Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 36
Private and confidential; relating to Family Matters. Showing how Mr Kenwigs
underwent violent Agitation, and how Mrs Kenwigs was as well as could be
It might have been seven o'clock in the evening, and it was growing dark in the
narrow streets near Golden Square, when Mr Kenwigs sent out for a pair of the
cheapest white kid gloves--those at fourteen- pence--and selecting the strongest,
which happened to be the right- hand one, walked downstairs with an air of pomp
and much excitement, and proceeded to muffle the knob of the street-door
knocker therein. Having executed this task with great nicety, Mr Kenwigs pulled
the door to, after him, and just stepped across the road to try the effect from the
opposite side of the street. Satisfied that nothing could possibly look better in its
way, Mr Kenwigs then stepped back again, and calling through the keyhole to
Morleena to open the door, vanished into the house, and was seen no longer.
Now, considered as an abstract circumstance, there was no more obvious cause
or reason why Mr Kenwigs should take the trouble of muffling this particular
knocker, than there would have been for his muffling the knocker of any
nobleman or gentleman resident ten miles off; because, for the greater
convenience of the numerous lodgers, the street-door always stood wide open,
and the knocker was never used at all. The first floor, the second floor, and the
third floor, had each a bell of its own. As to the attics, no one ever called on
them; if anybody wanted the parlours, they were close at hand, and all he had to
do was to walk straight into them; while the kitchen had a separate entrance
down the area steps. As a question of mere necessity and usefulness, therefore,
this muffling of the knocker was thoroughly incomprehensible.
But knockers may be muffled for other purposes than those of mere
utilitarianism, as, in the present instance, was clearly shown. There are certain
polite forms and ceremonies which must be observed in civilised life, or mankind
relapse into their original barbarism. No genteel lady was ever yet confined--
indeed, no genteel confinement can possibly take place--without the
accompanying symbol of a muffled knocker. Mrs Kenwigs was a lady of some
pretensions to gentility; Mrs Kenwigs was confined. And, therefore, Mr Kenwigs
tied up the silent knocker on the premises in a white kid glove.
'I'm not quite certain neither,' said Mr Kenwigs, arranging his shirt-collar, and
walking slowly upstairs, 'whether, as it's a boy, I won't have it in the papers.'
Pondering upon the advisability of this step, and the sensation it was likely to
create in the neighbourhood, Mr Kenwigs betook himself to the sitting-room,
where various extremely diminutive articles of clothing were airing on a horse
before the fire, and Mr Lumbey, the doctor, was dandling the baby--that is, the
old baby--not the new one.
'It's a fine boy, Mr Kenwigs,' said Mr Lumbey, the doctor.
'You consider him a fine boy, do you, sir?' returned Mr Kenwigs.
'It's the finest boy I ever saw in all my life,' said the doctor. 'I never saw such a