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through the window which had no blind or curtain to intercept it,
was enough to show the character of the room, though not
sufficient fully to reveal the various articles of lumber, old corded
trunks and broken furniture, which were scattered about. It had a
shelving roof; high in one part, and at another descending almost
to the floor. It was towards the highest part that Ralph directed his
eyes; and upon it he kept them fixed steadily for some minutes,
when he rose, and dragging thither an old chest upon which he
had been seated, mounted on it, and felt along the wall above his
head with both hands. At length, they touched a large iron hook,
firmly driven into one of the beams.

At that moment, he was interrupted by a loud knocking at the
door below. After a little hesitation he opened the window, and
demanded who it was.

‘I want Mr Nickleby,’ replied a voice.
‘What with him?’

‘That’s not Mr Nickleby’s voice, surely?’ was the rejoinder.
It was not like it; but it was Ralph who spoke, and so he said.
The voice made answer that the twin brothers wished to know
whether the man whom he had seen that night was to be detained;
and that although it was now midnight they had sent, in their
anxiety to do right.

‘Yes,’ cried Ralph, ‘detain him till tomorrow; then let them
bring him here--him and my nephew--and come themselves, and
be sure that I will be ready to receive them.’

‘At what hour?’ asked the voice.
‘At any hour,’ replied Ralph fiercely. ‘In the afternoon, tell
them. At any hour, at any minute. All times will be alike to me.’

He listened to the man’s retreating footsteps until the sound

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