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Chapter 41 Containing some Romantic Passages between Mrs Nickleby and th_entleman in the Small-clothes next Door

  • Ever since her last momentous conversation with her son, Mrs Nickleby ha_egun to display unusual care in the adornment of her person, graduall_uperadding to those staid and matronly habiliments, which had, up to tha_ime, formed her ordinary attire, a variety of embellishments and decorations, slight perhaps in themselves, but, taken together, and considered wit_eference to the subject of her disclosure, of no mean importance. Even he_lack dress assumed something of a deadly-lively air from the jaunty style i_hich it was worn; and, eked out as its lingering attractions were; by _rudent disposal, here and there, of certain juvenile ornaments of little o_o value, which had, for that reason alone, escaped the general wreck and bee_ermitted to slumber peacefully in odd corners of old drawers and boxes wher_aylight seldom shone, her mourning garments assumed quite a new character.
  • From being the outward tokens of respect and sorrow for the dead, they becam_onverted into signals of very slaughterous and killing designs upon th_iving.
  • Mrs Nickleby might have been stimulated to this proceeding by a lofty sense o_uty, and impulses of unquestionable excellence. She might, by this time, hav_ecome impressed with the sinfulness of long indulgence in unavailing woe, o_he necessity of setting a proper example of neatness and decorum to he_looming daughter. Considerations of duty and responsibility apart, the chang_ight have taken its rise in feelings of the purest and most disintereste_harity. The gentleman next door had been vilified by Nicholas; rudel_tigmatised as a dotard and an idiot; and for these attacks upon hi_nderstanding, Mrs Nickleby was, in some sort, accountable. She might hav_elt that it was the act of a good Christian to show by all means in he_ower, that the abused gentleman was neither the one nor the other. And wha_etter means could she adopt, towards so virtuous and laudable an end, tha_roving to all men, in her own person, that his passion was the most rationa_nd reasonable in the world, and just the very result, of all others, whic_iscreet and thinking persons might have foreseen, from her incautiousl_isplaying her matured charms, without reserve, under the very eye, as i_ere, of an ardent and too-susceptible man?
  • 'Ah!' said Mrs Nickleby, gravely shaking her head; 'if Nicholas knew what hi_oor dear papa suffered before we were engaged, when I used to hate him, h_ould have a little more feeling. Shall I ever forget the morning I looke_cornfully at him when he offered to carry my parasol? Or that night, when _rowned at him? It was a mercy he didn't emigrate. It very nearly drove him t_t.'
  • Whether the deceased might not have been better off if he had emigrated in hi_achelor days, was a question which his relict did not stop to consider; fo_ate entered the room, with her workbox, in this stage of her reflections; an_ much slighter interruption, or no interruption at all, would have diverte_rs Nickleby's thoughts into a new channel at any time.
  • 'Kate, my dear,' said Mrs Nickleby; 'I don't know how it is, but a fine war_ummer day like this, with the birds singing in every direction, always put_e in mind of roast pig, with sage and onion sauce, and made gravy.'
  • 'That's a curious association of ideas, is it not, mama?'
  • 'Upon my word, my dear, I don't know,' replied Mrs Nickleby. 'Roast pig; le_e see. On the day five weeks after you were christened, we had a roast—no, that couldn't have been a pig, either, because I recollect there were a pai_f them to carve, and your poor papa and I could never have thought of sittin_own to two pigs—they must have been partridges. Roast pig! I hardly think w_ver could have had one, now I come to remember, for your papa could neve_ear the sight of them in the shops, and used to say that they always put hi_n mind of very little babies, only the pigs had much fairer complexions; an_e had a horror of little babies, to, because he couldn't very well afford an_ncrease to his family, and had a natural dislike to the subject. It's ver_dd now, what can have put that in my head! I recollect dining once at Mr_evan's, in that broad street round the corner by the coachmaker's, where th_ipsy man fell through the cellar-flap of an empty house nearly a week befor_he quarter-day, and wasn't found till the new tenant went in—and we had roas_ig there. It must be that, I think, that reminds me of it, especially a_here was a little bird in the room that would keep on singing all the time o_inner—at least, not a little bird, for it was a parrot, and he didn't sin_xactly, for he talked and swore dreadfully: but I think it must be that.
  • Indeed I am sure it must. Shouldn't you say so, my dear?'
  • 'I should say there was not a doubt about it, mama,' returned Kate, with _heerful smile.
  • 'No; but DO you think so, Kate?' said Mrs Nickleby, with as much gravity as i_t were a question of the most imminent and thrilling interest. 'If you don't, say so at once, you know; because it's just as well to be correct, particularly on a point of this kind, which is very curious and worth settlin_hile one thinks about it.'
  • Kate laughingly replied that she was quite convinced; and as her mama stil_ppeared undetermined whether it was not absolutely essential that the subjec_hould be renewed, proposed that they should take their work into the summer- house, and enjoy the beauty of the afternoon. Mrs Nickleby readily assented, and to the summer- house they repaired, without further discussion.
  • 'Well, I will say,' observed Mrs Nickleby, as she took her seat, 'that ther_ever was such a good creature as Smike. Upon my word, the pains he has take_n putting this little arbour to rights, and training the sweetest flower_bout it, are beyond anything I could have—I wish he wouldn't put ALL th_ravel on your side, Kate, my dear, though, and leave nothing but mould fo_e.'
  • 'Dear mama,' returned Kate, hastily, 'take this seat—do—to oblige me, mama.'
  • 'No, indeed, my dear. I shall keep my own side,' said Mrs Nickleby. 'Well! _eclare!'
  • Kate looked up inquiringly.
  • 'If he hasn't been,' said Mrs Nickleby, 'and got, from somewhere or other, _ouple of roots of those flowers that I said I was so fond of, the othe_ight, and asked you if you were not—no, that YOU said YOU were so fond of, the other night, and asked me if I wasn't—it's the same thing. Now, upon m_ord, I take that as very kind and attentive indeed! I don't see,' added Mr_ickleby, looking narrowly about her, 'any of them on my side, but I suppos_hey grow best near the gravel. You may depend upon it they do, Kate, an_hat's the reason they are all near you, and he has put the gravel there, because it's the sunny side. Upon my word, that's very clever now! I shouldn'_ave had half as much thought myself!'
  • 'Mama,' said Kate, bending over her work so that her face was almost hidden,
  • 'before you were married—'
  • 'Dear me, Kate,' interrupted Mrs Nickleby, 'what in the name of goodnes_raciousness makes you fly off to the time before I was married, when I'_alking to you about his thoughtfulness and attention to me? You don't seem t_ake the smallest interest in the garden.'
  • 'Oh! mama,' said Kate, raising her face again, 'you know I do.'
  • 'Well then, my dear, why don't you praise the neatness and prettiness wit_hich it's kept?' said Mrs Nickleby. 'How very odd you are, Kate!'
  • 'I do praise it, mama,' answered Kate, gently. 'Poor fellow!'
  • 'I scarcely ever hear you, my dear,' retorted Mrs Nickleby; 'that's all I'v_ot to say.' By this time the good lady had been a long while upon one topic, so she fell at once into her daughter's little trap, if trap it were, an_nquired what she had been going to say.
  • 'About what, mama?' said Kate, who had apparently quite forgotten he_iversion.
  • 'Lor, Kate, my dear,' returned her mother, 'why, you're asleep or stupid!
  • About the time before I was married.'
  • 'Oh yes!' said Kate, 'I remember. I was going to ask, mama, before you wer_arried, had you many suitors?'
  • 'Suitors, my dear!' cried Mrs Nickleby, with a smile of wonderful complacency.
  • 'First and last, Kate, I must have had a dozen at least.'
  • 'Mama!' returned Kate, in a tone of remonstrance.
  • 'I had indeed, my dear,' said Mrs Nickleby; 'not including your poor papa, o_ young gentleman who used to go, at that time, to the same dancing school, and who WOULD send gold watches and bracelets to our house in gilt-edge_aper, (which were always returned,) and who afterwards unfortunately went ou_o Botany Bay in a cadet ship—a convict ship I mean—and escaped into a bus_nd killed sheep, (I don't know how they got there,) and was going to be hung, only he accidentally choked himself, and the government pardoned him. The_here was young Lukin,' said Mrs Nickleby, beginning with her left thumb an_hecking off the names on her fingers—'Mogley—Tipslark— Cabbery—Smifser—'
  • Having now reached her little finger, Mrs Nickleby was carrying the accoun_ver to the other hand, when a loud 'Hem!' which appeared to come from th_ery foundation of the garden-wall, gave both herself and her daughter _iolent start.
  • 'Mama! what was that?' said Kate, in a low tone of voice.
  • 'Upon my word, my dear,' returned Mrs Nickleby, considerably startled, 'unles_t was the gentleman belonging to the next house, I don't know what it coul_ossibly—'
  • 'A—hem!' cried the same voice; and that, not in the tone of an ordinar_learing of the throat, but in a kind of bellow, which woke up all the echoe_n the neighbourhood, and was prolonged to an extent which must have made th_nseen bellower quite black in the face.
  • 'I understand it now, my dear,' said Mrs Nickleby, laying her hand on Kate's;
  • 'don't be alarmed, my love, it's not directed to you, and is not intended t_righten anybody. Let us give everybody their due, Kate; I am bound to sa_hat.'
  • So saying, Mrs Nickleby nodded her head, and patted the back of her daughter'_and, a great many times, and looked as if she could tell something vastl_mportant if she chose, but had self-denial, thank Heaven; and wouldn't do it.
  • 'What do you mean, mama?' demanded Kate, in evident surprise.
  • 'Don't be flurried, my dear,' replied Mrs Nickleby, looking towards th_arden-wall, 'for you see I'm not, and if it would be excusable in anybody t_e flurried, it certainly would—under all the circumstances—be excusable i_e, but I am not, Kate—not at all.'
  • 'It seems designed to attract our attention, mama,' said Kate.
  • 'It is designed to attract our attention, my dear; at least,' rejoined Mr_ickleby, drawing herself up, and patting her daughter's hand more blandl_han before, 'to attract the attention of one of us. Hem! you needn't be a_ll uneasy, my dear.'
  • Kate looked very much perplexed, and was apparently about to ask for furthe_xplanation, when a shouting and scuffling noise, as of an elderly gentlema_hooping, and kicking up his legs on loose gravel, with great violence, wa_eard to proceed from the same direction as the former sounds; and before the_ad subsided, a large cucumber was seen to shoot up in the air with th_elocity of a sky-rocket, whence it descended, tumbling over and over, unti_t fell at Mrs Nickleby's feet.
  • This remarkable appearance was succeeded by another of a precisely simila_escription; then a fine vegetable marrow, of unusually large dimensions, wa_een to whirl aloft, and come toppling down; then, several cucumbers shot u_ogether; and, finally, the air was darkened by a shower of onions, turnip- radishes, and other small vegetables, which fell rolling and scattering, an_umping about, in all directions.
  • As Kate rose from her seat, in some alarm, and caught her mother's hand to ru_ith her into the house, she felt herself rather retarded than assisted in he_ntention; and following the direction of Mrs Nickleby's eyes, was quit_errified by the apparition of an old black velvet cap, which, by slo_egrees, as if its wearer were ascending a ladder or pair of steps, rose abov_he wall dividing their garden from that of the next cottage, (which, lik_heir own, was a detached building,) and was gradually followed by a ver_arge head, and an old face, in which were a pair of most extraordinary gre_yes: very wild, very wide open, and rolling in their sockets, with a dull, languishing, leering look, most ugly to behold.
  • 'Mama!' cried Kate, really terrified for the moment, 'why do you stop, why d_ou lose an instant? Mama, pray come in!'
  • 'Kate, my dear,' returned her mother, still holding back, 'how can you be s_oolish? I'm ashamed of you. How do you suppose you are ever to get throug_ife, if you're such a coward as this? What do you want, sir?' said Mr_ickleby, addressing the intruder with a sort of simpering displeasure. 'Ho_are you look into this garden?'
  • 'Queen of my soul,' replied the stranger, folding his hands together, 'thi_oblet sip!'
  • 'Nonsense, sir,' said Mrs Nickleby. 'Kate, my love, pray be quiet.'
  • 'Won't you sip the goblet?' urged the stranger, with his head imploringly o_ne side, and his right hand on his breast. 'Oh, do sip the goblet!'
  • 'I shall not consent to do anything of the kind, sir,' said Mrs Nickleby.
  • 'Pray, begone.'
  • 'Why is it,' said the old gentleman, coming up a step higher, and leaning hi_lbows on the wall, with as much complacency as if he were looking out o_indow, 'why is it that beauty is always obdurate, even when admiration is a_onourable and respectful as mine?' Here he smiled, kissed his hand, and mad_everal low bows. 'Is it owing to the bees, who, when the honey season i_ver, and they are supposed to have been killed with brimstone, in reality fl_o Barbary and lull the captive Moors to sleep with their drowsy songs? Or i_t,' he added, dropping his voice almost to a whisper, 'in consequence of th_tatue at Charing Cross having been lately seen, on the Stock Exchange a_idnight, walking arm-in-arm with the Pump from Aldgate, in a riding-habit?'
  • 'Mama,' murmured Kate, 'do you hear him?'
  • 'Hush, my dear!' replied Mrs Nickleby, in the same tone of voice, 'he is ver_olite, and I think that was a quotation from the poets. Pray, don't worry m_o—you'll pinch my arm black and blue. Go away, sir!'
  • 'Quite away?' said the gentleman, with a languishing look. 'Oh! quite away?'
  • 'Yes,' returned Mrs Nickleby, 'certainly. You have no business here. This i_rivate property, sir; you ought to know that.'
  • 'I do know,' said the old gentleman, laying his finger on his nose, with a_ir of familiarity, most reprehensible, 'that this is a sacred and enchante_pot, where the most divine charms'—here he kissed his hand and bowe_gain—'waft mellifluousness over the neighbours' gardens, and force the frui_nd vegetables into premature existence. That fact I am acquainted with. Bu_ill you permit me, fairest creature, to ask you one question, in the absenc_f the planet Venus, who has gone on business to the Horse Guards, and woul_therwise—jealous of your superior charms—interpose between us?'
  • 'Kate,' observed Mrs Nickleby, turning to her daughter, 'it's very awkward, positively. I really don't know what to say to this gentleman. One ought to b_ivil, you know.'
  • 'Dear mama,' rejoined Kate, 'don't say a word to him, but let us run away a_ast as we can, and shut ourselves up till Nicholas comes home.'
  • Mrs Nickleby looked very grand, not to say contemptuous, at this humiliatin_roposal; and, turning to the old gentleman, who had watched them during thes_hispers with absorbing eagerness, said:
  • 'If you will conduct yourself, sir, like the gentleman I should imagine you t_e, from your language and—and—appearance, (quite the counterpart of you_randpapa, Kate, my dear, in his best days,) and will put your question to m_n plain words, I will answer it.'
  • If Mrs Nickleby's excellent papa had borne, in his best days, a resemblance t_he neighbour now looking over the wall, he must have been, to say the least, a very queer-looking old gentleman in his prime. Perhaps Kate thought so, fo_he ventured to glance at his living portrait with some attention, as he too_ff his black velvet cap, and, exhibiting a perfectly bald head, made a lon_eries of bows, each accompanied with a fresh kiss of the hand. Afte_xhausting himself, to all appearance, with this fatiguing performance, h_overed his head once more, pulled the cap very carefully over the tips of hi_ars, and resuming his former attitude, said,
  • 'The question is—'
  • Here he broke off to look round in every direction, and satisfy himself beyon_ll doubt that there were no listeners near. Assured that there were not, h_apped his nose several times, accompanying the action with a cunning look, a_hough congratulating himself on his caution; and stretching out his neck, said in a loud whisper,
  • 'Are you a princess?'
  • 'You are mocking me, sir,' replied Mrs Nickleby, making a feint of retreatin_owards the house.
  • 'No, but are you?' said the old gentleman.
  • 'You know I am not, sir,' replied Mrs Nickleby.
  • 'Then are you any relation to the Archbishop of Canterbury?' inquired the ol_entleman with great anxiety, 'or to the Pope of Rome? Or the Speaker of th_ouse of Commons? Forgive me, if I am wrong, but I was told you were niece t_he Commissioners of Paving, and daughter-in-law to the Lord Mayor and Cour_f Common Council, which would account for your relationship to all three.'
  • 'Whoever has spread such reports, sir,' returned Mrs Nickleby, with som_armth, 'has taken great liberties with my name, and one which I am sure m_on Nicholas, if he was aware of it, would not allow for an instant. Th_dea!' said Mrs Nickleby, drawing herself up, 'niece to the Commissioners o_aving!'
  • 'Pray, mama, come away!' whispered Kate.
  • '"Pray mama!" Nonsense, Kate,' said Mrs Nickleby, angrily, 'but that's jus_he way. If they had said I was niece to a piping bullfinch, what would yo_are? But I have no sympathy,' whimpered Mrs Nickleby. 'I don't expect it, that's one thing.'
  • 'Tears!' cried the old gentleman, with such an energetic jump, that he fel_own two or three steps and grated his chin against the wall. 'Catch th_rystal globules—catch 'em—bottle 'em up—cork 'em tight—put sealing wax on th_op—seal 'em with a cupid—label 'em "Best quality"—and stow 'em away in th_ourteen binn, with a bar of iron on the top to keep the thunder off!'
  • Issuing these commands, as if there were a dozen attendants all activel_ngaged in their execution, he turned his velvet cap inside out, put it o_ith great dignity so as to obscure his right eye and three-fourths of hi_ose, and sticking his arms a-kimbo, looked very fiercely at a sparrow har_y, till the bird flew away, when he put his cap in his pocket with an air o_reat satisfaction, and addressed himself with respectful demeanour to Mr_ickleby.
  • 'Beautiful madam,' such were his words, 'if I have made any mistake wit_egard to your family or connections, I humbly beseech you to pardon me. If _upposed you to be related to Foreign Powers or Native Boards, it is becaus_ou have a manner, a carriage, a dignity, which you will excuse my saying tha_one but yourself (with the single exception perhaps of the tragic muse, whe_laying extemporaneously on the barrel organ before the East India Company) can parallel. I am not a youth, ma'am, as you see; and although beings lik_ou can never grow old, I venture to presume that we are fitted for eac_ther.'
  • 'Really, Kate, my love!' said Mrs Nickleby faintly, and looking another way.
  • 'I have estates, ma'am,' said the old gentleman, flourishing his right han_egligently, as if he made very light of such matters, and speaking very fast;
  • 'jewels, lighthouses, fish-ponds, a whalery of my own in the North Sea, an_everal oyster-beds of great profit in the Pacific Ocean. If you will have th_indness to step down to the Royal Exchange and to take the cocked-hat off th_toutest beadle's head, you will find my card in the lining of the crown, wrapped up in a piece of blue paper. My walking-stick is also to be seen o_pplication to the chaplain of the House of Commons, who is strictly forbidde_o take any money for showing it. I have enemies about me, ma'am,' he looke_owards his house and spoke very low, 'who attack me on all occasions, an_ish to secure my property. If you bless me with your hand and heart, you ca_pply to the Lord Chancellor or call out the military if necessary—sending m_oothpick to the commander-in-chief will be sufficient—and so clear the hous_f them before the ceremony is performed. After that, love, bliss and rapture; rapture, love and bliss. Be mine, be mine!'
  • Repeating these last words with great rapture and enthusiasm, the ol_entleman put on his black velvet cap again, and looking up into the sky in _asty manner, said something that was not quite intelligible concerning _alloon he expected, and which was rather after its time.
  • 'Be mine, be mine!' repeated the old gentleman.
  • 'Kate, my dear,' said Mrs Nickleby, 'I have hardly the power to speak; but i_s necessary for the happiness of all parties that this matter should be se_t rest for ever.'
  • 'Surely there is no necessity for you to say one word, mama?' reasoned Kate.
  • 'You will allow me, my dear, if you please, to judge for myself,' said Mr_ickleby.
  • 'Be mine, be mine!' cried the old gentleman.
  • 'It can scarcely be expected, sir,' said Mrs Nickleby, fixing her eye_odestly on the ground, 'that I should tell a stranger whether I fee_lattered and obliged by such proposals, or not. They certainly are made unde_ery singular circumstances; still at the same time, as far as it goes, and t_ certain extent of course' (Mrs Nickleby's customary qualification), 'the_ust be gratifying and agreeable to one's feelings.'
  • 'Be mine, be mine,' cried the old gentleman. 'Gog and Magog, Gog and Magog. B_ine, be mine!'
  • 'It will be sufficient for me to say, sir,' resumed Mrs Nickleby, with perfec_eriousness—'and I'm sure you'll see the propriety of taking an answer an_oing away—that I have made up my mind to remain a widow, and to devote mysel_o my children. You may not suppose I am the mother of two children—indee_any people have doubted it, and said that nothing on earth could ever make
  • 'em believe it possible—but it is the case, and they are both grown up. W_hall be very glad to have you for a neighbour—very glad; delighted, I'_ure—but in any other character it's quite impossible, quite. As to my bein_oung enough to marry again, that perhaps may be so, or it may not be; but _ouldn't think of it for an instant, not on any account whatever. I said _ever would, and I never will. It's a very painful thing to have to rejec_roposals, and I would much rather that none were made; at the same time thi_s the answer that I determined long ago to make, and this is the answer _hall always give.'
  • These observations were partly addressed to the old gentleman, partly to Kate, and partly delivered in soliloquy. Towards their conclusion, the suito_vinced a very irreverent degree of inattention, and Mrs Nickleby had scarcel_inished speaking, when, to the great terror both of that lady and he_aughter, he suddenly flung off his coat, and springing on the top of th_all, threw himself into an attitude which displayed his small-clothes an_rey worsteds to the fullest advantage, and concluded by standing on one leg, and repeating his favourite bellow with increased vehemence.
  • While he was still dwelling on the last note, and embellishing it with _rolonged flourish, a dirty hand was observed to glide stealthily and swiftl_long the top of the wall, as if in pursuit of a fly, and then to clasp wit_he utmost dexterity one of the old gentleman's ankles. This done, th_ompanion hand appeared, and clasped the other ankle.
  • Thus encumbered the old gentleman lifted his legs awkwardly once or twice, a_f they were very clumsy and imperfect pieces of machinery, and then lookin_own on his own side of the wall, burst into a loud laugh.
  • 'It's you, is it?' said the old gentleman.
  • 'Yes, it's me,' replied a gruff voice.
  • 'How's the Emperor of Tartary?' said the old gentleman.
  • 'Oh! he's much the same as usual,' was the reply. 'No better and no worse.'
  • 'The young Prince of China,' said the old gentleman, with much interest. 'I_e reconciled to his father-in-law, the great potato salesman?'
  • 'No,' answered the gruff voice; 'and he says he never will be, that's more.'
  • 'If that's the case,' observed the old gentleman, 'perhaps I'd better com_own.'
  • 'Well,' said the man on the other side, 'I think you had, perhaps.'
  • One of the hands being then cautiously unclasped, the old gentleman droppe_nto a sitting posture, and was looking round to smile and bow to Mr_ickleby, when he disappeared with some precipitation, as if his legs had bee_ulled from below.
  • Very much relieved by his disappearance, Kate was turning to speak to he_ama, when the dirty hands again became visible, and were immediately followe_y the figure of a coarse squat man, who ascended by the steps which had bee_ecently occupied by their singular neighbour.
  • 'Beg your pardon, ladies,' said this new comer, grinning and touching his hat.
  • 'Has he been making love to either of you?'
  • 'Yes,' said Kate.
  • 'Ah!' rejoined the man, taking his handkerchief out of his hat and wiping hi_ace, 'he always will, you know. Nothing will prevent his making love.'
  • 'I need not ask you if he is out of his mind, poor creature,' said Kate.
  • 'Why no,' replied the man, looking into his hat, throwing his handkerchief i_t one dab, and putting it on again. 'That's pretty plain, that is.'
  • 'Has he been long so?' asked Kate.
  • 'A long while.'
  • 'And is there no hope for him?' said Kate, compassionately
  • 'Not a bit, and don't deserve to be,' replied the keeper. 'He's a dea_leasanter without his senses than with 'em. He was the cruellest, wickedest, out-and-outerest old flint that ever drawed breath.'
  • 'Indeed!' said Kate.
  • 'By George!' replied the keeper, shaking his head so emphatically that he wa_bliged to frown to keep his hat on. 'I never come across such a vagabond, an_y mate says the same. Broke his poor wife's heart, turned his daughters ou_f doors, drove his sons into the streets; it was a blessing he went mad a_ast, through evil tempers, and covetousness, and selfishness, and guzzling, and drinking, or he'd have drove many others so. Hope for HIM, an old rip!
  • There isn't too much hope going' but I'll bet a crown that what there is, i_aved for more deserving chaps than him, anyhow.'
  • With which confession of his faith, the keeper shook his head again, as muc_s to say that nothing short of this would do, if things were to go on at all; and touching his hat sulkily—not that he was in an ill humour, but that hi_ubject ruffled him—descended the ladder, and took it away.
  • During this conversation, Mrs Nickleby had regarded the man with a severe an_teadfast look. She now heaved a profound sigh, and pursing up her lips, shoo_er head in a slow and doubtful manner.
  • 'Poor creature!' said Kate.
  • 'Ah! poor indeed!' rejoined Mrs Nickleby. 'It's shameful that such thing_hould be allowed. Shameful!'
  • 'How can they be helped, mama?' said Kate, mournfully. 'The infirmities o_ature—'
  • 'Nature!' said Mrs Nickleby. 'What! Do YOU suppose this poor gentleman is ou_f his mind?'
  • 'Can anybody who sees him entertain any other opinion, mama?'
  • 'Why then, I just tell you this, Kate,' returned Mrs Nickleby, 'that, he i_othing of the kind, and I am surprised you can be so imposed upon. It's som_lot of these people to possess themselves of his property—didn't he say s_imself? He may be a little odd and flighty, perhaps, many of us are that; bu_ownright mad! and express himself as he does, respectfully, and in quit_oetical language, and making offers with so much thought, and care, an_rudence—not as if he ran into the streets, and went down upon his knees t_he first chit of a girl he met, as a madman would! No, no, Kate, there's _reat deal too much method in HIS madness; depend upon that, my dear.'