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‘Don’t tease your uncle with questions when he is thinking only
for our good, my love,’ said Mrs Nickleby. ‘Nicholas, my dear, I
wish you would say something.’

‘Yes, mother, yes,’ said Nicholas, who had hitherto remained
silent and absorbed in thought. ‘If I am fortunate enough to be
appointed to this post, sir, for which I am so imperfectly qualified,
what will become of those I leave behind?’

‘Your mother and sister, sir,’ replied Ralph, ‘will be provided
for, in that case (not otherwise), by me, and placed in some sphere
of life in which they will be able to be independent. That will be
my immediate care; they will not remain as they are, one week
after your departure, I will undertake.’

‘Then,’ said Nicholas, starting gaily up, and wringing his uncle’s
hand, ‘I am ready to do anything you wish me. Let us try our
fortune with Mr Squeers at once; he can but refuse.’

‘He won’t do that,’ said Ralph. ‘He will be glad to have you on
my recommendation. Make yourself of use to him, and you’ll rise
to be a partner in the establishment in no time. Bless me, only
think! if he were to die, why your fortune’s made at once.’

‘To be sure, I see it all,’ said poor Nicholas, delighted with a
thousand visionary ideas, that his good spirits and his
inexperience were conjuring up before him. ‘Or suppose some
young nobleman who is being educated at the Hall, were to take a
fancy to me, and get his father to appoint me his travelling tutor
when he left, and when we come back from the continent,
procured me some handsome appointment. Eh! uncle?’

‘Ah, to be sure!’ sneered Ralph.
‘And who knows, but when he came to see me when I was
settled (as he would of course), he might fall in love with Kate, who

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