have him fire off real guns, and have his hair cut, and his whiskers shaved, and his eyes turned right and left, and his trousers pipeclayed?'
`Dear Nicholas,' whispered Kate, `you don't know who that is. It's Mr Mantalini I am confident.'
`Do make sure! Peep at him while I ask the way,' said Nicholas. `Come down a step or two -- come!'
Drawing her after him, Nicholas crept down the steps and looked into a small boarded cellar. There, amidst clothes-baskets and clothes, stripped up to his shirt-sleeves, but wearing still an old patched pair of pantaloons of superlative make, a once brilliant waistcoat, and moustache and whiskers as of yore, but lacking their lustrous dye -- there, endeavouring to mollify the wrath of a buxom female -- not the lawful Madame Mantalini, but the proprietress of the concern -- and grinding meanwhile as if for very life at the mangle, whose creaking noise, mingled with her shrill tones, appeared almost to deafen him -- there was the graceful, elegant, fascinating, and once dashing Mantalini.
`Oh you false traitor!' cried the lady, threatening personal violence on Mr Mantalini's face.
`False! Oh dem! Now my soul, my gentle, captivating, bewitching, and most demnebly enslaving chick- a-biddy, be calm,' said Mr Mantalini, humbly.
`I won't!' screamed the woman. `I'll tear your eyes out!'
`Oh! What a demd savage lamb!' cried Mr Mantalini.
`You're never to be trusted,' screamed the woman; `you were out all day yesterday, and gallivanting somewhere I know -- you know you were! Isn't it enough that I paid two pound fourteen for you, and took you out of prison and let you live here like a gentleman, but must you go on like this: breaking, my heart besides?'
`I will never break its heart, I will be a good boy, and never do so any more; I will never be naughty again; I beg its little pardon,' said Mr Mantalini, dropping the handle of the mangle, and folding his palms together; `it is all up with its handsome friend! He has gone to the demnition bow-wows. It will have pity? it will not scratch and claw, but pet and comfort? Oh, demmit!'
Very little affected, to judge from her action, by this tender appeal, the lady was on the point of returning some angry reply, when Nicholas, raising his voice, asked his way to Piccadilly.
Mr Mantalini turned round, caught sight of Kate, and, without another word, leapt at one bound into a bed which stood behind the door, and drew the counterpane over his face: kicking meanwhile convulsively.
`Demmit,' he cried, in a suffocating voice, `it's little Nickleby! Shut the door, put out the candle, turn me up in the bedstead! Oh, dem, dem, dem!'
The woman looked, first at Nicholas, and then at Mr Mantalini, as if uncertain on whom to visit this extraordinary behaviour; but Mr Mantalini happening by ill-luck to thrust his nose from under the bedclothes, in his anxiety to ascertain whether the visitors were gone, she suddenly, and with a dexterity which could only have been acquired by long practice, flung a pretty heavy clothes-basket at him, with so good an aim that he kicked more violently than before, though without venturing to make any effort to disengage his head, which was quite extinguished. Thinking this a favourable opportunity for departing before any of the torrent of her wrath discharged itself upon him, Nicholas hurried Kate off, and left the unfortunate subject of this unexpected recognition to explain his conduct as he best could.
The next morning he began his journey. It was now cold, winter weather: forcibly recalling to his mind under what circumstances he had first travelled that road, and how many vicissitudes and changes he had since undergone. He was alone inside the greater part of the way, and sometimes, when he had fallen into a doze, and, rousing himself, looked out of the window, and recognised some place which he well remembered as having passed, either on his journey down, or in the long walk back with poor
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