Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 23
Treats of the Company of Mr Vincent Crummles, and of his Affairs, Domestic and
As Mr Crummles had a strange four-legged animal in the inn stables, which he
called a pony, and a vehicle of unknown design, on which he bestowed the
appellation of a four-wheeled phaeton, Nicholas proceeded on his journey next
morning with greater ease than he had expected: the manager and himself
occupying the front seat: and the Master Crummleses and Smike being packed
together behind, in company with a wicker basket defended from wet by a stout
oilskin, in which were the broad-swords, pistols, pigtails, nautical costumes, and
other professional necessaries of the aforesaid young gentlemen.
The pony took his time upon the road, and--possibly in consequence of his
theatrical education--evinced, every now and then, a strong inclination to lie
down. However, Mr Vincent Crummles kept him up pretty well, by jerking the
rein, and plying the whip; and when these means failed, and the animal came to
a stand, the elder Master Crummles got out and kicked him. By dint of these
encouragements, he was persuaded to move from time to time, and they jogged
on (as Mr Crummles truly observed) very comfortably for all parties.
'He's a good pony at bottom,' said Mr Crummles, turning to Nicholas.
He might have been at bottom, but he certainly was not at top, seeing that his
coat was of the roughest and most ill-favoured kind. So, Nicholas merely
observed that he shouldn't wonder if he was.
'Many and many is the circuit this pony has gone,' said Mr Crummles, flicking him
skilfully on the eyelid for old acquaintance' sake. 'He is quite one of us. His
mother was on the stage.'
'Was she?' rejoined Nicholas.
'She ate apple-pie at a circus for upwards of fourteen years,' said the manager;
'fired pistols, and went to bed in a nightcap; and, in short, took the low comedy
entirely. His father was a dancer.'
'Was he at all distinguished?'
'Not very,' said the manager. 'He was rather a low sort of pony. The fact is, he
had been originally jobbed out by the day, and he never quite got over his old
habits. He was clever in melodrama too, but too broad--too broad. When the
mother died, he took the port-wine business.'
'The port-wine business!' cried Nicholas.
'Drinking port-wine with the clown,' said the manager; 'but he was greedy, and
one night bit off the bowl of the glass, and choked himself, so his vulgarity was
the death of him at last.'
The descendant of this ill-starred animal requiring increased attention from Mr
Crummles as he progressed in his day's work, that gentleman had very little time
for conversation. Nicholas was thus left at leisure to entertain himself with his
own thoughts, until they arrived at the drawbridge at Portsmouth, when Mr
Crummles pulled up.