`No, but I must beg you as a favour,' said Madame Mantalini, `to hear me give him notice of what it is my fixed intention to do--my fixed intention, sir,' repeated Madame Mantalini, darting an angry look at her husband.
`Will she call me "Sir"?' cried Mantalini. `Me who dote upon her with the demdest ardour! She, who coils her fascinations round me like a pure angelic rattlesnake! It will be all up with my feelings; she will throw me into a demd state.'
`Don't talk of feelings, sir,' rejoined Madame Mantalini, seating herself, and turning her back upon him. `You don't consider mine.'
`I do not consider yours, my soul!' exclaimed Mr Mantalini.
`No,' replied his wife.
And notwithstanding various blandishments on the part of Mr Mantalini, Madame Mantalini still said no, and said it too with such determined and resolute ill-temper, that Mr Mantalini was clearly taken aback.
`His extravagance, Mr Nickleby,' said Madame Mantalini, addressing herself to Ralph, who leant against his easy-chair with his hands behind him, and regarded the amiable couple with a smile of the supremest and most unmitigated contempt,--`his extravagance is beyond all bounds.'
`I should scarcely have supposed it,' answered Ralph, sarcastically.
`I assure you, Mr Nickleby, however, that it is,' returned Madame Mantalini. `It makes me miserable! I am under constant apprehensions, and in constant difficulty. And even this,' said Madame Mantalini, wiping her eyes, `is not the worst. He took some papers of value out of my desk this morning without asking my permission.'
Mr Mantalini groaned slightly, and buttoned his trousers pocket.
`I am obliged,' continued Madame Mantalini, `since our late misfortunes, to pay Miss Knag a great deal of money for having her name in the business, and I really cannot afford to encourage him in all his wastefulness. As I have no doubt that he came straight here, Mr Nickleby, to convert the papers I have spoken of, into money, and as you have assisted us very often before, and are very much connected with us in this kind of matters, I wish you to know the determination at which his conduct has compelled me to arrive.'
Mr Mantalini groaned once more from behind his wife's bonnet, and fitting a sovereign into one of his eyes, winked with the other at Ralph. Having achieved this performance with great dexterity, he whipped the coin into his pocket, and groaned again with increased penitence.
`I have made up my mind,' said Madame Mantalini, as tokens of impatience manifested themselves in Ralph's countenance, `to allowance him.'
`To do that, my joy?' inquired Mr Mantalini, who did not seem to have caught the words.
`To put him,' said Madame Mantalini, looking at Ralph, and prudently abstaining from the slightest glance at her husband, lest his many graces should induce her to falter in her resolution, `to put him upon a fixed allowance; and I say that if he has a hundred and twenty pounds a year for his clothes and pocket- money, he may consider himself a very fortunate man.'
Mr Mantalini waited, with much decorum, to hear the amount of the proposed stipend, but when it reached his ears, he cast his hat and cane upon the floor, and drawing out his pocket-handkerchief, gave vent to his feelings in a dismal moan.
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