Crown of Success


18. 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.