Charles Dickens

'However, it's gone now at any rate, so it don't much matter whether it was or not. What was it we were talking about? Oh! Mr Frank. I never saw such attention in MY life, never.'

'Surely you are not serious,' returned Kate, colouring again; and this time beyond all dispute.

'Not serious!' returned Mrs Nickleby; 'why shouldn't I be serious? I'm sure I never was more serious. I will say that his politeness and attention to me is one of the most becoming, gratifying, pleasant things I have seen for a very long time. You don't often meet with such behaviour in young men, and it strikes one more when one does meet with it.'

'Oh! attention to YOU, mama,' rejoined Kate quickly--'oh yes.'

'Dear me, Kate,' retorted Mrs Nickleby, 'what an extraordinary girl you are! Was it likely I should be talking of his attention to anybody else? I declare I'm quite sorry to think he should be in love with a German lady, that I am.'

'He said very positively that it was no such thing, mama,' returned Kate. 'Don't you remember his saying so that very first night he came here? Besides,' she added, in a more gentle tone, 'why should WE be sorry if it is the case? What is it to us, mama?'

'Nothing to US, Kate, perhaps,' said Mrs Nickleby, emphatically; 'but something to ME, I confess. I like English people to be thorough English people, and not half English and half I don't know what. I shall tell him point-blank next time he comes, that I wish he would marry one of his own country-women; and see what he says to that.'

'Pray don't think of such a thing, mama,' returned Kate, hastily; 'not for the world. Consider. How very--'

'Well, my dear, how very what?' said Mrs Nickleby, opening her eyes in great astonishment.

Before Kate had returned any reply, a queer little double knock announced that Miss La Creevy had called to see them; and when Miss La Creevy presented herself, Mrs Nickleby, though strongly disposed to be argumentative on the previous question, forgot all about it in a gush of supposes about the coach she had come by; supposing that the man who drove must have been either the man in the shirt-sleeves or the man with the black eye; that whoever he was, he hadn't found that parasol she left inside last week; that no doubt they had stopped a long while at the Halfway House, coming down; or that perhaps being full, they had come straight on; and, lastly, that they, surely, must have passed Nicholas on the road.

'I saw nothing of him,' answered Miss La Creevy; 'but I saw that dear old soul Mr Linkinwater.'

'Taking his evening walk, and coming on to rest here, before he turns back to the city, I'll be bound!' said Mrs Nickleby.

'I should think he was,' returned Miss La Creevy; 'especially as young Mr Cheeryble was with him.'

'Surely that is no reason why Mr Linkinwater should be coming here,' said Kate.

'Why I think it is, my dear,' said Miss La Creevy. 'For a young man, Mr Frank is not a very great walker; and I observe that he generally falls tired, and requires a good long rest, when he has come as far as this. But where is my friend?' said the little woman, looking about, after having glanced slyly at Kate. 'He has not been run away with again, has he?'

'Ah! where is Mr Smike?' said Mrs Nickleby; 'he was here this instant.'

Upon further inquiry, it turned out, to the good lady's unbounded astonishment, that Smike had, that moment, gone upstairs to bed.

'Well now,' said Mrs Nickleby, 'he is the strangest creature! Last Tuesday--was it Tuesday? Yes, to be sure it was; you recollect, Kate, my dear, the very last time young Mr Cheeryble was here--last Tuesday night he went off in just the same strange way, at the very moment the knock came to the door. It cannot be that he don't like company, because he is always fond of people who are fond of Nicholas, and I am sure young Mr Cheeryble is. And the strangest thing is, that he does not go to bed; therefore it cannot be because he is tired. I know he doesn't go to bed, because my room is the next one, and when I went upstairs last Tuesday, hours after him, I found that he had not even taken his shoes off; and he had no candle, so he must have sat moping in the dark all the time.