Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 20
Wherein Nicholas at length encounters his Uncle, to whom he expresses his
Sentiments with much Candour. His Resolution.
Little Miss La Creevy trotted briskly through divers streets at the west end of the
town, early on Monday morning--the day after the dinner--charged with the
important commission of acquainting Madame Mantalini that Miss Nickleby was
too unwell to attend that day, but hoped to be enabled to resume her duties on
the morrow. And as Miss La Creevy walked along, revolving in her mind various
genteel forms and elegant turns of expression, with a view to the selection of the
very best in which to couch her communication, she cogitated a good deal upon
the probable causes of her young friend's indisposition.
'I don't know what to make of it,' said Miss La Creevy. 'Her eyes were decidedly
red last night. She said she had a headache; headaches don't occasion red eyes.
She must have been crying.'
Arriving at this conclusion, which, indeed, she had established to her perfect
satisfaction on the previous evening, Miss La Creevy went on to consider--as she
had done nearly all night--what new cause of unhappiness her young friend could
possibly have had.
'I can't think of anything,' said the little portrait painter. 'Nothing at all, unless it
was the behaviour of that old bear. Cross to her, I suppose? Unpleasant brute!'
Relieved by this expression of opinion, albeit it was vented upon empty air, Miss
La Creevy trotted on to Madame Mantalini's; and being informed that the
governing power was not yet out of bed, requested an interview with the second
in command; whereupon Miss Knag appeared.
'So far as I am concerned,' said Miss Knag, when the message had been
delivered, with many ornaments of speech; 'I could spare Miss Nickleby for
'Oh, indeed, ma'am!' rejoined Miss La Creevy, highly offended. 'But, you see, you
are not mistress of the business, and therefore it's of no great consequence.'
'Very good, ma'am,' said Miss Knag. 'Have you any further commands for me?'
'No, I have not, ma'am,' rejoined Miss La Creevy.
'Then good-morning, ma'am,' said Miss Knag.
'Good-morning to you, ma'am; and many obligations for your extreme politeness
and good breeding,' rejoined Miss La Creevy.
Thus terminating the interview, during which both ladies had trembled very much,
and been marvellously polite--certain indications that they were within an inch of
a very desperate quarrel--Miss La Creevy bounced out of the room, and into the
'I wonder who that is,' said the queer little soul. 'A nice person to know, I should
think! I wish I had the painting of her: I'D do her justice.' So, feeling quite satisfied
that she had said a very cutting thing at Miss Knag's expense, Miss La Creevy
had a hearty laugh, and went home to breakfast in great good humour.
Here was one of the advantages of having lived alone so long! The little bustling,
active, cheerful creature existed entirely within herself, talked to herself, made a
confidante of herself, was as sarcastic as she could be, on people who offended