Chapters 8-10 Summary

In the morning, the air is so cold that the water pump has frozen. Mrs. Squeers proclaims that it is “brimstone weather” and begins to shovel treacle and medicine down each of the schoolboys’ throats, announcing that, since it fends off illness as well as appetite, it does good to the boys and the Squeers at the same time. After the boys eat their meager breakfast, Mr. Squeers announces the mail. He reads the letters aloud to the whole school (including the bad news) and pockets whatever money is enclosed.

During lessons, Mr. Squeers reads off vocabulary and manages to find some connection to a chore, which the scholar is then sent off to do. At the end of the day, Nicholas sees Smike shivering and bids him come close to the fire. Smike cowers as if expecting to be hit, so Nicholas shows even more kindness to him to soften the poor boy’s fear. Smike tells Nicholas about a boy who died at the school recently; his friends’ faces were around him as he passed away. Smike laments that there will be no faces around him when he dies. Nicholas worries about his sister and what their uncle has done to her. He hopes Ralph Nickleby’s dislike is centered on only him and not on Kate.

Fanny Squeers, Mr. Squeers’s daughter, returns home and learns of Nicholas, whom her mother pronounces that she hates. When Fanny meets Nicholas, she decides she is in love with him if only because her best friend, Matilda Price, has recently become engaged to John Browdie. Fanny invites Matilda and John to tea, where the two “couples” play a game of cards. Fanny believes that Nicholas, by his good manners, is flirting with Matilda, and the two women begin to quarrel. Matilda and John eventually leave after Fanny declares she hates her friend.

Back in London, Kate and Miss La Creevy become better acquainted. Kate learns that all the portraits of military men that Miss La Creevy has painted are really nonmilitary gentlemen who hired uniforms for their portraits. Ralph Nickleby arrives with the news that he has found a position for Kate as an assistant with a milliner by the name of Madame Mantalini. Kate goes with her uncle to be introduced to Madame Mantalini, who is married to a flirtatious, foreign-acting man. Kate ignores his attentions to her and asks her uncle if she is to live there or with her mother. Ralph eventually agrees that Kate and Miss Nickleby may live in a house he owns near the river, which relieves Kate from the anguish of being separated from her mother.