Charles Dickens – Nicholas Nickleby Chapter 21 (passage)
'Leave the room, Alphonse.'
The page left it; but if ever an Alphonse carried plain Bill in his face and figure, that page was the boy.
'I have ventured to call, ma'am,' said Kate, after a few seconds of awkward silence, 'from having seen your advertisement.'
'Yes,' replied Mrs. Wititterly, 'one of my people put it in the paper. Yes.'
'I thought, perhaps,' said Kate, modestly, 'that if you had not already made a final choice, you would forgive my troubling you with an application.'
'Yes,' drawled Mrs. Wititterly again.
'If you have already made a selection-'
'Oh dear no,' interrupted the lady, 'I am not so easily suited. I really don't know what to say. You have never been a companion before, have you?'
Mrs. Nickleby, who had been eagerly watching her opportunity, came dexterously in, before Kate could reply. 'Not to any stranger, ma'am,' said the good lady; 'but she has been a companion to me for some years. I am her mother, ma'am.'
'Oh!' said Mrs. Wititterly, 'I apprehend you.'
'I assure you, ma'am,' said Mrs. Nickleby, 'that I very little thought, at one time, that it would be necessary for my daughter to go out into the world at all, for her poor dear papa was an independent gentleman, and would have been at this moment if he had but listened in time to my constant entreaties and -'
'Dear mama,' said Kate, in a low voice.
'My dear Kate, if you will allow me to speak,' said Mrs. Nickleby, 'I shall take the liberty of explaining to this lady -'
'I think it is almost unnecessary.'
And notwithstanding all the frowns and winks with which Mrs. Nickleby intimated that she was going to say something which would clench the business at once, Kate maintained an expressive look, and for once Mrs. Nickleby stopped upon the very brink of an oration.
'What are your accomplishments?' asked Mrs. Wititterly, with her eyes shut.
Kate blushed as she mentioned her principal acquirements, and Mrs. Nickleby checked them all off, one by one, on her fingers.
'You are a good temper?' asked Mrs. Wititterly, opening her eyes for an instant, and shutting them again.
'I hope so,' rejoined Kate.
'And have a highly respectable reference for everything, have you?'
Kate replied that she had, and laid her uncle's card upon the table.
'Have the goodness to draw your chair a little nearer, and let me look at you,' said Mrs. Wititterly; 'I am so very nearsighted that I can't quite discern your features.'
Kate complied, though not without some embarassment, with this request, and Mrs. Wititterly took a languid survey of her countenance, which lasted some two or three minutes.
'I like your appearance,' said that lady, ringing a little bell. 'Alphonse, request your master to come here.'
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