Newman, with a steadfast and immovable aspect, and his fixed eye very fixed indeed, replied, suiting the action to the word, `A letter. From Mr Nickleby. Bearer waits.'
`Won't you take a--a--'
Newman looked up, and smacked his lips.
`--A chair?' said Arthur Gride.
`No,' replied Newman. `Thankee.'
Arthur opened the letter with trembling hands, and devoured its contents with the utmost greediness; chuckling rapturously over it, and reading it several times, before he could take it from before his eyes. So many times did he peruse and re-peruse it, that Newman considered it expedient to remind him of his presence.
`Answer,' said Newman. `Bearer waits.'
`True,' replied old Arthur. `Yes--yes; I almost forgot, I do declare.'
`I thought you were forgetting,' said Newman.
`Quite right to remind me, Mr Noggs. Oh, very right indeed,' said Arthur. `Yes. I'll write a line. I'm--I'm-- rather flurried, Mr Noggs. The news is--'
`Bad?' interrupted Newman.
`No, Mr Noggs, thank you; good, good. The very best of news. Sit down. I'll get the pen and ink, and write a line in answer. I'll not detain you long. I know you're a treasure to your master, Mr Noggs. He speaks of you in such terms, sometimes, that, oh dear! you'd be astonished. I may say that I do too, and always did. I always say the same of you.'
`That's "Curse Mr Noggs with all my heart!" then, if you do,' thought Newman, as Gride hurried out.
The letter had fallen on the ground. Looking carefully about him for an instant, Newman, impelled by curiosity to know the result of the design he had overheard from his office closet, caught it up and rapidly read as follows:
GRIDE--I saw Bray again this morning, and proposed the day after tomorrow (as you suggested) for the marriage. There is no objection on his part, and all days are alike to his daughter. We will go together, and you must be with me by seven in the morning. I need not tell you to be punctual.
Make no further visits to the girl in the meantime. You have been there, of late, much oftener than you should. She does not languish for you, and it might have been dangerous. Restrain your youthful ardour for eight-and-forty hours, and leave her to the father. You only undo what he does, and does well.
A footstep was heard without. Newman dropped the letter on the same spot again, pressed it with his foot to prevent its fluttering away, regained his seat in a single stride, and looked as vacant and unconscious as ever mortal looked. Arthur Gride, after peering nervously about him, spied it on the ground, picked it up, and sitting down to write, glanced at Newman Noggs, who was staring at the wall with an intensity so remarkable, that Arthur was quite alarmed.
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