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    Chapter 39

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    Chapter 39
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    CHAPTER 39

    In which another old Friend encounters Smike, very opportunely and
    to some Purpose

    The night, fraught with so much bitterness to one poor soul, had
    given place to a bright and cloudless summer morning, when a north-
    country mail-coach traversed, with cheerful noise, the yet silent
    streets of Islington, and, giving brisk note of its approach with
    the lively winding of the guard's horn, clattered onward to its
    halting-place hard by the Post Office.

    The only outside passenger was a burly, honest-looking countryman on
    the box, who, with his eyes fixed upon the dome of St Paul's
    Cathedral, appeared so wrapt in admiring wonder, as to be quite
    insensible to all the bustle of getting out the bags and parcels,
    until one of the coach windows being let sharply down, he looked
    round, and encountered a pretty female face which was just then
    thrust out.

    'See there, lass!' bawled the countryman, pointing towards the
    object of his admiration. 'There be Paul's Church. 'Ecod, he be a
    soizable 'un, he be.'

    'Goodness, John! I shouldn't have thought it could have been half
    the size. What a monster!'

    'Monsther!--Ye're aboot right theer, I reckon, Mrs Browdie,' said
    the countryman good-humouredly, as he came slowly down in his huge
    top-coat; 'and wa'at dost thee tak yon place to be noo--thot'un
    owor the wa'? Ye'd never coom near it 'gin you thried for twolve
    moonths. It's na' but a Poast Office! Ho! ho! They need to charge
    for dooble-latthers. A Poast Office! Wa'at dost thee think o'
    thot? 'Ecod, if thot's on'y a Poast Office, I'd loike to see where
    the Lord Mayor o' Lunnun lives.'

    So saying, John Browdie--for he it was--opened the coach-door, and
    tapping Mrs Browdie, late Miss Price, on the cheek as he looked in,
    burst into a boisterous fit of laughter.

    'Weel!' said John. 'Dang my bootuns if she bean't asleep agean!'

    'She's been asleep all night, and was, all yesterday, except for a
    minute or two now and then,' replied John Browdie's choice, 'and I
    was very sorry when she woke, for she has been SO cross!'

    The subject of these remarks was a slumbering figure, so muffled in
    shawl and cloak, that it would have been matter of impossibility to
    guess at its sex but for a brown beaver bonnet and green veil which
    ornamented the head, and which, having been crushed and flattened,
    for two hundred and fifty miles, in that particular angle of the
    vehicle from which the lady's snores now proceeded, presented an
    appearance sufficiently ludicrous to have moved less risible muscles
    than those of John Browdie's ruddy face.

    'Hollo!' cried John, twitching one end of the dragged veil. 'Coom,
    wakken oop, will 'ee?'

    After several burrowings into the old corner, and many exclamations
    of impatience and fatigue, the figure struggled into a sitting
    posture; and there, under a mass of crumpled beaver, and surrounded
    by a semicircle of blue curl-papers, were the delicate features of
    Miss Fanny Squeers.

    'Oh, 'Tilda!' cried Miss Squeers, 'how you have been kicking of me
    through this blessed night!'

    'Well, I do like that,' replied her friend, laughing, 'when you have
    had nearly the whole coach to yourself.'

    'Don't deny it, 'Tilda,' said Miss Squeers, impressively, 'because
    you have, and it's no use to go attempting to say you haven't. You
    mightn't have known it in your sleep, 'Tilda, but I haven't closed
    my eyes for a single wink, and so I THINK I am to be believed.'

    With which reply, Miss Squeers adjusted the bonnet and veil, which
    nothing but supernatural interference and an utter suspension of
    nature's laws could have reduced to any shape or form; and evidently
    flattering herself that it looked uncommonly neat, brushed off the
    sandwich-crumbs and bits of biscuit which had accumulated in her
    lap, and availing herself of John Browdie's proffered arm, descended
    from the coach.

    'Noo,' said John, when a hackney coach had been called, and the
    ladies and the luggage hurried in, 'gang to the Sarah's Head, mun.'

    'To the VERE?' cried the coachman.

    'Lawk, Mr Browdie!' interrupted Miss Squeers. 'The idea! Saracen's
    Head.'

    'Sure-ly,' said John, 'I know'd it was something aboot Sarah's Son's
    Head. Dost thou know thot?'

    'Oh, ah! I know that,' replied the coachman gruffly, as he banged
    the door.

    "Tilda, dear, really,' remonstrated Miss Squeers, 'we shall be
    taken for I don't know what.'

    'Let them tak' us as they foind us,' said John Browdie; 'we dean't
    come to Lunnun to do nought but 'joy oursel, do we?'

    'I hope not, Mr Browdie,' replied Miss Squeers, looking singularly
    dismal.

    'Well, then,' said John, 'it's no matther. I've only been a married
    man fower days, 'account of poor old feyther deein, and puttin' it
    off. Here be a weddin' party--broide and broide's-maid, and the
    groom--if a mun dean't 'joy himsel noo, when ought he, hey? Drat it
    all, thot's what I want to know.'

    So, in order that he might begin to enjoy himself at once, and lose
    no time, Mr Browdie gave his wife a hearty kiss, and succeeded in
    wresting another from Miss Squeers, after a maidenly resistance of
    scratching and struggling on the part of that young lady, which was
    not quite over when they reached the Saracen's Head.

    Here, the party straightway retired to rest; the refreshment of
    sleep being necessary after so long a journey; and here they met
    again about noon, to a substantial breakfast, spread by direction of
    Mr John Browdie, in a small private room upstairs commanding an
    uninterrupted view of the stables.

    To have seen Miss Squeers now, divested of the brown beaver, the
    green veil, and the blue curl-papers, and arrayed in all the virgin
    splendour of a white frock and spencer, with a white muslin bonnet,
    and an imitative damask rose in full bloom on the inside thereof--
    her luxuriant crop of hair arranged in curls so tight that it was
    impossible they could come out by any accident, and her bonnet-cap
    trimmed with little damask roses, which might be supposed to be so
    many promising scions of the big rose--to have seen all this, and to
    have seen the broad damask belt, matching both the family rose and
    the little roses, which encircled her slender waist, and by a happy
    ingenuity took off from the shortness of the spencer behind,--to
    have beheld all this, and to have taken further into account the
    coral bracelets (rather short of beads, and with a very visible
    black string) which clasped her wrists, and the coral necklace which
    rested on her neck, supporting, outside her frock, a lonely
    cornelian heart, typical of her own disengaged affections--to have
    contemplated all these mute but expressive appeals to the purest
    feelings of our nature, might have thawed the frost of age, and
    added new and inextinguishable fuel to the fire of youth.

    The waiter was touched. Waiter as he was, he had human passions and
    feelings, and he looked very hard at Miss Squeers as he handed the
    muffins.

    'Is my pa in, do you know?' asked Miss Squeers with dignity.

    'Beg your pardon, miss?'

    'My pa,' repeated Miss Squeers; 'is he in?'

    'In where, miss?'

    'In here--in the house!' replied Miss Squeers. 'My pa--Mr Wackford
    Squeers--he's stopping here. Is he at home?'

    'I didn't know there was any gen'l'man of that name in the house,
    miss' replied the waiter. 'There may be, in the coffee-room.'

    MAY BE. Very pretty this, indeed! Here was Miss Squeers, who had
    been depending, all the way to London, upon showing her friends how
    much at home she would be, and how much respectful notice her name
    and connections would excite, told that her father MIGHT be there!
    'As if he was a feller!' observed Miss Squeers, with emphatic
    indignation.

    'Ye'd betther inquire, mun,' said John Browdie. 'An' hond up
    another pigeon-pie, will 'ee? Dang the chap,' muttered John,
    looking into the empty dish as the waiter retired; 'does he ca' this
    a pie--three yoong pigeons and a troifling matther o' steak, and a
    crust so loight that you doant know when it's in your mooth and when
    it's gane? I wonder hoo many pies goes to a breakfast!'

    After a short interval, which John Browdie employed upon the ham and
    a cold round of beef, the waiter returned with another pie, and the
    information that Mr Squeers was not stopping in the house, but that
    he came there every day and that directly he arrived, he should be
    shown upstairs. With this, he retired; and he had not retired two
    minutes, when he returned with Mr Squeers and his hopeful son.

    'Why, who'd have thought of this?' said Mr Squeers, when he had
    saluted the party and received some private family intelligence from
    his daughter.

    'Who, indeed, pa!' replied that young lady, spitefully. 'But you
    see 'Tilda IS married at last.'

    'And I stond threat for a soight o' Lunnun, schoolmeasther,' said
    John, vigorously attacking the pie.

    'One of them things that young men do when they get married,'
    returned Squeers; 'and as runs through with their money like nothing
    at all! How much better wouldn't it be now, to save it up for the
    eddication of any little boys, for instance! They come on you,'
    said Mr Squeers in a moralising way, 'before you're aware of it;
    mine did upon me.'

    'Will 'ee pick a bit?' said John.

    'I won't myself,' returned Squeers; 'but if you'll just let little
    Wackford tuck into something fat, I'll be obliged to you. Give it
    him in his fingers, else the waiter charges it on, and there's lot
    of profit on this sort of vittles without that. If you hear the
    waiter coming, sir, shove it in your pocket and look out of the
    window, d'ye hear?'

    'I'm awake, father,' replied the dutiful Wackford.

    'Well,' said Squeers, turning to his daughter, 'it's your turn to be
    married next. You must make haste.'

    'Oh, I'm in no hurry,' said Miss Squeers, very sharply.

    'No, Fanny?' cried her old friend with some archness.

    'No, 'Tilda,' replied Miss Squeers, shaking her head vehemently. 'I
    can wait.'

    'So can the young men, it seems, Fanny,' observed Mrs Browdie.

    'They an't draw'd into it by ME, 'Tilda,' retorted Miss Squeers.

    'No,' returned her friend; 'that's exceedingly true.'

    The sarcastic tone of this reply might have provoked a rather
    acrimonious retort from Miss Squeers, who, besides being of a
    constitutionally vicious temper--aggravated, just now, by travel and
    recent jolting--was somewhat irritated by old recollections and the
    failure of her own designs upon Mr Browdie; and the acrimonious
    retort might have led to a great many other retorts, which might
    have led to Heaven knows what, if the subject of conversation had
    not been, at that precise moment, accidentally changed by Mr Squeers
    himself

    'What do you think?' said that gentleman; 'who do you suppose we
    have laid hands on, Wackford and me?'

    'Pa! not Mr--?' Miss Squeers was unable to finish the sentence, but
    Mrs Browdie did it for her, and added, 'Nickleby?'

    'No,' said Squeers. 'But next door to him though.'

    'You can't mean Smike?' cried Miss Squeers, clapping her hands.

    'Yes, I can though,' rejoined her father. 'I've got him, hard and
    fast.'

    'Wa'at!' exclaimed John Browdie, pushing away his plate. 'Got that
    poor--dom'd scoondrel? Where?'

    'Why, in the top back room, at my lodging,' replied Squeers, 'with
    him on one side, and the key on the other.'

    'At thy loodgin'! Thee'st gotten him at thy loodgin'? Ho! ho! The
    schoolmeasther agin all England. Give us thee hond, mun; I'm
    darned but I must shak thee by the hond for thot.--Gotten him at thy
    loodgin'?'

    'Yes,' replied Squeers, staggering in his chair under the
    congratulatory blow on the chest which the stout Yorkshireman dealt
    him; 'thankee. Don't do it again. You mean it kindly, I know,
    but it hurts rather. Yes, there he is. That's not so bad, is it?'

    'Ba'ad!' repeated John Browdie. 'It's eneaf to scare a mun to hear
    tell on.'

    'I thought it would surprise you a bit,' said Squeers, rubbing his
    hands. 'It was pretty neatly done, and pretty quick too.'

    'Hoo wor it?' inquired John, sitting down close to him. 'Tell us
    all aboot it, mun; coom, quick!'

    Although he could not keep pace with John Browdie's impatience, Mr
    Squeers related the lucky chance by which Smike had fallen into his
    hands, as quickly as he could, and, except when he was interrupted
    by the admiring remarks of his auditors, paused not in the recital
    until he had brought it to an end.

    'For fear he should give me the slip, by any chance,' observed
    Squeers, when he had finished, looking very cunning, 'I've taken
    three outsides for tomorrow morning--for Wackford and him and me--
    and have arranged to leave the accounts and the new boys to the
    agent, don't you see? So it's very lucky you come today, or you'd
    have missed us; and as it is, unless you could come and tea with me
    tonight, we shan't see anything more of you before we go away.'

    'Dean't say anoother wurd,' returned the Yorkshireman, shaking him
    by the hand. 'We'd coom, if it was twonty mile.'

    'No, would you though?' returned Mr Squeers, who had not expected
    quite such a ready acceptance of his invitation, or he would have
    considered twice before he gave it.

    John Browdie's only reply was another squeeze of the hand, and an
    assurance that they would not begin to see London till tomorrow, so
    that they might be at Mr Snawley's at six o'clock without fail; and
    after some further conversation, Mr Squeers and his son departed.

    During the remainder of the day, Mr Browdie was in a very odd and
    excitable state; bursting occasionally into an explosion of
    laughter, and then taking up his hat and running into the coach-yard
    to have it out by himself. He was very restless too, constantly
    walking in and out, and snapping his fingers, and dancing scraps of
    uncouth country dances, and, in short, conducting himself in such a
    very extraordinary manner, that Miss Squeers opined he was going
    mad, and, begging her dear 'Tilda not to distress herself,
    communicated her suspicions in so many words. Mrs Browdie, however,
    without discovering any great alarm, observed that she had seen him
    so once before, and that although he was almost sure to be ill after
    it, it would not be anything very serious, and therefore he was
    better left alone.

    The result proved her to be perfectly correct for, while they were
    all sitting in Mr Snawley's parlour that night, and just as it was
    beginning to get dusk, John Browdie was taken so ill, and seized
    with such an alarming dizziness in the head, that the whole company
    were thrown into the utmost consternation. His good lady, indeed,
    was the only person present, who retained presence of mind enough to
    observe that if he were allowed to lie down on Mr Squeers's bed for
    an hour or so, and left entirely to himself, he would be sure to
    recover again almost as quickly as he had been taken ill. Nobody
    could refuse to try the effect of so reasonable a proposal, before
    sending for a surgeon. Accordingly, John was supported upstairs,
    with great difficulty; being a monstrous weight, and regularly
    tumbling down two steps every time they hoisted him up three; and,
    being laid on the bed, was left in charge of his wife, who, after a
    short interval, reappeared in the parlour, with the gratifying
    intelligence that he had fallen fast asleep.

    Now, the fact was, that at that particular moment, John Browdie was
    sitting on the bed with the reddest face ever seen, cramming the
    corner of the pillow into his mouth, to prevent his roaring out loud
    with laughter. He had no sooner succeeded in suppressing this
    emotion, than he slipped off his shoes, and creeping to the
    adjoining room where the prisoner was confined, turned the key,
    which was on the outside, and darting in, covered Smike's mouth with
    his huge hand before he could utter a sound.

    'Ods-bobs, dost thee not know me, mun?' whispered the Yorkshireman
    to the bewildered lad. 'Browdie. Chap as met thee efther
    schoolmeasther was banged?'

    'Yes, yes,' cried Smike. 'Oh! help me.'

    'Help thee!' replied John, stopping his mouth again, the instant he
    had said this much. 'Thee didn't need help, if thee warn't as silly
    yoongster as ever draw'd breath. Wa'at did 'ee come here for,
    then?'

    'He brought me; oh! he brought me,' cried Smike.

    'Brout thee!' replied John. 'Why didn't 'ee punch his head, or lay
    theeself doon and kick, and squeal out for the pollis? I'd ha'
    licked a doozen such as him when I was yoong as thee. But thee
    be'est a poor broken-doon chap,' said John, sadly, 'and God forgi'
    me for bragging ower yan o' his weakest creeturs!'

    Smike opened his mouth to speak, but John Browdie stopped him.

    'Stan' still,' said the Yorkshireman, 'and doant'ee speak a morsel
    o' talk till I tell'ee.'

    With this caution, John Browdie shook his head significantly, and
    drawing a screwdriver from his pocket, took off the box of the lock
    in a very deliberate and workmanlike manner, and laid it, together
    with the implement, on the floor.

    'See thot?' said John 'Thot be thy doin'. Noo, coot awa'!'

    Smike looked vacantly at him, as if unable to comprehend his
    meaning.

    'I say, coot awa',' repeated John, hastily. 'Dost thee know where
    thee livest? Thee dost? Weel. Are yon thy clothes, or
    schoolmeasther's?'

    'Mine,' replied Smike, as the Yorkshireman hurried him to the
    adjoining room, and pointed out a pair of shoes and a coat which
    were lying on a chair.

    'On wi' 'em,' said John, forcing the wrong arm into the wrong
    sleeve, and winding the tails of the coat round the fugitive's neck.
    'Noo, foller me, and when thee get'st ootside door, turn to the
    right, and they wean't see thee pass.'

    'But--but--he'll hear me shut the door,' replied Smike, trembling
    from head to foot.

    'Then dean't shut it at all,' retorted John Browdie. 'Dang it, thee
    bean't afeard o' schoolmeasther's takkin cold, I hope?'

    'N-no,' said Smike, his teeth chattering in his head. 'But he
    brought me back before, and will again. He will, he will indeed.'

    'He wull, he wull!' replied John impatiently. 'He wean't, he
    wean't. Look'ee! I wont to do this neighbourly loike, and let them
    think thee's gotten awa' o' theeself, but if he cooms oot o' thot
    parlour awhiles theer't clearing off, he mun' have mercy on his oun
    boans, for I wean't. If he foinds it oot, soon efther, I'll put 'un
    on a wrong scent, I warrant 'ee. But if thee keep'st a good hart,
    thee'lt be at whoam afore they know thee'st gotten off. Coom!'

    Smike, who comprehended just enough of this to know it was intended
    as encouragement, prepared to follow with tottering steps, when John
    whispered in his ear.

    'Thee'lt just tell yoong Measther that I'm sploiced to 'Tilly Price,
    and to be heerd on at the Saracen by latther, and that I bean't
    jealous of 'un--dang it, I'm loike to boost when I think o' that
    neight! 'Cod, I think I see 'un now, a powderin' awa' at the thin
    bread an' butther!'

    It was rather a ticklish recollection for John just then, for he was
    within an ace of breaking out into a loud guffaw. Restraining
    himself, however, just in time, by a great effort, he glided
    downstairs, hauling Smike behind him; and placing himself close to
    the parlour door, to confront the first person that might come out,
    signed to him to make off.

    Having got so far, Smike needed no second bidding. Opening the
    house-door gently, and casting a look of mingled gratitude and
    terror at his deliverer, he took the direction which had been
    indicated to him, and sped away like the wind.

    The Yorkshireman remained on his post for a few minutes, but,
    finding that there was no pause in the conversation inside, crept
    back again unheard, and stood, listening over the stair-rail, for a
    full hour. Everything remaining perfectly quiet, he got into Mr
    Squeers's bed, once more, and drawing the clothes over his head,
    laughed till he was nearly smothered.

    If there could only have been somebody by, to see how the bedclothes
    shook, and to see the Yorkshireman's great red face and round head
    appear above the sheets, every now and then, like some jovial
    monster coming to the surface to breathe, and once more dive down
    convulsed with the laughter which came bursting forth afresh--that
    somebody would have been scarcely less amused than John Browdie
    himself.
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