9. Mr Learning's Visit
It must not be supposed that during the time which it took to paper the cottages, other things were neglected; that Plain-work and Fancy-work were not watered, or that frequent shopping expeditions were not made to the town of Education. My history is by no means a journal of each day's proceedings, but only an account of some incidents that seem most worthy of note.
I wish that I could tell my young readers that Dick frankly owned himself sorry for having knocked down poor Lubin. Perhaps he would have done so, for he had a kind and generous disposition, but for the evil influence of Pride. This dark companion was almost always now at the elbow of Dick, filling him with notions of his own importance, making him look down upon every one who was not so sharp as himself. From cottage to cottage Pride moved, now putting in Lubin's mind gloomy, angry feelings towards his brother; now flattering the vanity of Matty, till she thought herself a perfect model of beauty and almost too good to keep company with her lame little sister Nelly. Pride did not fail also to try to put evil into Nelly's heart, but she never would let him converse with her; she remembered the words of her mother, and shunned the dark tempter who leads so many astray.
"I wonder," said Pride one day to Matty as she was watering her Fancy-work plant,--"I wonder why a lovely young creature like you should not spend more of Time's money upon dress."
Matty giggled and blushed, and said that she feared that there was not such a person as a good milliner to be found in all the town of Education.
"Well," said Pride, "I think that I can help you to find one whom no one has ever excelled in this important line of business. There is a distant relation of my own, Miss Folly, who is wonderfully quick with her fingers, and makes all sorts of elegant things. Lady Fashion has her so often with her at her fine town-house, that it is clear that she regards Miss Folly almost in the light of a friend, and would not know how to get on without her. Folly is particularly anxious to employ her art in hiding any changes made by age. I have known an old lady dressed up by her with wig, rouge, and a low muslin dress, fastened up with bunches of roses, whom you really would have taken, at least at a distance, for some lovely young creature of twenty!"
"Oh, could you not introduce me to Miss Folly!" exclaimed Matty; "if she could so beautify an ugly old lady, what would she do for a young girl like me!"
"I will bring her here with the greatest pleasure," replied Pride; and glancing at Matty's dress, he added, "From the elegant style of your attire, I should have really imagined that you had long ago known Miss Folly."
When Dick had almost finished his papering, and Matty was far advanced with hers, the children received one day a visit from Mr. Learning, who came to observe their progress. Nelly was so hard at work in her spare room, that she did not hear his step, and was a little startled when she felt a heavy hand laid on her shoulder.
"Don't be afraid," said Mr. Learning kindly, "go quietly on with your work. 'Slow and sure' is your motto, I see; what you do is done neatly and nicely."
Nelly looked up with a pleased smile. She had never expected to receive a word of praise from the tall stately gentleman in black, who lived upon paper and ink.
Mr. Learning then proceeded to Matty's cottage. Matty, who happened to be twining flowers in her beautiful hair, started up, and, in a little confusion, greeted her guardian with a courtesy.
He glanced round the cottage for awhile in silence. Matty thought that he must be admiring the quickness with which she had papered her walls; his first words disappointed her not a little.
"You have made a great mistake in not choosing a better and stronger paper; labour is thrown away upon this. However quickly you may get over your work, no one will ever think a dwelling well-furnished whose walls are covered with nothing but fairies."
"Stupid, solemn, cross-grained old critic as he is!" thought Matty; "I knew that he and I would never agree together. I paper my walls to please my own taste, and snap my fingers at Learning!"
The grave guardian then stalked slowly across the little plot of ground which divided the boys' cottages from those of the girls. Though Dick's was just opposite to Matty's, Mr. Learning chose to cross over first to Lubin's.
The boy, buried in a deep slumber, lay snoring upon the floor, quite unconscious that any one had entered. With great disgust Mr. Learning looked around on one of the most untidy rooms that his eyes had ever beheld. It was only papered to such a height as the arm of the fat boy could reach, and even the little that had been done had been finished in the very worst way. So small a quantity of the paste of Attention had been used, that the paper was already falling off; odd pieces were lying here and there, and the most careless observer must have seen that he was in the dwelling of a sluggard.
Mr. Learning said nothing at all; he did not even waken the sleeping boy, though he felt a little inclined to give him a poke with his boot. The stately guardian took out from his pocket a piece of chalk, and wrote on the rough bricks above the paper, in letters half a foot high, the single word DUNCE, then turning round on his heel, he quitted the cottage of Lubin.
It was perhaps intentionally that the sage had arranged to make his visit to Dick the last. Here there was much to satisfy and please his philosophic eye, and Mr. Learning's grave face relaxed into a smile as pleasant as if a whole dozen of copy-books had been spread out for dinner before him.
"You're a clever fellow," said he; and Dick made a very low bow, pleased but not at all surprised by the compliment.
"I should not wonder if, some day," pursued Mr. Learning, "I should be able to introduce you to my friends the Ologies."
"Pray, who may they be?" asked Dick; "I never heard of them before."
"They are of a remarkably superior family, that has been settled for a length of years in the higher part of the town of Education. There are a number of brothers, and they are all remarkable men. There's--
"The Ology, who keeps a religious library;
"Myth Ology, who deals in books describing the superstitions of heathen nations;
"Ge Ology, whose collection of marbles, stones, various earths, and old fossils makes him famous;
"Phren Ology, who professes to tell the characters of people by feeling the bumps on their heads;
"Chron Ology, who manufactures nails that are known by the name of dates;
"Conch Ology, who keeps a museum with a vast variety of shells;
"Entom Ology, who has another filled with butterflies and other insects;
"Ichthy Ology, whose taste leads him to make a collection of fish;
"Zo Ology, who has a large garden with all kinds of creatures in it."
"What a very large family it is!" exclaimed Dick, who had begun to think that these Ologies would never come to an end.
"I have not mentioned all," replied Learning. "But all are intimate friends of mine, and I invite them all every year to a feast in my house in London."
"I wonder what you give them to eat!" thought Dick, "and whether these Ologies have all your own taste for paper and ink!" He had a little awe for Mr. Learning, so did not utter the reflection aloud.
"You shall know them all some day," continued the guardian; "they will help you to fortune and to fame!"
"Why not know them at once?" cried Dick.
Mr. Learning smiled again; but this time his smile was not so pleasant. "You are by far too young," he replied, "and have something else to think of at present. Your cottage is nearly papered, I see, but you have as yet not a single grate within it."
"I'm going to the ironmonger's this very day," cried Dick; "there's no use in waiting for my brother and sisters, they are so slow at their work. I shall be hand and glove with all the Ologies before Lubin has covered his ugly bricks!"
What was Mr. Learning looking at so attentively through his spectacles, as Dick uttered this sounding boast? He had caught a glimpse of Pride, who, upon his entrance, had hidden himself behind the open door, and who was there listening to the conversation between Dick and his guardian.
"Let me give you one word of advice, my boy," said Mr. Learning, in a serious tone; "go to the town of Education as often as you will, and buy what you may, but never let Pride go with you. He is a safe companion for no one; and the better that you are acquainted with me, the less cause you will find to cherish him;" and with this quiet warning, Mr. Learning quitted the cottage.
"Ah, Pride!" cried Dick, as the dark one sneaked out of his hiding-place behind the door; "you find that the saying is true, 'Listeners never hear good of themselves.'"
Pride looked offended and annoyed.
"Never mind, old friend," continued Dick; "I won't attend to a word that he said, for I find you as pleasant a companion as any that ever I knew. I'm just going off to the town to buy grates from Arithmetic the Ironmonger, and if you like to come with me, I can but say that you'll be heartily welcome."
Pride needed no second invitation, and the two soon started together.