`Why will it vex itself, and twist its little face into bewitching nutcrackers?' said Mantalini, putting his left arm round the waist of his life and soul, and drawing her towards him with his right.
`Oh! I can't bear you,' replied his wife.
`Not--eh, not bear me!` exclaimed Mantalini. `Fibs, fibs. It couldn't be. There's not a woman alive, that could tell me such a thing to my face--to my own face.' Mr Mantalini stroked his chin, as he said this, and glanced complacently at an opposite mirror.
`Such destructive extravagance,' reasoned his wife, in a low tone.
`All in its joy at having gained such a lovely creature, such a little Venus, such a demd, enchanting, bewitching, engrossing, captivating little Venus,' said Mantalini.
`See what a situation you have placed me in!' urged Madame.
`No harm will come, no harm shall come, to its own darling,' rejoined Mr Mantalini. `It is all over; there will be nothing the matter; money shall be got in; and if it don't come in fast enough, old Nickleby shall stump up again, or have his jugular separated if he dares to vex and hurt the little--'
`Hush!' interposed Madame. `Don't you see?'
Mr Mantalini, who, in his eagerness to make up matters with his wife, had overlooked, or feigned to overlook, Miss Nickleby hitherto, took the hint, and laying his finger on his lip, sunk his voice still lower. There was, then, a great deal of whispering, during which Madame Mantalini appeared to make reference, more than once, to certain debts incurred by Mr Mantalini previous to her coverture; and also to an unexpected outlay of money in payment of the aforesaid debts; and furthermore, to certain agreeable weaknesses on that gentleman's part, such as gaming, wasting, idling, and a tendency to horse-flesh; each of which matters of accusation Mr Mantalini disposed of, by one kiss or more, as its relative importance demanded. The upshot of it all was, that Madame Mantalini was in raptures with him, and that they went upstairs to breakfast.
Kate busied herself in what she had to do, and was silently arranging the various articles of decoration in the best taste she could display, when she started to hear a strange man's voice in the room, and started again, to observe, on looking round, that a white hat, and a red neckerchief, and a broad round face, and a large head, and part of a green coat were in the room too.
`Don't alarm yourself, miss,' said the proprietor of these appearances.
I say; this here's the mantie-making consarn, an't it?'
`Yes,' rejoined Kate, greatly astonished. `What did you want?'
The stranger answered not; but, first looking back, as though to beckon to some unseen person outside, came, very deliberately, into the room, and was closely followed by a little man in brown, very much the worse for wear, who brought with him a mingled fumigation of stale tobacco and fresh onions. The clothes of this gentleman were much bespeckled with flue; and his shoes, stockings, and nether garments, from his heels to the waist buttons of his coat inclusive, were profusely embroidered with splashes of mud, caught a fortnight previously--before the setting-in of the fine weather.
Kate's very natural impression was, that these engaging individuals had called with the view of possessing themselves, unlawfully, of any portable articles that chanced to strike their fancy. She did not attempt to disguise her apprehensions, and made a move towards the door.
`Wait a minnit,' said the man in the green coat, closing it softly, and standing with his back against it. `This is a unpleasant bisness. Vere's your govvernor?'
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