Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Oh,” growled Ralph, with an ill-favoured frown, “you are Nicholas, I suppose?”
“That is my name, sir,” replied the youth. (40)
Mr. Squeers was standing in a box by one of the coffee-room fireplaces, fitted with one such table as is usually seen in coffee-rooms, and two of extraordinary shapes and dimensions made to suit the angles of the partition. In a corner of the seat was a very small deal trunk, tied round with a scanty piece of cord; and on the trunk was perched - his lace-up half-boots and corduroy trousers dangling in the air - a diminutive boy, with his shoulders drawn up to his ears, and his hand planted on his knees, who glanced timidly at the school master from time to time with evident dread and apprehension. (48)
Mrs. Squeers then proceeded to open a miscellaneous collection of letters, some enclosing money, which Mrs. Squeers “took care of”; and other referring to small articles of apparel, as caps and so forth, all of which the same lady stated to be too large or too small, and calculated for nobody but young Squeers, who would appear indeed to have had most accommodating limbs, since everything that came into the school fitted him to nicety. His head, in particular, must have been singularly elastic, for hats and caps of all dimensions were alike to him. (109)
A few - and these where among the youngest of the children - slept peacefully on with smiles upon their faces, dreaming perhaps of home; but even and again e deep and heavy sigh, breaking the stillness of the room, announced that some new sleeper had awakened to the misery of another day, and, as morning took the place of night, the smiles gradually faded away with the friendly darkness which had given them birth. (157)
But men are so different at different time! (204)
Such is hope, Heaven’s own gift to struggling mortals; pervading, like some subtle essence, from the skies, all things, both good and bad; as universal as death, and more infectious than disease. (239)
It was a cold, dry, foggy morning in early spring; a few meagre shadows flitted to and fro in the misty streets, and occasionally there loomed through the dull vapour the heavy outline of some hackney-coach wending homewards, which drawing slowly nearer, rolled jangling by, scattering the thin crust of frost from its whitened roof, and soon was lost again in the cloud. At intervals were heard the thread of slipshod feet, and the chilly cry of the poor sweep as he crept shivering to his early toil; the heavy footfall of the official watcher of the night pacing slowly up and down and cursing the tardy hours that still intervened between him and sleep; the rumbling of ponderous carts and waggons, the roll of the lighter vehicles which carried buyers and sellers to the different markets; the sound of ineffectual knocking at the doors of heavy sleepers - all these noises fell upon the ear from time to time, but all seemed muffled by the fog, and to be rendered almost as indistinct to the ear as was every object to the sight. (276-7)
“I think ,” said Smike, “if you were to keep saying it to me in little bits, over and over again, I should be able to recollect it from hearing you.”
“Do you think so!” exclaimed Nicholas. “Well said. Let us see who tires first. Not I, Smike, trust me. Now then. ‘Who calls so loud?”
“Who calls so loud?” said Smike.
“Who calls so loud?” repeated Nicholas.
“Who calls so loud?” cried Smike. (332-3)
Lord Frederick Verisopht was the first to speak. Dropping his slippered foot on the ground, and, yawning heavily, he struggles into a sitting posture, and turned his dull languid eyes towards his friend, to whom he called in a drowsy voice.
“Hallo!” replied Sir Mulberry, turning round.
“Are we going to lie here all da-a-y?” said the lord.
“I don’t know that we’re fit for anything else,” replied Sir Mulberry; “yet awhile, at least. I haven’t a grain of life in me this morning.”
“Life!” cried Lord Verisopht. “I feel as if there would be nothing so snug and comfortable as to die at once.” (334-5)
“How is it that you, who are so kind and good to me, have nobody to be kind to you?” asked Smike. “I cannot make that out.”
“Why, it is a long story,” replied Nicholas… (376)
In exact proportion as Ralph Nickelby became conscious of a struggling and lingering regard for Kate, had his detestation of Nicholas augmented. It might be, that to atone for the weakness of inclining to any one person, he held it necessary to hate some other more intensely than before; but such had the course of his feelings. (439)
“I have been, Mrs. Snawley,” said Mr. Squeers, when he had satisfied himself upon this point, “I have been that chap’s benefactor, feeder, teacher, and clother. I have been that chap’s classical, commercial, mathematical, philosophical, and trigonomical friend. My son - my only son, Wackford - has been his (Smike) brother; Mrs Squeers has been his mother, grandmother, aunt, - Ah! and I may say uncle too, all in one… (495)
John Browdie helps Smike.
“Presently,” resumed John “he did coom. I heerd door shut doonstairs, and him a warking oop in the daark. ‘Slow and steddy,’ I says to myself, ‘tak’ your time, sir - no hurry.’ He cooms to the door, turns the key - turns the key when there warn’t nothing to hoold the lock - and ca’s oot ‘Hallo there!’ - ‘Yes,’ thinks I, ‘you may do thot agean, and not waken anybody, sir.’ ‘Hallo, there,’ he says, and then he stops. ‘Thou’d betther not aggravate me,’ says schoolmeasther, efther a little time. ‘I’ll brak’ every boan in your boddy, Smike,’ he says, efther another little time. Then all of a soodden, he sings oot for a loight, and when it cooms - ecod, such a hoorly - boorly! ‘wa’ats the matter?’ says I. ‘He’s gane,’ says he, - stark mad wi’ vengeance. ‘Have you heerd nought?’ ‘Ees,’ says I, ‘I heerd street door shut, no time at a’ ago. I heerd a person run doon there’ (pointing t’other wa’ - eh?) ‘Help’ he cries, ‘I’ll help you,’ says I; and off we set - the wrong wa’! Ho! ho! ho!” (539)
Many and many a time in after years did Nicholas look back to this period of his life, and tread again the humble quiet homely scenes that rose up of old before him. Many and many a time, in the twilight of a summer evening, or beside the flickering winter’s fire - but not so often or so sadly then - would his thoughts wander back to these old days, and dwell with a pleasant sorrow upon every slight room in which they had so often sat long after it was dark, figuring such happy futures - Kate’s cheerful voice and merry laugh… (628-9)
“She is come!” said the old gentleman, laying his hand upon his heart. “Cormoran and Blunderbore! She is come! All the wealth I have is hers if she will take me for her slave. Where are grace beauty and blandishments like those? In the Empress of Madagascar? No. In the Queen of Diamonds? No. In Mrs. Rowland who every monrning bathes in Kalydor for nothing? No. Melt all these down into one, with the three Graces, the nine Muses, and fourteen biscuit-bakers’ daughters from Oxford Street, and make a woman half as lovely. Pho! I defy you.” (638-9)
It was one of those scenes of life and animation, caught in its very brightest and freshest moments, which can scarcely fail to please; for it the eye be tired of show and glare, or the ear be weary with a ceaseless round of noise, the one may repose, turn almost where it will, on eager happy and expectant faces, and the other deaden all consciousness of more annoying sounds in those of mirth and exhilaration. Even the sunburnt faces of gipsy children, half naked though they be, suggest a drop of comfort. It is a pleasant thing to see that the sun has been there, to know that the air and light are on them every day, to feel that they are children and lead children’s lives; that if their pillows be damp, it is with the dew of Heaven, and not with tears; … that their lives are spent day to day at least among the waving trees, and not in the midst of dreadful engines which make young children old before they know what childhood is, … (642-3)
“The man that came to me last night!” whispered Gride, plucking at his elbow. “The man that came to me last night!”
“I see,” muttered Ralph, “I know! I might have guessed as much before. Across my every path, at every turn, go where I will, do what I may, he comes!” (702)
“Well, my Slider!” said Mr. Squeers, jocularly.
“Is that you?” inquired Peg.
“Ah! it’s me, and me’s the first person singular, nominative case, agreeing with the verb ’it’s,’ and governed by Squeers understood, as a acorn, a hour; but when the h is sounded, the a only is to be used, as a hand, a heart, a highway,” replied Mr. Squeers, quoting at random from the grammar, “at least if it isn’t, you don’t know any better, and if it is, I’ve done it accidentally.” (735)
“Measles, rheumatics, hooping-cough, fevers, agers, and lumbagers,” said Mr. Squeers, “is all philosophy, and the earthly bodies is philosophy. If there’s a screw loose in a heavenly body, that’s philosophy too; or it may be that sometimes there’s a little metaphysics in it, but that’s not often. Philosophy’s the chap for me. If a parent asks a question in the classical, commercial, or mathematical line, say I, gravely, ‘Why, sir, in the first place, are you a philosopher?’ - ‘No, Mr. Squeers,’ he says, ‘I an’t.’ ‘Then, sir,’ says I, “I am sorry for you, for I shan’t be able to explain it. ‘Naturally the parent goes away and wishes he was a philosopher, and equally naturally, thinks I’m one.” (736)
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