Chapter 52

Nicholas despairs of rescuing Madeline Bray, but plucks up his spirits again, and determines to attempt it. domestic intelligence of the Kenwigses and Lillyvicks

FINDING that Newman was determined to arrest his progress at any hazard, and apprehensive that some well-intentioned passenger, attracted by the cry of `Stop thief,' might lay violent hands upon his person, and place him in a disagreeable predicament from which he might have some difficulty in extricating himself, Nicholas soon slackened his pace, and suffered Newman Noggs to come up with him: which he did, in so breathless a condition, that it seemed impossible he could have held out for a minute longer.

`I will go straight to Bray's,' said Nicholas. `I will see this man. If there is a feeling of humanity lingering in his breast, a spark of consideration for his own child, motherless and friendless as she is, I will awaken it.'

`You will not,' replied Newman. `You will not, indeed.'

`Then,' said Nicholas, pressing onward, `I will act upon my first impulse, and go straight to Ralph Nickleby.'

`By the time you reach his house he will be in bed,' said Newman.

`I'll drag him from it,' cried Nicholas.

`Tut, tut,' said Noggs. `Be yourself.'

`You are the best of friends to me, Newman,' rejoined Nicholas after a pause, and taking his hand as he spoke. `I have made head against many trials; but the misery of another, and such misery, is involved in this one, that I declare to you I am rendered desperate, and know not how to act.'

In truth, it did seem a hopeless case. It was impossible to make any use of such intelligence as Newman Noggs had gleaned, when he lay concealed in the closet. The mere circumstance of the compact between Ralph Nickleby and Gride would not invalidate the marriage, or render Bray averse to it, who, if he did not actually know of the existence of some such understanding, doubtless suspected it. What had been hinted with reference to some fraud on Madeline, had been put, with sufficient obscurity, by Arthur Gride, but coming from Newman Noggs, and obscured still further by the smoke of his pocketpistol, it became wholly unintelligible, and involved in utter darkness.

`There seems no ray of hope,' said Nicholas.

`The greater necessity for coolness, for reason, for consideration, for thought,' said Newman, pausing at every alternate word, to look anxiously in his friend's face. `Where are the brothers?'

`Both absent on urgent business, as they will be for a week to come.'

`Is there no way of communicating with them? no way of getting one of them here by tomorrow night?'

`Impossible!' said Nicholas, `the sea is between us and them. With the fairest winds that ever blew, to go and return would take three days and nights.'

`Their nephew,' said Newman, `their old clerk.'

`What could either do, that I cannot?' rejoined Nicholas. `With reference to them, especially, I am enjoined to the strictest silence on this subject. What right have I to betray the confidence reposed in me, when nothing but a miracle can prevent this sacrifice?'

`Think,' urged Newman. `Is there no way.'

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