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The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby online

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money, provided with all necessaries — "

" It is the gentleman," observed the stranger, stopping
the schoolmaster in the rehearsal of his advertisement " Mr.
Squeers, I believe, sir ? "

" The same, sir," said Mr. Squeers, with an assumption of
extreme surprise.

" The gentleman," said the stranger, " that advertised in
the Times newspaper ? "

— " Morning Post, Chronicle, Herald, and Advertiser, re-
garding the Academy called Dotheboys Hall at the delightful
village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire," added
Mr. Squeers. "You come on business, sir. I see by my
young friends. How do you do, my little gentleman ? and
how do you do sir ? " With this salutation Mr. Squeers pat-
ted the heads of two hollow-eyed, small-boned little boys,
whdm the applicant had brought with him, and waited for fur-
ther communications.

" I am in the pil and color way. My name is Snawley,
sir," said the stranger.

Squeers inclined his head as much as to say, " And a re-
markably pretty name, too."



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NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.



39



The stranger continued. "I have been thinking, Mr.
Squeers, of placing my two boys at your school."

" It is not for me to say so, sir," replied Mr. Squeers,
" but I don't think you could possibly do a better thing."

" Hem L" said the other. " Twenty pounds per annewum,
I believe, Mr. Squeers ? "

" Guineas," rejoined the schoolmaster, with a persuasive
smile.

" Pounds for two, I think, Mr. Squeers," said Mr. Snaw-
ley, solemnly.

" I don't think it could be done, sir," replied Squeers, as if
he had never considered the proposition before. " Let me see ;
four fives is twenty, double that, and deduct the — well, a
pound either way shall not stand betwixt us. You must rec-
ommend me to your connection, sir, and make it up that
way."

" They are not great eaters," said Mr. Snawley.

" Oh ! that doesn't matter at all," replied Squeers. "We
don't consider the boys' appetites at our establishment" This
was strictly true ; they did not.

" Every wholesome luxury, sir, that Yorkshire can afford,"
continued Squeers : " every beautiful moral that Mrs. Squeers
can instil ; every — in short, every comfort of a home that a
boy could wish for, will be theirs, Mr. Snawley."

" I should wish their morals to be particularly attended
to," said Mr. Snawley.

" I am glad of that, sir," replied the schoolmaster, draw-
ing himself up. " They have come to the right shop for mor-
als, sir."

" You are a moral man yourself," said Mr. Snawley.

" I rather believe I am, sir," replied Squeers.

" I have the satisfaction to know you are, sir," said Mr.
Snawley. " I asked one of your references, and he said you
were pious."

"Well, sir, I hope I -am a little in that line," replied
Squeers.

" I hope I am also," rejoined the other. " Could I say a
few words with you in the next box ? "

" By all means," rejoined Squeers with a grin. " My dears,
will you speak to your new playfellow a minute or two ? That
is one of my boys, sir. Belling his name is, — a Taunton boy
that, sir."

" Is he, indeed ? " rejoined Mr. Snawley, looking at the



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40



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.



poor little urchin as if he were some extraordinary natural
curiosity.

" He goes down with me to-morrow, sir," said Squeers.
" That's his luggage that he is a sitting upon now. Each boy
is required to bring, sir, two suits of clothes, six shirts, six
pair of stockings, two nightcaps, two pocket-handkerchiefs,
two pair of shoes, two hats, and a razor."

" A razor ! " exclaimed Mr. Snawley, as they walked into
the next box. " What for ? "

" To shave with," replied Squeers, in a slow and measured
tone.

There was not much in these three words, but there must
have been something in the manner in which they were said,
to attract attention ; for the schoolmaster and his companion
looked steadily at each other for a few seconds, and then ex-
changed "a very meaning smile. Snawley was a sleek, flat-
nosed man, clad in sombre garments, ana long black gaiters,
and bearing in his countenance an expression of much morti-
fication and sanctity ; so, his smiling without any obvious rea-
son was the more remarkable.

" Up to what age do you keep boys at your school then ? "
he asked at length.

" Just as long as their friends make the quarterly payments
to my agent in town, or until such time as they run away," re-
plied Squeers. " Let us understand each other ; I see we may
safely do so. What are these boys ; — natural children ? "

" No," rejoined Snawley, meeting the gaze of the school-
master's one eye. "They ain't."

" I thought they might be," said Squeers, coolly. " We
have a good many of them ; that boy's one."

" Him in the next box ? " said Snawley.

Squeers nodded in the affirmative ; his companion took
another peep at the little boy on the trunk, and turning round
again, looked as if he were quite disappointed to see him so
much like other boys, and said he should hardly have thought it.

" He is," cried Squeers. " But about these boys of yours ;
you wanted to speak to me ? "

• "Yes," replied Snawley. "The fact is, I am not their
father, Mr. Squeers. I'm only their father-in-law."

"'Oh ! Is that it ? " said the schoolmaster. " That ex-
plains it at once. I was wondering what the devil you were
going to send them to Yorkshire for. Ha ! ha ! Oh, I under-
stand now."



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NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.



41



" You see I have married the mother/' pursued Snawley ;
" it's expensive keeping boys at home, and as she has a little
money in her own right, I am afraid (women are so very fool-
ish, Mr. Squeers) that she might be led to squander it on them,
which would be their ruin, you know."

" / see," returned Squeers, throwing himself back in his
chair, and waving his hand ;

" And this," resumed Shawley, " has made me anxious to
put them to some school a good distance off, where there are
no holidays — none of those ill-judged comings home twice a
year that unsettles children's minds so — and where they may
rough it a little — you comprehend T "

" The payments regular, and no questions asked," said
Squeers, nodding his head.

44 That's it exactly," rejoined the other. " Morals strictly
attended to, though."

"Strictly," said Squeers.

41 Not too much writing home allowed, I suppose ? " said
the father-in-law, hesitating.

" None, except a circular at Christmas, to say they never
were so happy, and hope they may never be sent for," rejoined
Squeers.

" Nothing could be better," said the father-in-law, rubbing
his hands.

" Then, as we understand each other," said Squeers, " will
you allow me to ask you whether you consider me a highly
virtuous, exemplary, and well-conducted man in private life ;
and whether, as a person whose business it is to take charge
of youth, you place the strongest confidence in my unim-
peachable integrity, liberality, religious principles, and
ability ? "

44 Certainly I do," replied the father-in-law, reciprocating
the schoolmaster's grin.

44 Perhaps you won't object to say that, if I make you a
reference ? "

44 Not the least in the world."

44 That's your sort ! " said Squeers, taking up a pen ; " this
is doing business, and that's what I like."

Having entered Mr. Snawley's address, the schoolmaster
had next to perform the still more agreeable office of entering
the receipt of the first quarter's payment in advance, which
he had scarcely completed, when another voice was heard in-
quiring for Mr. Squeers.



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NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.



" Here he is," replied the schoolmaster; " what is it ? "

" Only a matter of business, sir," said Ralph Nickleby,
presenting himself, closely followed by Nicholas. " There
was an advertisement of yours in the papers this morn-
ing?"

" There was, sir. This way, if you please," said Squeers,
who had by this time got back to the box by the fire-place.
" Won't you be seated ? "

" Why, I think I will," replied Ralph, suiting the action to
the word, and placing his hat on the table before him. " This
is my nephew, sir, Mr. Nicholas Nickleby."

" How do you do, sir ? " said Squeers.

Nicholas bowed, said he was very well, and seemed very
much astonished at the outward appearance of the proprietor
of Dotheboys Hall : as indeed he was.

" Perhaps you recollect me ? " said Ralph, looking nar-
rowly at the school master.

" You paid me a small account at each of my half-yearly
visits to town, for some years, I think, sir," replied Squeers.

" I did," rejoined Ralph.

" For the parents of a boy named Dorker, who unfortu-
nately—"

" — unfortunately died at Dotheboys Hall," said Ralph, fin-
ishing the sentence.

" I remember very well, sir," rejoined Squeers. " Ah !
Mrs. Squeers, sir, was as partial to that lad as if he had been
her own ; the attention, sir, that was bestowed upon that boy in
his illness ! Dry toast and warm tea offered him every night
and morning when he couldn't swallow anything — a candle in
his bed-room on the very night he died — the best dictionary
sent up for him to lay his head upon — I don't regret it though.
It is a pleasant thing to reflect that one did one's duty by
him."

Ralph smiled, as" if he meant anything but smiling, and
looked round at the strangers present.

" These are only some pupils of mine," said Wackford
Squeers, pointing to the little boy on the trunk and the two
little boys on the floor, who had been staring at each other
without uttering a word, and writhing their bodies into most
remarkable contortions, according to the custom of little boys
when they first become acquainted. " This gentleman, sir, is
a parent who is kind enough to compliment me upon the course
of education adopted at Dotheboys Hall, which is situated,



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 43

sir, at the delightful village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge
in Yorkshire, where youth are boarded, clothed, booked,
washed, furnished with pocket-money — "

44 Yes, we know all about that, sir,? interrupted Ralph,
testily. " It's in the advertisement."

44 You are very right, sir ; it is in the advertisement," re-
plied Squeers.

"And in the matter of fact besides," interrupted Mr.
Snawley. " I feel bound to assure you, sir, and I am proud
to have this opportunity 0/" assuring you, that I consider Mr.
Squeers a gentleman highly virtuous, exemplary, well-con-
ducted, and — "

" I make no doubt of it, sir," said Ralph, checking the
torrent of recommendation ; " no doubt of it at all. Suppose
we come to business ? "

44 With all my heart, sir," rejoined Squeers. " 4 Never
postpone business/ is the very first lesson we instil into our
commercial pupils. Master Belling, my dear, always remem-
ber that ; do you hear? "

44 Yes, sir," repeated Master Belling.

44 He recollects what it is, does he ? " said Ralph.

44 Tell the gentleman," said Squeers.

44 4 Never/ " repeated Master Belling.

44 Very good," said Squeers ; 44 go on."

44 Never," repeated Master Belling again.

44 Very good indeed," said Squeers. " Yes."

44 P," suggested Nicholas, good-naturedly.

44 Perform — business ! " said Master Belling. 44 Never —
perform — business ! "

44 Very well, sir," said Squeers, darting a withering look at
the culprit. " You and I will perform a little business on our
private account by and by."

44 And just now," said Ralph, 44 we had better transact our
own, perhaps."

44 If you please," said Squeers.

44 Well," resumed Ralph, " it's brief enough ; soon broach-
ed ; and I hope easily concluded. You have advertised for
an able assistant, sir ? "

44 Precisely so," said Squeers.

44 And you really want one ? "

44 Certainly," answered Squeers.

44 Here he is 1 " said Ralph. " My nephew Nicholas, hot
from school, with everything he learnt there, fermenting in his



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44 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y.

head, and nothing fermenting in his pocket, is just the man
you want."

" 1 am afraid," said Squeers, perplexed with such an appli-
cation from a youth of Nicholas's figure, " I am afraid the
young man won't suit me."

44 Yes, he will," said Ralph ; " I know better. Don't be
cast down, sir ; you will be teaching all the young noblemen in
Dotheboys Hall in less than a week's time, unless this gentle-
man is more obstinate than I take him to be."

" I fear, sir," said Nicholas, addressing Mr. Squeers, " that
you object to my youth, and to my not being a Master of
Arts?"

" The absence of a college degree is an objection," replied
Squeers, looking as grave as he could, and considerably puz-
zled, no less by the contrast between the simplicity of the
nephew and the worldly manner of his uncle, than by the in-
comprehensible allusion to the young noblemen under his
tuition.

" Look here, sir," said Ralph ; " I'll put this matter in its
true light in two seconds."

"If you'll have the goodness," rejoined Squeers.

" This is a boy, or a youth, or a lad, or a young man, or a
hobbledehoy, or whatever you like to call him, of eighteen or
nineteen, or thereabouts," said Ralph.

44 That 1 see," observed the schoolmaster.

44 So do I," said Mr. Snawley, thinking it as well to back
his new friend occasionally.

44 His father is dead, he is wholly ignorant of the world,
has no resources whatever, and wants something to do," said
Ralph. 44 1 recommend him to this splendid establishment of
yours, as an opening which will lead him to fortune if he turns
it to proper account. Do you see that ? "

44 Everybody must see that," replied Squeers, half imita-
ting the sneer with which the old gentleman was regarding his
unconscious relative.

44 1 do, of course," said Nicholas, eagerly.

44 He does, of course, you observe," said Ralph, in the
same dry, hard manner. 44 if any caprice of temper should
induce him to cast aside this golden opportunity before he has
brought it to perfection, I consider myself absolved from ex-
tending any assistance to his mother and sister. Look at him,
and think of the use he may be to you in half a dozen ways !
Now, the question is, whether, for some time to come at all



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB K 45

events, he won't serve your purpose better than twenty of the
kind of people you would get under ordinary circumstances.
Isn't that a question for consideration ? "

" Yes, it is," said Squeers, answering a nod of Ralph's
head with a nod of his own.

u Good," rejoined Ralph. " Let me have two words with
you."

The two words were had apart ; in a couple of minutes
Mr. Wackford Squeers announced that Mr. Nicholas Nickleby
was, from that moment, thoroughly nominated to, and in-
stalled in, the office of first assistant master at Dotheboys
Hall.

** Your uncle's recommendation has done it, Mr. Nickleby,"
said Wackford Squeers.

Nicholas, overioyed at his success, shook his uncle's hand
warmly, and could almost have worshipped Squeers upon the
spot.

" He is an odd-looking man," thought Nicholas. " What
of that ? Porson was an odd-looking man, and so was Dr.
Johnson ; all these bookworms are."

" At eight o'clock to-morrow morning, Mr. Nickleby," said
Squeers, " the coach starts. You must be here at a quarter
before, as we take these boys with us."

" Certainly, sir," said Nicholas.

"And your fare down, I have paid," growled Ralph.
" So, you'll have nothing to do but keep yourself warm."

Here was another instance of his uncle's generosity!
Nicholas felt his unexpected kindness so much, that he could
scarcely find words to thank him ; indeed, he had not found
half enough, when they took leave of the schoolmaster, and
emerged from the Saracen's Head gateway.

" I shall be here in the morning to see you fairly off," said
Ralph. "No skulking!"

" Thank you, sir," replied Nicholas ; " I never shall forget
this kindness."

"Take care you don't," replied his uncle. "You had
better go home now, and pack up what you have got to pack.
Do you think you could find your way to Golden Square
first?"

" Certainly," said Nicholas. " I can easily inquire."

" Leave these papers with my clerk, then," said Ralph,
producing a small parcel, " and tell him to wait till I come
home."



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4 6 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.

Nicholas cheerfully undertook the errand, and bidding his
worthy uncle an affectionate farewell, which that warm-hearted
old gentleman acknowledged by a growl, hastened away to
execute his commission.

He found Golden Square in due course ; Mr. Noggs, who
had stepped out for a minute or so to the public-house, was
opening the door with a latch-key as he reached the steps.

" What's that ? " inquired Noggs, pointing to the parcel.

" Papers from my uncle," replied Nicholas ; " and you're
to have the goodness to wait till he comes home, if you
please."

" Uncle ! " cried Noggs.

" Mr. Nickleby," said Nicholas in explanation.

" Come in," said Newman.

Without another word he led Nicholas into the passage,
and thence into the official pantry at the end of it, where he
thrust him into a chair, and mounting upon his high stool,
with his arms hanging straight down by his sides, gazing
fixedly upon him, as from a tower of observation.

" There is no answer," said Nicholas, laying the parcel on
a table beside him.

Newman said nothing, but folding his arms, and thrusting
his head forward so as to obtain a nearer view of Nicholas's
face, scanned his features closely.

" No answer," said Nicholas, speaking very loud, under
the impression that Newman Noggs was deaf.

Newman placed his hands upon his knees, and, without
uttering a syllable, continued the same close scrutiny of his
companion's face.

This was such a very singular proceeding on the part of an
utter stranger, and his appearance was so extremely peculiar,
that Nicholas, who had a sufficiently keen sense of the ridic-
ulous, could not refrain from breaking into a smile as he in-
quired whether Mr. Noggs had any commands for him.

Noggs shook his head and sighed ; upon which Nicholas
rose, and remarking that he required no rest, bade him good-
morning.

It was a great exertion for Newman Noggs, and nobody
knows to this day how he ever came to make it, the other
party being wholly unknown to him, but he drew a long breath
and actually said, out loud, without once stopping, that if the
young gentleman did not object to tell, he should like to know
what his uncle was going to do for him.



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NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.



47



Nicholas had not the least objection in the world, but on
the contrary was- rather pleased to have an opportunity of
talking on the subject which occupied his thoughts ; so, he
sat down again, and (his sanguine imagination warming as
he spoke) entered into a fervent and glowing description of
all the honors and advantages to be derived from his ap-
pointment at that seat of learning, Dotheboys Hall.

" But, what's the matter — are you ill ? " said Nicholas,
suddenly breaking off, as his companion, after throwing him-
self into a variety of uncouth attitudes, thrust his hands under
the stool, and cracked his finger-joints as if he were snapping
all the bones in his hands.

Newman Noggs made no reply, but went on shrugging his
shoulders and cracking his finger-joints ; smiling horribly all
the time, and looking steadfastly at nothing, out of the tops
of his eyes, in a most ghastly manner.

At first, Nicholas thought the mysterious man was in a fit,
but, on further consideration, decided that he was in liquor,
under which circumstances he deemed it prudent to make off
at once. He looked back when he had got the street-door
open. Newman Noggs was still indulging in the same extra-
ordinary gestures, and the cracking of his fingers sounded
louder than ever.



CHAPTER V.

NICHOLAS STARTS FOR YORKSHIRE. OF HIS LEAVE-TAKING AND
HIS FELLOW-TRAVELLERS, AND WHAT BEFELL THEM ON THE
ROAD.

If tears dropped into a trunk were charms to preserve its
owner from sorrow and misfortune, Nicholas Nickleby would
have commenced his expedition under most happy auspices.
There was so much to be done, and so little time to do it in ;
so many kind words to be spoken, and such bitter pain in the
hearts in which they rose to impede their utterance ; that the
little preparations for his journey were made mournfully in-
deed. A hundred things which the anxious care of his mother
and sister deemed indispensable for his comfort, Nicholas in-
sisted on leaving behind, as they might prove of some after



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4 8 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V.

use, or might be convertible into m«ney if occasion required.
A hundred affectionate contests on such points as these, took
place on the sad night which preceded his departure ; and, as
the termination of every angerless dispute brought them nearer
and nearer to the close of their slight preparations, Kate grew
busier and busier, and wept more silently.

The box was packed at last, and then there came supper,
with some little delicacy provided for the occasion, and as a
set-off against the expense of which, Kate and her mother had
feigned to dine when Nicholas was out. The poor lad nearly
choked himself by attempting to partake of it, and almost suf-
focated himself in affecting a jest or two, and forcing a melan-
choly laugh. Thus they lingered on till the hour of separa-
ting for the night was long past ; and then they found that they
might as well have given vent to their real feelings before, for
they could not suppress them, do what they would. So, they
let them have their way, and even that was a relief.

Nicholas slept well till six next morning ; dreamed of home,
or of what was home once — no matter which, for things that
are changed or gone will come back as they used to be, thank
God ! in sleep — and rose quite brisk and gay. He wrote a
few lines in pencil, to say the good-by which he was afraid to
pronounce himself, and laying them, with half his scanty stock
of money, at his sister's door, shouldered his box and crept
softly down stairs.

" Is that you, Hannah ? " cried a voice from Miss ' La
Greevy's sitting-room, whence shone the light of a feeble candle.

" It is I, Miss La Greevy," said Nicholas, putting down the
box and looking in.

" Bless us ! " exclaimed Miss La Greevy, starting and put-
ting her hand to her curl-papers ; " You're up very early, Mr.
Nickleby."

" So are you," replied Nicholas.

" It's the fine arts that bring me out of bed, Mr. Nickle-
by," returned the lady. " I'm waiting for the light to carry
out an idea."

Miss La Greevy had got up early to put a fancy nose into
a miniature of an ugly little boy, destined for his grandmother
in the country, who was expected to bequeath him property if
he was like the family.

" To carry out an idea," repeated Miss La Greevy ; "and
that's the great convenience of living in a thoroughfare like
the Strand. When I want a nose or an eye for any particular



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 49

sitter, I have only to look out of window and wait till I get
one."

" Does it take long to get a nose, now ? " inquired Nicholas.

" Why, that depends in a great measure on the pattern, ,,
replied Miss La Greevy. " Snubs and romans are plentiful
enough, and there are flats of all sorts and sizes when there's
a meeting at Exeter Hall ; but perfect aquilines, I am sorry to
say, are scarce, and we generally use them for uniforms or
public characters."

44 Indeed ! " said Nicholas. " If I should meet with any in
my travels, I'll endeavor to sketch them for you."

46 You don't mean to say that you are really going all the way
down into Yorkshire this cold winter's weather, Mr. Nickleby ? "
said Miss La Greevy. " I heard something of it last night."

44 1 do indeed," replied Nicholas. " Needs must, you
know, when somebody drives. Necessity is my driver, and
that is only another name for the same gentleman."

44 Well, I am very sorry for it; that's all I can say," said
Miss La Greevy ; " as much on your mother's and sister's ac-
count as on yours. Your sister is a very pretty young lady,
Mr. Nickleby, and that is an additional reason why she should
have somebody to protect her. I persuaded her to give me a
sitting or two, for the street door case. Ah 1 she'll make a
sweet miniature." As Miss La Greevy spoke, she held up an
ivory countenance intersected with very perceptible sky-blue
veins, and regarded it with so much complacency, that
Nicholas quite envied her.

44 If you ever have an opportunity of showing Kate some
little kindness," said Nicholas, presenting his hand, 44 1 think
you will."

"Depend upon that," said the good natured miniature



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby → online text (page 5 of 79)