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Summary Chapter 54

 

Arthur Gride dresses early for his wedding, long before his housekeeper wakes up. Peg is complaining to herself how Mr. Gride always said he was a confirmed bachelor, and now he is bringing home a wife who is little more than a child. Why couldn’t he be content with her to serve him? She has done so faithfully despite the low wages and other discomforts enforced by his frugality. Why couldn’t he marry someone his own age?

Arthur decides Nicholas overheard him at the Bray’s house. When he tells Ralph about his visitor, he omits how he believes Nicholas got his information. Though he had been Ralph’s mentor, he is afraid of him and bows down before him now.

Ralph realizes Arthur is jealous of and frightened of the young man who had visited him (he doesn’t know it is Nicholas). Ralph advises him to keep Madeline under a close eye once he has her.

Arthur hasn’t brought the money he owes Ralph because he doesn’t trust him to go through with backing the marriage. They go to the Bray residence. Arthur loses his nerve once he is there. The servant is crying, and nobody comes to greet them. Ralph comments that the atmosphere is more fitting for a funeral than a wedding.

Bray enters and tells them that Madeline was ill last night. She is crying, but she is prepared for the ceremony today. Bray seems particularly nervous. He takes Ralph aside and says the marriage is a cruel thing. Ralph tells him it isn’t cruel. Arthur Gride is very old and will die soon, leaving Madeline a rich widow. She can choose her next husband the second time around. Bray did what any father would do to secure his child’s future and fortunes.

Bray goes up to get his daughter. Nicholas and Kate enter the house. Ralph is both surprised and enraged to see them there. Gride identifies Nicholas as his visitor the night before.

Ralph orders them to leave. Nicholas refuses, intent on saving Madeline from Ralph’s diabolical scheme. Ralph orders Kate to leave. He’ll escort Nicholas out with violence, but he doesn’t want her to get hurt. She refuses.

Nicholas brought Kate to entreat Madeline to come to their home, thinking that another woman may succeed where he failed. Nicholas plans to talk to her father. Ralph calls Nicholas a coward for brining his sister as “protection”, thinking that they wouldn’t interfere with him in her presence.

Ralph orders Arthur to call down Bray. Nicholas and his uncle begin to scuffle when Ralph tries to grab Kate. A scream from upstairs startles them.

Nicholas goes upstairs to find Bray dead on the floor. Nicholas gives his card to the landlady and takes Madeline into his custody. Ralph tries to interfere, but Nicholas tells him that their scheme is undone. There is no need for the marriage if Bray is dead. Nicholas warns Ralph that his life is about to crumble about his head and his riches are about to be lost.

Nicholas throws Arthur aside, who is blocking the door. He carries Madeline out to the coach and leaves. 

Charles Dickens