Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 4.djvu/103

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MR. SQUEERS AND THE STRANGER.

Snawley can sit between me and the guard. Three children," said Squeers, explaining to the stranger, "books as two."

"I have not the least objection, I am sure," said the fresh-coloured gentleman; "I have a brother who wouldn't object to book his six children as two at any butcher's or baker's in the kingdom, I dare say. Far from it."

"Six children, sir?" exclaimed Squeers.

"Yes, and all boys," replied the stranger.

"Mr. Nickleby," said Squeers, in great haste, "catch hold of that basket. Let me give you a card, sir, of an establishment where those six boys can be brought up in an enlightened, liberal, and moral manner, with no mistake at all about it, for twenty guineas a year each—twenty guineas, sir—or I'd take all the boys together upon a average right through, and say a hundred pound a year for the lot."

"Oh!" said the gentleman, glancing at the card, "you are the Mr. Squeers mentioned here, I presume?"

"Yes I am, sir," replied the worthy pedagogue; "Mr. Wackford Squeers is my name, and I'm very far from being ashamed of it. These are some of my boys, sir; that's one of my assistants, sir—Mr. Nickleby, a gentleman's son, and a good scholar, mathematical, classical, and commercial. We don't do things by halves at our shop. All manner of learning my boys take down, sir; the expense is never thought of; and they get paternal treatment and washing in."

"Upon my word," said the gentleman, glancing at Nicholas with a half smile, and a more than half expression of surprise, "these are advantages indeed."

"You may say that, sir," rejoined Squeers, thrusting his hands into his great-coat pockets. "The most unexceptionable references are given and required. I wouldn't take a reference with any boy, that wasn't responsible for the payment of five pound five a quarter, no, not if you went down on your knees, and asked me, with the tears running down your face, to do it."

"Highly considerate," said the passenger.