Crown of Success


19. 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!