Crown of Success


4. 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.

Nelly could hardly see the stepping-stones through the thick leaves of the plant which she bore.