Chapter 33

In which Mr Ralph Nickleby is relieved, by a very expeditious process, from all commerce with his relations

SMIKE AND NEWMAN NOGGS, who in his impatience had returned home long before the time agreed upon, sat before the fire, listening anxiously to every footstep on the stairs, and the slightest sound that stirred within the house, for the approach of Nicholas. Time had worn on, and it was growing late. He had promised to be back in an hour; and his prolonged absence began to excite considerable alarm in the minds of both, as was abundantly testified by the blank looks they cast upon each other at every new disappointment.

At length a coach was heard to stop, and Newman ran out to light Nicholas up the stairs. Beholding him in the trim described at the conclusion of the last chapter, he stood aghast in wonder and consternation.

`Don't be alarmed,' said Nicholas, hurrying him back into the room. `There is no harm done, beyond what a basin of water can repair.'

`No harm!' cried Newman, passing his hands hastily over the back and arms of Nicholas, as if to assure himself that he had broken no bones. `What have you been doing?'

`I know all,' interrupted Nicholas; `I have heard a part, and guessed the rest. But before I remove one jot of these stains, I must hear the whole from you. You see I am collected. My resolution is taken. Now, my good friend, speak out; for the time for any palliation or concealment is past, and nothing will avail Ralph Nickleby now.'

`Your dress is torn in several places; you walk lame, and I am sure you are suffering pain,' said Newman. `Let me see to your hurts first.'

`I have no hurts to see to, beyond a little soreness and stiffness that will soon pass off,' said Nicholas, seating himself with some difficulty. `But if I had fractured every limb, and still preserved my senses, you should not bandage one till you had told me what I have the right to know. Come,' said Nicholas, giving his hand to Noggs. `You had a sister of your own, you told me once, who died before you fell into misfortune. Now think of her, and tell me, Newman.'

`Yes, I will, I will,' said Noggs. `I'll tell you the whole truth.'

Newman did so. Nicholas nodded his head from time to time, as it corroborated the particulars he had already gleaned; but he fixed his eyes upon the fire, and did not look round once.

His recital ended, Newman insisted upon his young friend's stripping off his coat and allowing whatever injuries he had received to be properly tended. Nicholas, after some opposition, at length consented, and, while some pretty severe bruises on his arms and shoulders were being rubbed with oil and vinegar, and various other efficacious remedies which Newman borrowed from the different lodgers, related in what manner they had been received. The recital made a strong impression on the warm imagination of Newman; for when Nicholas came to the violent part of the quarrel, he rubbed so hard, as to occasion him the most exquisite pain, which he would not have exhibited, however, for the world, it being perfectly clear that, for the moment, Newman was operating on Sir Mulberry Hawk, and had quite lost sight of his real patient.

This martyrdom over, Nicholas arranged with Newman that while he was otherwise occupied next morning, arrangements should be made for his mother's immediately quitting her present residence, and also for dispatching Miss La Creevy to break the intelligence to her. He then wrapped himself in Smike's greatcoat, and repaired to the inn where they were to pass the night, and where (after writing a few lines to Ralph, the delivery of which was to be intrusted to Newman next day), he endeavoured to obtain the repose of which he stood so much in need.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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