complicated question, and one of paramount importance, soon routed the previous one, and put it to flight.

The great day arriving, the good lady put herself under Kate's hands an hour or so after breakfast, and, dressing by easy stages, completed her toilette in sufficient time to allow of her daughter's making hers, which was very simple, and not very long, though so satisfactory that she had never appeared more charming or looked more lovely. Miss La Creevy, too, arrived with two bandboxes (whereof the bottoms fell out as they were handed from the coach) and something in a newspaper, which a gentleman had sat upon, coming down, and which was obliged to be ironed again, before it was fit for service. At last, everybody was dressed, including Nicholas, who had come home to fetch them, and they went away in a coach sent by the brothers for the purpose: Mrs Nickleby wondering very much what they would have for dinner, and cross-examining Nicholas as to the extent of his discoveries in the morning; whether he had smelt anything cooking at all like turtle, and if not, what he had smelt; and diversifying the conversation with reminiscences of dinners to which she had gone some twenty years ago, concerning which she particularised not only the dishes but the guests, in whom her hearers did not feel a very absorbing interest, as not one of them had ever chanced to hear their names before.

The old butler received them with profound respect and many smiles, and ushered them into the drawing- room, where they were received by the brothers with so much cordiality and kindness that Mrs Nickleby was quite in a flutter, and had scarcely presence of mind enough, even to patronise Miss La Creevy. Kate was still more affected by the reception: for, knowing that the brothers were acquainted with all that had passed between her and Frank, she felt her position a most delicate and trying one, and was trembling on the arm of Nicholas, when Mr Charles took her in his, and led her to another part of the room.

`Have you seen Madeline, my dear,' he said, `since she left your house?'

`No, sir!' replied Kate. `Not once.'

`And not heard from her, eh? Not heard from her?'

`I have only had one letter,' rejoined Kate, gently. `I thought she would not have forgotten me quite so soon.'

`Ah,' said the old man, patting her on the head, and speaking as affectionately as if she had been his favourite child. `Poor dear! what do you think of this, brother Ned? Madeline has only written to her once -- only once, Ned, and she didn't think she would have forgotten her quite so soon, Ned.'

`Oh! sad, sad -- very sad!' said Ned.

The brothers interchanged a glance, and looking at Kate for a little time without speaking, shook hands, and nodded as if they were congratulating each other on something very delightful.

`Well, well,' said brother Charles, `go into that room, my dear -- that door yonder -- and see if there's not a letter for you from her. I think there's one upon the table. You needn't hurry back, my love, if there is, for we don't dine just yet, and there's plenty of time -- plenty of time.'

Kate retired as she was directed. Brother Charles, having followed her graceful figure with his eyes, turned to Mrs Nickleby, and said --

`We took the liberty of naming one hour before the real dinner-time, ma'am, because we had a little business to speak about, which would occupy the interval. Ned, my dear fellow, will you mention what we agreed upon? Mr Nickleby, sir, have the goodness to follow me.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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