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‘Oh, I say nothing about that, Madame Mantalini,’ replied Miss
Knag, reddening; ‘because if youth were any excuse, you wouldn’t

‘Quite so good a forewoman as I have, I suppose,’ suggested

‘Well, I never did know anybody like you, Madame Mantalini,’
rejoined Miss Knag most complacently, ‘and that’s the fact, for you
know what one’s going to say, before it has time to rise to one’s
lips. Oh, very good! Ha, ha, ha!’

‘For myself,’ observed Madame Mantalini, glancing with
affected carelessness at her assistant, and laughing heartily in her
sleeve, ‘I consider Miss Nickleby the most awkward girl I ever saw
in my life.’

‘Poor dear thing,’ said Miss Knag, ‘it’s not her fault. If it was, we
might hope to cure it; but as it’s her misfortune, Madame
Mantalini, why really you know, as the man said about the blind
horse, we ought to respect it.’

‘Her uncle told me she had been considered pretty,’ remarked
Madame Mantalini. ‘I think her one of the most ordinary girls I
ever met with.’

‘Ordinary!’ cried Miss Knag with a countenance beaming
delight; ‘and awkward! Well, all I can say is, Madame Mantalini,
that I quite love the poor girl; and that if she was twice as
indifferent-looking, and twice as awkward as she is, I should be
only so much the more her friend, and that’s the truth of it.’

In fact, Miss Knag had conceived an incipient affection for Kate
Nickleby, after witnessing her failure that morning, and this short
conversation with her superior increased the favourable
prepossession to a most surprising extent; which was the more

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