Chapter 3

Mr Ralph Nickleby receives sad tidings of his brother, but bears up nobly against the intelligence communicated to him. The reader is informed how he liked Nicholas, who is herein introduced, and how kindly he proposed to make his fortune at once

HAVING RENDERED his zealous assistance towards dispatching the lunch, with all that promptitude and energy which are among the most important qualities that men of business can possess, Mr Ralph Nickleby took a cordial farewell of his fellow-speculators, and bent his steps westward in unwonted good humour. As he passed St Paul's he stepped aside into a doorway to set his watch, and with his hand on the key and his eye on the cathedral dial, was intent upon so doing, when a man suddenly stopped before him. It was Newman Noggs.

`Ah! Newman,' said Mr Nickleby, looking up as he pursued his occupation. `The letter about the mortgage has come, has it? I thought it would.'

`Wrong,' replied Newman.

`What! and nobody called respecting it?' inquired Mr Nickleby, pausing. Noggs shook his head.

`What has come, then?' inquired Mr Nickleby.

`I have,' said Newman.

`What else?' demanded the master, sternly.

`This,' said Newman, drawing a sealed letter slowly from his pocket. `Post-mark, Strand, black wax, black border, woman's hand, C. N. in the corner.'

`Black wax?' said Mr Nickleby, glancing at the letter. `I know something of that hand, too. Newman, I shouldn't be surprised if my brother were dead.'

`I don't think you would,' said Newman, quietly.

`Why not, sir?' demanded Mr Nickleby.

`You never are surprised,' replied Newman, `that's all.'

Mr Nickleby snatched the letter from his assistant, and fixing a cold look upon him, opened, read it, put it in his pocket, and having now hit the time to a second, began winding up his watch.

`It is as I expected, Newman,' said Mr Nickleby, while he was thus engaged. `He is dead. Dear me! Well, that's sudden thing. I shouldn't have thought it, really.' With these touching expressions of sorrow, Mr Nickleby replaced his watch in his fob, and, fitting on his gloves to a nicety, turned upon his way, and walked slowly westward with his hands behind him.

`Children alive?' inquired Noggs, stepping up to him.

`Why, that's the very thing,' replied Mr Nickleby, as though his thoughts were about them at that moment. `They are both alive.'

`Both!' repeated Newman Noggs, in a low voice.

`And the widow, too,' added Mr Nickleby, `and all three in London, confound them; all three here, Newman.'

Newman fell a little behind his master, and his face was curiously twisted as by a spasm; but whether of paralysis, or grief, or inward laughter, nobody but himself could possibly explain. The expression of

  By PanEris using Melati.

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