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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.
  • 'Quite ri-ght.'
  • '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.