Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 8
Of the Internal Economy of Dotheboys Hall
A ride of two hundred and odd miles in severe weather, is one of the best
softeners of a hard bed that ingenuity can devise. Perhaps it is even a sweetener
of dreams, for those which hovered over the rough couch of Nicholas, and
whispered their airy nothings in his ear, were of an agreeable and happy kind. He
was making his fortune very fast indeed, when the faint glimmer of an expiring
candle shone before his eyes, and a voice he had no difficulty in recognising as
part and parcel of Mr Squeers, admonished him that it was time to rise.
'Past seven, Nickleby,' said Mr Squeers.
'Has morning come already?' asked Nicholas, sitting up in bed.
'Ah! that has it,' replied Squeers, 'and ready iced too. Now, Nickleby, come;
tumble up, will you?'
Nicholas needed no further admonition, but 'tumbled up' at once, and proceeded
to dress himself by the light of the taper, which Mr Squeers carried in his hand.
'Here's a pretty go,' said that gentleman; 'the pump's froze.'
'Indeed!' said Nicholas, not much interested in the intelligence.
'Yes,' replied Squeers. 'You can't wash yourself this morning.'
'Not wash myself!' exclaimed Nicholas.
'No, not a bit of it,' rejoined Squeers tartly. 'So you must be content with giving
yourself a dry polish till we break the ice in the well, and can get a bucketful out
for the boys. Don't stand staring at me, but do look sharp, will you?'
Offering no further observation, Nicholas huddled on his clothes. Squeers,
meanwhile, opened the shutters and blew the candle out; when the voice of his
amiable consort was heard in the passage, demanding admittance.
'Come in, my love,' said Squeers.
Mrs Squeers came in, still habited in the primitive night-jacket which had
displayed the symmetry of her figure on the previous night, and further
ornamented with a beaver bonnet of some antiquity, which she wore, with much
ease and lightness, on the top of the nightcap before mentioned.
'Drat the things,' said the lady, opening the cupboard; 'I can't find the school
spoon anywhere.'
'Never mind it, my dear,' observed Squeers in a soothing manner; 'it's of no
'No consequence, why how you talk!' retorted Mrs Squeers sharply; 'isn't it
brimstone morning?'
'I forgot, my dear,' rejoined Squeers; 'yes, it certainly is. We purify the boys'
bloods now and then, Nickleby.'
'Purify fiddlesticks' ends,' said his lady. 'Don't think, young man, that we go to the
expense of flower of brimstone and molasses, just to purify them; because if you
think we carry on the business in that way, you'll find yourself mistaken, and so I
tell you plainly.'
'My dear,' said Squeers frowning. 'Hem!'