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    Chapter 25

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    Chapter 25
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    CHAPTER 25

    Concerning a young Lady from London, who joins the Company, and an
    elderly Admirer who follows in her Train; with an affecting Ceremony
    consequent on their Arrival

    The new piece being a decided hit, was announced for every evening
    of performance until further notice, and the evenings when the
    theatre was closed, were reduced from three in the week to two. Nor
    were these the only tokens of extraordinary success; for, on the
    succeeding Saturday, Nicholas received, by favour of the
    indefatigable Mrs Grudden, no less a sum than thirty shillings;
    besides which substantial reward, he enjoyed considerable fame and
    honour: having a presentation copy of Mr Curdle's pamphlet forwarded
    to the theatre, with that gentleman's own autograph (in itself an
    inestimable treasure) on the fly-leaf, accompanied with a note,
    containing many expressions of approval, and an unsolicited
    assurance that Mr Curdle would be very happy to read Shakespeare to
    him for three hours every morning before breakfast during his stay
    in the town.

    'I've got another novelty, Johnson,' said Mr Crummles one morning in
    great glee.

    'What's that?' rejoined Nicholas. 'The pony?'

    'No, no, we never come to the pony till everything else has failed,'
    said Mr Crummles. 'I don't think we shall come to the pony at all,
    this season. No, no, not the pony.'

    'A boy phenomenon, perhaps?' suggested Nicholas.

    'There is only one phenomenon, sir,' replied Mr Crummles
    impressively, 'and that's a girl.'

    'Very true,' said Nicholas. 'I beg your pardon. Then I don't know
    what it is, I am sure.'

    'What should you say to a young lady from London?' inquired Mr
    Crummles. 'Miss So-and-so, of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane?'

    'I should say she would look very well in the bills,' said Nicholas.

    'You're about right there,' said Mr Crummles; 'and if you had said
    she would look very well upon the stage too, you wouldn't have been
    far out. Look here; what do you think of this?'

    With this inquiry Mr Crummles unfolded a red poster, and a blue
    poster, and a yellow poster, at the top of each of which public
    notification was inscribed in enormous characters--'First appearance
    of the unrivalled Miss Petowker of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane!'

    'Dear me!' said Nicholas, 'I know that lady.'

    'Then you are acquainted with as much talent as was ever compressed
    into one young person's body,' retorted Mr Crummles, rolling up the
    bills again; 'that is, talent of a certain sort--of a certain sort.
    "The Blood Drinker,"' added Mr Crummles with a prophetic sigh, '"The
    Blood Drinker" will die with that girl; and she's the only sylph I
    ever saw, who could stand upon one leg, and play the tambourine on
    her other knee, LIKE a sylph.'

    'When does she come down?' asked Nicholas.

    'We expect her today,' replied Mr Crummles. 'She is an old friend
    of Mrs Crummles's. Mrs Crummles saw what she could do--always knew
    it from the first. She taught her, indeed, nearly all she knows.
    Mrs Crummles was the original Blood Drinker.'

    'Was she, indeed?'

    'Yes. She was obliged to give it up though.'

    'Did it disagree with her?' asked Nicholas.

    'Not so much with her, as with her audiences,' replied Mr Crummles.
    'Nobody could stand it. It was too tremendous. You don't quite
    know what Mrs Crummles is yet.'

    Nicholas ventured to insinuate that he thought he did.

    'No, no, you don't,' said Mr Crummles; 'you don't, indeed. I don't,
    and that's a fact. I don't think her country will, till she is
    dead. Some new proof of talent bursts from that astonishing woman
    every year of her life. Look at her--mother of six children--three
    of 'em alive, and all upon the stage!'

    'Extraordinary!' cried Nicholas.

    'Ah! extraordinary indeed,' rejoined Mr Crummles, taking a
    complacent pinch of snuff, and shaking his head gravely. 'I pledge
    you my professional word I didn't even know she could dance, till
    her last benefit, and then she played Juliet, and Helen Macgregor,
    and did the skipping-rope hornpipe between the pieces. The very
    first time I saw that admirable woman, Johnson,' said Mr Crummles,
    drawing a little nearer, and speaking in the tone of confidential
    friendship, 'she stood upon her head on the butt-end of a spear,
    surrounded with blazing fireworks.'

    'You astonish me!' said Nicholas.

    'SHE astonished ME!' returned Mr Crummles, with a very serious
    countenance. 'Such grace, coupled with such dignity! I adored her
    from that moment!'

    The arrival of the gifted subject of these remarks put an abrupt
    termination to Mr Crummles's eulogium. Almost immediately
    afterwards, Master Percy Crummles entered with a letter, which had
    arrived by the General Post, and was directed to his gracious
    mother; at sight of the superscription whereof, Mrs Crummles
    exclaimed, 'From Henrietta Petowker, I do declare!' and instantly
    became absorbed in the contents.

    'Is it--?' inquired Mr Crummles, hesitating.

    'Oh, yes, it's all right,' replied Mrs Crummles, anticipating the
    question. 'What an excellent thing for her, to be sure!'

    'It's the best thing altogether, that I ever heard of, I think,'
    said Mr Crummles; and then Mr Crummles, Mrs Crummles, and Master
    Percy Crummles, all fell to laughing violently. Nicholas left them
    to enjoy their mirth together, and walked to his lodgings; wondering
    very much what mystery connected with Miss Petowker could provoke
    such merriment, and pondering still more on the extreme surprise
    with which that lady would regard his sudden enlistment in a
    profession of which she was such a distinguished and brilliant
    ornament.

    But, in this latter respect he was mistaken; for--whether Mr Vincent
    Crummles had paved the way, or Miss Petowker had some special reason
    for treating him with even more than her usual amiability--their
    meeting at the theatre next day was more like that of two dear
    friends who had been inseparable from infancy, than a recognition
    passing between a lady and gentleman who had only met some half-
    dozen times, and then by mere chance. Nay, Miss Petowker even
    whispered that she had wholly dropped the Kenwigses in her
    conversations with the manager's family, and had represented herself
    as having encountered Mr Johnson in the very first and most
    fashionable circles; and on Nicholas receiving this intelligence
    with unfeigned surprise, she added, with a sweet glance, that she
    had a claim on his good nature now, and might tax it before long.

    Nicholas had the honour of playing in a slight piece with Miss
    Petowker that night, and could not but observe that the warmth of
    her reception was mainly attributable to a most persevering umbrella
    in the upper boxes; he saw, too, that the enchanting actress cast
    many sweet looks towards the quarter whence these sounds proceeded;
    and that every time she did so, the umbrella broke out afresh.
    Once, he thought that a peculiarly shaped hat in the same corner was
    not wholly unknown to him; but, being occupied with his share of the
    stage business, he bestowed no great attention upon this
    circumstance, and it had quite vanished from his memory by the time
    he reached home.

    He had just sat down to supper with Smike, when one of the people of
    the house came outside the door, and announced that a gentleman
    below stairs wished to speak to Mr Johnson.

    'Well, if he does, you must tell him to come up; that's all I know,'
    replied Nicholas. 'One of our hungry brethren, I suppose, Smike.'

    His fellow-lodger looked at the cold meat in silent calculation of
    the quantity that would be left for dinner next day, and put back a
    slice he had cut for himself, in order that the visitor's
    encroachments might be less formidable in their effects.

    'It is not anybody who has been here before,' said Nicholas, 'for he
    is tumbling up every stair. Come in, come in. In the name of
    wonder! Mr Lillyvick?'

    It was, indeed, the collector of water-rates who, regarding Nicholas
    with a fixed look and immovable countenance, shook hands with most
    portentous solemnity, and sat himself down in a seat by the chimney-
    corner.

    'Why, when did you come here?' asked Nicholas.

    'This morning, sir,' replied Mr Lillyvick.

    'Oh! I see; then you were at the theatre tonight, and it was your
    umb--'

    'This umbrella,' said Mr Lillyvick, producing a fat green cotton one
    with a battered ferrule. 'What did you think of that performance?'

    'So far as I could judge, being on the stage,' replied Nicholas, 'I
    thought it very agreeable.'

    'Agreeable!' cried the collector. 'I mean to say, sir, that it was
    delicious.'

    Mr Lillyvick bent forward to pronounce the last word with greater
    emphasis; and having done so, drew himself up, and frowned and
    nodded a great many times.

    'I say, delicious,' repeated Mr Lillyvick. 'Absorbing, fairy-like,
    toomultuous,' and again Mr Lillyvick drew himself up, and again he
    frowned and nodded.

    'Ah!' said Nicholas, a little surprised at these symptoms of
    ecstatic approbation. 'Yes--she is a clever girl.'

    'She is a divinity,' returned Mr Lillyvick, giving a collector's
    double knock on the ground with the umbrella before-mentioned. 'I
    have known divine actresses before now, sir, I used to collect--at
    least I used to CALL for--and very often call for--the water-rate at
    the house of a divine actress, who lived in my beat for upwards of
    four year but never--no, never, sir of all divine creatures,
    actresses or no actresses, did I see a diviner one than is Henrietta
    Petowker.'

    Nicholas had much ado to prevent himself from laughing; not trusting
    himself to speak, he merely nodded in accordance with Mr Lillyvick's
    nods, and remained silent.

    'Let me speak a word with you in private,' said Mr Lillyvick.

    Nicholas looked good-humouredly at Smike, who, taking the hint,
    disappeared.

    'A bachelor is a miserable wretch, sir,' said Mr Lillyvick.

    'Is he?' asked Nicholas.

    'He is,' rejoined the collector. 'I have lived in the world for
    nigh sixty year, and I ought to know what it is.'

    'You OUGHT to know, certainly,' thought Nicholas; 'but whether you
    do or not, is another question.'

    'If a bachelor happens to have saved a little matter of money,' said
    Mr Lillyvick, 'his sisters and brothers, and nephews and nieces,
    look TO that money, and not to him; even if, by being a public
    character, he is the head of the family, or, as it may be, the main
    from which all the other little branches are turned on, they still
    wish him dead all the while, and get low-spirited every time they
    see him looking in good health, because they want to come into his
    little property. You see that?'

    'Oh yes,' replied Nicholas: 'it's very true, no doubt.'

    'The great reason for not being married,' resumed Mr Lillyvick, 'is
    the expense; that's what's kept me off, or else--Lord!' said Mr
    Lillyvick, snapping his fingers, 'I might have had fifty women.'

    'Fine women?' asked Nicholas.

    'Fine women, sir!' replied the collector; 'ay! not so fine as
    Henrietta Petowker, for she is an uncommon specimen, but such women
    as don't fall into every man's way, I can tell you. Now suppose a
    man can get a fortune IN a wife instead of with her--eh?'

    'Why, then, he's a lucky fellow,' replied Nicholas.

    'That's what I say,' retorted the collector, patting him benignantly
    on the side of the head with his umbrella; 'just what I say.
    Henrietta Petowker, the talented Henrietta Petowker has a fortune in
    herself, and I am going to--'

    'To make her Mrs Lillyvick?' suggested Nicholas.

    'No, sir, not to make her Mrs Lillyvick,' replied the collector.
    'Actresses, sir, always keep their maiden names--that's the regular
    thing--but I'm going to marry her; and the day after tomorrow, too.'

    'I congratulate you, sir,' said Nicholas.

    'Thank you, sir,' replied the collector, buttoning his waistcoat.
    'I shall draw her salary, of course, and I hope after all that it's
    nearly as cheap to keep two as it is to keep one; that's a
    consolation.'

    'Surely you don't want any consolation at such a moment?' observed
    Nicholas.

    'No,' replied Mr Lillyvick, shaking his head nervously: 'no--of
    course not.'

    'But how come you both here, if you're going to be married, Mr
    Lillyvick?' asked Nicholas.

    'Why, that's what I came to explain to you,' replied the collector
    of water-rate. 'The fact is, we have thought it best to keep it
    secret from the family.'

    'Family!' said Nicholas. 'What family?'

    'The Kenwigses of course,' rejoined Mr Lillyvick. 'If my niece and
    the children had known a word about it before I came away, they'd
    have gone into fits at my feet, and never have come out of 'em till
    I took an oath not to marry anybody--or they'd have got out a
    commission of lunacy, or some dreadful thing,' said the collector,
    quite trembling as he spoke.

    'To be sure,' said Nicholas. 'Yes; they would have been jealous, no
    doubt.'

    'To prevent which,' said Mr Lillyvick, 'Henrietta Petowker (it was
    settled between us) should come down here to her friends, the
    Crummleses, under pretence of this engagement, and I should go down
    to Guildford the day before, and join her on the coach there, which
    I did, and we came down from Guildford yesterday together. Now, for
    fear you should be writing to Mr Noggs, and might say anything about
    us, we have thought it best to let you into the secret. We shall be
    married from the Crummleses' lodgings, and shall be delighted to see
    you--either before church or at breakfast-time, which you like. It
    won't be expensive, you know,' said the collector, highly anxious to
    prevent any misunderstanding on this point; 'just muffins and
    coffee, with perhaps a shrimp or something of that sort for a
    relish, you know.'

    'Yes, yes, I understand,' replied Nicholas. 'Oh, I shall be most
    happy to come; it will give me the greatest pleasure. Where's the
    lady stopping--with Mrs Crummles?'

    'Why, no,' said the collector; 'they couldn't very well dispose of
    her at night, and so she is staying with an acquaintance of hers,
    and another young lady; they both belong to the theatre.'

    'Miss Snevellicci, I suppose?' said Nicholas.

    'Yes, that's the name.'

    'And they'll be bridesmaids, I presume?' said Nicholas.

    'Why,' said the collector, with a rueful face, 'they WILL have four
    bridesmaids; I'm afraid they'll make it rather theatrical.'

    'Oh no, not at all,' replied Nicholas, with an awkward attempt to
    convert a laugh into a cough. 'Who may the four be? Miss
    Snevellicci of course--Miss Ledrook--'

    'The--the phenomenon,' groaned the collector.

    'Ha, ha!' cried Nicholas. 'I beg your pardon, I don't know what I'm
    laughing at--yes, that'll be very pretty--the phenomenon--who else?'

    'Some young woman or other,' replied the collector, rising; 'some
    other friend of Henrietta Petowker's. Well, you'll be careful not
    to say anything about it, will you?'

    'You may safely depend upon me,' replied Nicholas. 'Won't you take
    anything to eat or drink?'

    'No,' said the collector; 'I haven't any appetite. I should think
    it was a very pleasant life, the married one, eh?'

    'I have not the least doubt of it,' rejoined Nicholas.

    'Yes,' said the collector; 'certainly. Oh yes. No doubt. Good
    night.'

    With these words, Mr Lillyvick, whose manner had exhibited through
    the whole of this interview a most extraordinary compound of
    precipitation, hesitation, confidence and doubt, fondness,
    misgiving, meanness, and self-importance, turned his back upon the
    room, and left Nicholas to enjoy a laugh by himself if he felt so
    disposed.

    Without stopping to inquire whether the intervening day appeared to
    Nicholas to consist of the usual number of hours of the ordinary
    length, it may be remarked that, to the parties more directly
    interested in the forthcoming ceremony, it passed with great
    rapidity, insomuch that when Miss Petowker awoke on the succeeding
    morning in the chamber of Miss Snevellicci, she declared that
    nothing should ever persuade her that that really was the day which
    was to behold a change in her condition.

    'I never will believe it,' said Miss Petowker; 'I cannot really.
    It's of no use talking, I never can make up my mind to go through
    with such a trial!'

    On hearing this, Miss Snevellicci and Miss Ledrook, who knew
    perfectly well that their fair friend's mind had been made up for
    three or four years, at any period of which time she would have
    cheerfully undergone the desperate trial now approaching if she
    could have found any eligible gentleman disposed for the venture,
    began to preach comfort and firmness, and to say how very proud she
    ought to feel that it was in her power to confer lasting bliss on a
    deserving object, and how necessary it was for the happiness of
    mankind in general that women should possess fortitude and
    resignation on such occasions; and that although for their parts
    they held true happiness to consist in a single life, which they
    would not willingly exchange--no, not for any worldly consideration--
    still (thank God), if ever the time SHOULD come, they hoped they
    knew their duty too well to repine, but would the rather submit with
    meekness and humility of spirit to a fate for which Providence had
    clearly designed them with a view to the contentment and reward of
    their fellow-creatures.

    'I might feel it was a great blow,' said Miss Snevellicci, 'to break
    up old associations and what-do-you-callems of that kind, but I
    would submit, my dear, I would indeed.'

    'So would I,' said Miss Ledrook; 'I would rather court the yoke than
    shun it. I have broken hearts before now, and I'm very sorry for
    it: for it's a terrible thing to reflect upon.'

    'It is indeed,' said Miss Snevellicci. 'Now Led, my dear, we must
    positively get her ready, or we shall be too late, we shall indeed.'

    This pious reasoning, and perhaps the fear of being too late,
    supported the bride through the ceremony of robing, after which,
    strong tea and brandy were administered in alternate doses as a
    means of strengthening her feeble limbs and causing her to walk
    steadier.

    'How do you feel now, my love?' inquired Miss Snevellicci.

    'Oh Lillyvick!' cried the bride. 'If you knew what I am undergoing
    for you!'

    'Of course he knows it, love, and will never forget it,' said Miss
    Ledrook.

    'Do you think he won't?' cried Miss Petowker, really showing great
    capability for the stage. 'Oh, do you think he won't? Do you think
    Lillyvick will always remember it--always, always, always?'

    There is no knowing in what this burst of feeling might have ended,
    if Miss Snevellicci had not at that moment proclaimed the arrival of
    the fly, which so astounded the bride that she shook off divers
    alarming symptoms which were coming on very strong, and running to
    the glass adjusted her dress, and calmly declared that she was ready
    for the sacrifice.

    She was accordingly supported into the coach, and there 'kept up'
    (as Miss Snevellicci said) with perpetual sniffs of SAL VOLATILE and
    sips of brandy and other gentle stimulants, until they reached the
    manager's door, which was already opened by the two Master
    Crummleses, who wore white cockades, and were decorated with the
    choicest and most resplendent waistcoats in the theatrical wardrobe.
    By the combined exertions of these young gentlemen and the
    bridesmaids, assisted by the coachman, Miss Petowker was at length
    supported in a condition of much exhaustion to the first floor,
    where she no sooner encountered the youthful bridegroom than she
    fainted with great decorum.

    'Henrietta Petowker!' said the collector; 'cheer up, my lovely one.'

    Miss Petowker grasped the collector's hand, but emotion choked her
    utterance.

    'Is the sight of me so dreadful, Henrietta Petowker?' said the
    collector.

    'Oh no, no, no,' rejoined the bride; 'but all the friends--the
    darling friends--of my youthful days--to leave them all--it is such
    a shock!'

    With such expressions of sorrow, Miss Petowker went on to enumerate
    the dear friends of her youthful days one by one, and to call upon
    such of them as were present to come and embrace her. This done,
    she remembered that Mrs Crummles had been more than a mother to her,
    and after that, that Mr Crummles had been more than a father to her,
    and after that, that the Master Crummleses and Miss Ninetta Crummles
    had been more than brothers and sisters to her. These various
    remembrances being each accompanied with a series of hugs, occupied
    a long time, and they were obliged to drive to church very fast, for
    fear they should be too late.

    The procession consisted of two flys; in the first of which were
    Miss Bravassa (the fourth bridesmaid), Mrs Crummles, the collector,
    and Mr Folair, who had been chosen as his second on the occasion.
    In the other were the bride, Mr Crummles, Miss Snevellicci, Miss
    Ledrook, and the phenomenon. The costumes were beautiful. The
    bridesmaids were quite covered with artificial flowers, and the
    phenomenon, in particular, was rendered almost invisible by the
    portable arbour in which she was enshrined. Miss Ledrook, who was
    of a romantic turn, wore in her breast the miniature of some field-
    officer unknown, which she had purchased, a great bargain, not very
    long before; the other ladies displayed several dazzling articles of
    imitative jewellery, almost equal to real, and Mrs Crummles came out
    in a stern and gloomy majesty, which attracted the admiration of all
    beholders.

    But, perhaps the appearance of Mr Crummles was more striking and
    appropriate than that of any member of the party. This gentleman,
    who personated the bride's father, had, in pursuance of a happy and
    original conception, 'made up' for the part by arraying himself in a
    theatrical wig, of a style and pattern commonly known as a brown
    George, and moreover assuming a snuff-coloured suit, of the previous
    century, with grey silk stockings, and buckles to his shoes. The
    better to support his assumed character he had determined to be
    greatly overcome, and, consequently, when they entered the church,
    the sobs of the affectionate parent were so heart-rending that the
    pew-opener suggested the propriety of his retiring to the vestry,
    and comforting himself with a glass of water before the ceremony
    began.

    The procession up the aisle was beautiful. The bride, with the four
    bridesmaids, forming a group previously arranged and rehearsed; the
    collector, followed by his second, imitating his walk and gestures
    to the indescribable amusement of some theatrical friends in the
    gallery; Mr Crummles, with an infirm and feeble gait; Mrs Crummles
    advancing with that stage walk, which consists of a stride and a
    stop alternately--it was the completest thing ever witnessed. The
    ceremony was very quickly disposed of, and all parties present
    having signed the register (for which purpose, when it came to his
    turn, Mr Crummles carefully wiped and put on an immense pair of
    spectacles), they went back to breakfast in high spirits. And here
    they found Nicholas awaiting their arrival.

    'Now then,' said Crummles, who had been assisting Mrs Grudden in the
    preparations, which were on a more extensive scale than was quite
    agreeable to the collector. 'Breakfast, breakfast.'

    No second invitation was required. The company crowded and squeezed
    themselves at the table as well as they could, and fell to,
    immediately: Miss Petowker blushing very much when anybody was
    looking, and eating very much when anybody was NOT looking; and Mr
    Lillyvick going to work as though with the cool resolve, that since
    the good things must be paid for by him, he would leave as little as
    possible for the Crummleses to eat up afterwards.

    'It's very soon done, sir, isn't it?' inquired Mr Folair of the
    collector, leaning over the table to address him.

    'What is soon done, sir?' returned Mr Lillyvick.

    'The tying up--the fixing oneself with a wife,' replied Mr Folair.
    'It don't take long, does it?'

    'No, sir,' replied Mr Lillyvick, colouring. 'It does not take long.
    And what then, sir?'

    'Oh! nothing,' said the actor. 'It don't take a man long to hang
    himself, either, eh? ha, ha!'

    Mr Lillyvick laid down his knife and fork, and looked round the
    table with indignant astonishment.

    'To hang himself!' repeated Mr Lillyvick.

    A profound silence came upon all, for Mr Lillyvick was dignified
    beyond expression.

    'To hang himself!' cried Mr Lillyvick again. 'Is any parallel
    attempted to be drawn in this company between matrimony and
    hanging?'

    'The noose, you know,' said Mr Folair, a little crest-fallen.

    'The noose, sir?' retorted Mr Lillyvick. 'Does any man dare to
    speak to me of a noose, and Henrietta Pe--'

    'Lillyvick,' suggested Mr Crummles.

    '--And Henrietta Lillyvick in the same breath?' said the collector.
    'In this house, in the presence of Mr and Mrs Crummles, who have
    brought up a talented and virtuous family, to be blessings and
    phenomenons, and what not, are we to hear talk of nooses?'

    'Folair,' said Mr Crummles, deeming it a matter of decency to be
    affected by this allusion to himself and partner, 'I'm astonished at
    you.'

    'What are you going on in this way at me for?' urged the unfortunate
    actor. 'What have I done?'

    'Done, sir!' cried Mr Lillyvick, 'aimed a blow at the whole framework
    of society--'

    'And the best and tenderest feelings,' added Crummles, relapsing
    into the old man.

    'And the highest and most estimable of social ties,' said the
    collector. 'Noose! As if one was caught, trapped into the married
    state, pinned by the leg, instead of going into it of one's own
    accord and glorying in the act!'

    'I didn't mean to make it out, that you were caught and trapped, and
    pinned by the leg,' replied the actor. 'I'm sorry for it; I can't
    say any more.'

    'So you ought to be, sir,' returned Mr Lillyvick; 'and I am glad to
    hear that you have enough of feeling left to be so.'

    The quarrel appearing to terminate with this reply, Mrs Lillyvick
    considered that the fittest occasion (the attention of the company
    being no longer distracted) to burst into tears, and require the
    assistance of all four bridesmaids, which was immediately rendered,
    though not without some confusion, for the room being small and the
    table-cloth long, a whole detachment of plates were swept off the
    board at the very first move. Regardless of this circumstance,
    however, Mrs Lillyvick refused to be comforted until the
    belligerents had passed their words that the dispute should be
    carried no further, which, after a sufficient show of reluctance,
    they did, and from that time Mr Folair sat in moody silence,
    contenting himself with pinching Nicholas's leg when anything was
    said, and so expressing his contempt both for the speaker and the
    sentiments to which he gave utterance.

    There were a great number of speeches made; some by Nicholas, and
    some by Crummles, and some by the collector; two by the Master
    Crummleses in returning thanks for themselves, and one by the
    phenomenon on behalf of the bridesmaids, at which Mrs Crummles shed
    tears. There was some singing, too, from Miss Ledrook and Miss
    Bravassa, and very likely there might have been more, if the fly-
    driver, who stopped to drive the happy pair to the spot where they
    proposed to take steamboat to Ryde, had not sent in a peremptory
    message intimating, that if they didn't come directly he should
    infallibly demand eighteen-pence over and above his agreement.

    This desperate threat effectually broke up the party. After a most
    pathetic leave-taking, Mr Lillyvick and his bride departed for Ryde,
    where they were to spend the next two days in profound retirement,
    and whither they were accompanied by the infant, who had been
    appointed travelling bridesmaid on Mr Lillyvick's express
    stipulation: as the steamboat people, deceived by her size, would
    (he had previously ascertained) transport her at half-price.

    As there was no performance that night, Mr Crummles declared his
    intention of keeping it up till everything to drink was disposed of;
    but Nicholas having to play Romeo for the first time on the ensuing
    evening, contrived to slip away in the midst of a temporary
    confusion, occasioned by the unexpected development of strong
    symptoms of inebriety in the conduct of Mrs Grudden.

    To this act of desertion he was led, not only by his own
    inclinations, but by his anxiety on account of Smike, who, having to
    sustain the character of the Apothecary, had been as yet wholly
    unable to get any more of the part into his head than the general
    idea that he was very hungry, which--perhaps from old recollections--
    he had acquired with great aptitude.

    'I don't know what's to be done, Smike,' said Nicholas, laying down
    the book. 'I am afraid you can't learn it, my poor fellow.'

    'I am afraid not,' said Smike, shaking his head. 'I think if you--
    but that would give you so much trouble.'

    'What?' inquired Nicholas. 'Never mind me.'

    'I think,' said Smike, 'if you were to keep saying it to me in
    little bits, over and over again, I should be able to recollect it
    from hearing you.'

    'Do you think so?' exclaimed Nicholas. 'Well said. Let us see who
    tires first. Not I, Smike, trust me. Now then. Who calls so
    loud?"

    '"Who calls so loud?"' said Smike.

    '"Who calls so loud?"' repeated Nicholas.

    '"Who calls so loud?"' cried Smike.

    Thus they continued to ask each other who called so loud, over and
    over again; and when Smike had that by heart Nicholas went to
    another sentence, and then to two at a time, and then to three, and
    so on, until at midnight poor Smike found to his unspeakable joy
    that he really began to remember something about the text.

    Early in the morning they went to it again, and Smike, rendered more
    confident by the progress he had already made, got on faster and
    with better heart. As soon as he began to acquire the words pretty
    freely, Nicholas showed him how he must come in with both hands
    spread out upon his stomach, and how he must occasionally rub it, in
    compliance with the established form by which people on the stage
    always denote that they want something to eat. After the morning's
    rehearsal they went to work again, nor did they stop, except for a
    hasty dinner, until it was time to repair to the theatre at night.

    Never had master a more anxious, humble, docile pupil. Never had
    pupil a more patient, unwearying, considerate, kindhearted master.

    As soon as they were dressed, and at every interval when he was not
    upon the stage, Nicholas renewed his instructions. They prospered
    well. The Romeo was received with hearty plaudits and unbounded
    favour, and Smike was pronounced unanimously, alike by audience and
    actors, the very prince and prodigy of Apothecaries.
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    Chapter 25
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