Chapters 5-7 Summary
As Nicholas prepares to leave for Yorkshire, his sister and mother help and try to keep their emotions in check. Nicholas decides to leave early in the morning to avoid a tearful scene, but he runs into Miss La Creevy, who has also risen early to paint noses of pedestrians on the early morning street below. She tells Nicholas that his sister especially will miss the protection of a brother. Nicholas asks her to be kind to his family, then he walks to the inn where Mr. Squeers is giving a weak breakfast to five new students. Mrs. Nickleby and Kate, along with Ralph Nickleby, arrive just as Nicholas is boarding the stagecoach. Kate is very unnerved by Mr. Squeers, and they wish Nicholas a tearful goodbye. Newman Noggs also arrives and gives a note to Nicholas.
The coach takes off before Nicholas can ask Noggs any questions. The weather is cold and snowy during the trip, which is interrupted when the stagecoach overturns. When the horses are cut loose, Nicholas catches them before they run away. The passengers walk to the nearest public house, where they wait for the next coach. They listen to an old man tell the story of the Five Sisters, who grieve for their youngest sister who died before them. The sisters are memorialized in a stained-glass window in the cathedral at York. Another gentleman tells the story of the Baron of Grogswig and his unpleasant wife. At last the next coach arrives, and the company sets forth. Nicholas finally arrives at Greta Bridge in Yorkshire the next evening.
A chaise and a cart arrive to take Squeers, Nicholas, and the boys to Dotheboys Hall, though Squeers explains to Nicholas that it is not really a hall. When they arrive, Nicholas sees a one-story, run-down building. Squeers calls for Smike, a crippled boy in his late teens who does all the errands. Mr. Squeers takes a bundle of letters from his pocket and Smike looks anxiously toward the bundle, hoping that one of the letters might be for him. Squeers says no one ever has written to Smike, nor as anyone paid for him past the first six years. Nicholas meets Mrs. Squeers, who dotes on her husband but has no use for anyone else. She feeds her husband a steak dinner. Nicholas has lost his appetite by pondering Smike’s sad situation, so Mrs. Squeers sees no sense in cutting a meat pie for him; he is given only a bit of leftover meat.
Nicholas is given a place to sleep for the night while Mr. and Mrs. Squeers consider where to put him permanently. They mention a bed that is already full—currently housing four boys. After they retire for the night, Nicholas remembers Noggs’s letter, which says that, should Nicholas ever need any help, Noggs would gladly provide it. This touches Nicholas so that it brings a tear to his eyes.