THE CROWN OF SUCCESS
THE CROWN OF SUCCESS
A. L. O. E.
Thomas Nelson and Sons London, Edinburgh, Dublin and New York
I. The Dame's departure, 7
II. Mr. Learning at breakfast, 12
III. The Cottages of Head, 16
IV. Plain-work and Fancy-work, 22
V. Mr. Alphabet, 29
VI. Mr. Reading's fine shop, 35
VII. The Ladder of Spelling, 41
VIII. Breaking down, 47
IX. Mr. Learning's visit, 55
X. Dick's mishap, 63
XI. Miss Folly, 69
XII. A visit to Arithmetic, 77
XIII. The wonderful Boy, 81
XIV. The Thief of Time, 90
XV. Duty and Affection, 95
XVI. Grammar's Bazaar, 102
XVII. Pride and Folly, 110
XVIII. The Carpet of History, 119
XIX. Hammering in Dates, 125
XX. The pursued Bird, 131
XXI. Plans and Plots, 136
XXII. The Cockatoo, Parade, 143
XXIII. The Cage of Ambition, 152
XXIV. A visit to Mr. Chemistry, 159
XXV. A Lesson, 167
XXVI. Hearing the Truth, 177
XXVII. A Brave Effort, 185
XXVIII. Expectation, 190
XXIX. Empty and Furnished, 196
XXX. Fruits of Needlework, 204
XXXI. The Crown of Success, 212
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
The sparkling crown was placed on her brow, Frontispiece
Nelly could hardly see the stepping-stones through the thick leaves of the plant which she bore, 27
Miss folly went jabbering on: "Just try that bonnet on your head," 73
Dick, Lubin, Matty, and Nelly paying their first visit to Grammar's Bazaar, 103
THE CROWN OF SUCCESS.
THE DAME'S DEPARTURE.
A merry life had Dame Desley and her four children led in their rural home. The sound of their cheerful voices, the patter of their little feet, the laugh, the shout, and the song, had been heard from morning till night. I will not stop to tell of all the daisy-chains and cowslip-balls made by the children under the big elm-tree that grew on their mother's lawn; or how they gathered ripe blackberries in autumn; or in the glowing days of summer played about the hay-cocks, and buried one another in the hay. Their lives were thoughtless and gay, like those of the sparrows in the garden, or the merry little squirrels in the wood.
But a time came at last when these careless days must end. Dame Desley had to take a long journey—she would be absent for many a month—and on the evening before her departure she called her four children around her.
"My dear children," she said, "I must leave you; I must give you up for a while to the care of another. But I have chosen a guardian for you who is worthy of all your respect. Mr. Learning is coming to see you to-morrow, just an hour before I start; and I hope that he will find you all good and obedient children during my absence. Whatever he may bid you do, do for the love of me, and when you attend to Mr. Learning, think that you are pleasing your mother."
When the four children were alone together, just before going to rest, they began eagerly to talk over what Dame Desley had told them.
"I wonder whether I shall like this Mr. Learning," said Dick, a merry, intelligent boy, with bright eyes that were always twinkling with fun. None of his age could excel him in racing or running; he could climb a tree like a squirrel, and clear a haycock with a bound. He loved the free careless life which he had led in his mother's home, but still he wished for one more full of adventure and excitement.
"I'm quite sure that I shall not like Mr. Learning," cried Matty; "for I have seen him two or three times, and I did not fancy his looks at all. He is as solemn and as grave as an owl; he wears spectacles, and has a very long nose, and his back is as stiff as a poker." Matty was a pretty little girl, with blue eyes, and golden curls hanging down her neck, but she had a conceited air, which spoiled her looks to my mind.
"I wish that we could stay where we are, and go on as we always have done, without being plagued by Mr. Learning at all," cried Lubin, with a weary yawn. Such a fat little fellow as he was, just the shape of a roly-poly pudding, with cheeks as red as the apples that grew on the trees in the orchard.
"But mother spoke kindly of him," said Nelly, a pale lame child who sat in the corner of the room, stringing buttercups and daisies; "if she likes him, should not we try to like him, and not set our hearts against what mother thinks for our good."
"Perhaps Mr. Learning's company may be pleasant for a change!" cried Dick. "I hear that he gives lots of presents to his friends, and makes them both rich and great. It would be a stupid thing, after all, to spend all one's life in gathering wild-flowers, or kicking up one's heels in the hay. I mean to be famous one day, and they say there's no way of being so without the help of old Learning. There's Mr. Sharp that lives at the hall; his beautiful house and grounds, his carriages, horses and dogs, all came from Mr. Learning. I've heard of people who, when they were boys, were so poor that they hardly had bread to eat, whom Mr. Learning took under his care, and now they've lots of good things of every sort and kind. Sometimes they're asked to dine with the Lord Mayor of London, where they feast upon turtle and champagne—"
Fat little Lubin opened wide both his eyes and mouth on hearing of this.
"And sometimes," continued Dick, "they are actually invited to court, being high in the favour of the Queen."
"I should like to go to court," said Matty, "and wear fine feathers and lace. But I wonder if Mr. Learning will think of doing such grand things for us."
"We will see!" cried the merry Dick; "I'm resolved to get on in the world!" and he turned head over heels at once, as a beginning to his onward progress.
"My children, it is time to go to rest," said the voice of Dame Desley at the door. "Remember to be up in good time in the morning, for my worthy friend Mr. Learning is to breakfast with me to-morrow."
Off went the children to bed. Dick lay awake for some time, thinking over what was before him, and when his merry eyes closed at last in sleep, the subject haunted him still. He dreamed that he was climbing up a little hillock, made of nothing but books of all the colours of the rainbow—purple, and orange, and blue—and each book that he looked at had his name as its author in big gilt letters on the back. On the top of the hillock stood Mr. Learning, holding a finely-bound volume in one hand, while he held out the other to Dick to help him on in his climbing. Very proud and very joyful was the little boy in his dream as he clambered higher and higher, and thought what a famous figure he was going to make in the world! But what was his delight when Mr. Learning placed the well-bound book in his hand, and on opening it he found that all its leaves were made of five-pound notes!
"Why, I shall be as rich as Croesus, and as famous as all the seven wise men of Greece put together!" cried Dick, cutting a caper at the top of his hillock in such a transport of joy, that he knocked over the whole pile of books, just as if it had been a house made of cards, and came down flat on his face with such a bang, that it startled him out of his dream.
MR. LEARNING AT BREAKFAST.
Little Nelly, though weak and lame, was the first of the children to come down to the parlour in the morning to help her mother, Dame Desley, to lay the table for breakfast. The child felt a little frightened at the idea of the stranger guest, and doubted whether with all her best efforts she could ever please Mr. Learning.
White were the round breakfast rolls—and whiter still the table-cloth on which they were laid; and merrily sang the kettle on the hob, as the white steam rose from its spout.
"Why are there two tea-pots?" asked Matty, who had just come into the parlour, dressed out in the finest style, as a visitor was expected.
"The larger one is for us, my dear," said her mother, as she went to the cupboard for tea; "and out of the little square-shaped one I shall help my friend Mr. Learning."
Matty was so curious to know why Mr. Learning should have a whole tea-pot to himself, that she kept hanging about the table, touching the plates, jingling the cups and saucers, and not noticing Dick and Lubin, who had just come into the room.
Dame Desley filled the large tea-pot, first putting in tea, and afterwards hot water, after the usual fashion; she then went again to the cupboard, and bringing out a dumpy stone bottle, to the amazement of Matty filled the little tea-pot with ink.
"Now, my dear," she said, turning to Nelly, who stood behind ready to help her, "bring from my desk a quire of foolscap paper, put it on yonder plate, and place a good steel pen beside it. Mr. Learning has a very peculiar taste; instead of tea, toast and butter, he always breakfasts on paper and ink."
"Paper and ink!" echoed all the children; "what a very funny fellow he must be."
"No wonder he's thin!" cried Lubin, opening his round eyes very wide.
"Hush! here he comes," said Dame Desley, going herself to open the door for her honoured guest.
Mr. Learning entered with a solemn air; he was tall, thin, and grave. He had a forehead very broad and very high, and was bald at the top of his head. Thick bushy brows overhung his eyes, which looked calmly through the spectacles which rested on his nose, and a long beard descended from his chin.
The children received their mother's guest each in a different way. Dick, who had made up his mind that Mr. Learning would procure for him fortune and fame, gave him such a long hearty shake that it seemed as if the boy meant to wring off his hand! Lubin, with a pouting air, held out his fat fist when desired by his mother to bid the gentleman "good-morning." Matty, hanging her head on one side with a very affected air, touched his fingers with the tips of her own. Poor Nelly, who was more shy and timid than the rest, dared not lift up her eyes as she obeyed her mother's command; but she was cheered when the formidable Mr. Learning said in a pleasant voice, "I hope that we shall all be very good friends when we understand each other better."
Then all sat down to breakfast. None of the children—except Lubin, who always thought eating and drinking a very important affair—could attend much to their meal, they watched with such surprise and amusement the movements of Mr. Learning. Helping himself to his inky draught with a pen, which he used instead of a spoon, he then devoured sheet after sheet of foolscap paper with such evident relish, that Dick could hardly help bursting out into a laugh, and Matty was inclined to titter. Mr. Learning used a pen-wiper instead of a napkin, which saved Dame Desley's linen. He ate his breakfast with a thoughtful air, hardly speaking a single word. When the repast was ended, all arose from the table, and the dame, with a sigh, prepared to bid a long good-bye to her children.
"I leave you under good care, my darlings," said she; "and I expect on my return to find you wiser, happier, and better from the instructions of Mr. Learning, who will show you the little homes provided for you, and teach you how to furnish them. Mind that you do all that he bids you do; work with cheerful good-will, you will then have reason all your lives to rejoice that you ever knew such a friend. And one more parting word, my children: beware all of the society of Pride; I know that he is lurking about in this neighbourhood, but keep him ever out of your homes."
The children were sorry to part with their mother; lame Nelly was especially sorry. The tears rose into the little girl's eyes, but she hastily wiped them away, and tried to look cheerful and hopeful, that she might not sadden her mother.
THE COTTAGES OF HEAD.
"Come with me, my young friends," said Mr. Learning, as soon as Dame Desley had departed; "I will take you to the four little cottages that have been bought for you by your mother, and which you are, by my help, to furnish with all things needful."
"A cottage all to myself—what fun!" exclaimed Dick, cutting a caper on the grass.
Guided by Mr. Learning, the four children went on their way towards the villas of Head, four tiny dwellings that stood close together on the top of a hill, two looking to the east and two to the west. Nice little cottages they were, each with a small garden behind it. The two that fronted the west were thatched with golden-coloured straw, and the glass in the little windows was almost as blue as the sky. The two that looked to the east had darker thatch and brown glass windows. The first were for Matty and Nelly, the others for Lubin and Dick.
"Mine is the prettiest, much the prettiest cottage!" exclaimed Matty, with a smile of delight; "it has the brightest thatch, and the whitest wall, and the most elegant shape besides!"
"Mine is the biggest!" cried Dick with some pride.
Now each of the cottages of Head had two little doors, the funniest that ever were seen; they were just of the form of ears, and Matty's and Nelly's were almost hidden by the golden thatch above them. The children went in and examined the inside of the dwellings one by one. Each had four little rooms—parlour, bedroom, kitchen, and spare room. But the walls were quite rough and bare; not a scrap of carpet covered the boards; there were chimneys, it is true, but no grates were to be seen in the empty fireplaces.
"Well," cried Dick, as with his companions he returned to the space between the cottages, in which they had left Mr. Learning standing, "I should be mighty sorry to have to live in such an unfurnished house!"
"If it remain unfurnished it will be your own fault," replied Mr. Learning, as he drew from his pocket four purses, yellow, red, and pink, and blue. "These are the magic purses of Time," he continued, "and most valuable gifts are they; each of you shall possess one. Every morning you will find in them a certain number of pieces of silver and copper money,—men name them hours and minutes. A few you will employ in paying for your lodging and food in that large dwelling hard by, called Needful House, in which you may remain for a while until your cottages are fit to be lived in. Some of your hours and minutes you must spend on every week-day in buying furniture for these little Heads in the town of Education."
Dick caught eagerly at the yellow purse, and instantly began to count out the money. Every bright coin had the stamp of a pair of wings on one side, with the motto, "Time flies fast," and on the other side in raised letters the motto, "Use me well."
Lubin and Matty took the red and pink purses with a careless air, as, like too many amongst us, they did not know their value. Lame Nelly very gratefully received the blue purse, with the hours and minutes in it.
"And now," cried Dick, "where is this town of Education, for I'm in a desperate hurry to begin to furnish my Head?"
Mr. Learning moved a few steps to the right, and pointed with his gold-headed cane to a spot where some smoke rising in the valley showed that a large town must be.
"You can see it yonder through the trees," said the sage.
"Oh, dear! it is a good way off!" said Lubin. "I hope that you don't expect us to travel there every day."
"You must not only travel there," replied Mr. Learning, "but you must carry back the things which you purchase, without minding the trouble or fatigue. The way is very straight and direct. You must go down this hill, which is called Puzzle; it is not long, but tolerably steep: you must cross the brook Bother which flows at the bottom, and then the shady lane of Trouble will take you right to the town."
"And what must we do when we get there?" asked Dick.
"Your first care, of course, must be to paper your rooms; each one must do that for himself. The paper you will buy with your money from the decorators, Messrs. Reading and Writing; their house is the first that you will reach when you come to the end of the lane. Then you will doubtless look out for grates, and other needful articles of hardware; they may be had at reasonable prices from Mr. Arithmetic, the ironmonger. Mr. History, the carpet-manufacturer, has a large assortment to show; and General Knowledge, the carpenter, keeps a wonderful variety of beds, tables, and chairs, of every quality and size."
"And our gardens, too, will want looking after," cried Dick.
"Mr. Geography, the nurseryman, will help you to lay them out according to the newest design. You, my young friends," continued Mr. Learning, turning towards the two little girls, "who have garden walls with a western aspect, on which the fruit-trees of needlework can grow, must buy plants from Mrs. Sewing, whose white cottage you plainly can see, just at the other side of the brook, near where those weeping willows are dipping their branches in the stream."
"We shall have lots to do with our money," sighed Lubin.
"But quite enough of money for all that you require, if you only do not throw it away, nor let some quick-fingered thief like Procrastination steal away your treasure of Time," replied Mr. Learning with a smile. "Think of the pleasure which it will give your mother if she find each of you, on her return six months hence, comfortably settled in a well-furnished house of your own! If any additional motive for exertion be needed, know that when your mother comes back, I will present a beautiful silver crown of Success to whichever of you four shall have best employed your money in furnishing your garden and house."
"That crown shall be mine!" thought Dick; "I'll win it and wear it too!"
"I shall certainly never get a crown," said Nelly Desley half aloud; "it is quite enough for me if my mother be pleased with my cottage!" A fear was on the little girl's mind that she should manage her shopping very badly, and she hoped that the brook would be shallow, as she could see no bridge across it.
"I shall take my time about this furnishing," said Lubin, as soon as Mr. Learning had taken his departure, promising to return some day to watch the progress of his charges. Lubin, though not lame like Nelly, was heavy and slow in his movements, and often was laughed at by Dick for his great dislike to trouble.
"My cottage looks so pretty outside," said silly little Matty, shaking her fair locks, "that I almost think it would do without any furnishing at all."
PLAIN-WORK AND FANCY-WORK.
"I'll take the measure of my walls at once," cried Dick, "and see what quantity of paper I shall have to buy from Mr. Reading. Shall I look after yours too?" and he turned good-naturedly to his sisters.
"Please do, dear Dick," replied Nelly.
"I shall leave Master Lubin to measure his own; a lazy young urchin like him would not move a finger if he could help it; I would not give one of my minutes for his chance of winning the crown of Success!"
"I shall do very well," grumbled Lubin, not much pleased at the cutting remark.
"Matty, dear," said Nelly to her sister, "as we have something to buy that our brothers have not—and plants of needlework, mother says, are best when put in at the beginning of spring—had we not better set off at once and buy what Mr. Learning recommended? Mrs. Sewing does not live far off; we might carry up our needlework plants before our brothers are ready to start with us for the town of Education."
"You are always in a hurry!" cried Matty.
"It is because I am lame," replied Nelly meekly; "as I can never go fast, I am obliged to make up for my slowness by starting early."
"Well, it's a fine bright morning, and it's rare fun to have a run down hill!" cried Matty, "so I am quite willing to go."
Off she flew like a bird, her long ringlets streaming behind her, and her merry laugh was borne back by the wind to Nelly, who, at a much slower pace, walked carefully down the hill. As Matty, however, took to chasing a bright butterfly, which led her quite out of her way, Nelly was the first to reach the brook which flowed at the bottom of the hill. To her great comfort she found that there were stepping-stones across it, so that there was no need that she should wet her feet with the waters of Bother. Mrs. Sewing's house was also quite near, so that there was little trouble in reaching it.
The good woman herself was outside her door, occupied in training a large plant of needlework over her porch.
"Good-morning," said Nelly, who had slowly picked her way over the stepping-stones of the brook.
"Good-morning," repeated Matty, who had rushed on, out of breath with her haste, that she might not be behind her sister.
Mrs. Sewing was a prim little dame, dressed in a curious garment of patchwork, with a necklace of small round pin-cushions hanging almost as low as her waist. Instead of her own hair she wore a most singular wig, made entirely of skeins of cotton and wool, which hung a long way down her back.
She received her young customers with a low formal courtesy, and said with a smile as she turned from the one to the other,—
"That girl is wise, and worth the knowing, Who in life's spring-time comes to sewing."
"Mrs. Sewing," said Matty, who could hardly refrain from laughing at the funny appearance of the prim old lady, "we've come to buy plants of needlework from you to train up our garden walls. We've plenty of money to buy them with,"—here she jingled her hours and minutes,—"so pray show us your stock directly, for we're in haste to begin our planting."
With another courtesy Mrs. Sewing made reply,—
"I've Running-up and Felling-down, And Hemming for a lady's gown; I've Button-hole, and Herring-bone, And Stitching, finest ever known; I've Whipping that will cause no crying, And Basting, never source of sighing; For good Plain-work, there's no denying, Is always worth a woman's trying."
"I don't much admire these Plain-work plants," said Matty, with rather a discontented air; "their blossoms are so miserably small, the leaves are so big, and the stems are all set with thorns, just as sharp as needles. You have something yonder a thousand times prettier, with flowers of every hue, and in such lovely little pots!" and Matty pointed as she spoke to a row of plants of Fancy-work, that were at no great distance.
Again Mrs. Sewing courtesied and replied,—
"I've Knitting, Netting, Crochet, Tatting, I've Bead-work, German-work, and Plaiting, I've Tent-stitch, Cross-stitch, Stitches various To show off patterns multifarious; Round Fancy-work each lady lingers, So please your taste and ply your fingers."
"There now!" exclaimed Matty, who, followed by Nelly, had eagerly run to the Fancy-work row; "was ever anything so pretty as this! Every blossom like bunches of beads that glitter so brightly in the sun! This, this is the plant for my money; and then it is so easy to be carried!"
Nelly also looked with great admiration on the beautiful flower, and felt greatly inclined to choose one like it. She knew that she had not hours enough to purchase all that she might like, and it was quite natural in a little girl to wish for what was pretty and pleasant. But a thought crossed the lame child's mind, and laying her hand on Matty's arm, she whispered in her sister's ear: "Don't you remember, dear, how fond mother is of the fruits of Plain-work; we've heard her say many a time that no Fancy-work in the world is half so much to her liking. Now mother will come back to us again when the fruit will have had time to ripen; pretty blossoms are nice to look at; but the great thing, after all, is the fruit."
"I'm not going to plague myself with that stupid Plain-work," cried Matty, shrugging her shoulders; "but it may do for you!" She said this in so scornful a tone that it brought the colour to Nelly's pale cheek.
"Why should I mind?" thought the lame little girl; "I know that mother likes Plain-work best; she values things that are useful rather than those that are pretty; and oh, I'm so glad that she does so, or what would become of me!"
So Matty purchased the pretty ornamented creeper, with its clusters of bright-coloured beads, and Nelly took a fine thriving plant of Plain-work, to train up her garden wall.
Then both took leave of Mrs. Sewing, who, smiling and courtesying to the girls, bade them farewell in these words,—
"Pleasure and profit both attend ye, Sewing ever shall befriend ye!"
Matty's plant was in a small light pot, and she easily carried it across the brook; then turning, she looked back at her sister, who could hardly see the stepping-stones through the thick leaves of the plant which she bore. Nelly's pot was also very heavy, and before she could reach the shore, her lame foot slipped on a stone, and she fell splash into the waters of Bother.
The stream was very shallow, so there was no danger of her being drowned, but the shock, the tumble, and the wetting were anything but agreeable. It was very unkind in Matty to stand, as she did, laughing at her poor lame sister, as she floundered in the brook of Bother, still grasping her pot of Plain-work.
"Oh, dear, dear! how the thorn-needles are pricking my fingers!" gasped Nelly.
"Then let go—throw the stupid Plain-work away," cried Matty.
But Nelly had too brave a spirit for that. She knew that what was worth acquiring was worth bearing, and she would not be discouraged by a trifle. I wish that some of my little readers who sit pouting and fretting over a seam, crying over a broken needle, or a prick on a tiny finger, could have seen Nelly when, with repeated efforts, she scrambled out of the brook, with Plain-work safe in her grasp.
The two girls now made their way up the hill of Puzzle, on their return to the cottages of Head. Matty, eager to plant her pretty creeper, greatly outstripped her sister, as she had done when they at first had set out. But with patient, uncomplaining labour, Nelly Desley plodded on her course, and before long both Plain-work and Fancy-work were safely transplanted into the ground by the wall at the back of the gardens.
"Now we're all ready to set off to Messrs. Reading and Writing," cried Dick, as the four children stood together on the slope of the hill; "I vote we have a race—one, two, three, off and away!" and dashing forward like a young stag, he rushed down the hill, distancing even Matty, and with the force of his own rapid descent cleared brook Bother at a bound.
Nelly could not help clapping her hands.
"I should have thought," observed fat Lubin, who had kept at her side, "that you, of all people in the world, would have hated this silly racing, and disliked to see any one go at so desperate a pace."
"Why should I dislike it?" asked the lame child; "I would go at a great pace too, if I only were able."
"But when you are lame, does it not vex you to be so distanced by others?"
Nelly hesitated a little before she replied, "Sometimes, I own, it does vex me a little; but then I am comforted when I think that as long as I do my best I should be only glad that others can do better."
Lubin and Nelly came up with their brother and sister at the cottage of Mrs. Sewing; for Dick, who was in a merry mood, had stopped there to help the old dame to transplant a fine slip of Fancy-work, and Matty was standing laughing beside him.
"See how well he does it!" she cried.
"I wonder that he is not ashamed to use his fingers like a girl!" exclaimed Lubin, who was himself remarkably clumsy.
Mrs. Sewing turned round with a smile and a courtesy.
"Better the fingers thus employing Than in fighting, fidgeting, or destroying,"
Dick looked up and laughed. "I'll soon prove to you, my lad," he cried, "that hands that can ground a pretty slip of German work, are ready and fit for something harder," and he squared up towards Lubin with clenched fists, and such a merry look of defiance, that his brother was more than convinced by the sight, and trotted off along the lane of Trouble, at a much brisker pace than usual.
"We'll go after the plump one," cried Dick, "or he'll arrive at Mr. Reading's before us."
Along the lane they all went. The weather had been dry of late, and the road was not so muddy as usual. Indeed the walk was so agreeable that Dick remarked that "trouble is a pleasure." It was not long before the four young householders found themselves at the door of Messrs. Reading and Writing.
Their shop was a very large and handsome one; indeed a finer and better was not to be seen in the whole town of Education, on the outskirts of which it stood. It was separated into two divisions, over the first and principal of which Mr. Reading himself presided. A great variety of papers for walls were displayed in the large glass windows, and when the children peeped in they saw a vast number more in the shop.
"Well, here's a fine choice!" exclaimed Matty, in pleased surprise; "I think that one might spend half one's life in the shop of Mr. Reading, and always find out something pretty and new."
"But where is Mr. Reading himself?" cried Lubin; "and how are we to get through this iron grating which shuts us out from the shop?"
His last question was answered by the funniest little dwarf that ever was seen, who popped out from behind the counter, and with a large iron key in his hand came toddling up to the grating. He was just twenty-six inches high, and had a head almost as big as the rest of his body.
"I say, little chap, will you let us in?" said Dick, rapping on the iron bars.
"I'm not accustomed to be spoken to after that fashion," cried the dwarf angrily; "my name is not 'little chap,' but 'Mr. Alphabet,' though some dare to call me A B C. I ought to be treated with respect, for I am several thousand years old."
"You've been wondrously slow then in your growth," laughed Lubin; "I think I could jump over your head."
"It's easier said than done," grumbled Alphabet, casting up a glance of scorn at the boy, whose fat figure was not formed for jumping; "and I should advise you to have a care how you provoke me by any boasting or insolent language. I am both strong and bold, and I come of an ancient race. My father was an Egyptian, or a Phoenician, or—"
"Never mind your father just now, my good fellow," cried Dick; "just turn your key in the lock, and let us into the shop of Mr. Reading."
"You don't suppose that I'm going to let you pass without paying toll," growled Alphabet; "I always expect a fee of some of the money of Time."
"Let us in," cried Lubin, kicking the grating.
"You may kick till you're tired," said the gruffy little dwarf; "no one gets to Mr. Reading without paying toll to Mr. Alphabet, his highly respectable porter."
"Let's give him his fee and be done with it," cried Matty, hastily pulling out her purse.
Seeing that there was no use in refusing, as Alphabet had the key of the gate, each of the children now produced some money, Dick giving less than the others. Alphabet took the bright hours with a merry grin, as he swung back the iron grating; but when Lubin was about to pass in, the dwarf planted himself in the way.
"You said that you could jump over my head; just try."
"I don't just think that I could," said Lubin, who was daunted by the manner of the dwarf.
"Now, for your stupid boast," growled Alphabet, "I will not allow you to pass till you've paid twice as much as the others have done;" and as he spoke he half closed the grating in Lubin's face.
"You can't keep me out now you've unlocked it," cried Lubin (who was, however, still on the outside, having been as usual behind-hand), and he tried to push the gate open.
"Push away," said the dwarf with a grin.
But poor Lubin soon found to his cost that Alphabet was strong as well as little, and quite able to hold his own against any amount of pushing.
"Won't you help me?" cried Lubin to Dick; the fat boy was getting quite red with his efforts.
"Oh, nonsense; fair play is a jewel!" exclaimed Dick; "you must fight it out for yourself. If you can't master little A B C, a precious poor creature you must be."
"Pay double toll, or I'll never let you in!" shouted the passionate dwarf.
There was no help for it; poor Lubin was obliged to pull out his money; and Alphabet, with a grin of triumph, at last allowed him to enter.
"Is Mr. Reading at home?" asked Dick.
"He is just within," said the dwarf; "if you'll look over the papers for a minute, I'll go and tell him that you are waiting."
MR. READING'S FINE SHOP.
"Well, Mr. Reading keeps a splendid assortment indeed!" exclaimed Dick, looking round the immense shop with delight. "There are such lots of fine papers here that the only difficulty will be which to choose!"
"I know what I will choose!" cried Matty; "that paper all covered with pretty little fairies!"
"It is but a poor paper; I cannot in conscience recommend it for wear," said Mr. Reading, who at that instant made his appearance from an inner part of the shop.
"Oh, but it is charming!" cried Matty; "I should care for no paper like that."
"And I see what I like best!" exclaimed Dick; "there's the jolliest paper that ever was made; don't you see it, up in that corner?—sets of cannibals dancing round a fire!"
"That's the Robinson Crusoe pattern," observed Mr. Reading, "a great favourite with young customers of mine."
"That's the paper for my money!" cried Dick; "I never saw anything more to my mind!"
Nelly and Lubin then chose their patterns, the former thinking what would please the taste of her mother, the latter what would cost least of his Time money; for the lazy rogue grudged every hour that he gave to reading.
A difficulty came into Nelly's mind. "We are to paper our rooms ourselves," said she; "how can we do so, having nothing with which we can fasten the paper on firmly?"
"I've the paste of Attention at your service," said Reading; "you will find nothing more certain to stick on a paper than that. You shall carry home a can of it to-day."
"And there is another thing which we must remember," observed Lubin, who had a sensible and reflecting mind, though too lazy to make much use of it; "as our walls are higher of course than ourselves, we must have a ladder to lift us to the higher parts of them."
"I can supply that want also," cried the ready Mr. Reading, who seemed to take pleasure in serving his young guests; "I've the magic ladder of Spelling, and I am willing to let it on hire."
"Let's see this ladder," said Dick.
At a word from his master, Alphabet, the stout little dwarf, withdrew into an inner part of the dwelling, and soon re-appeared, lugging with him a ladder which was three times as long as himself.
"This is a very curious and ingenious ladder," remarked Mr. Reading, "and quite worthy of your closest observation. You see that on the under part of each step is a sentence quite perfectly spelt; but this, of course, cannot be seen when the ladder is placed by a wall. On the upper part appears the same sentence, but with many a blunder in it to try your powers of recollection. You must study the ladder well before you attempt to mount it, and get the right spelling fixed in your mind, so as to make no mistakes. Then, before putting your foot upon any step, you must spell the sentence upon it; if you correct every blunder, the wood will be firm as a rock; but if you leave a single fault unnoticed, one little letter misplaced, the step will give way under your weight, and land you flat on the floor."
"What a horrible ladder!" exclaimed Lubin; "it seems to have been expressly contrived to break the neck of every one who is so silly as to mount it."
"It only needs care in the using," replied polite Mr. Reading, unable to suppress a quiet smile; while Alphabet, who thought it a capital joke, burst into a loud laugh. "I confess that the ladder of Spelling has been the cause of many a tumble; but still it is an excellent ladder,—the trees of which it was made grew beside our own stream of Bother."
"Any one might have guessed that!" muttered Lubin, rubbing his head with a disconsolate air, as if he already felt the bumps produced by the ladder of Spelling.
"Let's see these funny sentences on the steps," said Dick, "that we are forced to spell so finely. Such a comical ladder as this will make the papering of our walls a very slow affair."
As my readers may be curious to know whether they could have mounted the ladder without any step breaking beneath them, I will give them a few of the sentences to correct at their leisure. I write the faulty words in italics, though I hope that it is not needful to do so.
I hav to ants, too unkels to, The kindest wons I ever new.
Except this presint, nevew deer, I am sow glad to here your hear.
Gals sow shurts, and boys sew beens, Labour is scene in various seens.
I eat ate appels at a fate, Then took my leve and warked home strait.
The winds they blue; the sky was blew; Tom, as they dashed the oshon threw, Write overbored a poney through.
Our sovrin rains in joy and piece; The summer reigns our crops increese; The weery horse from rain release.
"I tell you what I'll do," said Lubin, after thoughtfully surveying the ladder from the top to the bottom: "I'll get good-natured little Nelly to stand below while I'm climbing the steps, and she shall call out to me the right spelling, so that I shall be certain to make no blunder."
Polite Mr. Reading shook his head. "Each must master the difficulty for himself," he replied; "not a single step would keep firm were there any attempt at such prompting."
Poor Lubin heaved a sigh like a groan.
"Who's afraid!" exclaimed Dick; "the greater the difficulty the greater the glory of mounting to the top of the ladder! Just roll up our papers, Mr. Reading, we'll carry them under our arms. The girls will take charge of the can of paste, and as for this remarkable ladder, Lubin and I will contrive to bear it between us."
Thus loaded, the little party passed again through the iron grating. Dick walked first, with a confident air, holding one end of the ladder of Spelling, while Lubin, grumbling and sighing, supported the other end. Nelly followed with the can of Attention, for Matty was too much engaged in looking at and admiring her pretty fairy paper to think of her lame little sister. Mr. Reading, the most polite and agreeable of shopkeepers, bade them farewell with a bow; and little Alphabet shouted after Lubin, "When you can manage to get to the top of the ladder of Spelling without tumbling down on your nose, I'll give you free leave to come back and jump over my head if you like it!"
THE LADDER OF SPELLING.
"What a jolly pleasant fellow old Reading is!" cried Dick, as they jogged along.
"Well enough," replied Lubin, jerking his shoulder, "if he had not plagued us with this hateful ladder, and did not keep such a covetous, impudent little porter as that ugly old dwarf A B C."
"I did not see much harm in the dwarf," laughed Dick; "the best fun I ever had in my life was seeing you pushing on one side of the gate, and the little chap pushing on the other. Alphabet was too hard for you, Lubin, my boy, though he is such a mite of a man."
The observation made Lubin rather sulky, and he said nothing till, having passed through the lane of Trouble, the party stopped by the brook of Bother.
"I'm afraid, Lubin," observed Dick, "that an awkward fellow like you may miss your footing if attempting to cross while carrying a weight on your shoulder. You go first, unburdened, and then I'll easily stretch out the end of the ladder for you to catch hold of."
Lubin did not wait to be twice invited to put down his tiresome burden. He flung down his end of the ladder, went across the stepping-stones at once, and then, without so much as turning to look at his companion, began to walk fast up the hill.
"Holloa! stop! where are you going?" shouted Dick.
Lubin only quickened his pace.
"The lazy rogue means to leave me to carry this ladder all by myself!" exclaimed Dick, in high indignation.
"I wish that I could help you, dear Dick," said Nelly; "but I'm lame, and—"
"And you've been carrying the can all the way, till your face is quite pale with fatigue. I wonder that that saucy puss Matty is not ashamed of treating you so."
"I was so busy with my fairies that I forgot," began Matty.
"Ah, well; take the can now and remember. And as for the ladder—" Without finishing his sentence, to the surprise of the girls, Dick suddenly turned round, and walked back several paces. His object soon became plain; he was giving himself room for a run. Once more he rushed forward with a bound, and, laden as he was with ladder and with paper, was over the brook in a moment.
"There's a jump!" he exclaimed, his face flushed less with the effect, than with the pride which he felt in having accomplished such a feat; "depend on't, a boy who can leap like that won't soon be turned back in life's long race by any difficulty or trial. I only wish that Mr. Learning could have seen me take that jump."
Nelly's admiration of her brother's remarkable powers was a little damped by a fear that arose in her mind when she saw how he gloried in them. Nelly was very fond of Dick, but she could not help thinking that she would rather have seen him conquer his pride than jump over half-a-dozen Bothers. Slowly and thoughtfully the little girl passed over the brook, and Matty, who was now carrying the can, brought up the rear of the party.
"Dick," said Matty, when she had joined her brother, "I wonder that you did not lay the ladder of Spelling across the stream, and make a bridge of it at once."
"I was too wary a bird for that," laughed Dick. "You know I've not yet mastered that awkward spelling, and if I'd put my foot upon a step, I should just have gone souse into Bother."
"Oh, I quite forgot!" exclaimed Matty.
"You seem to have a trick of forgetting," said her brother; "you forget that your can of Attention is full, and you swing it to and fro as you walk, so that you spill it at every step. You had better give it up again to Nelly."
"How Lubin trots up the hill!" cried Matty. "I never thought that he could get on so fast."
"He knows pretty well what he has to expect when I get up with him!" cried Dick, who was indignant at his brother's desertion; "I mean to give the fat rogue such a thrashing as he never had before in his life!"
"Oh no, dear Dick!" exclaimed Nelly. "I am sure that you had better forgive and forget."
"I don't see why I should," rejoined Dick.
"There are a great many reasons," said Nelly, who never suffered an angry or revengeful feeling to rest in her heart; "we know that it is noble and right to forgive, and to do as we would be done by; and has not dear mother a thousand times told us to live in love and kindness together?"
"But he played me such a shabby trick!" exclaimed Dick.
"You must remember, dear brother, that Lubin is not so strong as you are, and cannot bear a weight with such ease."
"No; you're right there!" cried Dick proudly, raising the ladder of Spelling with one hand above his head, to show the might of his arm.
Nelly saw that her brother was getting into better humour, and ventured to say something more. "There is another reason why you should forgive Lubin. Poor Lubin has also, perhaps, something to forgive and forget."
"I never ran off and left him in the lurch."
"No," replied Nelly, in a very gentle tone; "but when he was in trouble with Alphabet, you burst out laughing instead of helping him. I don't think, dear Dick, that you know what pain you give by your way of joking and mocking at others who can't do as much as yourself."
"Have I ever pained you, Nelly?"
"Sometimes," replied the child.
Dick was silent for a few minutes. He was recalling to mind times when he had ridiculed his gentle little sister for her lameness—the slow pace which she could not avoid. He felt ashamed of his ungenerous conduct, and willing to make some amends.
"It was too bad in me to hurt you, Nelly, who never gave pain to any one; so, for your sake, this time I'll consent to forgive and forget."
While this conversation went on, the brother and sisters had walked half-way up the hill, and, before many minutes had passed, they had all arrived at their group of cottages. Dick kept his word to Nelly, and took no further notice of the desertion of Lubin, than by saying, with a laugh, when first they met, "You went up the hill at such a pace, my fine fellow, that one might have thought that you fancied the terrible Alphabet following close at your heels."
Lubin looked rather sulky, but was glad to be so easily let off; he was not aware that he owed Dick's forbearance to the kindly offices of peacemaker Nelly.
As the day was now far advanced, the children resolved not to begin their papering work till the morrow. They went to the house Needful, where they were to have their board and lodging for a short time, till their cottages should be a little furnished. They were all rather tired with their day's exertions, and none but Dick felt disposed to take a stroll in the evening.
The first care of Matty and Nelly in the morning, after they had taken their breakfast, was to water their needlework plants.
"I can't think," said Matty to her sister, "how you could be so silly as to choose that ugly Plain-work,—I'm sure there's not a bit of beauty in it."
"I wait for the fruit," said Nelly meekly.
"It does not climb high like mine, to adorn the walls; it creeps heavily along the ground. It is such a mean-looking plant."
"We shall not think it mean in the season of ripening," observed Nelly.
"Ah, here comes Lubin!" cried Matty; "he was late for breakfast, as usual. Good-morning, my lazy brother. Do you know what has become of Dick?"
"Not I," answered Lubin, with a yawn.
"Perhaps he has been working at his cottage already," said Nelly, "and has been studying the ladder of Spelling. Just wait till I fetch the can of paste—we'll put Attention into several little pots, and all begin papering our walls together."
Nelly soon brought the paste, which she had kept during the night at house Needful. As Lubin and his sisters went towards the group of cottages, they heard the cheerful voice of Dick calling to them from the inside of his own.
"Come in here with you, and I'll show you something worth the seeing."
"Why, Dick," exclaimed Matty, who was the first to enter, "you don't mean to say that you have papered half your parlour already!"
"I don't say it, but you may see it," said Dick.
"What wonderful progress you have made!"
"I should say that I have," returned Dick, with a mighty self-satisfied air, as he looked around his parlour, already quite gay with the Robinson Crusoe pattern. "I've done more, too, than you can see," he added, striking his hand on the ladder of Spelling, which he had placed by the wall; "I've learned every sentence in this ladder as perfectly as any man can learn them, and can now climb to the very top with the greatest safety and ease."
Matty and Lubin looked on their clever brother with eyes in which admiration seemed mixed with a little envy.
"But how could you paper the room without paste?" exclaimed Nelly; "I had charge of the whole supply."
"My dear simple sister," replied Dick, "you don't suppose that all the paste in the world is held in your can, or that no other kind is to be had. I took a stroll yesterday evening with my acquaintance, young Pride, and he told me of a first-rate paste called Emulation, showed me where to get it, and helped me to lay in a capital store. You've no notion how pleasantly it made me get on with my work. I believe I shall paper all my four rooms before you have finished a single one of yours."
"Oh, let me have some of your paste!" cried Matty.
"Have it and welcome," said Dick; "it's cheap, and there's plenty for all. I don't know what is making our little Nelly look so serious and grave."
"Oh, Dick," said the child, in a hesitating tone, "did not dear mother warn us to have nothing to do with Pride?"
"He's a jolly good fellow!" cried Dick.
"But mother forbade us to keep company with him."
"Really, Nelly," said Dick, rather sharply, "I'm old enough to choose my own friends."
"But if Pride should prove to be not a friend but an enemy? Oh, dear brother, I should be afraid to use anything that Pride recommends."
Dick burst into a laugh. "Use what you like, poor, patient, plodding little pussy; leave me to follow my own ways. You've not resolved, as I have, to win the crown of Success. You were never made to shine, unless it be like some little taper, giving its quiet light in a cottage; while I mean to dazzle the world some day, like the eruption of a splendid volcano."
"A precious lot of mischief you may do," observed Lubin; "better be a sober taper in a cottage, that cheers and gives light to some one, than a blazing volcano, that makes a grand show indeed, but leaves ruins and ashes behind it."
"Every one to his liking!" cried Dick, nimbly mounting the ladder, and spelling over the sentences so fast that his hearers could hardly follow him. Doubtless he meant to show off his talent, but, in his eagerness to be admired, he forgot—who can wonder that he did so?—the right spelling of one little word. Down he fell crack on the floor, the moment that he put his foot on the poney!
Up jumped Dick in a second, not hurt indeed, but a good deal mortified, especially as Lubin laughed, and Matty began to titter.
"Here we go up, up, up, Here we go down, down, down, oh! That is clever Dick's way Of winning the silver crown, oh!"
cried Lubin, his fat sides shaking with mirth.
"I would not stand that from him!" exclaimed a voice from without, and the shadow of Pride, a beetle-browed, black-haired, ill-favoured lad, now darkened the doorway of Dick.
"I'll stand no impudence!" cried Dick in a passion, and, dashing with clenched fist up to Lubin, he knocked him down with a blow.
"Give it him well!" shouted Pride.
But Nelly rushed forward in haste, and threw herself between her two brothers. "Oh, don't, don't!" she cried in distress; "remember our mother, remember the love which we all should bear to one another! It was wrong in Lubin to laugh—but oh, please—please don't beat him any more."
"I'll beat him in another way!" exclaimed Dick, who was, perhaps, a little ashamed of having struck his younger brother; "I'll beat him at climbing this ladder,—one fall shall never daunt me!" and once more he ascended the steps, spelling without a single blunder, till, on the very topmost round, he waved his hand in triumph.
"I hope you're not hurt?" whispered Nelly to Lubin, who was slowly rising from the ground.
The boy turned gloomily away.
"You don't want her, do you, to cuddle and pet you as if you were a great big baby?" said Pride. "I wonder you don't go to your own cottage, and shut yourself up quietly there."
"I'll go and have nothing more to do with any of them," muttered Lubin, pushing Nelly aside, and leaving the cottage of Dick in a mood by no means amiable.
Nelly sighed; and as it appeared that she could at present be of no more use to her brothers, she quietly took her portion of Attention, and went to paper her own little room.
I shall not tell of all her difficulties and troubles, nor how, when using the ladder of Spelling, she found it several times give way, and drop her down on the floor. The process of learning is a slow one, as every one is likely to know who has done enough of the papering work to be able to read this book;—and as for that troublesome ladder, A. L. O. E. will not venture to say that she has never had a tumble from it herself. I need only mention, as regards lame Nelly, that in the end, after days and weeks of patient labour, her house was very neatly papered indeed.
Matty had far less trouble. The ladder of Spelling seemed made on purpose to suit her convenience; she mounted the steps with greater ease than even the active Dick could do. Her walls were soon covered with fairies; but, as Lubin observed, no one could think the cottage of Head well furnished with a paper so poor and thin,—you could almost see the bricks through it. Matty was, however, well pleased; and even, in the blindness of self-love, had some hopes of the silver crown. Pride flattered her skill and her quickness, and was always a welcome guest at her cottage as well as in Dick's. Neither the brother nor the sister yet knew the evils that might arise from their using the paste of Emulation.
And how fared poor Lubin meantime? He worked slowly, by fits and starts, whenever the humour was on him, but it seemed to his brother and sisters as if his walls would never be papered. Nelly, after her own day's work, would carry the ladder to Lubin, but he constantly refused to use it.
"What nonsense it is," he would angrily say, "to have words sounded in one way, and spelt in another. I wish that the fellow who made that ladder had been well ducked in the brook of Bother."
"But as it has been made, and we've no other," observed Nelly, "would it not be wise to make the best of it?"
By her gentle persuasion Lubin more than once attempted to mount the first step, but it always gave way beneath him; he never could remember of the to, too, and two, which was the right one to use.
At last, catching up the ladder in despair, Lubin flung it out of his door.
"Let it go—I should like to break it to bits and make a bonfire of it!" he cried; "I can paper my rooms without it."
"Oh, no; not the upper parts," suggested Nelly.
"I don't care for the upper parts, I'll leave them as they are," answered Lubin. "If the bricks and mortar are ugly, no one need look at them, say I."
"But, Lubin," exclaimed Matty, who had just come in, "you will be quite ashamed of your house if it be furnished worse than a ploughboy's."
"It will do very well," replied Lubin. "I hate this papering nonsense, and I wish that Mr. Learning had been far enough away, rather than come to plague us poor children with his tiresome Reading and Spelling!"
MR. LEARNING'S VISIT.
It must not be supposed that during the time which it took to paper the cottages, other things were neglected; that Plain-work and Fancy-work were not watered, or that frequent shopping expeditions were not made to the town of Education. My history is by no means a journal of each day's proceedings, but only an account of some incidents that seem most worthy of note.
I wish that I could tell my young readers that Dick frankly owned himself sorry for having knocked down poor Lubin. Perhaps he would have done so, for he had a kind and generous disposition, but for the evil influence of Pride. This dark companion was almost always now at the elbow of Dick, filling him with notions of his own importance, making him look down upon every one who was not so sharp as himself. From cottage to cottage Pride moved, now putting in Lubin's mind gloomy, angry feelings towards his brother; now flattering the vanity of Matty, till she thought herself a perfect model of beauty and almost too good to keep company with her lame little sister Nelly. Pride did not fail also to try to put evil into Nelly's heart, but she never would let him converse with her; she remembered the words of her mother, and shunned the dark tempter who leads so many astray.
"I wonder," said Pride one day to Matty as she was watering her Fancy-work plant,—"I wonder why a lovely young creature like you should not spend more of Time's money upon dress."
Matty giggled and blushed, and said that she feared that there was not such a person as a good milliner to be found in all the town of Education.
"Well," said Pride, "I think that I can help you to find one whom no one has ever excelled in this important line of business. There is a distant relation of my own, Miss Folly, who is wonderfully quick with her fingers, and makes all sorts of elegant things. Lady Fashion has her so often with her at her fine town-house, that it is clear that she regards Miss Folly almost in the light of a friend, and would not know how to get on without her. Folly is particularly anxious to employ her art in hiding any changes made by age. I have known an old lady dressed up by her with wig, rouge, and a low muslin dress, fastened up with bunches of roses, whom you really would have taken, at least at a distance, for some lovely young creature of twenty!"
"Oh, could you not introduce me to Miss Folly!" exclaimed Matty; "if she could so beautify an ugly old lady, what would she do for a young girl like me!"
"I will bring her here with the greatest pleasure," replied Pride; and glancing at Matty's dress, he added, "From the elegant style of your attire, I should have really imagined that you had long ago known Miss Folly."
When Dick had almost finished his papering, and Matty was far advanced with hers, the children received one day a visit from Mr. Learning, who came to observe their progress. Nelly was so hard at work in her spare room, that she did not hear his step, and was a little startled when she felt a heavy hand laid on her shoulder.
"Don't be afraid," said Mr. Learning kindly, "go quietly on with your work. 'Slow and sure' is your motto, I see; what you do is done neatly and nicely."
Nelly looked up with a pleased smile. She had never expected to receive a word of praise from the tall stately gentleman in black, who lived upon paper and ink.
Mr. Learning then proceeded to Matty's cottage. Matty, who happened to be twining flowers in her beautiful hair, started up, and, in a little confusion, greeted her guardian with a courtesy.
He glanced round the cottage for awhile in silence. Matty thought that he must be admiring the quickness with which she had papered her walls; his first words disappointed her not a little.
"You have made a great mistake in not choosing a better and stronger paper; labour is thrown away upon this. However quickly you may get over your work, no one will ever think a dwelling well-furnished whose walls are covered with nothing but fairies."
"Stupid, solemn, cross-grained old critic as he is!" thought Matty; "I knew that he and I would never agree together. I paper my walls to please my own taste, and snap my fingers at Learning!"
The grave guardian then stalked slowly across the little plot of ground which divided the boys' cottages from those of the girls. Though Dick's was just opposite to Matty's, Mr. Learning chose to cross over first to Lubin's.
The boy, buried in a deep slumber, lay snoring upon the floor, quite unconscious that any one had entered. With great disgust Mr. Learning looked around on one of the most untidy rooms that his eyes had ever beheld. It was only papered to such a height as the arm of the fat boy could reach, and even the little that had been done had been finished in the very worst way. So small a quantity of the paste of Attention had been used, that the paper was already falling off; odd pieces were lying here and there, and the most careless observer must have seen that he was in the dwelling of a sluggard.
Mr. Learning said nothing at all; he did not even waken the sleeping boy, though he felt a little inclined to give him a poke with his boot. The stately guardian took out from his pocket a piece of chalk, and wrote on the rough bricks above the paper, in letters half a foot high, the single word DUNCE, then turning round on his heel, he quitted the cottage of Lubin.
It was perhaps intentionally that the sage had arranged to make his visit to Dick the last. Here there was much to satisfy and please his philosophic eye, and Mr. Learning's grave face relaxed into a smile as pleasant as if a whole dozen of copy-books had been spread out for dinner before him.
"You're a clever fellow," said he; and Dick made a very low bow, pleased but not at all surprised by the compliment.
"I should not wonder if, some day," pursued Mr. Learning, "I should be able to introduce you to my friends the Ologies."
"Pray, who may they be?" asked Dick; "I never heard of them before."
"They are of a remarkably superior family, that has been settled for a length of years in the higher part of the town of Education. There are a number of brothers, and they are all remarkable men. There's—
"The Ology, who keeps a religious library;
"Myth Ology, who deals in books describing the superstitions of heathen nations;
"Ge Ology, whose collection of marbles, stones, various earths, and old fossils makes him famous;
"Phren Ology, who professes to tell the characters of people by feeling the bumps on their heads;
"Chron Ology, who manufactures nails that are known by the name of dates;
"Conch Ology, who keeps a museum with a vast variety of shells;
"Entom Ology, who has another filled with butterflies and other insects;
"Ichthy Ology, whose taste leads him to make a collection of fish;
"Zo Ology, who has a large garden with all kinds of creatures in it."
"What a very large family it is!" exclaimed Dick, who had begun to think that these Ologies would never come to an end.
"I have not mentioned all," replied Learning. "But all are intimate friends of mine, and I invite them all every year to a feast in my house in London."
"I wonder what you give them to eat!" thought Dick, "and whether these Ologies have all your own taste for paper and ink!" He had a little awe for Mr. Learning, so did not utter the reflection aloud.
"You shall know them all some day," continued the guardian; "they will help you to fortune and to fame!"
"Why not know them at once?" cried Dick.
Mr. Learning smiled again; but this time his smile was not so pleasant. "You are by far too young," he replied, "and have something else to think of at present. Your cottage is nearly papered, I see, but you have as yet not a single grate within it."
"I'm going to the ironmonger's this very day," cried Dick; "there's no use in waiting for my brother and sisters, they are so slow at their work. I shall be hand and glove with all the Ologies before Lubin has covered his ugly bricks!"
What was Mr. Learning looking at so attentively through his spectacles, as Dick uttered this sounding boast? He had caught a glimpse of Pride, who, upon his entrance, had hidden himself behind the open door, and who was there listening to the conversation between Dick and his guardian.
"Let me give you one word of advice, my boy," said Mr. Learning, in a serious tone; "go to the town of Education as often as you will, and buy what you may, but never let Pride go with you. He is a safe companion for no one; and the better that you are acquainted with me, the less cause you will find to cherish him!" and with this quiet warning, Mr. Learning quitted the cottage.
"Ah, Pride!" cried Dick, as the dark one sneaked out of his hiding-place behind the door; "you find that the saying is true, 'Listeners never hear good of themselves.'"
Pride looked offended and annoyed.
"Never mind, old friend," continued Dick; "I won't attend to a word that he said, for I find you as pleasant a companion as any that ever I knew. I'm just going off to the town to buy grates from Arithmetic the Ironmonger, and if you like to come with me, I can but say that you'll be heartily welcome."
Pride needed no second invitation, and the two soon started together.
Messrs. Arithmetic and Mathematics were large manufacturers of ironware and machinery of every kind, of which they kept an immense assortment continually upon sale in a shop attached to the premises. They were said to be near connections as well as partners in business. Mr. Arithmetic had the name of a hard man, who looked sharply after every farthing, though not quite so hard perhaps as his partner Mr. Mathematics. And yet his workmen, who were all called ciphers, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight and Nine, never complained of their master. They said that they always received their just due, and as long as they kept in their own proper place, had never any reason to grumble.
Mr. Mathematics was a great philosopher, and shut himself up a good deal, that he might have leisure to invent new and curious machines. He did not show himself to customers so often as Mr. Arithmetic, who was the soul of the business, keeping all the workmen in order, scarcely ever out of his shop, and ready to serve all the world.
The Ironmongery establishment was on the top of a steep cliff that rose on the right side of the town of Education, just beyond Mr. Reading's large shop; and thither, on that fine summer's day, Dick and Pride wended their way.
"We must go up here," observed Dick, as they reached a narrow staircase cut in the cliff, and known by the name of the Multiplication stairs. I should not wonder if my readers had run up it many a time; if so, I need not tell them that it consists of twelve flights of steps, with twelve steps in every flight; that the first and second are so easy that a baby might almost toddle up them; that the two next are rather more steep, while the fifth is easier again; that the seventh and eighth are perhaps the worst; while the tenth flight quite tempts one to run, it is so delightfully smooth!
Dick was so active and vigorous a boy, that he mounted up to the top without even stopping to take breath. He had thence a fine view of the distant landscape; but what interested him most was to look down on the town which lay at his feet, and see the gilded names of the different Ologies shining on the fronts of their dwellings. There was Chemistry's beautiful shop too in view, with lovely-coloured glass jars in its windows; and Botany's vast garden not far off, bright with the hues of a thousand flowers. A fine place to look at, and a good place to dwell in, is this town of Education.
An immense building was now before Dick, though rather dull and unattractive in appearance; the names of Messrs. Arithmetic and Mathematics were in large black letters over the door. Dick entered, followed by Pride, and viewed with astonishment the vast variety of iron utensils around him. He could scarcely stop to look at the simple grates, called sums, which were the things that he came for, his eye was attracted by so many articles more curious and more interesting. There were big rules of-three kettles, simple, inverse, and compound; reduction grinding-machines, and tables of weights of every species and size. There were innumerable instruments of various kinds that were known by the name of fractions; Dick did not exactly know their use, but they looked like instruments of torture. In an inner compartment of the place great machines were fizzing and whizzing, pistons rising and falling, wheels rolling and rumbling; that part belonged especially to Mr. Mathematics, and many of his partner's customers never entered that wing of the building.
"What do you require here?" said Mr. Arithmetic, a man dressed in iron-gray clothes, with a face which looked dry and hard as one of his own kettles, above which was a shock of iron-gray hair, which gave him rather a formidable appearance.
"I want to buy four little grates, to put in my house," said Dick, standing with his hand on his hip, and speaking in an easy tone, to show that he was not afraid of Mr. Arithmetic.
"I understand: my four first sums—Addition, Multiplication, Division, and Subtraction;" and the learned ironmonger pointed to a pile of some hundreds of the articles required by Dick.
"They are such simple, light little things," observed the boy, "that I'll carry off a couple with ease."
"As far as mere weight goes," said Pride, "you might bear away all four at once; but they are rather awkward to hold, and, if I understood you aright, you are obliged to carry all your purchases yourself."
"Ay," observed Mr. Arithmetic with a grim smile, "when the Prince of Wales himself came to shop in our town, he was obliged to be his own porter. Governesses and tutors may pack up the loads, but the pupils have the carrying after all."
"I certainly could manage two grates at once," observed Dick.
"I would advise you to be content with one at a time," said Arithmetic, "and come for the second to-morrow."
"Pick me out four good ones, not too small," cried Dick, trying to speak with an air of command; "I'll walk in further with my comrade, and have a look at yonder machines."
"Don't go too near those in work," said Mr. Arithmetic to Dick; "little boys may get into trouble if they meddle with things that they don't understand."
"Perhaps I can understand rather more than he supposes," muttered Dick, walking with head erect, and nose in the air, and a sort of swaggering step, which he probably thought best suited for a genius.
He passed on between rows of strange machines, whose use he could scarcely guess at; but he was ashamed to show any ignorance while Pride was close at his side. At last Dick stopped before a turning-lathe, which had been made by a man called Euclid, and watched with interest and surprise all the curious articles called problems, which a clever workman was every few minutes forming with the circular saw.
"That does not look such hard work after all," said Dick; "the man has only to hold up the wood to that curious whirling machine, and it cuts it right into shape in a second. I think that I could do that myself."
"I should not advise you to try," said the workman, as he stopped his lathe for a short time, to go and look for a piece of hard wood. Pride glanced meaningly at Dick, and the boy's foot was in a minute on the board whose motion turned the circular saw.
"Give me that problem, I'll show you what I can do!" cried the eager Dick to his prompter; the next sound that he uttered was a yell, as the saw cut one of his fingers almost to the bone!
The cry drew Mr. Arithmetic to the spot. "Is the hand off?" was his cold hard question.
Poor Dick held up his bleeding finger.
"You've got your lesson cheaply," said the iron-gray man; "you had better know your own powers a little better before you meddle with matters like this. Wrap up your finger in your handkerchief, take up your grate, and be gone."
Much mortified by his morning's adventure, poor Dick in silence obeyed, not making an attempt to burden himself then with anything but a simple sum of Addition. It would have been well indeed for the boy if the experience of that day had cured him of his foolish presumption, and made him give up the company of Pride.
"Oh, dear! how frightful this great big DUNCE looks upon my wall!" cried poor Lubin; "and how shall I ever get rid of it? It's always staring me in the face, and telling tales of me to every one that comes into the room! What shall I do with the ugly thing?"
"Cover it over, dear Lubin," said Nelly, who felt for her brother's distress.
"Does it not look hideous?" cried Lubin, looking round with a woe-begone face.
"It does look hideous indeed, and, if I were you, I would paper it over directly. No one could see it then."
"It's too high for me to reach," sighed Lubin.
"Yes, unless you were to use—" Nelly hesitated, for she knew Lubin's dislike to the ladder of Spelling.
"I know what you mean," said Lubin gloomily; "but I won't use that ladder just now. Perhaps—there's no saying—perhaps some day I may learn to spell without stumbling, and get rid of that hateful word DUNCE."
"No time like the present," suggested little Nelly, with a smile.
"Not to-day, I say; I'm not in the humour; I've no fancy for a tumble on the floor."
"Have you a fancy, then, to go with me to Mr. Arithmetic's, to get grates for our little fireplaces?"
"That's where Dick cut his finger yesterday?"
"Yes; poor Dick!" exclaimed Nelly; "but we won't go so near to the machines."
"I'll keep at arms' length from all problems," cried Lubin. "Well, if you are going to the ironmonger's shop, we may just as well go together. Is Dick to be of the party?"
"No," replied Nelly; "yesterday's mishap had made him rather dislike Arithmetic, though the accident did not happen in his part of the building. But I hope that Matty will come; I was just going to invite her."
Casting one more vexed glance at the great DUNCE on his wall, Lubin sallied forth from his cottage with Nelly. As they crossed over the little green space to Matty's door, they heard such a jabber of voices within her cottage, that one might have thought that the little dwelling was full of chattering magpies.
In the parlour appeared Matty on her knees, examining with eager praises the contents of a large box of millinery open before her; while, talking so fast that she could hardly be understood, a curious creature stood beside her, whose dress, manner, and appearance, amazed both Lubin and Nelly.
The stranger was by nature very small and mean in appearance; but she had puffed out her dress with crinoline and hoops to a size so immense, that she half filled up Matty's little parlour, and it was hard to imagine how she had contrived to squeeze herself through the doorway. She had seven very full flounces, each of a different colour, adorned with flowers and beads. Her waist had been pulled in very tightly indeed, till it resembled that of a wasp; and a quantity of gaudy jewellery shone on her neck and arms. But the head-dress of Miss Folly—for this was she—was still more peculiar than her figure. An immense plume of peacock's feathers stuck upright in her frizzled red hair, which was all drawn back from her forehead, to show as much as possible of her face. Her great goggle eyes were rolling about with a perpetual motion to match that of her tongue; and her cheeks, rouged till they looked like peonies, were dotted over with black bits of plaster. I don't know, dear reader, whether Miss Folly be an acquaintance of yours; if so, I hope that you will excuse my saying that, notwithstanding her rouge and her jewels, I consider her a perfect fright.
But here let us make no mistake. I know that there are certain persons who confuse between Miss Folly and Miss Fun, and fancy that these are names for one and the same person. I assure you that this is not the case; Folly and Fun are perfectly distinct. I own that laughing, singing, playful little Fun, is rather a pet of my own; she and I have had pleasant hours together; nay, I have actually consulted her when writing this very book. It is true that she needs to be kept in order, for her spirits get sometimes a little too wild; she must be forbidden to do any mischief, or give pain to any creature living. But when under good control, Fun is a bright and charming companion, especially to the young; and I delight in hearing her merry laugh, and in watching her sparkling eyes. But as for Folly, I cannot abide her; her mirth only makes me sad. Perhaps, before they lay down my book, my readers may more clearly distinguish what qualities make Miss Folly unlike that general favourite—Fun.
It was clear that Matty Desley was very well satisfied with her companion, and she turned over the wares with delight, as Miss Folly went jabbering on,—
"There, now; that's something that I can quite recommend; it's decidedly a la mode, worn by all the duchesses, countesses, baronesses, and lady mayoresses, at all the balls, routs, conversaziones, and concerts given this season! And—yes, just try that bonnet on your head, and look at yourself in this glass"—(Folly always carries a glass)—"doesn't it show off the charming face?—doesn't it suit the pretty complexion?—doesn't it make you look quite bewitching, a lovely little fairy as you are?"
"Matty!" cried Lubin, the moment Folly paused to take breath, "we're going to Arithmetic the ironmonger; will you come with us and buy a new grate?"
"Multiplication is a vexation, Addition is as bad; The Rule of Three doth puzzle me, And Fractions make me mad!"
cried Folly, rolling her goggle eyes, and thinking herself quite a wit.
"Was it not at Arithmetic's factory that Dick hurt himself yesterday?" said Matty.
"Hurt himself, did he?" interrupted Folly, who seemed resolved to take the largest share of the conversation. "Why did he not come to me for a salve? I've the best salve that ever was invented—Flattery salve, warranted to heal all manner of bruises and sores; yes, headaches, and heartaches, and all kinds of aches. It's patronized by all the heads of the nobility and gentry. I've tried it myself many a time, and always find it a perfect cure! When I've the high-strikes (I'm very subject to the high-strikes), I just rub a little on the tip of my ear, and it calms down my nerves like a charm. I wish you would try it!" she cried, turning to Lubin.
"I'm not subject to high-strikes, and don't want Flattery salve," said the boy, in his blunt, simple manner; "all I want is to know whether you, Matty, will go with us to the town of Education."
"I can't go to-day!" cried Matty, annoyed at being interrupted by her brother and sister; "I shall want every minute of Time's money to buy some of Miss Folly's pretty things!"
"Leave Miss Folly, I should say," cried Lubin, who had no want of plain common-sense; "a pleasant, good-humoured smile makes a face look nicer than all that flummery there."
"Dear Matty, the days go fast," said Nelly, "and you know that our mother expects to find our cottages well furnished on her return. I really think that we've no Time money to spare upon what can be of no possible use."
"What would my Lady Fashion, my most particular friend, say if she could hear you?" exclaimed Folly, who had been struggling to get in a word, much talking being very characteristic of Folly; "she—Lady Fashion I mean—is always for the ornamental; the useful she leaves to the vulgar. As for your sister there" (Folly only condescended to speak to Matty), "she knows nothing, I see, of flounces, furbelows, fringes, and flowers; she'd put on a bonnet back part forward, or a shawl wrong side out; and she looks like a whipping-post, or a thread-paper, or a—"
"Oh, stop that jabber, will you!" cried Lubin, putting his hands to his ears.
"Come with us, Matty," entreated Nelly, "and buy something solid and useful. Summer will soon be over, and when cold weather comes, what should we do without grates?"
"I can't come, and I won't come!" cried Matty pettishly; "don't you see that I'm exceedingly busy?"
"Come away, Nelly," said Lubin; "leave her to her fine Miss Folly; let her furnish her head, if she likes it, with fairies, furbelows, and flounces!"
Off went the brother and sister, but they had proceeded some way from the door before they got beyond reach of the sound of Miss Folly's chattering tongue.
Down hill Puzzle, across brook Bother, along Trouble lane, fat little Lubin and Nelly went very sociably together.
"I don't think that you're as lame as you were," said the boy.
"The way seems shorter than it did," observed Nelly; "but one feels the hill most when coming back."
As the children passed Mr. Reading's fine shop, little Alphabet peeped through the grating, to the no small annoyance of Lubin.
"Ha, ha! my brave fellow!" cried the dwarf, "have you mounted the ladder of Spelling, and have you now come to jump over my head?"
Lubin did not answer, but quickened his pace. He and his sister soon found themselves at the bottom of Multiplication stairs.
"I wonder how we shall ever get up to the top?" thought lame Nelly, as, with rather a disconsolate air, she glanced up the twelve flights of steps.
A VISIT TO ARITHMETIC.
"It's a dreadful pull up this staircase!" exclaimed Lubin, as panting and puffing he stopped half-way, his fat round face flushed with fatigue till it looked almost the colour of a cock's comb.
"It is dreadfully tiring!" sighed Nelly, pausing a moment to take breath.
"It is worse than the ladder of Spelling!" cried Lubin. "I vote that we go back at once."
"Oh no, dear Lubin!" said his sister, immediately starting again on her weary ascent—"perseverance, you know, conquers difficulties;" and as she uttered the words, the lame girl stumbled at that step seven times eight.
"You'll never succeed," observed Lubin.
"I'll try again," said the patient Nelly; and slowly but steadily she mounted.
Her example encouraged her brother to follow.
"I say, Nelly," observed Lubin, "what a plague all this education furnishing is! What lucky dogs those savages are who live in caves that want no fittings, and who have never heard of Reading papers, or ladders of Spelling, or this horrible Multiplication!"
Nelly could not help laughing.
"The very same thought was passing through my head," said she; "but I tried to drive it away, for it seemed to be only fit for Miss Folly."
"Perhaps a cave might not be so very pleasant," rejoined Lubin. "But I wish that some good-natured fairy could furnish these cottages of ours with a stroke of her wand, and save us all this terrible trouble."
"It would not be so good for us, I daresay," said Nelly, stumbling again at nine times six.
"And why not?" inquired her brother.
"Why," replied Nelly, as she rubbed her bruised ankle, "I think that the trouble and pain serve to exercise our patience and perseverance, and to make us more fit to meet the trials which are sure to come when we are older. Besides," she added, still mounting as she spoke, "we take more pleasure in that which has cost us trouble than in that which we get with ease; and it is real enjoyment to feel that a difficulty has been overcome."
"I'm sure that we can have no pleasure from this Multiplication stair."
"Oh yes, when we get to the top!" cried Nelly, who had just reached the pleasant tenth flight, and now went along it hand in hand with her brother at a pace that was almost rapid.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted Lubin, not long after, as he stood panting on the topmost step.
"Oh, what a charming view!" exclaimed Nelly. "I'm so glad that we persevered!"
"It's a tremendous big place, this town of Education," said Lubin, looking down from his height. "I don't like the look of all those Ologies. I'm afraid that a great lot of things are required for a really well-furnished house."
"We have only to think of our grates at present," said Nelly. "Please keep close beside me, Lubin; for I've heard that Mr. Arithmetic is a terribly hard man, and I'm rather afraid to face him."