Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 32
Relating chiefly to some remarkable Conversation, and some remarkable
Proceedings to which it gives rise
'London at last!' cried Nicholas, throwing back his greatcoat and rousing Smike
from a long nap. 'It seemed to me as though we should never reach it.'
'And yet you came along at a tidy pace too,' observed the coachman, looking
over his shoulder at Nicholas with no very pleasant expression of countenance.
'Ay, I know that,' was the reply; 'but I have been very anxious to be at my
journey's end, and that makes the way seem long.'
'Well,' remarked the coachman, 'if the way seemed long with such cattle as
you've sat behind, you MUST have been most uncommon anxious;' and so
saying, he let out his whip-lash and touched up a little boy on the calves of his
legs by way of emphasis.
They rattled on through the noisy, bustling, crowded street of London, now
displaying long double rows of brightly-burning lamps, dotted here and there with
the chemists' glaring lights, and illuminated besides with the brilliant flood that
streamed from the windows of the shops, where sparkling jewellery, silks and
velvets of the richest colours, the most inviting delicacies, and most sumptuous
articles of luxurious ornament, succeeded each other in rich and glittering
profusion. Streams of people apparently without end poured on and on, jostling
each other in the crowd and hurrying forward, scarcely seeming to notice the
riches that surrounded them on every side; while vehicles of all shapes and
makes, mingled up together in one moving mass, like running water, lent their
ceaseless roar to swell the noise and tumult.
As they dashed by the quickly-changing and ever-varying objects, it was curious
to observe in what a strange procession they passed before the eye. Emporiums
of splendid dresses, the materials brought from every quarter of the world;
tempting stores of everything to stimulate and pamper the sated appetite and
give new relish to the oft-repeated feast; vessels of burnished gold and silver,
wrought into every exquisite form of vase, and dish, and goblet; guns, swords,
pistols, and patent engines of destruction; screws and irons for the crooked,
clothes for the newly-born, drugs for the sick, coffins for the dead, and
churchyards for the buried-- all these jumbled each with the other and flocking
side by side, seemed to flit by in motley dance like the fantastic groups of the old
Dutch painter, and with the same stern moral for the unheeding restless crowd.
Nor were there wanting objects in the crowd itself to give new point and purpose
to the shifting scene. The rags of the squalid ballad- singer fluttered in the rich
light that showed the goldsmith's treasures, pale and pinched-up faces hovered
about the windows where was tempting food, hungry eyes wandered over the
profusion guarded by one thin sheet of brittle glass--an iron wall to them; half-
naked shivering figures stopped to gaze at Chinese shawls and golden stuffs of
India. There was a christening party at the largest coffin-maker's and a funeral
hatchment had stopped some great improvements in the bravest mansion. Life