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    Chapter 43

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    Chapter 43
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    CHAPTER 43

    Officiates as a kind of Gentleman Usher, in bringing various People
    together

    The storm had long given place to a calm the most profound, and the
    evening was pretty far advanced--indeed supper was over, and the
    process of digestion proceeding as favourably as, under the
    influence of complete tranquillity, cheerful conversation, and a
    moderate allowance of brandy-and-water, most wise men conversant
    with the anatomy and functions of the human frame will consider that
    it ought to have proceeded, when the three friends, or as one might
    say, both in a civil and religious sense, and with proper deference
    and regard to the holy state of matrimony, the two friends, (Mr and
    Mrs Browdie counting as no more than one,) were startled by the
    noise of loud and angry threatenings below stairs, which presently
    attained so high a pitch, and were conveyed besides in language so
    towering, sanguinary, and ferocious, that it could hardly have been
    surpassed, if there had actually been a Saracen's head then present
    in the establishment, supported on the shoulders and surmounting the
    trunk of a real, live, furious, and most unappeasable Saracen.

    This turmoil, instead of quickly subsiding after the first outburst,
    (as turmoils not unfrequently do, whether in taverns, legislative
    assemblies, or elsewhere,) into a mere grumbling and growling
    squabble, increased every moment; and although the whole din
    appeared to be raised by but one pair of lungs, yet that one pair
    was of so powerful a quality, and repeated such words as
    'scoundrel,' 'rascal,' 'insolent puppy,' and a variety of expletives
    no less flattering to the party addressed, with such great relish
    and strength of tone, that a dozen voices raised in concert under
    any ordinary circumstances would have made far less uproar and
    created much smaller consternation.

    'Why, what's the matter?' said Nicholas, moving hastily towards the
    door.

    John Browdie was striding in the same direction when Mrs Browdie
    turned pale, and, leaning back in her chair, requested him with a
    faint voice to take notice, that if he ran into any danger it was
    her intention to fall into hysterics immediately, and that the
    consequences might be more serious than he thought for. John looked
    rather disconcerted by this intelligence, though there was a lurking
    grin on his face at the same time; but, being quite unable to keep
    out of the fray, he compromised the matter by tucking his wife's arm
    under his own, and, thus accompanied, following Nicholas downstairs
    with all speed.

    The passage outside the coffee-room door was the scene of
    disturbance, and here were congregated the coffee-room customers and
    waiters, together with two or three coachmen and helpers from the
    yard. These had hastily assembled round a young man who from his
    appearance might have been a year or two older than Nicholas, and
    who, besides having given utterance to the defiances just now
    described, seemed to have proceeded to even greater lengths in his
    indignation, inasmuch as his feet had no other covering than a pair
    of stockings, while a couple of slippers lay at no great distance
    from the head of a prostrate figure in an opposite corner, who bore
    the appearance of having been shot into his present retreat by means
    of a kick, and complimented by having the slippers flung about his
    ears afterwards.

    The coffee-room customers, and the waiters, and the coachmen, and
    the helpers--not to mention a barmaid who was looking on from behind
    an open sash window--seemed at that moment, if a spectator might
    judge from their winks, nods, and muttered exclamations, strongly
    disposed to take part against the young gentleman in the stockings.
    Observing this, and that the young gentleman was nearly of his own
    age and had in nothing the appearance of an habitual brawler,
    Nicholas, impelled by such feelings as will influence young men
    sometimes, felt a very strong disposition to side with the weaker
    party, and so thrust himself at once into the centre of the group,
    and in a more emphatic tone, perhaps, than circumstances might seem
    to warrant, demanded what all that noise was about.

    'Hallo!' said one of the men from the yard, 'this is somebody in
    disguise, this is.'

    'Room for the eldest son of the Emperor of Roosher, gen'l'men!'
    cried another fellow.

    Disregarding these sallies, which were uncommonly well received, as
    sallies at the expense of the best-dressed persons in a crowd
    usually are, Nicholas glanced carelessly round, and addressing the
    young gentleman, who had by this time picked up his slippers and
    thrust his feet into them, repeated his inquiries with a courteous
    air.

    'A mere nothing!' he replied.

    At this a murmur was raised by the lookers-on, and some of the
    boldest cried, 'Oh, indeed!--Wasn't it though?--Nothing, eh?--He
    called that nothing, did he? Lucky for him if he found it nothing.'
    These and many other expressions of ironical disapprobation having
    been exhausted, two or three of the out-of-door fellows began to
    hustle Nicholas and the young gentleman who had made the noise:
    stumbling against them by accident, and treading on their toes, and
    so forth. But this being a round game, and one not necessarily
    limited to three or four players, was open to John Browdie too, who,
    bursting into the little crowd--to the great terror of his wife--and
    falling about in all directions, now to the right, now to the left,
    now forwards, now backwards, and accidentally driving his elbow
    through the hat of the tallest helper, who had been particularly
    active, speedily caused the odds to wear a very different
    appearance; while more than one stout fellow limped away to a
    respectful distance, anathematising with tears in his eyes the heavy
    tread and ponderous feet of the burly Yorkshireman.

    'Let me see him do it again,' said he who had been kicked into the
    corner, rising as he spoke, apparently more from the fear of John
    Browdie's inadvertently treading upon him, than from any desire to
    place himself on equal terms with his late adversary. 'Let me see
    him do it again. That's all.'

    'Let me hear you make those remarks again,' said the young man, 'and
    I'll knock that head of yours in among the wine-glasses behind you
    there.'

    Here a waiter who had been rubbing his hands in excessive enjoyment
    of the scene, so long as only the breaking of heads was in question,
    adjured the spectators with great earnestness to fetch the police,
    declaring that otherwise murder would be surely done, and that he
    was responsible for all the glass and china on the premises.

    'No one need trouble himself to stir,' said the young gentleman, 'I
    am going to remain in the house all night, and shall be found here
    in the morning if there is any assault to answer for.'

    'What did you strike him for?' asked one of the bystanders.

    'Ah! what did you strike him for?' demanded the others.

    The unpopular gentleman looked coolly round, and addressing himself
    to Nicholas, said:

    'You inquired just now what was the matter here. The matter is
    simply this. Yonder person, who was drinking with a friend in the
    coffee-room when I took my seat there for half an hour before going
    to bed, (for I have just come off a journey, and preferred stopping
    here tonight, to going home at this hour, where I was not expected
    until tomorrow,) chose to express himself in very disrespectful, and
    insolently familiar terms, of a young lady, whom I recognised from
    his description and other circumstances, and whom I have the honour
    to know. As he spoke loud enough to be overheard by the other
    guests who were present, I informed him most civilly that he was
    mistaken in his conjectures, which were of an offensive nature, and
    requested him to forbear. He did so for a little time, but as he
    chose to renew his conversation when leaving the room, in a more
    offensive strain than before, I could not refrain from making after
    him, and facilitating his departure by a kick, which reduced him to
    the posture in which you saw him just now. I am the best judge of
    my own affairs, I take it,' said the young man, who had certainly
    not quite recovered from his recent heat; 'if anybody here thinks
    proper to make this quarrel his own, I have not the smallest earthly
    objection, I do assure him.'

    Of all possible courses of proceeding under the circumstances
    detailed, there was certainly not one which, in his then state of
    mind, could have appeared more laudable to Nicholas than this.
    There were not many subjects of dispute which at that moment could
    have come home to his own breast more powerfully, for having the
    unknown uppermost in his thoughts, it naturally occurred to him that
    he would have done just the same if any audacious gossiper durst
    have presumed in his hearing to speak lightly of her. Influenced by
    these considerations, he espoused the young gentleman's quarrel with
    great warmth, protesting that he had done quite right, and that he
    respected him for it; which John Browdie (albeit not quite clear as
    to the merits) immediately protested too, with not inferior
    vehemence.

    'Let him take care, that's all,' said the defeated party, who was
    being rubbed down by a waiter, after his recent fall on the dusty
    boards. 'He don't knock me about for nothing, I can tell him that.
    A pretty state of things, if a man isn't to admire a handsome girl
    without being beat to pieces for it!'

    This reflection appeared to have great weight with the young lady in
    the bar, who (adjusting her cap as she spoke, and glancing at a
    mirror) declared that it would be a very pretty state of things
    indeed; and that if people were to be punished for actions so
    innocent and natural as that, there would be more people to be
    knocked down than there would be people to knock them down, and that
    she wondered what the gentleman meant by it, that she did.

    'My dear girl,' said the young gentleman in a low voice, advancing
    towards the sash window.

    'Nonsense, sir!' replied the young lady sharply, smiling though as
    she turned aside, and biting her lip, (whereat Mrs Browdie, who was
    still standing on the stairs, glanced at her with disdain, and
    called to her husband to come away).

    'No, but listen to me,' said the young man. 'If admiration of a
    pretty face were criminal, I should be the most hopeless person
    alive, for I cannot resist one. It has the most extraordinary
    effect upon me, checks and controls me in the most furious and
    obstinate mood. You see what an effect yours has had upon me
    already.'

    'Oh, that's very pretty,' replied the young lady, tossing her head,
    'but--'

    'Yes, I know it's very pretty,' said the young man, looking with an
    air of admiration in the barmaid's face; 'I said so, you know, just
    this moment. But beauty should be spoken of respectfully--
    respectfully, and in proper terms, and with a becoming sense of its
    worth and excellence, whereas this fellow has no more notion--'

    The young lady interrupted the conversation at this point, by
    thrusting her head out of the bar-window, and inquiring of the
    waiter in a shrill voice whether that young man who had been knocked
    down was going to stand in the passage all night, or whether the
    entrance was to be left clear for other people. The waiters taking
    the hint, and communicating it to the hostlers, were not slow to
    change their tone too, and the result was, that the unfortunate
    victim was bundled out in a twinkling.

    'I am sure I have seen that fellow before,' said Nicholas.

    'Indeed!' replied his new acquaintance.

    'I am certain of it,' said Nicholas, pausing to reflect. 'Where can
    I have--stop!--yes, to be sure--he belongs to a register-office up
    at the west end of the town. I knew I recollected the face.'

    It was, indeed, Tom, the ugly clerk.

    'That's odd enough!' said Nicholas, ruminating upon the strange
    manner in which the register-office seemed to start up and stare him
    in the face every now and then, and when he least expected it.

    'I am much obliged to you for your kind advocacy of my cause when it
    most needed an advocate,' said the young man, laughing, and drawing
    a card from his pocket. 'Perhaps you'll do me the favour to let me
    know where I can thank you.'

    Nicholas took the card, and glancing at it involuntarily as he
    returned the compliment, evinced very great surprise.

    'Mr Frank Cheeryble!' said Nicholas. 'Surely not the nephew of
    Cheeryble Brothers, who is expected tomorrow!'

    'I don't usually call myself the nephew of the firm,' returned Mr
    Frank, good-humouredly; 'but of the two excellent individuals who
    compose it, I am proud to say I AM the nephew. And you, I see, are
    Mr Nickleby, of whom I have heard so much! This is a most
    unexpected meeting, but not the less welcome, I assure you.'

    Nicholas responded to these compliments with others of the same
    kind, and they shook hands warmly. Then he introduced John Browdie,
    who had remained in a state of great admiration ever since the young
    lady in the bar had been so skilfully won over to the right side.
    Then Mrs John Browdie was introduced, and finally they all went
    upstairs together and spent the next half-hour with great
    satisfaction and mutual entertainment; Mrs John Browdie beginning
    the conversation by declaring that of all the made-up things she
    ever saw, that young woman below-stairs was the vainest and the
    plainest.

    This Mr Frank Cheeryble, although, to judge from what had recently
    taken place, a hot-headed young man (which is not an absolute
    miracle and phenomenon in nature), was a sprightly, good-humoured,
    pleasant fellow, with much both in his countenance and disposition
    that reminded Nicholas very strongly of the kind-hearted brothers.
    His manner was as unaffected as theirs, and his demeanour full of
    that heartiness which, to most people who have anything generous in
    their composition, is peculiarly prepossessing. Add to this, that
    he was good-looking and intelligent, had a plentiful share of
    vivacity, was extremely cheerful, and accommodated himself in five
    minutes' time to all John Browdie's oddities with as much ease as if
    he had known him from a boy; and it will be a source of no great
    wonder that, when they parted for the night, he had produced a most
    favourable impression, not only upon the worthy Yorkshireman and his
    wife, but upon Nicholas also, who, revolving all these things in his
    mind as he made the best of his way home, arrived at the conclusion
    that he had laid the foundation of a most agreeable and desirable
    acquaintance.

    'But it's a most extraordinary thing about that register-office
    fellow!' thought Nicholas. 'Is it likely that this nephew can know
    anything about that beautiful girl? When Tim Linkinwater gave me to
    understand the other day that he was coming to take a share in the
    business here, he said he had been superintending it in Germany for
    four years, and that during the last six months he had been engaged
    in establishing an agency in the north of England. That's four
    years and a half--four years and a half. She can't be more than
    seventeen--say eighteen at the outside. She was quite a child when
    he went away, then. I should say he knew nothing about her and had
    never seen her, so HE can give me no information. At all events,'
    thought Nicholas, coming to the real point in his mind, 'there can
    be no danger of any prior occupation of her affections in that
    quarter; that's quite clear.'

    Is selfishness a necessary ingredient in the composition of that
    passion called love, or does it deserve all the fine things which
    poets, in the exercise of their undoubted vocation, have said of it?
    There are, no doubt, authenticated instances of gentlemen having
    given up ladies and ladies having given up gentlemen to meritorious
    rivals, under circumstances of great high-mindedness; but is it
    quite established that the majority of such ladies and gentlemen
    have not made a virtue of necessity, and nobly resigned what was
    beyond their reach; as a private soldier might register a vow never
    to accept the order of the Garter, or a poor curate of great piety
    and learning, but of no family--save a very large family of
    children--might renounce a bishopric?

    Here was Nicholas Nickleby, who would have scorned the thought of
    counting how the chances stood of his rising in favour or fortune
    with the brothers Cheeryble, now that their nephew had returned,
    already deep in calculations whether that same nephew was likely to
    rival him in the affections of the fair unknown--discussing the
    matter with himself too, as gravely as if, with that one exception,
    it were all settled; and recurring to the subject again and again,
    and feeling quite indignant and ill-used at the notion of anybody
    else making love to one with whom he had never exchanged a word in
    all his life. To be sure, he exaggerated rather than depreciated
    the merits of his new acquaintance; but still he took it as a kind
    of personal offence that he should have any merits at all--in the
    eyes of this particular young lady, that is; for elsewhere he was
    quite welcome to have as many as he pleased. There was undoubted
    selfishness in all this, and yet Nicholas was of a most free and
    generous nature, with as few mean or sordid thoughts, perhaps, as
    ever fell to the lot of any man; and there is no reason to suppose
    that, being in love, he felt and thought differently from other
    people in the like sublime condition.

    He did not stop to set on foot an inquiry into his train of thought
    or state of feeling, however; but went thinking on all the way home,
    and continued to dream on in the same strain all night. For, having
    satisfied himself that Frank Cheeryble could have no knowledge of,
    or acquaintance with, the mysterious young lady, it began to occur
    to him that even he himself might never see her again; upon which
    hypothesis he built up a very ingenious succession of tormenting
    ideas which answered his purpose even better than the vision of Mr
    Frank Cheeryble, and tantalised and worried him, waking and sleeping.

    Notwithstanding all that has been said and sung to the contrary,
    there is no well-established case of morning having either deferred
    or hastened its approach by the term of an hour or so for the mere
    gratification of a splenetic feeling against some unoffending lover:
    the sun having, in the discharge of his public duty, as the books of
    precedent report, invariably risen according to the almanacs, and
    without suffering himself to be swayed by any private considerations.
    So, morning came as usual, and with it business-hours, and with
    them Mr Frank Cheeryble, and with him a long train of smiles and
    welcomes from the worthy brothers, and a more grave and clerk-like,
    but scarcely less hearty reception from Mr Timothy Linkinwater.

    'That Mr Frank and Mr Nickleby should have met last night,' said Tim
    Linkinwater, getting slowly off his stool, and looking round the
    counting-house with his back planted against the desk, as was his
    custom when he had anything very particular to say: 'that those two
    young men should have met last night in that manner is, I say, a
    coincidence, a remarkable coincidence. Why, I don't believe now,'
    added Tim, taking off his spectacles, and smiling as with gentle
    pride, 'that there's such a place in all the world for coincidences
    as London is!'

    'I don't know about that,' said Mr Frank; 'but--'

    'Don't know about it, Mr Francis!' interrupted Tim, with an
    obstinate air. 'Well, but let us know. If there is any better
    place for such things, where is it? Is it in Europe? No, that it
    isn't. Is it in Asia? Why, of course it's not. Is it in Africa?
    Not a bit of it. Is it in America? YOU know better than that, at
    all events. Well, then,' said Tim, folding his arms resolutely,
    'where is it?'

    'I was not about to dispute the point, Tim,' said young Cheeryble,
    laughing. 'I am not such a heretic as that. All I was going to say
    was, that I hold myself under an obligation to the coincidence,
    that's all.'

    'Oh! if you don't dispute it,' said Tim, quite satisfied, 'that's
    another thing. I'll tell you what though. I wish you had. I wish
    you or anybody would. I would so put that man down,' said Tim,
    tapping the forefinger of his left hand emphatically with his
    spectacles, 'so put that man down by argument--'

    It was quite impossible to find language to express the degree of
    mental prostration to which such an adventurous wight would be
    reduced in the keen encounter with Tim Linkinwater, so Tim gave up
    the rest of his declaration in pure lack of words, and mounted his
    stool again.

    'We may consider ourselves, brother Ned,' said Charles, after he had
    patted Tim Linkinwater approvingly on the back, 'very fortunate in
    having two such young men about us as our nephew Frank and Mr
    Nickleby. It should be a source of great satisfaction and pleasure
    to us.'

    'Certainly, Charles, certainly,' returned the other.

    'Of Tim,' added brother Ned, 'I say nothing whatever, because Tim is
    a mere child--an infant--a nobody that we never think of or take
    into account at all. Tim, you villain, what do you say to that,
    sir?'

    'I am jealous of both of 'em,' said Tim, 'and mean to look out for
    another situation; so provide yourselves, gentlemen, if you please.'

    Tim thought this such an exquisite, unparalleled, and most
    extraordinary joke, that he laid his pen upon the inkstand, and
    rather tumbling off his stool than getting down with his usual
    deliberation, laughed till he was quite faint, shaking his head all
    the time so that little particles of powder flew palpably about the
    office. Nor were the brothers at all behind-hand, for they laughed
    almost as heartily at the ludicrous idea of any voluntary separation
    between themselves and old Tim. Nicholas and Mr Frank laughed quite
    boisterously, perhaps to conceal some other emotion awakened by this
    little incident, (and so, indeed, did the three old fellows after
    the first burst,) so perhaps there was as much keen enjoyment and
    relish in that laugh, altogether, as the politest assembly ever
    derived from the most poignant witticism uttered at any one person's
    expense.

    'Mr Nickleby,' said brother Charles, calling him aside, and taking
    him kindly by the hand, 'I--I--am anxious, my dear sir, to see that
    you are properly and comfortably settled in the cottage. We cannot
    allow those who serve us well to labour under any privation or
    discomfort that it is in our power to remove. I wish, too, to see
    your mother and sister: to know them, Mr Nickleby, and have an
    opportunity of relieving their minds by assuring them that any
    trifling service we have been able to do them is a great deal more
    than repaid by the zeal and ardour you display.--Not a word, my dear
    sir, I beg. Tomorrow is Sunday. I shall make bold to come out at
    teatime, and take the chance of finding you at home; if you are not,
    you know, or the ladies should feel a delicacy in being intruded on,
    and would rather not be known to me just now, why I can come again
    another time, any other time would do for me. Let it remain upon
    that understanding. Brother Ned, my dear fellow, let me have a word
    with you this way.'

    The twins went out of the office arm-in-arm, and Nicholas, who saw
    in this act of kindness, and many others of which he had been the
    subject that morning, only so many delicate renewals on the arrival
    of their nephew of the kind assurance which the brothers had given
    him in his absence, could scarcely feel sufficient admiration and
    gratitude for such extraordinary consideration.

    The intelligence that they were to have visitor--and such a visitor--
    next day, awakened in the breast of Mrs Nickleby mingled feelings
    of exultation and regret; for whereas on the one hand she hailed it
    as an omen of her speedy restoration to good society and the almost-
    forgotten pleasures of morning calls and evening tea-drinkings, she
    could not, on the other, but reflect with bitterness of spirit on
    the absence of a silver teapot with an ivory knob on the lid, and a
    milk-jug to match, which had been the pride of her heart in days of
    yore, and had been kept from year's end to year's end wrapped up in
    wash-leather on a certain top shelf which now presented itself in
    lively colours to her sorrowing imagination.

    'I wonder who's got that spice-box,' said Mrs Nickleby, shaking her
    head. 'It used to stand in the left-hand corner, next but two to
    the pickled onions. You remember that spice-box, Kate?'

    'Perfectly well, mama.'

    'I shouldn't think you did, Kate,' returned Mrs Nickleby, in a
    severe manner, 'talking about it in that cold and unfeeling way! If
    there is any one thing that vexes me in these losses more than the
    losses themselves, I do protest and declare,' said Mrs Nickleby,
    rubbing her nose with an impassioned air, 'that it is to have people
    about me who take things with such provoking calmness.'

    'My dear mama,' said Kate, stealing her arm round her mother's
    neck, 'why do you say what I know you cannot seriously mean or
    think, or why be angry with me for being happy and content? You and
    Nicholas are left to me, we are together once again, and what regard
    can I have for a few trifling things of which we never feel the
    want? When I have seen all the misery and desolation that death can
    bring, and known the lonesome feeling of being solitary and alone in
    crowds, and all the agony of separation in grief and poverty when we
    most needed comfort and support from each other, can you wonder that
    I look upon this as a place of such delicious quiet and rest, that
    with you beside me I have nothing to wish for or regret? There was
    a time, and not long since, when all the comforts of our old home
    did come back upon me, I own, very often--oftener than you would
    think perhaps--but I affected to care nothing for them, in the hope
    that you would so be brought to regret them the less. I was not
    insensible, indeed. I might have felt happier if I had been. Dear
    mama,' said Kate, in great agitation, 'I know no difference between
    this home and that in which we were all so happy for so many years,
    except that the kindest and gentlest heart that ever ached on earth
    has passed in peace to heaven.'

    'Kate my dear, Kate,' cried Mrs Nickleby, folding her in her arms.

    'I have so often thought,' sobbed Kate, 'of all his kind words--of
    the last time he looked into my little room, as he passed upstairs
    to bed, and said "God bless you, darling." There was a paleness in
    his face, mama--the broken heart--I know it was--I little thought
    so--then--'

    A gush of tears came to her relief, and Kate laid her head upon her
    mother's breast, and wept like a little child.

    It is an exquisite and beautiful thing in our nature, that when the
    heart is touched and softened by some tranquil happiness or
    affectionate feeling, the memory of the dead comes over it most
    powerfully and irresistibly. It would almost seem as though our
    better thoughts and sympathies were charms, in virtue of which the
    soul is enabled to hold some vague and mysterious intercourse with
    the spirits of those whom we dearly loved in life. Alas! how often
    and how long may those patient angels hover above us, watching for
    the spell which is so seldom uttered, and so soon forgotten!

    Poor Mrs Nickleby, accustomed to give ready utterance to whatever
    came uppermost in her mind, had never conceived the possibility of
    her daughter's dwelling upon these thoughts in secret, the more
    especially as no hard trial or querulous reproach had ever drawn
    them from her. But now, when the happiness of all that Nicholas had
    just told them, and of their new and peaceful life, brought these
    recollections so strongly upon Kate that she could not suppress
    them, Mrs Nickleby began to have a glimmering that she had been
    rather thoughtless now and then, and was conscious of something like
    self-reproach as she embraced her daughter, and yielded to the
    emotions which such a conversation naturally awakened.

    There was a mighty bustle that night, and a vast quantity of
    preparation for the expected visitor, and a very large nosegay was
    brought from a gardener's hard by, and cut up into a number of very
    small ones, with which Mrs Nickleby would have garnished the little
    sitting-room, in a style that certainly could not have failed to
    attract anybody's attention, if Kate had not offered to spare her
    the trouble, and arranged them in the prettiest and neatest manner
    possible. If the cottage ever looked pretty, it must have been on
    such a bright and sunshiny day as the next day was. But Smike's
    pride in the garden, or Mrs Nickleby's in the condition of the
    furniture, or Kate's in everything, was nothing to the pride with
    which Nicholas looked at Kate herself; and surely the costliest
    mansion in all England might have found in her beautiful face and
    graceful form its most exquisite and peerless ornament.

    About six o'clock in the afternoon Mrs Nickleby was thrown into a
    great flutter of spirits by the long-expected knock at the door, nor
    was this flutter at all composed by the audible tread of two pair of
    boots in the passage, which Mrs Nickleby augured, in a breathless
    state, must be 'the two Mr Cheerybles;' as it certainly was, though
    not the two Mrs Nickleby expected, because it was Mr Charles
    Cheeryble, and his nephew, Mr Frank, who made a thousand apologies
    for his intrusion, which Mrs Nickleby (having tea-spoons enough and
    to spare for all) most graciously received. Nor did the appearance
    of this unexpected visitor occasion the least embarrassment, (save
    in Kate, and that only to the extent of a blush or two at first,)
    for the old gentleman was so kind and cordial, and the young
    gentleman imitated him in this respect so well, that the usual
    stiffness and formality of a first meeting showed no signs of
    appearing, and Kate really more than once detected herself in the
    very act of wondering when it was going to begin.

    At the tea-table there was plenty of conversation on a great variety
    of subjects, nor were there wanting jocose matters of discussion,
    such as they were; for young Mr Cheeryble's recent stay in Germany
    happening to be alluded to, old Mr Cheeryble informed the company
    that the aforesaid young Mr Cheeryble was suspected to have fallen
    deeply in love with the daughter of a certain German burgomaster.
    This accusation young Mr Cheeryble most indignantly repelled, upon
    which Mrs Nickleby slyly remarked, that she suspected, from the very
    warmth of the denial, there must be something in it. Young Mr
    Cheeryble then earnestly entreated old Mr Cheeryble to confess that
    it was all a jest, which old Mr Cheeryble at last did, young Mr
    Cheeryble being so much in earnest about it, that--as Mrs Nickleby
    said many thousand times afterwards in recalling the scene--he
    'quite coloured,' which she rightly considered a memorable
    circumstance, and one worthy of remark, young men not being as a
    class remarkable for modesty or self-denial, especially when there
    is a lady in the case, when, if they colour at all, it is rather
    their practice to colour the story, and not themselves.

    After tea there was a walk in the garden, and the evening being very
    fine they strolled out at the garden-gate into some lanes and bye-
    roads, and sauntered up and down until it grew quite dark. The time
    seemed to pass very quickly with all the party. Kate went first,
    leaning upon her brother's arm, and talking with him and Mr Frank
    Cheeryble; and Mrs Nickleby and the elder gentleman followed at a
    short distance, the kindness of the good merchant, his interest in
    the welfare of Nicholas, and his admiration of Kate, so operating
    upon the good lady's feelings, that the usual current of her speech
    was confined within very narrow and circumscribed limits. Smike
    (who, if he had ever been an object of interest in his life, had
    been one that day) accompanied them, joining sometimes one group and
    sometimes the other, as brother Charles, laying his hand upon his
    shoulder, bade him walk with him, or Nicholas, looking smilingly
    round, beckoned him to come and talk with the old friend who
    understood him best, and who could win a smile into his careworn
    face when none else could.

    Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of
    a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal
    virtues--faith and hope. This was the pride which swelled Mrs
    Nickleby's heart that night, and this it was which left upon her
    face, glistening in the light when they returned home, traces of the
    most grateful tears she had ever shed.

    There was a quiet mirth about the little supper, which harmonised
    exactly with this tone of feeling, and at length the two gentlemen
    took their leave. There was one circumstance in the leave-taking
    which occasioned a vast deal of smiling and pleasantry, and that
    was, that Mr Frank Cheeryble offered his hand to Kate twice over,
    quite forgetting that he had bade her adieu already. This was held
    by the elder Mr Cheeryble to be a convincing proof that he was
    thinking of his German flame, and the jest occasioned immense
    laughter. So easy is it to move light hearts.

    In short, it was a day of serene and tranquil happiness; and as we
    all have some bright day--many of us, let us hope, among a crowd of
    others--to which we revert with particular delight, so this one was
    often looked back to afterwards, as holding a conspicuous place in
    the calendar of those who shared it.

    Was there one exception, and that one he who needed to have been
    most happy?

    Who was that who, in the silence of his own chamber, sunk upon his
    knees to pray as his first friend had taught him, and folding his
    hands and stretching them wildly in the air, fell upon his face in a
    passion of bitter grief?
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