`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, "Education by 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 patience with you.'
`Haven't you!' said Squeers, sternly. `Now I'll tell you what, Mrs Squeers. In this matter of having a teacher, I'll take my own way, if you please. A slave driver in the West Indies is allowed a man under him, to see that his blacks don't run away, or get up a rebellion; and I'll have a man under me to do the same with our blacks, till such time as little Wackford is able to take charge of the school.'
`Am I to take care of the school when I grow up a man, father?' said Wackford junior, suspending, in the excess of his delight, a vicious kick which he was administering 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 of enthusiasm in his young child's mind, and saw in it a foreshadowing of his future eminence. He pressed a penny into his hand, and gave vent to his feelings (as did his exemplary wife also), in a shout of approving laughter. The infantine appeal to their common sympathies, at once restored cheerfulness to 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 as anywhere else, isn't he?-- especially as he don't like it.'
`Well,' observed Mrs Squeers, `there's something in that. I hope it'll bring his 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 and unaccountable thing to hear of,--any usher at all being a novelty; but a proud one, a being of whose existence the wildest imagination could never have dreamed--that Miss Squeers, who seldom troubled herself with scholastic matters, inquired with much curiosity who this Knuckleboy was, that gave himself such airs.
`Nickleby,' said Squeers, spelling the name according to some eccentric system which prevailed in his own mind; `your mother always calls things and people by their wrong names.'
`No matter for that,' said Mrs Squeers; `I see them with right eyes, and that's quite enough for me. I watched him when you were laying on to little Bolder this afternoon. He looked as black as thunder, all the while, and, one time, started up as if he had more than got it in his mind to make a rush at you. I saw him, though he thought I didn't.'
`Never mind that, father,' said Miss Squeers, as the head of the family was about to reply. `Who is the man?'
`Why, your father has got some nonsense in his head that he's the son of a poor gentleman that died the other day,' said Mrs Squeers.
`The son of a gentleman!'
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