Chapter 38

Comprises certain particulars arising out of a visit of condolence, which may prove important hereafter. Smike unexpectedly encounters a very old friend, who invites him to his house, and will take no denial

QUITE UNCONSCIOUS of the demonstrations of their amorous neighbour, or their effects upon the susceptible bosom of her mamma, Kate Nickleby had, by this time, begun to enjoy a settled feeling of tranquillity and happiness, to which, even in occasional and transitory glimpses, she had long been a stranger. Living under the same roof with the beloved brother from whom she had been so suddenly and hardly separated: with a mind at ease, and free from any persecutions which could call a blush into her cheek, or a pang into her heart: she seemed to have passed into a new state of being. Her former cheerfulness was restored, her step regained its elasticity and lightness, the colour which had forsaken her cheek visited it once again, and Kate Nickleby looked more beautiful than ever.

Such was the result to which Miss La Creevy's ruminations and observations led her, when the cottage had been, as she emphatically said, `thoroughly got to rights, from the chimney-pots to the street-door scraper,' and the busy little woman had at length a moment's time to think about its inmates.

`Which I declare I haven't had since I first came down here,' said Miss La Creevy; `for I have thought of nothing but hammers, nails, screwdrivers, and gimlets, morning, noon, and night.'

`You never bestowed one thought upon yourself, I believe,' returned Kate, smiling.

`Upon my word, my dear, when there are so many pleasanter things to think of, I should be a goose if I did,' said Miss La Creevy. `By-the-bye, I have thought of somebody too. Do you know, that I observe a great change in one of this family -- a very extraordinary change?'

`In whom?' asked Kate, anxiously. `Not in --'

`Not in your brother, my dear,' returned Miss La Creevy, anticipating the close of the sentence, `for he is always the same affectionate good-natured clever creature, with a spice of the -- I won't say who -- in him when there's any occasion, that he was when I first knew you. No. Smike, as he will be called, poor fellow! for he won't hear of a Mr before his name, is greatly altered, even in this short time.'

`How?' asked Kate. `Not in health?'

`N--n--o; perhaps not in health exactly,' said Miss La Creevy, pausing to consider, `although he is a worn and feeble creature, and has that in his face which it would wring my heart to see in yours. No; not in health.'

`How then?'

`I scarcely know,' said the miniature painter. `But I have watched him, and he has brought the tears into my eyes many times. It is not a very difficult matter to do that, certainly, for I am easily melted; still I think these came with good cause and reason. I am sure that since he has been here, he has grown, from some strong cause, more conscious of his weak intellect. He feels it more. It gives him greater pain to know that he wanders sometimes, and cannot understand very simple things. I have watched him when you have not been by, my dear, sit brooding by himself, with such a look of pain as I could scarcely bear to see, and then get up and leave the room: so sorrowfully, and in such dejection, that I cannot tell you how it has hurt me. Not three weeks ago, he was a light-hearted busy creature, overjoyed to be in a bustle, and as happy as the day was long. Now, he is another being -- the same willing, harmless, faithful, loving creature -- but the same in nothing else.'

`Surely this will all pass off,' said Kate. `Poor fellow!'

`I hope,' returned her little friend, with a gravity very unusual in her, `it may. I hope, for the sake of that poor lad, it may. However,' said Miss La Creevy, relapsing into the cheerful, chattering tone, which was

  By PanEris using Melati.

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