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Chapter 9 Of Miss Squeers, Mrs Squeers, Master Squeers, and Mr Squeers, an_f various Matters and Persons connected no less with the Squeerses tha_icholas Nickleby

  • When Mr Squeers left the schoolroom for the night, he betook himself, as ha_een before remarked, to his own fireside, which was situated—not in the roo_n which Nicholas had supped on the night of his arrival, but in a smalle_partment 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 th_oung lady and gentleman being occupied in the adjustment of some youthfu_ifferences, by means of a pugilistic contest across the table, which, on th_pproach of their honoured parent, subsided into a noiseless exchange of kick_eneath it.
  • And, in this place, it may be as well to apprise the reader, that Miss Fann_queers was in her three-and-twentieth year. If there be any one grace o_oveliness inseparable from that particular period of life, Miss Squeers ma_e presumed to have been possessed of it, as there is no reason to suppos_hat she was a solitary exception to an universal rule. She was not tall lik_er mother, but short like her father; from the former she inherited a voic_f 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 ha_nly just returned to the parental roof. To this circumstance may be referred, her having heard nothing of Nicholas, until Mr Squeers himself now made hi_he subject of conversation.
  • 'Well, my dear,' said Squeers, drawing up his chair, 'what do you think of hi_y this time?'
  • 'Think of who?' inquired Mrs Squeers; who (as she often remarked) was n_rammarian, 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 h_new it,' replied Squeers in a pacific tone. 'I only ask from curiosity, m_ear.'
  • '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 _igurative kind, as the word peacock, and furthermore the allusion t_icholas's nose, which was not intended to be taken in its literal sense, bu_ather to bear a latitude of construction according to the fancy of th_earers.
  • Neither were they meant to bear reference to each other, so much as to th_bject on whom they were bestowed, as will be seen in the present case: _eacock with a turned-up nose being a novelty in ornithology, and a thing no_ommonly seen.
  • 'Hem!' said Squeers, as if in mild deprecation of this outbreak. 'He is cheap, my dear; the young man is very cheap.'
  • 'Not a bit of it,' retorted Mrs Squeers.
  • 'Five pound a year,' said Squeers.
  • 'What of that; it's dear if you don't want him, isn't it?' replied his wife.
  • 'But we DO want him,' urged Squeers.
  • 'I don't see that you want him any more than the dead,' said Mrs Squeers.
  • 'Don't tell me. You can put on the cards and in the advertisements, "Educatio_y Mr Wackford Squeers and able assistants," without having any assistants, can't you? Isn't it done every day by all the masters about? I've no patienc_ith you.'
  • 'Haven't you!' said Squeers, sternly. 'Now I'll tell you what, Mrs Squeers. I_his matter of having a teacher, I'll take my own way, if you please. A slav_river in the West Indies is allowed a man under him, to see that his black_on't run away, or get up a rebellion; and I'll have a man under me to do th_ame with OUR blacks, till such time as little Wackford is able to take charg_f the school.'
  • 'Am I to take care of the school when I grow up a man, father?' said Wackfor_unior, suspending, in the excess of his delight, a vicious kick which he wa_dministering to his sister.
  • 'You are, my son,' replied Mr Squeers, in a sentimental voice.
  • 'Oh my eye, won't I give it to the boys!' exclaimed the interesting child, grasping his father's cane. 'Oh, father, won't I make 'em squeak again!'
  • It was a proud moment in Mr Squeers's life, when he witnessed that burst o_nthusiasm in his young child's mind, and saw in it a foreshadowing of hi_uture eminence. He pressed a penny into his hand, and gave vent to hi_eelings (as did his exemplary wife also), in a shout of approving laughter.
  • The infantine appeal to their common sympathies, at once restored cheerfulnes_o the conversation, and harmony to the company.
  • 'He's a nasty stuck-up monkey, that's what I consider him,' said Mrs Squeers, reverting to Nicholas.
  • 'Supposing he is,' said Squeers, 'he is as well stuck up in our schoolroom a_nywhere else, isn't he?—especially as he don't like it.'
  • 'Well,' observed Mrs Squeers, 'there's something in that. I hope it'll brin_is pride down, and it shall be no fault of mine if it don't.'
  • Now, a proud usher in a Yorkshire school was such a very extraordinary an_naccountable thing to hear of,—any usher at all being a novelty; but a prou_ne, a being of whose existence the wildest imagination could never hav_reamed—that Miss Squeers, who seldom troubled herself with scholasti_atters, inquired with much curiosity who this Knuckleboy was, that gav_imself such airs.
  • 'Nickleby,' said Squeers, spelling the name according to some eccentric syste_hich prevailed in his own mind; 'your mother always calls things and peopl_y their wrong names.'
  • 'No matter for that,' said Mrs Squeers; 'I see them with right eyes, an_hat's quite enough for me. I watched him when you were laying on to littl_older this afternoon. He looked as black as thunder, all the while, and, on_ime, started up as if he had more than got it in his mind to make a rush a_ou. I saw him, though he thought I didn't.'
  • 'Never mind that, father,' said Miss Squeers, as the head of the family wa_bout to reply. 'Who is the man?'
  • 'Why, your father has got some nonsense in his head that he's the son of _oor gentleman that died the other day,' said Mrs Squeers.
  • 'The son of a gentleman!'
  • 'Yes; but I don't believe a word of it. If he's a gentleman's son at all, he'_ fondling, that's my opinion.'
  • 'Mrs Squeers intended to say 'foundling,' but, as she frequently remarked whe_he made any such mistake, it would be all the same a hundred years hence; with which axiom of philosophy, indeed, she was in the constant habit o_onsoling the boys when they laboured under more than ordinary ill-usage.
  • 'He's nothing of the kind,' said Squeers, in answer to the above remark, 'fo_is father was married to his mother years before he was born, and she i_live now. If he was, it would be no business of ours, for we make a very goo_riend by having him here; and if he likes to learn the boys anything beside_inding them, I have no objection I am sure.'
  • 'I say again, I hate him worse than poison,' said Mrs Squeers vehemently.
  • 'If you dislike him, my dear,' returned Squeers, 'I don't know anybody who ca_how dislike better than you, and of course there's no occasion, with him, t_ake the trouble to hide it.'
  • 'I don't intend to, I assure you,' interposed Mrs S.
  • 'That's right,' said Squeers; 'and if he has a touch of pride about him, as _hink he has, I don't believe there's woman in all England that can brin_nybody's spirit down, as quick as you can, my love.'
  • Mrs Squeers chuckled vastly on the receipt of these flattering compliments, and said, she hoped she had tamed a high spirit or two in her day. It is bu_ue to her character to say, that in conjunction with her estimable husband, she had broken many and many a one.
  • Miss Fanny Squeers carefully treasured up this, and much more conversation o_he same subject, until she retired for the night, when she questioned th_ungry servant, minutely, regarding the outward appearance and demeanour o_icholas; to which queries the girl returned such enthusiastic replies, coupled with so many laudatory remarks touching his beautiful dark eyes, an_is sweet smile, and his straight legs—upon which last-named articles she lai_articular stress; the general run of legs at Dotheboys Hall bein_rooked—that Miss Squeers was not long in arriving at the conclusion that th_ew usher must be a very remarkable person, or, as she herself significantl_hrased it, 'something quite out of the common.' And so Miss Squeers made u_er mind that she would take a personal observation of Nicholas the very nex_ay.
  • In pursuance of this design, the young lady watched the opportunity of he_other being engaged, and her father absent, and went accidentally into th_choolroom to get a pen mended: where, seeing nobody but Nicholas presidin_ver the boys, she blushed very deeply, and exhibited great confusion.
  • 'I beg your pardon,' faltered Miss Squeers; 'I thought my father was—or migh_e—dear me, how very awkward!'
  • 'Mr Squeers is out,' said Nicholas, by no means overcome by the apparition, unexpected though it was.
  • 'Do you know will he be long, sir?' asked Miss Squeers, with bashfu_esitation.
  • 'He said about an hour,' replied Nicholas—politely of course, but without an_ndication of being stricken to the heart by Miss Squeers's charms.
  • 'I never knew anything happen so cross,' exclaimed the young lady. 'Thank you!
  • I am very sorry I intruded, I am sure. If I hadn't thought my father was here, I wouldn't upon any account have—it is very provoking—must look so ver_trange,' murmured Miss Squeers, blushing once more, and glancing, from th_en in her hand, to Nicholas at his desk, and back again.
  • 'If that is all you want,' said Nicholas, pointing to the pen, and smiling, i_pite of himself, at the affected embarrassment of the schoolmaster'_aughter, 'perhaps I can supply his place.'
  • Miss Squeers glanced at the door, as if dubious of the propriety of advancin_ny nearer to an utter stranger; then round the schoolroom, as though in som_easure reassured by the presence of forty boys; and finally sidled up t_icholas and delivered the pen into his hand, with a most winning mixture o_eserve and condescension.
  • 'Shall it be a hard or a soft nib?' inquired Nicholas, smiling to preven_imself from laughing outright.
  • 'He HAS a beautiful smile,' thought Miss Squeers.
  • 'Which did you say?' asked Nicholas.
  • 'Dear me, I was thinking of something else for the moment, I declare,' replie_iss Squeers. 'Oh! as soft as possible, if you please.' With which words, Mis_queers sighed. It might be, to give Nicholas to understand that her heart wa_oft, and that the pen was wanted to match.
  • Upon these instructions Nicholas made the pen; when he gave it to Mis_queers, Miss Squeers dropped it; and when he stooped to pick it up, Mis_queers stopped also, and they knocked their heads together; whereat five-and- twenty little boys laughed aloud: being positively for the first and only tim_hat half-year.
  • 'Very awkward of me,' said Nicholas, opening the door for the young lady'_etreat.
  • 'Not at all, sir,' replied Miss Squeers; 'it was my fault. It was all m_oolish—a—a—good-morning!'
  • 'Goodbye,' said Nicholas. 'The next I make for you, I hope will be made les_lumsily. Take care! You are biting the nib off now.'
  • 'Really,' said Miss Squeers; 'so embarrassing that I scarcely know what I—ver_orry to give you so much trouble.'
  • 'Not the least trouble in the world,' replied Nicholas, closing the schoolroo_oor.
  • 'I never saw such legs in the whole course of my life!' said Miss Squeers, a_he walked away.
  • In fact, Miss Squeers was in love with Nicholas Nickleby.
  • To account for the rapidity with which this young lady had conceived a passio_or Nicholas, it may be necessary to state, that the friend from whom she ha_o recently returned, was a miller's daughter of only eighteen, who ha_ontracted herself unto the son of a small corn-factor, resident in th_earest market town. Miss Squeers and the miller's daughter, being fas_riends, had covenanted together some two years before, according to a custo_revalent among young ladies, that whoever was first engaged to be married, should straightway confide the mighty secret to the bosom of the other, befor_ommunicating it to any living soul, and bespeak her as bridesmaid withou_oss of time; in fulfilment of which pledge the miller's daughter, when he_ngagement was formed, came out express, at eleven o'clock at night as th_orn-factor's son made an offer of his hand and heart at twenty-five minute_ast ten by the Dutch clock in the kitchen, and rushed into Miss Squeers'_edroom with the gratifying intelligence. Now, Miss Squeers being five year_lder, and out of her teens (which is also a great matter), had, since, bee_ore than commonly anxious to return the compliment, and possess her frien_ith a similar secret; but, either in consequence of finding it hard to pleas_erself, or harder still to please anybody else, had never had an opportunit_o to do, inasmuch as she had no such secret to disclose. The little intervie_ith Nicholas had no sooner passed, as above described, however, than Mis_queers, putting on her bonnet, made her way, with great precipitation, to he_riend's house, and, upon a solemn renewal of divers old vows of secrecy, revealed how that she was— not exactly engaged, but going to be—to _entleman's son—(none of your corn-factors, but a gentleman's son of hig_escent)—who had come down as teacher to Dotheboys Hall, under most mysteriou_nd remarkable circumstances—indeed, as Miss Squeers more than once hinted sh_ad good reason to believe, induced, by the fame of her many charms, to see_er out, and woo and win her.
  • 'Isn't it an extraordinary thing?' said Miss Squeers, emphasising th_djective strongly.
  • 'Most extraordinary,' replied the friend. 'But what has he said to you?'
  • 'Don't ask me what he said, my dear,' rejoined Miss Squeers. 'If you had onl_een his looks and smiles! I never was so overcome in all my life.'
  • 'Did he look in this way?' inquired the miller's daughter, counterfeiting, a_early as she could, a favourite leer of the corn-factor.
  • 'Very like that—only more genteel,' replied Miss Squeers.
  • 'Ah!' said the friend, 'then he means something, depend on it.'
  • Miss Squeers, having slight misgivings on the subject, was by no means il_leased to be confirmed by a competent authority; and discovering, on furthe_onversation and comparison of notes, a great many points of resemblanc_etween the behaviour of Nicholas, and that of the corn-factor, grew s_xceedingly confidential, that she intrusted her friend with a vast number o_hings Nicholas had NOT said, which were all so very complimentary as to b_uite conclusive. Then, she dilated on the fearful hardship of having a fathe_nd mother strenuously opposed to her intended husband; on which unhapp_ircumstance she dwelt at great length; for the friend's father and mothe_ere quite agreeable to her being married, and the whole courtship was i_onsequence as flat and common-place an affair as it was possible to imagine.
  • 'How I should like to see him!' exclaimed the friend.
  • 'So you shall, 'Tilda,' replied Miss Squeers. 'I should consider myself one o_he most ungrateful creatures alive, if I denied you. I think mother's goin_way for two days to fetch some boys; and when she does, I'll ask you and Joh_p to tea, and have him to meet you.'
  • This was a charming idea, and having fully discussed it, the friends parted.
  • It so fell out, that Mrs Squeers's journey, to some distance, to fetch thre_ew boys, and dun the relations of two old ones for the balance of a smal_ccount, was fixed that very afternoon, for the next day but one; and on th_ext day but one, Mrs Squeers got up outside the coach, as it stopped t_hange at Greta Bridge, taking with her a small bundle containing something i_ bottle, and some sandwiches, and carrying besides a large white top-coat t_ear in the night-time; with which baggage she went her way.
  • Whenever such opportunities as these occurred, it was Squeers's custom t_rive over to the market town, every evening, on pretence of urgent business, and stop till ten or eleven o'clock at a tavern he much affected. As the part_as not in his way, therefore, but rather afforded a means of compromise wit_iss Squeers, he readily yielded his full assent thereunto, and willingl_ommunicated to Nicholas that he was expected to take his tea in the parlou_hat evening, at five o'clock.
  • To be sure Miss Squeers was in a desperate flutter as the time approached, an_o be sure she was dressed out to the best advantage: with her hair—it ha_ore than a tinge of red, and she wore it in a crop—curled in five distinc_ows, up to the very top of her head, and arranged dexterously over th_oubtful eye; to say nothing of the blue sash which floated down her back, o_he worked apron or the long gloves, or the green gauze scarf worn over on_houlder and under the other; or any of the numerous devices which were to b_s so many arrows to the heart of Nicholas. She had scarcely completed thes_rrangements to her entire satisfaction, when the friend arrived with a whity- brown parcel—flat and three- cornered—containing sundry small adornments whic_ere to be put on upstairs, and which the friend put on, talking incessantly.
  • When Miss Squeers had 'done' the friend's hair, the friend 'did' Mis_queers's hair, throwing in some striking improvements in the way of ringlet_own the neck; and then, when they were both touched up to their entir_atisfaction, they went downstairs in full state with the long gloves on, al_eady for company.
  • 'Where's John, 'Tilda?' said Miss Squeers.
  • 'Only gone home to clean himself,' replied the friend. 'He will be here by th_ime the tea's drawn.'
  • 'I do so palpitate,' observed Miss Squeers.
  • 'Ah! I know what it is,' replied the friend.
  • 'I have not been used to it, you know, 'Tilda,' said Miss Squeers, applyin_er hand to the left side of her sash.
  • 'You'll soon get the better of it, dear,' rejoined the friend. While they wer_alking thus, the hungry servant brought in the tea- things, and, soo_fterwards, somebody tapped at the room door.
  • 'There he is!' cried Miss Squeers. 'Oh 'Tilda!'
  • 'Hush!' said 'Tilda. 'Hem! Say, come in.'
  • 'Come in,' cried Miss Squeers faintly. And in walked Nicholas.
  • 'Good-evening,' said that young gentleman, all unconscious of his conquest. '_nderstood from Mr Squeers that—'
  • 'Oh yes; it's all right,' interposed Miss Squeers. 'Father don't tea with us, but you won't mind that, I dare say.' (This was said archly.)
  • Nicholas opened his eyes at this, but he turned the matter off very coolly—no_aring, particularly, about anything just then—and went through the ceremon_f introduction to the miller's daughter with so much grace, that that youn_ady was lost in admiration.
  • 'We are only waiting for one more gentleman,' said Miss Squeers, taking of_he teapot lid, and looking in, to see how the tea was getting on.
  • It was matter of equal moment to Nicholas whether they were waiting for on_entleman or twenty, so he received the intelligence with perfect unconcern; and, being out of spirits, and not seeing any especial reason why he shoul_ake himself agreeable, looked out of the window and sighed involuntarily.
  • As luck would have it, Miss Squeers's friend was of a playful turn, an_earing Nicholas sigh, she took it into her head to rally the lovers on thei_owness of spirits.
  • 'But if it's caused by my being here,' said the young lady, 'don't mind me _it, for I'm quite as bad. You may go on just as you would if you were alone.'
  • ''Tilda,' said Miss Squeers, colouring up to the top row of curls, 'I a_shamed of you;' and here the two friends burst into a variety of giggles, an_lanced from time to time, over the tops of their pocket-handkerchiefs, a_icholas, who from a state of unmixed astonishment, gradually fell into one o_rrepressible laughter— occasioned, partly by the bare notion of his being i_ove with Miss Squeers, and partly by the preposterous appearance an_ehaviour of the two girls. These two causes of merriment, taken together, struck him as being so keenly ridiculous, that, despite his miserabl_ondition, he laughed till he was thoroughly exhausted.
  • 'Well,' thought Nicholas, 'as I am here, and seem expected, for some reason o_ther, to be amiable, it's of no use looking like a goose. I may as wel_ccommodate myself to the company.'
  • We blush to tell it; but his youthful spirits and vivacity getting, for th_ime, the better of his sad thoughts, he no sooner formed this resolution tha_e saluted Miss Squeers and the friend with great gallantry, and drawing _hair to the tea-table, began to make himself more at home than in al_robability an usher has ever done in his employer's house since ushers wer_irst invented.
  • The ladies were in the full delight of this altered behaviour on the part o_r Nickleby, when the expected swain arrived, with his hair very damp fro_ecent washing, and a clean shirt, whereof the collar might have belonged t_ome giant ancestor, forming, together with a white waistcoat of simila_imensions, the chief ornament of his person.
  • 'Well, John,' said Miss Matilda Price (which, by-the-bye, was the name of th_iller's daughter).
  • 'Weel,' said John with a grin that even the collar could not conceal.
  • 'I beg your pardon,' interposed Miss Squeers, hastening to do the honours. 'M_ickleby—Mr John Browdie.'
  • 'Servant, sir,' said John, who was something over six feet high, with a fac_nd body rather above the due proportion than below it.
  • 'Yours to command, sir,' replied Nicholas, making fearful ravages on the brea_nd butter.
  • Mr Browdie was not a gentleman of great conversational powers, so he grinne_wice more, and having now bestowed his customary mark of recognition on ever_erson in company, grinned at nothing in particular, and helped himself t_ood.
  • 'Old wooman awa', bean't she?' said Mr Browdie, with his mouth full.
  • Miss Squeers nodded assent.
  • Mr Browdie gave a grin of special width, as if he thought that really wa_omething to laugh at, and went to work at the bread and butter with increase_igour. It was quite a sight to behold how he and Nicholas emptied the plat_etween them.
  • 'Ye wean't get bread and butther ev'ry neight, I expect, mun,' said M_rowdie, after he had sat staring at Nicholas a long time over the empt_late.
  • Nicholas bit his lip, and coloured, but affected not to hear the remark.
  • 'Ecod,' said Mr Browdie, laughing boisterously, 'they dean't put too muc_ntiv'em. Ye'll be nowt but skeen and boans if you stop here long eneaf. Ho!
  • ho! ho!'
  • 'You are facetious, sir,' said Nicholas, scornfully.
  • 'Na; I dean't know,' replied Mr Browdie, 'but t'oother teacher, 'cod he wur _earn 'un, he wur.' The recollection of the last teacher's leanness seemed t_fford Mr Browdie the most exquisite delight, for he laughed until he found i_ecessary to apply his coat-cuffs to his eyes.
  • 'I don't know whether your perceptions are quite keen enough, Mr Browdie, t_nable you to understand that your remarks are offensive,' said Nicholas in _owering passion, 'but if they are, have the goodness to—'
  • 'If you say another word, John,' shrieked Miss Price, stopping her admirer'_outh as he was about to interrupt, 'only half a word, I'll never forgive you, or speak to you again.'
  • 'Weel, my lass, I dean't care aboot 'un,' said the corn-factor, bestowing _earty kiss on Miss Matilda; 'let 'un gang on, let 'un gang on.'
  • It now became Miss Squeers's turn to intercede with Nicholas, which she di_ith many symptoms of alarm and horror; the effect of the double intercessio_as, that he and John Browdie shook hands across the table with much gravity; and such was the imposing nature of the ceremonial, that Miss Squeers wa_vercome and shed tears.
  • 'What's the matter, Fanny?' said Miss Price.
  • 'Nothing, 'Tilda,' replied Miss Squeers, sobbing.
  • 'There never was any danger,' said Miss Price, 'was there, Mr Nickleby?'
  • 'None at all,' replied Nicholas. 'Absurd.'
  • 'That's right,' whispered Miss Price, 'say something kind to her, and she'l_oon come round. Here! Shall John and I go into the little kitchen, and com_ack presently?'
  • 'Not on any account,' rejoined Nicholas, quite alarmed at the proposition.
  • 'What on earth should you do that for?'
  • 'Well,' said Miss Price, beckoning him aside, and speaking with some degree o_ontempt—'you ARE a one to keep company.'
  • 'What do you mean?' said Nicholas; 'I am not a one to keep company at all—her_t all events. I can't make this out.'
  • 'No, nor I neither," rejoined Miss Price; 'but men are always fickle, an_lways were, and always will be; that I can make out, very easily.'
  • 'Fickle!' cried Nicholas; 'what do you suppose? You don't mean to say that yo_hink—'
  • 'Oh no, I think nothing at all,' retorted Miss Price, pettishly. 'Look at her, dressed so beautiful and looking so well—really ALMOST handsome. I am ashame_t you.'
  • 'My dear girl, what have I got to do with her dressing beautifully
  • or looking well?' inquired Nicholas.
  • 'Come, don't call me a dear girl,' said Miss Price—smiling a little though, for she was pretty, and a coquette too in her small way, and Nicholas wa_ood-looking, and she supposed him the property of somebody else, which wer_ll reasons why she should be gratified to think she had made an impression o_im,—'or Fanny will be saying it's my fault. Come; we're going to have a gam_t cards.' Pronouncing these last words aloud, she tripped away and rejoine_he big Yorkshireman.
  • This was wholly unintelligible to Nicholas, who had no other distinc_mpression on his mind at the moment, than that Miss Squeers was an ordinary- looking girl, and her friend Miss Price a pretty one; but he had not time t_nlighten himself by reflection, for the hearth being by this time swept up, and the candle snuffed, they sat down to play speculation.
  • 'There are only four of us, 'Tilda,' said Miss Squeers, looking slyly a_icholas; 'so we had better go partners, two against two.'
  • 'What do you say, Mr Nickleby?' inquired Miss Price.
  • 'With all the pleasure in life,' replied Nicholas. And so saying, quit_nconscious of his heinous offence, he amalgamated into one common heap thos_ortions of a Dotheboys Hall card of terms, which represented his ow_ounters, and those allotted to Miss Price, respectively.
  • 'Mr Browdie,' said Miss Squeers hysterically, 'shall we make a bank agains_hem?'
  • The Yorkshireman assented—apparently quite overwhelmed by the new usher'_mpudence—and Miss Squeers darted a spiteful look at her friend, and giggle_onvulsively.
  • The deal fell to Nicholas, and the hand prospered.
  • 'We intend to win everything,' said he.
  • ''Tilda HAS won something she didn't expect, I think, haven't you, dear?' sai_iss Squeers, maliciously.
  • 'Only a dozen and eight, love,' replied Miss Price, affecting to take th_uestion in a literal sense.
  • 'How dull you are tonight!' sneered Miss Squeers.
  • 'No, indeed,' replied Miss Price, 'I am in excellent spirits. I was thinkin_OU seemed out of sorts.'
  • 'Me!' cried Miss Squeers, biting her lips, and trembling with very jealousy.
  • 'Oh no!'
  • 'That's well,' remarked Miss Price. 'Your hair's coming out of curl, dear.'
  • 'Never mind me,' tittered Miss Squeers; 'you had better attend to you_artner.'
  • 'Thank you for reminding her,' said Nicholas. 'So she had.'
  • The Yorkshireman flattened his nose, once or twice, with his clenched fist, a_f to keep his hand in, till he had an opportunity of exercising it upon th_eatures of some other gentleman; and Miss Squeers tossed her head with suc_ndignation, that the gust of wind raised by the multitudinous curls i_otion, nearly blew the candle out.
  • 'I never had such luck, really,' exclaimed coquettish Miss Price, afte_nother hand or two. 'It's all along of you, Mr Nickleby, I think. I shoul_ike to have you for a partner always.'
  • 'I wish you had.'
  • 'You'll have a bad wife, though, if you always win at cards,' said Miss Price.
  • 'Not if your wish is gratified,' replied Nicholas. 'I am sure I shall have _ood one in that case.'
  • To see how Miss Squeers tossed her head, and the corn-factor flattened hi_ose, while this conversation was carrying on! It would have been worth _mall annuity to have beheld that; let alone Miss Price's evident joy a_aking them jealous, and Nicholas Nickleby's happy unconsciousness of makin_nybody uncomfortable.
  • 'We have all the talking to ourselves, it seems,' said Nicholas, looking good- humouredly round the table as he took up the cards for a fresh deal.
  • 'You do it so well,' tittered Miss Squeers, 'that it would be a pity t_nterrupt, wouldn't it, Mr Browdie? He! he! he!'
  • 'Nay,' said Nicholas, 'we do it in default of having anybody else to talk to.'
  • 'We'll talk to you, you know, if you'll say anything,' said Miss Price.
  • 'Thank you, 'Tilda, dear,' retorted Miss Squeers, majestically.
  • 'Or you can talk to each other, if you don't choose to talk to us,' said Mis_rice, rallying her dear friend. 'John, why don't you say something?'
  • 'Say summat?' repeated the Yorkshireman.
  • 'Ay, and not sit there so silent and glum.'
  • 'Weel, then!' said the Yorkshireman, striking the table heavily with his fist,
  • 'what I say's this—Dang my boans and boddy, if I stan' this ony longer. Do y_ang whoam wi' me, and do yon loight an' toight young whipster look sharp ou_or a brokken head, next time he cums under my hond.'
  • 'Mercy on us, what's all this?' cried Miss Price, in affected astonishment.
  • 'Cum whoam, tell 'e, cum whoam,' replied the Yorkshireman, sternly. And as h_elivered the reply, Miss Squeers burst into a shower of tears; arising i_art from desperate vexation, and in part from an impotent desire to lacerat_omebody's countenance with her fair finger-nails.
  • This state of things had been brought about by divers means and workings. Mis_queers had brought it about, by aspiring to the high state and condition o_eing matrimonially engaged, without good grounds for so doing; Miss Price ha_rought it about, by indulging in three motives of action: first, a desire t_unish her friend for laying claim to a rivalship in dignity, having no goo_itle: secondly, the gratification of her own vanity, in receiving th_ompliments of a smart young man: and thirdly, a wish to convince the corn- factor of the great danger he ran, in deferring the celebration of thei_xpected nuptials; while Nicholas had brought it about, by half an hour'_aiety and thoughtlessness, and a very sincere desire to avoid the imputatio_f inclining at all to Miss Squeers. So the means employed, and the en_roduced, were alike the most natural in the world; for young ladies will loo_orward to being married, and will jostle each other in the race to the altar, and will avail themselves of all opportunities of displaying their ow_ttractions to the best advantage, down to the very end of time, as they hav_one from its beginning.
  • 'Why, and here's Fanny in tears now!' exclaimed Miss Price, as if in fres_mazement. 'What can be the matter?'
  • 'Oh! you don't know, miss, of course you don't know. Pray don't troubl_ourself to inquire,' said Miss Squeers, producing that change of countenanc_hich children call making a face.
  • 'Well, I'm sure!' exclaimed Miss Price.
  • 'And who cares whether you are sure or not, ma'am?' retorted Miss Squeers, making another face.
  • 'You are monstrous polite, ma'am,' said Miss Price.
  • 'I shall not come to you to take lessons in the art, ma'am!' retorted Mis_queers.
  • 'You needn't take the trouble to make yourself plainer than you are, ma'am, however,' rejoined Miss Price, 'because that's quite unnecessary.'
  • Miss Squeers, in reply, turned very red, and thanked God that she hadn't go_he bold faces of some people. Miss Price, in rejoinder, congratulated hersel_pon not being possessed of the envious feeling of other people; whereupo_iss Squeers made some general remark touching the danger of associating wit_ow persons; in which Miss Price entirely coincided: observing that it wa_ery true indeed, and she had thought so a long time.
  • ''Tilda,' exclaimed Miss Squeers with dignity, 'I hate you.'
  • 'Ah! There's no love lost between us, I assure you,' said Miss Price, tyin_er bonnet strings with a jerk. 'You'll cry your eyes out, when I'm gone; yo_now you will.'
  • 'I scorn your words, Minx,' said Miss Squeers.
  • 'You pay me a great compliment when you say so,' answered the miller'_aughter, curtseying very low. 'Wish you a very good- night, ma'am, an_leasant dreams attend your sleep!'
  • With this parting benediction, Miss Price swept from the room, followed by th_uge Yorkshireman, who exchanged with Nicholas, at parting, that peculiarl_xpressive scowl with which the cut-and- thrust counts, in melodramati_erformances, inform each other they will meet again.
  • They were no sooner gone, than Miss Squeers fulfilled the prediction of he_uondam friend by giving vent to a most copious burst of tears, and utterin_arious dismal lamentations and incoherent words. Nicholas stood looking o_or a few seconds, rather doubtful what to do, but feeling uncertain whethe_he fit would end in his being embraced, or scratched, and considering tha_ither infliction would be equally agreeable, he walked off very quietly whil_iss Squeers was moaning in her pocket-handkerchief.
  • 'This is one consequence,' thought Nicholas, when he had groped his way to th_ark sleeping-room, 'of my cursed readiness to adapt myself to any society i_hich chance carries me. If I had sat mute and motionless, as I might hav_one, this would not have happened.'
  • He listened for a few minutes, but all was quiet.
  • 'I was glad,' he murmured, 'to grasp at any relief from the sight of thi_readful place, or the presence of its vile master. I have set these people b_he ears, and made two new enemies, where, Heaven knows, I needed none. Well, it is a just punishment for having forgotten, even for an hour, what is aroun_e now!'
  • So saying, he felt his way among the throng of weary-hearted sleepers, an_rept into his poor bed.