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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 wretched.

‘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

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