Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Summary Chapter 53


Nicholas leaves early in the morning, even though it will be several hours before he can call on Madeline. The night before, he had been more confident in being able to persuade her. In the morning light, he feels less certain as he reflects on how unfair the world is. In this world, the virtuous often suffer and die while the evil-minded prosper.

When he does visit Madeline, he notices a great change in her appearance. She is ghastly white. Her expression seems fixed, as if she is struggling to maintain a mask that hides her emotions. Her father seems anxious, though he tries to appear happy. He can’t look at his daughter. Madeline hasn’t filled the vases with flowers or removed the tarp from the bird cage, as is her habit. She isn’t engaged in her usual occupations.

Mr. Bray demands that Nicholas state his business and leave. Nicholas claims he is there to make an order. Mr. Bray reveals that he knows that Nicholas is an agent of the Cheeryble brothers. He knows that the brothers believe that Madeline will starve without their assistance. He tells Nicholas that his daughter is no longer in their employ. Nicholas retorts that Mr. Bray is doing his daughter a worse disservice by forcing her into a marriage than forcing her to support him. Madeline interrupts, begging Nicholas to remember that her father is ill. The father is furious. He has a fit. After he recovers from it, he has no memory of what has transpired.

Madeline asks Nicholas to come another time. Nicholas tells her that he wants her to hear him out. He tells her he knows what kind of man she is marrying. Arthur Gride is a bad character, and the money she has been sold for is blood money. She tells Nicholas that she has an obligation to fulfill. She is not being forced but chooses to do it. Nicholas begs her to merely put the marriage off for one week. She is going to marry a villain, and even the worst poverty is better than that.

Madeline tells him she does not like Gride, but it will restore her father to a comfortable life that might improve his health. Gride knows that she doesn’t love him, and yet he still wants her. She can do her duties as a wife. She is not unhappy, though she cries.

Madeline tells Nicholas that her father looks happier than she has seen him in years. She won’t postpone the marriage. Nicholas tells her it is a trick to persuade her to go through with the marriage. He restrains her when she tries to leave. He points out that she cannot withdraw from this commitment once she has taken her vows, and she will be forced into a bitter life of regret.
Madeline begs him to tell the Cheeryble brothers that she is happy. She asks Nicholas to communicate her thanks and her blessings. She refuses, though, to alter her decision.

Arthur Gride is in good spirits. He does regret not having negotiated the marriage himself after seeing how much he must pay Ralph Nickleby. However, he realizes that he would have had to pay Bray’s debt anyway, even if he hadn’t used Ralph.

He plans to have a great wedding feast. He’ll make up for the expense of it the following week by cutting their grocery account. Miss Silderskew’s bad hearing seems to be selective at times. She doesn’t hear what she doesn’t want to hear.

Nicholas visits Gride after he sees Madeline. He tells Gride that the lady he wants to marry loathes him. He knows that Arthur is planning to defraud her. He tells Gride that people are on his trail, and they mean to send him to prison. Since he can’t appeal to Arthur’s humanity, Nicholas asks how much money will it take to buy him off. Arthur is skeptical about being paid. Nicholas says that Madeline’s friends will pay—just postpone the marriage a few days.

At first, Arthur things that Ralph has betrayed him. However, he begins to believe his visitor has gotten a tidbit of information, made a lucky guess, but doesn’t really know that much about his schemes to be a threat. He believes that Nicholas’ promise of payment are groundless, and that it is merely a tactic to delay the nuptials. Even if there was money to be had, he would still want Madeline—particularly as he is stealing her from Nicholas. Though he doesn’t know Nicholas, he realizes that the man is in love with her.

Arthur shouts out the window that he has been robbed. He taunts Nicholas that he has taken Madeline from him, even though he is old and ugly. Seeing Nicholas’ expression, which promises violence, he cries out the window again. Nicholas flees.

Arthur reflects how triumphant his wedding day will be tomorrow. Maybe this young man will commit suicide in despair. He locks the door and goes to bed. 

Charles Dickens