Shows S

With all the parts assigned, the scene shifts from modern times to the 19th century, where Squeers (the Headmaster) is in London recruiting pupils for his boarding school, Dotheboys Hall. The room where he is meeting with parents is small and lit by a fireplace. There are three small rather frightened boys. Squeers is rather concerned that he only has these three boys recruited for the school, but he is sure that more will come. One boy sneezes and is chastised by Squeers, which causes the boy to cry. Richard, the waiter, enters and announces to Mr. Sqeers that a gentleman has arrived who wishes to speak with him. Mr. Snawley and his two sons enter and Mr. Snawley tells Squeers that he wishes to place his sons in school with him. He read about in the paper. The father is quite concerned that his sons' best interests will be kept in mind, and Squeers assures him that he will help these young boys grow to the best of their abilities. After talking with Squeers, Snawley is assured that his sons are in good hands and gives money to his sons and to Squeers. Ralph Nickleby then enters, followed by his nephew Nicholas Nickleby, a kind and generous man in his early twenties. Squeers remembers Ralph as a man who paid him to take care of a boy named Dorker who unfortunately died at Dotheboys Hall. It was never decided whether or not the boy died of neglect. Squeers is terribly uncomfortable discussing this, and tries to steer the conversation away from the unpleasant topic. Ralph, having made his point, then gets to the task at hand. He read an advertisement in the paper seeking an able assistant and suggests that is nephew, Nicholas, is the man for the job. Squeers initially says that Nicholas will not suit him because he is too young and without a college degree. Ralph further pressures Squeers by telling him that he knows the Dorker boy died a few years ago, yet Ralph was not informed of the death until quite a while later. Therefore, he asserts that he must have been paying for the education for a dead boy. Squeers is sophisticated enough to know what to do. He hires Nicholas and informs his new assistant to be at the coach at eight o'clock tomorrow morning upon which time they will depart for Dotheboys. Dotheboys School for Boys meets none of the physical standards Squeers advertised in the paper. Mrs. Squeers helps her husband run the school and the boys live in a complete state of disarray. Squeers arrives from the cold journey from London with Nicholas and the rest of his entourage and quickly calls for Smike, a small, thin, pathetic creature, who greets the carriage. Squeers treats the poor boy poorly and tells him to fetch the luggage. Inside the Squeers' Parlour at Douthboys Hall, Mrs. Squeers, who is ready for bed, meets the two men. She first tells her husband that the cows and pigs are all fine and then reports that the boys are okay, except for the Pitchers boy who has a fever. She adds that she’d beat the fever out of him if she thought it would help. Then she meets Nicholas and dislikes him from the start. Nicholas also meets the Squeers’ spoiled and unruly children, Fanny and Wackford. Though Squeers tries to convince Nicholas otherwise, it is clear that this family is far from perfect. Nicholas is excited to meet the boys, but Squeers looks at him with a bit of trepidation. Smike suddenly enters the room with the trunks, and, instead of being thanked, is scolded by Squeers and his wretched wife. In the schoolroom, the boys look more like sewer rats than human beings. Accompanied by Squeers, Nicholas meets the boys who greet him in a spiritless tone. The new boys also move into the room dressed in rags. Mrs. Squeers enters the room, and Squeers praises his wife saying she is more than a mother to the poor boys. He does this as his wife pours him a jug of beer, but ignores the boys completely. Though Squeers acts like he runs a school filled with love and charity, the boys are obviously not taken care of the way they should be. What shocks Nicholas most of all is that the boys are only fed a small jug of milk and water, which they may only drink when Squeers calls their number. After supper, Mrs. Squeers tells the boys that it is time for bed and reminds them that if she so much as hears a sound, they will each get a beating like they have never known. With the boys in bed, the Squeers family and Nicholas sit down to dinner. It is evident that Fanny is quite attracted to Nicholas and she makes eyes at him all through the meal. Smike serves them the meal and continues to be treated horribly by the whole family. Smike asks Squeers "Has nothing been heard about me?" But is dismissed with disdain. When Nicholas asks him about Smike, Squeers simply says that no one knows, including the boy, where he comes from or where he belongs. Smike lives as a slave to the Squeers family.