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Title: The Crown of Success
Author: A. L. O. E., 1821-1893
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Crown of Success" ***

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THE CROWN OF SUCCESS

[Illustration: The sparkling crown was placed on her brow. _Page 213._]

THE CROWN OF SUCCESS

by

A. L. O. E.



Thomas Nelson and Sons
London, Edinburgh, Dublin
and New York



_CONTENTS._

         _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.

CHAPTER I.

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.



CHAPTER II.

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.



CHAPTER III.

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."



CHAPTER IV.

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.

[Illustration: Nelly could hardly see the stepping-stones through the
thick leaves of the plant which she bore. _Page 27._]



CHAPTER V.

MR. ALPHABET.


"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,"

observed she.

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."



CHAPTER VI.

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!"



CHAPTER VII.

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.



CHAPTER VIII.

BREAKING DOWN.


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!"



CHAPTER IX.

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.



CHAPTER X.

DICK'S MISHAP.


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.



CHAPTER XI.

MISS FOLLY.


"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.

[Illustration: Miss Folly went jabbering on: "Just try that bonnet on
your head." _Page 73._]

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
_à 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.



CHAPTER XII.

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."

So again, hand in hand, the two children walked into the big shop
together, and looked in wonder, as Dick had done, at the great heaps of
goods within it.

"We won't go near that machinery part," whispered Lubin. "One of these
big thundering engines would crack my poor head like a nutshell."

"What do you want?" asked the iron-gray man, coming from behind a great
pile of coal-scuttles.

Nelly squeezed Lubin's hand to make him speak first, for she was a shy
little girl.

"We each want four sum-grates, for four little fireplaces," said
Lubin--"the very lightest that you can give us. I should like some no
bigger than my shoe."

"You're made of different metal from the young fellow whom we had here
yesterday," said Arithmetic, looking down with some scorn at the fat
little boy. "You'll never cut your fingers by meddling with problems, I
guess."

"You may answer for that," said Lubin.

Mr. Arithmetic, without further delay, produced specimens of his four
simplest kinds of sum grates, like those from which Dick had been
supplied. Lubin and Nelly soon chose Addition as their first purchase
from Arithmetic--a grate so small and so light that even the little girl
supported the burden with tolerable ease.

"You must come back to-morrow for something a little heavier," said Mr.
Arithmetic. "Addition is simple enough; but Division needs a little
greater effort of strength."

"We've done grand things to-day," exclaimed Lubin; "it's time enough to
think about to-morrow."

"Oh, I will certainly come back then!" cried Nelly, not a little pleased
at her present success.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE WONDERFUL BOY.


That evening Dick and his dark companion Pride sat in his cottage
together. The boy looked out of spirits or out of temper. Perhaps his
cut still pained him; perhaps the perpetual patter of the shower which
was falling made him gloomy and dull, for a violent rain had come on,
which continued during the whole of that night.

"Who would have thought," said Pride, "that lazy Lubin and lame Nelly
would have mounted so bravely to the top of Multiplication staircase,
and have carried back, safely over Bother, such nice little grates of
Addition? You must really look sharp, Dick Desley, or they'll furnish
their cottages before you."

"Before me!" exclaimed Dick, with a sneer. "I could do more with my
little finger than Lubin with all his fat fist."

"Certainly," observed Pride, "it would be an intolerable disgrace to a
clever fellow like you if you let any one get before you. You are not
one who would endure to see another winning from you the crown of
Success."

"I'll never see _that_," cried Dick, haughtily. "I should like to know
who has a chance against me!"

"No one has the smallest chance against you, if you only exert
yourself," said Pride. "If I were you I would put forth my powers, and
do something to astonish them all."

"I will!" cried Dick, with decision. "I'll go to Arithmetic to-morrow,
and bring back the three remaining sum-grates all at once. But what
wretched weather we have this evening!" he exclaimed; "I'm afraid all
the brightness of summer is going. And what's that on my wall--that dull
stain as of damp, that seems creeping over my paper?"

"It is merely caused by the rain. I should think nothing of it," said
Pride.

But Dick did think something of the stain. He saw that it marred the
beauty of that upon which he had bestowed much diligent labour.

"I'll cross over to Nelly's cottage," he said, "and see if the damp is
staining hers also."

Nelly was busy fixing in her grate. She looked upon her brother with a
smile.

"How kind to come and see me through the rain!"

"I did not come to see you, but your paper. How is this?--there is not a
damp spot upon it!"

"Nor on Lubin's neither," remarked Nelly. "But I was with Matty just
now, and the damp shows sadly on her fairies."

"What on earth can make the difference?" cried Dick.

"I do not know, unless--unless--" Nelly hesitated before she
added--"unless it be that both Matty and you used the paste that Pride
recommended."

"That has nothing to do with it," said Dick, as he quitted the cottage
in displeasure.

But Nelly had been right in her guess. There will be an ugly stain upon
any work which we only pursue with zeal because we want to _outdo_
others in it.

Dick did not make his appearance on the following morning at the
breakfast-table. The children still took their meals at the house
Needful till their cottages should be better prepared.

"I am so glad that it has stopped raining," said Nelly, when she had
finished her breakfast. "I have been wishing for the weather to clear,
for I promised Mr. Arithmetic that I would go back for the grate of
Division. Matty, dear, you will come with us to-day?"

Matty had come down to breakfast in a dress almost as ridiculously fine
as that worn by Miss Folly herself. She tossed her head, and replied,--

"I've something better to do than to buy, or carry, or scrub wretched
sum-grates of Arithmetic. I'm going out with Miss Folly, to be
introduced to some of her friends."

"But, Matty, the grates are quite necessary," urged Nelly. "We are soon
to take up our quarters in our cottages, and sleep there as well as
work. What shall we do when the cold weather comes if we've no means of
having a fire?"

"How shall we cook our dinners?" asked Lubin. "If there's one thing more
useful in a house than anything else, I should say it is a grate in the
kitchen."

"Oh, Miss Folly tells me never to look forward to winter," cried Matty,
"but just enjoy myself while I can. So I am not going to plague myself
with either Addition or Division to-day. To look after such vulgar
things is only a shopkeeper's business."

"But what will mother say," persisted Nelly, "if she find your cottage
unfurnished?"

"Unfurnished, indeed!" cried Matty. "It will be far better furnished
than yours. I mean to have French mirrors, and Italian paintings, and
German glass and china. I shall get a tambourine also, and perhaps some
day a guitar. Miss Folly tells me that Lady Fashion, her most particular
friend, has all these; and though they make a fine show, they are not so
dear as one would think."

"They are all good and beautiful things, I daresay," began Nelly;
"but--"

"But grates must come before mirrors, and carpets before German china,"
laughed Lubin. "We must buy what is needful first, and think of what is
pretty afterwards."

"That may be your way; but it is not my way, and it was never the way of
Miss Folly," cried Matty, as she flaunted out of the house.

"I wonder at Dick being so late," observed Nelly; "we ought to be off to
the town."

"He is not late, but early," said Lubin. "He had had his breakfast, and
started for the town of Education, before I was out of my bed."

"I wish that he had waited for us," cried Nelly; "it is so nice to go
through our work all together. You and I had now better set off."

"I'm going presently," replied Lubin. "I've just five minutes to spare;
and I'm about to step round to Amusement's bazaar, hard by here, to get
a few barley-sugar drops, to refresh me on my wearisome walk."

"I think that you had better delay your visit to the bazaar until you
have done your business with Mr. Arithmetic. Our mother's proverb, you
know, is, 'Duty first, and pleasure afterwards.' The sky is dark, the
weather uncertain; we may be stopped from going altogether if we do not
start off at once."

"I should like to be stopped altogether," said Lubin, with a smile. "I
should not care if I never took another journey to the town of
Education."

"What! after all that you said to Matty about the necessity of grates?"

"Ah, yes; they are needful enough, but they are not needed just at this
moment. You may go on if you like it, I'll get my sugar-drops first. Set
off now, I'll soon overtake you; I won't spend much time at
Amusement's."

Nelly sighed, but she saw that there was no use in further entreaty, so
she set forth alone. The path down hill was slippery and wet from the
rain that had fallen at night--a sister's kind word, or a brother's
strong arm, would have been a real comfort now to the lame little girl.
Often and often did Nelly turn and look behind her, to see if Lubin
were not following after; but in vain she looked, not a sign appeared on
the hill of the fat little sluggard.

Nelly came to the stream of Bother. The brook was muddy and swollen, and
went racing on faster than usual. The stepping-stones were scarcely seen
above the brown waters that eddied around them.

"Oh dear, oh dear; I wish that Lubin or Dick were with me!" cried poor
Nelly, as she gave one more anxious glance behind her. "It is miserable
to have to go alone across such a stream as this." She put her little
foot upon the first stone, she fancied that it trembled beneath her
weight--then on the next, she was almost in the water. It was nothing
but a strong sense of duty that made the poor child go on. With
trembling steps and dizzy brain she proceeded on her dangerous way, and
great was her relief when she reached in safety the farther shore.

"One difficulty is happily past, but how shall I enter the great town
all alone? how shall I climb the wearisome stair? how shall I face cold
stern Mr. Arithmetic, with no brother or sister to back me?" such were
the reflections of Nelly as she made her way slowly along the muddy lane
of Trouble. Some of my readers may have experienced what a dull and
discouraging thing it is to do business all by one's self in the town of
Education.

One difficulty, however, Nelly found less great than she had expected it
to be. It is a curious fact, but well known to all, that those who have
once mounted Multiplication staircase never complain any more of its
steepness. Nelly ascended it without a single stumble, till, when she
had almost reached the top, she met her brother Dick coming down from
Mr. Arithmetic's. What was her astonishment to see the strong boy laden
with three grates fastened together, Division, Subtraction,
Multiplication, placed one on the top of another!

"O Dick, you can never carry all that at once!"

"I do carry all at once, as you may see," replied Dick, with a smile of
triumph; "I'd advise you to get out of my way, lest I knock you over the
staircase."

"Surely, surely you can't bear that great burden across the swollen
brook, or up the steep hill."

"Take no fears for me: I can't fail with the crown of Success in my
view!" exclaimed Dick, bearing his three grates aloft, as some warrior
might carry his banner.

"If you would only wait a few minutes for me," began Nelly, but Dick at
once cut her short.

"I wait for nobody!" he cried, pushing past his lame little sister. "If
you had been up this morning as early as I was, you might have enjoyed
the pleasure of my company." And so saying, Dick and his iron grates
went clattering down the staircase.

Alone poor Nelly entered the shop, alone she took up her purchase, and
alone she descended the twelve flights of steps, trembling under the
weight of Division, which she had found a much more serious burden than
little Addition had been.

"How could Dick carry _three_ grates at a time," thought Nelly, "when
one is almost more than I can support. But then I'm a poor, stupid,
lame, little creature, and Dick--oh, Dick is a wonderful boy!"



CHAPTER XIV.

THE THIEF OF TIME.


When Lubin had said that he would not spend much Time money at Amusement
bazaar, he had fully intended to keep his word. He meant to go steadily
on his walk to Education, or, as we might call it, "do his lessons," so
soon as he had had a little diversion. But let me advise all my dear
young readers to put off their visits to Mrs. Amusement's till they have
spent such hours as business requires in the town of Education. Let them
count their money before they set out, spend a good portion of it wisely
and well, and then, with light hearts and easy consciences, they may go
to refresh and enjoy themselves at Mrs. Amusement's bazaar.

Which of us does not know that bazaar? It lies on the further side of
hill Puzzle, very near to the cottages of Head, and a beautiful large
cherry-tree hangs its branches over the door. The house is not lofty,
but low and wide, with a multitude of bright little windows. It is
divided within into numerous stalls, each possessing separate
attractions. There is one much frequented by boys, where bats and balls,
bows and arrows, models of boats, and little brass guns are seen in
great profusion. At another stall there are pretty dolls of every size
and shape, wooden, wax, and gutta-percha; some made to open and shut
their eyes, and some to utter a sound. There are few prettier sights
than that of a number of rosy, good-humoured children, who have finished
their lessons well, and are going, each with a bright hour or two in his
hand, to the bazaar of Mrs. Amusement.

The stall that most attracted fat Lubin was one at which sweetmeats were
sold: raspberry, strawberry, pine-apple drops, bull's-eye, pink rock,
and chocolate sticks, barley-sugar twisted into shapes more various than
I can describe or remember. Lubin had taken his five minutes in his
hand, and now spent them easily enough; but there were more, oh, many
more things that he thought that he would like from the stall. He went
humming on as he examined the sweetmeats a favourite proverb of his,
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." But the fat little dunce
might have added, "All play and no work will make Lubin a duller."

Full of interest in all that he saw, with his eyes greedily fixed on
the stall, Lubin did not notice a lean, small figure, which, softly as a
serpent on the grass, had stolen up to his side. This was no other than
Procrastination, a pickpocket well known to the police, who had often
been caught in the very act of robbing her Majesty's subjects of Time,
had been tried and sent to prison, but on getting out had always
returned to his bad occupation again. The poet Young long ago set up a
placard to warn men to take care of their pockets, giving notice to all
concerned that "_Procrastination is the thief of Time_;" but, in spite
of this warning, there are few amongst us who must not own with regret
that the stealthy hand of Procrastination has robbed us of many an hour.

Have you never suffered from Procrastination, good reader? It is he who
makes us _put off_ till to-morrow what ought to be done to-day. It is he
who whispers, "It will be time enough," when a duty should be performed
directly. If you are aware, at this very moment, while you sit with this
book in your hand, that you ought to be busy with Arithmetic, or should
write a letter to a friend, or do some little piece of business, start
up without an instant's delay, shut this book with a clap; perhaps you
may then catch between its leaves the sly fingers of thief
Procrastination.

Poor Lubin was not on his guard: he noticed not the form that crept
after him as noiselessly as a shadow. Procrastination took the
opportunity when the boy's attention was most engaged with the
sweetmeats, to draw out Time's fairy purse, and rifle it of its precious
contents. Silently then he replaced the purse emptied for that day, in
hopes, perhaps, that when the morrow filled it with new hours and
minutes, he might rob its possessor again of the treasure which he
guarded so badly.

"Well, now," exclaimed Lubin, "I can't stop much longer, for I promised
Nelly to follow her quickly, and I know that I ought to be at Mr.
Arithmetic's by this time. I'll just spend two or three minutes more on
those sugar-plums shaped like marbles, and then away to my business and
work like a man."

So Lubin plunged his fat hand into his pocket, and drew forth his purse
of Time. In went his fingers, fumbling about to pull out the minutes
that he wanted, but he fumbled and felt in vain--not an hour was
left--not a single little minute, to pay for what he required.

"It's that rogue Procrastination who has robbed me!" exclaimed the
indignant boy, as turning sharply round he caught a glimpse of a slim
little figure sneaking round the corner of a counter.

Lubin instantly gave chase. Fat as he was, it was wonderful to see how
he dodged the pickpocket, first round this stall, then round that,
shouting all the time, "Stop, thief! stop, thief!" as loudly as he could
bawl. I need scarcely add that all the boy's efforts were useless. Who
ever yet recovered lost Time? Out of breath and out of heart, poor Lubin
stopped panting at last; Procrastination had had a fair start, and
carried off his spoil in triumph.

"There's no use in attempting to go to Education to-day, I've not a
minute left," was Lubin's sorrowful reflection. "Oh, that I had started
with my sister, had thought of my business before my play, what useful
things I might then have bought with the hours which are now lost to me
for ever!"



CHAPTER XV.

DUTY AND AFFECTION.


In the meantime, poor Nelly had been wearily wending her way along the
lane of Trouble, with her burdensome Division on her shoulder. She felt,
as many a little student has felt, quite out of humour for work; her
arms ached, and so did her head; the mud in the lane was so deep that
she could scarcely keep on her shoes, and she sometimes sank in it
almost up to her ankle.

Thus in sorrowful plight the lame girl at last reached the brook of
Bother. Its brown turbid waters looked rougher and deeper and dirtier
than they ever had done before. The stepping-stones had almost
disappeared!

Nelly Desley heaved a long weary sigh as she looked before her, and
rubbed her forehead very hard, as puzzled children are wont to do.

"Oh, this tiresome Division, how shall I ever manage it! I never saw
Bother so bad. _Nine's in fifty-nine_"--another violent rub; "I know
what will be _in_, a poor little girl will be in brook Bother!--and
_what's to be carried_? why this grate is to be carried, and a very
_great_ vexation it is."

Weary Nelly sat down, almost in despair, on a stone by the bank of the
stream. What object attracted her eye, some yards lower down the current
of the brook, round which the muddy waves were eddying and rolling?

"Why--can it be?--yes, there are Dick's three grates all together,
Division, Multiplication, and Subtraction!" Nelly started up in alarm:
"Oh, what can have become of my brother?"

A little reflection soon reassured Nelly. Dick, the most active of boys,
and a famous swimmer besides, could not have come to much harm in a
brook in which, though many have been ducked, no one has ever yet been
quite drowned. It seemed clear that the boy had found the weight which,
prompted by Pride, he had tried to carry, somewhat too much for his
strength; and, being unable to carry it across the waters of Bother, had
flung down his tiresome burden, which, by the force of its own weight,
had stuck fast in the mud of the brook.

"Well, if Dick has failed, I need not mind failing," cried Nelly. "I
think that I'll do what he has done, and fling away this horrid
Division,--oh, what a relief that would be! But still, would it not be
foolish--would it not be wrong--to give way so to impatience? My dear
mother bade me obey Mr. Learning for her sake, she wishes my cottage to
be properly furnished; I must not be a sluggard or a coward. I must do
my best to get over this Bother."

"Well resolved--bravely resolved," said a voice on the other side of the
brook; and from behind the clump of willows which drooped their long
branches in the stream, Nelly saw two beautiful maidens come forth. They
were like, and yet unlike, each other. Both were very fair to look on,
both of noble height and graceful mien; but the one had an air of more
stately dignity, such as might beseem a queen; and her large dark eyes
looked graver and more thoughtful than those of her sister. The other
had smiling soft blue eyes, beaming with tender love, and the sunlight
fell on her golden hair till it seemed like a glory around her.

These lovely maidens were no strangers to Nelly, almost from her infancy
she had looked upon them as friends; many sweet counsels and good gifts
had the lame little girl received from Duty and Affection.

"Oh, Duty!" exclaimed Nelly, who was rejoiced to find herself no longer
alone, "only show me how I can get across, and I will not mind labour or
trouble."

Duty retired for a few moments to her retreat behind the willows, and
then returned, bearing on her shoulder a narrow plank. With the help of
smiling Affection she placed this across the stream.

"This plank, dear child," said calm, stately Duty, "was cut from the
tree of Patience, and small as it seems, can well support your weight.
Boldly venture upon it; the stream runs fast to-day, you are no longer
able to ford it, but on the plank of Patience you safely can pass
across."

Giddy and tired as she felt, Nelly instantly obeyed the voice of Duty,
and placed her foot on the plank. Duty leant forward, and held out her
firm hand to aid her, and soon the trembling child and her wearisome
burden were safe on the bank nearest to the cottages of Head.

"Oh, I am so glad to be well over!" exclaimed Nelly, and with exceeding
pleasure she looked up in the face of Duty, and smiled.

"And now sit down and rest yourself, dear one," said Affection,
spreading a thick mantle on the grass, that its dampness might not hurt
the child.

"May I?" asked Nelly timidly of Duty.

The beauteous maiden bowed her head in assent. There was no sternness
now in her look; Duty is no enemy to innocent enjoyment--rather should
we say that there is no real enjoyment but that which is found by those
who take Duty for their guide and their friend.

"See, here is refreshment for you," said Affection, placing before the
wearied child a rich cluster of delicious fruit. How sweet is such
refreshment given by the hand of Affection, how doubly sweet after
efforts made at the call of Duty!

Never, perhaps, had Nelly Desley passed a happier hour than she did now
on the bank of that stream which she had crossed with such trouble and
fear. She now looked with pleasure at the waves as they rushed so
rapidly by her.

One thought only disturbed little Nelly. "Poor Dick! I wish that I knew
of his safety," said she.

"He is safe enough," replied Duty; "but there, as you may see, lie his
three grates in the mud of the stream."

"If he had only had the plank of Patience," exclaimed Nelly.

"It was offered to him as well as to you," said Duty with a graver air;
"and I thought at first that your brother would have gladly accepted my
offer. But there came to this shore of the brook a dark, ill-favoured
lad--"

"It must have been Pride!" exclaimed Nelly, who knew too well her
brother's companion.

"This Pride," continued Duty, "began to taunt and to scoff. 'Holloa!' he
shouted across the stream, 'will a genius like you stoop to be directed
by a woman! Duty is for slaves, and Patience for donkeys. Kick aside
that miserable plank, and clear the brook with a bound, as you've often
cleared it before.'"

"Dick is a wonderful boy for jumping," cried Nelly, who greatly admired
her brother.

"He jumped once too often," observed Duty; "this time he jumped not over
but into the brook, and mighty was the splash which he made!"

Even gentle Affection could scarcely help laughing at the recollection
of the scene.

"But he scrambled out!" exclaimed Nelly.

"Yes; very muddy, and wet, and cross, leaving all his three grates
behind him. I do not know whether Pride dried Dick's clothes, and wiped
off the mud, they both ran off as fast as they could; I think that your
brother was ashamed to be seen, after having so scornfully refused the
aid of Affection and Duty."

It was now time for Nelly to continue her walk and return to her own
little cottage. Her beautiful friends accompanied her all the way up
hill Puzzle, and made the steep way quite pleasant by their cheerful,
wise conversation. Tiring as her lonely expedition to the town of
Education had been, Nelly never in future times remembered without a
feeling of enjoyment her little adventure by the brook where she had met
with Duty and Affection.

Dick with some trouble recovered his grates from the stream. But he
never looked at them with pleasure, for they served to remind him of the
day when, prompted by foolish Pride, he had overtasked his powers, and,
spurning the plank of Patience, had gone floundering into brook Bother!



CHAPTER XVI.

GRAMMAR'S BAZAAR.


I cannot undertake to describe all the expeditions to Education, nor the
various purchases made by the children; but I will here mention the
first visit made by the Desleys to Grammar's famous bazaar, a place much
frequented by all those who dwell in the town.

I need hardly tell my readers that Grammar's Bazaar lies in quite an
opposite direction from Mrs. Amusement's, and that the two concerns have
no connection whatever with each other. There are no sweetmeats sold in
the former; the goods are all called _words_, and are arranged in
perfect order on nine stalls, kept by nine sisters, well known by the
name of Parts of Speech. These sisters live and work together in the
greatest harmony and comfort, and are highly respected by all the
inhabitants of the town of Education. Some indeed call them "slow" and
"tiresome," and Miss Folly has been heard to declare that the very
mention of them gives her the fidgets; but neither you nor I, dear
reader, form our opinions by those of Miss Folly.

It was on a fine morning in summer that Dick, Lubin, Matty, and Nelly
paid their first visit to Grammar's Bazaar. They entered it by a low
porch, half choked up with parcels of words tied up in sentences ready
to be sent to various customers.

"A dull, dark place this is!" exclaimed Lubin; "I would not give
Amusement's Bazaar for fifty like this."

"Any chance of having one's pocket picked here?" said Dick, with a
malicious wink at his brother.

"Let's visit all the stalls one after another," cried Matty, "before we
make any purchase; I like to see all that's to be seen. What a comical
little body is standing behind the first counter; she is not as big as
Alphabet, I should say."

"She looks like his sister," observed Nelly; "but I suppose that she is
one of the Parts of Speech." And she read the name "Article" fastened up
at the back of the stall.

"What may you sell here, my little lady?" asked Dick, in his easy,
self-confident way; "I see only three hooks on your counter."

Miss Article Part of Speech had to stand upon a stool that her head
might peep over the top of her stall. "I'm but a little creature," said
she, with a good-humoured smile; "_a_, _an_, and _the_ are all the words
that I'm trusted to sell. If you want to see a larger assortment, pass
on to my sister Noun; she has many thousands of words to show you,
models of everything that can be seen, heard, or felt in the world."

Surely enough a most prodigious collection appeared on the counter of
Noun, a large portly maiden who presided over the stall next to that of
Article. There were _cups_ and _saucers_, _pins_ and _needles_, _caps_
and _bonnets_, models of _houses_, _churches_, _beasts_, _birds_, and
_fishes_, by far too numerous to describe.

"These are all _common_," observed Noun, seeing the eyes of Dick fixed
admiringly upon the collection; "I have behind me some more curious
things that have all names of their own," and she pointed to a row of
small figures. "These are not _common_ but, _proper_," she continued;
"you will notice here _Wellington_, _Napoleon_, _Nelson_, and our
gracious sovereign _Victoria_."

[Illustration: Dick, Lubin, Matty, and Nelly paying their first visit to
Grammar's Bazaar. _Page 103._]

"And oh, look here, at Miss Adjective's counter!" cried Matty; "she
keeps such a lot of dolls' things to dress up the figures of Noun. A
_pretty_, _nice_, _curious_ cape--"

"An _absurd_, _ridiculous_, _preposterous_ cap," added Dick.

"Observe," said Adjective with a courteous air, "that I arrange my words
in three rows, one above another, which I call _degrees of
comparison_--_positive_, _comparative_, _superlative_."

"I see, I see," exclaimed Dick; "here's a bonnet, _frightful_--that's
positive; another _more frightful_--that's comparative; and this with
the superlative yellow tuft, I should call the _most frightful_ of all.
So, Nelly's clever--that's positive--"

"I don't think so," murmured Nelly.

"Matty's cleverer--that's comparative."

Matty laughed.

"And I am superlatively clever--without doubt the _cleverest_ of all!"

"In your own opinion," growled Lubin.

Nelly wandered on to the next stall, which was kept by the maiden
Pronoun. Though smaller in size, she was so much like her sister Noun as
to be frequently taken for her. As it was a trouble to stout Noun to go
far or move fast, she very often sent Pronoun upon various errands in
her stead. Pronoun sold not many words; such as she had were mere
pictures of such as were kept by her sister. _I_, _thou_, _he_, _she_,
and _it_, and some others which we need not stop to enumerate.

"Here's a famous big stall!" exclaimed Dick, stopping in front of
Verb's, which was a very remarkable one, being covered with clock-work
figures all in motion. One could see by them what it is to _plough_, to
_sow_, to _reap_, to _work_, to _weep_, and to _dance_. The counter of
Verb was almost as extensive as that of her sister Noun.

"How do you make all these things move?" said Dick with some curiosity
to Verb.

"I _conjugate_ them; that is, wind them up," she replied, showing a
small brass key.

"Is it easy to conjugate them?" asked the boy.

"Easy enough with the _regular_ words," replied Verb, "but a good many
of mine are quite _irregular_ in their construction, and it is hard to
conjugate them."

"And if one conjugate them carelessly, I suppose," said Dick, "that
there would be a great crack or whiz, and the whole affair would go to
smash."

"Oh, don't stop there asking such questions!" cried Lubin; "I'm heartily
tired of this stupid bazaar--and if you go on so slowly, we shall never
get to the end!"

"I like to understand things," said Dick; "there's a great deal to
attract one's attention in this curious counter of Verb."

"Adverb, who keeps the next one," observed Nelly, "sells stands for her
sister Verb's figures, to display them _nicely_, _prettily_, _safely_!"

"_Badly_, _crookedly_, _awkwardly_!" cried Dick, who was in one of his
funny moods. "I don't like the look of Adverb, I think that she's given
to _lies_!"

"The three sisters who have the last stall," whispered Matty to Dick,
"seem all but poor little creatures!"

"I should call them small, smaller, and smallest, like the three degrees
of comparison," laughed Dick, "but I see their names at the backs of
their counters,--Preposition, Conjunction, Interjection."

"Pray, Miss Preposition, what are these?" asked Nelly, as she took up
some small labels from that lady's stall, with _from_, _by_, _of_, and
such names upon them.

"They are to show in what _case_ Noun's words are to be packed," replied
Preposition politely. "You may remark yonder boxes with _Nominative_,
_Possessive_, and such names painted upon them; it is my business to
label my sister's goods, that they may be packed according to rule."

"It must be stupid work to deal in nothing but tickets!" exclaimed Dick;
"if I were a Part of Speech, I'd be Noun rather than Preposition! And
what has Conjunction to sell?"

"Only little balls of string to tie bundles of words together, such as
_and_, _either_, _or_; and scissors to divide the bundles, such as
_neither_, _nor_, _notwithstanding_."

"Oh, come here, come here!" cried Matty eagerly; "there's nothing
amusing to look at on the counters of Conjunction or Preposition, but
Interjection has something very funny! Look at these gutta-percha balls
shaped like faces, some showing pleasure--some horror--some surprise;
just give them a little squeeze, and hear how you make them squeak!"

Lubin pressed one of the heads between his fat fingers, and _oh! ah!_
squeaked the red lips.

"I'll try one!" cried Dick, catching up another; "it's so like Matty's
friend, Miss Folly, that I'm sure that she sat for her likeness!" He
thumped it down on the counter, and out came a shrill "_lack-a-day!_"

"I think," laughed Nelly, "that Interjection sells the funniest words of
all!"

"And the ones that we could best do without," said Dick scornfully,
throwing down the _lack-a-day_ ball.

The children did not leave the Grammar Bazaar empty-handed. I must just
remark that Matty loaded herself most with words from the stall of
Adjective, choosing most of them from the Superlative row; and that
Lubin, notwithstanding the neat labels of Miss Preposition, never knew
how to put one of the words which he got from Noun or Pronoun into its
own proper case.



CHAPTER XVII.

PRIDE AND FOLLY.


One day Mr. Learning, having finished a whole volume of travels for
breakfast, made up his mind to pay a visit to his charges at the
cottages of Head. He walked, as usual, at a rapid pace, with long
strides, looking neither to the right hand nor to the left; his thoughts
too busy with researches into the manners and peculiarities of distant
lands, for him to notice how autumnal hues were already tinging the
trees, or how summer roses were giving place to the convolvulus and the
dahlia. Mr. Learning did not go empty-handed; he carried with him as
presents to the young Desleys four small hammers of Memory, and four
bags of brass nails called Dates.

This time the first cottage which he entered was that of Dick, and he
would doubtless have been pleased to see the numerous articles for
ornament and use with which it already was furnished, had not the first
object which met his eye been the ugly figure of Pride.

Pride was engaged in making a list of all the furniture in Dick's
dwelling, very much like an auctioneer's puff. Everything, according to
him, was "first-rate," "of superior quality," or, "fit for the residence
of any nobleman in the land." Pride sat with his back to the door, and
therefore was not aware of the entrance of Learning, till the stately
gentleman in spectacles tapped him on the shoulder with one of the
hammers.

Up jumped Pride in a moment. He had no time to hide himself, or to beat
a retreat, so, being one of the most impudent fellows in the world, he
resolved to brave out the matter with the solemn philosopher.

"I did not expect to find you here again," said Mr. Learning in his
stiffest and coldest manner.

"Well, I'm surprised to hear that," replied saucy Pride, resting his
hand on his hip, and trying to look quite at his ease; "as I go
everywhere, and am welcomed by everybody, it's natural enough that I
should chance to meet the most potent, grave, and reverend Mr.
Learning."

"Where is your master?" asked Learning shortly.

"_My_ master, indeed!" echoed Pride; "Dick never yet mastered me. I
should rather say that I am _his_ master!"

"Where has he gone?" inquired Learning, without seeming to notice the
insolent remark.

"He has gone to History's shop, to purchase a carpet for his parlour. He
is sure to select a pattern of the newest and most elegant design."

"Then I leave these for him," said the grave philosopher; "a bag full of
bright brass Dates, and a hammer of Memory to knock them well in."

"If you had brought a sackful instead of a bagful," observed Pride, "it
would not have been too much for Dick Desley; and as for the
hammer--don't you know that he has a prodigiously fine Memory of his
own?"

Without condescending to reply, Mr. Learning put down his gifts, turned
round, and, quitting the cottage which harboured so impudent a guest,
went to the next one, which was Lubin's. The door, as usual, was wide
open, and the place deserted and empty. Mr. Learning did not even cross
the threshold, so disgusted was he at the unfurnished, untidy state of
the sluggard's home.

"I may as well leave these for him, but he'll never know how to use
them," muttered Learning, throwing in the hammer and nails.

He then crossed over to Matty's pretty cottage. Her door was also ajar,
and grave Mr. Learning stopped at it for some moments in astonishment
at the sight which presented itself to his view.

Miss Folly, in her seven flounces, her beads and flowers, peacock's
plume, rouge, ribbons, and all, was half reclining on the uncarpeted
floor, engaged in blowing bubbles. As each rose from the bowl of her
pipe, swelling and shining, and then mounting aloft, she watched it with
a look of affected delight and admiration in her up-turned eyes. No
contrast could be imagined greater than that between the stately
gentleman clothed in black, with his broad intellectual brow, spectacled
eyes, and grave, solemn manner; and light, fantastical, frivolous Miss
Folly, clad in the most absurd of styles, but looking as though she
thought herself the very pink of perfection.

"Dear, who can that funny old fogie be!" exclaimed Folly, as she caught
sight of grave Mr. Learning.

"Who may _you_ be, and what are you doing?" asked Learning, with less
politeness than he usually showed to ladies.

"You don't mean to say that you've never heard of me!" cried Folly, her
words bubbling out fast like water out of a bottle; "you must be Mr.
Ignorance, if you don't know that I'm Mademoiselle Folly, the most
particular friend of lovely Lady Fashion, and the inventress of
tight-lacing, steel-hoops, hair-powder, masks, periwigs--"

"Flattened heads, blackened teeth, nose-rings, lip-rings, and
tattooing," added Mr. Learning, remembering the account of a tribe of
savages which he had been reading that morning.

"And as to what I am doing," continued Miss Folly, taking up her pipe,
which she had laid down on the entrance of a stranger, "I'm very
usefully employed: I'm furnishing the cottage of Miss Matty Desley."

"Furnishing!" exclaimed Mr. Learning in surprise, as Miss Folly, with
distended cheeks, commenced blowing another bubble.

Folly was too busy at that moment to reply, even her tongue for a while
was silent; but after she had succeeded in filling a big bubble, and had
loosened it from the pipe with a gentle shake, she vouchsafed a little
explanation.

"Yes, I'm furnishing the cottage with fancies; their poetical name is
day-dreams, cheap, elegant bubble-fancies."

"You must take me for an idiot!" exclaimed Mr. Learning; "no one in his
senses could ever dream of furnishing a house with bubbles!"

Miss Folly was so intently gazing after the ascending bubble that she
seemed to forget even the presence of the sage. As the airy globule
ascended, she began pouring forth a stream of disconnected nonsense,
seeming to speak merely for her own pleasure, as her words could
certainly not be intended for the information of any listener.

"A carriage and four--sleek bays with long tails; no, white horses
with pretty pink rosettes, and harness all glittering with silver!
Drive through London--up and down Hyde Park--taken for the
Queen--bowing--smiling--ah me, the bubble has burst!"

"This is some poor creature that has lost her wits!" thought the
astonished Mr. Learning, scarcely knowing whether to regard Miss Folly
with pity or with contempt. Already another bubble was swelling on the
bowl of her pipe, and in a minute another bright ball was floating aloft
in the air.

"Exquisite beauty--great attractions--such a voice--such a manner--such
a killing smile! An ode from the poet-laureate; bouquets, sent without
end; roses in the middle of winter; a hundred and fifty scented pink
notes on Valentine's day; the star of the season; the--lack-a-day! that
lovely bubble has gone for ever!"

"It's time that I should go too," said Mr. Learning; "I've heard enough
of nonsense to last for a lifetime!"

He was about to depart when Matty suddenly burst into the cottage, in
her eager haste almost knocking down her astonished guardian with a roll
of goods which she carried on her shoulder. The shock of the collision
was great, but not so great as the shock to poor Matty at so suddenly
coming upon Mr. Learning when she only expected to find Miss Folly. She
dropped her burden with an exclamation of surprise, and then tried to
stammer forth an apology, but knew not how to begin. Mr. Learning stood
straight before her, more erect and stately than ever, sternly looking
down through his steel spectacles at the confused and blushing girl.
Miss Folly, however, was quite at her ease, and hastily pushing aside
her basin and pipe, began instantly to unroll the large parcel which
Matty had dropped in her fright.

"Ah, I knew it would be so! You have chosen the sweetest pattern--the
prettiest--most tasteful--most charming little carpet that ever a girl
set eyes on!" and she began spreading out on the floor a fabric so thin,
that it seemed as if made of rose-leaves.

"Did you buy that trash from Mr. History?" said Mr. Learning sternly to
Matty.

"No--why--I own--Miss Folly recommended me rather to try Mr. Fiction,
who lives close to Amusement's bazaar. It is a great matter, you know,
not to have to cross over brook Bother, or carry a carpet up-hill. And
Mr. Fiction has such a magnificent shop, and his wares are so very
cheap."

"Cheap and often worthless!" exclaimed the angry guardian, striking the
carpet with his heel, and proving the truth of his words by tearing a
great hole in the middle. "I brought a gift for you, Matilda Desley, but
I have no intention of leaving it here now. My hammer of Memory, my
bright brass Dates, are not required to fasten down such miserable trash
as this! But," he muttered as he strode away, "it is at any rate all of
a piece! a carpet framed by Fiction is just the thing for a cottage
papered with fairies, furnished with fancies, and occupied by Miss
Folly!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Folly, the moment that his back was turned, "I'm
glad that the old owl has flown off--he looked ready to peck out my
eyes!"

I should like, with wise Mr. Learning, to bid farewell to Folly for
ever. Perhaps my readers may wonder that I should have introduced them
to a creature so very absurd. I should not have done so had I had no
suspicion that Folly might intrude herself, without introduction, when
they themselves are furnishing their own little cottages of Head. Has
no little girl who now gazes on this page, ever sat for hours blowing
bubbles of fancies with Folly, listening to worse--more ridiculous
nonsense than that which shocked Mr. Learning? Has she not delighted to
imagine herself great, rich, beautiful, and admired? has she not
consulted Folly about her dress--spent her precious minutes and hours on
a looking-glass--or a fanciful garment, or a worthless work of Fiction,
when duties had to be performed, when valuable things were to be bought
in the good town of Education?

Ah, dear little laughing reader, have I, like grave Mr. Learning, caught
some one in the very fact of harbouring Miss Folly? Turn her out--at
once turn her out! She is a silly companion, an unsafe guide; she will
never make you loved, respected, or happy. Though not quite so dark and
dangerous as Pride, she is much more closely related to him than people
would at first imagine; there is much of Pride in Folly--and oh, for
poor, weak, ignorant beings like ourselves, is not Folly seen in all
Pride!



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE CARPET OF HISTORY.


Mr. Learning now stood at the top of hill Puzzle, watching Dick, Lubin,
and Nelly, returning laden with carpets from History's shop. Though the
carpets, like the rooms, were but small, they were rather heavy burdens
for children in wet and slippery weather.

Learning smiled his own quiet smile, to see the different and
characteristic movements of his young charges, the Desleys. Dick, the
quick and energetic Dick, was half-way up hill Puzzle when his brother
and sister were only beginning to ascend. His bright young face was
flushed, but rather with pleasure than fatigue; he sped on with a light
elastic tread, neither panting nor pausing, but bearing the carpet of
History as though he felt not its weight. He moved all the more swiftly
for seeing that his guardian's eye was upon him, and on reaching the
crown of the hill, saluted Mr. Learning with a very self-satisfied air.

"You make good progress," observed the sage, politely returning his
salute.

"Oh, I get over everything with a hop, skip, and jump," replied the
laughing boy, forgetting his flounder in Bother, "and you'll soon have
the pleasure of presenting me with the silver crown of Success. It's
nearly time, I should think, for you to introduce me to all your learned
friends the Ologies! But there's one gentleman in Education whom I fancy
more than all--the glorious old fellow who keeps a shop filled with jars
of different colours, retorts, electric-machines, and bottles of powders
and gases; I've heard that he sells such fireworks as would set all the
world in a blaze!"

"You mean, of course, Mr. Chemistry," replied the sage; "he is my much
valued friend; there is not a more pleasing companion to be found in the
whole town of Education than he. But you are yet far too young, Master
Dick, to make the acquaintance of so superior and intellectual a man.
His goods are not yet for you, though in time you may make them your
own. Attend at present to your carpets and your grates; furnish your
cottage with facts from General Knowledge; a day perhaps may arrive when
you will be ready for things more abstruse, and then I'll introduce you
myself both to the Ologies and to Mr. Chemistry, which latter will, I
have no doubt, display to you all his magazine of wonders."

"Always putting off!" muttered Dick between his teeth; "always treating
one like a mere child. I shall have long enough to wait if I wait for
the introduction of slow Mr. Learning. I can do very well without it,
and shall certainly try some day whether, by putting a bold face on the
matter, I am not able to make my own way to the favour of Mr.
Chemistry!"

These last words were only overheard by Pride, for Dick had already
entered his cottage. In a few minutes more the sound of his busy hammer
told that he was already setting vigorously to work to nail down his
History carpet.

"How comparatively slowly the two other children make their way up the
hill!" said Learning, who stood watching Lubin and Nelly. "Why, the boy
has twice sat down to rest on his bundle; and now, surely my spectacles
must be at fault, can he be rolling his carpet up the hill, instead of
carrying it on his shoulder! In a fine miry state it will be by the time
that he reaches his dwelling!"

Surely enough the lazy boy was getting on with his History carpet in the
laziest of ways, pushing instead of bearing, rolling it along as if it
were a snowball, and seeming to be quite regardless of the fact that the
path was covered with mud! Have none of my readers done the same, been
content to get up a task in _any way_, however slothful and careless?

"Are you not ashamed of that?" exclaimed Mr. Learning, pointing to the
dirty roll of carpet, as Lubin gained the top of the hill.

"Oh, sir, the mud will rub off when it is dry," said the boy with an air
of unconcern; "the inner side, where the pattern is, cannot be soiled in
the least."

"Unroll it and see," said stern Mr. Learning.

Lubin slowly obeyed, and had certainly little cause to be pleased with
the condition of his new purchase. The pattern, which was full and rich,
represented a hundred different scenes of interest. There was the wooden
horse of old Troy; here appeared the gallant sons of Sparta defending
the pass of Thermopylæ; great men of Greece and of Rome, British
monarchs and statesmen in varied costumes and different attitudes,
adorned the History carpet. Adorned, did I say? rather once had adorned,
for all was now a jumble of confusion! There was a great blot of mud
just over the face of Julius Cæsar, and not a single Roman emperor
stood out clear and distinct. In silent indignation Mr. Learning turned
away, leaving Lubin to do the best that he could with his poor soiled
History carpet.

Nelly Desley, weary, but cheerful, had just carried her burden home. She
was unrolling it now in her simple but beautifully neat little parlour,
and surveying with great delight the charming pattern upon it.

"Of all the purchases that I have made, this pleases me most!" she
cried. "What a wonderful variety of pictures, so amusing and
interesting! Ah, there is good Queen Philippa on her knees, begging for
the citizens of Calais; and there brave Joan of Arc leading on her
soldiers to battle! And there, oh, there are the holy martyrs tied to
the stake for the sake of the truth, looking so calmly and meekly
upwards, as though they had no fear of dying! I can never pass a dull
evening now with this wonderful carpet before me; it seems as though it
would take a lifetime to know all its various scenes."

"Yes," said Mr. Learning, who had entered her parlour unobserved, "that
beautiful carpet will serve as a constant feast for the mind. Fiction
may boast that his dyes are the brightest; this I utterly deny; no
colours are so vivid or so lasting as those that have been fixed by
Truth, and these should alone be employed in the carpets which History
produces."

Mr. Learning then graciously bestowed upon Nelly the gift of the hammer
and nails, and quitted the cottages of Head well satisfied with at least
one of his charges.



CHAPTER XIX.

HAMMERING IN DATES.


Knock--knock--knock! "Oh, this wearisome hammering!" sighed poor Nelly,
as stooping over her carpet till the blood swelled the veins of her
forehead, she tried to fasten in, one by one, the date-nails which Mr.
Learning had given. "I do not see why it is needful to knock in all
these tiresome nails! Lubin has thrown his whole stock into a rubbish
corner, I know, and says that he never means to prick his fingers again
by thrusting them into such a bag!" knock--knock! "Stephen came to the
throne in 1145, or 1154, I'm sure I don't know which--and, what's more,
I don't care! Ah!" the last exclamation was a cry of pain, for the
hammer in the girl's awkward hand had come down with some force on her
fingers.

"Well, Nelly, what is the matter?" asked Lubin, showing his jolly fat
face at the door.

"I'm tired to death of these dates!" replied Nelly, raising her flushed
face at the question.

"So was I with the very first of them; I never got beyond William the
Conqueror; my carpet will stick on very well without nails, if no one
takes to dancing a jig upon it! You are just wearing your spirits out,
Nelly, and I'm sure that I wouldn't do that for any man, least of all
for that sour Mr. Learning, who scribbled DUNCE on my wall!"

"I think," said Nelly, "that my friend Duty would tell me to go
hammering on with these dates."

"Duty would keep one in tight order," laughed Lubin, "but I prefer
following my own pleasure. I'm off to Amusement's bazaar, and I advise
you to come with me now."

"Oh, Lubin, not now; not till I have finished my work."

"Then I'll go without you," said the boy, leaving poor Nelly to her
troublesome task.

Scarcely had Nelly begun her hammering again, when Matty popped in her
pretty little face.

"Why, Nelly, what's the use of tiring yourself like that! You will never
manage to knock in all those nails!"

"I am afraid that I will not," sighed poor Nelly.

"Do as I do," continued Matty. "Miss Folly, kind creature, has supplied
me with spangles, which are, all the world must own, just as pretty as
any brass nails!"

"Spangles!" repeated Nelly in surprise; "no one can fasten down a carpet
with spangles!"

"It's the _look_ of the thing that I care for," said Matty, who had
evidently become a very apt pupil of Folly. "And now I'll tell you where
I'm going, Nelly. I have long thought, you know, that a pretty
tambourine would look wonderfully well in my parlour; and I think, if I
could buy one cheap, that a French picture would give it a fashionable
air. I am going on a purchasing expedition, dear Miss Folly being my
guide."

"Oh, Matty!" exclaimed Nelly, "you know that you have not yet bought
half the things that you require from Mr. Arithmetic the ironmonger!"

"I wish Mr. Arithmetic at Jericho!" cried Matty peevishly; "his goods
are so heavy--so uninteresting; they make no show; I won't plague myself
with such things!"

"Matty, Matty, my beauty!" called the shrill voice of Folly from
without.

"I'm coming in a moment," cried Matty, as she hastened to join her
companion.

Sadly, but with quiet resolution, Nelly took up her hammer again. Not
many minutes had passed before she received a visit from Dick.

"How long are you going to keep on knocking in those dates?" exclaimed
the boy; "I put in all mine long ago. You see," he added with a merry
laugh, as he held up his hands, "I've _nails at my fingers' ends_!"

Nelly, who did not quite understand the joke, and was too honest to
pretend that she did so, bent down again over her work.

"I can't think how you are so slow!" cried Dick. "I've heard you hammer,
hammer, hammering for such a time, that I expected when I came in to
find your carpet studded all over with dates, and you have not put in
more than six!"

"I am sorry that I am so slow and stupid," said Nelly, with a sigh; "it
is not my fault but my misfortune."

Dick felt a little repentant for his unkind and thoughtless words. "I
must say, Nelly," he observed, "that slow as you are, your cottage is
far better furnished than Matty's, though she is so active and bright.
What a lot of trash she has stuffed into her rooms! And such a lovely
cottage she has! If the inside only matched the outside, it would be
charming indeed!"

"Dear Matty would have furnished her house very nicely," said Nelly,
"if Miss Folly had not come in the way."

"Ah, yes! Folly is at the bottom of the mischief!" cried Dick. "How
absurdly she has made Matty dress; what numbers of good hours has the
silly girl spent in making herself look ridiculous!"

"Oh, don't be hard on Matty!" cried her sister.

"Would you believe it!" said Dick, "Miss Folly has persuaded her to get
not only her carpet, but her chairs and tables also, from Mr. Fiction!
They are as slight as if made of pasteboard, and won't stand a single
week's wear! Now _my_ furniture is good and substantial, and was very
reasonable in price besides."

"Where did you get it?" asked Nelly.

"Oh, you know, where Mr. Learning recommended us to go. I buy my
furniture from the upholsterer, General Knowledge, whose shop adjoins
Mr. Reading's."

"The immense warehouse of _facts_," said Nelly.

"You may well call it immense," cried Dick; "I believe that it would
take one a lifetime to go thoroughly over the place. There are vaults
below full of furniture facts; rooms beyond rooms stuffed with facts;
mount the stairs, and you'll find story upon story all filled with
valuable facts! I assure you, Nelly, that it is a very curious and
interesting place to visit, and I never go to General Knowledge without
carrying back something well worth the having. I'm just on my way to him
now."

"I should like to go with you," said Nelly; "I shall want beds, tables,
and chairs; and as I can't carry much at once, I shall need to go very
often to the warehouse."

"Come then now, and be quick!" cried Dick, who was, as usual, impatient
to start.

"I think--indeed I am sure," replied Nelly, "that Duty would advise me
first to finish the task which I have begun. If other furniture were
brought in just now, I might find it harder to nail down my carpet."

"Good-bye, dear drudge!" cried Dick; "I believe that it would be better
for us all if we stuck to the counsels of Duty as steadily as you always
do! But you see I'm a quick, sharp fellow, and don't like to be tied
down by rules; I get what I will, when I will, and where I will; and
depend on't, in the end I'll win the crown of Success, for no cottage of
Head will be found so well-furnished as mine!"

And with this somewhat conceited speech on his tongue, off darted our
clever young Dick, ran down hill Puzzle at speed, and lightly sprang
over brook Bother!



CHAPTER XX.

THE PURSUED BIRD.


"There is no doubt but that Dick will be the one to win the crown," was
the silent reflection of Nelly; "I work from no hopes of getting _that_;
but it will be quite reward enough for me if my dear mother be pleased
with my cottage; and smiles from Duty and Affection would make any
labour seem light."

By dint of steady hammering Nelly at last managed to fix in a goodly
number of dates. When she was satisfied that enough had been done, she
rose from her knees, and relieved herself by a yawn.

"I will go and see after my Plain-work," said she; "the fruit upon it is
swelling quite big--I am glad that it will be perfectly ripe when my
dear mother comes back. If she be satisfied with it, how little shall I
grudge my past trouble--how joyful and happy I shall be!"

Nelly uttered these words as she crossed her threshold, and felt the
fresh, pleasant air playing upon her flushed cheek and her aching brow.

At that moment her ear caught a whirring sound, as of wings, and looking
upwards, she beheld a beautiful bird pursued by a hawk darting down
towards her at the utmost speed that terror could lend it. Scarcely had
she seen its danger, when the little fluttering fugitive had sought
shelter in the bosom of the child.

"Oh, poor little bird--poor little bird--the hawk shall not catch you!"
cried Nelly, putting one hand over the trembling creature, and holding
out the other to keep the fierce pursuer away.

The hawk, which was of a species called "Tempers," not altogether
unknown in Great Britain (my readers may, perhaps, have seen specimens),
wheeled round and round in circles, as if unwilling to give up its prey.
Nelly was quite afraid that it might attack her, and still pressing the
poor frightened bird to her bosom, she hurried back into her cottage.

"You are safe, pretty creature--quite safe. You need no longer tremble
and flutter," said the little girl to the bird. It almost seemed as if
the fugitive understood her; it spread its pinions, but not to fly away;
lightly it hopped on to her hand, and rubbed its soft head against her
shoulder.

"I never saw such a beauty of a bird!" cried the delighted Nelly; "and
it seems just as tame as it is pretty. What lovely white silvery wings,
what soft eyes that gleam like rubies, the changing tints on its neck
and breast are lovelier than anything I ever saw before!"

Still perched on her hand, the bird opened his beak, and began to warble
a song of gratitude far sweeter than any nightingale's lay. Little Nelly
was enraptured at the sound.

"Oh, how glad I am," she exclaimed, "that I did not leave my hammering
before--that I did not go, as I much wished to go, either with Lubin or
Dick. This lovely creature would then have been torn to pieces by the
cruel hawk, and I should have seen nothing of it, except perhaps a few
stained feathers at my door."

"I hear the well-known warble of my bird Content!" cried a voice from
without which Nelly at once recognized; and running to open the door as
fast as her lameness would let her, she joyfully admitted her two
friends, Affection and Duty.

Content fluttered to the hand of his mistress, Duty.

"Ah, truant!" cried the fair maiden, as she caressed her little
favourite, "how could you wander from me--how could you ever fancy
yourself safe apart from Duty? I saw the hawk wheeling in the air, and
I trembled for my beautiful pet; but he has found here a refuge and
protector. Nelly, I thank you for your kindness, and it is with pleasure
that I reward it. You have saved the bird, and the bird shall be yours.
Go, pretty warbler, go; and, warned by former danger, keep close to your
new young mistress."

Nelly uttered an exclamation of delight, as, obedient to the word,
silver-winged Content flew again into her bosom, and nestled there like
a child.

"Oh, thanks, thanks!" she cried; "such a treasure as this will be a
constant delight. I would rather have the bird Content, than even the
crown of Success."

"You must never part with it," said Duty earnestly, "whoever may tempt
you to do so; my gift must never be sold or exchanged. Content is a
wonderful bird; joy and happiness breathe in his note. Though I be not
visibly present, such a mysterious tie connects Content with Duty, that
when you have followed my rules, and acted as I would have you act, my
bird will cheer and reward you with one of his sweetest songs."

"I will never, never part with him of my own free will," said Nelly, as
she fondled her bird.

Affection now came forward. The reader may remark that the sisters
seemed ever to keep close together, as though they scarcely could live
apart. They were indeed tenderly attached, and felt a pleasure in each
other's society which made them never willingly sundered. Duty felt that
without Affection she would find every occupation a weary task; and
Affection, who was a little given to extravagance, would often have got
into trouble without the quiet counsels of Duty. Each looked fairer and
brighter when seen in the company of her sister.

Affection now placed before Nelly a Book, wrapped in a cover of gold.
"To my sister's gift," she said, "I must add one yet more precious.
However well the head may be furnished, if the _highest_ knowledge be
wanting, all other things become worthless and vain. Treasure this Book,
dear child; make it your counsellor and guide; you will not prize it
less because Duty requires you to study it, and it may be pleasant to
you to remember that you first received it from my hand as the best, the
noblest gift which even Affection could offer."

Youthful reader, do you know that Book, and do you dearly prize it? It
is that volume which gives knowledge compared to which all the
inventions of science, all the learning of man, all the wisdom of this
world, is but as dust in the balance.



CHAPTER XXI.

PLANS AND PLOTS.


How happy was little Nelly now, with Content as her constant companion.
He was with her when she went on expeditions to the town of Education,
flying before her, then stopping to rest on some bush by the wayside to
cheer her by his musical song. When she returned home laden with
furniture, facts from the warehouse of General Knowledge, or some of
Arithmetic's more heavy productions, the way seemed shorter, the burden
more light when Content was fluttering near. When the four Desleys at
last took up their abode in their four little homes, the presence of
beautiful Content made Nelly's as bright as a palace.

It is time that I should say something about the gardens which lay
behind the cottages of Head, and which were to be cultivated by the
children. These were very curiously laid out, according to the plans
given by Geography, the celebrated gardener. Each garden represented a
map. There were plots of green grass for the sea, dotted with daisies
for tiny islands. There was rich dark mould for the land, and flowers or
small bushes were planted wherever the capitals of countries should be.
Dick, who was very ingenious, contrived to have some characteristic
plant for most of those cities.

"See," he exclaimed, "there is a rose-bush for London, a thistle for
bonny Edinburgh, and a patch of green shamrock for Dublin. I'm getting a
lily for Paris, as that is the capital of France; and as Holland is
famous for tulips, Amsterdam a tulip shall be."

"And what will you give Belgium?" inquired Matty.

"Brussels sprouts, to be sure."

Dick worked early and late at his garden, and it was by far the finest
of the four; even in the season of autumn the difference was very
marked. Lubin was so often sauntering off to Amusement's bazaar, and
spending his hours at one of her counters, that Geography the gardener
grew quite out of patience with him. Lubin quite forgot where to put in
the tiny box hedges which marked the boundaries of various countries, so
that France spread half over Germany, and swallowed up poor little
Belgium altogether. "Italy," as Dick laughingly observed, "was shaped
like a gouty shoe, instead of a long slender boot;" and so much grass
overran the border, that Matty was certain that all Lubin's land would
soon be drowned by the sea. London, Edinburgh, and Paris were dying for
want of watering, and nothing seemed to flourish in Lubin's Europe but
such things as groundsel and chickweed.

Matty at first succeeded far better with her flowers. She had a taste
for gardening, she said, and laid out her map very nicely. Whatever
accorded with her inclination, Matty did quickly and well; but she
worked from no regard to Duty, and whenever she felt a little tired, she
threw down her spade, and went to amuse herself with touching her new
tambourine, or blowing bubbles of Fancy with Folly. Yet, upon the whole,
Matty's garden was fair and pleasant to behold.

Nelly, who was lame, and had little strength for hard work, found
gardening a serious task. It took her long to lay out the plots, long to
plant the box hedges; and watering the cities, and keeping the ground
clear of weeds seemed an endless business to Nelly. Yet cheerfully and
bravely she worked, while, perched on a bush beside her, the beautiful
bird Content poured forth enlivening lays. The harder she laboured, the
louder sang he; and whenever she glanced up from her task, she saw the
gleam of his silver wing reflecting the sunshine from heaven.

"Oh, dear little bird!" cried Nelly, "with what a song will you welcome
my mother, who will soon return to us now. How she will stroke your soft
feathers, and delight in your cheerful lay! Then, perhaps, thoughtful
Duty and sweet Affection will come and remain as my guests, and fill my
home with peace and with gladness when chill winter darkens around. Oh,
how happily shall we all then gather around our blazing Christmas fire!"

It seems strange that so kind and gentle a child as Nelly should ever
have an enemy; but she was certainly an object of envy and dislike both
to Miss Folly and Pride.

"I hate that sober, sensible little minx, who is always thinking of
Affection and Duty," said Miss Folly one day to Pride, as they were
walking in a thicket together, just as the damp evening mist was
beginning to fall.

"I hate her heartily," muttered Pride between his clenched teeth; "for
she not only shuts her own door against me, but tries with all the power
that she has to weaken my influence with her brothers and sister. She
has not succeeded, and she shall not; but I never forget a wrong, and
I'd give anything in the world to be able to spite and vex her."

"It drives me wild to hear that bird of hers always singing so gaily!"
cried Folly.

"Could we not wring its neck?" exclaimed Pride.

"We dare not so much as touch it without her leave," said Miss Folly,
shaking her peacock plume with vexation; "and yet I'd rather make myself
a head-dress of its feathers than of those of any other bird of the
air."

"We'll get hold of it, and kill it without mercy!" cried ugly Pride,
grinding his teeth as he spoke; "but we must work by cunning, for we
dare not use force, the child is under such powerful protection."

"I'll coax Nelly to part with her bird," said Folly; and rolling her
goggle eyes, she added, "you know that I'm a rare hand at coaxing."

"There are few who can withstand you," answered the dark one; his words
made Folly simper, she knew not how to blush. "And if," continued Pride,
"you succeed, you will make Nelly mortally offend both Duty and
Affection; and to break with friends such as they are, will make her
miserable indeed."

"She'll only need a good big bribe," said Folly. "I believe that Matty
would part with the dearest friend that she has for the sake of a few
bright ribbons, or a bunch of fine feathers to wear."

"But Matty is not Nelly," observed Pride.

"Oh, Nelly is only a girl!" cried Folly, tossing her frizzled head, "and
there never yet was a girl that could not be wheedled by Folly into
doing the silliest thing in the world. If I persuaded Matty that Fashion
required her to tattoo her nose all over, to dye her hair green, or
blue, or mauve, or to walk on all fours like a cat,--don't you suppose
that she would do it?"

Pride only shrugged his shoulders in reply.

"Haven't I coaxed Chinese ladies to torture their babies by squeezing
their feet into shoes so small, that the half-lamed creatures could
never, throughout life, walk except in a waddle? Have I not--"

"You have done all sorts of wonderful things," said Pride; "no one
doubts your power of persuading. Try now your arts upon Nelly, get her
to give up her bird, and strangle Content as soon as you get it under
your dainty fingers. If you shall be baffled, I will try next; 'twill be
strange indeed if a simple child like Nelly be able to withstand us
both."

"No fear of that!" exclaimed Folly.

So the two conspirators parted, equally resolved, by any possible means,
to effect their object. It was not the first time that Folly and Pride
had consulted together how to bring sorrow and shame into a young loving
heart; not the first time that they had agreed to use their utmost
efforts to destroy a bright and beautiful creature, and silence for ever
in death the warbling voice of Content.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE COCKATOO, PARADE.


"Good morning to you, sweet Nelly, dear industrious Nelly!" was the
greeting of Folly on the following morning, as she stood with a red
cockatoo on her wrist, quite filling up Nelly's doorway with her iron
hoop and her flounces.

Nelly was busily engaged in screwing on the legs of a table made of
facts from Natural History, which she had bought from General Knowledge.
A very curious table it was: the facts were as numerous, and fitted
together as closely, as the bits of wood in a Tunbridge-ware box; and
the legs were carved all over with figures of birds and beasts. That
table had cost many hours, and had been carried home bit by bit; it was
one of the prettiest and handsomest pieces of furniture which appeared
in the little cottage.

"Good morning," replied Nelly very coldly, in answer to the salutation;
she had no good opinion of Miss Folly, and hoped that she did not intend
to linger. Folly had, however, come with an object, and did not appear
to notice the coldness of the child, indeed no one is slower than Folly
in taking a hint to depart.

"I see that you are as fond of creatures as I am," cried Miss Folly,
turning her goggle eyes upon her parrot; "I have a fancy, I may say a
passion, for them! I keep a regular 'happy family' at home--dogs, cats,
mice, parrots, and pigeons, and a little pet alligator, the dearest duck
of an alligator, that I've taught to eat out of my hand! You must really
come and see them all one day."

"Thank you, but I'm very busy," replied poor Nelly, who wished that her
jabbering visitor would leave her in quiet to work.

"But I've no bird like your Content; I really think that I must add it
to my collection," said Folly; "it seems to me quite unique!"

Nelly had no notion what _unique_ could mean, but she had a great notion
that her Content should never be added to Miss Folly's "happy family."

"Now I've just been thinking," continued the chatterer, "that it would
be a nice plan--a most charming plan, for you and me to make a little
exchange. You give me your bird Content, which I'll always cherish and
coddle, and feed on sugar-plums and strawberry ice, in affectionate
remembrance of you"--(O Folly! Folly! how little you care for
truth!)--"and you shall have my magnificent cockatoo, Parade, that I've
taught to speak myself; he's the finest creature in the world: you shall
hear how clever he is!"

Folly coaxed the bird on her wrist, called him by a dozen pretty names,
smiled at him, nodded to him, whistled for him, and at length induced
him to speak. The cockatoo bobbed his head up and down, shook his wings,
puffed out his red feathers, and then in harsh, sharp tones repeated
about a dozen times the sentence, "Pretty Poll! ain't I fine? ain't I
fine?"

The bird Content, perched on the mantelpiece, seemed listening in wonder
to a voice so unlike his own.

"That is a clever cockatoo," said Nelly, with a smile; "but I would not
exchange my Content for any other bird in the world."

"Ah, but Parade is a beauty--a real beauty!" cried Miss Folly; "Lady
Fashion, my most particular friend, would give anything to possess him!
I assure you that when I put him in my window, every passer-by stops to
stare at the creature. Only just hear him again."

And again Parade bobbed his head up and down, swelled himself out, and
repeated, "Pretty Poll! ain't I fine? ain't I fine?"

"I protest," cried Folly, speaking faster than ever, "he'll sometimes
keep repeating over that sentence from morning till night!"

Nelly was too polite to say it aloud, but she thought that one might get
very weary of hearing "Pretty Poll! ain't I fine? ain't I fine?"

"I really do not wish to make any exchange," said the lame girl with
mild decision; "Parade has very bright colours, it is true, but I love
better the silver wings and soft note of my pretty Content."

Even Folly could not but see that this her first effort had failed; but
Folly is not easily discouraged. "If this stupid girl do not care for
Parade," thought she, "I'll find something else that she cares for;" and
putting the cockatoo down on the table, Folly drew a gay jewel-case from
her pocket.

"What do you say to these?" she exclaimed, opening the case, and drawing
from it a long string of what looked like pearls, with a sparkling clasp
which seemed to be made of diamonds.

"They are very pretty indeed!" said Nelly.

"And so becoming--so charmingly becoming! I assure you, my dear, if you
would only let me dress up your hair, put it back _à l'Imperatrice_, and
adorn it with these lovely pearls, there's not a creature that would
know you again!"

Nelly laughed, and Folly thought that she had now found a vulnerable
point; that, like the crow in the fable, the child could be caught by
flattery.

"You don't do justice to yourself, my dear; your dress is so common and
plain that no one guesses how well you would look if you attended a
little to style. If you wore such clothes as Matty now wears, and
carried them off with an air, you may depend on't that people would take
you for a very grand lady indeed!"

"But why should I wish to be taken for what I am not?" asked Nelly
simply.

"My dear, what an absurd question! Does not every one wish to be taken
for somebody grander than herself?" cried Folly, jabbering at railroad
speed. "The child of the dogs' meat man wears a necklace and hoop; the
farmer's daughter cuts out the squire's; the kitchen-maids on Sundays
deck out as ladies; each one mimics some one above her, and wants to cut
a dash in the world! If any one were content to appear really _what she
is_, I should cut her society at once; I should let the whole world know
that she had _nothing to do with Folly_!"

Sharing the excitement of his mistress, "Ain't I fine? ain't I fine?"
cried Parade.

"Now, my dear, I'll tell you what I'll do," continued Folly, lowering
her voice to a confidential tone; "you shall give me your bird Content,
and, as I told you before, I shall feed him and foster him with the same
care as I do my own pet alligator. In return I will not only present you
with this charming string of pearls, but will show you how to wear them
in a manner the most bewitching."

"I do not think that pearls would suit a plain little girl like me!"

"Plain! if ever I heard such a thing. You've a countenance quite out of
the common! You've the prettiest nose--the sweetest little nose; and as
for your smile!--" Folly threw up her hands, and cast up her eyes, to
denote admiration too great to be expressed by mere words.

Poor little Nelly was rather taken aback by praises to which she had not
been accustomed. She certainly placed little confidence in anything said
by her visitor; yet flattery has some sweetness in it, even from the
lips of Folly. Let no little girl who reads my story despise poor Nelly
for smiling and blushing, unless she be quite certain that she never
herself has done the same on a similar occasion. But Nelly, though
amused, was not caught even by the bait of the pearls and the praises.
She remembered many a word of sensible advice given by her faithful
friend Duty, and drawing a little back from Folly, who in her eager
confidential manner had pressed up quite close to the child, she said in
a modest tone, "Whatever our looks may be, a simple and sober dress,
such as suits our age and station, is what Duty always recommends."

"Duty--the old horror!" exclaimed Folly, who could not endure the very
name; "I don't wonder that you're formal and quiet, if you tie yourself
down to her laws. No, no, my pretty Nell, you must break away at once
from such a dull, tiresome guide; don't talk to me of Duty again! I'll
take you under my charge; I'll show you all my delights; I'll even--"
here Folly again lowered her voice to a confidential tone, and leant
forward her frizzled head as she whispered, "I'll even manage to
introduce you to my most particular friend, Lady Fashion!"

"Nothing on earth would make me give up Duty!" exclaimed Nelly warmly,
for she could bear no word spoken against her friend. "I will never
forget her, nor part with her gift; and I don't want, indeed I don't, to
be introduced to Lady Fashion!"

Miss Folly started back in indignation and horror. "Not want to be
introduced to Lady Fashion! the girl must be out of her senses! Not one
moment longer shall Folly condescend to stay near one who has the
effrontery to own that she does not want to be introduced to Lady
Fashion!" and, snatching up her cockatoo, Parade, Miss Folly rushed out
of the cottage as fast as her mass of frippery would let her.

Nelly looked after her with a wondering smile, and Content, perched on
the shoulder of his young mistress, burst forth into the merriest of
songs.

Miss Folly did not stop in her running till she arrived, out of breath,
at the spot where Pride was awaiting her return.

"What success?" asked the dark one, though he saw at a glance that Folly
had been baffled and defeated.

"I'll never go near her again!" gasped forth Folly; "I'll never put my
foot across her threshold! She has disappointed me, rejected me,
insulted me; she does not care for my cockatoo, Parade, nor wish to be
introduced to my most particular friend, Lady Fashion!" and Folly almost
cried with spite and vexation.

"She will not escape me so easily," said Pride; "my arts are deeper than
yours. I have resolved that her bird shall die, and die it shall, before
to-morrow, let her guard it as well as she may."

"She always keeps Content beside her," observed Folly, "and you know
that neither of us are able to take it away by force."

"Not by force," said Pride gloomily, "but by fraud. I know that I cannot
with my own hands wring the neck of Content; but I'll do more, I'll make
Nelly kill him herself!"

"How can you do that?" exclaimed wondering Folly.

Pride glanced round to see that no one else was listening before he
replied, in a voice sunk to a horrible whisper, "I've a poisoned cage,
called Ambition, very fair and fine to the eye. Let Content be but once
placed in that, and he will swell, and swell, till he burst, like one of
your own bubbles, Miss Folly."

Folly looked charmed at the clever idea. "But how to get the bird into
the cage?" said she.

"Leave that to me," answered Pride; "I know how to manage these matters.
There is many a one who would scorn to listen to the offers of Folly,
who cannot turn a deaf ear to Pride. You have power over a weak mind
like Matty's, and can turn and mould her at your will; but it needs a
more subtle spirit, a more artful lure, to overcome a girl who has been
brought up under the guidance of Duty."



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE CAGE OF AMBITION.


"Well furnished, yet simply furnished--all good, plain, solid--that is
what I like and approve!"

Nelly looked up on hearing these words, and her glance became one of
surprise when she saw by whom they had been uttered. Pride was standing
with folded arms not at the door but at the window; his dark, haughty
expression was gone, and he looked mildly down at the child.

"Do not fear me, Nelly," he said, "I shall make no attempt to enter. I
know that you have been set against me by those who have little
acquaintance with me. I blame them not, they act for the best; and I
honour you for following the counsels of such friends as Duty and
Affection."

"Really," thought Nelly as she listened, "Pride is not so bad as I took
him to be."

"Perhaps," continued the cunning deceiver, "were my character better
known, even virtuous Duty herself would find me no foe, but a friend.
Mr. Learning I often have served, though he will not acknowledge my
services. I have spurred on his cleverest pupil to efforts which,
without me, he would never have made."

"But have you not brought Dick into some trouble?" suggested Nelly,
glancing timidly up at Pride.

"Such troubles as generous natures encounter, the dangers that await the
daring--dangers much to be preferred to the inglorious safety of the
sluggard. To yourself, Nelly, I appeal, for you are a girl of rare
sense; your brave perseverance in labour, your wise use of the bridge of
Patience, your attention to the call of Duty, show that you possess a
judgment far beyond what might be expected at your age."

"Pride is not half so ugly as I used to fancy that he was," thought
Nelly.

"To you I appeal," continued Pride. "Had I possessed the same influence
over Lubin as that which I have exercised over his brother, would not
the result have been for good? Would not Lubin's cottage have been
better furnished, his hours more nobly employed; would he not have
scorned to throw away so much money on sweetmeats; would not honest
Pride have kept him from the meanness of giving up everything for
Amusement?"

"Yes, I believe so," answered Nelly, and she was only speaking the
truth; she might have added, however, that no efforts are really noble,
no acts really worthy of praise, that are owing, not to a regard for
Duty, but to the influence of selfish Pride.

"I could not forbear calling here," continued the deceiver, who felt
that his artful words were beginning to make an impression, "to
congratulate you, as I do with all my heart, upon your late conduct, so
noble and wise."

"When--where?" asked the wondering Nelly.

"I speak of your triumph over Miss Folly--over that weak, silly,
frivolous creature who has, unhappily, so much power over the minds of
ignorant girls. Wise were you, Nelly, most wise, not to exchange your
beautiful Content for false pearls or prating Parade. You have a soul
above froth and frippery, you despise both flattery and Folly, no one
will catch you blowing bubbles of Fancy to furnish a most empty
dwelling!"

Nelly began to understand how it was that Dick had found Pride such a
pleasant companion.

"Yes," continued the deceiver, leaning through the open window, on the
sill of which he rested his arms, "you scorn that poor wretched Parade,
that screams 'Ain't I fine?' to each passer-by, as if seeking to attract
vulgar notice. Independent of others, you can stand by yourself; you
have won Content, you prize it, you deserve it; but has it never struck
your mind, Nelly, how difficult it may prove for you to _keep_ it?"

"No," replied Nelly, caressing her bird; "I shall never give my
favourite away."

"But your favourite may take wing and depart. Do you expect Content to
remain in this small cottage, with all the free air to soar in?"

Nelly looked uneasy and anxious, and pressed her bird closer to her
heart.

"It is the nature of birds to mount aloft. Trust me, Nelly, Content will
not linger long here while he has unrestrained use of his wings."

"I could not bear to lose him!" cried Nelly.

"To save you that pain," said Pride, watching closely her face as he
spoke, "see what I have brought for you here!" and he raised and placed
on the sill of the window the gilded cage of Ambition.

"Oh, what a splendid, magnificent cage!" cried poor simple Nelly,
suspecting no evil; "and did you really intend it for me?"

"See how ready I am to forgive and forget," said Pride, with a wicked,
mocking smile, as he saw the guileless child lay her hand on the
poisoned gift; "you have spoken against me, tried to drive me away--nay,
at this very moment, I believe, you would not suffer me to enter your
door--and yet I bring you this cage that you may never lose your
Content; that you may see it grow greater and greater, and never fly
from your home!"

"You are very good," began Nelly, and stopped short; she was startled at
the sound of her own words.

"Yes, I am _very good_, am I?" laughed Pride, as he turned away from the
window, and then began to stalk down the hill, muttering to himself as
he walked, "Ay, she will think me very good, doubtless, when she
sees--as she will see before morning--her beautiful, her cherished
Content gasping and swelling in the agonies of death!" and as in thought
he enjoyed his barbarous triumph, how hideous grew the dark features of
Pride.

But the wicked one was blowing the trumpet of victory before the battle
had been won! Nelly, indeed, looked with admiration and pleasure upon
the glittering cage, and was about to place her favourite within it,
when a thought arrested her hand. "My mother has warned us very often to
have nothing to do with Pride; Duty has told me again and again that
nowhere upon earth could I find a more dangerous companion than he.
Ought I to accept this gift? is it suitable, is it right, to take a
present from one whom I dare not invite to enter my cottage? Oh, surely
I have done wrong in listening with such pleasure to his flattering
words! What should I do now; what would Duty counsel me to do? I will
return to him his beautiful cage, and keep nothing, however charming,
that ever belonged to Pride!"

Catching up the tempting gift, Nelly hastened out of her cottage and saw
Pride descending the hill.

"Pride! Pride!" she called out as loudly as she could. The dark one
pretended not to hear, and only quickened his steps.

"Oh, how shall I ever overtake him," thought lame Nelly; and again she
called, but in vain, while she followed as fast as she could.

"Had I not better keep and use the cage, since it is so hard to return
it?" thought Nelly. Inclination bade her go back, and imprison Content
within the glittering bars; but the recollection of Duty was strong, and
exerting her utmost efforts, the child succeeded in overtaking Pride
when he had almost reached brook Bother.

"Oh, take this back," gasped the panting Nelly; "it is fine and
tempting, I own, but Duty would not allow me to keep it."

"You don't mean to insult me by returning my gift?" exclaimed Pride, in
a tone of fierce disappointment.

"I must do what is right," said Nelly, though frightened by his
threatening scowl; "take back your cage of Ambition, I dare give it no
place in my home!"

"Then--there, let it go!" thundered Pride; and snatching up the poisoned
cage, he sent it whirling round and round through the air till it fell
splashing into brook Bother! "I only wish that I could send you after
it!" he exclaimed, and gnashing his teeth with disappointment and fury,
Pride rushed away from the spot.

Little Nelly returned up the hill at a much slower pace than that at
which she had descended it. Ere she had gone half-way a bright silver
wing gleamed through the air, and Content alighted on her shoulder.
Perched there, the sweet bird poured forth so loud and joyous a lay that
one might fancy that he knew the danger from which he had so narrowly
escaped, and was aware of the fact which so many, by bitter experience,
have learned, that Content must be poisoned and perish if placed in the
gilded cage of Ambition.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A VISIT TO MR. CHEMISTRY.


With her bird still warbling on her shoulder, Nelly bent her steps to
the cottage of her sister. Matty had cared little for her society of
late, but Duty and Affection had both taught Nelly to keep up all family
ties. She was going to tell Matty of her little adventure, but Nelly
found her too full of her own troubles to care about anything else.

"Such a provoking thing has happened!" exclaimed Matty, who was seated
on a very flimsy chair, which she had purchased from Mr. Fiction. It
gave such a loud crack as she leant back upon it, that Nelly expected to
see it come to pieces beneath the weight of her sister.

"O Matty, I wish that you would buy better furniture from General
Knowledge," cried Nelly; "I do believe that in a few weeks those
wretched chairs will be fit for nothing but firewood!"

"I did buy a pair of screens from General Knowledge," cried Matty; "I
brought them home several weeks ago, as you perhaps may remember."

"Yes, I recollect," replied Nelly; "they were handsome and valuable
screens. One was made of Botany _facts_, all carved over with leaves and
flowers; the other of Biography _facts_, covered with likenesses of
great men. They were really a beautiful pair, but I don't see them now,"
added Nelly, with an inquiring glance round the room.

"They're lost to me and my heirs for ever!" cried Matty, again tossing
herself backwards on her chair, which again gave an ominous creaking.

"How could they be lost?" exclaimed Nelly.

"Stolen--stolen by the robber Forgetfulness," answered Matty; "a regular
burglar he is! I neglected to lock my door at night--I never dreamed of
any danger--and in came the robber and carried away my pair of beautiful
screens."

"How very vexatious," exclaimed Nelly.

"Yes, indeed; where's the use of spending hours upon hours in
furnishing, and labouring to carry heavy things over brook Bother and up
the steep hill of Puzzle, if Forgetfulness sneak in at last and carry
the best goods away."

"What use, indeed," echoed Nelly; "the sad warnings of the misfortunes
which have happened to you and poor Lubin from Forgetfulness stealing
your facts, and Procrastination robbing him of his hours, must make each
of us more careful in guarding our treasures from such thieves."

"If Forgetfulness had only taken one of those worthless chairs instead,"
sighed Matty; "to think of losing the best facts, and keeping the
useless fictions."

"How now--what's the matter?" cried the cheerful voice of Dick, as he
entered Matty's cottage with a brisk lively step; "you look as doleful
as Miss Folly did just now when I met her with her red cockatoo on her
wrist, appearing so disconsolate and sad that I thought her most
particular friend, Lady Fashion, must have died of late hours or
tight-lacing!"

"Miss Folly disconsolate and sad!" exclaimed Matty; "ah, perhaps she had
heard that my poor little cottage had been robbed."

"That was not the cause of her melancholy," said Dick; "I daresay, were
the truth to be known, that Miss Folly herself had something to do with
the business; for many a day has she been seen in company with
Forgetfulness the burglar."

"I'm certain that Folly is perfectly innocent," cried Matty.

"Oh, I don't mean to accuse the fair lady; I only mention what I have
heard; you and she may settle the affair between you. But as regards her
present vexation, that, Nelly, all lies at your door. It seems that you
despised her cockatoo Parade, and would not part with Content in
exchange for it. But I've set all matters right; I've taken a fancy to
the creature, I've promised to buy it from Folly, and instead of prating
for ever, '_Ain't I fine?_' I'll teach it to cry, '_Ain't I clever?_'"

"And then you'll give it to me!" exclaimed Matty. "There's nothing that
I adore like Parade; often and often I've wished to have it. I'm quite
astonished that Nelly should prefer that dull, spiritless creature,
Content."

"I've done more yet to put Folly into good humour," said Dick, who,
though he heartily despised his sister's companion, yet liked to amuse
himself sometimes with her airs; "I've invited her to come this evening
and see my grand display of fireworks."

"Fireworks! oh, that will be charming!" exclaimed Matty, clapping her
hands.

"And I've desired her to bring Pride with her; nothing goes off well
without him."

Nelly, who had a disagreeable recollection of her late interview with
Pride, looked very grave on hearing of the invitation given to him by
her brother.

"Where did you get the fireworks?" asked Matty, who, in her pleasure at
the idea of seeing something new, had quite forgotten her loss.

"Where but from Mr. Chemistry? I knew that it was all nonsense in old
Learning to say that his goods were not yet for me. Pride and I were
laughing half the evening at the sage's old-fashioned notions. I suppose
that he thinks that no one can see the world till forced to look at it
through spectacles, like himself. 'You need an introduction, indeed!'
cried Pride; 'just step up boldly like a man. Mr. Chemistry, with his
gases, his retorts, his acids, and his alkalies, will be glad enough to
see the colour of your money without making uncivil observations.' Said
I, 'Mr. Pride, your advice is good, and I'll act upon it directly.' So
off starts I, brave as a lion; plank Patience still lay across brook
Bother, but I kicked it right into the stream."

"Oh, why did you do so?" exclaimed Nelly.

"Patience may do well enough for you," replied Dick, "but you see a chap
like me doesn't want it. Well, to go on with my story. I found Mr.
Chemistry hard at work beside an electric machine, and I stopped some
moments to watch the crackling sparks drawn from the whirling glass
wheel. At last the old fellow looked up, and saw me with my purse in my
hand. 'You're a young student,' says he. 'An old head on young
shoulders,' says I, looking as solemn and wise as Mr. Learning himself
could do. 'You'll need to undergo a short examination,' says he, 'upon
the first principles of my science.' Those words rather took me aback,
for I had not counted upon that. 'What's a simple body?' says he,
turning over to the first page of a book that was near him. 'A simple
body,' says I; 'why, that is my sister Matty, for she's hand and glove
with Miss Folly.'"

"O Dick, how could you speak so?" cried Matty.

"I set the old fellow laughing, and then, of course, I got everything my
own way. I told him that I did not want science but fireworks, and that
I knew that he had them in lots. I wished something that would go
hissing, and fizzing, and whizzing, and astonish and dazzle beholders.
To make a long story short, I carried off all that I wanted; and I
invite you both this evening to see my grand firework display."

"It will be delightful--quite charming," cried Matty; "and my darling
Miss Folly to be there!"

"Miss Folly and Pride too," said Dick; "but what makes our Nelly so
solemn and grave?" he added, clapping the lame girl on the shoulder.

"O Dick, I should like much--very much--to see your fireworks, but I
cannot--indeed, I cannot--go to meet Folly and Pride."

"What nonsense!" exclaimed Dick, impatiently; "if they're good enough
company for us, they're surely good enough company for you."

"Both my dear mother and Duty have warned me against such companions; I
may not go where they go."

"Stay at home then--no one wants you!" exclaimed Dick, who, puffed up as
he was by self-confidence, could not endure the slightest opposition.
"Set yourself up for a model child--lame, plain, and stupid as you are."

Poor Nelly's heart swelled as if it would burst at such undeserved
rudeness from her brother. She returned, however, no angry word, but
silently and quietly quitted the place. Her eyes were so much dimmed by
tears, that she could scarcely see her way back to her own little
cottage.

"It was a shame in me to speak so to Nelly," exclaimed Dick, who
repented of his unkind speech almost as soon as he had uttered it.

"You had better tell her so," said Matty, who, though frivolous and
careless, was not an ill-natured girl.

Dick turned to follow Nelly, and would doubtless have made all things
smooth with his sister, had he not met dark Pride at the door.

Ah, dear reader, have you never been stopped by Pride when going to beg
forgiveness of one to whom you knew that you had done a wrong, and
especially when that injured party was younger and less clever than
yourself?

Dick would not _demean_ himself, as he called it, in the presence of
watchful Pride, by telling his little sister that he was sorry for
having hurt her feelings. Pride came to talk about the fireworks, and,
in eager conversation with him, thoughtless Dick soon forgot the wound
which his overbearing temper had inflicted upon a gentle and loving
heart.



CHAPTER XXV.

A LESSON.


Evening was coming on. Poor Nelly sat sad and alone in the parlour of
her little cottage. She had seen little of Dick since the morning; and
when they had accidentally met, he had not uttered one word of regret
for his unkindness. Indeed, his manner had been so careless, that it
appeared that what had passed so lately between them had quite gone out
of his mind. Nelly tried to forgive and forget, but her spirit was sad
and low. Even Content seemed to droop his wing, and would scarcely give
even a chirp.

Nelly felt also--as what girl of her age would not feel!--being shutout
from the merry little party that were going to enjoy the fireworks. The
display, on account of the direction of the wind, was to be close in
front of Matty's cottage, instead of that of Dick; and as this dwelling,
as we know, adjoined Nelly's, the lame girl from her little window
could have but an imperfect view, and would lose all the general effect.

"Perhaps," thought poor Nelly, "I have been needlessly strict after all;
I have been a little too particular in doing what I thought that duty
might require. I have lost a great deal of pleasure, and I have offended
my own dear brother. Everything has seemed gloomy since the
morning--even my bird will not sing. Ah, how glad I am that my mother
will soon return. I shall never doubt what I ought to do when I have her
dear voice to guide me; and I am sure that when she is here, Content
will warble from morning till night."

"What, Nelly, here all alone?" said Lubin, putting his round,
good-humoured face in at the door.

Nelly only looked up and smiled, for at that moment she could not speak;
and her smile was so sad, that Lubin came in and seated himself at her
side.

"Why, you have been crying, Nelly!" he said. "What is the matter with
you, dear? Has Forgetfulness robbed you of your choicest facts, or
Procrastination--the sly rogue!--stolen your hours, or have you dropped
some nice little purchase of yours into the muddy waters of Bother?"

Nelly shook her head in reply to each question. "I have vexed Dick,"
she answered at last, "by refusing to join his party at the firework
display, because he has invited Pride and Miss Folly."

"I daresay that you did quite right," observed Lubin; "though it's
rather hard upon you to have to give up the fireworks and fun. You'll
hardly see anything from your window. Come to my cottage opposite; there
you will have a good view of it all."

"I would rather remain quietly here, dear Lubin; with many thanks to you
for the offer. I have no heart for amusement this evening, and would not
wish Dick to see me watching, as if by stealth, the fireworks which I
would not go openly to view." As Nelly spoke, she could not prevent two
large tears, which had been gathering beneath her lashes, from
overflowing her eyes.

Lubin, lazy sluggard as he was, yet was a kind-hearted boy, and would do
a good turn for any one, provided it gave him small trouble. "I'll stay
with you, Nelly," he said, kissing the tear from her cheek; "it will be
better for me, you know, to keep clear of Folly and Pride." Nelly
squeezed his hand to express her thanks. "There is Miss Folly
approaching already," continued Lubin. "One might know her coming were
she a mile off, by the sound of her jabbering voice."

Lubin rose and went to the window to look out. "Yes; there is Miss
Folly--peacock plume, balloon dress, and all; and she has a red cockatoo
on her wrist. Black-browed Pride is behind her. Matty and Dick are
running to meet them."

Nelly did not go to the window; but she heard the voices without, which
sounded distinctly through the still evening air.

"I wonder if it will ever get dark enough for the lovely, delightful
fireworks. I've been wishing all the afternoon that I could push on the
sun double-quick to the west. It's always dark when one wants it to be
light, and light when one wants it to be dark." My readers will scarcely
need to be told that these words were spoken by Folly.

"I'm glad that you've brought your cockatoo," said Dick; "you know that
I'm going to buy him."

"He's worth his weight in gold--he is; pretty creature!--just listen to
him now!" And Nelly could hear the harsh, grating voice of Parade:
"Pretty Poll! ain't I fine? ain't I fine?"

"I'm going to teach him something else," observed Dick. "Just let me
have him here for a few minutes. The fireworks are ready prepared, but
we must wait till the twilight grows darker. In the meantime, I will
amuse myself by giving Master Cockatoo a lesson in talking."

"You'll soon make him say what you like," observed Pride.

"Isn't it a beautiful bird?" cried Matty.

"They are gathering round the cockatoo, Nelly," said Lubin, who was
still at the window. "Only Miss Folly, with her painted face and goggle
eyes, is peeping at the preparations for the fireworks."

The last faint tinge of red had faded from the sky. Deeper and deeper
grew the gathering shades. Lubin could scarcely distinguish the features
of the group that were amusing themselves with Parade.

"Now, my good cockatoo," began Dick, standing in front of his
red-feathered pupil, "you know 'variety is charming,' says the proverb.
We may like to hear you say the same thing over nine hundred and
ninety-nine times; but when a question is asked for the thousandth time,
we begin to wish for a little variation. Suppose now, just for a change,
you say, 'Ain't I clever? ain't I clever?'"

"Ain't I fine?--ain't I fine?" screamed Parade.

"Fine? Yes, we know that you are; dark as it is growing, we see that you
are; it's a fact which no one will dispute. But just try now--"

Dick had not time to conclude his sentence. Bang!--crash!--there was a
loud deafening noise, as if a cannon had been suddenly fired at their
ears. Nelly started in terror to her feet, and rushed to the window to
see what had happened--frightened by the shrieks and cries which
succeeded the terrible explosion, that had smashed every pane of glass
in the cottages! The whole air was full of thick smoke, through which
Nelly beheld Miss Folly, with her flounces all on fire, rushing wildly
into the dwelling of Dick, which was just opposite to that of Matty.

"O Lubin! something terrible has happened. Plunge the table-cover into
that pailful of water--let us fly to save--oh, help! help!"

Back again through Dick's doorway rushed screaming Miss Folly, after
having set fire to his curtains within. Happily she was met by Lubin and
Nelly, who threw over her flaming, flaring dress the damp folds of the
dripping table-cover. She struggled fiercely to get away from them, as
though she thought that they meant to smother her; and it was with the
utmost difficulty that the two succeeded in throwing Folly on the
ground, and putting out the flames entirely, by rolling her round and
round in the mire.

Matty's screams of alarm mingled with those of Miss Folly; and not
without cause, for the explosion had set fire to the thatch of her
cottage; and through the windows of Dick's came a terrible fiery
glow--his furniture was all in a blaze. The whole scene around was as
light as day in the fierce red glare of the burning.

Happily assistance was near--very near. Duty and Affection had been
ascending the hill to pay an evening visit to Nelly, when they had been
startled by the noise of the explosion, the shrieks, and then the sight
of the blazing thatch. Without a moment's delay they had shouted for
assistance to a party of men who were going homewards at the close of a
day's work. A cart full of empty barrels happened to be passing at the
same time, and its contents were instantly seized upon for use. The
labourers, incited and directed by the sisters, rushed down at once to
the brook, thankful that water was so nigh. Happily there was no wind to
fan the fierce conflagration, a heavy mist was beginning to rise, and
strong and willing hands were at work to put out the fire. Duty and
Affection were everywhere--encouraging the men, directing their efforts,
nay, labouring themselves with an energy and courage which filled all
beholders with surprise. Never could Nelly forget that night. The
rushing to and fro--the crackling of the flames--the hissing of the
water thrown upon them--the volumes of smoke that arose, the cries, the
screams, the hallooing--then the shout of triumph when at length the
fire was completely subdued.

Nelly's chief alarm was on account of her brother and sister. While the
tumult yet raged around, she rushed, guided by Matty's screams, to a
spot where she found the poor girl trembling in an agony of terror.

"Oh, Matty, are you injured?" exclaimed Nelly.

"I don't know--I can't tell," sobbed Matty, who was much more frightened
than hurt, though her hair, and even her eyebrows, had been singed by
the explosion of the fireworks.

"And Dick--poor Dick--is he safe?" cried Nelly, glancing anxiously
around.

"There he is--lying on the ground!" exclaimed Lubin, who had just
discovered his brother stretched senseless upon the earth, having been
struck on the head by a large piece of wood at the time of the
explosion.

"Oh, I hope and trust that he is not killed!" exclaimed Nelly, running
to him, in bitter distress.

"Not killed, only stunned--see, he is opening his eyes," said Lubin, who
was now on his knees, supporting his brother in his arms. "If Matty
would only assist us, we could carry him into your cottage, Nelly, out
of this noise and confusion."

Tenderly the three young Desleys raised their poor wounded brother, and
carried him into the cottage. Affection soon followed, to attend to his
hurts and bind up his bleeding brow--for Affection is a nurse of great
skill.

The fire was out--the danger over; Duty rewarded the labourers, and the
cottages were left to the children and their two faithful friends in
need. Duty and Affection remained through all the dark hours of that
trying night, soothing Matty, encouraging Lubin, cheering the heart of
poor Nelly. Even when obliged to leave for awhile, the sisters paid
repeated visits to the cottage, bearing with them everything needful.
Nelly now found, indeed, what it was to have such friends as Duty and
Affection.

Dick's injury had brought on brain-fever. For three days and nights
Nelly scarcely quitted her brother. All his unkindness was quite
forgotten, and she would not have left her place at his side for ought
that the world could give. Dick had been severely, though not
dangerously, hurt. It would be some time, the doctor said, before he
would be fit for any exertion. Books must be kept from his sight; he
must not, for weeks to come, be allowed to visit the town of Education.
But his life had been happily spared; gradually his strength would
return. Nelly did not like to tell the poor invalid that all the
furniture of his cottage, which he had regarded with so much
satisfaction, had been destroyed by the fire; nor that poor Matty's
thatch had been burned, and her pretty white wall all blackened and
scorched by the flame.

Dear reader! should you ever be tempted to harbour Pride, on account of
a well-furnished head or a beautiful face--oh, remember how soon the
fairest features may be made unsightly, the most talented mind rendered
feeble and weak, by a sudden accident or fever. The labours of years may
be swept away--the highest powers rendered useless; and one whom all
admire to-day, may be but an object of pity to-morrow.



CHAPTER XXVI.

HEARING THE TRUTH.


It was not until Dick was able to sit up, propped by cushions, in an
arm-chair, that Nelly could be persuaded by Lubin to make a little
expedition with him to buy some things needful for their mother, whose
arrival in two days was expected. Lubin liked to do nothing by himself;
he would not have taken the trouble to cross brook Bother unless a
sister had been at his side; and poor Matty had positively refused to
go, as she disliked showing herself to strangers while her hair and
eyebrows were so sadly disfigured by the fire.

"Please, Matty," said Nelly, before she set out, "see that poor Dick
wants nothing during my absence. Perhaps you would sit beside him. But,
pray, say nothing to him that can possibly vex or excite him; you know
that he is still very weak, and the fever might possibly return."

Matty agreed to play the nurse for an hour, and with a slow and
lingering step she accordingly went to the cottage in which her brother
was staying.

It was sad to see the young, bright, active boy placed like an aged man
in an arm-chair, his cheek, so lately glowing with health, almost as
pale as the pillow upon which it was resting. Dick's eye was, however,
still bright, and he had his old playfulness of manner, though his tone
was more feeble than usual, as he exclaimed, on the entrance of his
sister, "Why, Matty, you and I look for all the world as if we had been
in the wars! I with this bandage across my brow, you with your hair
cropped close, and your eyebrows all singed off; you can't think how
funny you look!"

Poor Matty hid her face with her hands, and was ready to burst into
tears.

"Oh, don't take it to heart!" cried Dick; "hair will soon grow again,
you know. I wonder that your friend Miss Folly has not helped you to an
elegant wig."

"She is no friend of mine!" exclaimed Matty, with vehemence. "Do you not
know that it was Folly who caused the explosion? She thought, like an
idiot as she is, that it would be fun to put a match to the fireworks
when all our backs were turned, and make us start with surprise. It was
her meddling that caused all this mischief and misery;" and again poor
disfigured Matty hid her face in her hands.

"Then I hope that you'll cut her from this day forth," observed Dick.

"She has cut us," replied Matty, quickly. "Have you not heard how her
flounces were all in a blaze, and how she rushed about as if mad, into a
cottage and out again, till Nelly and Lubin knocked her down just in
time to save her from being quite burned?"

"I have heard nothing," said Dick, raising himself on his chair, with an
expression of curiosity and interest; "you know that Nelly has been my
nurse, and she would hardly speak a word for fear lest she should put me
into a fever."

Matty was eager to impart all her knowledge, quite regardless of Nelly's
parting warning, and began to talk so fast that Dick could not help
being reminded of poor Miss Folly.

"Well, you shall hear everything now. Folly was knocked down, or pulled
down, as I said, and then rolled about in the mud, till you could hardly
have distinguished her head from her feet, or her peacock's plume from a
cow's tail. And very thankful and very much delighted she ought to have
been, for, if she had been quite choked with mire, it would have been
better than burning alive!"

"A painful choice," observed Dick.

"But she was _not_ choked to death," continued Matty; "she was not hurt
the least bit; and yet--would you believe it?--Miss Folly is in a most
furious rage against those who saved her. She declares that she ought to
have a lawsuit against Nelly and Lubin to recover the value of her
clothes, and another to get them punished for knocking her into the mud;
and she has promised a thousand times never to come near one of our
family again."

"I hope," said Dick, with a smile, "that for once Miss Folly may keep
her promise. But what has become of her red cockatoo?"

"Ah, there's another great grievance!" cried Matty. "The bird must have
been frightened by the explosion; and no wonder, for a terrible sight it
was, and a horrible noise it made. Parade has flown off, no one knows
whither; and though papers and placards about him have been put up in
every direction, offering no end of rewards to whoever will bring him
back, the bird is not to be found. Folly says, that poor innocent I must
have hidden him somewhere from view; but I am sure that I have not even
a guess whither the gaudy creature has fled!"

"Had you hidden him," observed Dick Desley, "Parade would soon have
betrayed you by screaming out 'Ain't I fine?' And what has become of
Pride?"

"Some say," replied Matty, "that he got a great blow on the nose at the
time of the explosion; others say that he was not at all injured by it.
He certainly did not help Duty to put out the fire. All that I know of
Pride is, that he came to our villas this morning, and walked straight
up to yours, I suppose from its being the one which he had been most
accustomed to visit. I saw him from my window, standing awhile with
folded arms, gloomily surveying the place; he then shrugged his
shoulders, said, 'What a wreck!' and instantly stalked away."

"What did he mean by exclaiming 'What a wreck?'" asked Dick, with a look
of surprise.

"He meant your poor cottage, of course," replied Matty; "all its
furniture burned and destroyed."

"How--what?" exclaimed Dick in a startled tone; "the fire was not in my
cottage at all; the explosion took place by yours."

"I know that too well," sighed poor Matty; "but Folly rushed straight
into your home, blazing away like a rocket, then rushed out again, but
not before she had set your curtains on fire."

"Do you mean that all my furniture is burned!" exclaimed Dick, striking
his fist with violence upon a table that was near him.

"Burned to a cinder," replied Matty; "there's scarcely anything left but
the grates."

"The carpet--the splendid carpet destroyed too?" cried poor Dick,
starting upright on his feet.

"Great holes burned in every part, and all the dates as black as
charcoal!"

Dick sank back on his seat with a groan.

"The beautifully papered walls," continued Matty, "not fit to be looked
at now; the fine furniture-facts mere charred wood, or little heaps of
gray ashes!"

"And mother coming back the day after to-morrow!" exclaimed Dick, with a
burst of anguish. "And doubtless Mr. Learning will come with her,
bringing the crown of Success for which I have laboured so hard! I must
go at once to the town," he cried wildly; "I must work, work hard till
they appear!" And springing from his chair he made an effort to walk;
but the limbs, once so active and strong, would no longer support his
weight, and, overcome with vexation, Dick tottered back into his seat.

"I can't do it," he cried; "I can't go! Oh, misery and disappointment!
Leave me, Matty, leave me; remain no longer with a wretched boy who has
lost everything that he valued!"

Matty was frightened at the vehement storm of passion which her
indiscretion had raised; and being quite unable to speak a word of
comfort to her brother, she crept out of the cottage, feeling more
unhappy than when she had entered it.



CHAPTER XXVII.

A BRAVE EFFORT.


"Oh! why should this be--why should this be?" groaned Dick, as soon as
he found himself alone; "why should I, the genius of the family,
suddenly find myself reduced to the state of the veriest dunce? Why
should one wretched accident take from me more than Matty lost by
Forgetfulness, or Lubin by Procrastination? Why should I have a cottage
so ruined and empty--I who had made its furniture my glory--I who had
worked so hard and so well?"

It is a wise thing for those in trouble to try and search for the reason
of their trials. No sorrow is sent without a cause. Dick sat long with
his brow leaning on his hand, thinking, and thinking, and seeking as
well as his poor, languid mind would let him, to trace out his past
career.

Why had he worked so hard--why had he worked so well? Was it indeed for
the sake of his mother, or from regard to Mr. Learning, or because he
had been taught by Duty in all things to do his best? Dick looked round
upon Nelly's little room; every article there reminded him of patient
perseverance, of steady application, not because labour had been easy
and pleasant, but because she had felt it to be _right_. Dick, who was a
very intelligent boy, could not but see, now that reflection was forced
upon him, that he had spent his hours and furnished his cottage only to
please and enrich himself, to triumph over his brother and sisters, to
gain the silver crown of Success, and to gratify evil Pride! Yes, Pride
had urged him to every effort: Pride had made him resolve that no
cottage should be as splendidly furnished as his own; Pride had dogged
his steps, directed his labours, had introduced him to mischievous
Folly, and, worst of all, had made him look down on his best friends and
nearest relations, and insult his gentle little sister! Ah! this was the
bitterest reflection of all!

"How Pride used to make me laugh at the laziness of Lubin, the vanity of
Matty, the lameness of my dear little Nelly, though that was no fault of
her own. I remember now but too well that it was through him that I
insulted the sister whose talents might be less than mine, but whose
virtues should have been my example. It was Pride who made me ashamed
to ask forgiveness, or express regret for words as unjust as they were
unkind. Yes, this sore trial must have been sent to warn me that he who
takes Pride as his bosom companion will sooner or later repent of having
done so. What Pride can offer is but a sorry exchange for the peace, the
harmony, the love which it seems his delight to destroy! Was it Pride
who nursed me through my illness? Was it Pride who so gently bore with
my wayward humours; who prepared the cooling draught for my fevered
lips, and never seemed weary of watching beside me all through the long
dreary night? O Nelly, not one word of reproach did I ever hear from
your tongue; but my heart reproaches me the more for having mocked at
your tender counsels, given way to impatient temper, and thrown away
your love as a worthless thing at the bidding of haughty Pride!"

"Did I not hear my own name?" said a voice at the door, and the beams of
the setting sun threw a dark shadow across the threshold. The next
moment Pride would have entered, but Dick waved him back with a gesture
of command.

"What--do you not know your old friend?" cried Pride.

"I know my old tempter," said the boy, with emotion. "Pride, I have
lately suffered much, but I have not suffered in vain; I have lost
much, but I have gained something also--a knowledge of myself, and of
you! Here let us part, and for ever."

"This is some delusion of a fevered brain!" cried Pride, beginning to
look very angry.

"No, my fever has passed away, and with it all my vain delusions. To
think myself superior to all others was a delusion; to think that Pride
would make me happy was a delusion: to think that a well-furnished head
could make up for a haughty and selfish heart, that was the worst
delusion of all!"

Pride still lingered, unwilling to depart, or to give up one whom he had
so long regarded as his slave; but the sound of footsteps was now heard,
and Lubin and Nelly appeared at the door. The little girl cast an
uneasy, frightened glance at Pride, who scowled darkly on her in return.
But Duty and Affection, the beautiful sisters, were accompanying the
children to their home, and Pride, bold as he was, shrank back abashed
at their calm, majestic presence.

Dick, though languid and weak, nerved himself now for a great and
painful effort. He had never been accustomed to own himself wrong, and
the thought of doing so, not privately but openly, in the presence of so
many witnesses, brought the warm blood to his pallid cheek, and made his
heart throb with excitement. But he knew no better way of proving to
Pride that his empire indeed was over; no better way of making amends to
Nelly for past unkindness and scorn. Raising himself, therefore, and
supporting his weak frame by grasping the table beside him, he uttered
these words, in a clear and distinct, though somewhat tremulous
tone:--"Nelly, before all, I ask your forgiveness for past unkind and
foolish conduct, and thank you for the tender care which I have so
little deserved; and I also ask Lubin's pardon"--here Dick turned
towards his brother--"for having often provoked him by rude and mocking
words."

Nelly's only reply was running forward and throwing her arms around
Dick; Lubin warmly grasped his hand; Pride, grinding his teeth with
suppressed fury, glared for a moment at the three, then, turning round
with something like a yell, rushed away from the spot. Let us hope that
he never returned!

"Well done, nobly done, brave boy!" exclaimed Duty, coming forward, the
red rays of the setting sun streaming upon her glorious figure, and her
face, which was bright with loveliness exceeding all mortal beauty. It
was the first time that the wounded boy had ever received _her_ praise;
and how sweet fell its accents from her lips, those lips that falsehood
never had stained!

"We were coming to see you," said gentle Affection, "and met these our
young friends on the way."

"Coming to see me!" cried the invalid; "poor, helpless, ruined sufferer
that I am!"

"Nay," said Affection, with a beaming smile, "speak not so gloomily of
your state. I bring you the refreshing draught of Hope, to revive your
spirits and restore your strength!"

As Affection spoke she poured out from a phial into a glass a sparkling
effervescing liquid. Dick took it eagerly from her hand, and as he drank
it as if drinking in life, Affection continued thus to address
him:--"You will soon recover from the effects of your accident, and be
able with new vigour and energy to refurnish your own little cottage.
You will easily make up for lost time; indeed, the loss which you have
sustained is not so great as has been represented. Look with a hopeful
eye on the future, with a thankful eye on the past; he cannot be very
ignorant who is instructed by Duty, nor very poor who has at his command
all the treasures of Affection!"



CHAPTER XXVIII.

EXPECTATION.


Very bright and beautiful was the day on which Dame Desley returned to
her family. The sun rose in the morning in full glory, all surrounded
with rosy clouds. The breath of the air was soft and sweet as that of
balmy Spring, and Autumn could only be known by the splendid mantle of
yellow, red, and brown, which she had thrown over the trees and bushes.
Even brook Bother itself seemed to sparkle and dance in the sunbeams,
and the white houses of Education reflected the cheerful light.

Nelly rose early, her heart bounding with delight, and made everything
ready in her cottage to welcome the mother whom she loved. As she was
busily rubbing up some of her furniture-facts till they shone as
brightly as mirrors, poor Lubin joined his sister, looking disconsolate
and dull.

"Nelly," said he, rubbing his forehead, "I'm afraid that my cottage is
not well furnished. I've no table, and scarcely a chair, my carpet is
all in a muddle, and I'm afraid that my dear mother will be
disappointed--even disgusted."

Nelly did not know what to reply, so she only shook her head gravely.

"Do you think, Nelly, that I'd have time to rush off to Education this
morning and bring back a table, bed, and a couple of chairs on my back?"

Though Nelly was really sorry for her brother, she could hardly help
smiling at the idea of fat little Lubin puffing, panting, and blowing,
under such a formidable burden. "I fear that you have no time to-day,"
she replied, "for even one journey to the town of Education. We expect
our dear mother early, and we all, except poor Dick, who is not strong
enough yet, are going to meet her on the road."

Lubin rubbed his forehead harder than before. "Had it not been for that
thief Procrastination!" he exclaimed,--

"And Amusement Bazaar," suggested Nelly.

"Oh," exclaimed Lubin, half ready to cry, "what a stupid donkey I have
been!"

"I wish," said the pitying Nelly, "that we were allowed to help each
other more. Not that I have much furniture to spare, but how gladly
would I give of that little!"

"That's impossible," sighed poor Lubin; "and even if you could stuff my
empty cottage with a dozen or so of your facts, that would not hide the
horrible DUNCE which Mr. Learning scrawled on my wall. To think of
mother's seeing it! ugh! how dreadfully shocked she will be!" and Lubin
gave his forehead an actual bang, as if to punish it for his own
neglect.

"Well, Lubin dear," said Nelly in a soothing tone, "we may regret the
mistakes of the past, but let them only make us more anxious to do more
with our future hours. You will begin to work hard to-morrow, and carry
away a good store from Arithmetic or General Knowledge."

"I believe the first thing that I should do," observed the rueful boy,
"is to master that ladder of Spelling."

"True, you will never get on without that," said Nelly. "I daresay with
patience and pains you will get a well-furnished house after all."

Poor Lubin looked only half comforted; but hearing a slow, feeble step,
he hastened with Nelly to support Dick, and lead him to his comfortable
arm-chair.

"So mother is coming to-day, and you are all going to meet her," said
the pale boy, with a languid smile.

"You will wait and welcome her here, dear brother," said Nelly.

"No," replied Dick, with quiet sadness; "I will await her in my own poor
cottage, it is there that she expects to see me. Will you kindly support
me thither? I have just enough strength to cross the sward."

"But--" began Lubin, and stopped short.

"Why should you go there," said Nelly, "when you are so welcome to
remain where you are? and--"

"I know what you are thinking," observed Dick; "you think that I will
not be able to bear looking on the change and the ruin. But it is
better, Nelly, that I should see all. I have needed the bitter lesson. I
would rather go thither at once, and accustom myself to the sight before
my dear mother arrives."

As the boy was evidently in earnest, Lubin and Nelly made no further
objections. Dick, supported by them on either side, soon crossed over to
his cottage, and was placed in one of the chairs which had been brought
out of his own little kitchen, that room having quite escaped the
effects of the fire. Dick looked sadly but calmly around him.

"See," said Nelly, "matters are not so bad after all. The curtains are
gone, and some of the facts, but the grate, fire-irons, and fender are
as good as ever, they only want a little rubbing up. A great part of the
carpet is safe, and all your purchases from Grammar's Bazaar happened to
be stowed in the kitchen, so you see that they have not suffered at all.
When you get a little strength, dear Dick, you will soon make everything
right; a few new purchases will render your cottage as beautiful as it
was before the fire."

Dick smiled, and pressed the hand of his sister.

Matty now rushed in, all in a flutter. "I'm so glad that you have not
started!" she exclaimed. "I could not have endured not to have been
amongst the first to welcome my mother!"

"Go then, go all," said Dick.

"I do not like to leave you alone here," observed Nelly, lingering by
the chair of her brother.

"I shall not be dull," replied Dick; "the bird Content is singing in
your home, and I shall listen here to his strains. I should rather be
alone for awhile; there is little chance now that my quiet will be
disturbed either by Pride or Miss Folly."

So Lubin and his sisters departed, Dick remaining behind, rather
thoughtful than sad. He was a changed boy from what he had been at the
time when he had bounded over the brook, bearing the ladder of Spelling
aloft; or when he had laughed at Lubin for his struggle with Alphabet,
the strong little dwarf. Dick had become weak, so he could feel for
weakness; an accident had swept away the best part of his wealth, so
that he had a fellow-feeling for the poor. Dick had become more gentle,
more humble, more kind; that which he had deemed a terrible misfortune,
that which had laid him on a bed of sickness, had been in truth one of
the happiest events of his life. He had gained much more than he had
lost.

Dick sat for some time in eager expectation of his mother's arrival,
listening to every noise, and keeping his watchful eye on the road which
he could see through the open door. At last there was a sound as of
advancing steps and eager voices; weak as he still was, Dick sprang to
his feet, and in another minute, to his great delight, he was clasped to
the heart of his mother.



CHAPTER XXIX.

EMPTY AND FURNISHED.


"You find the poor cottage in a sad state," was Dick's melancholy
observation, as his mother, after the first loving greeting, seated
herself at his side, holding his thin hand in her own, and looking
tenderly at his pale features.

"O mother, if you had only seen it before the fire!" exclaimed Nelly;
"it was beautiful--quite beautiful--so much better furnished than any of
ours!"

"It will be beautiful again," said Dame Desley, cheerfully; "my boy only
wants a little more Time-money when his strength is perfectly restored.
And I can see," she added, rising and opening the back-door, through
which she could view the garden, "that great pains were once taken
here."

"I have not been able to attend to it since my illness," said Dick; "but
as soon as I am able to set to work again, I will try to get all into
order."

"I must now go and examine the other cottages," said Dame Desley; "I
noticed as I came here that the wall of Matty's had been scorched, and
that the new thatch which has been put on does not look quite so well as
the old; but I hear that the inside has sustained no harm, and I shall
now examine with pleasure the furniture bought by my child."

As Dame Desley was proceeding to the next cottage, which, as we all
know, was that of Lubin, whom should she meet but Mr. Learning, cane in
hand, and spectacles on nose, with a white box under his arm.

"Oh, what on earth brings him here just now!" exclaimed Lubin to Nelly,
ready to stamp with vexation; "as if it were not bad enough to have
mother examining my poor empty cottage, without having him to look on
all the time through those horrid spectacles, that will magnify every
defect. Just hear now how mother is thanking him for all that he has
done for her children, and see what a sly meaning glance he is casting
at me, looking through his glasses, as much as to say--'There's one
stupid dunce of a fellow; I could never make anything of him.'"

"You will do better in future," whispered Nelly, as she went forward to
shake hands with Mr. Learning, who benignantly smiled at his pupil.

"We will go in here first," said Dame Desley; "Lubin, dear, come to my
side."

The poor boy would gladly have kept back, and had some thoughts of
running away down the hill, so grievously was he ashamed that his mother
and guardian should see what little use he had made of his hours. He
dared not, however, disobey; so with Dame Desley on one side, and
stately Mr. Learning on the other, feeling like a culprit between two
constables, he entered his ill-furnished cottage.

Dame Desley looked to the right hand, and then she looked to the left;
and the longer she looked the longer grew her face, and the graver the
expression which it wore. There was a terribly awkward silence. Nelly
felt quite uncomfortable, and Lubin stood twisting the button on his
jacket, and wishing himself up to the neck in brook Bother, or anywhere
but at home. At last the mother spoke, but her accents were those of
displeasure.

"What can you have done, stupid boy, with all your minutes and hours?"

"I gave some to my shopping--" whimpered Lubin.

"Humph!" growled Mr. Learning.

"Very few, I fear," said Dame Desley.

"Procrastination picked my pocket of some, and--and--"

"I suspect that the frequenters of Amusement's Bazaar could tell us
where the best part have gone," said Mr. Learning with freezing
severity. "You have thrown away your minutes and your hours upon balls,
ninepins, marbles, and lollypops."

What could poor Lubin reply? He knew that the accusation was too true.
His distress reached its height on his seeing that the eyes of his
mother were resting on the big DUNCE, which stared in black letters from
the wall.

"Oh, that I could pummel Mr. Learning for writing it up there!" thought
Lubin.

"I wonder that you do not blush to look at that!" exclaimed Dame Desley,
in high displeasure. "This very day you must be off to Mr. Reading's,
and get a respectable paper to cover that shameful wall."

"And don't forget the ladder of Spelling," cried Mr. Learning; "there's
nothing to be done without that."

Nelly, who saw that Lubin's face was growing as red as the feathers of
Parade, now timidly came forward to try and draw attention from the
unhappy sluggard. "Dear mother, I hope that you remember that you have
other cottages to see," she said, placing her hand in that of Dame
Desley.

"And I hope that I shall find them very different indeed from this,"
said the disappointed parent, as she crossed over the way to Matty's.

The little owner ran on in front, with mingled feelings of hope and
fear. She knew that her home was not empty; that the furniture looked
very gay; but she could not help suspecting that her mother, and yet
more the sage Mr. Learning, might think some of it tawdry and worthless.
Flinging the door wide open to admit her guests, Matty ran in so
hurriedly to put a piece of furniture straight, that her foot was caught
in her unfastened carpet, and down she fell on her nose.

"My dear child, I hope that you're not hurt," cried Dame Desley.

Matty jumped up, rubbed her nose, and said that it was "nothing," though
looking extremely annoyed at such a beginning to the survey.

"What a hole you have torn in the carpet!" cried her mother. "Why, it is
not fastened down with nails; you must be in danger of tripping every
minute."

"Such a carpet!" exclaimed Learning, with contempt, kicking it up with
his heel.

"And what a paper!" cried the mother; "as shabby as it is gaudy, and all
with the damp showing through."

"But I have some things very pretty indeed," said Matty, in rather a
petulant tone; for she could not bear that any fault should be found
with her beautiful cottage. "I'm sure that the porcelain jars on the
mantelpiece are fit for the palace of a princess; and just look at my
gilded French mirror, and my elegant tambourine."

Dame Desley appeared by no means as much delighted at these fine things
as her daughter had expected; and Mr. Learning dryly observed, "I see
that you have troubled Mr. Arithmetic, the ironmonger, as little as Mr.
History, the carpet manufacturer; and however pretty your fancy articles
may be, I must just venture to remark that a poker is more useful than
porcelain, a mat than a gilded French mirror, and that, though a
tambourine may be charming, it can't supply the place of a table."

"Your furniture also looks so light and fragile," observed Dame Desley,
"that I should be almost afraid to use it."

"Oh, it does exceedingly well," cried the mortified Matty, tossing
herself down on a chair, to show that her mother was mistaken. She had
chosen, however, an unfortunate way of displaying the strength of her
furniture; the luckless chair gave way with a crash, and Matty came down
with a thumping blow--not this time on her nose, but on the back of her
head.

More hurt than she had been by her former tumble, and yet more mortified
than hurt, the poor child began to cry. Dame Desley and Nelly ran to
raise her, while Mr. Learning, grave as he usually was, could hardly
refrain from laughing.

"She has quite a bump on her poor head!" cried Nelly. "Dear Matty! what
can we do for her?"

"Get me the pink salve from the mantelpiece," sobbed Matty. Her sister
hurried to the place as fast as she could.

"Let me see it first," said Dame Desley, examining the little china pot,
which was labelled, "FLATTERY SALVE, _patronized by the nobility and
gentry. Warranted to heal all manner of bruises and sores._"

"Where did you get this?" inquired the mother. Matty whimpered out that
she had had it from Miss Folly.

"Let Miss Folly keep her own trash to herself!" cried the indignant
dame, flinging the little pot out of the window; "that is a most
dangerous salve: its effect is often that of injuring the brain,
weakening the senses--producing dizziness and delirium! Bring a little
cold water, Nelly; that is a far better thing to apply to a bump on the
head like this."

"I am afraid," observed Mr. Learning, as the simple remedy was tried
with effect, "that Matty, quick and ready a pupil as she is, will have
almost as much to do as Lubin before her cottage is really well
furnished. She had better at once commence the work of getting rid of
the trash; and I should recommend her to make a famous large bonfire of
it to celebrate her mother's return."

Poor Matty, who had at first eyed with mingled curiosity and hope the
white box under the arm of her guardian--believing that it must contain
the silver crown of Success--felt her heart sink at these words; and
with drooping head and melancholy mien, she went with her companions to
the cottage adjoining.



CHAPTER XXX.

FRUITS OF NEEDLEWORK.


"Now this is what I should call neat--neat, and not gaudy," said Dame
Desley, as she stood in the doorway of Nelly's home, and surveyed with a
pleased eye the perfect order of the place. "The fire-irons bright,
though small--the paper chosen with judgment--everything needful, though
there is little to spare--each article in its proper place, and neat and
good of its kind." Oh, how delightful to Nelly was the praise which she
had fairly earned by self-denying labour!

"Considering that Nelly is lame--that she has never been gifted either
with quickness or strength, I have every reason," observed Mr. Learning,
"to be satisfied with what she has done."

"And what a beautiful bird; and how tame!" cried Dame Desley, as
Content, recognizing a friend, hopped lightly down to her finger.

"That was the gift of my dear friend, Duty," said Nelly.

"A friend whom you cannot prize too much, or follow too closely,"
observed her mother.

"Here she comes herself!" cried Nelly in joyful surprise, "and sweet
Affection behind her! They have doubtless come here to-day to welcome
home my dear mother."

The meeting was a very joyous one. Duty and Affection had for many years
been the valued friends of Dame Desley.

After the first words of greeting had passed between them, Affection
inquired whether the dame had seen the gardens of her daughters, and
looked at their needlework plants.

"Not yet, but I am going to examine them," replied the mother.

"Let us all come together!" said Duty.

With a very low bow of respect, Mr. Learning offered his arm to the
noble maiden; Affection rested one hand on Dame Desley's, and, smiling,
held out the other to Nelly; Lubin and Matty followed behind--the boy
somewhat sulky and sad, but the girl with reviving spirits. Matty was a
little jealous of the praises which her sister had received; but she
expected in the garden, if not in the cottage, to be found far superior
to poor, lame Nelly.

The gardens of Nelly and Matty were divided from each other only by a
box-hedge, which was scarcely three inches high. The party, though
entering from Nelly's back-door, went immediately into the garden of her
sister, as Dame Desley thought that it was right to attend first to that
of the elder.

Both gardens won a fair meed of praise. Matty, as has before been
mentioned, happened to be fond of geographical flowers; and while the
arrangement of the two gardens was equally neat and correct, Matty had
certainly a larger number of countries and capitals to display.

"I should not wonder," whispered Matty to Lubin, "if I were to win the
silver crown of Success after all."

Lubin's only answer was a sigh; for he knew that he had lost all chance
of getting the prize.

"And now for the needlework plants," said Dame Desley, approaching the
garden-wall.

Every one uttered an exclamation of pleasure on beholding Matty's
beautiful creeper. Ripe fruits, with rosy down like that upon the peach,
hung on its twining boughs, looking lovelier by contrast with its green
and shining leaves. Matty plucked one, and offered it to her mother. The
dame quickly removed the rind, and a delicate little bead-purse met her
admiring gaze. It was of pink and gold, with tiny tassels to match.
Matty pulled another fruit from the bough, and it offered to view a
pretty bead-mat, with a pattern of flowers upon it.

"Well, that is a fine plant!" observed Mr. Learning, admiration in his
spectacled eyes.

Matty triumphantly squeezed Lubin's arm. "I think that I shall get the
prize," she whispered. "I should have been sure of it if that stupid
chair had not given me such an unfortunate tumble. How ugly Nelly's
plant looks yonder, with its large, coarse, prickly stem; and it grows
so close to the ground. I should be ashamed to have such a thing in my
garden!"

"Now for Nelly's needlework," said Affection.

The whole party moved on to the spot, when they saw a plant--not
beautiful, it must be owned, but with three fruits, as big as pumpkins,
resting upon the ground, half covered with large green leaves.

"Shall I pluck one?" said Nelly, modestly.

"Let us see it," replied Mr. Learning.

Nelly stooped, and broke from its stalk the smallest of the fruits. It
was so ripe that the rind burst open in her hands, and out dropped a cap
as white as snow, with a number of delicate frills all neatly hemmed and
gathered. With a smile and a blush, Nelly presented her little offering
to her mother, while a murmur of approbation sounded from all around.

"Ah, how useful this will be!" exclaimed Dame Desley; "this fruit is
charming indeed!"

"Let us see the others," said Duty, bending forward to gaze.

Again Nelly stooped and raised the ripe fruit; again it burst open in
her grasp. She pulled out an apron, very prettily made, with neat little
pockets in front!

"The very thing that I have been wanting!" cried the dame, putting it on
with pleasure and pride.

"There's more yet to be seen," said Mr. Learning.

The third fruit was so very big, that but for the assistance of both
Duty and Affection, Nelly would hardly have known how to manage. It was
not quite so ripe as the others, and would not come readily from the
thick stalk, and the rind did not burst open as those of the two first
had done.

"How can we see what is in it?" cried Matty.

"Something very good is in it, no doubt," said Affection; and Duty,
pulling a pair of scissors out of her pocket, soon decided the question.
A great hole was made in the rind, and all the party pressed round with
curiosity to watch the little girl, who now began slowly to draw out
the gray contents of the fruit.

"I say," exclaimed Lubin, "what's that long thing?--it looks for all the
world like a sleeve."

"The body is coming after," cried Matty.

Yes, sure enough it was coming, body and skirt and all--a nice, new,
warm dress, for Dame Desley to wear through the approaching winter.

When the whole of the huge fruit was emptied, and the gown held up by
Affection, there was a general clapping of hands, in admiration of the
wonderful plant. Matty alone looked coldly upon it, and observed in a
low tone to Lubin, that such a dress as that would certainly never be
worn by Lady Fashion.

"Nor made by her most particular friend," laughed Lubin, who had half
forgotten his own troubles in Nelly's triumph. "Depend upon it that a
sensible dress like that was never stitched by Miss Folly."

"We may congratulate Nelly," said Duty, "upon the success of her
Plain-work. I wish that every girl in the land had such a plant in her
garden."

"I think that none of us can doubt," observed Mr. Learning, taking the
white box from under his arm, "which of our four young friends has made
the best use of Time-money--which has best deserved the crown of
Success." And opening the box, he took out a most elegant wreath of
leaves worked in filigree silver, and made an attempt to place it on the
head of the blushing Nelly. But the little girl modestly shrank back.

"Oh, no!" cried Nelly; "it is not for me. It would not be right, it
would not be fair, that poor Dick should lose what he had fairly earned,
because Folly set his furniture on fire. Lubin can witness, Matty can
witness, that his cottage was far better furnished than mine before the
accident happened. Indeed the crown ought to be his. I could not bear to
deprive him of it."

Duty smiled kindly at the little pleader; Affection stooped down and
gave her a kiss.

"I must say," observed honest Lubin, in answer to Nelly's appeal, "that
none of us cut such a dash as Dick did before that unlucky explosion."

"Nelly," said Mr. Learning, with a most benevolent air, "the crown is
yours--I give it to you. You may bear it to your brother, if you will."

The lame girl waited for no further permission, but hurried off at the
greatest speed which she could command, to carry to another the prize
which she herself might have worn.

"After all, I believe that Nelly _has_ deserved all the praise and love
which she has won," sighed the disappointed Matty, her jealousy
conquered by the example of generous self-denial which she saw in her
younger sister.

The party quickly followed the steps of Nelly Desley to the cottage of
Dick--Lubin assisting his mother to carry the various gifts of his
sisters. Affection quitted the rest for a few minutes in order to direct
the movements of some attendants, who were spreading a table in the open
air, in the space between the cottages. They were making preparations
for a banquet, designed as a pleasant surprise for the Desleys upon
their mother's return. The treat was given by Duty and Affection upon
the joyful occasion, and especially intended to honour the wearer of the
crown of Success.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE CROWN OF SUCCESS.


"Mine, Nelly! no, it can never be mine!" exclaimed Dick, resisting with
emotion the efforts of his sister to place the crown on his head.

"It was to be for the one who had made the best use of his hours," said
Nelly; "it is fairly yours, for none of our furniture could be compared
to that which you brought from the town. It was not your fault that an
accident destroyed what had cost you so many good hours, nor is it right
that you should suffer a double loss from the fire."

"There might have been reason in what you say," observed the pale
invalid, "if the accident had indeed been owing to no error of my own.
Nay, Nelly, you must not prevent me from telling the whole truth. It is
best that I should speak, and that all these my friends should hear."
Dame Desley, her children, and her guests, were all standing around the
boy. "If," continued Dick, "I had obeyed the voice of my mother--if I
had turned my back upon Pride, and not attempted, at his bidding, things
that I was not able to perform--if he had not introduced me to Folly,
whom I encouraged, although I despised her--the explosion would never
have taken place, I should have suffered no shame and loss. I am willing
to bear the consequences of my own wilfulness and presumption. I should
blush to wear the crown of Success, which I feel that I do not merit.
Let me see it on your brow, dear Nelly; its proper place is there. Next
to the pleasure of winning it myself, is that of knowing that it belongs
to one who so richly deserves it."

Nelly was no longer able to resist. The sparkling crown was placed on
her brow. Lubin congratulated her with frank kindness, and even Matty
felt that she had no right to complain. The reflection, however, passed
through the mind of the girl, "All this honour and pleasure might have
been mine, had I never listened to Folly!"

And now Mr. Learning came forward, and stood in the centre of the
circle, leaning one hand on the arm-chair of Dick, while with the other
he motioned for silence. It was clear, from his preparatory cough, that
the sage was going to make a speech.

"My friends," he began, in his distinct, solemn tone, glancing benignly
around, "we are all met together on a happy occasion. We see merit
rewarded with success, and patient obedience to Duty achieving more than
talent or genius. Before we proceed to the banquet to which our fair
friends have invited us, let me mention before all my intentions in
regard to the future year. When twelve months have run their course I
will again return to this place, again look for a kindly welcome, again
examine the cottages here. If I find that Dick has made up for the
past--that Matty, giving up all connection with Folly, has furnished
wisely and well--that Lubin, by steady perseverance, has made all forget
that the word DUNCE was ever inscribed on his wall--not only one, but
all and each of my young friends shall receive a crown of Success."

"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted Lubin, who had just been forming a number of
good resolutions. A smile of pleasure lit up the pale features of Dick;
and Matty, in expectation, already felt the silver crown on her head.

"And now," said graceful Duty, "let Mr. Learning conduct our Nelly to
the feast prepared, as she is Queen of the day."

Even Dick, as if gaining fresh strength from the sight of the pleasant
company around him, was able, leaning on his mother, to join the
cheerful circle that on that beautiful autumnal day gathered around the
board. Conversation flowed freely, nothing painful was recalled, no one
whispered about Pride, no one mentioned Miss Folly. Brightly sparkled
the beverage of Hope, foaming and bubbling in the glass; and every one
who has tasted it knows what a delicious beverage it is. The stores of
Amusement had been half emptied to furnish sweetmeats and cakes for the
table; and Affection had provided a large quantity of the dried fruits
of sweet Recollections. Merry were the smiles that were exchanged; merry
the jests that were made; merriest of all the loud song of Content, as
he warbled his lay of delight, fluttering round the head of her who wore
the silver crown of Success.

       *       *       *       *       *

And I now would gather around me my readers, to make them a little
address ere we part. I see them in my mind's eye--from the school-boy
with jacket and cap, who has thought it a condescension to read such
"childish stuff," to the little curly-headed urchin in tartan frock,
who, when taking a drive with mamma, asks whether the little stream
which he passes be not "the real brook Bother." There is the tall elder
sister, who only reads aloud "to amuse the children;" and the girl who
"hates all lessons;" and the little laughing fairy who expects some day
to see dwarf Alphabet standing at the door of a shop. It is not hard to
make a speech when no one can see the speaker. So, without blushing, or
coughing, or stammering, A. L. O. E. addresses her readers.

Have not you, my friends, been reading in my story of persons and scenes
with which you yourselves are familiar? Have you not each a nice little
head to furnish, and Time-money to pay for your purchases? And do not
all your best friends recommend you to go to the good town of Education?
Do not you know the muddy brook Bother? Have you not crossed it on the
plank of Patience; or have you never--pray pardon the question--gone
floundering right into the middle? I am pretty sure that you have paid
toll to Alphabet, the stout little dwarf; that you have felt how
troublesome and tedious it is to climb Multiplication staircase; that
you have examined Reading's fine shop; glanced at Arithmetic's grates
and fire-irons; and probably tumbled many a time from that awkward
ladder of Spelling. Have I not amongst my young audience a clever Dick,
a lazy Lubin, a silly Matty, and a lame little child like Nelly? Each
reader must judge for himself which character most resembles his own,
and let each kindly accept a suitable word of advice.

Clever reader! beware of Pride. Don't let him lurk behind your
door--don't let him lead you to cut either your fingers or your friends,
by attempting things for which you are not fitted, or by looking down
upon companions not gifted with powers like your own. Do not despise
Patience, or think that you are too clever to need it. It is not the
quickest or sharpest pupil that really spends Time to best purpose.
Often has the haughty, self-willed genius been found to forfeit the
crown of Success.

Lazy reader! you who love play far better than work, and are tempted to
vote Education, its tradesmen, its family of Ologies, and all, as the
greatest bores in the world, beware of Procrastination--beware of the
thief of Time--beware of putting off till to-morrow what ought to be
done to-day. Can you bear to see that word DUNCE so terribly distinct on
your wall? Can you bear to throw away on nothing but Amusement those
precious hours and minutes which, well employed, might gain for you the
silver crown of Success?

Silly reader!--but here I must pause, for it is probable that no little
girl glancing over my pages will accept the title as her own. Yet, if
she know Miss Folly, delight in her gossiping prate, dress according to
her fanciful taste, and value her poisonous salve, she must really
excuse me for classing her with our poor, conceited young Matty. There
are thousands and tens of thousands, I fear, of such silly girls in the
world (some of them may _possibly_ be amongst my readers), who would
furnish their heads with bubbles, and neglect the good for the gay. To
such I would utter a gentle warning. Folly can never lead you to real
happiness or real usefulness in the world. She may promise you pleasures
for a moment; but her pleasures either vanish into air, or leave pain
and vexation behind. Then shut her out from your home; give her idle
fancies no room. Let your dress be sober, neat, and quiet--suited to the
station in which you are placed. Girls who deck themselves out to be
admired remind us of the cockatoo Parade, puffing out its red feathers,
and always repeating the cry, "Ain't I fine? ain't I fine?" Let your
furniture be useful and solid; water well the plant of Plain-work. It is
not the fanciful, frivolous miss who merits the crown of Success.

But, perhaps, amongst my audience are several who may be described as
lame, from the difficulty with which they make their way to the town of
Education. They can hardly climb up hill Puzzle, and are often tempted
to sit down in despair by the swollen waters of Bother! Courage, my dear
young friends! Resolute perseverance will yet win the crown of Success.
If you keep your eye upon Duty, and bravely follow where she would
lead--if, guided by gentle Affection, you steadily pursue a right
course--you will conquer difficulties at last, be useful, honoured, and
beloved.

But if you would further know _how_ to find out Duty, and, having found
her, how to get strength and courage to follow her precepts, remember,
dear friends, what was the best gift that even Affection could offer.
There is something better than human knowledge--something stronger than
mortal efforts--something more precious than earthly Success! Oh, make
it your own, for only when that is possessed will the bird Content fold
its silver wings, and rest in your bosoms for ever!



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