`There is none,' said Nicholas, in utter dejection. `Not one. The father urges--the daughter consents. These demons have her in their toils; legal right, might, power, money, and every influence are on their side. How can I hope to save her?'
`Hope to the last!' said Newman, clapping him on the back. `Always hope; that's dear boy. Never leave off hoping; it don't answer. Do you mind me, Nick? it don't answer. Don't leave a stone unturned. It's always something, to know you've done the most you could. But, don't leave off hoping, or it's of no use doing anything. Hope, hope, to the last!'
Nicholas needed encouragement. The suddenness with which intelligence of the two usurers' plans had come upon him, the little time which remained for exertion, the probability, almost amounting to certainty itself, that a few hours would place Madeline Bray for ever beyond his reach, consign her to unspeakable misery, and perhaps to an untimely death; all this quite stunned and overwhelmed him. Every hope connected with her that he had suffered himself to form, or had entertained unconsciously, seemed to fall at his feet, withered and dead. Every charm with which his memory or imagination had surrounded her, presented itself before him, only to heighten his anguish and add new bitterness to his despair. Every feeling of sympathy for her forlorn condition, and of admiration for her heroism and fortitude, aggravated the indignation which shook him in every limb, and swelled his heart almost to bursting.
But, if Nicholas's own heart embarrassed him, Newman's came to his relief. There was so much earnestness in his remonstrance, and such sincerity and fervour in his manner, odd and ludicrous as it always was, that it imparted to Nicholas new firmness, and enabled him to say, after he had walked on for some little way in silence.
`You read me a good lesson, Newman, and I will profit by it. One step, at least, I may take--am bound to take indeed--and to that I will apply myself tomorrow.'
`What is that?' asked Noggs wistfully. `Not to threaten Ralph? Not to see the father?'
`To see the daughter, Newman,' replied Nicholas. `To do what, after all, is the utmost that the brothers could do, if they were here, as Heaven send they were! To reason with her upon this hideous union, to point out to her all the horrors to which she is hastening; rashly, it may be, and without due reflection. To entreat her, at least, to pause. She can have had no counsellor for her good. Perhaps even I may move her so far yet, though it is the eleventh hour, and she upon the very brink of ruin.'
`Bravely spoken!' said Newman. `Well done, well done! Yes. Very good.'
`And I do declare,' cried Nicholas, with honest enthusiasm, `that in this effort I am influenced by no selfish or personal considerations, but by pity for her, and detestation and abhorrence of this scheme; and that I would do the same, were there twenty rivals in the field, and I the last and least favoured of them all.'
`You would, I believe,' said Newman. `But where are you hurrying now?'
`Homewards,' answered Nicholas. `Do you come with me, or I shall say good-night?'
`I'll come a little way, if you will but walk: not run,' said Noggs.
`I cannot walk tonight, Newman,' returned Nicholas, hurriedly. `I must move rapidly, or I could not draw my breath. I'll tell you what I've said and done tomorrow.'
Without waiting for a reply, he darted off at a rapid pace, and, plunging into the crowds which thronged the street, was quickly lost to view.
`He's a violent youth at times,' said Newman, looking after him; `and yet like him for it. There's cause enough now, or the deuce is in it. Hope! I said hope, I think! Ralph Nickleby and Gride with their heads together-- and hope for the opposite party! Ho! ho!'
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