6. 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!"