Chapter 27 Mrs Nickleby becomes acquainted with Messrs Pyke and Pluck,
whose Affection and Interest are beyond all Bounds
Mrs Nickleby had not felt so proud and important for many a day, as when, o_eaching home, she gave herself wholly up to the pleasant visions which ha_ccompanied her on her way thither. Lady Mulberry Hawk—that was the prevalen_dea. Lady Mulberry Hawk!—On Tuesday last, at St George's, Hanover Square, b_he Right Reverend the Bishop of Llandaff, Sir Mulberry Hawk, of Mulberr_astle, North Wales, to Catherine, only daughter of the late Nichola_ickleby, Esquire, of Devonshire. 'Upon my word!' cried Mrs Nicholas Nickleby,
'it sounds very well.'
Having dispatched the ceremony, with its attendant festivities, to the perfec_atisfaction of her own mind, the sanguine mother pictured to her imaginatio_ long train of honours and distinctions which could not fail to accompan_ate in her new and brilliant sphere. She would be presented at court, o_ourse. On the anniversary of her birthday, which was upon the nineteenth o_uly ('at ten minutes past three o'clock in the morning,' thought Mrs Nickleb_n a parenthesis, 'for I recollect asking what o'clock it was'), Sir Mulberr_ould give a great feast to all his tenants, and would return them three and _alf per cent on the amount of their last half-year's rent, as would be full_escribed and recorded in the fashionable intelligence, to the immeasurabl_elight and admiration of all the readers thereof. Kate's picture, too, woul_e in at least half-a-dozen of the annuals, and on the opposite page woul_ppear, in delicate type, 'Lines on contemplating the Portrait of Lad_ulberry Hawk. By Sir Dingleby Dabber.' Perhaps some one annual, of mor_omprehensive design than its fellows, might even contain a portrait of th_other of Lady Mulberry Hawk, with lines by the father of Sir Dingleby Dabber.
More unlikely things had come to pass. Less interesting portraits ha_ppeared. As this thought occurred to the good lady, her countenanc_nconsciously assumed that compound expression of simpering and sleepines_hich, being common to all such portraits, is perhaps one reason why they ar_lways so charming and agreeable.
With such triumphs of aerial architecture did Mrs Nickleby occupy the whol_vening after her accidental introduction to Ralph's titled friends; an_reams, no less prophetic and equally promising, haunted her sleep that night.
She was preparing for her frugal dinner next day, still occupied with the sam_deas—a little softened down perhaps by sleep and daylight—when the girl wh_ttended her, partly for company, and partly to assist in the househol_ffairs, rushed into the room in unwonted agitation, and announced that tw_entlemen were waiting in the passage for permission to walk upstairs.
'Bless my heart!' cried Mrs Nickleby, hastily arranging her cap and front, 'i_t should be—dear me, standing in the passage all this time—why don't you g_nd ask them to walk up, you stupid thing?'
While the girl was gone on this errand, Mrs Nickleby hastily swept into _upboard all vestiges of eating and drinking; which she had scarcely done, an_eated herself with looks as collected as she could assume, when tw_entlemen, both perfect strangers, presented themselves.
'How do you DO?' said one gentleman, laying great stress on the last word o_he inquiry.
'HOW do you do?' said the other gentleman, altering the emphasis, as if t_ive variety to the salutation.
Mrs Nickleby curtseyed and smiled, and curtseyed again, and remarked, rubbin_er hands as she did so, that she hadn't the— really—the honour to—
'To know us,' said the first gentleman. 'The loss has been ours, Mrs Nickleby.
Has the loss been ours, Pyke?'
'It has, Pluck,' answered the other gentleman.
'We have regretted it very often, I believe, Pyke?' said the first gentleman.
'Very often, Pluck,' answered the second.
'But now,' said the first gentleman, 'now we have the happiness we have pine_nd languished for. Have we pined and languished for this happiness, Pyke, o_ave we not?'
'You know we have, Pluck,' said Pyke, reproachfully.
'You hear him, ma'am?' said Mr Pluck, looking round; 'you hear th_nimpeachable testimony of my friend Pyke—that reminds me,— formalities, formalities, must not be neglected in civilised society. Pyke—Mrs Nickleby.'
Mr Pyke laid his hand upon his heart, and bowed low.
'Whether I shall introduce myself with the same formality,' said M_luck—'whether I shall say myself that my name is Pluck, or whether I shal_sk my friend Pyke (who being now regularly introduced, is competent to th_ffice) to state for me, Mrs Nickleby, that my name is Pluck; whether I shal_laim your acquaintance on the plain ground of the strong interest I take i_our welfare, or whether I shall make myself known to you as the friend of Si_ulberry Hawk— these, Mrs Nickleby, are considerations which I leave to you t_etermine.'
'Any friend of Sir Mulberry Hawk's requires no better introduction
to me,' observed Mrs Nickleby, graciously.
'It is delightful to hear you say so,' said Mr Pluck, drawing a
chair close to Mrs Nickleby, and sitting himself down. 'It is refreshing t_now that you hold my excellent friend, Sir Mulberry, in such high esteem. _ord in your ear, Mrs Nickleby. When Sir Mulberry knows it, he will be a happ_an—I say, Mrs Nickleby, a happy man. Pyke, be seated.'
'MY good opinion,' said Mrs Nickleby, and the poor lady exulted in the ide_hat she was marvellously sly,—'my good opinion can be of very littl_onsequence to a gentleman like Sir Mulberry.'
'Of little consequence!' exclaimed Mr Pluck. 'Pyke, of what consequence to ou_riend, Sir Mulberry, is the good opinion of Mrs Nickleby?'
'Of what consequence?' echoed Pyke.
'Ay,' repeated Pluck; 'is it of the greatest consequence?'
'Of the very greatest consequence,' replied Pyke.
'Mrs Nickleby cannot be ignorant,' said Mr Pluck, 'of the immense impressio_hich that sweet girl has—'
'Pluck!' said his friend, 'beware!'
'Pyke is right,' muttered Mr Pluck, after a short pause; 'I was not to mentio_t. Pyke is very right. Thank you, Pyke.'
'Well now, really,' thought Mrs Nickleby within herself. 'Such delicacy a_hat, I never saw!'
Mr Pluck, after feigning to be in a condition of great embarrassment for som_inutes, resumed the conversation by entreating Mrs Nickleby to take no hee_f what he had inadvertently said—to consider him imprudent, rash, injudicious. The only stipulation he would make in his own favour was, tha_he should give him credit for the best intentions.
'But when,' said Mr Pluck, 'when I see so much sweetness and beauty on the on_and, and so much ardour and devotion on the other, I— pardon me, Pyke, _idn't intend to resume that theme. Change the subject, Pyke.'
'We promised Sir Mulberry and Lord Frederick,' said Pyke, 'that we'd call thi_orning and inquire whether you took any cold last night.'
'Not the least in the world last night, sir,' replied Mrs Nickleby, 'with man_hanks to his lordship and Sir Mulberry for doing me the honour to inquire; not the least—which is the more singular, as I really am very subject t_olds, indeed—very subject. I had a cold once,' said Mrs Nickleby, 'I think i_as in the year eighteen hundred and seventeen; let me see, four and five ar_ine, and—yes, eighteen hundred and seventeen, that I thought I never shoul_et rid of; actually and seriously, that I thought I never should get rid of.
I was only cured at last by a remedy that I don't know whether you eve_appened to hear of, Mr Pluck. You have a gallon of water as hot as you ca_ossibly bear it, with a pound of salt, and sixpen'orth of the finest bran, and sit with your head in it for twenty minutes every night just before goin_o bed; at least, I don't mean your head—your feet. It's a most extraordinar_ure—a most extraordinary cure. I used it for the first time, I recollect, th_ay after Christmas Day, and by the middle of April following the cold wa_one. It seems quite a miracle when you come to think of it, for I had it eve_ince the beginning of September.'
'What an afflicting calamity!' said Mr Pyke.
'Perfectly horrid!' exclaimed Mr Pluck.
'But it's worth the pain of hearing, only to know that Mrs Nickleby recovere_t, isn't it, Pluck?' cried Mr Pyke.
'That is the circumstance which gives it such a thrilling interest,' replie_r Pluck.
'But come,' said Pyke, as if suddenly recollecting himself; 'we must no_orget our mission in the pleasure of this interview. We come on a mission, Mrs Nickleby.'
'On a mission,' exclaimed that good lady, to whose mind a definite proposal o_arriage for Kate at once presented itself in lively colours.
'From Sir Mulberry,' replied Pyke. 'You must be very dull here.'
'Rather dull, I confess,' said Mrs Nickleby.
'We bring the compliments of Sir Mulberry Hawk, and a thousand entreaties tha_ou'll take a seat in a private box at the play tonight,' said Mr Pluck.
'Oh dear!' said Mrs Nickleby, 'I never go out at all, never.'
'And that is the very reason, my dear Mrs Nickleby, why you should go ou_onight,' retorted Mr Pluck. 'Pyke, entreat Mrs Nickleby.'
'Oh, pray do,' said Pyke.
'You positively must,' urged Pluck.
'You are very kind,' said Mrs Nickleby, hesitating; 'but—'
'There's not a but in the case, my dear Mrs Nickleby,' remonstrated Mr Pluck;
'not such a word in the vocabulary. Your brother-in-law joins us, Lor_rederick joins us, Sir Mulberry joins us, Pyke joins us—a refusal is out o_he question. Sir Mulberry sends a carriage for you—twenty minutes befor_even to the moment—you'll not be so cruel as to disappoint the whole party, Mrs Nickleby?'
'You are so very pressing, that I scarcely know what to say,' replied th_orthy lady.
'Say nothing; not a word, not a word, my dearest madam,' urged Mr Pluck. 'Mr_ickleby,' said that excellent gentleman, lowering his voice, 'there is th_ost trifling, the most excusable breach of confidence in what I am about t_ay; and yet if my friend Pyke there overheard it—such is that man's delicat_ense of honour, Mrs Nickleby—he'd have me out before dinner-time.'
Mrs Nickleby cast an apprehensive glance at the warlike Pyke, who had walke_o the window; and Mr Pluck, squeezing her hand, went on:
'Your daughter has made a conquest—a conquest on which I may congratulate you.
Sir Mulberry, my dear ma'am, Sir Mulberry is her devoted slave. Hem!'
'Hah!' cried Mr Pyke at this juncture, snatching something from the chimney- piece with a theatrical air. 'What is this! what do I behold!'
'What DO you behold, my dear fellow?' asked Mr Pluck.
'It is the face, the countenance, the expression,' cried Mr Pyke, falling int_is chair with a miniature in his hand; 'feebly portrayed, imperfectly caught, but still THE face, THE countenance, THE expression.'
'I recognise it at this distance!' exclaimed Mr Pluck in a fit of enthusiasm.
'Is it not, my dear madam, the faint similitude of—'
'It is my daughter's portrait,' said Mrs Nickleby, with great pride. And so i_as. And little Miss La Creevy had brought it home for inspection only tw_ights before.
Mr Pyke no sooner ascertained that he was quite right in his conjecture, tha_e launched into the most extravagant encomiums of the divine original; and i_he warmth of his enthusiasm kissed the picture a thousand times, while M_luck pressed Mrs Nickleby's hand to his heart, and congratulated her on th_ossession of such a daughter, with so much earnestness and affection, tha_he tears stood, or seemed to stand, in his eyes. Poor Mrs Nickleby, who ha_istened in a state of enviable complacency at first, became at length quit_verpowered by these tokens of regard for, and attachment to, the family; an_ven the servant girl, who had peeped in at the door, remained rooted to th_pot in astonishment at the ecstasies of the two friendly visitors.
By degrees these raptures subsided, and Mrs Nickleby went on to entertain he_uests with a lament over her fallen fortunes, and a picturesque account o_er old house in the country: comprising a full description of the differen_partments, not forgetting the little store-room, and a lively recollection o_ow many steps you went down to get into the garden, and which way you turne_hen you came out at the parlour door, and what capital fixtures there were i_he kitchen. This last reflection naturally conducted her into the wash-house, where she stumbled upon the brewing utensils, among which she might hav_andered for an hour, if the mere mention of those implements had not, by a_ssociation of ideas, instantly reminded Mr Pyke that he was 'amazin_hirsty.'
'And I'll tell you what,' said Mr Pyke; 'if you'll send round to the public- house for a pot of milk half-and-half, positively and actually I'll drink it.'
And positively and actually Mr Pyke DID drink it, and Mr Pluck helped him, while Mrs Nickleby looked on in divided admiration of the condescension of th_wo, and the aptitude with which they accommodated themselves to the pewter- pot; in explanation of which seeming marvel it may be here observed, tha_entlemen who, like Messrs Pyke and Pluck, live upon their wits (or not s_uch, perhaps, upon the presence of their own wits as upon the absence of wit_n other people) are occasionally reduced to very narrow shifts and straits, and are at such periods accustomed to regale themselves in a very simple an_rimitive manner.
'At twenty minutes before seven, then,' said Mr Pyke, rising, 'the coach wil_e here. One more look—one little look—at that sweet face. Ah! here it is.
Unmoved, unchanged!' This, by the way, was a very remarkable circumstance, miniatures being liable to so many changes of expression—'Oh, Pluck! Pluck!'
Mr Pluck made no other reply than kissing Mrs Nickleby's hand with a grea_how of feeling and attachment; Mr Pyke having done the same, both gentleme_astily withdrew.
Mrs Nickleby was commonly in the habit of giving herself credit for a prett_olerable share of penetration and acuteness, but she had never felt s_atisfied with her own sharp-sightedness as she did that day. She had found i_ll out the night before. She had never seen Sir Mulberry and Kat_ogether—never even heard Sir Mulberry's name—and yet hadn't she said t_erself from the very first, that she saw how the case stood? and what _riumph it was, for there was now no doubt about it. If these flatterin_ttentions to herself were not sufficient proofs, Sir Mulberry's confidentia_riend had suffered the secret to escape him in so many words. 'I am quite i_ove with that dear Mr Pluck, I declare I am,' said Mrs Nickleby.
There was one great source of uneasiness in the midst of this good fortune, and that was the having nobody by, to whom she could confide it. Once or twic_he almost resolved to walk straight to Miss La Creevy's and tell it all t_er. 'But I don't know,' thought Mrs Nickleby; 'she is a very worthy person, but I am afraid too much beneath Sir Mulberry's station for us to make _ompanion of. Poor thing!' Acting upon this grave consideration she rejecte_he idea of taking the little portrait painter into her confidence, an_ontented herself with holding out sundry vague and mysterious hopes o_referment to the servant girl, who received these obscure hints of dawnin_reatness with much veneration and respect.
Punctual to its time came the promised vehicle, which was no hackney coach, but a private chariot, having behind it a footman, whose legs, althoug_omewhat large for his body, might, as mere abstract legs, have set themselve_p for models at the Royal Academy. It was quite exhilarating to hear th_lash and bustle with which he banged the door and jumped up behind after Mr_ickleby was in; and as that good lady was perfectly unconscious that h_pplied the gold-headed end of his long stick to his nose, and so telegraphe_ost disrespectfully to the coachman over her very head, she sat in a state o_uch stiffness and dignity, not a little proud of her position.
At the theatre entrance there was more banging and more bustle, and there wer_lso Messrs Pyke and Pluck waiting to escort her to her box; and so polit_ere they, that Mr Pyke threatened with many oaths to 'smifligate' a very ol_an with a lantern who accidentally stumbled in her way—to the great terror o_rs Nickleby, who, conjecturing more from Mr Pyke's excitement than an_revious acquaintance with the etymology of the word that smifligation an_loodshed must be in the main one and the same thing, was alarmed beyon_xpression, lest something should occur. Fortunately, however, Mr Pyk_onfined himself to mere verbal smifligation, and they reached their box wit_o more serious interruption by the way, than a desire on the part of the sam_ugnacious gentleman to 'smash' the assistant box-keeper for happening t_istake the number.
Mrs Nickleby had scarcely been put away behind the curtain of the box in a_rmchair, when Sir Mulberry and Lord Verisopht arrived, arrayed from th_rowns of their heads to the tips of their gloves, and from the tips of thei_loves to the toes of their boots, in the most elegant and costly manner. Si_ulberry was a little hoarser than on the previous day, and Lord Verisoph_ooked rather sleepy and queer; from which tokens, as well as from th_ircumstance of their both being to a trifling extent unsteady upon thei_egs, Mrs Nickleby justly concluded that they had taken dinner.
'We have been—we have been—toasting your lovely daughter, Mrs Nickleby,'
whispered Sir Mulberry, sitting down behind her.
'Oh, ho!' thought that knowing lady; 'wine in, truth out.—You are very kind, Sir Mulberry.'
'No, no upon my soul!' replied Sir Mulberry Hawk. 'It's you that's kind, upo_y soul it is. It was so kind of you to come tonight.'
'So very kind of you to invite me, you mean, Sir Mulberry,' replied Mr_ickleby, tossing her head, and looking prodigiously sly.
'I am so anxious to know you, so anxious to cultivate your good opinion, s_esirous that there should be a delicious kind of harmonious famil_nderstanding between us,' said Sir Mulberry, 'that you mustn't think I'_isinterested in what I do. I'm infernal selfish; I am—upon my soul I am.'
'I am sure you can't be selfish, Sir Mulberry!' replied Mrs Nickleby. 'Yo_ave much too open and generous a countenance for that.'
'What an extraordinary observer you are!' said Sir Mulberry Hawk.
'Oh no, indeed, I don't see very far into things, Sir Mulberry,' replied Mr_ickleby, in a tone of voice which left the baronet to infer that she saw ver_ar indeed.
'I am quite afraid of you,' said the baronet. 'Upon my soul,' repeated Si_ulberry, looking round to his companions; 'I am afraid of Mrs Nickleby. Sh_s so immensely sharp.'
Messrs Pyke and Pluck shook their heads mysteriously, and observed togethe_hat they had found that out long ago; upon which Mrs Nickleby tittered, an_ir Mulberry laughed, and Pyke and Pluck roared.
'But where's my brother-in-law, Sir Mulberry?' inquired Mrs Nickleby. '_houldn't be here without him. I hope he's coming.'
'Pyke,' said Sir Mulberry, taking out his toothpick and lolling back in hi_hair, as if he were too lazy to invent a reply to this question. 'Where'_alph Nickleby?'
'Pluck,' said Pyke, imitating the baronet's action, and turning the lie ove_o his friend, 'where's Ralph Nickleby?'
Mr Pluck was about to return some evasive reply, when the hustle caused by _arty entering the next box seemed to attract the attention of all fou_entlemen, who exchanged glances of much meaning. The new party beginning t_onverse together, Sir Mulberry suddenly assumed the character of a mos_ttentive listener, and implored his friends not to breathe—not to breathe.
'Why not?' said Mrs Nickleby. 'What is the matter?'
'Hush!' replied Sir Mulberry, laying his hand on her arm. 'Lord Frederick, d_ou recognise the tones of that voice?'
'Deyvle take me if I didn't think it was the voice of Miss Nickleby.'
'Lor, my lord!' cried Miss Nickleby's mama, thrusting her head round th_urtain. 'Why actually—Kate, my dear, Kate.'
'YOU here, mama! Is it possible!'
'Possible, my dear? Yes.'
'Why who—who on earth is that you have with you, mama?' said Kate, shrinkin_ack as she caught sight of a man smiling and kissing his hand.
'Who do you suppose, my dear?' replied Mrs Nickleby, bending towards Mr_ititterly, and speaking a little louder for that lady's edification. 'There'_r Pyke, Mr Pluck, Sir Mulberry Hawk, and Lord Frederick Verisopht.'
'Gracious Heaven!' thought Kate hurriedly. 'How comes she in such society?'
Now, Kate thought thus SO hurriedly, and the surprise was so great, an_oreover brought back so forcibly the recollection of what had passed a_alph's delectable dinner, that she turned extremely pale and appeared greatl_gitated, which symptoms being observed by Mrs Nickleby, were at once set dow_y that acute lady as being caused and occasioned by violent love. But, although she was in no small degree delighted by this discovery, whic_eflected so much credit on her own quickness of perception, it did not lesse_er motherly anxiety in Kate's behalf; and accordingly, with a vast quantit_f trepidation, she quitted her own box to hasten into that of Mrs Wititterly.
Mrs Wititterly, keenly alive to the glory of having a lord and a baronet amon_er visiting acquaintance, lost no time in signing to Mr Wititterly to ope_he door, and thus it was that in less than thirty seconds Mrs Nickleby'_arty had made an irruption into Mrs Wititterly's box, which it filled to th_ery door, there being in fact only room for Messrs Pyke and Pluck to get i_heir heads and waistcoats.
'My dear Kate,' said Mrs Nickleby, kissing her daughter affectionately. 'Ho_ll you looked a moment ago! You quite frightened me, I declare!'
'It was mere fancy, mama,—the—the—reflection of the lights perhaps,' replie_ate, glancing nervously round, and finding it impossible to whisper an_aution or explanation.
'Don't you see Sir Mulberry Hawk, my dear?'
Kate bowed slightly, and biting her lip turned her head towards the stage.
But Sir Mulberry Hawk was not to be so easily repulsed, for he advanced wit_xtended hand; and Mrs Nickleby officiously informing Kate of thi_ircumstance, she was obliged to extend her own. Sir Mulberry detained i_hile he murmured a profusion of compliments, which Kate, remembering what ha_assed between them, rightly considered as so many aggravations of the insul_e had already put upon her. Then followed the recognition of Lord Verisopht, and then the greeting of Mr Pyke, and then that of Mr Pluck, and finally, t_omplete the young lady's mortification, she was compelled at Mrs Wititterly'_equest to perform the ceremony of introducing the odious persons, whom sh_egarded with the utmost indignation and abhorrence.
'Mrs Wititterly is delighted,' said Mr Wititterly, rubbing his hands;
'delighted, my lord, I am sure, with this opportunity of contracting a_cquaintance which, I trust, my lord, we shall improve. Julia, my dear, yo_ust not allow yourself to be too much excited, you must not. Indeed you mus_ot. Mrs Wititterly is of a most excitable nature, Sir Mulberry. The snuff o_ candle, the wick of a lamp, the bloom on a peach, the down on a butterfly.
You might blow her away, my lord; you might blow her away.'
Sir Mulberry seemed to think that it would be a great convenience if the lad_ould be blown away. He said, however, that the delight was mutual, and Lor_erisopht added that it was mutual, whereupon Messrs Pyke and Pluck were hear_o murmur from the distance that it was very mutual indeed.
'I take an interest, my lord,' said Mrs Wititterly, with a faint smile, 'suc_n interest in the drama.'
'Ye—es. It's very interesting,' replied Lord Verisopht.
'I'm always ill after Shakespeare,' said Mrs Wititterly. 'I scarcely exist th_ext day; I find the reaction so very great after a tragedy, my lord, an_hakespeare is such a delicious creature.'
'Ye—es!' replied Lord Verisopht. 'He was a clayver man.'
'Do you know, my lord,' said Mrs Wititterly, after a long silence, 'I find _ake so much more interest in his plays, after having been to that dear littl_ull house he was born in! Were you ever there, my lord?'
'No, nayver,' replied Verisopht.
'Then really you ought to go, my lord,' returned Mrs Wititterly, in ver_anguid and drawling accents. 'I don't know how it is, but after you've see_he place and written your name in the little book, somehow or other you see_o be inspired; it kindles up quite a fire within one.'
'Ye—es!' replied Lord Verisopht, 'I shall certainly go there.'
'Julia, my life,' interposed Mr Wititterly, 'you are deceiving hi_ordship—unintentionally, my lord, she is deceiving you. It is your poetica_emperament, my dear—your ethereal soul—your fervid imagination, which throw_ou into a glow of genius and excitement. There is nothing in the place, m_ear—nothing, nothing.'
'I think there must be something in the place,' said Mrs Nickleby, who ha_een listening in silence; 'for, soon after I was married, I went to Stratfor_ith my poor dear Mr Nickleby, in a post-chaise from Birmingham—was it a post- chaise though?' said Mrs Nickleby, considering; 'yes, it must have been _ost-chaise, because I recollect remarking at the time that the driver had _reen shade over his left eye;—in a post-chaise from Birmingham, and after w_ad seen Shakespeare's tomb and birthplace, we went back to the inn there, where we slept that night, and I recollect that all night long I dreamt o_othing but a black gentleman, at full length, in plaster-of-Paris, with _ay-down collar tied with two tassels, leaning against a post and thinking; and when I woke in the morning and described him to Mr Nickleby, he said i_as Shakespeare just as he had been when he was alive, which was very curiou_ndeed. Stratford—Stratford,' continued Mrs Nickleby, considering. 'Yes, I a_ositive about that, because I recollect I was in the family way with my so_icholas at the time, and I had been very much frightened by an Italian imag_oy that very morning. In fact, it was quite a mercy, ma'am,' added Mr_ickleby, in a whisper to Mrs Wititterly, 'that my son didn't turn out to be _hakespeare, and what a dreadful thing that would have been!'
When Mrs Nickleby had brought this interesting anecdote to a close, Pyke an_luck, ever zealous in their patron's cause, proposed the adjournment of _etachment of the party into the next box; and with so much skill were th_reliminaries adjusted, that Kate, despite all she could say or do to th_ontrary, had no alternative but to suffer herself to be led away by Si_ulberry Hawk. Her mother and Mr Pluck accompanied them, but the worthy lady, pluming herself upon her discretion, took particular care not so much as t_ook at her daughter during the whole evening, and to seem wholly absorbed i_he jokes and conversation of Mr Pluck, who, having been appointed sentry ove_rs Nickleby for that especial purpose, neglected, on his side, no possibl_pportunity of engrossing her attention.
Lord Frederick Verisopht remained in the next box to be talked to by Mr_ititterly, and Mr Pyke was in attendance to throw in a word or two whe_ecessary. As to Mr Wititterly, he was sufficiently busy in the body of th_ouse, informing such of his friends and acquaintance as happened to be there, that those two gentlemen upstairs, whom they had seen in conversation with Mr_., were the distinguished Lord Frederick Verisopht and his most intimat_riend, the gay Sir Mulberry Hawk—a communication which inflamed severa_espectable house-keepers with the utmost jealousy and rage, and reduce_ixteen unmarried daughters to the very brink of despair.
The evening came to an end at last, but Kate had yet to be handed downstair_y the detested Sir Mulberry; and so skilfully were the manoeuvres of Messr_yke and Pluck conducted, that she and the baronet were the last of the party, and were even—without an appearance of effort or design—left at some littl_istance behind.
'Don't hurry, don't hurry,' said Sir Mulberry, as Kate hastened on, an_ttempted to release her arm.
She made no reply, but still pressed forward.
'Nay, then—' coolly observed Sir Mulberry, stopping her outright.
'You had best not seek to detain me, sir!' said Kate, angrily.
'And why not?' retorted Sir Mulberry. 'My dear creature, now why do you kee_p this show of displeasure?'
'SHOW!' repeated Kate, indignantly. 'How dare you presume to speak to me, sir—to address me—to come into my presence?'
'You look prettier in a passion, Miss Nickleby,' said Sir Mulberry Hawk, stooping down, the better to see her face.
'I hold you in the bitterest detestation and contempt, sir,' said Kate. 'I_ou find any attraction in looks of disgust and aversion, you—let me rejoin m_riends, sir, instantly. Whatever considerations may have withheld me thu_ar, I will disregard them all, and take a course that even YOU might feel, i_ou do not immediately suffer me to proceed.'
Sir Mulberry smiled, and still looking in her face and retaining her arm, walked towards the door.
'If no regard for my sex or helpless situation will induce you to desist fro_his coarse and unmanly persecution,' said Kate, scarcely knowing, in th_umult of her passions, what she said,—'I have a brother who will resent i_early, one day.'
'Upon my soul!' exclaimed Sir Mulberry, as though quietly communing wit_imself; passing his arm round her waist as he spoke, 'she looks mor_eautiful, and I like her better in this mood, than when her eyes are cas_own, and she is in perfect repose!'
How Kate reached the lobby where her friends were waiting she never knew, bu_he hurried across it without at all regarding them, and disengaged hersel_uddenly from her companion, sprang into the coach, and throwing herself int_ts darkest corner burst into tears.
Messrs Pyke and Pluck, knowing their cue, at once threw the party into grea_ommotion by shouting for the carriages, and getting up a violent quarrel wit_undry inoffensive bystanders; in the midst of which tumult they put th_ffrighted Mrs Nickleby in her chariot, and having got her safely off, turne_heir thoughts to Mrs Wititterly, whose attention also they had no_ffectually distracted from the young lady, by throwing her into a state o_he utmost bewilderment and consternation. At length, the conveyance in whic_he had come rolled off too with its load, and the four worthies, being lef_lone under the portico, enjoyed a hearty laugh together.
'There,' said Sir Mulberry, turning to his noble friend. 'Didn't I tell yo_ast night that if we could find where they were going by bribing a servan_hrough my fellow, and then established ourselves close by with the mother, these people's honour would be our own? Why here it is, done in four-and- twenty hours.'
'Ye—es,' replied the dupe. 'But I have been tied to the old woman all ni- ight.'
'Hear him,' said Sir Mulberry, turning to his two friends. 'Hear thi_iscontented grumbler. Isn't it enough to make a man swear never to help hi_n his plots and schemes again? Isn't it an infernal shame?'
Pyke asked Pluck whether it was not an infernal shame, and Pluck asked Pyke; but neither answered.
'Isn't it the truth?' demanded Verisopht. 'Wasn't it so?'
'Wasn't it so!' repeated Sir Mulberry. 'How would you have had it? How coul_e have got a general invitation at first sight—come when you like, go whe_ou like, stop as long as you like, do what you like—if you, the lord, had no_ade yourself agreeable to the foolish mistress of the house? Do I care fo_his girl, except as your friend? Haven't I been sounding your praises in he_ars, and bearing her pretty sulks and peevishness all night for you? Wha_ort of stuff do you think I'm made of? Would I do this for every man? Don't _eserve even gratitude in return?'
'You're a deyvlish good fellow,' said the poor young lord, taking his friend'_rm. 'Upon my life you're a deyvlish good fellow, Hawk.'
'And I have done right, have I?' demanded Sir Mulberry.
'And like a poor, silly, good-natured, friendly dog as I am, eh?'
'Ye—es, ye—es; like a friend,' replied the other.
'Well then,' replied Sir Mulberry, 'I'm satisfied. And now let's go and hav_ur revenge on the German baron and the Frenchman, who cleaned you out s_andsomely last night.'
With these words the friendly creature took his companion's arm and led hi_way, turning half round as he did so, and bestowing a wink and a contemptuou_mile on Messrs Pyke and Pluck, who, cramming their handkerchiefs into thei_ouths to denote their silent enjoyment of the whole proceedings, followe_heir patron and his victim at a little distance.