`To complain of you,' returned brother Charles, `to poison our ears with calumnies and falsehoods; but he came on a fruitless errand, and went away with some wholesome truths in his ear besides. Brother Ned, my dear My Nickleby -- brother Ned, sir, is a perfect lion. So is Tim Linkinwater -- Tim is quite 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 me every 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 to you shall be wronged. They shall not hurt a hair of your head, or the boy's head, or your mother's head, or your sister's head. I have said it, brother Ned has said it, Tim Linkinwater has said it. We have all said it, and we'll all do it. I have seen the father -- if he is the father -- and I suppose he must be. He is a barbarian and a hypocrite, Mr Nickleby. I told him, "You are a barbarian, 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 he essayed to do so, Mr Cheeryble laid his hand softly upon his arm, and pointed to a chair.
`The subject is at an end for the present,' said the old gentleman, wiping his face. `Don't revive it by a single word. I am going to speak upon another subject -- a confidential subject, Mr Nickleby. We must be cool again, we must be cool.'
After two or three turns across the room he resumed his seat, and drawing his chair nearer to that on which Nicholas was seated, said --
`I am about to employ you, my dear sir, on a confidential and delicate mission.'
`You might employ many a more able messenger, sir,' said Nicholas, `but a more trustworthy 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 will give me credit for thinking so, when I tell you that the object of this mission is a young lady.'
`A young lady, sir!' cried Nicholas, quite trembling for the moment with his eagerness 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 his young friend, and with an expression allied to pain. `You accidentally saw a young lady in this room one morning, my dear sir, in a fainting fit. Do you remember? 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 a beautiful girl herself, and I was very many years younger, I -- it seems a strange 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, for when I was as young as you, I dare say I should have done the same.'
`I have no such inclination, indeed,' said Nicholas.
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