Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 4.djvu/42

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before the passing of the new act, nowhere preserved in the registries of this country—Mr. Nickleby looked about him for the means of repairing his capital, now sadly reduced by this increase in his family, and the expenses of their education.

"Speculate with it," said Mrs. Nickleby.

"Spec—u—late, my dear?" said Mr. Nickleby, as though in doubt.

"Why not?" asked Mrs. Nickleby.

"Because, my dear, if we should lose it," rejoined Mr. Nickleby, who was a slow and time-taking speaker, "if we should lose it, we shall no longer be able to live, my dear."

"Fiddle," said Mrs. Nickleby.

"I am not altogether sure of that, my dear," said Mr. Nickleby.

"There's Nicholas," pursued the lady, " quite a young man—it's time he was in the way of doing something for himself; and Kate too, poor girl, without a penny in the world. Think of your brother! Would he be what he is, if he hadn't speculated?"

"That's true," replied Mr. Nickleby. "Very good, my dear. Yes. I will speculate, my dear."

Speculation is a round game; the players see little or nothing of their cards at first starting; gains may be great and so may losses. The run of luck went against Mr. Nickleby. A mania prevailed, a bubble burst, four stock brokers took villa residences at Florence, four hundred nobodies were ruined, and among them Mr. Nickleby.

"The very house I live in," sighed the poor gentleman, "may be taken from me to-morrow. Not an article of my old furniture, but will be sold to strangers!" The last reflection hurt him so much, that he took at once to his bed; apparently resolved to keep that, at all events.

"Cheer up, sir! " said the apothecary.

"You mustn't let yourself be cast down, sir," said the nurse.