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Chapter 46 Throws some Light upon Nicholas's Love, but whether for Good o_vil the Reader must determine

  • After an anxious consideration of the painful and embarrassing position i_hich he was placed, Nicholas decided that he ought to lose no time in frankl_tating it to the kind brothers. Availing himself of the first opportunity o_eing alone with Mr Charles Cheeryble at the close of next day, he accordingl_elated Smike's little history, and modestly but firmly expressed his hop_hat the good old gentleman would, under such circumstances as he described, hold him justified in adopting the extreme course of interfering betwee_arent and child, and upholding the latter in his disobedience; even thoug_is horror and dread of his father might seem, and would doubtless b_epresented as, a thing so repulsive and unnatural, as to render those wh_ountenanced him in it, fit objects of general detestation and abhorrence.
  • 'So deeply rooted does this horror of the man appear to be,' said Nicholas,
  • 'that I can hardly believe he really is his son. Nature does not seem to hav_mplanted in his breast one lingering feeling of affection for him, and surel_he can never err.'
  • 'My dear sir,' replied brother Charles, 'you fall into the very common mistak_f charging upon Nature, matters with which she has not the smalles_onnection, and for which she is in no way responsible. Men talk of Nature a_n abstract thing, and lose sight of what is natural while they do so. Here i_ poor lad who has never felt a parent's care, who has scarcely known anythin_ll his life but suffering and sorrow, presented to a man who he is told i_is father, and whose first act is to signify his intention of putting an en_o his short term of happiness, of consigning him to his old fate, and takin_im from the only friend he has ever had— which is yourself. If Nature, i_uch a case, put into that lad's breast but one secret prompting which urge_im towards his father and away from you, she would be a liar and an idiot.'
  • Nicholas was delighted to find that the old gentleman spoke so warmly, and i_he hope that he might say something more to the same purpose, made no reply.
  • 'The same mistake presents itself to me, in one shape or other, at ever_urn,' said brother Charles. 'Parents who never showed their love, complain o_ant of natural affection in their children; children who never showed thei_uty, complain of want of natural feeling in their parents; law-makers wh_ind both so miserable that their affections have never had enough of life'_un to develop them, are loud in their moralisings over parents and childre_oo, and cry that the very ties of nature are disregarded. Natural affection_nd instincts, my dear sir, are the most beautiful of the Almighty's works, but like other beautiful works of His, they must be reared and fostered, or i_s as natural that they should be wholly obscured, and that new feeling_hould usurp their place, as it is that the sweetest productions of the earth, left untended, should be choked with weeds and briers. I wish we could b_rought to consider this, and remembering natural obligations a little more a_he right time, talk about them a little less at the wrong one.'
  • After this, brother Charles, who had talked himself into a great heat, stoppe_o cool a little, and then continued:
  • 'I dare say you are surprised, my dear sir, that I have listened to you_ecital with so little astonishment. That is easily explained. Your uncle ha_een here this morning.'
  • Nicholas coloured, and drew back a step or two.
  • 'Yes,' said the old gentleman, tapping his desk emphatically, 'here, in thi_oom. He would listen neither to reason, feeling, nor justice. But brother Ne_as hard upon him; brother Ned, sir, might have melted a paving-stone.'
  • 'He came to—' said Nicholas.
  • 'To complain of you,' returned brother Charles, 'to poison our ears wit_alumnies and falsehoods; but he came on a fruitless errand, and went awa_ith some wholesome truths in his ear besides. Brother Ned, my dear M_ickleby—brother Ned, sir, is a perfect lion. So is Tim Linkinwater; Tim i_uite a lion. We had Tim in to face him at first, and Tim was at him, sir, before you could say "Jack Robinson."'
  • 'How can I ever thank you for all the deep obligations you impose upon m_very day?' said Nicholas.
  • 'By keeping silence upon the subject, my dear sir,' returned brother Charles.
  • 'You shall be righted. At least you shall not be wronged. Nobody belonging t_ou shall be wronged. They shall not hurt a hair of your head, or the boy'_ead, or your mother's head, or your sister's head. I have said it, brothe_ed has said it, Tim Linkinwater has said it. We have all said it, and we'l_ll do it. I have seen the father—if he is the father—and I suppose he mus_e. He is a barbarian and a hypocrite, Mr Nickleby. I told him, "You are _arbarian, sir." I did. I said, "You're a barbarian, sir." And I'm glad of it, I am VERY glad I told him he was a barbarian, very glad indeed!'
  • By this time brother Charles was in such a very warm state of indignation, that Nicholas thought he might venture to put in a word, but the moment h_ssayed to do so, Mr Cheeryble laid his hand softly upon his arm, and pointe_o a chair.
  • 'The subject is at an end for the present,' said the old gentleman, wiping hi_ace. 'Don't revive it by a single word. I am going to speak upon anothe_ubject, a confidential subject, Mr Nickleby. We must be cool again, we mus_e cool.'
  • After two or three turns across the room he resumed his seat, and drawing hi_hair nearer to that on which Nicholas was seated, said:
  • 'I am about to employ you, my dear sir, on a confidential and delicat_ission.'
  • 'You might employ many a more able messenger, sir,' said Nicholas, 'but a mor_rustworthy or zealous one, I may be bold to say, you could not find.'
  • 'Of that I am well assured,' returned brother Charles, 'well assured. You wil_ive me credit for thinking so, when I tell you that the object of thi_ission is a young lady.'
  • 'A young lady, sir!' cried Nicholas, quite trembling for the moment with hi_agerness to hear more.
  • 'A very beautiful young lady,' said Mr Cheeryble, gravely.
  • 'Pray go on, sir,' returned Nicholas.
  • 'I am thinking how to do so,' said brother Charles; sadly, as it seemed to hi_oung friend, and with an expression allied to pain. 'You accidentally saw _oung lady in this room one morning, my dear sir, in a fainting fit. Do yo_emember? Perhaps you have forgotten.'
  • 'Oh no,' replied Nicholas, hurriedly. 'I—I—remember it very well indeed.'
  • 'SHE is the lady I speak of,' said brother Charles. Like the famous parrot, Nicholas thought a great deal, but was unable to utter a word.
  • 'She is the daughter,' said Mr Cheeryble, 'of a lady who, when she was _eautiful girl herself, and I was very many years younger, I— it seems _trange word for me to utter now—I loved very dearly. You will smile, perhaps, to hear a grey-headed man talk about such things. You will not offend me, fo_hen I was as young as you, I dare say I should have done the same.'
  • 'I have no such inclination, indeed,' said Nicholas.
  • 'My dear brother Ned,' continued Mr Cheeryble, 'was to have married he_ister, but she died. She is dead too now, and has been for many years. Sh_arried her choice; and I wish I could add that her after-life was as happy a_od knows I ever prayed it might be!'
  • A short silence intervened, which Nicholas made no effort to break.
  • 'If trial and calamity had fallen as lightly on his head, as in the deepes_ruth of my own heart I ever hoped (for her sake) it would, his life woul_ave been one of peace and happiness,' said the old gentleman calmly. 'It wil_e enough to say that this was not the case; that she was not happy; that the_ell into complicated distresses and difficulties; that she came, twelv_onths before her death, to appeal to my old friendship; sadly changed, sadl_ltered, broken-spirited from suffering and ill-usage, and almost broken- hearted. He readily availed himself of the money which, to give her but on_our's peace of mind, I would have poured out as freely as water—nay, he ofte_ent her back for more—and yet even while he squandered it, he made the ver_uccess of these, her applications to me, the groundwork of cruel taunts an_eers, protesting that he knew she thought with bitter remorse of the choic_he had made, that she had married him from motives of interest and vanity (h_as a gay young man with great friends about him when she chose him for he_usband), and venting in short upon her, by every unjust and unkind means, th_itterness of that ruin and disappointment which had been brought about by hi_rofligacy alone. In those times this young lady was a mere child. I never sa_er again until that morning when you saw her also, but my nephew, Frank—'
  • Nicholas started, and indistinctly apologising for the interruption, begge_is patron to proceed.
  • '—My nephew, Frank, I say,' resumed Mr Cheeryble, 'encountered her b_ccident, and lost sight of her almost in a minute afterwards, within two day_fter he returned to England. Her father lay in some secret place to avoid hi_reditors, reduced, between sickness and poverty, to the verge of death, an_he, a child,—we might almost think, if we did not know the wisdom of al_eaven's decrees —who should have blessed a better man, was steadily bravin_rivation, degradation, and everything most terrible to such a young an_elicate creature's heart, for the purpose of supporting him. She wa_ttended, sir,' said brother Charles, 'in these reverses, by one faithfu_reature, who had been, in old times, a poor kitchen wench in the family, wh_as then their solitary servant, but who might have been, for the truth an_idelity of her heart—who might have been—ah! the wife of Tim Linkinwate_imself, sir!'
  • Pursuing this encomium upon the poor follower with such energy and relish a_o words can describe, brother Charles leant back in his chair, and delivere_he remainder of his relation with greater composure.
  • It was in substance this: That proudly resisting all offers of permanent ai_nd support from her late mother's friends, because they were made conditiona_pon her quitting the wretched man, her father, who had no friends left, an_hrinking with instinctive delicacy from appealing in their behalf to tha_rue and noble heart which he hated, and had, through its greatest and pures_oodness, deeply wronged by misconstruction and ill report, this young gir_ad struggled alone and unassisted to maintain him by the labour of her hands.
  • That through the utmost depths of poverty and affliction she had toiled, neve_urning aside for an instant from her task, never wearied by the petulan_loom of a sick man sustained by no consoling recollections of the past o_opes of the future; never repining for the comforts she had rejected, o_ewailing the hard lot she had voluntarily incurred. That every littl_ccomplishment she had acquired in happier days had been put into requisitio_or this purpose, and directed to this one end. That for two long years, toiling by day and often too by night, working at the needle, the pencil, an_he pen, and submitting, as a daily governess, to such caprices an_ndignities as women (with daughters too) too often love to inflict upon thei_wn sex when they serve in such capacities, as though in jealousy of th_uperior intelligence which they are necessitated to employ,—indignities, i_inety-nine cases out of every hundred, heaped upon persons immeasurably an_ncalculably their betters, but outweighing in comparison any that the mos_eartless blackleg would put upon his groom—that for two long years, by din_f labouring in all these capacities and wearying in none, she had no_ucceeded in the sole aim and object of her life, but that, overwhelmed b_ccumulated difficulties and disappointments, she had been compelled to see_ut her mother's old friend, and, with a bursting heart, to confide in him a_ast.
  • 'If I had been poor,' said brother Charles, with sparkling eyes; 'if I ha_een poor, Mr Nickleby, my dear sir, which thank God I am not, I would hav_enied myself (of course anybody would under such circumstances) the commones_ecessaries of life, to help her. As it is, the task is a difficult one. I_er father were dead, nothing could be easier, for then she should share an_heer the happiest home that brother Ned and I could have, as if she were ou_hild or sister. But he is still alive. Nobody can help him; that has bee_ried a thousand times; he was not abandoned by all without good cause, _now.'
  • 'Cannot she be persuaded to—' Nicholas hesitated when he had got thus far.
  • 'To leave him?' said brother Charles. 'Who could entreat a child to desert he_arent? Such entreaties, limited to her seeing him occasionally, have bee_rged upon her—not by me—but always with the same result.'
  • 'Is he kind to her?' said Nicholas. 'Does he requite her affection?'
  • 'True kindness, considerate self-denying kindness, is not in his nature,'
  • returned Mr Cheeryble. 'Such kindness as he knows, he regards her with, _elieve. The mother was a gentle, loving, confiding creature, and although h_ounded her from their marriage till her death as cruelly and wantonly as eve_an did, she never ceased to love him. She commended him on her death-bed t_er child's care. Her child has never forgotten it, and never will.'
  • 'Have you no influence over him?' asked Nicholas.
  • 'I, my dear sir! The last man in the world. Such are his jealousy and hatre_f me, that if he knew his daughter had opened her heart to me, he woul_ender her life miserable with his reproaches; although—this is th_nconsistency and selfishness of his character—although if he knew that ever_enny she had came from me, he would not relinquish one personal desire tha_he most reckless expenditure of her scanty stock could gratify.'
  • 'An unnatural scoundrel!' said Nicholas, indignantly.
  • 'We will use no harsh terms,' said brother Charles, in a gentle voice; 'bu_ccommodate ourselves to the circumstances in which this young lady is placed.
  • Such assistance as I have prevailed upon her to accept, I have been obliged, at her own earnest request, to dole out in the smallest portions, lest he, finding how easily money was procured, should squander it even more lightl_han he is accustomed to do. She has come to and fro, to and fro, secretly an_y night, to take even this; and I cannot bear that things should go on i_his way, Mr Nickleby, I really cannot bear it.'
  • Then it came out by little and little, how that the twins had been revolvin_n their good old heads manifold plans and schemes for helping this young lad_n the most delicate and considerate way, and so that her father should no_uspect the source whence the aid was derived; and how they had at last com_o the conclusion, that the best course would be to make a feint of purchasin_er little drawings and ornamental work at a high price, and keeping up _onstant demand for the same. For the furtherance of which end and object i_as necessary that somebody should represent the dealer in such commodities, and after great deliberation they had pitched upon Nicholas to support thi_haracter.
  • 'He knows me,' said brother Charles, 'and he knows my brother Ned. Neither o_s would do. Frank is a very good fellow—a very fine fellow—but we are afrai_hat he might be a little flighty and thoughtless in such a delicate matter, and that he might, perhaps— that he might, in short, be too susceptible (fo_he is a beautiful creature, sir; just what her poor mother was), and fallin_n love with her before he knew well his own mind, carry pain and sorrow int_hat innocent breast, which we would be the humble instruments of graduall_aking happy. He took an extraordinary interest in her fortunes when he firs_appened to encounter her; and we gather from the inquiries we have made o_im, that it was she in whose behalf he made that turmoil which led to you_irst acquaintance.'
  • Nicholas stammered out that he had before suspected the possibility of such _hing; and in explanation of its having occurred to him, described when an_here he had seen the young lady himself.
  • 'Well; then you see,' continued brother Charles, 'that HE wouldn't do. Ti_inkinwater is out of the question; for Tim, sir, is such a tremendous fellow, that he could never contain himself, but would go to loggerheads with th_ather before he had been in the place five minutes. You don't know what Ti_s, sir, when he is aroused by anything that appeals to his feelings ver_trongly; then he is terrific, sir, is Tim Linkinwater, absolutely terrific.
  • Now, in you we can repose the strictest confidence; in you we have seen—or a_east I have seen, and that's the same thing, for there's no differenc_etween me and my brother Ned, except that he is the finest creature that eve_ived, and that there is not, and never will be, anybody like him in all th_orld—in you we have seen domestic virtues and affections, and delicacy o_eeling, which exactly qualify you for such an office. And you are the man, sir.'
  • 'The young lady, sir,' said Nicholas, who felt so embarrassed that he had n_mall difficulty in saying anything at all—'Does—is—is she a party to thi_nnocent deceit?'
  • 'Yes, yes,' returned Mr Cheeryble; 'at least she knows you come from us; sh_oes NOT know, however, but that we shall dispose of these little production_hat you'll purchase from time to time; and, perhaps, if you did it very well (that is, VERY well indeed), perhaps she might be brought to believe tha_e—that we made a profit of them. Eh? Eh?'
  • In this guileless and most kind simplicity, brother Charles was so happy, an_n this possibility of the young lady being led to think that she was under n_bligation to him, he evidently felt so sanguine and had so much delight, tha_icholas would not breathe a doubt upon the subject.
  • All this time, however, there hovered upon the tip of his tongue a confessio_hat the very same objections which Mr Cheeryble had stated to the employmen_f his nephew in this commission applied with at least equal force an_alidity to himself, and a hundred times had he been upon the point of avowin_he real state of his feelings, and entreating to be released from it. But a_ften, treading upon the heels of this impulse, came another which urged hi_o refrain, and to keep his secret to his own breast. 'Why should I,' though_icholas, 'why should I throw difficulties in the way of this benevolent an_igh-minded design? What if I do love and reverence this good and lovel_reature. Should I not appear a most arrogant and shallow coxcomb if I gravel_epresented that there was any danger of her falling in love with me? Besides, have I no confidence in myself? Am I not now bound in honour to repress thes_houghts? Has not this excellent man a right to my best and hearties_ervices, and should any considerations of self deter me from rendering them?'
  • Asking himself such questions as these, Nicholas mentally answered with grea_mphasis 'No!' and persuading himself that he was a most conscientious an_lorious martyr, nobly resolved to do what, if he had examined his own heart _ittle more carefully, he would have found he could not resist. Such is th_leight of hand by which we juggle with ourselves, and change our ver_eaknesses into stanch and most magnanimous virtues!
  • Mr Cheeryble, being of course wholly unsuspicious that such reflections wer_resenting themselves to his young friend, proceeded to give him the needfu_redentials and directions for his first visit, which was to be made nex_orning; and all preliminaries being arranged, and the strictest secrec_njoined, Nicholas walked home for the night very thoughtfully indeed.
  • The place to which Mr Cheeryble had directed him was a row of mean and no_ver-cleanly houses, situated within 'the Rules' of the King's Bench Prison, and not many hundred paces distant from the obelisk in St George's Fields. Th_ules are a certain liberty adjoining the prison, and comprising some doze_treets in which debtors who can raise money to pay large fees, from whic_heir creditors do NOT derive any benefit, are permitted to reside by the wis_rovisions of the same enlightened laws which leave the debtor who can rais_o money to starve in jail, without the food, clothing, lodging, or warmth, which are provided for felons convicted of the most atrocious crimes that ca_isgrace humanity. There are many pleasant fictions of the law in constan_peration, but there is not one so pleasant or practically humorous as tha_hich supposes every man to be of equal value in its impartial eye, and th_enefits of all laws to be equally attainable by all men, without the smalles_eference to the furniture of their pockets.
  • To the row of houses indicated to him by Mr Charles Cheeryble, Nichola_irected his steps, without much troubling his head with such matters a_hese; and at this row of houses—after traversing a very dirty and dust_uburb, of which minor theatricals, shell-fish, ginger-beer, spring vans, greengrocery, and brokers' shops, appeared to compose the main and mos_rominent features—he at length arrived with a palpitating heart. There wer_mall gardens in front which, being wholly neglected in all other respects, served as little pens for the dust to collect in, until the wind came roun_he corner and blew it down the road. Opening the rickety gate which, danglin_n its broken hinges before one of these, half admitted and half repulsed th_isitor, Nicholas knocked at the street door with a faltering hand.
  • It was in truth a shabby house outside, with very dim parlour windows and ver_mall show of blinds, and very dirty muslin curtains dangling across the lowe_anes on very loose and limp strings. Neither, when the door was opened, di_he inside appear to belie the outward promise, as there was faded carpetin_n the stairs and faded oil-cloth in the passage; in addition to whic_iscomforts a gentleman Ruler was smoking hard in the front parlour (though i_as not yet noon), while the lady of the house was busily engaged i_urpentining the disjointed fragments of a tent-bedstead at the door of th_ack parlour, as if in preparation for the reception of some new lodger wh_ad been fortunate enough to engage it.
  • Nicholas had ample time to make these observations while the little boy, wh_ent on errands for the lodgers, clattered down the kitchen stairs and wa_eard to scream, as in some remote cellar, for Miss Bray's servant, who, presently appearing and requesting him to follow her, caused him to evinc_reater symptoms of nervousness and disorder than so natural a consequence o_is having inquired for that young lady would seem calculated to occasion.
  • Upstairs he went, however, and into a front room he was shown, and there, seated at a little table by the window, on which were drawing materials wit_hich she was occupied, sat the beautiful girl who had so engrossed hi_houghts, and who, surrounded by all the new and strong interest whic_icholas attached to her story, seemed now, in his eyes, a thousand times mor_eautiful than he had ever yet supposed her.
  • But how the graces and elegancies which she had dispersed about the poorly- furnished room went to the heart of Nicholas! Flowers, plants, birds, th_arp, the old piano whose notes had sounded so much sweeter in bygone times; how many struggles had it cost her to keep these two last links of that broke_hain which bound her yet to home! With every slender ornament, the occupatio_f her leisure hours, replete with that graceful charm which lingers in ever_ittle tasteful work of woman's hands, how much patient endurance and how man_entle affections were entwined! He felt as though the smile of Heaven were o_he little chamber; as though the beautiful devotion of so young and weak _reature had shed a ray of its own on the inanimate things around, and mad_hem beautiful as itself; as though the halo with which old painters surroun_he bright angels of a sinless world played about a being akin in spirit t_hem, and its light were visibly before him.
  • And yet Nicholas was in the Rules of the King's Bench Prison! If he had bee_n Italy indeed, and the time had been sunset, and the scene a statel_errace! But, there is one broad sky over all the world, and whether it b_lue or cloudy, the same heaven beyond it; so, perhaps, he had no need o_ompunction for thinking as he did.
  • It is not to be supposed that he took in everything at one glance, for he ha_s yet been unconscious of the presence of a sick man propped up with pillow_n an easy-chair, who, moving restlessly and impatiently in his seat, attracted his attention.
  • He was scarce fifty, perhaps, but so emaciated as to appear much older. Hi_eatures presented the remains of a handsome countenance, but one in which th_mbers of strong and impetuous passions were easier to be traced than an_xpression which would have rendered a far plainer face much mor_repossessing. His looks were very haggard, and his limbs and body literall_orn to the bone, but there was something of the old fire in the large sunke_ye notwithstanding, and it seemed to kindle afresh as he struck a thic_tick, with which he seemed to have supported himself in his seat, impatientl_n the floor twice or thrice, and called his daughter by her name.
  • 'Madeline, who is this? What does anybody want here? Who told a stranger w_ould be seen? What is it?'
  • 'I believe—' the young lady began, as she inclined her head with an air o_ome confusion, in reply to the salutation of Nicholas.
  • 'You always believe,' returned her father, petulantly. 'What is it?'
  • By this time Nicholas had recovered sufficient presence of mind to speak fo_imself, so he said (as it had been agreed he should say) that he had calle_bout a pair of hand-screens, and some painted velvet for an ottoman, both o_hich were required to be of the most elegant design possible, neither tim_or expense being of the smallest consideration. He had also to pay for th_wo drawings, with many thanks, and, advancing to the little table, he lai_pon it a bank note, folded in an envelope and sealed.
  • 'See that the money is right, Madeline,' said the father. 'Open the paper, m_ear.'
  • 'It's quite right, papa, I'm sure.'
  • 'Here!' said Mr Bray, putting out his hand, and opening and shutting his bon_ingers with irritable impatience. 'Let me see. What are you talking about, Madeline? You're sure? How can you be sure of any such thing? Fiv_ounds—well, is THAT right?'
  • 'Quite,' said Madeline, bending over him. She was so busily employed i_rranging the pillows that Nicholas could not see her face, but as she stoope_e thought he saw a tear fall.
  • 'Ring the bell, ring the bell,' said the sick man, with the same nervou_agerness, and motioning towards it with such a quivering hand that the ban_ote rustled in the air. 'Tell her to get it changed, to get me a newspaper, to buy me some grapes, another bottle of the wine that I had las_eek—and—and—I forget half I want just now, but she can go out again. Let he_et those first, those first. Now, Madeline, my love, quick, quick! Good God, how slow you are!'
  • 'He remembers nothing that SHE wants!' thought Nicholas. Perhaps something o_hat he thought was expressed in his countenance, for the sick man, turnin_owards him with great asperity, demanded to know if he waited for a receipt.
  • 'It is no matter at all,' said Nicholas.
  • 'No matter! what do you mean, sir?' was the tart rejoinder. 'No matter! Do yo_hink you bring your paltry money here as a favour or a gift; or as a matte_f business, and in return for value received? D—n you, sir, because you can'_ppreciate the time and taste which are bestowed upon the goods you deal in, do you think you give your money away? Do you know that you are talking to _entleman, sir, who at one time could have bought up fifty such men as you an_ll you have? What do you mean?'
  • 'I merely mean that as I shall have many dealings with this lady, if she wil_indly allow me, I will not trouble her with such forms,' said Nicholas.
  • 'Then I mean, if you please, that we'll have as many forms as we can, returne_he father. 'My daughter, sir, requires no kindness from you or anybody else.
  • Have the goodness to confine your dealings strictly to trade and business, an_ot to travel beyond it. Every petty tradesman is to begin to pity her now, i_e? Upon my soul! Very pretty. Madeline, my dear, give him a receipt; and min_ou always do so.'
  • While she was feigning to write it, and Nicholas was ruminating upon th_xtraordinary but by no means uncommon character thus presented to hi_bservation, the invalid, who appeared at times to suffer great bodily pain, sank back in his chair and moaned out a feeble complaint that the girl ha_een gone an hour, and that everybody conspired to goad him.
  • 'When,' said Nicholas, as he took the piece of paper, 'when shall I cal_gain?'
  • This was addressed to the daughter, but the father answered immediately.
  • 'When you're requested to call, sir, and not before. Don't worry an_ersecute. Madeline, my dear, when is this person to call again?'
  • 'Oh, not for a long time, not for three or four weeks; it is not necessary, indeed; I can do without,' said the young lady, with great eagerness.
  • 'Why, how are we to do without?' urged her father, not speaking above hi_reath. 'Three or four weeks, Madeline! Three or four weeks!'
  • 'Then sooner, sooner, if you please,' said the young lady, turning t_icholas.
  • 'Three or four weeks!' muttered the father. 'Madeline, what on earth—d_othing for three or four weeks!'
  • 'It is a long time, ma'am,' said Nicholas.
  • 'YOU think so, do you?' retorted the father, angrily. 'If I chose to beg, sir, and stoop to ask assistance from people I despise, three or four months woul_ot be a long time; three or four years would not be a long time. Understand, sir, that is if I chose to be dependent; but as I don't, you may call in _eek.'
  • Nicholas bowed low to the young lady and retired, pondering upon Mr Bray'_deas of independence, and devoutly hoping that there might be few suc_ndependent spirits as he mingling with the baser clay of humanity.
  • He heard a light footstep above him as he descended the stairs, and lookin_ound saw that the young lady was standing there, and glancing timidly toward_im, seemed to hesitate whether she should call him back or no. The best wa_f settling the question was to turn back at once, which Nicholas did.
  • 'I don't know whether I do right in asking you, sir,' said Madeline, hurriedly, 'but pray, pray, do not mention to my poor mother's dear friend_hat has passed here today. He has suffered much, and is worse this morning. _eg you, sir, as a boon, a favour to myself.'
  • 'You have but to hint a wish,' returned Nicholas fervently, 'and I woul_azard my life to gratify it.'
  • 'You speak hastily, sir.'
  • 'Truly and sincerely,' rejoined Nicholas, his lips trembling as he formed th_ords, 'if ever man spoke truly yet. I am not skilled in disguising m_eelings, and if I were, I could not hide my heart from you. Dear madam, as _now your history, and feel as men and angels must who hear and see suc_hings, I do entreat you to believe that I would die to serve you.'
  • The young lady turned away her head, and was plainly weeping.
  • 'Forgive me,' said Nicholas, with respectful earnestness, 'if I seem to sa_oo much, or to presume upon the confidence which has been intrusted to me.
  • But I could not leave you as if my interest and sympathy expired with th_ommission of the day. I am your faithful servant, humbly devoted to you fro_his hour, devoted in strict truth and honour to him who sent me here, and i_ure integrity of heart, and distant respect for you. If I meant more or les_han this, I should be unworthy his regard, and false to the very nature tha_rompts the honest words I utter.'
  • She waved her hand, entreating him to be gone, but answered not a word.
  • Nicholas could say no more, and silently withdrew. And thus ended his firs_nterview with Madeline Bray.