Chapters 46-48 Summary

Nicholas goes to the Cheeryble brothers to report the events of the previous evening. He learns that Ralph has already been there and tried unsuccessfully to turn the brothers against Nicholas. They assure Nicholas that he will have their full support in keeping Smike away from his reputed father.

The Cheeryble brothers then tell Nicholas that they have a specific job for him. There is a young woman by the name of Madeline Bray who has come to them for help. She is the same woman with whom Nicholas has fallen in love, who fainted when he walked in on her meeting with the Cheerybles. Madeline is the daughter of a former love of Charles Cheeryble’s. Madeline’s mother had married Mr. Bray, who made her life miserable until her death. Ned was to marry her sister, but she also died. If Madeline’s father were also dead, they would gladly welcome her into their home as “our child or sister,” but as he lives they must support her while she lives with him.

The Cheerybles have decided to help Madeline by buying her artwork at high prices. When Nicholas first saw her in the Register’s Office, she had been trying to get a position but was unsuccessful. Mr. Bray is in debt to Ralph Nickleby but refuses anyone’s help but his daughter’s. The Cheerybles want Nicholas to go to her home and pay her for the painted items because Mr. Bray is jealous of the Cheerybles and Tim Linkinwater has no tact. Nicholas agrees, though he is worried that he will betray his feelings too soon. He arrives at the home of the Brays and meets both Madeline and her cantankerous father. As he leaves, Nicholas pledges to Madeline that he would do anything to help her.

Newman Noggs is waiting for the return of Ralph Nickleby so he may go to dinner. When he hears Ralph approaching with someone else, Newman hides in the closet so that he can slip away. He overhears Ralph talking with Arthur Gride, an old man in his seventies. Gride has come to Ralph with a plan to marry Madeline Bray in order to get the property that will come to her on her marriage. If Ralph helps him, Gride will pay Mr. Bray’s debt to him, thus benefiting them both. Ralph agrees, and both of them go immediately to Mr. Bray with the proposition. Madeline sees this marriage as the only way to release her father from debt, so she reluctantly agrees.

Nicholas is greatly troubled as he leaves the Brays’ home even though he does not know that Madeline is to marry Arthur Gride. On the way home, he sees a poster that advertises the final appearance of the Crummles Company. He goes to see them and learns that they are heading for America. At the farewell performance, Nicholas berates a “literary gentleman” who finishes unfinished novels that are being serialized.