فصل 10

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فصل 10

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Chapter ten

Madeline Bray

Nicholas left the room and went down the stairs, his heart illed with happiness. He had found his love at last!

The next day, Nicholas told Charles Cheeryble everything that had happened. Charles listened carefully.

‘Your story does not surprise me,’ he said. ‘Your uncle visited us this morning. He came here to complain about you, to poison our ears with lies. But we refused to listen and made him leave.’

‘How can I ever thank you?’ Nicholas said, relieved that he had such good friends.

‘By saying nothing more about the subject,’ Charles replied. ‘Don’t worry. We shall protect you and your family. But now I have a job for you. It’s a special job. You accidentally saw a young lady in my office some time ago. Or perhaps you have forgotten…

‘Oh no, sir,’ Nicholas said, a feeling of great excitement rising inside him. ‘I remember it very well.’

‘Her mother was a very beautiful woman,’ Charles said. ‘I was in love with her, but she married another man. Their life was not happy. They had a daughter - the girl you saw in my office - but they had no money. Twelve months before her death, the mother came to me for help. I gave her money, which her husband wasted. When she died, she was a sad, heart-broken woman.

‘Her husband is still alive. He owes money to a lot of people, and he lives in a secret place to hide from them. His daughter worked for two long years to give him money, but eventually she needed help. She came to me because I had been a friend of her mother’s, and I offered to help her. But she only accepted a very small amount of money. I wanted to help her more, but she refused. Her father is still alive and he hates me. He knows that his wife really wanted to marry me. If he knew the money came from me, he would waste it all. Madeline comes to me secretly, usually by night, but only accepts the smallest amount of money. This situation cannot continue, Nicholas, and I want you to help me.

‘I’d be glad to,’ Nicholas said. ‘What do you want me to do?’

She’s a wonderful artist, but she doesn’t sell anything. You can visit her and pay for some paintings. Madeline will know that Ned and I have sent you, but her father will not know that you have not ordered any. You will pay a good price and her father will not know that the money comes from Ned and myself.’

Nicholas, of course, agreed to help at once.

The young lady and her father (whose name was Bray) lived in a cheap, dirty house near the prison. Nicholas knocked on the door nervously, and was shown upstairs. Although there was not much furniture, the small room was filled with flowers and paintings. And at a little table by the window sat the young lady of Nicholas’s dreams! She was quietly painting, and seemed to Nicholas more beautiful than ever.

In a chair by the empty fireplace sat her father - a sick man in his fifties who looked much older.

‘Madeline, who is this?’ Mr Bray said. ‘Who said that strangers could visit us here?’

‘I’ve come to pay for some paintings that your daughter did for me, Mr Bray,’ Nicholas said, placing an envelope on the table in front of the girl.

‘Check the money, Madeline,’ Mr Bray said.

‘I’m sure the money’s correct, Father,’ Madeline said softly.

‘If that’s true, ring the bell. Tell the servant to get me a newspaper, some fresh fruit and a bottle of wine!’

‘I also want to order something else,’ Nicholas said. ‘Perhaps a picture of the trees in the park? Don’t worry about the time or cost. When would you like me to call again?’

‘Three or four weeks,’ Madeline replied, looking at Nicholas shyly.

‘No - sooner!’ her father said. ‘We’ll need more money before then!’

Nicholas left the room and went down the stairs, his heart filled with happiness. He had found his love at last!

Meanwhile, several miles away, Ralph was talking to a man in his office. Arthur Gride was also a moneylender. He was an ugly old man of about seventy-five years old, with a pointed chin, toothless mouth and unhealthy yellow skin. But this did not stop him from talking about love!

‘I’m a lucky man,’ said Arthur Gride. ‘I’m going to get married.’

‘You? Who would want to marry you?’ Ralph smiled scornfully. ‘A toothless old woman as ugly as yourself?’

‘No,’ Arthur said. ‘She’s a beautiful young girl with dark eyes, and lovely red lips - and she’s only eighteen years old!’

‘What s her name?’ Ralph asked, staring at Gride coldly.

‘Do you remember Walter Bray? We both did business with him, and he owes us both money. I’ve visited him several times over the last six months. He owes me 1700 pounds.’

‘And he owes me over 900 pounds,’ Ralph said. ‘But why are you telling me about him now?

‘Well, I’m going to marry his daughter, Madeline. I haven’t asked her father yet, but he’ll agree. If he lets me marry his daughter, I’ll forget his debts. I’ll even give him some money and a place to live across the river. I’ve talked to his doctor, and he won’t live long. He’s certain to agree to my request, don’t you think? His daughter will have to obey him, but I need your help.’

‘How?’

‘I’m a shy, nervous man. I need you to talk to the father for me. You’re good with words. He’ll listen to you.’

‘There’s something more, isn’t there?’ Ralph said, narrowing his eyes and studying Arthur’s ugly old face.

‘No, no…’

‘Don’t lie. I know you. You’re as greedy as I am. If you don’t tell me everything, I won’t help you.’

‘Well, there’s a little house that belongs to this girl. Nobody knows about it - not even her. If I marry her, the house will be mine.’

‘All right,’ Ralph said, smiling thoughtfully. ‘I agree to help you. But you must promise to pay me all of the money that Bray owes me. I also want an extra 500 pounds.’

After much complaining, Gride unwillingly agreed. The two men left immediately to visit Walter Bray and, after half an hour of listening to Ralph, Bray agreed to his daughter’s marriage one week later.

Life for the Nicklebys in their cottage was good. The Cheeryble brothers visited them often. Sometimes, they brought with them their nephew, Frank, who had just returned from abroad. They spent many happy evenings together.

Although Nicholas was happy, too, he was worried about Smike. The boy had recently become much quieter. He also seemed to be growing weaker, and spent more time alone in his room. However, the doctor told Nicholas not to worry.

The kidnap had been a bad experience for Smike, and he needed time to forget it.

One night, while Frank Cheeryble was telling Mrs Nickleby and Kate about his adventures abroad, Nicholas went up to Smike’s room. The boy was lying quietly in his bed.

‘What’s the matter?’ Nicholas asked softly. ‘Are you feeling ill?’

‘No, I’m all right,’ Smike replied.

But you seem so sad. Won’t you tell me why?’

‘I can’t. Not now. I hate myself for being like this. You’re all so good and kind to me. But my heart is full. You don’t know how full it is. One day, I’ll tell you the reason.

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