And yet this scene, painful as it was, had its grotesque features, which, in a less interested observer than Nicholas, might have provoked a smile.
’May be!’ said Ralph, walking faster, in the impatience provoked by the remark; ’must be, you mean.
If I hadn’t thought my father was here, I wouldn’t upon any account have—it is very provoking—must look so very strange,’ murmured Miss Squeers, blushing once more, and glancing, from the pen in her hand, to Nicholas at his desk, and back again.
At length Tim Linkinwater came back—provokingly cool, and with papers in his hand, and a pen in his mouth, as if nothing had happened.
’Who has?’ demanded Ralph, wrought by the intelligence he had just heard, and his clerk’s provoking coolness, to an intense pitch of irritation.
You have not the man to deal with that you think; try me! and remember that I spit upon your fair words and false dealings, and dare you—provoke you—taunt you—to do to me the very worst you can!’
Nicholas left them to enjoy their mirth together, and walked to his lodgings; wondering very much what mystery connected with Miss Petowker could provoke such merriment, and pondering still more on the extreme surprise with which that lady would regard his sudden enlistment in a profession of which she was such a distinguished and brilliant ornament.
If there is any one thing that vexes me in these losses more than the losses themselves, I do protest and declare,’ said Mrs Nickleby, rubbing her nose with an impassioned air, ’that it is to have people about me who take things with such provoking calmness.’
Nicholas could not repress a smile at the odd figure before him, which, at all times more calculated to provoke mirth than anger, was especially so at that moment, when with one knee upon the ground, Mr Folair twirled his old hat round upon his hand, and affected the extremest agony lest any of the nap should have been knocked off—an ornament which it is almost superfluous to say, it had not boasted for many months.
The sarcastic tone of this reply might have provoked a rather acrimonious retort from Miss Squeers, who, besides being of a constitutionally vicious temper—aggravated, just now, by travel and recent jolting—was somewhat irritated by old recollections and the failure of her own designs upon Mr Browdie; and the acrimonious retort might have led to a great many other retorts, which might have led to Heaven knows what, if the subject of conversation had not been, at that precise moment,…
Nothing daunted by this repulse, Nicholas returned to the charge next day, emboldened by the circumstance of Mr Linkinwater being in a very talkative and communicative mood; but, directly he resumed the theme, Tim relapsed into a state of most provoking taciturnity, and from answering in monosyllables, came to returning no answers at all, save such as were to be inferred from several grave nods and shrugs, which only served to whet that appetite for intelligence in Nicholas, which had…
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Her remarks provoked a public outcry.
We should not permit deeply offensive words to provoke violence.