Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 15
Acquaints the Reader with the Cause and Origin of the Interruption described in
the last Chapter, and with some other Matters necessary to be known
Newman Noggs scrambled in violent haste upstairs with the steaming beverage,
which he had so unceremoniously snatched from the table of Mr Kenwigs, and
indeed from the very grasp of the water-rate collector, who was eyeing the
contents of the tumbler, at the moment of its unexpected abstraction, with lively
marks of pleasure visible in his countenance. He bore his prize straight to his
own back- garret, where, footsore and nearly shoeless, wet, dirty, jaded, and
disfigured with every mark of fatiguing travel, sat Nicholas and Smike, at once
the cause and partner of his toil; both perfectly worn out by their unwonted and
protracted exertion.
Newman's first act was to compel Nicholas, with gentle force, to swallow half of
the punch at a breath, nearly boiling as it was; and his next, to pour the
remainder down the throat of Smike, who, never having tasted anything stronger
than aperient medicine in his whole life, exhibited various odd manifestations of
surprise and delight, during the passage of the liquor down his throat, and turned
up his eyes most emphatically when it was all gone.
'You are wet through,' said Newman, passing his hand hastily over the coat
which Nicholas had thrown off; 'and I--I--haven't even a change,' he added, with a
wistful glance at the shabby clothes he wore himself.
'I have dry clothes, or at least such as will serve my turn well, in my bundle,'
replied Nicholas. 'If you look so distressed to see me, you will add to the pain I
feel already, at being compelled, for one night, to cast myself upon your slender
means for aid and shelter.'
Newman did not look the less distressed to hear Nicholas talking in this strain;
but, upon his young friend grasping him heartily by the hand, and assuring him
that nothing but implicit confidence in the sincerity of his professions, and
kindness of feeling towards himself, would have induced him, on any
consideration, even to have made him acquainted with his arrival in London, Mr
Noggs brightened up again, and went about making such arrangements as were
in his power for the comfort of his visitors, with extreme alacrity.
These were simple enough; poor Newman's means halting at a very
considerable distance short of his inclinations; but, slight as they were, they were
not made without much bustling and running about. As Nicholas had husbanded
his scanty stock of money, so well that it was not yet quite expended, a supper of
bread and cheese, with some cold beef from the cook's shop, was soon placed
upon the table; and these viands being flanked by a bottle of spirits and a pot of
porter, there was no ground for apprehension on the score of hunger or thirst, at
all events. Such preparations as Newman had it in his power to make, for the
accommodation of his guests during the night, occupied no very great time in
completing; and as he had insisted, as an express preliminary, that Nicholas
should change his clothes, and that Smike should invest himself in his solitary
coat (which no entreaties would dissuade him from stripping off for the purpose),