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    Chapter 23

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    Chapter 23
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    CHAPTER 23

    Treats of the Company of Mr Vincent Crummles, and of his Affairs,
    Domestic and Theatrical

    As Mr Crummles had a strange four-legged animal in the inn stables,
    which he called a pony, and a vehicle of unknown design, on which he
    bestowed the appellation of a four-wheeled phaeton, Nicholas
    proceeded on his journey next morning with greater ease than he had
    expected: the manager and himself occupying the front seat: and the
    Master Crummleses and Smike being packed together behind, in company
    with a wicker basket defended from wet by a stout oilskin, in which
    were the broad-swords, pistols, pigtails, nautical costumes, and
    other professional necessaries of the aforesaid young gentlemen.

    The pony took his time upon the road, and--possibly in consequence
    of his theatrical education--evinced, every now and then, a strong
    inclination to lie down. However, Mr Vincent Crummles kept him up
    pretty well, by jerking the rein, and plying the whip; and when
    these means failed, and the animal came to a stand, the elder Master
    Crummles got out and kicked him. By dint of these encouragements,
    he was persuaded to move from time to time, and they jogged on (as
    Mr Crummles truly observed) very comfortably for all parties.

    'He's a good pony at bottom,' said Mr Crummles, turning to Nicholas.

    He might have been at bottom, but he certainly was not at top,
    seeing that his coat was of the roughest and most ill-favoured kind.
    So, Nicholas merely observed that he shouldn't wonder if he was.

    'Many and many is the circuit this pony has gone,' said Mr Crummles,
    flicking him skilfully on the eyelid for old acquaintance' sake.
    'He is quite one of us. His mother was on the stage.'

    'Was she?' rejoined Nicholas.

    'She ate apple-pie at a circus for upwards of fourteen years,' said
    the manager; 'fired pistols, and went to bed in a nightcap; and, in
    short, took the low comedy entirely. His father was a dancer.'

    'Was he at all distinguished?'

    'Not very,' said the manager. 'He was rather a low sort of pony.
    The fact is, he had been originally jobbed out by the day, and he
    never quite got over his old habits. He was clever in melodrama
    too, but too broad--too broad. When the mother died, he took the
    port-wine business.'

    'The port-wine business!' cried Nicholas.

    'Drinking port-wine with the clown,' said the manager; 'but he was
    greedy, and one night bit off the bowl of the glass, and choked
    himself, so his vulgarity was the death of him at last.'

    The descendant of this ill-starred animal requiring increased
    attention from Mr Crummles as he progressed in his day's work, that
    gentleman had very little time for conversation. Nicholas was thus
    left at leisure to entertain himself with his own thoughts, until
    they arrived at the drawbridge at Portsmouth, when Mr Crummles
    pulled up.

    'We'll get down here,' said the manager, 'and the boys will take him
    round to the stable, and call at my lodgings with the luggage. You
    had better let yours be taken there, for the present.'

    Thanking Mr Vincent Crummles for his obliging offer, Nicholas jumped
    out, and, giving Smike his arm, accompanied the manager up High
    Street on their way to the theatre; feeling nervous and
    uncomfortable enough at the prospect of an immediate introduction to
    a scene so new to him.

    They passed a great many bills, pasted against the walls and
    displayed in windows, wherein the names of Mr Vincent Crummles, Mrs
    Vincent Crummles, Master Crummles, Master P. Crummles, and Miss
    Crummles, were printed in very large letters, and everything else in
    very small ones; and, turning at length into an entry, in which was
    a strong smell of orange-peel and lamp-oil, with an under-current of
    sawdust, groped their way through a dark passage, and, descending a
    step or two, threaded a little maze of canvas screens and paint
    pots, and emerged upon the stage of the Portsmouth Theatre.

    'Here we are,' said Mr Crummles.

    It was not very light, but Nicholas found himself close to the first
    entrance on the prompt side, among bare walls, dusty scenes,
    mildewed clouds, heavily daubed draperies, and dirty floors. He
    looked about him; ceiling, pit, boxes, gallery, orchestra, fittings,
    and decorations of every kind,--all looked coarse, cold, gloomy, and

    'Is this a theatre?' whispered Smike, in amazement; 'I thought it
    was a blaze of light and finery.'

    'Why, so it is,' replied Nicholas, hardly less surprised; 'but not
    by day, Smike--not by day.'

    The manager's voice recalled him from a more careful inspection of
    the building, to the opposite side of the proscenium, where, at a
    small mahogany table with rickety legs and of an oblong shape, sat a
    stout, portly female, apparently between forty and fifty, in a
    tarnished silk cloak, with her bonnet dangling by the strings in her
    hand, and her hair (of which she had a great quantity) braided in a
    large festoon over each temple.

    'Mr Johnson,' said the manager (for Nicholas had given the name
    which Newman Noggs had bestowed upon him in his conversation with
    Mrs Kenwigs), 'let me introduce Mrs Vincent Crummles.'

    'I am glad to see you, sir,' said Mrs Vincent Crummles, in a
    sepulchral voice. 'I am very glad to see you, and still more happy
    to hail you as a promising member of our corps.'

    The lady shook Nicholas by the hand as she addressed him in these
    terms; he saw it was a large one, but had not expected quite such an
    iron grip as that with which she honoured him.

    'And this,' said the lady, crossing to Smike, as tragic actresses
    cross when they obey a stage direction, 'and this is the other. You
    too, are welcome, sir.'

    'He'll do, I think, my dear?' said the manager, taking a pinch of

    'He is admirable,' replied the lady. 'An acquisition indeed.'

    As Mrs Vincent Crummles recrossed back to the table, there bounded
    on to the stage from some mysterious inlet, a little girl in a dirty
    white frock with tucks up to the knees, short trousers, sandaled
    shoes, white spencer, pink gauze bonnet, green veil and curl papers;
    who turned a pirouette, cut twice in the air, turned another
    pirouette, then, looking off at the opposite wing, shrieked, bounded
    forward to within six inches of the footlights, and fell into a
    beautiful attitude of terror, as a shabby gentleman in an old pair
    of buff slippers came in at one powerful slide, and chattering his
    teeth, fiercely brandished a walking-stick.

    'They are going through the Indian Savage and the Maiden,' said Mrs

    'Oh!' said the manager, 'the little ballet interlude. Very good, go
    on. A little this way, if you please, Mr Johnson. That'll do.

    The manager clapped his hands as a signal to proceed, and the
    savage, becoming ferocious, made a slide towards the maiden; but the
    maiden avoided him in six twirls, and came down, at the end of the
    last one, upon the very points of her toes. This seemed to make
    some impression upon the savage; for, after a little more ferocity
    and chasing of the maiden into corners, he began to relent, and
    stroked his face several times with his right thumb and four
    fingers, thereby intimating that he was struck with admiration of
    the maiden's beauty. Acting upon the impulse of this passion, he
    (the savage) began to hit himself severe thumps in the chest, and to
    exhibit other indications of being desperately in love, which being
    rather a prosy proceeding, was very likely the cause of the maiden's
    falling asleep; whether it was or no, asleep she did fall, sound as
    a church, on a sloping bank, and the savage perceiving it, leant his
    left ear on his left hand, and nodded sideways, to intimate to all
    whom it might concern that she WAS asleep, and no shamming. Being
    left to himself, the savage had a dance, all alone. Just as he left
    off, the maiden woke up, rubbed her eyes, got off the bank, and had
    a dance all alone too--such a dance that the savage looked on in
    ecstasy all the while, and when it was done, plucked from a
    neighbouring tree some botanical curiosity, resembling a small
    pickled cabbage, and offered it to the maiden, who at first wouldn't
    have it, but on the savage shedding tears relented. Then the savage
    jumped for joy; then the maiden jumped for rapture at the sweet
    smell of the pickled cabbage. Then the savage and the maiden danced
    violently together, and, finally, the savage dropped down on one
    knee, and the maiden stood on one leg upon his other knee; thus
    concluding the ballet, and leaving the spectators in a state of
    pleasing uncertainty, whether she would ultimately marry the savage,
    or return to her friends.

    'Very well indeed,' said Mr Crummles; 'bravo!'

    'Bravo!' cried Nicholas, resolved to make the best of everything.

    'This, sir,' said Mr Vincent Crummles, bringing the maiden forward,
    'this is the infant phenomenon--Miss Ninetta Crummles.'

    'Your daughter?' inquired Nicholas.

    'My daughter--my daughter,' replied Mr Vincent Crummles; 'the idol
    of every place we go into, sir. We have had complimentary letters
    about this girl, sir, from the nobility and gentry of almost every
    town in England.'

    'I am not surprised at that,' said Nicholas; 'she must be quite a
    natural genius.'

    'Quite a--!' Mr Crummles stopped: language was not powerful enough
    to describe the infant phenomenon. 'I'll tell you what, sir,' he
    said; 'the talent of this child is not to be imagined. She must be
    seen, sir--seen--to be ever so faintly appreciated. There; go to
    your mother, my dear.'

    'May I ask how old she is?' inquired Nicholas.

    'You may, sir,' replied Mr Crummles, looking steadily in his
    questioner's face, as some men do when they have doubts about being
    implicitly believed in what they are going to say. 'She is ten
    years of age, sir.'

    'Not more!'

    'Not a day.'

    'Dear me!' said Nicholas, 'it's extraordinary.'

    It was; for the infant phenomenon, though of short stature, had a
    comparatively aged countenance, and had moreover been precisely the
    same age--not perhaps to the full extent of the memory of the oldest
    inhabitant, but certainly for five good years. But she had been
    kept up late every night, and put upon an unlimited allowance of
    gin-and-water from infancy, to prevent her growing tall, and perhaps
    this system of training had produced in the infant phenomenon these
    additional phenomena.

    While this short dialogue was going on, the gentleman who had
    enacted the savage, came up, with his walking shoes on his feet, and
    his slippers in his hand, to within a few paces, as if desirous to
    join in the conversation. Deeming this a good opportunity, he put
    in his word.

    'Talent there, sir!' said the savage, nodding towards Miss Crummles.

    Nicholas assented.

    'Ah!' said the actor, setting his teeth together, and drawing in his
    breath with a hissing sound, 'she oughtn't to be in the provinces,
    she oughtn't.'

    'What do you mean?' asked the manager.

    'I mean to say,' replied the other, warmly, 'that she is too good
    for country boards, and that she ought to be in one of the large
    houses in London, or nowhere; and I tell you more, without mincing
    the matter, that if it wasn't for envy and jealousy in some quarter
    that you know of, she would be. Perhaps you'll introduce me here,
    Mr Crummles.'

    'Mr Folair,' said the manager, presenting him to Nicholas.

    'Happy to know you, sir.' Mr Folair touched the brim of his hat with
    his forefinger, and then shook hands. 'A recruit, sir, I

    'An unworthy one,' replied Nicholas.

    'Did you ever see such a set-out as that?' whispered the actor,
    drawing him away, as Crummles left them to speak to his wife.

    'As what?'

    Mr Folair made a funny face from his pantomime collection, and
    pointed over his shoulder.

    'You don't mean the infant phenomenon?'

    'Infant humbug, sir,' replied Mr Folair. 'There isn't a female
    child of common sharpness in a charity school, that couldn't do
    better than that. She may thank her stars she was born a manager's

    'You seem to take it to heart,' observed Nicholas, with a smile.

    'Yes, by Jove, and well I may,' said Mr Folair, drawing his arm
    through his, and walking him up and down the stage. 'Isn't it
    enough to make a man crusty to see that little sprawler put up in
    the best business every night, and actually keeping money out of the
    house, by being forced down the people's throats, while other people
    are passed over? Isn't it extraordinary to see a man's confounded
    family conceit blinding him, even to his own interest? Why I KNOW
    of fifteen and sixpence that came to Southampton one night last
    month, to see me dance the Highland Fling; and what's the
    consequence? I've never been put up in it since--never once--while
    the "infant phenomenon" has been grinning through artificial flowers
    at five people and a baby in the pit, and two boys in the gallery,
    every night.'

    'If I may judge from what I have seen of you,' said Nicholas, 'you
    must be a valuable member of the company.'

    'Oh!' replied Mr Folair, beating his slippers together, to knock the
    dust out; 'I CAN come it pretty well--nobody better, perhaps, in my
    own line--but having such business as one gets here, is like putting
    lead on one's feet instead of chalk, and dancing in fetters without
    the credit of it. Holloa, old fellow, how are you?'

    The gentleman addressed in these latter words was a dark-
    complexioned man, inclining indeed to sallow, with long thick black
    hair, and very evident inclinations (although he was close shaved)
    of a stiff beard, and whiskers of the same deep shade. His age did
    not appear to exceed thirty, though many at first sight would have
    considered him much older, as his face was long, and very pale, from
    the constant application of stage paint. He wore a checked shirt,
    an old green coat with new gilt buttons, a neckerchief of broad red
    and green stripes, and full blue trousers; he carried, too, a common
    ash walking-stick, apparently more for show than use, as he
    flourished it about, with the hooked end downwards, except when he
    raised it for a few seconds, and throwing himself into a fencing
    attitude, made a pass or two at the side-scenes, or at any other
    object, animate or inanimate, that chanced to afford him a pretty
    good mark at the moment.

    'Well, Tommy,' said this gentleman, making a thrust at his friend,
    who parried it dexterously with his slipper, 'what's the news?'

    'A new appearance, that's all,' replied Mr Folair, looking at

    'Do the honours, Tommy, do the honours,' said the other gentleman,
    tapping him reproachfully on the crown of the hat with his stick.

    'This is Mr Lenville, who does our first tragedy, Mr Johnson,' said
    the pantomimist.

    'Except when old bricks and mortar takes it into his head to do it
    himself, you should add, Tommy,' remarked Mr Lenville. 'You know
    who bricks and mortar is, I suppose, sir?'

    'I do not, indeed,' replied Nicholas.

    'We call Crummles that, because his style of acting is rather in the
    heavy and ponderous way,' said Mr Lenville. 'I mustn't be cracking
    jokes though, for I've got a part of twelve lengths here, which I
    must be up in tomorrow night, and I haven't had time to look at it
    yet; I'm a confounded quick study, that's one comfort.'

    Consoling himself with this reflection, Mr Lenville drew from his
    coat pocket a greasy and crumpled manuscript, and, having made
    another pass at his friend, proceeded to walk to and fro, conning it
    to himself and indulging occasionally in such appropriate action as
    his imagination and the text suggested.

    A pretty general muster of the company had by this time taken place;
    for besides Mr Lenville and his friend Tommy, there were present, a
    slim young gentleman with weak eyes, who played the low-spirited
    lovers and sang tenor songs, and who had come arm-in-arm with the
    comic countryman--a man with a turned-up nose, large mouth, broad
    face, and staring eyes. Making himself very amiable to the infant
    phenomenon, was an inebriated elderly gentleman in the last depths
    of shabbiness, who played the calm and virtuous old men; and paying
    especial court to Mrs Crummles was another elderly gentleman, a
    shade more respectable, who played the irascible old men--those
    funny fellows who have nephews in the army and perpetually run about
    with thick sticks to compel them to marry heiresses. Besides these,
    there was a roving-looking person in a rough great-coat, who strode
    up and down in front of the lamps, flourishing a dress cane, and
    rattling away, in an undertone, with great vivacity for the
    amusement of an ideal audience. He was not quite so young as he had
    been, and his figure was rather running to seed; but there was an
    air of exaggerated gentility about him, which bespoke the hero of
    swaggering comedy. There was, also, a little group of three or four
    young men with lantern jaws and thick eyebrows, who were conversing
    in one corner; but they seemed to be of secondary importance, and
    laughed and talked together without attracting any attention.

    The ladies were gathered in a little knot by themselves round the
    rickety table before mentioned. There was Miss Snevellicci--who
    could do anything, from a medley dance to Lady Macbeth, and also
    always played some part in blue silk knee-smalls at her benefit--
    glancing, from the depths of her coal-scuttle straw bonnet, at
    Nicholas, and affecting to be absorbed in the recital of a diverting
    story to her friend Miss Ledrook, who had brought her work, and was
    making up a ruff in the most natural manner possible. There was
    Miss Belvawney--who seldom aspired to speaking parts, and usually
    went on as a page in white silk hose, to stand with one leg bent,
    and contemplate the audience, or to go in and out after Mr Crummles
    in stately tragedy--twisting up the ringlets of the beautiful Miss
    Bravassa, who had once had her likeness taken 'in character' by an
    engraver's apprentice, whereof impressions were hung up for sale in
    the pastry-cook's window, and the greengrocer's, and at the
    circulating library, and the box-office, whenever the announce bills
    came out for her annual night. There was Mrs Lenville, in a very
    limp bonnet and veil, decidedly in that way in which she would wish
    to be if she truly loved Mr Lenville; there was Miss Gazingi, with
    an imitation ermine boa tied in a loose knot round her neck,
    flogging Mr Crummles, junior, with both ends, in fun. Lastly, there
    was Mrs Grudden in a brown cloth pelisse and a beaver bonnet, who
    assisted Mrs Crummles in her domestic affairs, and took money at the
    doors, and dressed the ladies, and swept the house, and held the
    prompt book when everybody else was on for the last scene, and acted
    any kind of part on any emergency without ever learning it, and was
    put down in the bills under my name or names whatever, that occurred
    to Mr Crummles as looking well in print.

    Mr Folair having obligingly confided these particulars to Nicholas,
    left him to mingle with his fellows; the work of personal
    introduction was completed by Mr Vincent Crummles, who publicly
    heralded the new actor as a prodigy of genius and learning.

    'I beg your pardon,' said Miss Snevellicci, sidling towards
    Nicholas, 'but did you ever play at Canterbury?'

    'I never did,' replied Nicholas.

    'I recollect meeting a gentleman at Canterbury,' said Miss
    Snevellicci, 'only for a few moments, for I was leaving the company
    as he joined it, so like you that I felt almost certain it was the

    'I see you now for the first time,' rejoined Nicholas with all due
    gallantry. 'I am sure I never saw you before; I couldn't have
    forgotten it.'

    'Oh, I'm sure--it's very flattering of you to say so,' retorted Miss
    Snevellicci with a graceful bend. 'Now I look at you again, I see
    that the gentleman at Canterbury hadn't the same eyes as you--you'll
    think me very foolish for taking notice of such things, won't you?'

    'Not at all,' said Nicholas. 'How can I feel otherwise than
    flattered by your notice in any way?'

    'Oh! you men are such vain creatures!' cried Miss Snevellicci.
    Whereupon, she became charmingly confused, and, pulling out her
    pocket-handkerchief from a faded pink silk reticule with a gilt
    clasp, called to Miss Ledrook--

    'Led, my dear,' said Miss Snevellicci.

    'Well, what is the matter?' said Miss Ledrook.

    'It's not the same.'

    'Not the same what?'

    'Canterbury--you know what I mean. Come here! I want to speak to

    But Miss Ledrook wouldn't come to Miss Snevellicci, so Miss
    Snevellicci was obliged to go to Miss Ledrook, which she did, in a
    skipping manner that was quite fascinating; and Miss Ledrook
    evidently joked Miss Snevellicci about being struck with Nicholas;
    for, after some playful whispering, Miss Snevellicci hit Miss
    Ledrook very hard on the backs of her hands, and retired up, in a
    state of pleasing confusion.

    'Ladies and gentlemen,' said Mr Vincent Crummles, who had been
    writing on a piece of paper, 'we'll call the Mortal Struggle
    tomorrow at ten; everybody for the procession. Intrigue, and Ways
    and Means, you're all up in, so we shall only want one rehearsal.
    Everybody at ten, if you please.'

    'Everybody at ten,' repeated Mrs Grudden, looking about her.

    'On Monday morning we shall read a new piece,' said Mr Crummles;
    'the name's not known yet, but everybody will have a good part. Mr
    Johnson will take care of that.'

    'Hallo!' said Nicholas, starting. 'I--'

    'On Monday morning,' repeated Mr Crummles, raising his voice, to
    drown the unfortunate Mr Johnson's remonstrance; 'that'll do, ladies
    and gentlemen.'

    The ladies and gentlemen required no second notice to quit; and, in
    a few minutes, the theatre was deserted, save by the Crummles
    family, Nicholas, and Smike.

    'Upon my word,' said Nicholas, taking the manager aside, 'I don't
    think I can be ready by Monday.'

    'Pooh, pooh,' replied Mr Crummles.

    'But really I can't,' returned Nicholas; 'my invention is not
    accustomed to these demands, or possibly I might produce--'

    'Invention! what the devil's that got to do with it!' cried the
    manager hastily.

    'Everything, my dear sir.'

    'Nothing, my dear sir,' retorted the manager, with evident
    impatience. 'Do you understand French?'

    'Perfectly well.'

    'Very good,' said the manager, opening the table drawer, and giving
    a roll of paper from it to Nicholas. 'There! Just turn that into
    English, and put your name on the title-page. Damn me,' said Mr
    Crummles, angrily, 'if I haven't often said that I wouldn't have a
    man or woman in my company that wasn't master of the language, so
    that they might learn it from the original, and play it in English,
    and save all this trouble and expense.'

    Nicholas smiled and pocketed the play.

    'What are you going to do about your lodgings?' said Mr Crummles.

    Nicholas could not help thinking that, for the first week, it would
    be an uncommon convenience to have a turn-up bedstead in the pit,
    but he merely remarked that he had not turned his thoughts that way.

    'Come home with me then,' said Mr Crummles, 'and my boys shall go
    with you after dinner, and show you the most likely place.'

    The offer was not to be refused; Nicholas and Mr Crummles gave Mrs
    Crummles an arm each, and walked up the street in stately array.
    Smike, the boys, and the phenomenon, went home by a shorter cut, and
    Mrs Grudden remained behind to take some cold Irish stew and a pint
    of porter in the box-office.

    Mrs Crummles trod the pavement as if she were going to immediate
    execution with an animating consciousness of innocence, and that
    heroic fortitude which virtue alone inspires. Mr Crummles, on the
    other hand, assumed the look and gait of a hardened despot; but they
    both attracted some notice from many of the passers-by, and when
    they heard a whisper of 'Mr and Mrs Crummles!' or saw a little boy
    run back to stare them in the face, the severe expression of their
    countenances relaxed, for they felt it was popularity.

    Mr Crummles lived in St Thomas's Street, at the house of one Bulph,
    a pilot, who sported a boat-green door, with window-frames of the
    same colour, and had the little finger of a drowned man on his
    parlour mantelshelf, with other maritime and natural curiosities.
    He displayed also a brass knocker, a brass plate, and a brass bell-
    handle, all very bright and shining; and had a mast, with a vane on
    the top of it, in his back yard.

    'You are welcome,' said Mrs Crummles, turning round to Nicholas when
    they reached the bow-windowed front room on the first floor.

    Nicholas bowed his acknowledgments, and was unfeignedly glad to see
    the cloth laid.

    'We have but a shoulder of mutton with onion sauce,' said Mrs
    Crummles, in the same charnel-house voice; 'but such as our dinner
    is, we beg you to partake of it.'

    'You are very good,' replied Nicholas, 'I shall do it ample

    'Vincent,' said Mrs Crummles, 'what is the hour?'

    'Five minutes past dinner-time,' said Mr Crummles.

    Mrs Crummles rang the bell. 'Let the mutton and onion sauce

    The slave who attended upon Mr Bulph's lodgers, disappeared, and
    after a short interval reappeared with the festive banquet.
    Nicholas and the infant phenomenon opposed each other at the
    pembroke-table, and Smike and the master Crummleses dined on the
    sofa bedstead.

    'Are they very theatrical people here?' asked Nicholas.

    'No,' replied Mr Crummles, shaking his head, 'far from it--far from

    'I pity them,' observed Mrs Crummles.

    'So do I,' said Nicholas; 'if they have no relish for theatrical
    entertainments, properly conducted.'

    'Then they have none, sir,' rejoined Mr Crummles. 'To the infant's
    benefit, last year, on which occasion she repeated three of her most
    popular characters, and also appeared in the Fairy Porcupine, as
    originally performed by her, there was a house of no more than four
    pound twelve.'

    'Is it possible?' cried Nicholas.

    'And two pound of that was trust, pa,' said the phenomenon.

    'And two pound of that was trust,' repeated Mr Crummles. 'Mrs
    Crummles herself has played to mere handfuls.'

    'But they are always a taking audience, Vincent,' said the manager's

    'Most audiences are, when they have good acting--real good acting--
    the regular thing,' replied Mr Crummles, forcibly.

    'Do you give lessons, ma'am?' inquired Nicholas.

    'I do,' said Mrs Crummles.

    'There is no teaching here, I suppose?'

    'There has been,' said Mrs Crummles. 'I have received pupils here.
    I imparted tuition to the daughter of a dealer in ships' provision;
    but it afterwards appeared that she was insane when she first came
    to me. It was very extraordinary that she should come, under such

    Not feeling quite so sure of that, Nicholas thought it best to hold
    his peace.

    'Let me see,' said the manager cogitating after dinner. 'Would you
    like some nice little part with the infant?'

    'You are very good,' replied Nicholas hastily; 'but I think perhaps
    it would be better if I had somebody of my own size at first, in
    case I should turn out awkward. I should feel more at home,

    'True,' said the manager. 'Perhaps you would. And you could play
    up to the infant, in time, you know.'

    'Certainly,' replied Nicholas: devoutly hoping that it would be a
    very long time before he was honoured with this distinction.

    'Then I'll tell you what we'll do,' said Mr Crummles. 'You shall
    study Romeo when you've done that piece--don't forget to throw the
    pump and tubs in by-the-bye--Juliet Miss Snevellicci, old Grudden
    the nurse.--Yes, that'll do very well. Rover too;--you might get up
    Rover while you were about it, and Cassio, and Jeremy Diddler. You
    can easily knock them off; one part helps the other so much. Here
    they are, cues and all.'

    With these hasty general directions Mr Crummles thrust a number of
    little books into the faltering hands of Nicholas, and bidding his
    eldest son go with him and show where lodgings were to be had, shook
    him by the hand, and wished him good night.

    There is no lack of comfortable furnished apartments in Portsmouth,
    and no difficulty in finding some that are proportionate to very
    slender finances; but the former were too good, and the latter too
    bad, and they went into so many houses, and came out unsuited, that
    Nicholas seriously began to think he should be obliged to ask
    permission to spend the night in the theatre, after all.

    Eventually, however, they stumbled upon two small rooms up three
    pair of stairs, or rather two pair and a ladder, at a tobacconist's
    shop, on the Common Hard: a dirty street leading down to the
    dockyard. These Nicholas engaged, only too happy to have escaped
    any request for payment of a week's rent beforehand.

    'There! Lay down our personal property, Smike,' he said, after
    showing young Crummles downstairs. 'We have fallen upon strange
    times, and Heaven only knows the end of them; but I am tired with
    the events of these three days, and will postpone reflection till
    tomorrow--if I can.'
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