Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 16
Nicholas seeks to employ himself in a New Capacity, and being unsuccessful,
accepts an engagement as Tutor in a Private Family
The first care of Nicholas, next morning, was, to look after some room in which,
until better times dawned upon him, he could contrive to exist, without trenching
upon the hospitality of Newman Noggs, who would have slept upon the stairs
with pleasure, so that his young friend was accommodated.
The vacant apartment to which the bill in the parlour window bore reference,
appeared, on inquiry, to be a small back-room on the second floor, reclaimed
from the leads, and overlooking a soot- bespeckled prospect of tiles and
chimney-pots. For the letting of this portion of the house from week to week, on
reasonable terms, the parlour lodger was empowered to treat; he being deputed
by the landlord to dispose of the rooms as they became vacant, and to keep a
sharp look-out that the lodgers didn't run away. As a means of securing the
punctual discharge of which last service he was permitted to live rent-free, lest he
should at any time be tempted to run away himself.
Of this chamber, Nicholas became the tenant; and having hired a few common
articles of furniture from a neighbouring broker, and paid the first week's hire in
advance, out of a small fund raised by the conversion of some spare clothes into
ready money, he sat himself down to ruminate upon his prospects, which, like the
prospect outside his window, were sufficiently confined and dingy. As they by no
means improved on better acquaintance, and as familiarity breeds contempt, he
resolved to banish them from his thoughts by dint of hard walking. So, taking up
his hat, and leaving poor Smike to arrange and rearrange the room with as much
delight as if it had been the costliest palace, he betook himself to the streets, and
mingled with the crowd which thronged them.
Although a man may lose a sense of his own importance when he is a mere unit
among a busy throng, all utterly regardless of him, it by no means follows that he
can dispossess himself, with equal facility, of a very strong sense of the
importance and magnitude of his cares. The unhappy state of his own affairs was
the one idea which occupied the brain of Nicholas, walk as fast as he would; and
when he tried to dislodge it by speculating on the situation and prospects of the
people who surrounded him, he caught himself, in a few seconds, contrasting
their condition with his own, and gliding almost imperceptibly back into his old
train of thought again.
Occupied in these reflections, as he was making his way along one of the great
public thoroughfares of London, he chanced to raise his eyes to a blue board,
whereon was inscribed, in characters of gold, 'General Agency Office; for places
and situations of all kinds inquire within.' It was a shop-front, fitted up with a
gauze blind and an inner door; and in the window hung a long and tempting array
of written placards, announcing vacant places of every grade, from a secretary's
to a foot-boy's.
Nicholas halted, instinctively, before this temple of promise, and ran his eye over
the capital-text openings in life which were so profusely displayed. When he had