Newman opened his eyes rather wider than usual, but merely replied by a gasp, which, according to the action of the head that accompanied it, was interpreted by his friends as meaning yes or no. In the present instance, the pantomime consisted of a nod, and not a shake; so Nicholas took the answer as a favourable one.
`Now listen to me,' said Nicholas, laying his hand on Newman's shoulder. `Before I would make an effort to see them, I deemed it expedient to come to you, lest, by gratifying my own selfish desire, I should inflict an injury upon them which I can never repair. What has my uncle heard from Yorkshire?'
Newman opened and shut his mouth, several times, as though he were trying his utmost to speak, but could make nothing of it, and finally fixed his eyes on Nicholas with a grim and ghastly stare.
`What has he heard?' urged Nicholas, colouring. `You see that I am prepared to hear the very worst that malice can have suggested. Why should you conceal it from me? I must know it sooner or later; and what purpose can be gained by trifling with the matter for a few minutes, when half the time would put me in possession of all that has occurred? Tell me at once, pray.'
`Tomorrow morning,' said Newman; `hear it tomorrow.'
`What purpose would that answer?' urged Nicholas.
`You would sleep the better,' replied Newman.
`I should sleep the worse,' answered Nicholas, impatiently. `Sleep! Exhausted as I am, and standing in no common need of rest, I cannot hope to close my eyes all night, unless you tell me everything.'
`And if I should tell you everything,' said Newman, hesitating.
`Why, then you may rouse my indignation or wound my pride,' rejoined Nicholas; `but you will not break my rest; for if the scene were acted over again, I could take no other part than I have taken; and whatever consequences may accrue to myself from it, I shall never regret doing as I have done--never, if I starve or beg in consequence. What is a little poverty or suffering, to the disgrace of the basest and most inhuman cowardice! I tell you, if I had stood by, tamely and passively, I should have hated myself, and merited the contempt of every man in existence. The black-hearted scoundrel!'
With this gentle allusion to the absent Mr Squeers, Nicholas repressed his rising wrath, and relating to Newman exactly what had passed at Dotheboys Hall, entreated him to speak out without more pressing. Thus adjured, Mr Noggs took, from an old trunk, a sheet of paper, which appeared to have been scrawled over in great haste; and after sundry extraordinary demonstrations of reluctance, delivered himself in the following terms.
`My dear young man, you mustn't give way to--this sort of thing will never do, you know--as to getting on in the world, if you take everybody's part that's ill-treated--Damn it, I am proud to hear of it; and would have done it myself!'
Newman accompanied this very unusual outbreak with a violent blow upon the table, as if, in the heat of the moment, he had mistaken it for the chest or ribs of Mr Wackford Squeers. Having, by this open declaration of his feelings, quite precluded himself from offering Nicholas any cautious worldly advice (which had been his first intention), Mr Noggs went straight to the point.
`The day before yesterday,' said Newman, `your uncle received this letter. I took a hasty copy of it, while he was out. Shall I read it?'
`If you please,' replied Nicholas. Newman Noggs accordingly read as follows:
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