Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 19
Descriptive of a Dinner at Mr Ralph Nickleby's, and of the Manner in which the
Company entertained themselves, before Dinner, at Dinner, and after Dinner.
The bile and rancour of the worthy Miss Knag undergoing no diminution during
the remainder of the week, but rather augmenting with every successive hour;
and the honest ire of all the young ladies rising, or seeming to rise, in exact
proportion to the good spinster's indignation, and both waxing very hot every time
Miss Nickleby was called upstairs; it will be readily imagined that that young
lady's daily life was none of the most cheerful or enviable kind. She hailed the
arrival of Saturday night, as a prisoner would a few delicious hours' respite from
slow and wearing torture, and felt that the poor pittance for her first week's labour
would have been dearly and hardly earned, had its amount been trebled.
When she joined her mother, as usual, at the street corner, she was not a little
surprised to find her in conversation with Mr Ralph Nickleby; but her surprise was
soon redoubled, no less by the matter of their conversation, than by the
smoothed and altered manner of Mr Nickleby himself.
'Ah! my dear!' said Ralph; 'we were at that moment talking about you.'
'Indeed!' replied Kate, shrinking, though she scarce knew why, from her uncle's
cold glistening eye.
'That instant,' said Ralph. 'I was coming to call for you, making sure to catch you
before you left; but your mother and I have been talking over family affairs, and
the time has slipped away so rapidly--'
'Well, now, hasn't it?' interposed Mrs Nickleby, quite insensible to the sarcastic
tone of Ralph's last remark. 'Upon my word, I couldn't have believed it possible,
that such a--Kate, my dear, you're to dine with your uncle at half-past six o'clock
Triumphing in having been the first to communicate this extraordinary
intelligence, Mrs Nickleby nodded and smiled a great many times, to impress its
full magnificence on Kate's wondering mind, and then flew off, at an acute angle,
to a committee of ways and means.
'Let me see,' said the good lady. 'Your black silk frock will be quite dress enough,
my dear, with that pretty little scarf, and a plain band in your hair, and a pair of
black silk stock--Dear, dear,' cried Mrs Nickleby, flying off at another angle, 'if I
had but those unfortunate amethysts of mine--you recollect them, Kate, my love--
how they used to sparkle, you know--but your papa, your poor dear papa--ah!
there never was anything so cruelly sacrificed as those jewels were, never!'
Overpowered by this agonising thought, Mrs Nickleby shook her head, in a
melancholy manner, and applied her handkerchief to her eyes.
I don't want them, mama, indeed,' said Kate. 'Forget that you ever had them.'
'Lord, Kate, my dear,' rejoined Mrs Nickleby, pettishly, 'how like a child you talk!
Four-and-twenty silver tea-spoons, brother-in-law, two gravies, four salts, all the
amethysts--necklace, brooch, and ear-rings--all made away with, at the same
time, and I saying, almost on my bended knees, to that poor good soul, "Why
don't you do something, Nicholas? Why don't you make some arrangement?" I
am sure that anybody who was about us at that time, will do me the justice to