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his face with both hands, protested, while he crept towards the
door, that it was no fault of his.

‘Who said it was, man?’ returned Ralph, in a suppressed voice.
‘Who said it was?’

‘You looked as if you thought I was to blame,’ said Gride,

‘Pshaw!’ Ralph muttered, forcing a laugh. ‘I blame him for not
living an hour longer. One hour longer would have been long
enough. I blame no one else.’

‘N--n--no one else?’ said Gride.
‘Not for this mischance,’ replied Ralph. ‘I have an old score to
clear with that young fellow who has carried off your mistress; but
that has nothing to do with his blustering just now, for we should
soon have been quit of him, but for this cursed accident.’

There was something so unnatural in the calmness with which
Ralph Nickleby spoke, when coupled with his face, the expression
of the features, to which every nerve and muscle, as it twitched
and throbbed with a spasm whose workings no effort could
conceal, gave, every instant, some new and frightful aspect--there
was something so unnatural and ghastly in the contrast between
his harsh, slow, steady voice (only altered by a certain halting of
the breath which made him pause between almost every word like
a drunken man bent upon speaking plainly), and these evidences
of the most intense and violent passion, and the struggle he made
to keep them under; that if the dead body which lay above had
stood, instead of him, before the cowering Gride, it could scarcely
have presented a spectacle which would have terrified him more.

‘The coach,’ said Ralph after a time, during which he had
struggled like some strong man against a fit. ‘We came in a coach.

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