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    Chapter 47

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    Chapter 47
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    CHAPTER 47

    Mr Ralph Nickleby has some confidential Intercourse with another old
    Friend. They concert between them a Project, which promises well
    for both

    'There go the three-quarters past!' muttered Newman Noggs, listening
    to the chimes of some neighbouring church 'and my dinner time's two.
    He does it on purpose. He makes a point of it. It's just like
    him.'

    It was in his own little den of an office and on the top of his
    official stool that Newman thus soliloquised; and the soliloquy
    referred, as Newman's grumbling soliloquies usually did, to Ralph
    Nickleby.

    'I don't believe he ever had an appetite,' said Newman, 'except for
    pounds, shillings, and pence, and with them he's as greedy as a
    wolf. I should like to have him compelled to swallow one of every
    English coin. The penny would be an awkward morsel--but the crown--
    ha! ha!'

    His good-humour being in some degree restored by the vision of Ralph
    Nickleby swallowing, perforce, a five-shilling piece, Newman slowly
    brought forth from his desk one of those portable bottles, currently
    known as pocket-pistols, and shaking the same close to his ear so as
    to produce a rippling sound very cool and pleasant to listen to,
    suffered his features to relax, and took a gurgling drink, which
    relaxed them still more. Replacing the cork, he smacked his lips
    twice or thrice with an air of great relish, and, the taste of the
    liquor having by this time evaporated, recurred to his grievance
    again.

    'Five minutes to three,' growled Newman; 'it can't want more by this
    time; and I had my breakfast at eight o'clock, and SUCH a breakfast!
    and my right dinner-time two! And I might have a nice little bit of
    hot roast meat spoiling at home all this time--how does HE know I
    haven't? "Don't go till I come back," "Don't go till I come back,"
    day after day. What do you always go out at my dinner-time for
    then--eh? Don't you know it's nothing but aggravation--eh?'

    These words, though uttered in a very loud key, were addressed to
    nothing but empty air. The recital of his wrongs, however, seemed
    to have the effect of making Newman Noggs desperate; for he
    flattened his old hat upon his head, and drawing on the everlasting
    gloves, declared with great vehemence, that come what might, he
    would go to dinner that very minute.

    Carrying this resolution into instant effect, he had advanced as far
    as the passage, when the sound of the latch-key in the street door
    caused him to make a precipitate retreat into his own office again.

    'Here he is,' growled Newman, 'and somebody with him. Now it'll be
    "Stop till this gentleman's gone." But I won't. That's flat.'

    So saying, Newman slipped into a tall empty closet which opened with
    two half doors, and shut himself up; intending to slip out directly
    Ralph was safe inside his own room.

    'Noggs!' cried Ralph, 'where is that fellow, Noggs?'

    But not a word said Newman.

    'The dog has gone to his dinner, though I told him not,' muttered
    Ralph, looking into the office, and pulling out his watch. 'Humph!'
    You had better come in here, Gride. My man's out, and the sun is
    hot upon my room. This is cool and in the shade, if you don't mind
    roughing it.'

    'Not at all, Mr Nickleby, oh not at all! All places are alike to
    me, sir. Ah! very nice indeed. Oh! very nice!'

    The parson who made this reply was a little old man, of about
    seventy or seventy-five years of age, of a very lean figure, much
    bent and slightly twisted. He wore a grey coat with a very narrow
    collar, an old-fashioned waistcoat of ribbed black silk, and such
    scanty trousers as displayed his shrunken spindle-shanks in their
    full ugliness. The only articles of display or ornament in his
    dress were a steel watch-chain to which were attached some large
    gold seals; and a black ribbon into which, in compliance with an old
    fashion scarcely ever observed in these days, his grey hair was
    gathered behind. His nose and chin were sharp and prominent, his
    jaws had fallen inwards from loss of teeth, his face was shrivelled
    and yellow, save where the cheeks were streaked with the colour of a
    dry winter apple; and where his beard had been, there lingered yet a
    few grey tufts which seemed, like the ragged eyebrows, to denote the
    badness of the soil from which they sprung. The whole air and
    attitude of the form was one of stealthy cat-like obsequiousness;
    the whole expression of the face was concentrated in a wrinkled
    leer, compounded of cunning, lecherousness, slyness, and avarice.

    Such was old Arthur Gride, in whose face there was not a wrinkle, in
    whose dress there was not one spare fold or plait, but expressed the
    most covetous and griping penury, and sufficiently indicated his
    belonging to that class of which Ralph Nickleby was a member. Such
    was old Arthur Gride, as he sat in a low chair looking up into the
    face of Ralph Nickleby, who, lounging upon the tall office stool,
    with his arms upon his knees, looked down into his; a match for him
    on whatever errand he had come.

    'And how have you been?' said Gride, feigning great interest in
    Ralph's state of health. 'I haven't seen you for--oh! not for--'

    'Not for a long time,' said Ralph, with a peculiar smile, importing
    that he very well knew it was not on a mere visit of compliment that
    his friend had come. 'It was a narrow chance that you saw me now,
    for I had only just come up to the door as you turned the corner.'

    'I am very lucky,' observed Gride.

    'So men say,' replied Ralph, drily.

    The older money-lender wagged his chin and smiled, but he originated
    no new remark, and they sat for some little time without speaking.
    Each was looking out to take the other at a disadvantage.

    'Come, Gride,' said Ralph, at length; 'what's in the wind today?'

    'Aha! you're a bold man, Mr Nickleby,' cried the other, apparently
    very much relieved by Ralph's leading the way to business. 'Oh
    dear, dear, what a bold man you are!'

    'Why, you have a sleek and slinking way with you that makes me seem
    so by contrast,' returned Ralph. 'I don't know but that yours may
    answer better, but I want the patience for it.'

    'You were born a genius, Mr Nickleby,' said old Arthur. 'Deep,
    deep, deep. Ah!'

    'Deep enough,' retorted Ralph, 'to know that I shall need all the
    depth I have, when men like you begin to compliment. You know I
    have stood by when you fawned and flattered other people, and I
    remember pretty well what THAT always led to.'

    'Ha, ha, ha!' rejoined Arthur, rubbing his hands. 'So you do, so
    you do, no doubt. Not a man knows it better. Well, it's a pleasant
    thing now to think that you remember old times. Oh dear!'

    'Now then,' said Ralph, composedly; 'what's in the wind, I ask
    again? What is it?'

    'See that now!' cried the other. 'He can't even keep from business
    while we're chatting over bygones. Oh dear, dear, what a man it
    is!'

    'WHICH of the bygones do you want to revive?' said Ralph. 'One of
    them, I know, or you wouldn't talk about them.'

    'He suspects even me!' cried old Arthur, holding up his hands.
    'Even me! Oh dear, even me. What a man it is! Ha, ha, ha! What a
    man it is! Mr Nickleby against all the world. There's nobody like
    him. A giant among pigmies, a giant, a giant!'

    Ralph looked at the old dog with a quiet smile as he chuckled on in
    this strain, and Newman Noggs in the closet felt his heart sink
    within him as the prospect of dinner grew fainter and fainter.

    'I must humour him though,' cried old Arthur; 'he must have his way
    --a wilful man, as the Scotch say--well, well, they're a wise people,
    the Scotch. He will talk about business, and won't give away his
    time for nothing. He's very right. Time is money, time is money.'

    'He was one of us who made that saying, I should think,' said Ralph.
    'Time is money, and very good money too, to those who reckon
    interest by it. Time IS money! Yes, and time costs money; it's
    rather an expensive article to some people we could name, or I
    forget my trade.'

    In rejoinder to this sally, old Arthur again raised his hands, again
    chuckled, and again ejaculated 'What a man it is!' which done, he
    dragged the low chair a little nearer to Ralph's high stool, and
    looking upwards into his immovable face, said,

    'What would you say to me, if I was to tell you that I was--that I
    was--going to be married?'

    'I should tell you,' replied Ralph, looking coldly down upon him,
    'that for some purpose of your own you told a lie, and that it
    wasn't the first time and wouldn't be the last; that I wasn't
    surprised and wasn't to be taken in.'

    'Then I tell you seriously that I am,' said old Arthur.

    'And I tell you seriously,' rejoined Ralph, 'what I told you this
    minute. Stay. Let me look at you. There's a liquorish devilry in
    your face. What is this?'

    'I wouldn't deceive YOU, you know,' whined Arthur Gride; 'I couldn't
    do it, I should be mad to try. I, I, to deceive Mr Nickleby! The
    pigmy to impose upon the giant. I ask again--he, he, he!--what
    should you say to me if I was to tell you that I was going to be
    married?'

    'To some old hag?' said Ralph.

    'No, No,' cried Arthur, interrupting him, and rubbing his hands in
    an ecstasy. 'Wrong, wrong again. Mr Nickleby for once at fault;
    out, quite out! To a young and beautiful girl; fresh, lovely,
    bewitching, and not nineteen. Dark eyes, long eyelashes, ripe and
    ruddy lips that to look at is to long to kiss, beautiful clustering
    hair that one's fingers itch to play with, such a waist as might
    make a man clasp the air involuntarily, thinking of twining his arm
    about it, little feet that tread so lightly they hardly seem to walk
    upon the ground--to marry all this, sir, this--hey, hey!'

    'This is something more than common drivelling,' said Ralph, after
    listening with a curled lip to the old sinner's raptures. 'The
    girl's name?'

    'Oh deep, deep! See now how deep that is!' exclaimed old Arthur.
    'He knows I want his help, he knows he can give it me, he knows it
    must all turn to his advantage, he sees the thing already. Her
    name--is there nobody within hearing?'

    'Why, who the devil should there be?' retorted Ralph, testily.

    'I didn't know but that perhaps somebody might be passing up or down
    the stairs,' said Arthur Gride, after looking out at the door and
    carefully reclosing it; 'or but that your man might have come back
    and might have been listening outside. Clerks and servants have a
    trick of listening, and I should have been very uncomfortable if Mr
    Noggs--'

    'Curse Mr Noggs,' said Ralph, sharply, 'and go on with what you have
    to say.'

    'Curse Mr Noggs, by all means,' rejoined old Arthur; 'I am sure I
    have not the least objection to that. Her name is--'

    'Well,' said Ralph, rendered very irritable by old Arthur's pausing
    again 'what is it?'

    'Madeline Bray.'

    Whatever reasons there might have been--and Arthur Gride appeared to
    have anticipated some--for the mention of this name producing an
    effect upon Ralph, or whatever effect it really did produce upon
    him, he permitted none to manifest itself, but calmly repeated the
    name several times, as if reflecting when and where he had heard it
    before.

    'Bray,' said Ralph. 'Bray--there was young Bray of--,no, he never
    had a daughter.'

    'You remember Bray?' rejoined Arthur Gride.

    'No,' said Ralph, looking vacantly at him.

    'Not Walter Bray! The dashing man, who used his handsome wife so
    ill?'

    'If you seek to recall any particular dashing man to my recollection
    by such a trait as that,' said Ralph, shrugging his shoulders, 'I
    shall confound him with nine-tenths of the dashing men I have ever
    known.'

    'Tut, tut. That Bray who is now in the Rules of the Bench,' said
    old Arthur. 'You can't have forgotten Bray. Both of us did
    business with him. Why, he owes you money!'

    'Oh HIM!' rejoined Ralph. 'Ay, ay. Now you speak. Oh! It's HIS
    daughter, is it?'

    Naturally as this was said, it was not said so naturally but that a
    kindred spirit like old Arthur Gride might have discerned a design
    upon the part of Ralph to lead him on to much more explicit
    statements and explanations than he would have volunteered, or that
    Ralph could in all likelihood have obtained by any other means. Old
    Arthur, however, was so intent upon his own designs, that he
    suffered himself to be overreached, and had no suspicion but that
    his good friend was in earnest.

    'I knew you couldn't forget him, when you came to think for a
    moment,' he said.

    'You were right,' answered Ralph. 'But old Arthur Gride and
    matrimony is a most anomalous conjunction of words; old Arthur Gride
    and dark eyes and eyelashes, and lips that to look at is to long to
    kiss, and clustering hair that he wants to play with, and waists
    that he wants to span, and little feet that don't tread upon
    anything--old Arthur Gride and such things as these is more
    monstrous still; but old Arthur Gride marrying the daughter of a
    ruined "dashing man" in the Rules of the Bench, is the most
    monstrous and incredible of all. Plainly, friend Arthur Gride, if
    you want any help from me in this business (which of course you do,
    or you would not be here), speak out, and to the purpose. And,
    above all, don't talk to me of its turning to my advantage, for I
    know it must turn to yours also, and to a good round tune too, or
    you would have no finger in such a pie as this.'

    There was enough acerbity and sarcasm not only in the matter of
    Ralph's speech, but in the tone of voice in which he uttered it, and
    the looks with which he eked it out, to have fired even the ancient
    usurer's cold blood and flushed even his withered cheek. But he
    gave vent to no demonstration of anger, contenting himself with
    exclaiming as before, 'What a man it is!' and rolling his head from
    side to side, as if in unrestrained enjoyment of his freedom and
    drollery. Clearly observing, however, from the expression in
    Ralph's features, that he had best come to the point as speedily as
    might be, he composed himself for more serious business, and entered
    upon the pith and marrow of his negotiation.

    First, he dwelt upon the fact that Madeline Bray was devoted to the
    support and maintenance, and was a slave to every wish, of her only
    parent, who had no other friend on earth; to which Ralph rejoined
    that he had heard something of the kind before, and that if she had
    known a little more of the world, she wouldn't have been such a
    fool.

    Secondly, he enlarged upon the character of her father, arguing,
    that even taking it for granted that he loved her in return with the
    utmost affection of which he was capable, yet he loved himself a
    great deal better; which Ralph said it was quite unnecessary to say
    anything more about, as that was very natural, and probable enough.

    And, thirdly, old Arthur premised that the girl was a delicate and
    beautiful creature, and that he had really a hankering to have her
    for his wife. To this Ralph deigned no other rejoinder than a harsh
    smile, and a glance at the shrivelled old creature before him, which
    were, however, sufficiently expressive.

    'Now,' said Gride, 'for the little plan I have in my mind to bring
    this about; because, I haven't offered myself even to the father
    yet, I should have told you. But that you have gathered already?
    Ah! oh dear, oh dear, what an edged tool you are!'

    'Don't play with me then,' said Ralph impatiently. 'You know the
    proverb.'

    'A reply always on the tip of his tongue!' cried old Arthur, raising
    his hands and eyes in admiration. 'He is always prepared! Oh dear,
    what a blessing to have such a ready wit, and so much ready money to
    back it!' Then, suddenly changing his tone, he went on: 'I have
    been backwards and forwards to Bray's lodgings several times within
    the last six months. It is just half a year since I first saw this
    delicate morsel, and, oh dear, what a delicate morsel it is! But
    that is neither here nor there. I am his detaining creditor for
    seventeen hundred pounds!'

    'You talk as if you were the only detaining creditor,' said Ralph,
    pulling out his pocket-book. 'I am another for nine hundred and
    seventy-five pounds four and threepence.'

    'The only other, Mr Nickleby,' said old Arthur, eagerly. 'The only
    other. Nobody else went to the expense of lodging a detainer,
    trusting to our holding him fast enough, I warrant you. We both
    fell into the same snare; oh dear, what a pitfall it was; it almost
    ruined me! And lent him our money upon bills, with only one name
    besides his own, which to be sure everybody supposed to be a good
    one, and was as negotiable as money, but which turned out you know
    how. Just as we should have come upon him, he died insolvent. Ah!
    it went very nigh to ruin me, that loss did!'

    'Go on with your scheme,' said Ralph. 'It's of no use raising the
    cry of our trade just now; there's nobody to hear us!'

    'It's always as well to talk that way,' returned old Arthur, with a
    chuckle, 'whether there's anybody to hear us or not. Practice makes
    perfect, you know. Now, if I offer myself to Bray as his son-in-
    law, upon one simple condition that the moment I am fast married he
    shall be quietly released, and have an allowance to live just
    t'other side the water like a gentleman (he can't live long, for I
    have asked his doctor, and he declares that his complaint is one of
    the Heart and it is impossible), and if all the advantages of this
    condition are properly stated and dwelt upon to him, do you think he
    could resist me? And if he could not resist ME, do you think his
    daughter could resist HIM? Shouldn't I have her Mrs Arthur Gride--
    pretty Mrs Arthur Gride--a tit-bit--a dainty chick--shouldn't I have
    her Mrs Arthur Gride in a week, a month, a day--any time I chose to
    name?'

    'Go on,' said Ralph, nodding his head deliberately, and speaking in
    a tone whose studied coldness presented a strange contrast to the
    rapturous squeak to which his friend had gradually mounted. 'Go on.
    You didn't come here to ask me that.'

    'Oh dear, how you talk!' cried old Arthur, edging himself closer
    still to Ralph. 'Of course I didn't, I don't pretend I did! I came
    to ask what you would take from me, if I prospered with the father,
    for this debt of yours. Five shillings in the pound, six and-
    eightpence, ten shillings? I WOULD go as far as ten for such a
    friend as you, we have always been on such good terms, but you won't
    be so hard upon me as that, I know. Now, will you?'

    'There's something more to be told,' said Ralph, as stony and
    immovable as ever.

    'Yes, yes, there is, but you won't give me time,' returned Arthur
    Gride. 'I want a backer in this matter; one who can talk, and urge,
    and press a point, which you can do as no man can. I can't do that,
    for I am a poor, timid, nervous creature. Now, if you get a good
    composition for this debt, which you long ago gave up for lost,
    you'll stand my friend, and help me. Won't you?'

    'There's something more,' said Ralph.

    'No, no, indeed,' cried Arthur Gride.

    'Yes, yes, indeed. I tell you yes,' said Ralph.

    'Oh!' returned old Arthur feigning to be suddenly enlightened. 'You
    mean something more, as concerns myself and my intention. Ay,
    surely, surely. Shall I mention that?'

    'I think you had better,' rejoined Ralph, drily.

    'I didn't like to trouble you with that, because I supposed your
    interest would cease with your own concern in the affair,' said
    Arthur Gride. 'That's kind of you to ask. Oh dear, how very kind
    of you! Why, supposing I had a knowledge of some property--some
    little property--very little--to which this pretty chick was
    entitled; which nobody does or can know of at this time, but which
    her husband could sweep into his pouch, if he knew as much as I do,
    would that account for--'

    'For the whole proceeding,' rejoined Ralph, abruptly. 'Now, let me
    turn this matter over, and consider what I ought to have if I should
    help you to success.'

    'But don't be hard,' cried old Arthur, raising his hands with an
    imploring gesture, and speaking, in a tremulous voice. 'Don't be
    too hard upon me. It's a very small property, it is indeed. Say
    the ten shillings, and we'll close the bargain. It's more than I
    ought to give, but you're so kind--shall we say the ten? Do now,
    do.'

    Ralph took no notice of these supplications, but sat for three or
    four minutes in a brown study, looking thoughtfully at the person
    from whom they proceeded. After sufficient cogitation he broke
    silence, and it certainly could not be objected that he used any
    needless circumlocution, or failed to speak directly to the purpose.

    'If you married this girl without me,' said Ralph, 'you must pay my
    debt in full, because you couldn't set her father free otherwise.
    It's plain, then, that I must have the whole amount, clear of all
    deduction or incumbrance, or I should lose from being honoured with
    your confidence, instead of gaining by it. That's the first article
    of the treaty. For the second, I shall stipulate that for my
    trouble in negotiation and persuasion, and helping you to this
    fortune, I have five hundred pounds. That's very little, because you
    have the ripe lips, and the clustering hair, and what not, all to
    yourself. For the third and last article, I require that you
    execute a bond to me, this day, binding yourself in the payment of
    these two sums, before noon of the day of your marriage with
    Madeline Bray. You have told me I can urge and press a point. I
    press this one, and will take nothing less than these terms. Accept
    them if you like. If not, marry her without me if you can. I shall
    still get my debt.'

    To all entreaties, protestations, and offers of compromise between
    his own proposals and those which Arthur Gride had first suggested,
    Ralph was deaf as an adder. He would enter into no further
    discussion of the subject, and while old Arthur dilated upon the
    enormity of his demands and proposed modifications of them,
    approaching by degrees nearer and nearer to the terms he resisted,
    sat perfectly mute, looking with an air of quiet abstraction over
    the entries and papers in his pocket-book. Finding that it was
    impossible to make any impression upon his staunch friend, Arthur
    Gride, who had prepared himself for some such result before he came,
    consented with a heavy heart to the proposed treaty, and upon the
    spot filled up the bond required (Ralph kept such instruments
    handy), after exacting the condition that Mr Nickleby should
    accompany him to Bray's lodgings that very hour, and open the
    negotiation at once, should circumstances appear auspicious and
    favourable to their designs.

    In pursuance of this last understanding the worthy gentlemen went
    out together shortly afterwards, and Newman Noggs emerged, bottle in
    hand, from the cupboard, out of the upper door of which, at the
    imminent risk of detection, he had more than once thrust his red
    nose when such parts of the subject were under discussion as
    interested him most.

    'I have no appetite now,' said Newman, putting the flask in his
    pocket. 'I've had MY dinner.'

    Having delivered this observation in a very grievous and doleful
    tone, Newman reached the door in one long limp, and came back again
    in another.

    'I don't know who she may be, or what she may be,' he said: 'but I
    pity her with all my heart and soul; and I can't help her, nor can I
    any of the people against whom a hundred tricks, but none so vile as
    this, are plotted every day! Well, that adds to my pain, but not to
    theirs. The thing is no worse because I know it, and it tortures me
    as well as them. Gride and Nickleby! Good pair for a curricle. Oh
    roguery! roguery! roguery!'

    With these reflections, and a very hard knock on the crown of his
    unfortunate hat at each repetition of the last word, Newman Noggs,
    whose brain was a little muddled by so much of the contents of the
    pocket-pistol as had found their way there during his recent
    concealment, went forth to seek such consolation as might be
    derivable from the beef and greens of some cheap eating-house.

    Meanwhile the two plotters had betaken themselves to the same house
    whither Nicholas had repaired for the first time but a few mornings
    before, and having obtained access to Mr Bray, and found his
    daughter from home, had by a train of the most masterly approaches
    that Ralph's utmost skill could frame, at length laid open the real
    object of their visit.

    'There he sits, Mr Bray,' said Ralph, as the invalid, not yet
    recovered from his surprise, reclined in his chair, looking
    alternately at him and Arthur Gride. 'What if he has had the ill-
    fortune to be one cause of your detention in this place? I have been
    another; men must live; you are too much a man of the world not to
    see that in its true light. We offer the best reparation in our
    power. Reparation! Here is an offer of marriage, that many a
    titled father would leap at, for his child. Mr Arthur Gride, with
    the fortune of a prince. Think what a haul it is!'

    'My daughter, sir,' returned Bray, haughtily, 'as I have brought her
    up, would be a rich recompense for the largest fortune that a man
    could bestow in exchange for her hand.'

    'Precisely what I told you,' said the artful Ralph, turning to his
    friend, old Arthur. 'Precisely what made me consider the thing so
    fair and easy. There is no obligation on either side. You have
    money, and Miss Madeline has beauty and worth. She has youth, you
    have money. She has not money, you have not youth. Tit for tat,
    quits, a match of Heaven's own making!'

    'Matches are made in Heaven, they say,' added Arthur Gride, leering
    hideously at the father-in-law he wanted. 'If we are married, it
    will be destiny, according to that.'

    'Then think, Mr Bray,' said Ralph, hastily substituting for this
    argument considerations more nearly allied to earth, 'think what a
    stake is involved in the acceptance or rejection of these proposals
    of my friend.'

    'How can I accept or reject,' interrupted Mr Bray, with an irritable
    consciousness that it really rested with him to decide. 'It is for
    my daughter to accept or reject; it is for my daughter. You know
    that.'

    'True,' said Ralph, emphatically; 'but you have still the power to
    advise; to state the reasons for and against; to hint a wish.'

    'To hint a wish, sir!' returned the debtor, proud and mean by turns,
    and selfish at all times. 'I am her father, am I not? Why should I
    hint, and beat about the bush? Do you suppose, like her mother's
    friends and my enemies--a curse upon them all!--that there is
    anything in what she has done for me but duty, sir, but duty? Or do
    you think that my having been unfortunate is a sufficient reason why
    our relative positions should be changed, and that she should
    command and I should obey? Hint a wish, too! Perhaps you think,
    because you see me in this place and scarcely able to leave this
    chair without assistance, that I am some broken-spirited dependent
    creature, without the courage or power to do what I may think best
    for my own child. Still the power to hint a wish! I hope so!'

    'Pardon me,' returned Ralph, who thoroughly knew his man, and had
    taken his ground accordingly; 'you do not hear me out. I was about
    to say that your hinting a wish, even hinting a wish, would surely
    be equivalent to commanding.'

    'Why, of course it would,' retorted Mr Bray, in an exasperated tone.
    'If you don't happen to have heard of the time, sir, I tell you that
    there was a time, when I carried every point in triumph against her
    mother's whole family, although they had power and wealth on their
    side, by my will alone.'

    'Still,' rejoined Ralph, as mildly as his nature would allow him,
    'you have not heard me out. You are a man yet qualified to shine in
    society, with many years of life before you; that is, if you lived
    in freer air, and under brighter skies, and chose your own
    companions. Gaiety is your element, you have shone in it before.
    Fashion and freedom for you. France, and an annuity that would
    support you there in luxury, would give you a new lease of life,
    would transfer you to a new existence. The town rang with your
    expensive pleasures once, and you could blaze up on a new scene again,
    profiting by experience, and living a little at others' cost,
    instead of letting others live at yours. What is there on the
    reverse side of the picture? What is there? I don't know which is
    the nearest churchyard, but a gravestone there, wherever it is, and
    a date, perhaps two years hence, perhaps twenty. That's all.'

    Mr Bray rested his elbow on the arm of his chair, and shaded his
    face with his hand.

    'I speak plainly,' said Ralph, sitting down beside him, 'because I
    feel strongly. It's my interest that you should marry your daughter
    to my friend Gride, because then he sees me paid--in part, that is.
    I don't disguise it. I acknowledge it openly. But what interest
    have you in recommending her to such a step? Keep that in view.
    She might object, remonstrate, shed tears, talk of his being too
    old, and plead that her life would be rendered miserable. But what
    is it now?'

    Several slight gestures on the part of the invalid showed that these
    arguments were no more lost upon him, than the smallest iota of his
    demeanour was upon Ralph.

    'What is it now, I say,' pursued the wily usurer, 'or what has it a
    chance of being? If you died, indeed, the people you hate would
    make her happy. But can you bear the thought of that?'

    'No!' returned Bray, urged by a vindictive impulse he could not
    repress.

    'I should imagine not, indeed!' said Ralph, quietly. 'If she
    profits by anybody's death,' this was said in a lower tone, 'let it
    be by her husband's. Don't let her have to look back to yours, as
    the event from which to date a happier life. Where is the
    objection? Let me hear it stated. What is it? That her suitor is
    an old man? Why, how often do men of family and fortune, who
    haven't your excuse, but have all the means and superfluities of
    life within their reach, how often do they marry their daughters to
    old men, or (worse still) to young men without heads or hearts, to
    tickle some idle vanity, strengthen some family interest, or secure
    some seat in Parliament! Judge for her, sir, judge for her. You
    must know best, and she will live to thank you.'

    'Hush! hush!' cried Mr Bray, suddenly starting up, and covering
    Ralph's mouth with his trembling hand. 'I hear her at the door!'

    There was a gleam of conscience in the shame and terror of this
    hasty action, which, in one short moment, tore the thin covering of
    sophistry from the cruel design, and laid it bare in all its
    meanness and heartless deformity. The father fell into his chair
    pale and trembling; Arthur Gride plucked and fumbled at his hat, and
    durst not raise his eyes from the floor; even Ralph crouched for the
    moment like a beaten hound, cowed by the presence of one young
    innocent girl!

    The effect was almost as brief as sudden. Ralph was the first to
    recover himself, and observing Madeline's looks of alarm, entreated
    the poor girl to be composed, assuring her that there was no cause
    for fear.

    'A sudden spasm,' said Ralph, glancing at Mr Bray. 'He is quite
    well now.'

    It might have moved a very hard and worldly heart to see the young
    and beautiful creature, whose certain misery they had been
    contriving but a minute before, throw her arms about her father's
    neck, and pour forth words of tender sympathy and love, the sweetest
    a father's ear can know, or child's lips form. But Ralph looked
    coldly on; and Arthur Gride, whose bleared eyes gloated only over
    the outward beauties, and were blind to the spirit which reigned
    within, evinced--a fantastic kind of warmth certainly, but not
    exactly that kind of warmth of feeling which the contemplation of
    virtue usually inspires.

    'Madeline,' said her father, gently disengaging himself, 'it was
    nothing.'

    'But you had that spasm yesterday, and it is terrible to see you in
    such pain. Can I do nothing for you?'

    'Nothing just now. Here are two gentlemen, Madeline, one of whom
    you have seen before. She used to say,' added Mr Bray, addressing
    Arthur Gride, 'that the sight of you always made me worse. That was
    natural, knowing what she did, and only what she did, of our
    connection and its results. Well, well. Perhaps she may change her
    mind on that point; girls have leave to change their minds, you
    know. You are very tired, my dear.'

    'I am not, indeed.'

    'Indeed you are. You do too much.'

    'I wish I could do more.'

    'I know you do, but you overtask your strength. This wretched life,
    my love, of daily labour and fatigue, is more than you can bear, I
    am sure it is. Poor Madeline!'

    With these and many more kind words, Mr Bray drew his daughter to
    him and kissed her cheek affectionately. Ralph, watching him
    sharply and closely in the meantime, made his way towards the door,
    and signed to Gride to follow him.

    'You will communicate with us again?' said Ralph.

    'Yes, yes,' returned Mr Bray, hastily thrusting his daughter aside.
    'In a week. Give me a week.'

    'One week,' said Ralph, turning to his companion, 'from today.
    Good-morning. Miss Madeline, I kiss your hand.'

    'We will shake hands, Gride,' said Mr Bray, extending his, as old
    Arthur bowed. 'You mean well, no doubt. I an bound to say so now.
    If I owed you money, that was not your fault. Madeline, my love,
    your hand here.'

    'Oh dear! If the young lady would condescent! Only the tips of her
    fingers,' said Arthur, hesitating and half retreating.

    Madeline shrunk involuntarily from the goblin figure, but she placed
    the tips of her fingers in his hand and instantly withdrew them.
    After an ineffectual clutch, intended to detain and carry them to
    his lips, old Arthur gave his own fingers a mumbling kiss, and with
    many amorous distortions of visage went in pursuit of his friend,
    who was by this time in the street.

    'What does he say, what does he say? What does the giant say to the
    pigmy?' inquired Arthur Gride, hobbling up to Ralph.

    'What does the pigmy say to the giant?' rejoined Ralph, elevating
    his eyebrows and looking down upon his questioner.

    'He doesn't know what to say,' replied Arthur Gride. 'He hopes and
    fears. But is she not a dainty morsel?'

    'I have no great taste for beauty,' growled Ralph.

    'But I have,' rejoined Arthur, rubbing his hands. 'Oh dear! How
    handsome her eyes looked when she was stooping over him! Such long
    lashes, such delicate fringe! She--she--looked at me so soft.'

    'Not over-lovingly, I think,' said Ralph. 'Did she?'

    'No, you think not?' replied old Arthur. 'But don't you think it
    can be brought about? Don't you think it can?'

    Ralph looked at him with a contemptuous frown, and replied with a
    sneer, and between his teeth:

    'Did you mark his telling her she was tired and did too much, and
    overtasked her strength?'

    'Ay, ay. What of it?'

    'When do you think he ever told her that before? The life is more
    than she can bear. Yes, yes. He'll change it for her.'

    'D'ye think it's done?' inquired old Arthur, peering into his
    companion's face with half-closed eyes.

    'I am sure it's done,' said Ralph. 'He is trying to deceive
    himself, even before our eyes, already. He is making believe that
    he thinks of her good and not his own. He is acting a virtuous
    part, and so considerate and affectionate, sir, that the daughter
    scarcely knew him. I saw a tear of surprise in her eye. There'll
    be a few more tears of surprise there before long, though of a
    different kind. Oh! we may wait with confidence for this day week.'
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    Chapter 47
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