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Chapter 31

Of Ralph Nickleby and Newman Noggs, and some
wise Precautions, the success or failure of which
will appear in the Sequel.

In blissful unconsciousness that his nephew was hastening at
the utmost speed of four good horses towards his sphere of
action, and that every passing minute diminished the distance
between them, Ralph Nickleby sat that morning occupied in his
customary avocations, and yet unable to prevent his thoughts
wandering from time to time back to the interview which had
taken place between himself and his niece on the previous day. At
such intervals, after a few moments of abstraction, Ralph would
mutter some peevish interjection, and apply himself with renewed
steadiness of purpose to the ledger before him, but again and
again the same train of thought came back despite all his efforts to
prevent it, confusing him in his calculations, and utterly
distracting his attention from the figures over which he bent. At
length Ralph laid down his pen, and threw himself back in his
chair as though he had made up his mind to allow the obtrusive
current of reflection to take its own course, and, by giving it full
scope, to rid himself of it effectually.

‘I am not a man to be moved by a pretty face,’ muttered Ralph
sternly. ‘There is a grinning skull beneath it, and men like me who
look and work below the surface see that, and not its delicate
covering. And yet I almost like the girl, or should if she had been
less proudly and squeamishly brought up. If the boy were

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