Chapter 9Of Miss Squeers, Mrs Squeers, Master Squeers, and Mr Squeers; and of various matters and persons connected no less with the Squeerses than Nicholas Nickleby
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.
Neither were they meant to bear reference to each other, so much as to the object on whom they were bestowed, as will be seen in the present case: a peacock with a turned-up nose being a novelty in ornithology, and a thing not commonly 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.
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