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Chapter 33 In which Mr Ralph Nickleby is relieved, by a very expeditiou_rocess, from all Commerce with his Relations

  • Smike and Newman Noggs, who in his impatience had returned home long befor_he time agreed upon, sat before the fire, listening anxiously to ever_ootstep on the stairs, and the slightest sound that stirred within the house, for the approach of Nicholas. Time had worn on, and it was growing late. H_ad promised to be back in an hour; and his prolonged absence began to excit_onsiderable alarm in the minds of both, as was abundantly testified by th_lank looks they cast upon each other at every new disappointment.
  • At length a coach was heard to stop, and Newman ran out to light Nicholas u_he stairs. Beholding him in the trim described at the conclusion of the las_hapter, he stood aghast in wonder and consternation.
  • 'Don't be alarmed,' said Nicholas, hurrying him back into the room. 'There i_o harm done, beyond what a basin of water can repair.'
  • 'No harm!' cried Newman, passing his hands hastily over the back and arms o_icholas, as if to assure himself that he had broken no bones. 'What have yo_een doing?'
  • 'I know all,' interrupted Nicholas; 'I have heard a part, and guessed th_est. But before I remove one jot of these stains, I must hear the whole fro_ou. You see I am collected. My resolution is taken. Now, my good friend, speak out; for the time for any palliation or concealment is past, and nothin_ill avail Ralph Nickleby now.'
  • 'Your dress is torn in several places; you walk lame, and I am sure you ar_uffering pain,' said Newman. 'Let me see to your hurts first.'
  • 'I have no hurts to see to, beyond a little soreness and stiffness that wil_oon pass off,' said Nicholas, seating himself with some difficulty. 'But if _ad fractured every limb, and still preserved my senses, you should no_andage one till you had told me what I have the right to know. Come,' sai_icholas, giving his hand to Noggs. 'You had a sister of your own, you told m_nce, who died before you fell into misfortune. Now think of her, and tell me, Newman.'
  • 'Yes, I will, I will,' said Noggs. 'I'll tell you the whole truth.'
  • Newman did so. Nicholas nodded his head from time to time, as it corroborate_he particulars he had already gleaned; but he fixed his eyes upon the fire, and did not look round once.
  • His recital ended, Newman insisted upon his young friend's stripping off hi_oat and allowing whatever injuries he had received to be properly tended.
  • Nicholas, after some opposition, at length consented, and, while some prett_evere bruises on his arms and shoulders were being rubbed with oil an_inegar, and various other efficacious remedies which Newman borrowed from th_ifferent lodgers, related in what manner they had been received. The recita_ade a strong impression on the warm imagination of Newman; for when Nichola_ame to the violent part of the quarrel, he rubbed so hard, as to occasion hi_he most exquisite pain, which he would not have exhibited, however, for th_orld, it being perfectly clear that, for the moment, Newman was operating o_ir Mulberry Hawk, and had quite lost sight of his real patient.
  • This martyrdom over, Nicholas arranged with Newman that while he was otherwis_ccupied next morning, arrangements should be made for his mother'_mmediately quitting her present residence, and also for dispatching Miss L_reevy to break the intelligence to her. He then wrapped himself in Smike'_reatcoat, and repaired to the inn where they were to pass the night, an_here (after writing a few lines to Ralph, the delivery of which was to b_ntrusted to Newman next day), he endeavoured to obtain the repose of which h_tood so much in need.
  • Drunken men, they say, may roll down precipices, and be quite unconscious o_ny serious personal inconvenience when their reason returns. The remark ma_ossibly apply to injuries received in other kinds of violent excitement: certain it is, that although Nicholas experienced some pain on first awakenin_ext morning, he sprung out of bed as the clock struck seven, with very littl_ifficulty, and was soon as much on the alert as if nothing had occurred.
  • Merely looking into Smike's room, and telling him that Newman Noggs would cal_or him very shortly, Nicholas descended into the street, and calling _ackney coach, bade the man drive to Mrs Wititterly's, according to th_irection which Newman had given him on the previous night.
  • It wanted a quarter to eight when they reached Cadogan Place. Nicholas bega_o fear that no one might be stirring at that early hour, when he was relieve_y the sight of a female servant, employed in cleaning the door-steps. By thi_unctionary he was referred to the doubtful page, who appeared wit_ishevelled hair and a very warm and glossy face, as of a page who had jus_ot out of bed.
  • By this young gentleman he was informed that Miss Nickleby was then taking he_orning's walk in the gardens before the house. On the question bein_ropounded whether he could go and find her, the page desponded and though_ot; but being stimulated with a shilling, the page grew sanguine and though_e could.
  • 'Say to Miss Nickleby that her brother is here, and in great haste to se_er,' said Nicholas.
  • The plated buttons disappeared with an alacrity most unusual to them, an_icholas paced the room in a state of feverish agitation which made the dela_ven of a minute insupportable. He soon heard a light footstep which he wel_new, and before he could advance to meet her, Kate had fallen on his neck an_urst into tears.
  • 'My darling girl,' said Nicholas as he embraced her. 'How pale you are!'
  • 'I have been so unhappy here, dear brother,' sobbed poor Kate; 'so very, ver_iserable. Do not leave me here, dear Nicholas, or I shall die of a broke_eart.'
  • 'I will leave you nowhere,' answered Nicholas—'never again, Kate,' he cried, moved in spite of himself as he folded her to his heart. 'Tell me that I acte_or the best. Tell me that we parted because I feared to bring misfortune o_our head; that it was a trial to me no less than to yourself, and that if _id wrong it was in ignorance of the world and unknowingly.'
  • 'Why should I tell you what we know so well?' returned Kate soothingly.
  • 'Nicholas—dear Nicholas—how can you give way thus?'
  • 'It is such bitter reproach to me to know what you have undergone,' returne_er brother; 'to see you so much altered, and yet so kind and patient—God!'
  • cried Nicholas, clenching his fist and suddenly changing his tone and manner,
  • 'it sets my whole blood on fire again. You must leave here with me directly; you should not have slept here last night, but that I knew all this too late.
  • To whom can I speak, before we drive away?'
  • This question was most opportunely put, for at that instant Mr Wititterl_alked in, and to him Kate introduced her brother, who at once announced hi_urpose, and the impossibility of deferring it.
  • 'The quarter's notice,' said Mr Wititterly, with the gravity of a man on th_ight side, 'is not yet half expired. Therefore—'
  • 'Therefore,' interposed Nicholas, 'the quarter's salary must be lost, sir. Yo_ill excuse this extreme haste, but circumstances require that I shoul_mmediately remove my sister, and I have not a moment's time to lose. Whateve_he brought here I will send for, if you will allow me, in the course of th_ay.'
  • Mr Wititterly bowed, but offered no opposition to Kate's immediate departure; with which, indeed, he was rather gratified than otherwise, Sir Tumley Snuffi_aving given it as his opinion, that she rather disagreed with Mr_ititterly's constitution.
  • 'With regard to the trifle of salary that is due,' said Mr Wititterly, '_ill'—here he was interrupted by a violent fit of coughing—'I will—owe it t_iss Nickleby.'
  • Mr Wititterly, it should be observed, was accustomed to owe small accounts, and to leave them owing. All men have some little pleasant way of their own; and this was Mr Wititterly's.
  • 'If you please,' said Nicholas. And once more offering a hurried apology fo_o sudden a departure, he hurried Kate into the vehicle, and bade the ma_rive with all speed into the city.
  • To the city they went accordingly, with all the speed the hackney coach coul_ake; and as the horses happened to live at Whitechapel and to be in the habi_f taking their breakfast there, when they breakfasted at all, they performe_he journey with greater expedition than could reasonably have been expected.
  • Nicholas sent Kate upstairs a few minutes before him, that his unlooked-fo_ppearance might not alarm his mother, and when the way had been paved, presented himself with much duty and affection. Newman had not been idle, fo_here was a little cart at the door, and the effects were hurrying ou_lready.
  • Now, Mrs Nickleby was not the sort of person to be told anything in a hurry, or rather to comprehend anything of peculiar delicacy or importance on a shor_otice. Wherefore, although the good lady had been subjected to a full hour'_reparation by little Miss La Creevy, and was now addressed in most luci_erms both by Nicholas and his sister, she was in a state of singula_ewilderment and confusion, and could by no means be made to comprehend th_ecessity of such hurried proceedings.
  • 'Why don't you ask your uncle, my dear Nicholas, what he can possibly mean b_t?' said Mrs Nickleby.
  • 'My dear mother,' returned Nicholas, 'the time for talking has gone by. Ther_s but one step to take, and that is to cast him off with the scorn an_ndignation he deserves. Your own honour and good name demand that, after th_iscovery of his vile proceedings, you should not be beholden to him one hour, even for the shelter of these bare walls.'
  • 'To be sure,' said Mrs Nickleby, crying bitterly, 'he is a brute, a monster; and the walls are very bare, and want painting too, and I have had thi_eiling whitewashed at the expense of eighteen-pence, which is a ver_istressing thing, considering that it is so much gone into your uncle'_ocket. I never could have believed it— never.'
  • 'Nor I, nor anybody else,' said Nicholas.
  • 'Lord bless my life!' exclaimed Mrs Nickleby. 'To think that that Sir Mulberr_awk should be such an abandoned wretch as Miss La Creevy says he is, Nicholas, my dear; when I was congratulating myself every day on his being a_dmirer of our dear Kate's, and thinking what a thing it would be for th_amily if he was to become connected with us, and use his interest to get yo_ome profitable government place. There are very good places to be got abou_he court, I know; for a friend of ours (Miss Cropley, at Exeter, my dea_ate, you recollect), he had one, and I know that it was the chief part of hi_uty to wear silk stockings, and a bag wig like a black watch-pocket; and t_hink that it should come to this after all—oh, dear, dear, it's enough t_ill one, that it is!' With which expressions of sorrow, Mrs Nickleby gav_resh vent to her grief, and wept piteously.
  • As Nicholas and his sister were by this time compelled to superintend th_emoval of the few articles of furniture, Miss La Creevy devoted herself t_he consolation of the matron, and observed with great kindness of manner tha_he must really make an effort, and cheer up.
  • 'Oh I dare say, Miss La Creevy,' returned Mrs Nickleby, with a petulance no_nnatural in her unhappy circumstances, 'it's very easy to say cheer up, bu_f you had as many occasions to cheer up as I have had—and there,' said Mr_ickleby, stopping short. 'Think of Mr Pyke and Mr Pluck, two of the mos_erfect gentlemen that ever lived, what am I too say to them—what can I say t_hem? Why, if I was to say to them, "I'm told your friend Sir Mulberry is _ase wretch," they'd laugh at me.'
  • 'They will laugh no more at us, I take it,' said Nicholas, advancing. 'Come, mother, there is a coach at the door, and until Monday, at all events, we wil_eturn to our old quarters.'
  • '—Where everything is ready, and a hearty welcome into the bargain,' adde_iss La Creevy. 'Now, let me go with you downstairs.'
  • But Mrs Nickleby was not to be so easily moved, for first she insisted o_oing upstairs to see that nothing had been left, and then on going downstair_o see that everything had been taken away; and when she was getting into th_oach she had a vision of a forgotten coffee-pot on the back-kitchen hob, an_fter she was shut in, a dismal recollection of a green umbrella behind som_nknown door. At last Nicholas, in a condition of absolute despair, ordere_he coachman to drive away, and in the unexpected jerk of a sudden starting, Mrs Nickleby lost a shilling among the straw, which fortunately confined he_ttention to the coach until it was too late to remember anything else.
  • Having seen everything safely out, discharged the servant, and locked th_oor, Nicholas jumped into a cabriolet and drove to a bye place near Golde_quare where he had appointed to meet Noggs; and so quickly had everythin_een done, that it was barely half-past nine when he reached the place o_eeting.
  • 'Here is the letter for Ralph,' said Nicholas, 'and here the key. When yo_ome to me this evening, not a word of last night. Ill news travels fast, an_hey will know it soon enough. Have you heard if he was much hurt?'
  • Newman shook his head.
  • 'I will ascertain that myself without loss of time,' said Nicholas.
  • 'You had better take some rest,' returned Newman. 'You are fevered and ill.'
  • Nicholas waved his hand carelessly, and concealing the indisposition he reall_elt, now that the excitement which had sustained him was over, took a hurrie_arewell of Newman Noggs, and left him.
  • Newman was not three minutes' walk from Golden Square, but in the course o_hat three minutes he took the letter out of his hat and put it in agai_wenty times at least. First the front, then the back, then the sides, the_he superscription, then the seal, were objects of Newman's admiration. The_e held it at arm's length as if to take in the whole at one delicious survey, and then he rubbed his hands in a perfect ecstasy with his commission.
  • He reached the office, hung his hat on its accustomed peg, laid the letter an_ey upon the desk, and waited impatiently until Ralph Nickleby should appear.
  • After a few minutes, the well-known creaking of his boots was heard on th_tairs, and then the bell rung.
  • 'Has the post come in?'
  • 'No.'
  • 'Any other letters?'
  • 'One.' Newman eyed him closely, and laid it on the desk.
  • 'What's this?' asked Ralph, taking up the key.
  • 'Left with the letter;—a boy brought them—quarter of an hour ago, or less.'
  • Ralph glanced at the direction, opened the letter, and read as follows:—
  • 'You are known to me now. There are no reproaches I could heap upon your hea_hich would carry with them one thousandth part of the grovelling shame tha_his assurance will awaken even in your breast.
  • 'Your brother's widow and her orphan child spurn the shelter of your roof, an_hun you with disgust and loathing. Your kindred renounce you, for they kno_o shame but the ties of blood which bind them in name with you.
  • 'You are an old man, and I leave you to the grave. May every recollection o_our life cling to your false heart, and cast their darkness on your death- bed.'
  • Ralph Nickleby read this letter twice, and frowning heavily, fell into a fi_f musing; the paper fluttered from his hand and dropped upon the floor, bu_e clasped his fingers, as if he held it still.
  • Suddenly, he started from his seat, and thrusting it all crumpled into hi_ocket, turned furiously to Newman Noggs, as though to ask him why h_ingered. But Newman stood unmoved, with his back towards him, following up, with the worn and blackened stump of an old pen, some figures in an Interest- table which was pasted against the wall, and apparently quite abstracted fro_very other object.