But no crying, or talking, or hoping, or fearing, could keep off the dreaded Saturday afternoon, or Newman Noggs either; who, punctual to his time, limped up to the door, and breathed a whiff of cordial gin through the keyhole, exactly as such of the church clocks in the neighbourhood as agreed among themselves about the time, struck five. Newman waited for the last stroke, and then knocked.
`From Mr Ralph Nickleby,' said Newman, announcing his errand, when he got upstairs, with all possible brevity.
`We shall be ready directly,' said Kate. `We have not much to carry, but I fear we must have a coach.'
`I'll get one,' replied Newman.
`Indeed you shall not trouble yourself,' said Mrs Nickleby.
`I will,' said Newman.
`I can't suffer you to think of such a thing,' said Mrs Nickleby.
`You can't help it,' said Newman.
`Not help it!'
`No; I thought of it as I came along; but didn't get one, thinking you mightn't be ready. I think of a great many things. Nobody can prevent that.'
`Oh yes, I understand you, Mr Noggs,' said Mrs Nickleby. `Our thoughts are free, of course. Everybody's thoughts are their own, clearly.'
`They wouldn't be, if some people had their way,' muttered Newman.
`Well, no more they would, Mr Noggs, and that's very true,' rejoined Mrs Nickleby. `Some people to be sure are such--how's your master?'
Newman darted a meaning glance at Kate, and replied with a strong emphasis on the last word of his answer, that Mr Ralph Nickleby was well, and sent his love.
`I am sure we are very much obliged to him,' observed Mrs Nickleby.
`Very,' said Newman. `I'll tell him so.'
It was no very easy matter to mistake Newman Noggs, after having once seen him, and as Kate, attracted by the singularity of his manner (in which on this occasion, however, there was something respectful and even delicate, notwithstanding the abruptness of his speech), looked at him more closely, she recollected having caught a passing glimpse of that strange figure before.
`Excuse my curiosity,' she said, `but did I not see you in the coachyard, on the morning my brother went away to Yorkshire?'
Newman cast a wistful glance on Mrs Nickleby and said `No,' most unblushingly.
`No!' exclaimed Kate, `I should have said so anywhere.'
`You'd have said wrong,' rejoined Newman. `It's the first time I've been out for three weeks. I've had the gout.'
Newman was very, very far from having the appearance of a gouty subject, and so Kate could not help thinking; but the conference was cut short by Mrs Nickleby's insisting on having the door shut, lest Mr
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