12. 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.