Ralph reads Nicholas’s letter again and again. He is visited by Squeers, who asks for financial recompense for Nicholas’s beating. Ralph begins to plot revenge against Nicholas, using Smike as a weapon. Ralph recognizes that his hatred for Nicholas is grounded in the boy’s likeness to his dead brother, thinking, ‘‘He was open, liberal, gallant, gay; I a crafty hunks of cold and stagnant blood.’’ Jobless again, Nicholas returns to the General Accounting Office where he saw the mysterious, beautiful girl; this time he has another important encounter. He meets an amiable older gentleman, Charles Cheeryble, who, upon listening sympathetically to Nicholas’s sad story, conducts him immediately to the offices of the Brothers Cheeryble. Here Nicholas meets Charles’s identical twin, Ned, and their clerk, Tim Linkinwater, who has been with them for fortyfour years. The kindly brothers offer Nicholas a job keeping their books at a respectable salary of 120 pounds per year, and install the family in a lovely cottage they own at no charge. The benevolent twin brothers embody a miracle of generosity after the harsh treatment the family has endured.
The Brothers Cheeryble throw a party in honor of Tim Linkinwater’s birthday. All the house staff is invited—porters, warehousemen, cooks, butlers and maids—there is no class discrimination here. In stark contrast to every other servant in the book, the employees of the Brothers Cheeryble almost cry with happiness as they express their gratitude to be working there. Meanwhile Smike is failing in health and feeling deep sorrow. Sir Mulberry Hawk is reported to be in bad condition, bruised and scarred after his encounter with Nicholas. Ralph visits the recuperating scoundrel, and stokes his desire for revenge. When Ralph leaves, Sir Frederick Verisopht, who is now revealed to ‘‘really have a kind heart,’’ comes to Nicholas’s defense, saying Hawk was in the wrong. Smike, out for a walk, is accidentally discovered by Squeers, who captures him. The genial farmer John Browdie, who is visiting London with his new bride, Tilda, subsequently rescues him.
Smike returns to Newman’s home, where he cries to hear that the Nickleby family, especially Kate, have been worried about him. Meanwhile, Nicholas is amazed to discover the beautiful girl from the General Accounting Office meeting with the Brothers Cheeryble at his place of work. She is crying, and upon seeing a stranger enter the room immediately faints. The brothers Cheeryble refuse to tell Nicholas who she is, and he becomes unable to think about anything else. He enlists Newman to discover her name and address. Newman follows her, reporting her name is Cecilia Bobster. After swallowing his surprise at her lack of a genteel name, Nicholas attends a secret meeting set up for him by Newman and discovers that Miss Bobster is in fact the wrong girl. Mrs. Nickleby, in another comic scene, is being pursued romantically by a mysterious older gentleman over the garden wall, who throws cucumbers and turnips as a way to court her. Squeers confronts John Browdie, and John and Nicholas threaten Squeers with legal action should he ever harass Smike again.