Ralph Nickleby indulges greed and hate. He cares for nothing else and is untouched by other desires. He knows his nature and doesn’t try to appear different than what he is. He has a low opinion of most people.
Newman Noggs informs a displeased Ralph that Lord Verisopht and Mulberry Hawk have fled to France, supposedly under the advice of a doctor. Ralph sneers at Hawk’s cowardice. Noggs points out he is too sick. Ralph says a person whould desire revenge all the more on their deathbed.
Ralph contemplates Nicholas’ endless luck. However, he is confident that Hawk will return. His desire for vengeance will be inflamed by his term as an invalid. He is bound to remember hwo condemned him to suffer for those months.
Ralph tells Noggs that if Squeers pays him a visit, he is to wait for him. Ralph visits those who owe him money. To the wealthy he is civil, but he is harsher with the poor. To dishonest attorneys who throw business his way, he is amusing and friendly. The only thing all these faces of Ralph have in common is the complaint that everyone thinks he is rich, and how hard it is to get money once it is lent out.
Preoccupied, he doesn’t notice he is being followed. Taking shelter from the rain, he is astonished to see the man following him, whom he recognizes. The man asks Ralph to pity him. He was once a confidant of Ralph’s. He is now in great need. The man came to London yesterday and was hoping to see Ralph.
The man asks for work. The falling out they had was twenty years ago. The man had claimed what he felt was his share, and Ralph had pressed charges against him. Ralph had forgiven him and had taken him back as his clerk. The man eventually left Ralph and wound up in prison. He begs Ralph to help him.
Ralph refuses. Even if the man tells what he did in Ralph’s service, it couldn’t hurt him. The man can’t blackmail him because Ralph is an open villain. The man tells Ralph that he can restore something to him. Ralph says his money is accounted for. The man asks if he cares for nothing else. Ralph contemptuously throws him off.
Ralph goes to Madame Mantalini's, whose shop now bears Miss Knag’s name. There is a commotion upstairs. Ralph goes up and finds Mr. Mantalini on the floor. Madame Mantalini and Miss Knag are crying. The other women are confused about what to do. Some believe he is dead, having poisoned himself like he promised. Some believe a doctor should be called, for he can be saved. Some believe he is faking it.
Madame Mantalini tells Ralph that hse has been a fool. Her husband has duped her so many times. This time, though, she means it. She refuses to support him.
Mr. Mantalini suddenly recovers and curses the apothecary for not making the mix strong enough. Madame Mantalinis is unmoved. She wants a separation.
Ralph tells her a married woman has no property. she tells him everything is in Miss Knag’s name. Miss Knag, realizing the business would never thrive as a long as Mr. Mantalini had influence, investigated him. She imparted her discoveries to Madame Mantalini. This lead to the woman becoming disenchanted.
Mr. Mantalini tells her he forgive sher of not realizing how blessed she is to have him and how much he loves her. Ralph tells him the game is over, and he will no longer help him.
Ralph returns to the office. He orders a coach. He leaves with Mr. Squeers and another man. Noggs is alarmed when he hears the address Ralph gives the coachman.
A beggar comes up to him and tells him an interesting story.