Chapter 47Mr Ralph Nickleby has some confidential intercourse with another old friend. They concert between them a project, which promises well for both
`THERE GO THE three-quarters past!' muttered Newman Noggs, listening to the chimes of some neighbouring church `and my dinner-time's two. He does it on purpose. He makes a point of it. It's just like him.'
It was in his own little den of an office and on the top of his official stool that Newman thus soliloquised; and the soliloquy referred, as Newman's grumbling soliloquies usually did, to Ralph Nickleby.
`I don't believe he ever had an appetite,' said Newman, `except for pounds, shillings, and pence, and with them he's as greedy as a wolf. I should like to have him compelled to swallow one of every English coin. The penny would be an awkward morsel -- but the crown -- ha! ha!'
His good-humour being in some degree restored by the vision of Ralph Nickleby swallowing, perforce, a five-shilling piece, Newman slowly brought forth from his desk one of those portable bottles, currently known as pocket-pistols, and shaking the same close to his ear so as to produce a rippling sound very cool and pleasant to listen to, suffered his features to relax, and took a gurgling drink, which relaxed them still more. Replacing the cork, he smacked his lips twice or thrice with an air of great relish, and, the taste of the liquor having by this time evaporated, recurred to his grievances again.
`Five minutes to three,' growled Newman; `it can't want more by this time; and I had my breakfast at eight o'clock, and such a breakfast! and my right dinner-time two! And I might have a nice little bit of hot roast meat spoiling at home all this time -- how does he know I haven't? "Don't go till I come back," "Don't go till I come back," day after day. What do you always go out at my dinner-time for then -- eh? Don't you know it's nothing but aggravation eh?'
These words, though uttered in a very loud key, were addressed to nothing but empty air. The recital of his wrongs, however, seemed to have the effect of making Newman Noggs desperate; for he flattened his old hat upon his head, and drawing on the everlasting gloves, declared with great vehemence, that come what might, he would go to dinner that very minute.
Carrying this resolution into instant effect, he had advanced as far as the passage, when the sound of the latch-key in the street-door caused him to make a precipitate retreat into his own office again.
`Here he is,' growled Newman, `and somebody with him. Now it'll be "Stop till this gentleman's gone." But I won't -- that's flat.'
So saying, Newman slipped into a tall empty closet which opened with two half-doors, and shut himself up; intending to slip out directly Ralph was safe inside his own room.
`Noggs,' cried Ralph, `where is that fellow? -- Noggs.'
But not a word said Newman.
`The dog has gone to his dinner, though I told him not,' muttered Ralph, looking into the office, and pulling out his watch. `Humph!' You had better come in here, Gride. My man's out, and the sun is hot upon my room. This is cool and in the shade, if you don't mind roughing it.'
`Not at all, Mr Nickleby, oh not at all! All places are alike to me, sir. Ah! very nice indeed. Oh! very nice!'
The parson who made this reply was a little old man, of about seventy or seventy-five years of age, of a very lean figure, much bent and slightly twisted. He wore a grey coat with a very narrow collar, an old-fashioned waistcoat of ribbed black silk, and such scanty trousers as displayed his shrunken spindleshanks in their full ugliness. The only articles of display or ornament in his dress were a steel watch-chain to which were attached some large gold seals; and a black ribbon into which, in compliance
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