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Summary Chapter 4


Mr. Squeers is waiting for parents to appear. He is upset that so far only he only has three pupils, which falls short of the amount of students that were signed up in the summer. He roughs up the student that is waiting with him, but he becomes fatherly to him when the waiter announces a gentleman has come to see him.

The gentleman is Mr. Snawley, who has two boys in tow that he wishes to send to Squeers’ school. He is particularly concerned that their morals be focused on. Mr. Squires tells Mr. Snawley what each boy is required to bring in his luggage. The boys will remain at the school as long as payments are made or they run away.

Snawley tells Squeers that his sons are not his biological children. Squeers comments that most of the boys at his establishment are children whose mothers have remarried. Snawley goes on to tell Squeers that he and his wife have little money to take care of the boys, and he worries that his wife will ruin them by indulging the children. He wants to send them to a school that believes in deprivation, no holidays, and infrequent letter writing. Mr. Squeers assures Snawley the only letter they write is at Christmas, when they talk about how happy they are at the school. Finding this agreeable, Snawley concludes his business arrangements with Squeers.

Ralph Nickleby and Nicholas appear after this interview. Ralph asks Squeers if he remembers him. Squeers identifies him as the man that paid a debt on behalf of some parents whose child had died at the school. The headmaster says his wife was very attentive in tending to the sick child.

Ralph tells Squeers he has found him an assistant. Squeers objects to Nicholas lacking a college degree. Ralph tells the headmaster that Nicholas’ father died and left behind a son that lacks an education and resources to support himself in the world. He doesn’t believe that Squeers will find anyone better for the position. He then asks for a private word with the headmaster. Afterwards, Squeers is suddenly willing to hire Nicholas.

Squeers tells Nicholas that they will leave the next day with the boys. Ralph tells Nicholas he paid his fare already. Nicholas is grateful and thanks his uncle. Ralph gives him some papers and tells Nicholas to give them to his clerk, and to tell Noggs to wait for him.

Nicholas does what his uncle instructed. Mr. Noggs makes him nervous by staring at him. He is about to leave when Noggs asks how Ralph Nickleby is helping him. Nicholas tells him in an excited tone, and Noggs looks appalled. However, he won’t tell Nicholas why. Nicholas assumes the man is a drunk and leaves. 

Charles Dickens