TRIAL OF SKILL:
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IS THE BFST
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J. UTLCL FE, L IfrH a, HIGHci
LONDON AND EDINBURCH,
TRIAL OF SKILL
IS THE BEST STORY?
lY THE AtTKIt nrF
4 TIER J UVElLE RSNDAY LIBRARY Y 1 $" VER ITTTKlE TALF.s," &C.
THlOM A 9
N E LS N, PAT ER NOTE
AN 1) I*: I N If I 4; If.
M F'. t 'l..
Rf (O W
l1lI;Il';I: R'IINT;ED BY THOMAS )KL.-.N,
MAMMAS AND THEIR CHILDREN.
THE following Tales are submitted to the
Public, in the belief that parents will find them
at once sound and elevating in the principles
they inculcate, and possessing such a degree of
merit, as will render them worthy of their
From the preference often shown by young
people for truth above fiction, my little friends
will perhaps read the following Stories with ad-
ditional pleasure when they learn, that the man-
ner in which they originated occurred precisely
as related in the first chapter, and that many of
the circumstances, and the greater number of the
characters exhibited in each of the Tales, are ac-
tually drawn from real life.
With a hearty desire that my dear young
readers may derive both amusement and instruc-
tion from this book, avoid the errors, and profit
by the virtues of the characters described, I
subscribe myself their sincerely affectionate
iMPdREY A EN.
TRIAL OF SKILL;
WHICH IS THE BEST STORY?
Here, whilst the needle plies its busy task,
The poet's or historian's page, by one
Made vocal for the amusement of the rest,
Beguiles the night.
COME, Deborah, now let us make ourselves
snug," said Sir Humphrey Arden (a testy old
bachelor, who had charge of all the spinsters of
his family), addressing a maiden sister, while
he seated himself in his large arm-chair, one
winter's evening: Come, Deborah, draw your
chair opposite to mine, at the other side of this
fine fire : give one of the girls a book, and let us
defy the storm, which rattles against our win-
dows as if it were enraged at not being able to
find some chink or crevice through which to pay
us a visit"
THE TRIAL OF SKILL,
The maiden sister left the tea-table, and wil-
lingly obeyed. In truth, even had she not loved
the comforts of a blazing ingle, and a clean
hearth-stane" almost as well as her brother, she
would, it is believed, have complied with any
request of his in the same manner.
Her three nieces, the orphan children of a de-
ceased sister, aided her, with alacrity equal to
her own, in dressing out the fireside according to
the old bachelor's conception of what was snug ;
and whilst the good lady moved a large folding
screen into tle exact position he liked, and esta-
blished herself in the great chair opposite his,
Kate took her seat on a stool by his side, Emma
drew her work-table nearer the fire, and Eliza-
beth ran to the book-case for a volume of stories,
which she knew it was her duty to read aloud to
the party this evening.
Must I read these stupid tales to-night
again I" said she, in a pleading voice, as she
seated herself at the table.
Yes, saucy niece, that you must," said her
uncle. "Finish them to-night, child, and let me
see with how good a grace you can do what is
disagreeable to you. Your aunt, you know,
must hear the book from end to end before she
will suffer me to give it to your little sister ;
and, for my own part, I should be glad to hear
what reason you have for the abuse you have all
I fear you are likely to hear very little of it
to-night, my dear uncle," said Kate, lifting, as
she spoke, one corner of a handkerchief which
the old gentleman had just thrown over his face,
preparatory to an evening's nap, in which it was
his habit to indulge. I predict the very first
page will put you to sleep, without the aid of
this thick curtain, or that blazing fire."
Come, come, my dear girls, let your uncle
have his nap in peace," said the old lady; and
if you both dislike the book so much, choose
some other for our amusement to-night; and
Emma, who is not quite so high-flown as either
of you, will, I am sure, finish this for me to-
No, no, my dearest aunt," cried Elizabeth,
hastily opening the book, "no person shall finish
it for you except myself; "-and in less than an
hour the task was done.
There now she exclaimed, as she pushed
the volume away; there now; my uncle has
not heard one word of all the nonsense I have
been reading; and when he awakes he will, as
usual, call us all fastidious, and hard to please,
for not liking it."
You must not, my dear aunt, let him scold
us to-night. I am sure you cannot yourself say
any thing in favour of such stupid stories," said
Yes, she shall let me scold you," cried out
Sir Humphrey, awakening just in time to hear
the last sentence, and arranging himself in his
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
chair for a more comfortable nap ; she can, I
am sure, say a great deal in favour of these
stories, for she is not such a great and mighty
critic as all of you young ladies seem to think
"I fear I shall come in for share of your
scold to-night, brother," said Deborah, for I
cannot pretend to like these tales better than my
Judging by the progress you have made inl
my bead purse, dear aunt," said Emma, I
should think you like them less than any of us.
You have not dropped one stitch to-night: and
when we have a book that pleases you, I am
obliged, you know, to lay aside my own work,
and sit, ready to take up a bar in your knitting
at every second minute."
Mrs Deborah smiled. "In truth, Humphrey,"
said she, you would not yourself approve of
these tales if you heard them; and I am sorry
you happened to buy them for our little girl,
since they are not such as we should like to see
in her hands."
Pho I pho! woman !" muttered Sir Hum-
phrey, again turning in his chair, "what harm
could they do her "
None in the world, my dearest uncle, I will
venture to say," replied Elizabeth. I am cer-
tain my little sister will not read three pages of
the book when she finds how dull and prosing
She would very soon perceive how over
strained and unnatural all the characters are,"
said Kate. I verily believe, the writer never
saw or spoke to a child in his life."
My greatest objection to the book is, that it
seems a collection of little unnatural romances,"
said Emma. "The children are all such angels,
and are represented in a state of such perpetual
and perfect happiness, that I am sure, if I were
again a child, I should feel inclined to be very
much dissatisfied with my own lot, when I com-
pared it with that they are said to enjoy."
Right," said Mrs Deborah, with her most
approving smile. "That, my love, is precisely
my chief objection to the book. I am persuaded
that tales of this kind often sow in young minds
the seeds of discontent, which after life may fail
to root entirely away. A tale, indeed, however
simply told, which abounds in scenes represent-
ing too gay and pleasant a picture of human
life, has all the pernicious qualities of a novel,
teaching the reader to expect what never can
arrive. It is, indeed, I should say, even more
dangerous than the novel, because it is reAd by
those who cannot perceive or guard against its
What a flourish of fine high sounding sense
and sentiment the author makes in his preface,"
said Kate, and then runs, all through his
book, into the very errors he professes to abhor."
Yes," said Emma, that, I confess, provokes
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
me; for, seeing the danger, he should not cer-
tainly have placed it in the way of young crea-
But he never wrote the preface," cried Eliza-
beth, that is easily seen. The whole book,
indeed, seems a mere piece of patch-work-a
tissue of folly,-false, stupid, and pedantic, from
beginning to end."
Good lack good lack !" cried Sir Hum-
phrey, in wrath, and pulling down the handker-
chief from his face with a sudden jerk. What,
in the name of wonder, will this world come to,
when every saucy spinster, from fifteen to fifty,
thinks herself at liberty to abuse a poor author
in this manner ? Why, ladies, you seem to
have words at will; but although you fancy
yourselves such admirable critics, I should like
to see which among you could write half so good
a story as the worst in that book."
Mrs Deborah deliberately placed her head in
the position which she considered essential for
reflection ; and taking off her spectacles with one
hand, whilst with the other she drew a silver
snuff-box from her pocket,-" Brother," she
said, as she tapped it on the lid, I believe I
may, without hesitation, assert, that there is not
a spinster of any age in the room who could not
with ease write a better story than the best in
Sir Humphrey rubbed his hands in ecstasy.
Well, Debby, let the trial be made: here are
four of you ; and to her who writes a better story
than any in that volume, I will give the choice
of any book in my library."
Now, would it not be well to punish my
uncle for slighting our abilities in this manner ?"
whispered Kate. How much I should like to
see him lose four of his best books Do, dear
aunt, let us take him at his word, and try to win
"He deserves to be made repent the challenge,
I confess, my dear," replied Mrs Deborah.
SWell, try it; I beseech you, try it," said the
testy Baronet, in his own mind fully persuaded
they would not succeed. I am ready to run
the risk of losing my books; for I want to con-
vince you all, it is not so easy a matter as you
imagine, to take up a pen and write just such a
story as you, my good sister, would like to put
into a child's hand. Perhaps, too, when you
have all felt the difficulty yourselves, you will
not think quite so badly of that poor author as
you do at present."
"I wish we had courage to try," whispered
Take courage, my dear," said her uncle;
"you will never succeed in any thing without it.
I will give you all a week for the undertaking,
though I see Miss Kate, there, thinks she could
write a dozen such tales in a day; but I will
allow you a week ; and, as an additional induce-
ment, I promise the choice of a second book to
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
whichever brings me down the best executed, and
best designed story, before the end of that time.
Now, what say you all to the proposal 1"
Why, that we ought certainly to make the
attempt, since we can lose nothing by it, and
may gain so much," answered Kate; but de-
pend upon it, my dear uncle, if I have the good
fortune to succeed, nothing short of your fine
Shakspeare, with all Boydell's plates, will satisfy
I doubt it not, you saucy one," he replied ;
" but get along, and try to win it if you can. I
must only criticise your story with severity
equal to your own; and if, after all my endea-
vours, I cannot find more faults in it than in
those you so much condemn, and that you
should rob me of one of my best books in that
manner, I shall contrive some means to have my
revenge, you may be assured."
Do let us try," said Elizabeth: a failure
can do us no harm ; so let us all begin the at-
tempt this night ; and you, my dear aunt, will,
I hope, set us the example."
Neither Mrs Deborah nor Emma could, how.
ever, be persuaded to join in the scheme, al-M
though Kate used various entreaties to make
them accede to the proposal; but her aunt, un-
willing to mar a project upon which her brother's
heart seemed fixed, urged her nieces so strongly
to make the trial, that, after some time, she ob-
tained from Elizabeth and Kate a promise that
they, at least, would commence the task on the
Taking up her candle, soon after, to retire for
the night, I am cool now, Humphrey," said
she, and I feel conscious that I could not write
any tale to equal even the worst of those on the
table; but some of your nieces, I think, will
make you repent your rashness. Their stories,
however, I hope, will be of the very simplest
kind; and I trust, my dear Elizabeth, that you
will let yours be free from all romance or high-
coloured scenes. I confess it would gratify me
exceedingly should you bring down such a story
as your little sister might listen to with benefit."
And have you no directions to give me, my
dear aunt 1" said Kate.
Here are directions for you both, in the
words of your favourite Cowper," said Sir Hum-
phrey, lighting his taper, and taking the way to
A tale should be judicious, clear, succinct:
The language plain, the incidents well linked.
Tell not as new what every body knows;
And, new or old, still hasten to a close.
The two girls declared they would 'not stay to
receive directions which only Cowper himself
could follow, and ran off in great glee to discuss
the fittest subject for their undertaking. Whether
or not their dreams supplied materials for the
trial, has never been discovered, but it is possible
they may have done so ; for at the expiration of
TIlE TRIAL OF SKILL.
the appointed time, Sir Humphrey's fire-side
presenting -its usual scene of comfort, and the
same group being assembled round the work-
table, Emma, who could not be induced to join
in the attempt, announced that the stories were
finished, and brought down for judgment.
Mrs Deborah heard the report with inward
satisfaction. Having given the last rub to her
spectacles, and pulled from her pocket the various
requisites for her complicated knitting, she
waited long in anxious expectation, whilst her
nieces arranged the pages of their little manu-
scripts, and debated who should first begin to
In such trepidation, however, were they both
at thoughts of the exhibition which they fancied
themselves about to make, that they delayed
coming to any conclusion, until Sir Humphrey
snatched up one of the manuscripts, declaring lhe
would read it himself.
Arrangements having at length been made,
that the story of the youngest should be first
read, her uncle drew a seat close to his own for
Kate, threw himself back in his chair in the at-
titude of an attentive auditor, laughed heartily
at the agitation with which she opened her story,
And listened wil out once closing his eyes whilst
S LDE TlR'S RlET
-- -w -.. .;
They were together night and day,
Through all their early years;
Had the same fancies, feelings, thoughts,
Joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears.
COME, Louisa," said little Emily Menden,
as she alighted with her mother and sister at
their own hall door, after a week's absence from
home; Come, Louisa, I dare say mamma will
have no objection to our running into the garden
18 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
for a short time. I think all our flower seeds
must have sprung up while we have been away :
will you come and see 1"
Louisa was about to comply, but suddenly re-
collecting herself, she turned back ; and promis-
ing to join her sister, in case she could persuade
her mamma to go with them, she followed Mrs
Menden into the house. There, by a thousand
artifices, she tried to engage her mother's atten-
tion, and finally led her into the garden, where
Mrs Menden usually felt as much pleasure as
either of her daughters.
Here it will be well to leave them, and ac-
count for the degree of melancholy which Louisa
had seen steal over her mother's countenance;
and which was the more easily perceived, be-
cause contented cheerfulness was in general the
predominant expression of her features.
Mrs Menden had had the misfortune to lose
her parents before that period when young
women most require their counsel and support.4
She might otherwise have been deterred, at the
early age of seventeen, and in the midst of a
sanguinary war, from becoming the wife of an
officer only three years older than herself; and
who, even then, had displayed such distinguished
courage and talents in his country's service, as
left little room to hope that he would be allowed
much leisure to enjoy the comforts of domestic
life. She married, unconscious of the fate which
awaited her, and in full expectation of as much
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 19
happiness as can be met with in this world.
And so much, assuredly, might have been her
lot, could it have been secured by the attach-
ment and amiability of her husband; but she
soon found that the life of a soldier is chequered
with even more than the common shade of cares
and anxieties which belong to this world. Dur-
ing eleven years which had elapsed since her mar-
riage, she had never passed so many months at
one time in his society, or scarcely so many days
free from alarm for his safety. She had not seen
him for the last two years, and the period had
been one of peculiar toil and suffering to the
troops with whom he was acting. She had de-
voted the entire of that time to the education of
her two little girls, and had never left her own
house until the joyful news arrived that his
regiment was ordered home, and that he, with
his friend, Major Chrestone, might probably ar-
rive in England almost as soon as the letter
S.which carried the intelligence.
Major Chrestone was the only surviving
brother of Lady Onslow, Mrs Menden's earliest
friend. His health had suffered much from
several severe wounds which he had received
during the war, in which a younger brother had
already fallen. His sister, for many years past,
alarmed for his safety, and now relieved from all
her fears, wrote to an old companion to come
and enjoy with her, at Onslow Hall, the delight
they must both feel on the return of friends so
THE TRIAL OF SKILL
dear to them. Thither Mrs Menden immediately
hastened with her daughters, in the fond hope of
meeting her husband a few days sooner than she
otherwise could, and of being, at the same time,
introduced to her friend's brother, whom she had
never yet seen. But they were all doomed to
experience another of the trials and vicissitudes
occasioned by war.
The transports, bringing Colonel Menden's
regiment home, had nearly gained the Britisl
coast, and he had already stood on deck, an-
ticipating tne happiness of once more embracing
his wife and children, when they were met by
other ships carrying troops to the Continent,
where a fresh eruption of the war had taken
place. By them he received orders to turn
about and fall in with the squadron, ani to unite
lis regiment with those now assembling for the
purpose of averting this new and unexpected
Such unlooked for intelligence, when commu-
nicated at Onslow Hall, overwhelmed the whole
party with sorrow and disappointment.
Mrs Menden liad lost, in the commencement
of the campaign, and at the same period when
Lady Onslow's younger brother had fallen, three
near relations, whom she tenderly loved ; and
these misfortunes had rendered her more sensible
of the dangers to which her husband, and many
other dear connections, were still exposed.
Her disappointment, on the present occasion,
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 21
was therefore proportioned to the joy she had
lately felt, when she believed all danger at an
end. Feeling that she could afford no comfort
to her friends, she resolved on hurrying back to
Menden Park ; and, whilst resuming her accus-
tomed pursuits, to try and maintain that cheer-
fulness which, in every situation of life, she
knew it was her duty to cherish.
The children, at the first moment of disppoint-
ment, appeared almost as much distressed as
herself; but the sight of home, and all the plea-
sures connected with it, soon enabled them to
forget their sorrow, and again to anticipate, with
delight, the moment when their father should be
restored to them. As they chatted of all the
pleasant things which, they said, were sure to
happen when that long wished for period ar-
rived, their mother tried to catch the infection of
their spirits, and to persuade herself that this
new war might not continue long, and that it
might terminate without bloodshed.
Mamma," said Emily, as they returned from
the garden, on the evening of their arrival,
" whenever the real peace comes, you must write
to papa to bring Major Chrestone to Menden
Park. Will you not, mamma 1 oh, I hope you
Willingly, my dear; but tell me why you
are so anxious for his coming 1"
I want to know if I should like him as well
as Lucy Onslow does. Sle was just as much
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
disappointed at his not coming home, as we all
were because papa did not come. Do you know,
mamma, though he is a grown up man, and has
so much to do, he wrote her a nice long letter,
and said in it that our papa and he had agreed
to roast an ox here whenever they returned, and
to set all the tenants dancing on the lawn. Will
not that be very nice, mamma 1"
Very nice, indeed. I long almost as much
as yourself to witness such a scene, and also to
become acquainted with Major Chrestone, who is
a favourite with every one who knows him."
I am sure I do not wonder at his being a
favourite with Lucy, he is so good-natured to
her. She shewed me a nice set of gardening
tools which he made for her entirely himself.
IHe can make things of that kind just as well as
any smith or carpenter. Is not that very odd,
It is certainly very uncommon, Emily, if
that is what you mean by odd. I dare say he
converts his knowledge to many useful purposes;
for, from what I have heard your papa say, I
think he must be a man of too much refinement
to take up such pursuits for mere amusement."
You are quite right, mamma," said Louisa.
" Lucy told me, that when he first came from
the army, he had a person for a long time at
Onslow Hall, teaching him to be a carpenter, for
he said he had often wished to know something
of that trade when lie was on service; and he
THE SOLDIER 8 RETURN.
afterwards said he found it so useful to himself
and others, that he has since tried to acquire a
knowledge of all the mechanic arts."
Yes, indeed, mamma," said Emily, Lucy
says he can do a great many more things even
than papa; and there was something else Lady
Onslow said he was, besides a smith, or a carpen-
ter, or a turner, or any of those things; some-
thing a great deal nicer than any of them, but I
forget the name of it."
Tell me what it enables him to do, and, per-
haps, I may find out the name for you."
It enables him to cut and polish pebbles and
precious stones, and he has made a great number
of beautiful things of them for Lady Onslow."
"A lapidary is the word you want then, I
Oh yes, that is the name: and do you
know, it was he who cut the catechism so beau-
tifully on the little marble slab, which hangs up
at Lucy's bedside I"
Then this wonderful man engraves as well as
polishes stones: but what catechism do you
speak of 1"
A set of questions, mamma, which Lucy is
obliged to answer every night before she sleeps."
nd to what do the questions relate 1"
They relate to-to---Louisa will tell you,
To her conduct through the day, I believe,"
aid Louisa. Lady Onslow told me, that every
THE TRTAL OF SKILL,
child who wishes to be good, should try to find
out, before they sleep, whether they have done
any harm during the day or not ; and she says,
when people grow up, it is very hard to get into
the habit of doing this, unless they have been ac-
customed to it from childhood. So she has
always made Lucy ask herself this little cate-
chism when she lies down at night. But Lucy
told her mamma she often fell asleep before all
the questions were answered : Major Chrestone,
therefore, cut them on the slab, and fastened a
pencil to it, and she now writes either yes or no
to each question, just before she goes to bed every
Do you understand, mamma ?"
Perfectly. Then Lady Onslow, I suppose,
sees tlhe answers, and is able to judge if they are
correct. I am quite sorry I did not see this cate-
chism, my dear girls, for I think the plan so
excellent, I should like to adopt it with you "
I knew you would say that, mamma, so I
took a copy of it ; and here it is," said Louisa,
producing a paper from which she said the fol-
lowing questions :-
LUCY ONSLOW'S NiGHTLY CATECHISM.
1. Did I this monrn devontly pray
For God'i. protection through the diy ?
2. And did I read hi% sacred w vrd,
To make my life therewitlh ncord ?
3. Did I, for nny purpose, try
To hide the truth, or tell a lie ?
THE SOLDIER S RETURN. 25
4. Did I, to all whn came my way,
DuLe courtesy and kindness pa ?
5 Or if distress my aid implorel,
Did I that aid with joy afford ?
G Did I my thoughts with prudence guide,
Check ilug ill-humnur, anger, pride ?
7. Did I from every word refrain,
That could give any creature pain ?
8. Did I with clherful patience bear
The little ills we all niust share ?
9. And did 1, when the day was o'er,
GCd's watchful car again implore ?
When Louisa ceased reading, Mrs Menden ex-
pressed the highest approbation of the catechism,
and said, she no longer wondered at their little
friend Lucy's steady and reflecting character,
which, she thought, might probably have been
produced by this plan of nightly examination.
Mamma," said Emily, rather mournfully,
" do you think it would ever make me steady
and reflecting ?"
I think, my dear child, that it might greatly
assist your endeavours to become so: the habit
of passing judgment on your own actions will in
time teach you to consider what that judgment
must be, when you are about to commit any
fault; and you know it is only very wicked per-.
sons indeed, who can be guilty of an error after
they have reflected on its impropriety."
Mrs Menden lost no time in preparing one of
these catechisms for each of her daughters. As
she had not Major Chrestone to engrave them
for her, she printed the questions on two boards,
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
to which she fastened black-lead pencils; and
that same night the little girls commenced the
plan which had succeeded so well with their
A short time after their arrival at home, tlie
children, in taking their morning's walk, passed
by a cottage where they had a few weeks before
often visited a poor old woman, called Alice
Dillon, Mrs Menden's nurse, who was then upon
her death-bed. The house had, as they thought,
remained untenanted since the old woman's
death, and they were now surprised, and strongly
attracted by the appearance of a little girl who
stood at the door, crying in a most piteous
As she seemed to be quite alone, and not more
than eight years old, the girls went forward to
inquire what was the matter, and to try if they
could comfort her ; but her replies were so broken
and incoherent, they could scarcely understand
what she said. With great difficulty they dis-
covered that her name was Ally Fisher; that
she had come to that place the day before with
her mother, who was gone to the next market
town on business ; and that she cried because
she was frightened, and unhappy at being left so
It was very cross of your mother to leave
you," said Emily. My mother could not help
going," exclaimed the child : she is never
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 27
Then why did she not take you with her 1"
Because she knew I could not walk so far,"
Well, do not cry, Ally," said Lousia; we
will leave Mrs Saiphly, our maid, with you,
until your mother comes home ; and you need
not be afraid of any thing, while she is beside
While slie spoke, Ally, who kept her eyes
constantly fixed on a turn in the road at some
distance, ran to the top of the nearest stile, and
after a few moments' hesitation, exclaiming, 1
see her, I see her 1" bounded off without wait-
ing to give them any reply.
The girls ascended the same stile to discover if
the person whom they saw approach, were indeed
the child's mother ; but to their great disappoint-
ment they saw poor Ally stop short, and sit
down on the side of the road, while the woman
walked on without taking any notice of her.
Mrs Saiphly could scarcely prevail on them to
return home without going back to comfort her;
she, however, promised that she would herself go
to the child the moment she had left them at
their own door; and aware that they had al-
ready outstaid their time, they were at length
about to comply, when they perceived another
person at the turn of the road. They now saw
Ally start up and run to this person with anns
stretched out as far as they could reach. The
little girls then willingly hurried home, and had
no sooner entered the drawing-room, than they
TUE TRIAL OF SKILL.
began to tell Mrs Menden their adventure. They
dwelt particularly on the little stranger's beauty
and excessive distress ; and were a good deal
mortified at perceiving their mamma less inclined
to pity than to blame her for not having borne
her mother's absence better. Indeed, mamma,
if you had seen her," said Emily, I think you
1 ould not blame her ; I am quite sure she is not
a bold child."
" IHow can you be quite sure, my love ?"
Because she did not cry as naughty children
Sdo ; she tried to suppress her sobs, and did not
seem cross, but looked so melancholy with her
large eyes full of tears, that I think she could
not be naughty."
I have seen large eyes full of tears before
now," replied Mrs Menden, archly, and have
been obliged to acknowledge that there was a
little naughtiness with them."
Emily blushed, but good-humouredly con-
tinued, Well, mamma, if you will just take a
walk with us to Dillon's Hill this evening, you
can see yourself whether Ally is a bold child or
Do, dear mamma," said Louisa; "and per-
haps you will allow me to take her the last
coarse frock you gave me to make ; for though
she looked so clean and pretty, she had on very
From the child's name, and present residence,
Mrs Menden had some idea that she might bt
THE SOLDIER' RETURN. 29
the daughter of her foster-sister, Liddy Dillon,
who, she knew, had become the wife of a soldier,
called Fisher, about the time of her own mar-
riage. Anxious to know if her conjecture were
right, she readily granted the children their re-
quest, and promised to go with them to see the
little girl after tea.
Do, mamma," said Emily, pray do, if you
please, allow us to get our lessons after we return,
and let us go now. We shall perhaps be in time
to see Dillon's whole herd of cows milked at the
foot of thee hill, and you know that it is so pretty.
I can carry your camp chair, and Louisa will
bring your work-basket, and you may sit and
work there the whole evening."
I hope you will not insist on my sitting
there so long, Emily," said her mother, smiling;
" but I will take you there with pleasure while
it is fine. I hope, however, I may rely on your
driving the farmer's whole herd of cows out of
your head, when you come back, and applying
yourself to your lessons as you ought to do; so
get your bonnets, and come along."
Oh thank you, mamma, thank you. In-
(ced, I will not once think of the cows after we
come home, and I will stay in the house all the
rest of the evening, to get my lessons. I assure
you, mamma, upon my honour, I will."
Another promise for the slate, Emily con-
firmed by an oath, too," said Mrs Menden.
1er daughter's countenance fell at the mention
TIE TRIAL OF SKILL.
of this hated slate, which, before we proceed, re-
quires some explanation. There was not in this
little girl's character any fault which gave Mrs
Menden more uneasiness, than a habit she had
contracted of making promises, without consider-
ing whether she should ever be able to perform
them,-a habit which generally grows into one
of premeditated falsehood, if not stopped in time.
But to check it in poor Emily (though in other
respects a docile and obedient child) had been
found a troublesome task. Quick in her imagi-
nation, and thoughtless to an extreme, she was
no sooner made sensible of what was proper to
be done, than she fancied herself certain of being
able to perform it; and the moment a fault in
her conduct was clearly pointed out, she felt so
much distress, that she began to make the most
vehement protestations of amendment.
On one occasion, after quietly listening to the
end of a long declaration, that she would never
do so and so again, but always do such and such
things, her mother said to her,-" I wonder,
Emily, if keeping an account of all the good
resolutions you make in the course of one short
week would help to convince you that the half
of them could scarcely be fulfilled in a year."
Indeed, namma, I do not think I make
many resolutions now, and I am sure I never
break one, except when I forget."
But you forget so very often, my love."
Well, mainna, do let us keep an account.
TIE SOLDIER S RETURN. 31
Just write down on something every resolution
I make, and then put a mark whenever I break
one ; and I am sure you will find I do not for-
get so often as you think."
If you wish it, Emily, here is a large slate,
which will exactly answer the purpose; but I
give you notice, the plan, once begun, shall be
continued every week for half a year. The slate
shall hang over the mantel-piece, and never he
removed during that time, let who may come to
Well, mamma, hang it up," said Emily,
after considering some moments. I am deter-
mined I will never make another resolution;
and then, you know, there cannot be any written
Mrs Menden smiled, took up the slate, and
wrote at the top, in large characters,-
RESOLUTIONS MADE BY EMILY MENDEN,
First-She resolves to make no resolatinMs.
Then, taking down a picture, and hanging up
the slate in its stead, Now," said she, I have
only to keep the account by writing down each
promise as it is made, and putting a mark over
it as it is broken."
Emily was a little disconcerted when she saw
the slate fairly in its place ; but still confident
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
of her own powers, and more cautious than usual,
lest she should break her first resolution, she
chatted with her accustomed gaiety all that
evening, without once forgetting herself.
Before the week was ended, however, the slate
was full of promises; and heartily did she re-
pent her rashness, when, on Saturday morning,
some friends having called to visit her mother,
one of them asked her to explain the strange
ornament which hung over the mantel-piece.
Many entreaties were urged by both the girls
that night to make Mrs Menden take down the
slate, and give up the plan; but she replied,
that she could not require them to keep their re-
solutions if she broke her own, The slate had,
therefore, kept its place for nearly half its ap-
pointed time, and was beginning to produce such
good effects, that there was now rarely a promise
to be seen on it.
But on this unlucky evening of their projected
walk to Dillon's Hill, the thoughts of seeing
Ally Fisher, and the farmer's herd of cows milked
at the foot of the hill, had completely thrown
poor Emily off her guard ; and her mortification
was extreme when she saw her mother write
down, first, a promise to pull every weed out of
her garden before she slept, and then another, to
remain in the house all the evening, for the pur-
pose of getting her lessons.
Her face glowed with vexation as she felt the
impossibility of keeping both these resolutions
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 33
without giving up her walk, and to do that re
quired more self-denial than she at that moment
Fearing to have time for reflection, she caught
up her bonnet, and tied it in haste closely round
her face ; but after moving her chin up and down,
and backwards and forwards, for several mo-
ments, she exclaimed, Oh, dear, dear I have
tied the string of this nasty bonnet so tight, it
quite chokes me: what shall I do, mamma 1"
I think the best thing you can do, my love,
will be to untie it."
But I have got it into a hard knot, and that
is so difficult to untie."
It requires some patience, I know ; but you
will make it much worse if you pull it in that
manner. Had you not better come forward to
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
the glass, and try to find the proper loop to
"Emily approached, but her eyes were dimmed
with tears, and she sought in vain for the loop,
which became closer every moment, until Louisa
good-naturedly came to her assistance, and in a
short time the ribbon was untied.
Her mortification, however, still remained;
and, anxious that it should be attributed to any
cause rather than the real one, she said, as she
saw her sister fold up the frock she was going to
carry with her, How lucky you are, Louisa, to
have that frock to give the poor little girl. I
wish I ladl something to take to her, too."
You may give her the last petticoat you had
to make, if it he finished," said her mother.
But it is not finished, mamma ; and it will
he very provoking to go without any thing, when
Louisa has that nice frock to take her."
Then I will not take the frock until your
petticoat is ready," said her sister, "and we will
take them both together some other time."
Mrs Menden opposed this, saying, It would
he very hard the little girl should he deprived of
the frock she so much required, merely because
Emily could not have the pleasure of taking her
Oh, mamma !" said Emily, earnestly, if
you would only just put off your walk until to-
morrow evening, I should then have the petticoat
ready fo her, and-and-"
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 35
I cannot, my dear child, consent to gratify a
wish so entirely selfish. If you happen to lose a
pleasure yourself, Emily, you must try to re-
joice that others have not lost it also; but since
you think it provoking to see your sister enjoy
a satisfaction, only because you cannot partake
of it, I advise you to remain at home, which, I
confess, I at first supposed you would have done
from better motives."
Emily burst into tears; and Mrs Menden, say-
ing she hoped to find her a more rational girl on
her return, took Louisa by the hand, and com-
menced her walk.
After their departure, Emily sat for some
minutes given up to grief; and at last, aloud and
angrily, exclaimed, Oh, that slate! that vile,
nasty slate it is for ever getting me into scrapes
But her reason gradually began to operate,
and she soon grew tired of railing at the slate.
" I was a fool," she said within herself, not to
say I would stay at home, and perform my pro-
mises, as I first had thoughts of doing. Then I
am sure mamma would have been pleased with
me; but now I have made her angry, and lost
my walk too. Oh! I was very silly. I wonder
what could have made me so silly ? And then,
why did I say it would be provoking to go to
see Ally, without taking her something as well
as Louisa 1 I am sure I have no such feeling
now. Well," she continued, carrying on her re-
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
flections, I will make one, just one resolution
more: I will try and remember always to put
my hands on my mouth the moment I feel my-
self growing cross, and never take them off, or
speak another word, until I am in good humour
With this determination she was so well satis-
fled, that she began to consider what was the
next most prudent thing she would do; and at
length she decided to try and have her long ne-
glected petticoat finished, and her garden weeded,
before her mother's return.
We will now leave her seated at her book in
the summer-house, and follow her mother and
sister on their walk to the hill. They had pur-
sued their way almost in silence, except when
lamenting the unlucky vow, and the unusual fit
of haughtiness which kept Emily at home. And
Louisa seemed but little to enjoy the excursion,
until she was roused by her mother's asking, if
that lovely child, who stood at the hay-stack
near Dillon's gate, were the same she had seen
in the morning.
Yes that is she, indeed. How much pret-
tier she looks, now that she is not crying Is
it not strange that she can look so clean and
neat in all those rags 1 Oh, mamma! I am
quite glad you made me bring her the frock to-
night." So saying, Louisa hastened forward to
accost the child, and ask if her mother had yet
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 37
Yes, thank you, Miss," said she, dejectedly ;
" my mother came home soon after you were
here this morning, but she is very angry with
me for crying so much."
There was, besides her uncommon beauty, an
appearance of dejection and timidity about this
poor child, which, joined to a look of ill health,
interested Mrs Menden greatly, and made her no
longer wonder at the compassion which she had
excited in her daughters. The strong resem-
blance she bore to Liddy Dillon confirmed the
supposition of her being the child of that per-
son ; and, taking the little girl by the hand, she
desired to be led into the house to her mother.
On entering the cottage, she saw a young
woman sitting at work. It was Liddy, but so
altered in appearance, that if she had not imme-
diately recognized her mistress, Mrs Menden
could scarcely have believed her to be the once
blooming and happy girl whom she remembered
as the most deserving and most esteemed at-
tendant that had ever been about her person.
They had been nursed on the same milk, had
lived together from infancy in the same house,
and had never been separated until a few months
before they both married. They had never met
since that time; but this attachment, which
arose, on one side, from esteem and confidence,
and, on the other, from gratitude for uniform
kindness, was stronger and more lasting than is
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
often felt by persons of equal rank, who live
amidst the dissipations of the world. Mrs Men-
den, therefore, met her foster sister with all the
affection of an old friend. She condoled with
her upon the death of her good old mother,
which had taken place shortly before her return ;
and asked kindly for her husband and brother,
who, she had heard, belonged to the same regi-
They had been killed in battle, on the same
day, Liddy said ; and, scarcely able to articulate
more, she pointed to Ally, declaring she was now
the only comfort left to her on earth.
I hope, for my sake, you will try to forget
whatever displeased you in her conduct this
morning, and grant her your forgiveness," said
Mrs Menden, greatly shocked, and anxious to
change the current of Liddy's thoughts.
She promised to comply with this request, and
instantly granted the little penitent's pardon.
"But, Ally," she said, embracing her, whilst ac-
costing Louisa, to whom she had not before
spoken, this dear young lady must never be
so kind to you again, unless you try to bear your
troubles, whatever they may be, with more pa-
tience than she saw you do this morning."
Louisa vouched for her little favourite's future
good conduct, and soon after drew her away to
present her with the offering she had brought.
M)rs Menden congratulated the poor widow on
THE SOLDIER S RETURN. 39
her daughter's prepossessing manner and appear-
ance, and expressed her belief that the little girl
would grow up a blessing to her.
She would be, thank God," replied Liday,
"all that my heart could wish, if it were not
that her health is delicate ; and that the many
frightful scenes it has been her lot to witness,
have given a fearfulness and melancholy to her
character, quite unnatural at her age, and of
which, I fear, she will hardly ever get the
Mrs Menden confessed she had perceived this
delicacy, and apparent dejection; and acknow-
ledged it might require a mother's utmost skill
and attention to overcome both. But all our
trials, dear Liddy, are blessings in disguise; and
I cannot help considering it an advantage, that
your child should now require such constant care,
as must keep you from brooding over your own
afflictions, and induce you to suppress every feel-
ing, the sight of which might increase her me-
It is a proof of the watchful kindness of God,
that, along with our heaviest afflictions, he al-
ways sends such motives to exertion, as will, if
duly attended to, help to support us under their
Pious resignation, and a grateful sense of the
mercy and wisdom of whatever He does, can
make us all submit, without murmuring, to his
will; but it is only by strong active exertion,
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
and constant suitable occupation, that we can
support a cheerful appearance under our afflic-
You know, Liddy, this was always the opi-
nion of your excellent mother,-an opinion
which helped to support her under all her severe
trials ; and, I am sure, you will not now neglect
to follow her example."
Liddy, with tears, declared there was nothing
she more earnestly wished, than to follow her
mother's example in all things; but along with
the strength of her body, she had, she said, so
completely lost all power over her mind, that she
doubted her capability of fulfilling the duties she
had still to perform.
Mrs Menden urged every consideration which
religion could suggest to cheer and comfort her,
until the hour approached which obliged them
to return home.
You must come to me to-morrow," said she,
kindly pressing her hand at parting. "Bring
your little girl along with you, and we will con-
sult together on the best plan for the recovery of
her health and spirits."
She then called Louisa, and, having desired
Ally to bring her mother, without fail, to Men-
den Park next day, took leave, with a kindness
and cordiality which were not the least accept-
able part of the consolation she offered.
Arrived at the garden gate, on their return
home, they stopped for a moment to observe
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 41
Emily, who (stretched at full length on a leather
carpet, which was part of her garden apparatus)
lay weeding her last flower-bed with more dili-
gence than they had ever seen her exhibit
Shall I help you, Emily 1" said Louisa,
running close to her side, before she suspected
they had returned.
"Oh, Louisa!" cried she, starting, but scarcely
looking up ; am sorry you are come home
before I have finished my task. How fast you
must have walked to be here so soon !"
Soon, Emily 1" repeated her sister; I as-
sure you we have been three full hours away,
by mamma's watch, and I thought we had been
much longer, for we walked very slowly ; but
may I not help you to get up this vile bishop's
fo, no, I thank you, Louisa, I must do it all
myself," said the little girl, putting her sister
gently away. To be sure, it is a sad trouble-
some job, and I fear I have pulled up many of
my seedlings ; but I have been thinking all the
time, that this evening will come into my mind
when I am going to make what mamma calls a
rash vow; and then it will certainly prevent
me ever taking another, or ever being so cross
again, as I was to-night."
If it do so, my love, I am sure you will
never regret any part of it," said Mrs Menden.
k Emily wheeled round at this unexpected re-
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
mark, She said my love," she whispered to her-
self, "and I know by her voice she is not
angry ;" and then she added aloud, shaking the
mould from her hands as well as she could, Oh,
mamma I shall not regret any thing,-I shall
not regret the vow, or the loss of the walk, or
any thing else,-if you are not displeased with
I was displeased with you, very much in-
deed, Emily; and am still vexed that you pos-
sess so little self-command; but since you are
anxious to repair your faults, I will endeavour
to forget the frettish child I left behind me, and
I shall hope never to see so unwelcome a guest
at Menden Park again," said Mrs Menden, stoop-
ing to embrace her child.
I will not promise, but I will try, mamma,"
said Emily, forgetting her dirty hands, and clasp-
ing them round her mother's neck; and I
think I never shall be cross again, for inddee it
has made me very unhappy."
I trust you never will, my love ; you know
not how unhappy it made me too." Her mother
then seated herself in the little summer-house, to
wait until she had done her task.
Mrs Menden delighted in seeing her children
cultivate their garden, and took pains to procure
them flowers, and to afford them as much assist-
ance as she could in that innocent and healthful
occupation; she did not profess to be a botanist
herself, nor did she desire the title for her girl,
THE SOLDIER'B RETURN. 43
but siie wished that they should make themselves
acquainted with the names and properties of all
the plants with which they met. This would,
she knew, at once strengthen their memories,
and give them a habit of minute investigation,
which might be useful to them in after life. She
was, therefore, glad to find their taste, in this re-
spect, agree with her wishes, and perceived with
pleasure that they had already acquired all the
knowledge of the vegetable world which she was
able to give.
To stimulate them to a farther pursuit of this
study, she had lately made them a present of a
book called "Berkenhout's Synopsis," and taught
them how to find out there the name of every
British plant they met with. She engaged never
to refer to this book herself, and promised them
a premium for every new flower, of which they
could in future teach her the name.
Many premiums had already been won, and
some lost, (for the prize was forfeited whenever
the name of the flower was forgotten,) and the
girls had now no greater amusement, than in
collecting a heap of weeds at every different stage
of their growth, and trying to puzzle their
mamma with them.
She had not been many minutes seated in the
arbour, when Emily finished the task she had
imposed on herself; and springing from her
knees, something in the attitude of a kangaroo,
she shook the clay from about her, and called
44 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
on her sister to come and admire her garden, de-
claring there was not a single weed left in it.
Louisa laid down a little plant which she had
just brought to shew her mother, and ran to
seize the wheelbarrow with which the indefa-
tigable Emily was preparing to carry off her
weeds; You have performed your vow com-
pletely, Emily," she said, and you must be
very tired, so let me wheel away this rubbish
for you; and here," she added, take a hand-
ful of weeds, and try to puzzle mamma, until I
Emily thanked her sister, but looked timidly
towards the arbour for permission, not daring to
move until she saw her mother's hand held out
in full token of reconciliation. She then sprang
to her side, and having collected a large handful
of plants, instantly began her efforts to win a
She had, however, little chance of success, for
the same plants had come frequently under re-
view before, and she was about to fling them all
away in despair, when she perceived on the seat
beside her the little flower which Louisa had laid
down there. I shall win a premium now,"
thought she. Mamma does not know this weed,
I am sure, nor can Louisa either, else she would
have shewn it to me." Away she ran into the
house for Berkenhout, but she was in too great
haste to examine the book with the necessary
care and patience, and her mother presently saw
THE SOLDIER S RETURN. 45
her return with the Synopsis in her hand, look-
ing very much disappointed.
"Well, Emily," she said, I see you have
found some plant which is new to you; have
you discovered its name 1"
No, mamma, I cannot find it out, though I
have looked all over the book for it."
Looked all over the book, Emily, in scarcely
two minutes !"
I mean that I have looked in every place
where I should be likely to find the description
of this plant; but it is certainly not in the book,
and I am quite sure it is some new flower just
sprung up, that nobody ever heard of before."
But, Emily, there is nothing new under the
sun I there is no such thing as a new flower
just sprung up, that nobody ever heard of be-
Oh, mamma, do you not remember Mr Per-
kins, the Dutch gardener, last summer bringing
you a great number of plants which he said were
all quite new ?"
I do remember his bringing me flowers,
which he said were new in this country, but
they were made along with all other things by
God Almighty at the beginning of the world,
and there never was any thing formed since that
"Then, mamma, what did Mr Perkins mean by
saying htcould make new flowers himself 1"
He spoke improperly, for he only meant that
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
lie could give some flowers a different colour
from that which they originally possessed; a
thing which is often done."
Oh how, mamma ?"
By putting them into an artificial soil, which
will either increase or diminish the proportion of
iron natural to the plant: you know, I believe,
that iron is the ingredient which gives colour to
Yes, mamma, I remember your telling me
so once; and when Mr Perkins comes back, I
will make him teach me how to prepare the ar-
tificial soil, and I will change the colour of all
my flowers, and surprise Lucy Onslow, when
she comes to see us, with blue pinks, and black
snow-drops, and scarlet blue-bells,-oh! how
much I wish she was here now. I suppose, too,
lie could tell me the name of this little plant,"
she added, again looking over the Synopsis;
" but here comes Louisa, she also will wonder
what it is."
Louisa did not wonder: she had discovered
the plant some days before, when her mother
and sister were engaged at lessons, but had quite
forgotten it from that time until she came into
the garden this evening. A wish then arising in
her mind that she might win something which
would be useful to Ally Fisher, brought the
flower to her recollection, and she had just
gathered a sprig of it to shew to Mrs Menden,
as her sister finished her task.
TIHE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 47
On seeing the flower, and the Synopsis together
in Emily's hand, she felt at first a little morti-
fied, but the annoyance passed quickly from her
mind. "It is better," thought she, that Emily
has got the premium; it will put her into good
spirits again, after her disappointment this even-
Well, Emily," she good-humouredly said,
what have you won by that pretty little flower
in your hand ?"
I have not won any thing, Louisa, for I can-
not find its name any where in the book."
Louisa hesitated, but, after a few seconds, said,
" Did you look among the chickweeds, Emily 1
I think it is like some of them ;" and as her
sister held the book, she turned over the leaves
towards the place, where she had before, after a
long search, found the description, and then sat
Emily drew her finger along the lines as she
read, and at last joyfully exclaimed, Yes, yes,
here it is ; this must be the very flower I hold
in my hand. Here, mamma, take it, and listen
if this is not the exact description: just listen,
amam a :-Stem and branches small, and spread-
ing on the ground like grass ; flowers very small,
and of a greenish white; corolla of four petals;
calyx of four leaves."
"That is certainly the plant in my hand,
Emily ; now, let me hear its name," said Mrs
48 TIM TRIAL OF SKILL.
Pearl-wort chiclrweed, or moss-like pink,"
cried Emily, laying the book on her mother's
lap, and dancing about the arbour in ecstacy.
Now, dear mamma, perhaps you will grant
me something as a premium, which I have been
wishing for all the evening."
Mrs Menden expressed her readiness to give
the premium; but, Emily," she said, I fear
this cannot be the plant Berkenhout means, for
he says the moss-pink grows on old walls, or dry
"Dear me," interrupted Emily, "and this must
have grown in my ranunculus bed, where I
pulled up all those weeds. 0 what a disappoint-
That is the flower Berkenhout means," said
Louisa : you will find it is, mamma, and Emily
is quite right."
How can that be, Louisa ? you know the
flower must answer the description perfectly ;
and here is a great difference in one particular."
Yet," replied Louisa, colouring, I know
well it is the same flower : I can shew it to you,
mamma, growing on the walls of the ivy tower
at the foot of the garden."
Oh thank you, dear Louisa," cried Emily,
quite satisfied that it had from thence made its
way into her garden; and again thinking her-
self secure of her premium.
Mrs Menden guessed the truth, and, unwilling
to frustrate her eldest daughter's kind intention,
" I fiiA ed my petUtiomat" sid she, after you went sfyS
this eMning. nmaro u."-P 49.
TTIE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 4
she took the flower, which had excited so much
curiosity, hope, and fear, and held it in her hand,
as if anxious to investigate its beauties, and make
herself acquainted with its peculiar characteris-
tics, so as to determine for herself if it corres-
ponded with the definition of the Pearl-wort
chickweed, in "Berkenhout's Synopsis of British
plants," to which her daughters had referred it.
While thus engaged, seemingly in investigat-
ing the minute features of the delicate little
plant in her hand, Mrs Menden was watching
the expressions of the two girls' features, so
strongly indicative at the moment of their dif-
ferent characters. After a brief pause she re-
plied by asking Emily what premium she wished
"I finished my petticoat," said she, "after
you went away this evening, mamma, and I
wish very much you would make up for this
night's disappointment, by letting me take it to
Ally before breakfast to-morrow morning."
"You must choose some other premium,
Emily; I cannot grant this; for you know 1
never allow you to receive a remuneration for
any loss which your own misconduct brings
Emily hung down her head, abashed at hav-
ing forgotten this wise rule ; but she submitted
to the decision with good humour.
The party then returned to the house. Louisa
recounted all that had been lost during the walk,
THE TRIAL OP SKILL.
and Emily heard, with pleasure, that Ally
Fisher and her mother were to pay them a visit
at the Park next day.
In the morning Mrs Menden made a collec-
tion of whatever clothes and books she thought
would be most useful to Ally, and desired the
girls to have them ready to give her.
The moment the little girl arrived, they ran to
conduct her into a room where their offering
was prepared, and scarcely would allow their
mother time to accost her, until they presented
their various gifts.
All were thankfully received by their little
visitor, but she appeared more delighted with
some of the books, than with any other part of
The Son of a Genius,' by Mrs Hofland,"
she said aloud, as she read the title of one;
" that will do nicely to read to my mother in
the evenings. I am sure she never saw it."
It is a very beautiful story, and would do
nicely to read to any one," said Mrs Menden;
" but who taught you to read so well, Ally 1"
My mother taught me every thing I know,
ma'am; and when we were with the regiment,
daddy Fisher, and daddy Dillon, used to teach
me, too, every night when they came in from
Had you two daddies, Ally 1" asked Emily,
with surprise: I have but one."
I had two, Miss," she answered, in a low
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 51
voice, while tears gushed to her eyes; and stoop-
ing forward, as if afraid her mother should hear
her, I had two once; but they are both dead:
they were killed together by the French in one
Emily, repenting that she had asked the ques-
tion, remained silent; and Louisa, wishing to
divert Ally's attention, took up another book,
and recommended it also for her mother's
Ally took it from Louisa's hand, and, having
read the title page, gazed a few moments at the
outside, then cautiously turned over the leaves
as if afraid of some disappointment. At length,
appearing to have satisfied herself, she cried out
in the greatest delight, It is, it is my own
book,-' Lazy Laurence,' The White Pigeon,'
SSimple Susan.'-Oh! I never will lose it
again;" and she wrapped it carefully up in her
Where had you that book before, Ally ?"
I had it in France, Miss, but I thought it
was lost when my mother grew sick there."
Dear me," said Emily, how did you get
this little book all the way in France I perhaps
it is not the same you mean."
Indeed, Miss, it is the very same," said the
little girl, holding it fast; the Captain brought
it to me himself from London, the last time he
came home to the regiment."
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
What captain, Ally 1"
Captain Chrestone, Miss, our own Captain,
that was killed," said the child, her eyes again
filling with tears.
The girls, vexed that they had unluckily led
to another subject which distressed their little
favourite, procured leave to take her into the
garden, and spared no pains in trying to amuse
her and make her forget her sorrow.
When they were gone, Mrs Menden inquired
into the particulars of Captain Chrestone's death,
feeling a deep interest in all which related to
that event, from having known him intimately
herself, and also from having witnessed the
affliction into which Lady Onslow had been
thrown by his loss.
Liddy, whose family had lived under his es-
pecial care from the time she had first joined the
regiment, was well disposed to speak on the sub-
ject. She told her mistress how his death had
occasioned one of the shocks which had so much
affected her poor little girl. He was," she
said, the friend and favourite of every creature
in the regiment; but his kindness to herself, her
husband, brother, and child, was more than he
could ever have been repaid in this world."
It happened, that the very morning he was
killed, when all was bustle and confusion in the
camp, from the expectation of a speedy engage-
ment, Ally, who loved him as if lie had been her
equal, was standing with some other children,
THE SOLDIER B RETURN,
looking at a fine ox which the sutler was about
to purchase, when the animal, enraged by its
confinement, broke loose amongst the crowd, and
injured many of the people. Captain Chrestone,
who, with some of his friends, had been stand-
ing by, tried, like every one else, to get out of the
way ; but hearing the terrified shriek of a child,
he stopped, and saw Ally fallen to the ground,
and the ox rushing towards her. He never in
his life thought of himself, when he knew an-
other to be in danger," said Liddy, and he im-
mediately turned upon the enraged creature,
struck it such a blow across the forehead with
his sword, that the animal staggered a few paces
back, and then, tearing up the earth in its fury,
ran forward, and left my child unhurt. Her
preserver snatched her into his arms, half dead
with terror, and carried her home to me, quite
happy at having saved her life. IHe had her
still by the hand, standing at the door of our
tent, and was trying to make her forget her
alarm, when the drum, which we had all been
expecting, beat to arms; and, bidding me be of
good courage, for that, with the help of God, he
would bring my husband and brother safe back
to me again that night, he hurried away ; and
the next minute we heard his voice echoing over
the hills while lie mustered his men to the line.
Many a day had I stood watching for the
sound of that voice, which I knew among a
thousand the moment it reached my ears ; for he
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
always used to give three cheers when he ap-
proached the camp, if he was bringing all the
men of his own company safe home to their
wives and children. When the troops marched
off, I took my station with Ally on one of the
highest hills in view," continued Liddy, until
evening fell, and the firing ceased, when I gave
her in charge to a woman, whose husband was
on duty in the camp, and then I hastened away,
as was my usual custom, to meet the men on
their return from the field.
My heart boded no good when I saw them
advance, and heard no cheering voice announcing
their approach. Already I fancied myself a
widow," said the afflicted creature, bursting into
sorrow, but my husband and brother were both
among the few privates of our company who
escaped that day unhurt; and of all the officers,
our brave Captain alone was missing. The men,
who had at first some hopes he might have been
carried in wounded to the camp, would not rest
till they returned to the field to look for him ;
and, thinking I might be of use, in case they
should be so happy as to find him still alive, I,
for the first time in my life, followed them to the
scene of slaughter. After many hours of fruit-
less search, we were preparing to return home,
and had passed a spot which we all fancied we
had examined before, when sounds of feeble,
convulsive sobbing, which seemed to come from
some one on the ground, induced us to go back
THE SOLDIERS' RETURN, 55
and try if we could afford any assistance. You
may imagine our horror, and astonishment, dear
madam, when we discovered my poor child lying
beside the lifeless body of her benefactor, with
her arms clasped round his neck, as if he had
been still alive !"
Mrs Menden, shuddering, inquired how such
a circumstance could have happened.
I little suspected," replied Liddy, that the
woman I had left her with, was one of those
wretched beings who support themselves by plun-
dering the slain ; and still less did I think that
she would bring a child of four years old along
with her to such a place: but so it was. Ally
hlad willingly followed her, in the hope of find-
ing me, and chance had directed them to the
very spot which we had sought for in vain."
May be he is only sleeping, father,' said
Ally, when William tried to lift her away from
the body: but it was God's will that he should
never awake more in this world. A ball had
passed through his heart; and we had at least
the comfort of knowing, that he had not suffered
a lingering or painful death. We felt, however,
as if the credit and courage of the whole regi-
ment was gone, now its best and bravest officer
William was obliged to carry Ally home;
she trembled so exceedingly she could not walk,
and that night she shewed the first symptoms of
debility and weakness, from which she has never
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
since recovered. My husband got some assistance
to bring the remains of our beloved Captain to
our tent, where every soldier in the company
watched over him by turns, until the surgeon
had the body sent home, to be buried in its native
Mrs Menden, whose thoughts were led by this
recital to her own husband and friends, who
were still subject to the same dreadful vicissitudes
of war, was unable to restrain her tears, as she
expressed a wish, that, should any of them fall,
they might meet with equal respect and affection
from those about them.
"May Heaven preserve you from the grief of
losing any of them !" cried Liddy; "but, oh i"
she added fervently, "oh, may you be preserved
from the horror of losing then all in one short
moment, as I lost mine !"
After a pause, she continued, with a little
more composure,-" But they were loved and
regarded by all who knew them: they were
good, and brave, and generous both to friends
and foes. They trusted in their Saviour, and
they are now reaping the rich reward he has
prepared for them in a better world."
"Yes, Liddy," said Mrs Menden, "that they
trusted in Him who was able to save, must indeed
have been a happy recollection for you ; and the
certainty of meeting them again, where there are
no wars nor sorrows, if you persevere in the same
path of religious trust and resignation, will, I
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 67
hope, enable you to bear up under your severe
Liddy tried to check her tears, declaring that
she felt relief in talking to one who listened to
her with so much compassion; and then con-
tinued her narrative.
There were many sufferers in the camp, as
well as myself, the day of the battle of-- -
Out of eight hundred men who went from our
regiment into the field, only two hundred and
seven returned, and of our own company only
three. These poor fellows could hardly speak
to me, when I inquired if all their companions
were slain. At length they confessed that they
had seen my brother fall in the beginning of the
day; and that scarcely an hour after, my husband
had been killed by a grape shot, while fighting
like a lion on the same spot.
I waited for no other word, but ran off to
the field of battle, not knowing what I did ; and
that night," said the poor widow, sobbing as if
her heart would burst, "I walked through the
field with as little compassion for the slain that
were lying there, as if I had no feeling left. My
whole soul was fixed on one object. I thought
only of finding the remains of my husband and
brother, and the bodies which were not clothed
in the uniform of our regiment, excited no sensa-
tion in my mind. I went over the ground again
and again, still busied in my fruitless search, till
morning began to dawn, when I heard the muf-
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
fled drum beat for the purpose of mustering the
men to bury their dead.
I remember seeing them advance, with the
surgeon at their head; but I know nothing of
what happened to me after that for many months,
when one day I awoke from sleep, and felt my-
self so weak and ill, that I had not power even
to ask where I was. I only knew my poor little
Ally, who leaned over me in the bed with a look
of such misery, that I burst into tears at the
sight. From that time, my health and reason,
which had been quite lost, began to return
together. I found I had been placed at a com-
fortable lodging, by the joint kindness of our
surgeon and his brother officers ; and that as all
my little property had been plundered after the
battle, they had raised a subscription for my
support during my illness, and made every neces-
sary arrangement with my hostess for the care
of myself and my child.
SWhenever my strength was sufficiently re-
stored, this good woman procured me some
needle-work, by which I was able to support
myself, and after a long time, I earned as much
money as paid my passage to England, where I
landed only last week. I hastened as fast as I
could to my mother's cottage, in the hope of
finding her alive. But, alas she too was gone.
God was, however, gracious in sparing her the
eight of my afflictions. His blessed will be done !
I had refrained from writing to her, fearing the
news I had to communicate might imbitter her
THE SOLDIER S RETURN. 59
last moments; and I rejoice that she died in
ignorance of my fate."
Mrs Menden again spoke comfort to her foster
sister, and relieved her mind from one subject of
uneasiness, by describing her mother's death as
the happiest and most peaceful she had ever seen.
She then inquired, with friendly interest, into
her plans and future prospects of support. She
knew Liddy had received an education in every
useful part of information, little inferior to her
own; that she was a good English scholar, an
excellent accomptant, and a clever workwoman.
But she found her now at a loss how to turn
these acquirements to account; and heard with
concern, that she had not the means of procuring
shelter for herself or her child beyond the present
week. Her only surviving relation was farmer
Dillon, from whom her mother had rented her
little cabin, and who (as the only favour he could
afford to bestow) now allowed Liddy to inhabit
it, until he could find a better tenant.
"You need suffer no farther uneasiness on this
subject, Liddy," said her kind mistress; whilst
I have power to procure you a home, you shall
never want one ; and I hope, in a few days, I
shall be able to strike out some plan for you,
which will meet your approbation."
They then went into the garden in search of
the children. The moment Ally saw Liddy
approach, she ran to meet her, holding up a long
piece of straw plat, which the girls had taught
TIE TRIAL OF SKILL*
her to make : See mother," cried she, what I
have learned to do ; I shall be very soon able to
make a bonnet for you."
I am glad to find you have been so good, and
so well employed in my absence," said her
mother; "you see it is possible to be very
happy for a little while without me, Ally."
Mrs Menden asked the little girl if she should
like to go to school, and learn to do many useful
things for herself and her mother.
Yes, ma'am, very much, if my mother would
stay with me."
But it would not be good for your mother
to stay there, though it would be very good for
you, Ally ; and I think you would find yourself
very happy at an excellent school, where I could
Ally became alarmed: she drew close to her
mother's side, and looking anxiously in her face,
said, while tears started to her eyes, "Is God
going to take you away, mother ?"
"No, Ally, do not look so much frightened, I
am not going away from you any where."
Then, you know you told me, after you
were so ill, that you would keep me with you
always, until God took you away to himself."
Liddy promised to be faithful to her engage-
ment; and Mrs Menden, seeing it was no time
to urge her proposal farther, after giving them
some refreshment, suffered them to depart.
In the course of the day, Louisa and Emily
THE SOLDIER S RETURN, 1.
heard the particulars of Liddy's story from their
mamma, and dreamed all night of nothing but
little Ally, and the thousand schemes they had
formed for her advantage. On the moment of
their awaking next morning, they crept to Mrs
Menden's bedside, and having satisfied themselves
she was not asleep, eagerly ran to the window to
count, as was their daily custom, how many
new flowers were opened in their gardens below.
Emily no sooner drew up the curtain than she
pulled it down again, to shut out the prospect.
Oh how I hate a wet Sunday," she cried ;
" It is raining in torrents, and we can neither go
to church, nor have a walk to see our poor pen-
sioners, nor get into our gardens this whole day."
If you cannot have any of those gratifications
to-day, Emily, I hope you will be satisfied with
others which are within your reach."
But I was so sure of going to see the poor
woman to-day, mamma."
And will it be a great misfortune, either to
you or to them, if you should not be able to go
until to-morrow, or even till the next day 1"
Oh no, mamma, not just a misfortune, but
it will certainly be a disappointment."
"That I have no doubt of: but, my dear
child, you have not, I hope, quite forgotten your
catechism since last night; you surely recollect
that we must have some disappointment, or little
ill, to bear every day of our lives; and I think
you will allow tils is a very little one."
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
Emily, blushing, acknowledged it was; and
resolved that she would try to think no more of
it. She then drew on her wrapper, and went
through the business with which she and her
sister had been taught the habit of commencing
every new day of their existence. That ended,
she set about dressing herself, but could not, or
rather did not, avoid frequently stealing to the
window, to watch if there were any sign of
improvement in the weather. At last, casting
her eyes on a timepiece which lay on her
mother's toilet, she stood quite still, and ex-
claimed, I know, mamma, I shall be set in the
stocks to-day at breakfast, for I am not half
dressed yet, and more than seven of my twelve
minutes are gone."
Unless you wish to breakfast in them, you
had better not waste any more time in watching
the weather, or looking at the clock. Do not,
dear child, let one subject of vexation lead you
into another. If you exert yourself, you may
yet be dressed within your twelve minutes; and
may also make the day, wet as it is, turn out
pleasantly. Come, Louisa, I see you are already
dressed; and as I am not afraid of finding the
day too long, I wish to breakfast early."
SWell, what signifies one wet day I" said
Emily, as the door closed after her mother and
sister. "I will not be cross, and I will exert
myself, and try, as mamma says, to make the
day turn out a pleasant one."
" "; ,I;
i9 I -
No. my 'ilova, thAe lJk mast be I.~ek,'d iup to-night
E .* (lJ'.L.
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN 63
Emily did exert herself, and we are happy to
say, she did not breakfast in the stocks; but
how the day turned out, remains to be described.
When the repast was over, as the rain continued
to fall, she collected some of their favourite books
out of their Sunday library, and sat down to
read along with her mamma and sister.
I wonder if little Ally Fisher would like
these Sunday stories as well as we do, mamma;
I wish you would allow me to lend her one of
the volumes," said she.
You may take her one this evening, if you
please," said Mrs Menden; "and should the
weather grow fine, you might stay to make her
read you one of the tales, and observe if she
Oh, yes! indeed, mamma: I do please it;
and if the evening should not be fine, I can do
it to-morrow, as you told me in the morning,
when I wanted to go and see the old woman."
No, my love, the books must be locked up
to-night: I will not, you know, take them out
for you to-morrow; on our next holiday, how-
ever, you know you will have my entire sanction
to take them."
The next holiday! dear mamma; why must
I wait so long?"
Because, Emily, I do not lightly break
through a rule that has been made with your
entire approval, and entered into by all as a
THE TRTAL OF SKILL.
determination of our future .mode of procedure.
These beautiful books, you are aware, were se-
lected with a view to your amusement and in-
struction on those days specially set apart for
relaxation; nor can I allow a rule thus finally
established to be broken through, even for your
little favourite's sake."
But, dear mamma, if I did not look at it my-
self, but only lent it."
You know, Emily, that our agreement im-
plied that they were not to be meddled with for
any reason whatever. But you have other books
that will please Ally quite as well, and these you
have full liberty to give if you wish."
Emily seemed to reflect, and then said, I
think, mamma, it could do no great harm to
break through theta rule this one time, for little
But, Emily, my longer experience teaches
me that there is harm in breaking through any
rule, however trifling, even once, unless it be on
some unavoidable occasion. You will never, my
child, be a wise or steady character, if you think
otherwise. I would, however, do a great deal
for little Ally's sake; and as I have not yet paid
the last premium you won from me, I will, if
you wish it, get some other equally nice book
that you may give it her when you next meet."
Dear mamma, I am so much obliged to you!
I do, indeed, wish it very much; and I will tell
Ally how I won the premium, and I will teach
TIE SOLDIER S RETUtRN. C5
her how to learn the names of the flowers, and
how to observe the beauties that are discoverable
even in the smallest and most inattractive weeds
that we used to think quite contemptible and
unworthy of our notice."
Mrs. Menden smiled as she replied, "You
may instruct your little friend Ally as far as you
are able, in the knowledge of Botany, but I am
afraid both the teacher and the pupil will find
their memories deficient, in attempting to over-
take such comprehensive studies as you are pro-
posing immediately to introduce little Ally
But dear mamma," replied Emily, I will
teach ler to know the pearlwort chickweed, and
will paint a sprig of it in the first leaf of her
book, and then, I am sure, neither she nor I will
ever forget it."
And I hope also, Emily, you will never
forget that you owe this gratification entirely to
the kind forbearance of your sister."
"Do I, mamma 1" said Emily in surprise.
You do, indeed. She had just pulled up the
flower, and brought it into the arbour, when you
called her to look at your garden. She laid it
down on the scat where you found it, only that
she might go and assist you. When she returned
and saw you in possession of the plant, I per-
ceived that she did not like to cause you a second
disappointment tlat evening ; and you may re-
member how readily she taught you to find tlhe
66 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,
name of the flower, and permit d you to win
the premium, which she might have obtained
Emily's eyes filled. "Oh, mamma! I wish
you had given it to Louisa; she deserved it a
great deal more than I did."
"Then I should have disappointed her kind
intention of gratifying you."
"Well, mamma, I wish you would give it to
her now," said Emily.
"No, my love, it is not necessary to offer her
any reward: actions of this kind always bring
their own recompense. Louisa has been already
sufficiently repaid by the satisfaction which dis-
interested conduct always produces in the person's
own mind, and by the increased affection which
it procures from all other persons around them.
You may, therefore, keep the books for your
little friend Ally : I shall be happy to see you
give her any thing which may be useful or
amusing. I never saw a child whom I thought
more deserving of kindness, or more capable of
"Then, mamma, you like Ally as well as we
do; for I suppose it is of her you are speaking,"
cried Louisa, who at this moment entered the
"Yes Louisa, it is," said Emily.
"Now, mamma, do you not think she is the
prettiest child you ever saw; and do you not
agree with us, that she could not be very naughty I
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 67
"Do you mean because she is pretty, Emily 1"
"No, not just because she is pretty," said she,
gazing at her sister; "yet I think pretty people
are always very good."
Do you think so too, Louisa I"
I do mamma; at least, all the pretty people
whom I know, I like very much."
I will not ask you to give up this opinion,"
said Mrs Menden, smiling ; I only request you
to observe whether or not you have any founda-
tion for it."
"Mamma," said Louisa, "I think papa is one
of the handsomest men I ever saw, and I am
sure he is the best."
It happens, that he is quite as good as he is
handsome; but I myself know many persOns
equally virtuous, who are less well looking: his
being good, therefore, cannot be owing to his
The girls were silent for some time; at length
Emily asked her mother if she recollected what
Sir Robert Onslow had said to her the last day
they all went to Onslow Hall 1
Mrs Menden remembered perfectly many
things Sir Robert had said.
Then, mamma, you know that was the first
time we had seen his fine new house; and do
you not recollect his lamenting the expense he
had been obliged to go to, in buying furniture
suitable to it, and his saying that it was necessary
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
always to fit out a place so that the inside and
the outside might correspond V1
"I recollect," replied Mrs Mlenden, "that you
then told me, you did not understand what he
said, for you thought the word 'correspond'
meant writing letters."
"Yes, mamma, but you told me it meant to
match, or suit; and that was exactly what made
me remember the whole conversation so well.
Now, I think that God, who is much wiser than
Sir Robert Onslow, or any body else, would
never make people with beautiful outsides, and
ugly insides, that would not match or suit."
"There is some ingenuity in your argument,
Emily," said her mother, smiling, but no sound
reasoning. You are right in saying God would
not make people with ugly insides, for that lie
does not do. Although He forms our bodies,
lHe does not, to use your phrase, fit up our minds,
but having provided us with materials,-that is,
given us intellects or implements to work with,
---calls on us to furnish them for ourselves.
Neither did Sir Robert Onslow, you know,
furnish his own house,-he only provided the
materials, and gave directions how it was to be
done ; and you may remember hearing him say,
that he at first got a careless upholsterer, who
made such awkward furniture, as quite disfigured
his handsome rooms. lie was, therefore, obliged
to take down all this man had done, and hire
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN.
another, who, from the same materials, fitted the
apartments up in the beautiful manner you have
seen. Now those persons who take no pains in
furnishing their minds, and make no good use of
the intellects God has given them, may be com-
pared to the workman who disfigured Onslow
Hall. I could point out to you many very hand-
some people, who turn their talents to such had
account, that their good appearance only makes
the ugliness and unsuitableness of their minds
Emily acknowledged that her argument was
turned against herself; but she continued to
converse on the subject until the bell rang for
assembling the domestics to join in the service
of the day.
It chanced that one of the lessons for the
morning was the sixth chapter of SaiMt Mark,
and when Emily found herself again alone with
her mother and sister, she recurred to the topic
on wiich they had just before been speaking:
"I think," said she, "the daughter of Herodias
must have been very beautiful, when she could
please Herod and all his court so much, merely
by dancing before them."
Mrs Mendcn replied, that she was indeed famed
in history for her beauty. But what think
you of her character, Emily ?"
I do not recollect hearing any thing of her
"But can you not form some opinion of it I"
70 TIE TRIAL OF SKILL.
Emily declared she could not. Louisa, however,
after a little reflection, said she must have been
a very wicked girl, "for you recollect, Emily,
she carried the head of John the Baptist herself
to her mother, and I am sure she could not have
done that if she had not been very cruel."
"Oh !" cried Emily, I never thought of that ;
I wonder I did not think of it before ; that is
quite enough to prove that her beauty did not
make her amiable : she must, indeed, have been
a very cruel creature. Mamma, what character
in the Bible do you like best T"
"I do not think I ever yet decided on that
point; but you, I suppose, approve most of
Absalom. His beauty was greater than that of
any other person mentioned in Scripture."
SOh, mamma i do you think I could like such
a shocking creature, who rebelled against his
own father 1 No; the person I like best is
Joseph. I am sure no one could find a fault in
That is strange, for I do not recollect that
his looks are particularly commended."
I see I must give up that opinion, mamma,"
said Emily; "and yet I think Joseph must
have been at least well-looking, for I heard you
once say, mamma, that good temper makes every
body handsome; and he was so gentle and for-
giving, he must have been good tempered; an'd
then, too, he was so kind and affectionate to his
father and his brothers, that I suppose it made
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 71
Ils eyes sparkle, and his mouth smile and look
nice, the way papa looks, Louisa, when he is
pleased with any thing we say or do."
"You make me believe," said Mrs Menden
smiling, that Joseph must have been handsome ;
and I fully agree with you in thinking him at
least the finest character in the Old Testament.
He could not indeed have possessed so many
eminent virtues without their giving a sweet and
pleasant expression to his features, however rough
they might have been; but I now recollect that
we are told he was well-favoured."
Emily expressed great delight at hearing her
mother approve of ler opinion ; and their con-
versation was at that moment joyfully interrupted
by the arrival of a large packet from Colonel
Menden, which they had been for some time
expecting. His letter was written in good
spirits, and contained so many pleasant remarks
and anecdotes of the country he was in, that
dinner was announced before the party were
half satisfied with reading it.
Emily wondered very much that her papa
did not say whether or not he would allow them
to go to him, since there seemed no chance of his
soon returning; but Louisa reminded her, that
their mother's letter, making a joint request from
them all on that subject, had only been written
a few days before, and that their papa could not
have received it before he sent away the present
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
In the evening Mrs Menden told the children
she intended to place Liddy Fisher in the new
porter's lodge, for which she had been so long
looking for a worthy tenant, and that she would
consign to their care the task of preparing it for
This information threw the little girls into a
state of perfect delight; for, added to the pleasure
of providing a home for Liddy and her daughter,
they felt the happiness of knowing that their
mother would not have promised them so great
an indulgence, unless she had been thoroughly
satisfied with their conduct.
When their glee had a little subsided, they
inquired in what manner the lodge was to 'be
prepared ; and reminded their mother that there
was not any kind of furniture in it at the present
Very true," she replied, "but it is perfectly
dry and comfortable, and I mean that you should
fit it up yourselves with some of the discarded
furniture which is locked up in one of the offices,
and a few other articles which I can spare you
out of the house. The little garden is well
stocked with vegetables, and only requires to
have the walks cleaned ; so, if you think you
can prepare the place to-morrow morning, I will
give you a holiday to work at it, and in the
evening you may go and bring home its new
Oh, mamma !" cried Emlily, leaping about
TIHE SOLDIER'S RETURN.
like a little mad' creature, "how glad I am that
I am nobody's child in the whole world but
yours, for I am sure no other little girl is half
so happy,-except you, Louisa," she added, and
you, I think, must be a great deal happier even
than I am, for you are a great deal better."
"Indeed, Emily, I do not know why you
should siy so," said Louisa, "for I do not think
I am either happier or better than yourself."
And they both ran off to tell Saiphly all that
When they were gone, Mrs Menden retired to
her own apartment to read her husband's letter
over again, to return thanks for his present
safety, and to pray for its long continuance; for,
joyful as the letter had made her, it did not
leave her without some anxiety on his account.
On coming down to tea, she found lier daughters
still busied in forming plans for the next day's
employment; and, at their request, she promised
to leave the entire management and decoration
of the lodge to themselves. They might have
old William the butler, and their maid Saiphly,
at their command all the morning, she said, to
assist in their arrangements; and the only
stipulation was, that she should have the power
of altering whatever she thought wrong, before
Liddy was brought home.
When nine o'clock arrived, Emily, not yet
tired of discussing the subject, entreated leave to
0it up for half an hour longer
74 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
What and prolong this hateful wet Sun-
day 1" said her mother.
Oh! indeed, mamma, this has been the plea-
santest day I ever spent; and I resolved, when
you were reading prayers to night, that I would
never be afraid of a wet Sunday again."
Then I hope my child will remember in
whose presence she made the resolution, and try
to keep it," said Mrs Menden, kissing her little
daughter, as she bade her good night.
The girls were soon in bed, and asleep. A
bright sun, darting through their window,
awoke them at six o'clock the following morn-
ing; and great was their delight at the clear
blue sky, unspotted by a cloud, which presented
itself to their view, and promised them a fine day
for their undertaking.
Mrs Menden got up even earlier than usual, to
collect as much bedding, house linen, and wear-
ing apparel, as she could spare for their purpose ;
and the first part of the morning was spent,
according to Saiphly's recommendation, in alter-
ing some of the things so as to suit Liddy's new
After breakfast, their mother conducted them
to the office where the old furniture was kept,
and allowed them to select whatever was neces-
"William," she observed, "has been to the
village already, to purchase all the articles for
the kitchen, which J knew would be required;
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 75
and Saiphly and he will remove and place every
thing according to your directions."
She then left them to the care of their two
good-natured attendants, who, as well as Am-
brose, the gardener, whom they had enlisted in
their service, were provided with full occupation
for that morning.
The quarter bell rang to summon them to dress
for dinner, just as their task was finished ; and
the repast was no sooner ended, than Mrs Menden
was led to the lodge, to give her opinion of what
had been done.
She found all arranged to her perfect satisfac.
tion, and was much pleased witl the air of cheer-
fulness and comfort they had contrived to give
to every part of the house. In the sleeping room
an excellent bed stood, prepared for use. The
Sunday evening stories for Ally, some other
books, and a supply of clothes, with a good
stock of working materials, lay neatly spread on
the shelves of an open closet, in one corner of the
room; and in the kitchen, where all had been
attended to with equal care, a table was laid out
for dinner ; and pots, well stored with victuals,
for a plentiful repast, stdcd ready to be hung
upon the fire.
The children were then despatched on their
joyful embassy, and commissioned to present
Liddy with five pounds, which rrs Menden sent
her in advance from the salary belonging to the
76 TUE TRIAL OF SKILL.
The ground was scarcely felt beneath their
feet as they flew across the fields to the cottage ;
and when they reached it, breathless with joy
and speed, they stopped not a moment to explain
their errand, but merely telling Liddy she was
wanted by their mother, and seizing Ally by
the hands, they ran with her towards the lodge
Mrs Menden was still sauntering about the
avenue, when she saw them all return ; but she
did not hear the exclamation of joyful surprise
uttered by the little girl, when, stopping to admire
the roses and woodbine which thickly covered
its walls, she was informed by her two young
friends, that the house, the garden, and all the
pretty flowers about it, belonged to herself and
Liddy looked as much surprised as her
daughter ; and when Louisa delivered Mrs Men-
den's message as they led her through the house,
so well prepared for her reception, she could find
no words expressive of her feelings. But though
silent, even Emily saw that she was grateful ;
and if the girls were somewhat disappointed at
her not appearing mote elated by the gift, they
had ample satisfaction from Ally's unconstrained
and artless rapture. At one moment she would
snatch a cloth and rub the chairs and tables,
already shining from the care of abler hands
than hers; then she would run and gather
flowers for her mother, flinging her arms around
THE SOLDIER S RETURN. 77
her neck, and scarcely wait to give the intended
kiss, until some fresh object of delight caught
her eye, and called forth some equally strong
expression of ler joy.
It was late before Louisa could persuade her
sister that it was time to return to their mamma;
but at last, assuring Liddy that they should
often see her, they hastened back to recount all
that had passed.
Every look, and word, and action of little Ally
was described with delight ; but Emily acknow-
ledged, with some chagrin, that Liddy did not
seem half so much gratified as she expected ; and
it required all Mrs Menden's rhetoric to persuade
her that the poor woman was probably as much
rejoiced and as grateful as her daughter.
When tea was over, their mother left them to
get their lessons for the next day, and walked to
the lodge, in hopes of being able to cheer the
widow's spirits, and turn her mind from the
painful reflections to which this change in her
circumstances, however desirable, might pro-
bably have given rise.
She found her sitting at the door, and evi-
dently in sorrow, whilst her daughter played at
some distance in the garden.
The good creature arose hastily, as she saw
her mistress approach, and wiping away the
tears from her eyes, met her with a smile of gra-
You have done too much for me, ma'am,"
78 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
she said ; so much, that I fear you will think
me a sad thankless creature, for appearing sor-
rowful in the midst of your bounty ; but,"-
I will have no thanks, dear Liddy," replied
Mrs Menden, and deserve none, since I have
only performed a duty which I am sure you
would have performed for me, had our situations
been reversed ; sit down, therefore, and let us be
silent on the subject of thanks, and enjoy this
sweet evening hour together. All I wish is, to
see you become a little more cheerful and
Indeed, dear madam, I try to become so, be-
cause I know it is my duty ; but I cannot," said
Liddy, tears flowing afresh as she spoke, I can-
not, especially this evening, get my poor husband
out of my thoughts for one moment. He was
more worthy than I am of such a situation as
this, and he would have been so happy here with
He was, I know, worthy of a far better place,
and you have every reason to believe, that where
he now is, he is happier than he could be even
with you. I must not see you, Liddy, give way
to these feelings, which, however natural they
may be, are still, we know, improper; and yet
they are so difficult to suppress, that you must
ever look for aid to Him who can alone give you
strength to conquer them. I trust, through His
assistance, I shall soon see you able to draw com-
fort from the attachment of your child, and the
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 79
regard of your friends, amongst whom I wish
you ever to reckon me."
Liddy, with tears of heartfelt gratitude, ex-
pressed her sense of Mrs Menden's kindness,
when Ally drew near, and perceived that her
mother had been in distress.
She immediately dropped a bunch of flowers
which she had been gathering, and ran into the
house, but presently returned with a volume of
stories in her hand which Emily had obtained
and already presented to her.
You have not seen this pretty book yet,
mother," said she. I should not have left you
alone, and I will not do so again, but will sit
down and read you one of these new stories, if
you will let me, after the lady is gone."
You shall read it for me to-morrow," said
her mother, smiling affectionately on her ; but
you must now pick up all those flowers which
you have scattered about the door. I know you
will try to keep this place neat and orderly for
the lady and her daughters, who have been so
kind to us both."
Ally gave the book into her mother's hand,
and began to pick up the flowers.
While she was collecting them, Liddy looked
into the stories, and, struck with some writing
in the.first page, could not help pouring forth
praises of the two little girls who were so kind
to her child. She held out the book to Mrs Men-
TIE TRIAL OF SKILL.
den, who saw written, in Emiilys band, these
'This is Ally Fisher's book. It was procured
for ler by Louisa Menden.'
We have both reason to be grateful for many
blessings, Liddy; but for none more than the
amiable dispositions of our children," said Mrs
Menden, who then told her the circumstance by
which the stories had been obtained.
While she spoke, Ally brought forward the
bunch of flowers which she lad collected from
the ground, and as she presented them to Mrs
Menden, abruptly asked if it was still her wish
that she should go to school.
I wish you to do every tling which will
make you good and happy," said Mrs Menden,
taking the flowers, and drawing the little girl to
Then I will go to school to-morrow, if you
please," said Ally, firmly ; but I hope it will
not be to any place very far away."
No, Ally," replied Mrs Menden, kissing her
cheek, it shall not be very far away ; you may
see the school-house, where I mean you should
go, in the opposite field: your mother can take
you to it herself, and will be able to superintend
your instruction there, if she pleases. Then you
will learn how to take care of her, and to sup-
port her should it be necessary, when she grows
old, and may require your aid."
THE SOLDIERS RETURN. 81
The party hasie"ned un deck.-Sec page 91.
Ally's reply was interrupted by the appear-
ance of farmer Dillon, who, surprised at his
cousin's long absence, had come to conduct her
Mrs Menden, happy to see her looking a little
more cheerful than when they first met, was glad
to leave her under his care ; and left it to herself
to tell him of her present situation.
Ally kept her resolution of attending the
school, and in a short time seemed not to, mind
the daily separation from her mother.
Mrs Menden was astonished at observing the
rapid progress she had made in the course of one
month, and found she had excited such a spirit
of emulation amongst the scholars as was of use
to them all.
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
Louisa and Emily were charmed at her im-
provement. On the first day of examination,
after she had entered, they returned in high
spirits from the school : and, instead of going
into the house with their mother, they ran off to
their gardens, which they were anxious to shew
in perfect order to some ladies who were to dine
at Menden Park that day.
Mrs Menden had gone into the drawing-room
to rest, and found on the table a packet from
her husband, giving such a gratifying answer to
the last letter she had written to him, that she
immediately went to seek her children, and com-
municate its contents to them.
What was her surprise and mortification, on
reaching the garden gate, to see Emily run, with
every indication of passion, and fling something
over the wall, while Louisa, in an agony of grief,
stood wringing her hands, as if some sad misfor-
tune had befallen her.
After gazing at them for some time in aston-
ishment, she, in a voice of marked displeasure,
demanded an explanation of what she saw
The culprits started at her voice.
Oh, mamma !" cried Louisa, struggling to
suppress the sobs which she was now unable to
conquer, Emily has pulled up my beautiful
almond tree, and thrown it over the wall in a
But, mamma, she broke mine first," said
Emily, in a voice of equal anger.
TIE SOLDIER RETURN.
I broke yours quite by accident, when I
was taking away a weed, which was twisted
round it," sobbed Louisa.
Ambrose would have given you another al-
mond tree, had you asked it, Emily," said Mrs
fMenden coldly; "and yours, Louisa, beautiful
as it may have been, was scarcely worth such
sinful anger or such violent sorrow."
No, mamma, I know it was not," sobbed
Louisa; but I think Emily should not have
pulled up my tree, merely because I accidentally
And I am sure she had no right to come
and pull up weeds or any thing else out of my
garden," said Emily.
The brothers of your favourite Joseph, had
no right to sell him to the Egyptians; yet the
injury never drove him into the dreadful passion
of anger, Louisa-or the still more hateful crime
of revenge, Emily."
"I have this moment received a letter from
your father, which I had brought out to read to
you; but I am sorry to find that neither of you
deserve to hear it, nor are you worthy to spend
the day with me, or with the friends whom I
have invited to dinner: you will therefore re-
main in your room ; and on your conduct there,
throughout the day, and your patient endurance
of this punishment, will depend my forgiveness
of your misconduct, Louisa, to-night. For you,
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
Emily, I know not when you can expect my
She then left them, saying she would send
their maid to bring them from the garden. At
sight of her deep displeasure, their tears flowed
from such real sorrow, as quickly touched the
heart of their affectionate attendant ; but though
kind and indulgent to the children, Saiphly was
too obedient to her mistress, to attempt mitigat-
ing any punishment which she thought proper
to inflict. They followed her in silence to the
house, and as they passed through the dressing-
room, where their mamma was preparing for
dinner, found it difficult to retain that compo-
sure on which they knew her forgiveness partly
As soon as they were shut up in their own
apartment, Louisa's sobs and grief were re-
doubled. Her spirits were naturally weaker
than those of her sister ; and in conformity with
her mother's advice, to keep herself constantly
employed, when she found it difficult to conquer
a fit of crying, she ran to her baby-house, and
began to new model and arrange every thing in
it, with the hope of regaining her self-command.
She did not feel at first any interest in the work,
but by degrees perceived the benefit of her exer-
tion; and by the time her arrangements were
finished, she had completely recovered her com-
THE SOLDIER S RETURN. 85
Emily, on the contrary, struck by the deep dis-
pleasure marked in her mother's manner towards
her, sat like a picture of remorse, lost in tears of
penitence and sorrow, until her sister, pitying
her distress, at length asked her to join in some
employment which might amuse them both.
Suppose," she said, we try to make the new
kind of dressing pincushion mamma has been so
long wishing for. Here are our work-boxes, and
here are all the things she gave us yesterday for
making the attempt."
I am afraid mamma would not wish me to
do any thing for her to-day," said Emily mourn
Indeed, Emily, I am sure she would wish
you to do any thing of the kind, that would help
to make you happy."
But I cannot be happy," said Emily, burst-
ing into a fresh flood of tears, until mamma
has forgiven me for being in a passion, and until
you, Louisa, have forgiven me for pulling up
your almond tree. I think mamma will not
kiss me or forgive me to-night; but if you knew
how sorry I am for being cross to you, Louisa, I
am sure you would forgive me."
Louisa threw her arms round her sister's neck.
" I am sure mamma will forgive us both," said
she, whenever she knows we are sorry for hav-
ing displeased her; and as to me, Emily, I do
not care about my almond tree now ; I am only
sorry that I happened to break yours."
TIHE TRIAL OF SKILL.
The little girls soon felt happier for having
spoken to each other in this manner; and they
commenced their new work with such alacrity,
that the pincushion was laid upon the toilet,
their lessons learned, and all the business of the
evening satisfactorily completed, when Saiphly
announced to them that it was their time for
going to bed.
This was the first night on which they had
ever retired to rest, without receiving their
mother's blessing; and at that recollection they
were obliged to renew all their struggles to pre-
vent a fresh burst of sorrow.
It was late when Mrs Menden's friends left
ler; and, when she withdrew to her room after
their departure, her first business was, as usual
to examine her daughters' catechisms, and obl
serve if the answers they had written agreed
with her opinion of their conduct.
Opposite the question,-
Did I my heart with patience guide
Checking ill-temper, anger, pride ?
She saw, on both boards, the negatives she ex-
pected; and she was pleased and affected at read-
ing, on each, an humble entreaty from her
daughters, that she would grant them her pardon
before she slept.
I am as anxious to forgive you, my chil-
dren, as you can be to receive my pardon," said
she, going to their bedside, on finding they were
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 87
still awake, Saiphly tells me you have con-
ducted yourselves in a manner which proves you
are sorry for your faults, and I am therefore well
disposed to look on you again with love and
favour. But I must not, Emily, indulge myself
at the risk of injuring you; and as your be-
haviour this morning betrayed a disposition, of
which I thought you incapable, you deserve a
heavier punishment than any I have yet inflicted
on you. You must therefore submit either to
lose your garden for one month, or not to receive
my pardon, until to-morrow morning."
"Oh mamma," sobbed Emily, stretching
out her arms; "Oh! do forgive me; I will
give up my garden for as long as you please,
only forgive me to-night."
Reflect before you decide," said her mother.
"The spring, with all its sweetest flowers, will
be past before the garden can return into your
hands; my displeasure, however painful for the
time, will be over in one night."
Oh I do mamma, do, pray, forgive us both,"
cried Louisa eagerly. "Emily could not be
happy until she has received your pardon."
"No, mamma, indeed I could not," sobbed
Emily; and still persisting in her wish to resign
the garden, she received that blessing without
which, neither she nor Louisa had found it pos-
sible to rest; and they both, shortly after, for-
got all their cares in sleep.
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
Here Kate stopped for a few minutes to take
breath ; and stealing an inquiring glance round
the table, she perceived, with pleasure, that her
aunt's knitting was cast aside, and that her
uncle kept his eye fixed with a pleased expres-
sion on her face. He was tapping the lid of a
gold snuff-box, which he held ready to take a
pinch from, at the first convenient pause; his
legs were crossed ; the upper foot shook with a
quick regular motion, which, she knew well,
"They like the beginning of my story toler-
ably well," thought she. "There is nothing in
it I see, of which they disapprove; but what
will they think of the second part ? for oh what
a falling off I know to be there !"
Her reflections were interrupted by an en-
treaty from Elizabeth that she would proceed.
Sir Humphrey snuffed the candles, and placed
them nearer to her; and when Mrs Deborah had
again taken her seat, after getting up to fix her
niece's head and shoulders in a perfectly per-
pendicular position, Kate resumed her story.
Weave the crimson web of war,
Let us go, and let us fly
Where our friends the conl ict slhLre,
Where they conquer, where they die.
No sooner were their eyes opened the next
morning, than the two girls came to Mrs Menden's
bedside, to inquire what answer their father had
given to her request, that they should be allowed
to join himr abroad.
He has granted it, my dear girls. He will
meet us himself at Ostend, and he proposes that
we should remain abroad with him, until the
THE TRIAL OF SKILL.
restoration of peace shall, please God, enable us
all to return home together."
Oh, joy! joy !" cried Emily in ecstasy,
"and we shall see papa immediately."
No, not immediately; we have many pre-
parations to make before we can set out; and
afterwards a long voyage to take, which, I fear,
you will think neither speedy nor agreeable."
Oh, no matter, mamma; no matter. I am
sure it will be all very pleasant," said both
girls, running off to complete, as fast as possible,
the irksome task of dressing.
But though Mrs Menden endeavoured to re-
strain her own impatience, and to check the
unbounded rapture of her daughters, she found
it impossible to do either; and the preparations
fur their departure went on so rapidly, that, on
the third day after the receipt of Colonel Menden's
letter, they were all ready to commence their
Mrs Menden now pitied her unfortunate
foster-sister more deeply than ever, feeling her-
self secure of recovering that happiness which
Liddy could never hope to enjoy again. To
keep her fi'om brooding over her misfortunes,
and to occupy her time as much as possible, it
was agreed, that she should fill Saiphly's place
in the management of the house, while that faith-
ful servant attended her mistress to the Continent
It was a lovely morning in the month of June,
vhien the party set off, escorted by William, tho
TIHE SOLDIER S RETURN. 91
old butler, who, though he acknowledged himself
no very courageous seaman, insisted on seeing
his mistress, and his dear young ladies, across
the water, and delivering them safely, with his
own hands, into his master's care.
The weather was fine; the journey from
Menden Park to Ha'rwich, where they were to
embark, was delightful; and all things promised
fair for a speedy and prosperous voyage.
It proved, indeed, more speedy than any of
the passengers wished, for the wind, getting up
in the night, blew a gale so strong, as to frighten
all on board. Louisa and Emily were not
amongst those who suffered least from sickness
and terror; but all the miseries of the voyage
were forgotten, when the sweet and welcome
sound of the bells at Ostend, announced that
they were in that harbour.
The party hastened on deck; and whilst the
cheerful peal increased on their ear, and the gay
and busy scene closed around them, they saw a
crowd of persons on shore press forward, each to
receive and welcome some expected friend.
Mrs Menden's whole frame trembled with
emotion, at the thought of once more seeing her
husband in safety; and whilst her eager eye
strained through the crowd in search of his
well-known form, Louisa, whose looks followed
her mother's, cried out, that Russel, her papa's
servant, who saved his life so often, was there