Chapters 37-39 Summary
Nicholas begins his work at the offices of the Cheeryble Brothers under the watchful eye of Tim Linkinwater, the elderly clerk. Linkinwater had worried that the business would fall apart after he died, but he now has confidence that Nicholas will carry on with success. The Cheeryble Brothers announce that it is Linkinwater’s birthday and there will be a dinner that evening, to which Nicholas is invited. The party is lively with the humor of the Ned and Charles Cheeryble, and Nicholas feels that he has at last fallen on good times.
On arriving at home, Nicholas is surprised to find his mother and Smike still awake and evidently waiting for him. Mrs. Nickleby has been entertaining (or rather confusing) Smike with tales from her family history, but she sends him off to bed so she can have a private word with her son. She tells Nicholas that an elderly neighbor has been showing his passion for her by throwing vegetables over the wall. Nicholas knows his mother is rather vain and does not quite believe her, but that night he sees a vegetable stuck on top of the garden wall.
Miss La Creevy helped the Nicklebys move in to their new cottage at Bow, and now she prepares to return home in London. She tells Kate that she has noticed a change in Smike’s behavior caused by his increasing awareness of his mental limitations. Smike is not as happy and carefree as he used to be. Miss La Creevy asks Smike to escort her back home on the omnibus. As he returns to Bow, he is discovered by Mr. Squeers and his son. Unable to resist, Smike is loaded into a coach and taken to the home of Mr. Snawley, a gentleman who had placed his unwanted stepsons with Mr. Squeers at Dotheboys Hall. Smike is imprisoned in the Snawley home, where he returns to the condition in which Nicholas first met him.
John Browdie and his new wife arrive in London for their honeymoon, escorted by Fanny Squeers. John is amazed by the size of everything in the city. The three make their way to the Saracen’s Head Inn, where Mr. Squeers is staying. They learn that Mr. Squeers has “recaptured” Smike, though Fanny at first thinks it might be Nicholas Nickleby. John finds Smike hidden in the room in Snawley’s house and is overjoyed to find him unharmed. During the night, John Browdie sneaks into the house and frees Smike.