My brother was a thoughtless, inconsiderate man, Mrs Nickleby, and nobody, I am sure, can have better reason to feel that, than you.'
This appeal set the widow upon thinking that perhaps she might have made a more successful venture with her one thousand pounds, and then she began to reflect what a comfortable sum it would have been just then; which dismal thoughts made her tears flow faster, and in the excess of these griefs she (being a well-meaning woman enough, but weak withal) fell first to deploring her hard fate, and then to remarking, with many sobs, that to be sure she had been a slave to poor Nicholas, and had often told him she might have married better (as indeed she had, very often), and that she never knew in his lifetime how the money went, but that if he had confided in her they might all have been better off that day; with other bitter recollections common to most married ladies, either during their coverture, or afterwards, or at both periods. Mrs Nickleby concluded by lamenting that the dear departed had never deigned to profit by her advice, save on one occasion; which was a strictly veracious statement, inasmuch as he had only acted upon it once, and had ruined himself in consequence.
Mr Ralph Nickleby heard all this with a half-smile; and when the widow had finished, quietly took up the subject where it had been left before the above outbreak.
'Are you willing to work, sir?' he inquired, frowning on his nephew.
'Of course I am,' replied Nicholas haughtily.
'Then see here, sir,' said his uncle. 'This caught my eye this morning, and you may thank your stars for it.'
With this exordium, Mr Ralph Nickleby took a newspaper from his pocket, and after unfolding it, and looking for a short time among the advertisements, read as follows:
'"EDUCATION.--At Mr Wackford Squeers's Academy, Dotheboys Hall, at the delightful village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire, Youth are boarded, clothed, booked, furnished with pocket-money, provided with all necessaries, instructed in all languages living and dead, mathematics, orthography, geometry, astronomy, trigonometry, the use of the globes, algebra, single stick (if required), writing, arithmetic, fortification, and every other branch of classical literature. Terms, twenty guineas per annum. No extras, no vacations, and diet unparalleled. Mr Squeers is in town, and attends daily, from one till four, at the Saracen's Head, Snow Hill. N.B. An able assistant wanted. Annual salary 5 pounds. A Master of Arts would be preferred."
'There!' said Ralph, folding the paper again. 'Let him get that situation, and his fortune is made.'
'But he is not a Master of Arts,' said Mrs Nickleby.
'That,' replied Ralph, 'that, I think, can be got over.'
'But the salary is so small, and it is such a long way off, uncle!' faltered Kate.
'Hush, Kate my dear,' interposed Mrs Nickleby; 'your uncle must know best.'
'I say,' repeated Ralph, tartly, 'let him get that situation, and his fortune is made. If he don't like that, let him get one for himself. Without friends, money, recommendation, or knowledge of business of any kind, let him find honest employment in London, which will keep him in shoe leather, and I'll give him a thousand pounds. At least,' said Mr Ralph Nickleby, checking himself, 'I would if I had it.'
'Poor fellow!' said the young lady. 'Oh! uncle, must we be separated so soon!'
'Don't tease your uncle with questions when he is thinking only for our good, my love,' said Mrs Nickleby. 'Nicholas, my dear, I wish you would say something.'
'Yes, mother, yes,' said Nicholas, who had hitherto remained silent and absorbed in thought. 'If I am fortunate enough to be appointed to this post, sir, for which I am so imperfectly qualified, what will become of those I leave behind?'
'Your mother and sister, sir,' replied Ralph, 'will be provided for, in that case (not otherwise), by me, and placed in some sphere of life in which they will be able to be independent. That will be my immediate care; they will not remain as they are, one week after your departure, I will undertake.'
'Then,' said Nicholas, starting gaily up, and wringing his uncle's hand, 'I am ready to do anything you wish me.