Chapter 35Smike becomes known to Mrs Nickleby and Kate. Nicholas also meets with new acquaintances. Brighter days seem to dawn upon the family
HAVING ESTABLISHED his mother and sister in the apartments of the kind-hearted miniature painter, and ascertained that Sir Mulberry Hawk was in no danger of losing his life, Nicholas turned his thoughts to poor Smike, who, after breakfasting with Newman Noggs, had remained, in a disconsolate state, at that worthy creature's lodgings, waiting, with much anxiety, for further intelligence of his protector.
`As he will be one of our own little household, wherever we live, or whatever fortune is in reserve for us,' thought Nicholas, `I must present the poor fellow in due form. They will be kind to him for his own sake, and if not (on that account solely) to the full extent I could wish, they will stretch a point, I am sure, for mine.'
Nicholas said `they', but his misgivings were confined to one person. He was sure of Kate, but he knew his mother's peculiarities, and was not quite so certain that Smike would find favour in the eyes of Mrs Nickleby.
`However,' thought Nicholas as he departed on his benevolent errand; `she cannot fail to become attached to him, when she knows what a devoted creature he is, and as she must quickly make the discovery, his probation will be a short one.'
`I was afraid,' said Smike, overjoyed to see his friend again, `that you had fallen into some fresh trouble; the time seemed so long, at last, that I almost feared you were lost.'
`Lost!' replied Nicholas gaily. `You will not be rid of me so easily, I promise you. I shall rise to the surface many thousand times yet, and the harder the thrust that pushes me down, the more quickly I shall rebound, Smike. But come; my errand here is to take you home.'
`Home!' faltered Smike, drawing timidly back.
`Ay,' rejoined Nicholas, taking his arm. `Why not?'
`I had such hopes once,' said Smike; `day and night, day and night, for many years. I longed for home till I was weary, and pined away with grief, but now--'
`And what now?' asked Nicholas, looking kindly in his face. `What now, old friend?'
`I could not part from you to go to any home on earth,' replied Smike, pressing his hand; `except one, except one. I shall never be an old man; and if your hand placed me in the grave, and I could think, before I died, that you would come and look upon it sometimes with one of your kind smiles, and in the summer weather, when everything was alive -- not dead like me -- I could go to that home almost without a tear.'
`Why do you talk thus, poor boy, if your life is a happy one with me?' said Nicholas.
`Because I should change; not those about me. And if they forgot me, I should never know it,' replied Smike. `In the churchyard we are all alike, but here there are none like me. I am a poor creature, but I know that.'
`You are a foolish, silly creature,' said Nicholas cheerfully. `If that is what you mean, I grant you that. Why, here's a dismal face for ladies' company! -- my pretty sister too, whom you have so often asked me about. Is this your Yorkshire gallantry? For shame! for shame!'
Smike brightened up and smiled.
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