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|The Underground City||Jules Verne|
On The Revolving Ladder
|Page 2 of 4||
"Not at all," answered Harry quietly.
"But if you don't marry Nell yourself, you surely can't expect her to remain a spinster?"
"I expect nothing," said Harry.
A movement of the ladder machinery now gave the two friends the opportunity--one to go up, the other down the shaft. However, they remained where they were.
"Harry," quoth Jack, "do you think I spoke in earnest just now about Nell?"
"No, that I don't, Jack."
"Well, but now I will!"
"You? speak in earnest?"
"My good fellow, I can tell you I am quite capable of giving a friend a bit of advice."
"Let's hear, then, Jack!"
"Well, look here! You love Nell as heartily as she deserves. Old Simon, your father, and old Madge, your mother, both love her as if she were their daughter. Why don't you make her so in reality? Why don't you marry her?"
"Come, Jack," said Harry, "you are running on as if you knew how Nell felt on the subject."
"Everybody knows that," replied Jack, "and therefore it is impossible to make you jealous of any of us. But here goes the ladder again--I'm off!"
"Stop a minute, Jack!" cried Harry, detaining his companion, who was stepping onto the moving staircase.
"I say! you seem to mean me to take up my quarters here altogether!"
"Do be serious and listen, Jack! I want to speak in earnest myself now."
"Well, I'll listen till the ladder moves again, not a minute longer."
"Jack," resumed Harry, "I need not pretend that I do not love Nell; I wish above all things to make her my wife."
"That's all right!"
"But for the present I have scruples of conscience as to asking her to make me a promise which would be irrevocable."
"What can you mean, Harry?"
"I mean just this--that, it being certain Nell has never been outside this coal mine in the very depths of which she was born, it stands to reason that she knows nothing, and can comprehend nothing of what exists beyond it. Her eyes--yes, and perhaps also her heart--have everything yet to learn. Who can tell what her thoughts will be, when perfectly new impressions shall be made upon her mind? As yet she knows nothing of the world, and to me it would seem like deceiving her, if I led her to decide in ignorance, upon choosing to remain all her life in the coal mine. Do you understand me, Jack?"
"Hem!--yes--pretty well. What I understand best is that you are going to make me miss another turn of the ladder."
"Jack," replied Harry gravely, "if this machinery were to stop altogether, if this landing-place were to fall beneath our feet, you must and shall hear what I have to say."
"Well done, Harry! that's how I like to be spoken to! Let's settle, then, that, before you marry Nell, she shall go to school in Auld Reekie."
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