Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 18
Miss Knag, after doting on Kate Nickleby for three whole Days, makes up her
Mind to hate her for evermore. The Causes which led Miss Knag to form this
There are many lives of much pain, hardship, and suffering, which, having no
stirring interest for any but those who lead them, are disregarded by persons who
do not want thought or feeling, but who pamper their compassion and need high
stimulants to rouse it.
There are not a few among the disciples of charity who require, in their vocation,
scarcely less excitement than the votaries of pleasure in theirs; and hence it is
that diseased sympathy and compassion are every day expended on out-of-the-
way objects, when only too many demands upon the legitimate exercise of the
same virtues in a healthy state, are constantly within the sight and hearing of the
most unobservant person alive. In short, charity must have its romance, as the
novelist or playwright must have his. A thief in fustian is a vulgar character,
scarcely to be thought of by persons of refinement; but dress him in green velvet,
with a high-crowned hat, and change the scene of his operations, from a thickly-
peopled city, to a mountain road, and you shall find in him the very soul of poetry
and adventure. So it is with the one great cardinal virtue, which, properly
nourished and exercised, leads to, if it does not necessarily include, all the
others. It must have its romance; and the less of real, hard, struggling work-a-day
life there is in that romance, the better.
The life to which poor Kate Nickleby was devoted, in consequence of the
unforeseen train of circumstances already developed in this narrative, was a hard
one; but lest the very dulness, unhealthy confinement, and bodily fatigue, which
made up its sum and substance, should deprive it of any interest with the mass
of the charitable and sympathetic, I would rather keep Miss Nickleby herself in
view just now, than chill them in the outset, by a minute and lengthened
description of the establishment presided over by Madame Mantalini.
'Well, now, indeed, Madame Mantalini,' said Miss Knag, as Kate was taking her
weary way homewards on the first night of her novitiate; 'that Miss Nickleby is a
very creditable young person--a very creditable young person indeed--hem--upon
my word, Madame Mantalini, it does very extraordinary credit even to your
discrimination that you should have found such a very excellent, very well-
behaved, very--hem--very unassuming young woman to assist in the fitting on. I
have seen some young women when they had the opportunity of displaying
before their betters, behave in such a--oh, dear--well-- but you're always right,
Madame Mantalini, always; and as I very often tell the young ladies, how you do
contrive to be always right, when so many people are so often wrong, is to me a
mystery indeed.'
'Beyond putting a very excellent client out of humour, Miss Nickleby has not done
anything very remarkable today--that I am aware of, at least,' said Madame
Mantalini in reply.
'Oh, dear!' said Miss Knag; 'but you must allow a great deal for inexperience, you