Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 9
Of Miss Squeers, Mrs Squeers, Master Squeers, and Mr Squeers; and of various
Matters and Persons connected no less with the Squeerses than Nicholas
When Mr Squeers left the schoolroom for the night, he betook himself, as has
been before remarked, to his own fireside, which was situated--not in the room in
which Nicholas had supped on the night of his arrival, but in a smaller apartment
in the rear of the premises, where his lady wife, his amiable son, and
accomplished daughter, were in the full enjoyment of each other's society; Mrs
Squeers being engaged in the matronly pursuit of stocking-darning; and the
young lady and gentleman being occupied in the adjustment of some youthful
differences, by means of a pugilistic contest across the table, which, on the
approach of their honoured parent, subsided into a noiseless exchange of kicks
beneath it.
And, in this place, it may be as well to apprise the reader, that Miss Fanny
Squeers was in her three-and-twentieth year. If there be any one grace or
loveliness inseparable from that particular period of life, Miss Squeers may be
presumed to have been possessed of it, as there is no reason to suppose that
she was a solitary exception to an universal rule. She was not tall like her
mother, but short like her father; from the former she inherited a voice of harsh
quality; from the latter a remarkable expression of the right eye, something akin
to having none at all.
Miss Squeers had been spending a few days with a neighbouring friend, and had
only just returned to the parental roof. To this circumstance may be referred, her
having heard nothing of Nicholas, until Mr Squeers himself now made him the
subject of conversation.
'Well, my dear,' said Squeers, drawing up his chair, 'what do you think of him by
this time?'
'Think of who?' inquired Mrs Squeers; who (as she often remarked) was no
grammarian, thank Heaven.
'Of the young man--the new teacher--who else could I mean?'
'Oh! that Knuckleboy,' said Mrs Squeers impatiently. 'I hate him.'
'What do you hate him for, my dear?' asked Squeers.
'What's that to you?' retorted Mrs Squeers. 'If I hate him, that's enough, ain't it?'
'Quite enough for him, my dear, and a great deal too much I dare say, if he knew
it,' replied Squeers in a pacific tone. 'I only ask from curiosity, my dear.'
'Well, then, if you want to know,' rejoined Mrs Squeers, 'I'll tell you. Because he's
a proud, haughty, consequential, turned-up-nosed peacock.'
Mrs Squeers, when excited, was accustomed to use strong language, and,
moreover, to make use of a plurality of epithets, some of which were of a
figurative kind, as the word peacock, and furthermore the allusion to Nicholas's
nose, which was not intended to be taken in its literal sense, but rather to bear a
latitude of construction according to the fancy of the hearers.