Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 12
Whereby the Reader will be enabled to trace the further course of Miss Fanny
Squeer's Love, and to ascertain whether it ran smooth or otherwise.
It was a fortunate circumstance for Miss Fanny Squeers, that when her worthy
papa returned home on the night of the small tea-party, he was what the initiated
term 'too far gone' to observe the numerous tokens of extreme vexation of spirit
which were plainly visible in her countenance. Being, however, of a rather violent
and quarrelsome mood in his cups, it is not impossible that he might have fallen
out with her, either on this or some imaginary topic, if the young lady had not,
with a foresight and prudence highly commendable, kept a boy up, on purpose,
to bear the first brunt of the good gentleman's anger; which, having vented itself
in a variety of kicks and cuffs, subsided sufficiently to admit of his being
persuaded to go to bed. Which he did with his boots on, and an umbrella under
his arm.
The hungry servant attended Miss Squeers in her own room according to
custom, to curl her hair, perform the other little offices of her toilet, and administer
as much flattery as she could get up, for the purpose; for Miss Squeers was quite
lazy enough (and sufficiently vain and frivolous withal) to have been a fine lady;
and it was only the arbitrary distinctions of rank and station which prevented her
from being one.
'How lovely your hair do curl tonight, miss!' said the handmaiden. 'I declare if it
isn't a pity and a shame to brush it out!'
'Hold your tongue!' replied Miss Squeers wrathfully.
Some considerable experience prevented the girl from being at all surprised at
any outbreak of ill-temper on the part of Miss Squeers. Having a half-perception
of what had occurred in the course of the evening, she changed her mode of
making herself agreeable, and proceeded on the indirect tack.
'Well, I couldn't help saying, miss, if you was to kill me for it,' said the attendant,
'that I never see nobody look so vulgar as Miss Price this night.'
Miss Squeers sighed, and composed herself to listen.
'I know it's very wrong in me to say so, miss,' continued the girl, delighted to see
the impression she was making, 'Miss Price being a friend of your'n, and all; but
she do dress herself out so, and go on in such a manner to get noticed, that--oh--
well, if people only saw themselves!'
'What do you mean, Phib?' asked Miss Squeers, looking in her own little glass,
where, like most of us, she saw--not herself, but the reflection of some pleasant
image in her own brain. 'How you talk!'
'Talk, miss! It's enough to make a Tom cat talk French grammar, only to see how
she tosses her head,' replied the handmaid.
'She DOES toss her head,' observed Miss Squeers, with an air of abstraction.
'So vain, and so very--very plain,' said the girl.
'Poor 'Tilda!' sighed Miss Squeers, compassionately.
'And always laying herself out so, to get to be admired,' pursued the servant. 'Oh,
dear! It's positive indelicate.'