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Charles Dickens > Nicholas Nickleby > Chapter 23

Nicholas Nickleby

Chapter 23

Treats of the Company of Mr Vincent Crummles, and of his Affairs,
Domestic and Theatrical

As Mr Crummles had a strange four-legged animal in the inn stables,
which he called a pony, and a vehicle of unknown design, on which he
bestowed the appellation of a four-wheeled phaeton, Nicholas
proceeded on his journey next morning with greater ease than he had
expected: the manager and himself occupying the front seat: and the
Master Crummleses and Smike being packed together behind, in company
with a wicker basket defended from wet by a stout oilskin, in which
were the broad-swords, pistols, pigtails, nautical costumes, and
other professional necessaries of the aforesaid young gentlemen.

The pony took his time upon the road, and--possibly in consequence
of his theatrical education--evinced, every now and then, a strong
inclination to lie down. However, Mr Vincent Crummles kept him up
pretty well, by jerking the rein, and plying the whip; and when
these means failed, and the animal came to a stand, the elder Master
Crummles got out and kicked him. By dint of these encouragements,
he was persuaded to move from time to time, and they jogged on (as
Mr Crummles truly observed) very comfortably for all parties.

'He's a good pony at bottom,' said Mr Crummles, turning to Nicholas.

He might have been at bottom, but he certainly was not at top,
seeing that his coat was of the roughest and most ill-favoured kind.
So, Nicholas merely observed that he shouldn't wonder if he was.

'Many and many is the circuit this pony has gone,' said Mr Crummles,
flicking him skilfully on the eyelid for old acquaintance' sake.
'He is quite one of us. His mother was on the stage.'

'Was she?' rejoined Nicholas.

'She ate apple-pie at a circus for upwards of fourteen years,' said
the manager; 'fired pistols, and went to bed in a nightcap; and, in
short, took the low comedy entirely. His father was a dancer.'

'Was he at all distinguished?'

'Not very,' said the manager. 'He was rather a low sort of pony.
The fact is, he had been originally jobbed out by the day, and he
never quite got over his old habits. He was clever in melodrama
too, but too broad--too broad. When the mother died, he took the
port-wine business.'

'The port-wine business!' cried Nicholas.

'Drinking port-wine with the clown,' said the manager; 'but he was
greedy, and one night bit off the bowl of the glass, and choked
himself, so his vulgarity was the death of him at last.'

The descendant of this ill-starred animal requiring increased
attention from Mr Crummles as he progressed in his day's work, that
gentleman had very little time for conversation. Nicholas was thus
left at leisure to entertain himself with his own thoughts, until
they arrived at the drawbridge at Portsmouth, when Mr Crummles
pulled up.

'We'll get down here,' said the manager, 'and the boys will take him
round to the stable, and call at my lodgings with the luggage. You
had better let yours be taken there, for the present.'

Thanking Mr Vincent Crummles for his obliging offer, Nicholas jumped
out, and, giving Smike his arm, accompanied the manager up High
Street on their way to the theatre; feeling nervous and
uncomfortable enough at the prospect of an immediate introduction to
a scene so new to him.

They passed a great many bills, pasted against the walls and
displayed in windows, wherein the names of Mr Vincent Crummles, Mrs
Vincent Crummles, Master Crummles, Master P. Crummles, and Miss
Crummles, were printed in very large letters, and everything else in
very small ones; and, turning at length into an entry, in which was
a strong smell of orange-peel and lamp-oil, with an under-current of
sawdust, groped their way through a dark passage, and, descending a
step or two, threaded a little maze of canvas screens and paint
pots, and emerged upon the stage of the Portsmouth Theatre.

'Here we are,' said Mr Crummles.

It was not very light, but Nicholas found himself close to the first
entrance on the prompt side, among bare walls, dusty scenes,
mildewed clouds, heavily daubed draperies, and dirty floors. He
looked about him; ceiling, pit, boxes, gallery, orchestra, fittings,
and decorations of every kind,--all looked coarse, cold, gloomy, and

'Is this a theatre?' whispered Smike, in amazement; 'I thought it
was a blaze of light and finery.'

'Why, so it is,' replied Nicholas, hardly less surprised; 'but not
by day, Smike--not by day.'

The manager's voice recalled him from a more careful inspection of
the building, to the opposite side of the proscenium, where, at a
small mahogany table with rickety legs and of an oblong shape, sat a
stout, portly female, apparently between forty and fifty, in a
tarnished silk cloak, with her bonnet dangling by the strings in her
hand, and her hair (of which she had a great quantity) braided in a
large festoon over each temple.

'Mr Johnson,' said the manager (for Nicholas had given the name
which Newman Noggs had bestowed upon him in his conversation with
Mrs Kenwigs), 'let me introduce Mrs Vincent Crummles.'

'I am glad to see you, sir,' said Mrs Vincent Crummles, in a
sepulchral voice. 'I am very glad to see you, and still more happy
to hail you as a promising member of our corps.'

The lady shook Nicholas by the hand as she addressed him in these
terms; he saw it was a large one, but had not expected quite such an
iron grip as that with which she honoured him.

'And this,' said the lady, crossing to Smike, as tragic actresses
cross when they obey a stage direction, 'and this is the other. You
too, are welcome, sir.'

'He'll do, I think, my dear?' said the manager, taking a pinch of

'He is admirable,' replied the lady. 'An acquisition indeed.'

As Mrs Vincent Crummles recrossed back to the table, there bounded
on to the stage from some mysterious inlet, a little girl in a dirty
white frock with tucks up to the knees, short trousers, sandaled
shoes, white spencer, pink gauze bonnet, green veil and curl papers;
who turned a pirouette, cut twice in the air, turned another
pirouette, then, looking off at the opposite wing, shrieked, bounded
forward to within six inches of the footlights, and fell into a
beautiful attitude of terror, as a shabby gentleman in an old pair
of buff slippers came in at one powerful slide, and chattering his
teeth, fiercely brandished a walking-stick.

'They are going through the Indian Savage and the Maiden,' said Mrs

'Oh!' said the manager, 'the little ballet interlude. Very good, go
on. A little this way, if you please, Mr Johnson. That'll do.

The manager clapped his hands as a signal to proceed, and the
savage, becoming ferocious, made a slide towards the maiden; but the
maiden avoided him in six twirls, and came down, at the end of the
last one, upon the very points of her toes. This seemed to make
some impression upon the savage; for, after a little more ferocity
and chasing of the maiden into corners, he began to relent, and
stroked his face several times with his right thumb and four
fingers, thereby intimating that he was struck with admiration of
the maiden's beauty. Acting upon the impulse of this passion, he
(the savage) began to hit himself severe thumps in the chest, and to
exhibit other indications of being desperately in love, which being
rather a prosy proceeding, was very likely the cause of the maiden's
falling asleep; whether it was or no, asleep she did fall, sound as
a church, on a sloping bank, and the savage perceiving it, leant his
left ear on his left hand, and nodded sideways, to intimate to all
whom it might concern that she WAS asleep, and no shamming. Being
left to himself, the savage had a dance, all alone. Just as he left
off, the maiden woke up, rubbed her eyes, got off the bank, and had
a dance all alone too--such a dance that the savage looked on in
ecstasy all the while, and when it was done, plucked from a
neighbouring tree some botanical curiosity, resembling a small
pickled cabbage, and offered it to the maiden, who at first wouldn't
have it, but on the savage shedding tears relented. Then the savage
jumped for joy; then the maiden jumped for rapture at the sweet
smell of the pickled cabbage. Then the savage and the maiden danced
violently together, and, finally, the savage dropped down on one
knee, and the maiden stood on one leg upon his other knee; thus
concluding the ballet, and leaving the spectators in a state of
pleasing uncertainty, whether she would ultimately marry the savage,
or return to her friends.

'Very well indeed,' said Mr Crummles; 'bravo!'

'Bravo!' cried Nicholas, resolved to make the best of everything.

'This, sir,' said Mr Vincent Crummles, bringing the maiden forward,
'this is the infant phenomenon--Miss Ninetta Crummles.'

'Your daughter?' inquired Nicholas.

'My daughter--my daughter,' replied Mr Vincent Crummles; 'the idol
of every place we go into, sir. We have had complimentary letters
about this girl, sir, from the nobility and gentry of almost every
town in England.'

'I am not surprised at that,' said Nicholas; 'she must be quite a
natural genius.'

'Quite a--!' Mr Crummles stopped: language was not powerful enough
to describe the infant phenomenon. 'I'll tell you what, sir,' he
said; 'the talent of this child is not to be imagined. She must be
seen, sir--seen--to be ever so faintly appreciated. There; go to
your mother, my dear.'

'May I ask how old she is?' inquired Nicholas.

'You may, sir,' replied Mr Crummles, looking steadily in his
questioner's face, as some men do when they have doubts about being
implicitly believed in what they are going to say. 'She is ten
years of age, sir.'

'Not more!'

'Not a day.'

'Dear me!' said Nicholas, 'it's extraordinary.'

It was; for the infant phenomenon, though of short stature, had a
comparatively aged countenance, and had moreover been precisely the
same age--not perhaps to the full extent of the memory of the oldest
inhabitant, but certainly for five good years. But she had been
kept up late every night, and put upon an unlimited allowance of
gin-and-water from infancy, to prevent her growing tall, and perhaps
this system of training had produced in the infant phenomenon these
additional phenomena.

While this short dialogue was going on, the gentleman who had
enacted the savage, came up, with his walking shoes on his feet, and
his slippers in his hand, to within a few paces, as if desirous to
join in the conversation. Deeming this a good opportunity, he put
in his word.

'Talent there, sir!' said the savage, nodding towards Miss Crummles.

Nicholas assented.

'Ah!' said the actor, setting his teeth together, and drawing in his
breath with a hissing sound, 'she oughtn't to be in the provinces,
she oughtn't.'

'What do you mean?' asked the manager.

'I mean to say,' replied the other, warmly, 'that she is too good
for country boards, and that she ought to be in one of the large
houses in London, or nowhere; and I tell you more, without mincing
the matter, that if it wasn't for envy and jealousy in some quarter
that you know of, she would be. Perhaps you'll introduce me here,
Mr Crummles.'

'Mr Folair,' said the manager, presenting him to Nicholas.

'Happy to know you, sir.' Mr Folair touched the brim of his hat with
his forefinger, and then shook hands. 'A recruit, sir, I

'An unworthy one,' replied Nicholas.

'Did you ever see such a set-out as that?' whispered the actor,
drawing him away, as Crummles left them to speak to his wife.

'As what?'

Mr Folair made a funny face from his pantomime collection, and
pointed over his shoulder.

'You don't mean the infant phenomenon?'

'Infant humbug, sir,' replied Mr Folair. 'There isn't a female
child of common sharpness in a charity school, that couldn't do
better than that. She may thank her stars she was born a manager's

'You seem to take it to heart,' observed Nicholas, with a smile.

'Yes, by Jove, and well I may,' said Mr Folair, drawing his arm
through his, and walking him up and down the stage. 'Isn't it
enough to make a man crusty to see that little sprawler put up in
the best business every night, and actually keeping money out of the
house, by being forced down the people's throats, while other people
are passed over? Isn't it extraordinary to see a man's confounded
family conceit blinding him, even to his own interest? Why I KNOW
of fifteen and sixpence that came to Southampton one night last
month, to see me dance the Highland Fling; and what's the
consequence? I've never been put up in it since--never once--while
the "infant phenomenon" has been grinning through artificial flowers
at five people and a baby in the pit, and two boys in the gallery,
every night.'

'If I may judge from what I have seen of you,' said Nicholas, 'you
must be a valuable member of the company.'

'Oh!' replied Mr Folair, beating his slippers together, to knock the
dust out; 'I CAN come it pretty well--nobody better, perhaps, in my
own line--but having such business as one gets here, is like putting
lead on one's feet instead of chalk, and dancing in fetters without
the credit of it. Holloa, old fellow, how are you?'

The gentleman addressed in these latter words was a dark-
complexioned man, inclining indeed to sallow, with long thick black
hair, and very evident inclinations (although he was close shaved)
of a stiff beard, and whiskers of the same deep shade. His age did
not appear to exceed thirty, though many at first sight would have
considered him much older, as his face was long, and very pale, from
the constant application of stage paint. He wore a checked shirt,
an old green coat with new gilt buttons, a neckerchief of broad red
and green stripes, and full blue trousers; he carried, too, a common
ash walking-stick, apparently more for show than use, as he
flourished it about, with the hooked end downwards, except when he
raised it for a few seconds, and throwing himself into a fencing
attitude, made a pass or two at the side-scenes, or at any other
object, animate or inanimate, that chanced to afford him a pretty
good mark at the moment.

'Well, Tommy,' said this gentleman, making a thrust at his friend,
who parried it dexterously with his slipper, 'what's the news?'

'A new appearance, that's all,' replied Mr Folair, looking at

'Do the honours, Tommy, do the honours,' said the other gentleman,
tapping him reproachfully on the crown of the hat with his stick.

'This is Mr Lenville, who does our first tragedy, Mr Johnson,' said
the pantomimist.

'Except when old bricks and mortar takes it into his head to do it
himself, you should add, Tommy,' remarked Mr Lenville. 'You know
who bricks and mortar is, I suppose, sir?'

'I do not, indeed,' replied Nicholas.

'We call Crummles that, because his style of acting is rather in the
heavy and ponderous way,' said Mr Lenville. 'I mustn't be cracking
jokes though, for I've got a part of twelve lengths here, which I
must be up in tomorrow night, and I haven't had time to look at it
yet; I'm a confounded quick study, that's one comfort.'

Consoling himself with this reflection, Mr Lenville drew from his
coat pocket a greasy and crumpled manuscript, and, having made
another pass at his friend, proceeded to walk to and fro, conning it
to himself and indulging occasionally in such appropriate action as
his imagination and the text suggested.

A pretty general muster of the company had by this time taken place;
for besides Mr Lenville and his friend Tommy, there were present, a
slim young gentleman with weak eyes, who played the low-spirited
lovers and sang tenor songs, and who had come arm-in-arm with the
comic countryman--a man with a turned-up nose, large mouth, broad
face, and staring eyes. Making himself very amiable to the infant
phenomenon, was an inebriated elderly gentleman in the last depths
of shabbiness, who played the calm and virtuous old men; and paying
especial court to Mrs Crummles was another elderly gentleman, a
shade more respectable, who played the irascible old men--those
funny fellows who have nephews in the army and perpetually run about
with thick sticks to compel them to marry heiresses. Besides these,
there was a roving-looking person in a rough great-coat, who strode
up and down in front of the lamps, flourishing a dress cane, and
rattling away, in an undertone, with great vivacity for the
amusement of an ideal audience. He was not quite so young as he had
been, and his figure was rather running to seed; but there was an
air of exaggerated gentility about him, which bespoke the hero of
swaggering comedy. There was, also, a little group of three or four
young men with lantern jaws and thick eyebrows, who were conversing
in one corner; but they seemed to be of secondary importance, and
laughed and talked together without attracting any attention.

The ladies were gathered in a little knot by themselves round the
rickety table before mentioned. There was Miss Snevellicci--who
could do anything, from a medley dance to Lady Macbeth, and also
always played some part in blue silk knee-smalls at her benefit--
glancing, from the depths of her coal-scuttle straw bonnet, at
Nicholas, and affecting to be absorbed in the recital of a diverting
story to her friend Miss Ledrook, who had brought her work, and was
making up a ruff in the most natural manner possible. There was
Miss Belvawney--who seldom aspired to speaking parts, and usually
went on as a page in white silk hose, to stand with one leg bent,
and contemplate the audience, or to go in and out after Mr Crummles
in stately tragedy--twisting up the ringlets of the beautiful Miss
Bravassa, who had once had her likeness taken 'in character' by an
engraver's apprentice, whereof impressions were hung up for sale in
the pastry-cook's window, and the greengrocer's, and at the
circulating library, and the box-office, whenever the announce bills
came out for her annual night. There was Mrs Lenville, in a very
limp bonnet and veil, decidedly in that way in which she would wish
to be if she truly loved Mr Lenville; there was Miss Gazingi, with
an imitation ermine boa tied in a loose knot round her neck,
flogging Mr Crummles, junior, with both ends, in fun. Lastly, there
was Mrs Grudden in a brown cloth pelisse and a beaver bonnet, who
assisted Mrs Crummles in her domestic affairs, and took money at the
doors, and dressed the ladies, and swept the house, and held the
prompt book when everybody else was on for the last scene, and acted
any kind of part on any emergency without ever learning it, and was
put down in the bills under my name or names whatever, that occurred
to Mr Crummles as looking well in print.

Mr Folair having obligingly confided these particulars to Nicholas,
left him to mingle with his fellows; the work of personal
introduction was completed by Mr Vincent Crummles, who publicly
heralded the new actor as a prodigy of genius and learning.

'I beg your pardon,' said Miss Snevellicci, sidling towards
Nicholas, 'but did you ever play at Canterbury?'

'I never did,' replied Nicholas.

'I recollect meeting a gentleman at Canterbury,' said Miss
Snevellicci, 'only for a few moments, for I was leaving the company
as he joined it, so like you that I felt almost certain it was the

'I see you now for the first time,' rejoined Nicholas with all due
gallantry. 'I am sure I never saw you before; I couldn't have
forgotten it.'

'Oh, I'm sure--it's very flattering of you to say so,' retorted Miss
Snevellicci with a graceful bend. 'Now I look at you again, I see
that the gentleman at Canterbury hadn't the same eyes as you--you'll
think me very foolish for taking notice of such things, won't you?'

'Not at all,' said Nicholas. 'How can I feel otherwise than
flattered by your notice in any way?'

'Oh! you men are such vain creatures!' cried Miss Snevellicci.
Whereupon, she became charmingly confused, and, pulling out her
pocket-handkerchief from a faded pink silk reticule with a gilt
clasp, called to Miss Ledrook--

'Led, my dear,' said Miss Snevellicci.

'Well, what is the matter?' said Miss Ledrook.

'It's not the same.'

'Not the same what?'

'Canterbury--you know what I mean. Come here! I want to speak to

But Miss Ledrook wouldn't come to Miss Snevellicci, so Miss
Snevellicci was obliged to go to Miss Ledrook, which she did, in a
skipping manner that was quite fascinating; and Miss Ledrook
evidently joked Miss Snevellicci about being struck with Nicholas;
for, after some playful whispering, Miss Snevellicci hit Miss
Ledrook very hard on the backs of her hands, and retired up, in a
state of pleasing confusion.

'Ladies and gentlemen,' said Mr Vincent Crummles, who had been
writing on a piece of paper, 'we'll call the Mortal Struggle
tomorrow at ten; everybody for the procession. Intrigue, and Ways
and Means, you're all up in, so we shall only want one rehearsal.
Everybody at ten, if you please.'

'Everybody at ten,' repeated Mrs Grudden, looking about her.

'On Monday morning we shall read a new piece,' said Mr Crummles;
'the name's not known yet, but everybody will have a good part. Mr
Johnson will take care of that.'

'Hallo!' said Nicholas, starting. 'I--'

'On Monday morning,' repeated Mr Crummles, raising his voice, to
drown the unfortunate Mr Johnson's remonstrance; 'that'll do, ladies
and gentlemen.'

The ladies and gentlemen required no second notice to quit; and, in
a few minutes, the theatre was deserted, save by the Crummles
family, Nicholas, and Smike.

'Upon my word,' said Nicholas, taking the manager aside, 'I don't
think I can be ready by Monday.'

'Pooh, pooh,' replied Mr Crummles.

'But really I can't,' returned Nicholas; 'my invention is not
accustomed to these demands, or possibly I might produce--'

'Invention! what the devil's that got to do with it!' cried the
manager hastily.

'Everything, my dear sir.'

'Nothing, my dear sir,' retorted the manager, with evident
impatience. 'Do you understand French?'

'Perfectly well.'

'Very good,' said the manager, opening the table drawer, and giving
a roll of paper from it to Nicholas. 'There! Just turn that into
English, and put your name on the title-page. Damn me,' said Mr
Crummles, angrily, 'if I haven't often said that I wouldn't have a
man or woman in my company that wasn't master of the language, so
that they might learn it from the original, and play it in English,
and save all this trouble and expense.'

Nicholas smiled and pocketed the play.

'What are you going to do about your lodgings?' said Mr Crummles.

Nicholas could not help thinking that, for the first week, it would
be an uncommon convenience to have a turn-up bedstead in the pit,
but he merely remarked that he had not turned his thoughts that way.

'Come home with me then,' said Mr Crummles, 'and my boys shall go
with you after dinner, and show you the most likely place.'

The offer was not to be refused; Nicholas and Mr Crummles gave Mrs
Crummles an arm each, and walked up the street in stately array.
Smike, the boys, and the phenomenon, went home by a shorter cut, and
Mrs Grudden remained behind to take some cold Irish stew and a pint
of porter in the box-office.

Mrs Crummles trod the pavement as if she were going to immediate
execution with an animating consciousness of innocence, and that
heroic fortitude which virtue alone inspires. Mr Crummles, on the
other hand, assumed the look and gait of a hardened despot; but they
both attracted some notice from many of the passers-by, and when
they heard a whisper of 'Mr and Mrs Crummles!' or saw a little boy
run back to stare them in the face, the severe expression of their
countenances relaxed, for they felt it was popularity.

Mr Crummles lived in St Thomas's Street, at the house of one Bulph,
a pilot, who sported a boat-green door, with window-frames of the
same colour, and had the little finger of a drowned man on his
parlour mantelshelf, with other maritime and natural curiosities.
He displayed also a brass knocker, a brass plate, and a brass bell-
handle, all very bright and shining; and had a mast, with a vane on
the top of it, in his back yard.

'You are welcome,' said Mrs Crummles, turning round to Nicholas when
they reached the bow-windowed front room on the first floor.

Nicholas bowed his acknowledgments, and was unfeignedly glad to see
the cloth laid.

'We have but a shoulder of mutton with onion sauce,' said Mrs
Crummles, in the same charnel-house voice; 'but such as our dinner
is, we beg you to partake of it.'

'You are very good,' replied Nicholas, 'I shall do it ample

'Vincent,' said Mrs Crummles, 'what is the hour?'

'Five minutes past dinner-time,' said Mr Crummles.

Mrs Crummles rang the bell. 'Let the mutton and onion sauce

The slave who attended upon Mr Bulph's lodgers, disappeared, and
after a short interval reappeared with the festive banquet.
Nicholas and the infant phenomenon opposed each other at the
pembroke-table, and Smike and the master Crummleses dined on the
sofa bedstead.

'Are they very theatrical people here?' asked Nicholas.

'No,' replied Mr Crummles, shaking his head, 'far from it--far from

'I pity them,' observed Mrs Crummles.

'So do I,' said Nicholas; 'if they have no relish for theatrical
entertainments, properly conducted.'

'Then they have none, sir,' rejoined Mr Crummles. 'To the infant's
benefit, last year, on which occasion she repeated three of her most
popular characters, and also appeared in the Fairy Porcupine, as
originally performed by her, there was a house of no more than four
pound twelve.'

'Is it possible?' cried Nicholas.

'And two pound of that was trust, pa,' said the phenomenon.

'And two pound of that was trust,' repeated Mr Crummles. 'Mrs
Crummles herself has played to mere handfuls.'

'But they are always a taking audience, Vincent,' said the manager's

'Most audiences are, when they have good acting--real good acting--
the regular thing,' replied Mr Crummles, forcibly.

'Do you give lessons, ma'am?' inquired Nicholas.

'I do,' said Mrs Crummles.

'There is no teaching here, I suppose?'

'There has been,' said Mrs Crummles. 'I have received pupils here.
I imparted tuition to the daughter of a dealer in ships' provision;
but it afterwards appeared that she was insane when she first came
to me. It was very extraordinary that she should come, under such

Not feeling quite so sure of that, Nicholas thought it best to hold
his peace.

'Let me see,' said the manager cogitating after dinner. 'Would you
like some nice little part with the infant?'

'You are very good,' replied Nicholas hastily; 'but I think perhaps
it would be better if I had somebody of my own size at first, in
case I should turn out awkward. I should feel more at home,

'True,' said the manager. 'Perhaps you would. And you could play
up to the infant, in time, you know.'

'Certainly,' replied Nicholas: devoutly hoping that it would be a
very long time before he was honoured with this distinction.

'Then I'll tell you what we'll do,' said Mr Crummles. 'You shall
study Romeo when you've done that piece--don't forget to throw the
pump and tubs in by-the-bye--Juliet Miss Snevellicci, old Grudden
the nurse.--Yes, that'll do very well. Rover too;--you might get up
Rover while you were about it, and Cassio, and Jeremy Diddler. You
can easily knock them off; one part helps the other so much. Here
they are, cues and all.'

With these hasty general directions Mr Crummles thrust a number of
little books into the faltering hands of Nicholas, and bidding his
eldest son go with him and show where lodgings were to be had, shook
him by the hand, and wished him good night.

There is no lack of comfortable furnished apartments in Portsmouth,
and no difficulty in finding some that are proportionate to very
slender finances; but the former were too good, and the latter too
bad, and they went into so many houses, and came out unsuited, that
Nicholas seriously began to think he should be obliged to ask
permission to spend the night in the theatre, after all.

Eventually, however, they stumbled upon two small rooms up three
pair of stairs, or rather two pair and a ladder, at a tobacconist's
shop, on the Common Hard: a dirty street leading down to the
dockyard. These Nicholas engaged, only too happy to have escaped
any request for payment of a week's rent beforehand.

'There! Lay down our personal property, Smike,' he said, after
showing young Crummles downstairs. 'We have fallen upon strange
times, and Heaven only knows the end of them; but I am tired with
the events of these three days, and will postpone reflection till
tomorrow--if I can.'

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