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‘What says he?’ demanded Ralph, turning angrily upon her. ‘I
told you I would see nobody.’

‘He says,’ replied the woman, abashed by his harshness, ‘that
he comes on very particular business which admits of no excuse;
and I thought perhaps it might be about--’

‘About what, in the devil’s name?’ said Ralph. ‘You spy and
speculate on people’s business with me, do you?’

‘Dear, no, sir! I saw you were anxious, and thought it might be
about Mr Noggs; that’s all.’

‘Saw I was anxious!’ muttered Ralph; ‘they all watch me, now.
Where is this person? You did not say I was not down yet, I hope?’

The woman replied that he was in the little office, and that she
had said her master was engaged, but she would take the message.

‘Well,’ said Ralph, ‘I’ll see him. Go you to your kitchen, and
keep there. Do you mind me?’

Glad to be released, the woman quickly disappeared. Collecting
himself, and assuming as much of his accustomed manner as his
utmost resolution could summon, Ralph descended the stairs.
After pausing for a few moments, with his hand upon the lock, he
entered Newman’s room, and confronted Mr Charles Cheeryble.

Of all men alive, this was one of the last he would have wished
to meet at any time; but, now that he recognised in him only the
patron and protector of Nicholas, he would rather have seen a
spectre. One beneficial effect, however, the encounter had upon
him. It instantly roused all his dormant energies; rekindled in his
breast the passions that, for many years, had found an improving
home there; called up all his wrath, hatred, and malice; restored
the sneer to his lip, and the scowl to his brow; and made him
again, in all outward appearance, the same Ralph Nickleby whom

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