|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
'Last of all; never, though never is a long day. Sometimes, I try to think that the time may come when I may honestly tell her this; but it is so far off; in such distant perspective, so many years must elapse before it comes, and when it does come (if ever) I shall be so unlike what I am now, and shall have so outlived my days of youth and romance--though not, I am sure, of love for her--that even I feel how visionary all such hopes must be, and try to crush them rudely myself, and have the pain over, rather than suffer time to wither them, and keep the disappointment in store. No, Kate! Since I have been absent, I have had, in that poor fellow who is gone, perpetually before my eyes, another instance of the munificent liberality of these noble brothers. As far as in me lies, I will deserve it, and if I have wavered in my bounden duty to them before, I am now determined to discharge it rigidly, and to put further delays and temptations beyond my reach.'
'Before you say another word, dear Nicholas,' said Kate, turning pale, 'you must hear what I have to tell you. I came on purpose, but I had not the courage. What you say now, gives me new heart.' She faltered, and burst into tears.
There was that in her manner which prepared Nicholas for what was coming. Kate tried to speak, but her tears prevented her.
'Come, you foolish girl,' said Nicholas; 'why, Kate, Kate, be a woman! I think I know what you would tell me. It concerns Mr Frank, does it not?'
Kate sunk her head upon his shoulder, and sobbed out 'Yes.'
'And he has offered you his hand, perhaps, since I have been away,' said Nicholas; 'is that it? Yes. Well, well; it is not so difficult, you see, to tell me, after all. He offered you his hand?'
'Which I refused,' said Kate.
'Yes; and why?'
'I told him,' she said, in a trembling voice, 'all that I have since found you told mama; and while I could not conceal from him, and cannot from you, that--that it was a pang and a great trial, I did so firmly, and begged him not to see me any more.'
'That's my own brave Kate!' said Nicholas, pressing her to his breast. 'I knew you would.'
'He tried to alter my resolution,' said Kate, 'and declared that, be my decision what it might, he would not only inform his uncles of the step he had taken, but would communicate it to you also, directly you returned. I am afraid,' she added, her momentary composure forsaking her, 'I am afraid I may not have said, strongly enough, how deeply I felt such disinterested love, and how earnestly I prayed for his future happiness. If you do talk together, I should--I should like him to know that.'
'And did you suppose, Kate, when you had made this sacrifice to what you knew was right and honourable, that I should shrink from mine?' said Nicholas tenderly.
'Oh no! not if your position had been the same, but--'
'But it is the same,' interrupted Nicholas. 'Madeline is not the near relation of our benefactors, but she is closely bound to them by ties as dear; and I was first intrusted with her history, specially because they reposed unbounded confidence in me, and believed that I was as true as steel. How base would it be of me to take advantage of the circumstances which placed her here, or of the slight service I was happily able to render her, and to seek to engage her affections when the result must be, if I succeeded, that the brothers would be disappointed in their darling wish of establishing her as their own child, and that I must seem to hope to build my fortunes on their compassion for the young creature whom I had so meanly and unworthily entrapped: turning her very gratitude and warmth of heart to my own purpose and account, and trading in her misfortunes! I, too, whose duty, and pride, and pleasure, Kate, it is to have other claims upon me which I will never forget; and who have the means of a comfortable and happy life already, and have no right to look beyond it! I have determined to remove this weight from my mind. I doubt whether I have not done wrong, even now; and today I will, without reserve or equivocation, disclose my real reasons to Mr Cherryble, and implore him to take immediate measures for removing this young lady to the shelter of some other roof.'
'Today? so very soon?'
'I have thought of this for weeks, and why should I postpone it? If the scene through which I have just passed has taught me to reflect, and has awakened me to a more anxious and careful sense of duty, why should I wait until the impression has cooled? You would not dissuade me, Kate; now would you?'
'You may grow rich, you know,' said Kate.
|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
Nicholas Nickleby -- by Charles Dickens