousan_hings—but it always was the way, and was just the same with your poor dea_ather. Unless I thought of everything—' This was Mrs Nickleby's usua_ommencement of a general lamentation, running through a dozen or so o_omplicated sentences addressed to nobody in particular, and into which sh_ow launched until her breath was exhausted.
  • Newman appeared not to hear these remarks, but preceded them to a couple o_ooms on the first floor, which some kind of attempt had been made to rende_abitable. In one, were a few chairs, a table, an old hearth-rug, and som_aded baize; and a fire was ready laid in the grate. In the other stood an ol_ent bedstead, and a few scanty articles of chamber furniture.
  • 'Well, my dear,' said Mrs Nickleby, trying to be pleased, 'now isn't thi_houghtful and considerate of your uncle? Why, we should not have had anythin_ut the bed we bought yesterday, to lie down upon, if it hadn't been for hi_houghtfulness!'
  • 'Very kind, indeed,' replied Kate, looking round.
  • Newman Noggs did not say that he had hunted up the old furniture they saw, from attic and cellar; or that he had taken in the halfpennyworth of milk fo_ea that stood upon a shelf, or filled the rusty kettle on the hob, o_ollected the woodchips from the wharf, or begged the coals. But the notion o_alph Nickleby having directed it to be done, tickled his fancy so much, tha_e could not refrain from cracking all his ten fingers in succession: at whic_erformance Mrs Nickleby was rather startled at first, but supposing it to b_n some remote manner connected with the gout, did not remark upon.
  • 'We need detain you no longer, I think,' said Kate.
  • 'Is there nothing I can do?' asked Newman.
  • 'Nothing, thank you,' rejoined Miss Nickleby.
  • 'Perhaps, my dear, Mr Noggs would like to drink our healths,' said Mr_ickleby, fumbling in her reticule for some small coin.
  • 'I think, mama,' said Kate hesitating, and remarking Newman's averted face,
  • 'you would hurt his feelings if you offered it.'
  • Newman Noggs, bowing to the young lady more like a gentleman than th_iserable wretch he seemed, placed his hand upon his breast, and, pausing fo_ moment, with the air of a man who struggles to speak but is uncertain wha_o say, quitted the room.
  • As the jarring echoes of the heavy house-door, closing on its latch, reverberated dismally through the building, Kate felt half tempted to call hi_ack, and beg him to remain a little while; but she was ashamed to own he_ears, and Newman Noggs was on his road homewards.