The Baldwin Library
The best thling you can 1.) is to s 'r .ith the chil."-
0iter galks guision.
AUTHOR OF "DESSIE FIELD," "GRACE ROCHE'S LEGACY,"
"MARGARET AND HER FRIENDS," ETC., ETC.
JOHN MORGAN, 10, PATERNOSTER ROW.
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty;
and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."
-PRov. xvi. 32.
"WHAT! out of work again, 01ly ?" said a
pleasant-looking man to a sullen-faced boy, who
stood lounging idly against a lamp-post at the
corner of a street. Why it was but the other
day I heard you were taken on at the new
church they are building on the common."
The speaker evidently expected an answer,
and stood still to hear what the boy had to say.
No answer came, however, nothing but a sort
of grunt, which seemed to say, "What business
is it of yours whether I am in work or not?"
But the kind-hearted questioner was not to be
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
put off with a grunt. It certainly was no business
of his; and he needed not to have wasted his
time talking to an idle sulky boy; but Mr.
Owen, for that was his name, had boys of his
own at home, and he felt for the wretched-
looking lad under the lamp-post; and so he
took no notice of the grunt, but put the question
to him again, only this time in different words.
What was the reason of your being turned
off, Oily? did you find the work too hard ?"
"I should think not, indeed," muttered Oily,
provoked to a reply by the doubt cast upon his
Then what was the reason ? come, tell me,
01ly," said Mr. Owen kindly. "My Fred always
comes to me when he is in any trouble, and
then I talk the matter over with him. Two
heads, you know, are better than one."
"I should like to see father doing like that,"
said the boy sulkily.
"We were not talking about your father,
Oily,- but I have known you ever since you
were quite a child, and I cannot help feeling an
interest in a neighbour's son; and it grieves
me to see you are not doing as well as Fred
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
and Tom, who are both of them younger than
you, I reckon."
It's all very well for Fred and Tom to be
doing well; perhaps if they had such a home
as I have, and such a- "
Come, come, Oily, I didn't ask you about
your home, my lad. I know it is not always a
very happy one; but there is such a thing as
making the best of a thing: are you sure you
always try to do that ?"
Another grunt was Oliver Dale's only reply;
and Mr. Owen went on speaking.
"There is no one in the world, Oliver, who
has not some trouble, some 'crook in his lot,'
as an old writer calls it, something to put up
with, something to bear. Solomon says, 'The
heart knoweth its own bitterness;' and fre-
quently the very persons who we think are
most to be envied, have some hidden care, some
secret sorrow, although we know not of it. We
all have our troubles, my boy; only some put
a better face upon them than others. I think
we should all try to bear them better than we
do, if we were to remember from whom they
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Oliver looked very much as though Mr.
Owen were speaking in a foreign language, so
little did he appear to understand what he
No sorrow can come to us, Oily," continued
Mr. Owen, "without God's permission, and He
will never send us more than we are able to
bear, or more than is good for us. One day we
shall all know and feel that every Heaven-sent
grief had its own good end to perform, and
many a Christian will then bless God for those
very trials under which he was almost tempted
to murmur and repine. But when I speak of
sorrows, I do not mean such as we bring upon-
ourselves by doing what we ought not to have
done, or by leaving undone those things which
we ought to have done. I only mean such
troubles as God, in His wisdom, thinks fit to
send us. But there are many people in the
world who are very fond of making troubles.
Out of some really slight cause for vexation they
will conjure up a very great trouble; and then
they go about mourning and grumbling over
the very sorrow they have themselves created.
Such are the people who make the worst of
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
everything. I am not sure that you are not
one of that number, Oily."
Oliver Dale looked ill-temperedly at Mr.
Owen as he spoke, but did not utter a single
"If I am mistaken, Oily, prove it to me by
telling me the real cause of your being out of
"It was all along of that Joe Hallett," said
the boy, with an evident effort.
"Joe Hallett ? I know Joe well; and believe
him to be a well-meaning, industrious man."
"Hasn't he a temper, though!" muttered
Oily. "He just has."
"I hope you did your best to please him,
"I should like to see any one pleasing Joe
Hallett. I wish you could be a boy under him
for a week, Mr. Owen."
"If I were, Olly, I would do my utmost to
keep from provoking him in any way. Boys
are sometimes very tiresome, I know it from
experience; and it isn't to be expected that
when a man is waiting for materials to go on
with, he will have much patience with a boy
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
who is, maybe, idling away his time instead of
attending to his work."
"I'm sure I got the bricks as fast as I
could," said Olly. "But it didn't please Joe;
and he told me I must bring them faster, or
he'd make me."
"And what did you say ?"
"I told him I couldn't bring them any
quicker, and that I wasn't going to try, neither.
And then he threw some rubbish down on my
head from off the scaffold, and I dared him to
do it again; and then he came down the lad-
der, and gave me a thrashing. And I made a
great noise, and the foreman discharged me at
the dinner hour, because, he said, he couldn't
have all that uproar going on, and that boys
must learn to be spoken to. He took Joe's
part, of course."
"And quite right too, Olly; even by your
"How do you make that out, Mr. Owen?"
"I will try and prove it to you, Ully. It is
possible that Joe may have been in error when
he said you did not bring him the bricks as fast
as you could. You may have been doing your
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
very best; and if, when he spoke to you, you
had answered civilly, or had even held your
tongue, all would have been well. But instead
of acting thus wisely, you provoked a man,
whose temper you knew beforehand to be bad,
by your impertinent answer. St. Paul exhorts
servants to be obedient to their masters, and to
please them well in all things, 'not answering
again.' It would be a great help towards
doing our duty, if we were to bear in mind,
that every service done with good-will, is done
to God. This thought would make us work
with cheerful earnestness, even at that which is
naturally unpleasant. It was not only pleasant
work that our blessed Saviour did for us, Olly.
He left His home of glory, and came and dwelt
in the form of a servant on this poor earth,
in weariness and labour, going about hungry
and faint, often, very often reviled, but never
once reviling again. We cannot, then, be
true followers of our meek and lowly Saviour,
if we do not strive, in His strength, to be
patient under reproof. As for Joe Hallett,
why, there was Harry White, before he met
with his accident, worked for months with
10 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Joe, and I never heard of their disa-
"That was because Harry was a regular
coward, and would take anything from Joe."
"You make a great mistake there," said
Mr. Owen. "That boy is no coward who has
learned to control his temper, and to be respect-
ful and obedient to those who are set over him.
On the contrary, he has that best sort of
courage, moral courage; for it is far easier
to give a pert answer than to hold one's
"I thought you'd take part against me,
I take part against you, as you call it, Oily,
only so far as I consider you to be in the
wrong. I do very sincerely pity you, my boy,
and I know that, in some respects, you have
not had as many advantages as other boys; and
I know, also, how I should feel were I to see
one of my own sons going to the bad, as you
are doing. Take my .advice, Olly, before it is
too late; try and make the best of things;
don't throw away a good friend for the sake
of indulging your temper. Joe Hallett has been
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
very kind to Harry White since his illness,
"Nobody's kind to me," said Oily doggedly.
"Do you go the right way to make them
so ?" asked his friend. "But I must not stay
talking to you any longer now, Olly; come in
and chat a bit with Fred to-night, and we'll see
what can be done. It will never do to go
idling about the town, when you ought to be
earning your living. Will you come this even-
ing, Olly ?"
"Yes, Mr. Owen, I will. You're about the
only one that ever gives me a civil word. I'll
come, though you have said hard things to-
I've said nothing but the truth, and you'll
feel that by-and-by, Oily. Good-bye for the
present;" and Mr. Owen held out his hand.
Thank you, thank you!" said Oliver, as he
shook the offered hand.
Oliver Dale had not a happy home. His
father, who was a gardener, had, at one time,
earned very good wages; but he had never
been a steady or a saving man, and instead of
putting by a little money, when he was in full
12 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
work, against sickness or accident, he had spent
every farthing, and a good part of it had gone
every week to the public-house. Then came
the rainy day. Thomas Dale caught a violent
cold which settled in one knee, and he became
a confirmed invalid, with very little prospect of
ever again being able to use his limb and
attend to his business. Thomas Dale's temper
had never been very good. He was a hasty,
passionate man; and now, when this great
trouble came upon him, instead of seeking for
God's grace to enable him to bear it with
Christian patience and fortitude, he fretted and
chafed under it, and thus made it quite a
misery for any one to go near him. He would
lie on his bed, or limp about by means of a
stick, and wish that he had never been born, or
that he might soon die. It is an awful thing to
wish for death Men often wish to die who
little think what death would bring to them.
If to escape from the sufferings of the body
were all, if there were no judgment, no here-
after, no wrath to come, then, like the heathen
philosopher of old, we might wish to die. But,
as it is, who can describe the mad folly of such
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
a wish? A man who has no faith, no repent-
ance, no trust in God, no hope in His pro-
mises, how can such dare to wish for death?
And when it comes to the point, he does not
wish it; and the very man who, in the hour of
his impatient murmurings, wished for death,
will be the first when death really approaches
to shrink in conscious terror from going to that
unknown world from whence "no traveller
Surely the end of the good man is peace;"
and it is most fit that our Church, in the beau-
tiful prayer for "the whole state of Christ's
Church militant here upon earth," should put
into our mouths words of praise and thanks-
giving to God for those who have been enabled
to "fight the good fight of faith," and "have
departed this life in God's faith and fear."
0 God, to us may grace be given
To follow in their train."
But it is only to such that death can ever be
anything but the King of Terrors."
Mrs. Dale was not the comfort to her husband
in the day of his affliction that she might have
been. Where man and wife strive, in God's
14 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
strength, to keep the promise they made to
each other, for better, for worse, for richer, for
poorer, in sickness, and in health," trouble very
often only serves to bind them still closer to-
gether and tightens the cords of love; and
however great may be the value of a good wife
while life looks bright, and the sunshine of
prosperity lights up everything, it is, after all,
in the dark hour of trouble, when pain and
sickness make the fresh cheek grow pale, when
the strong arm grows weak-then it is that a
man feels, more than at any other period of his
life, the blessing of a good and loving wife.
Truly, as Solomon says, "her price is far above
rubies"! It is, however, a melancholy fact,
that where the heart is unrenewed by God's
grace, people's tempers become soured by trou-
ble, and they rise up in fearful rebellion against
God's dealings. Mrs. Dale was one of these:
When her husband's illness seemed likely to
become permanent, there were many kind
people in the town who exerted themselves to
get her more work to do. She was an excel-
lent laundress, and she soon had quite as much
washing as she could attend to. Although,
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
therefore, they were, of course, not so well off
as when Thomas Dale was in work, and though
they had to do without many little comforts to
which they had once been accustomed, still they
could not be said to want, and were able, with
strict economy, to make both ends meet. This
of itself should have made them thankful; in-
stead of which, Mrs. Dale was continually
bewailing her unhappy lot in having to "slave,"
as she called it, for her husband as well as for
herself and children. This unkind behaviour
irritated Thomas Dale, and frequent were the
quarrels and bitter words that passed between
these two, who had vowed before God to love
and cherish one another. What could be ex-
pected from the children of such parents?
There were seven of them, too; the eldest,
Oliver, was turned fourteen, the youngest was
a baby in arms. ThomasDale had wished his
eldest son to become a gardener, like himself;
and Oliver might have been of the greatest use
to his father, and, had he applied himself
steadily to learning his business, he would have
been able to keep some of his father's work
when that father was laid up, and was no longer
16 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
able to attend to it. But the father and son
had never been able to agree well together.
Oliver's bad temper had been allowed to grow
apace, like an "ill weed," with no firm yet
gentle correction, and at the time when our
story begins he was a boy for whom no one had
a good word.
Do parents ever sufficiently consider the
duty of setting a good example to their chil-
dren ? Not a day, not an hour in which they
do not set before them an example of some
kind; for children are great imitators, and cut
their conduct according to the pattern or
example set before them with wonderful exact-
ness. They are constantly copying what they
see others do. If love and kindness and a
spirit of Christian forbearance dwell in a cottage
home, the children of that family will almost
certainly be found to be gentle and kind to one
another, ready to give up to a younger brother
or sister, anxious to please, unwilling to
offend. If, on the contrary, a father and mother
are continually quarrelling and disputing to-
gether, giving way to angry bursts of passion,
speaking harsh and bitter words, the children
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 17
of such a wretched home will just as certainly
imitate the pattern set them by their parents,
and will become fretful and selfish. Sometimes
God does by His special grace snatch such
children away from the force of bad example,
but no thanks to the parents for this; their
wickedness remains the same; and who can
tell, what tongue can express, the misery of that
father or mother, who, on their death-bed, have
the terrible sin on their conscience of having,
by their bad example, caused the ruin of their
children's souls !
Thomas Dale and his wife agreed upon one
subject, and that was that there never was
such a set of disobedient, tiresome children as
theirs. They failed to see how far they had
themselves contributed to make them so.
"There's Oily," the father would frequently
say-" there's Oily and his two brothers, Dan
and Fred; you wouldn't believe it, perhaps,
but I have often and often thrashed those boys
until my arm ached; and yet see how they're
"Indeed, I can well believe it," any sensible
parent might reply; "and I think if you and
18 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
your wife had exercised a proper authority over
your children whilst they were young, and had,
above all, set them a good example, there would
have been no occasion for the violent thrashings
you speak about. I have serious doubts as to
the good effect of such punishments."
Such was the manner in which the young
Dales had been reared. Bidden to do a thing
in an angry, impatient tone, followed up by a
box on the ears from the mother, or a sound
thrashing" from the father, who, coming home
in an ill-humour, punished the child without,
perhaps, even knowing the reason : thus it was
that fear and dislike in the minds of the chil-
dren took the place of filial love and confidence.
Next to the three elder boys came two little
girls, who formed no exception to the general
rule of the household, and were crying and
squabbling the greater part of the day. Then
came poor little Stevie, a sickly boy, whom it
seemed as if nothing short of a miracle could
have enabled to exist in such a family; and,
lastly, a little baby-girl, whose strength and
power of lungs enabled her to take her part
with powerful effect in the screaming and cry-
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 19
ing which was heard proceeding from the Dales'
cottage at all hours of the day.
"There's that Oily Dale out of work again,"
the neighbours would say; "and there's Dan
and Fred been caught stealing in old Mr.
Rowland's garden; those boys will all come to
the bad one of these days, see if they don't."
"Whatever brawls disturb the street,
There should be peace at home."
"You just wait till I get about again, and
see if I don't make you pay for this," cried
Thomas Dale, as Oily slunk home that evening,
after wandering about the streets the greater
part of the afternoon. Bad news travels fast,
and the tidings of his dismissal bad reached
his home before he did.
"You lazy, idle boy," continued his father,
brandishing his stick in the air as he spoke,
"if I had but the use of my limb!"-
Oily muttered something expressive of any-
thing but sorrow for his father's lameness,
which so enraged Thomas Dale, that he raised
himself with a great effort from the bench on
which he was half lying, and aimed a blow at
his son. The boy darted on one side to avoid
the blow, and in so doing, overturned little
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Stevie, who happened to be just behind him.
The sickly child uttered a sharp cry as he fell,
which summoned Mrs. Dale from an adjoining
room, where she had been ironing, and in the
confusion, Oliver managed to make his escape.
"It is a strange thing, I think," said Mrs.
Dale to her husband, "that you can't even do
such a thing as keep this child quiet a bit!
There am I, slaving and slaving from morning
till night, and first one and then another is cry-
ing all the day long. I'm sure one hasn't a
moment's peace of one's life, and there never
was a truer word spoken than that troubles
never come single. There's Sally's been down
to the shop for bread, and if it hasn't risen a
penny a gallon since yesterday! and now
Olly's out of work. I'm sure I don't know
where all the food is to come from; it's more
than one pair of hands can be expected to
earn, that's all I can say."
It was a favourite habit of Mrs. Dale's-this
dwelling minutely on every particular trouble,
and you may be sure it was not a habit that
tended to produce much good feeling between
herself and her husband. There are too many
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
in the world like Mrs. Dale-too many, who,
wilfully blind to all their many and undeserved
mercies, delight in counting up their troubles.
Oh, if we were but half as ready to reckon over
our many blessings!-half as ready to say from
our hearts, "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and
forget not all His benefits." All the time that
Mrs. Dale was grumbling to her husband, poor
little Stevie lay crying and moaning upon the
ground just where he had fallen when Olly
threw him down. In the midst of the con-
fusion, Sally came into the room with the loaf
she had been to buy.
"Pick up that child, will you," cried her
mother, pointing to Stevie; "pick him up, and
put him to bed ; it's the only place he's fit for,
whining and crying as he is all day."
Sally Dale approached Stevie, and seizing
him with no very gentle hand, prepared to
obey her mother's commands. The moment
she touched the child's arm, however, he uttered
a piercing cry.
"What's the matter, you cross little thing
you?" said Sally, in a snappish tone; "come to
bed when you're told, will you?"
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 23
Again she attempted to raise up her brother
by his arm, and this time a still louder cry was
"What ails the child?" cried Mrs. Dale,
coming towards them. She was about to take
hold of Stevie, as Sally had done, when the
little boy shrank from her, exclaiming, in a
"0 mother, mother! my arm's hurt; oh,
Something in her child's voice caused Mrs.
Dale to raise the little thin arm gently, as it
hung by Stevie's side. There was no power
in it, and it fell motionless, whilst the little
boy cried out again, although not so violently
"Sally, Sally, run for the doctor," cried Mrs.
Dale, in a subdued voice; "little Stevie's arm is
broken." Saying which, she lifted the child
with some show of tenderness, and carried him
Meanwhile Oliver, quite unconscious of what
was going on within doors, had made his way
into the back-yard, where he washed his face
and hands at the pump. Such a performance
24 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
did not often take place; but he was going to
Mr. Owen's, according to appointment, and a
sort of intuitive feeling told him he did not
look very fit for such a visit. Afterwards he
stole into the back-kitchen, and smoothed his
tangled hair with a comb which his mother
kept there, and then went towards Mr. Owen's
house. It was in the same row as Oliver's
house, for Mr. Owen was not a rich man. Not
many years before he had been only a journey-
man, not earning so much as Thomas Dale when
he was in full work; but, by steady industry
and good conduct, he had gained the con-
fidence of his employers, and had become a
master mason, with many men in his employ.
Although now far better off, he had altered
but very little his former style of living. He
had a large family (eight children) and an
invalid wife, and he wisely thought that any
money he might have to spare would be better
spent in giving his boys a little extra education,
and in laying up something for the future. So
the four elder boys went to an evening-school
established under the auspices of the clergyman
of the parish; and there was a bank-book in a
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
snug corner of Mr. Owen's desk, in which might
be seen a nice sum of money entered to his
"Glad to see you, my boy," said John Owen,
as Oliver entered the plain but comfortable
kitchen, in which all the family were assembled.
It was a large party, seven children (the eldest
girl was in service), John Owen's mother, the
very picture of cheerful old age, and John
Owen himself. His wife had been in bad
health for years past, and was only able to sit
up a little while in the course of the day, so
old Mrs. Owen was quite a treasure in the
house, looking after the children, attending to
her son's comforts, and performing the part of
a kind nurse to her afflicted daughter-in-law.
"Dear old Granny," as the children called her,
sat in an arm-chair by the fire, knitting stock-
ings. No one ever saw "Granny Owen" sit
with her hands unemployed for a single half-
hour during the day.
"It's wonderful how even driblets' of time
mount up," she would say ; "I get many and
many a stocking out of them, I can tell you."
The Dales and the Owens had been near
26 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
neighbours for years past, so the boys were no
strangers to each other. There was a striking
contrast, however, between them. Fred Owen
and his brothers, although in their working
dress, were as tidy and clean as possible, whilst
Olly's clean hands and face only seemed to
make his tattered clothes more conspicuous.
"You'll have some supper with us, Oily,"
said John Owen, as he placed a chair for him
at the large round deal table, upon which was
spread a clean cloth, and a substantial home-
made loaf, with some cheese and early radishes,
which Fred whispered to Oily were the produce
of his own garden.
Oliver had tasted nothing since breakfast
that morning, for he had been afraid to go
home at dinner-time; so you may be sure he
did full justice to the fare set before him. John
Owen, too, had noticed the boy's hungry look,
and without appearing to do so, had helped
him more bountifully than he did the others.
"Why don't you grow something in your
back-garden, Oily?" said Tom Owen.
"What would be the use ?" replied Oily, it
wouldn't be there long."
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Why, we never have anything stolen," said
"I don't mean that, but all the young ones
at home would never let a thing bide; they'd
pull it up, I know, just for the very purpose of
Oliver spoke very bitterly, and the young
Owens, who had learned the ".sweet delight of
being kind" to each other, listened in undis-
"It's quite true," said Olly, in answer to
their looks of surprise; once, a long time ago
it is now, I had a currant-bush given me by
some one where father worked. I planted it
in the back garden, and Dan pulled it up three
times, directly after I had put it into the
ground, so after that I threw it over the wall,
and I never tried anything again."
Oliver forgot to add that he had "revenged
himself," as he called it, upon Dan, by letting
loose a young lark which his brother had reared
with great care and trouble.
"Deary me, deary me !" cried old Granny
Owen, as she listened to Olly's account of the
fate of his currant-bush; "did you ever try
28 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
what kindness would do with that brother of
yours, boy ?"
Oliver felt ashamed to own the truth, so he
sat still and said nothing.
"To think," continued the old woman, "of
that blessed Book, full of receipts that never
fail if we try them in the right way-to think
of that Book being so long in the world, and
within everybody's reach, and yet so few people
using it Deary me, but it's a pity it is, and so
much wrong going on in the world all the while
that wants setting to rights!"
"What receipt-book are you talking of,
Granny ?" said Fred.
What should I mean but the Holy Bible,
Freddy ? There it is all put down plain for us;
we can't mistake it unless we wish to do so;
and we're not even left to the choice of reading it
or not. It is read to us week after week in our
church-so simple, so straightforward, leaving
nothing for us to do but to try and follow it
faithfully. 'Love your enemies,' that's one of
the receipts, given by our blessed Saviour
Himself,-not hate your enemies-not pay
them back what they have done to you; O
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
no! love them! do them good! 'Oh, but it's
so hard to do that,' people will say Do they
ever try ? Maybe if they did, they'd find out
their mistake. What a world this might be,
if every one acted upon our Saviour's rule of
'loving his neighbour as himself'! You're but
young yet, lad," said Granny Owen, turning to
Oliver as she spoke; "but you've had your
troubles, if one may judge by your face. Have
you ever tried the law of love and kindness as
a remedy for some of them? Take the advice
of an old woman whose race is almost run, try
good words instead of hard words-try love
instead of hatred-try gentleness instead of
anger and malice. There are many who pray
with the lips, Sunday after Sunday, that God
will deliver them from 'envy, hatred, and
malice, and all uncharitableness,' who at the
very time are nursing those evil passions in
All the children listened most attentively
whilst their grandmother was speaking; it was
very seldom that she said so much. When she
had finished, Mr. Owen remarked that there
was one very good thing about dear Granny's
30 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
sermon, which was that she did not preach
what she did not practise, and therefore every-
thing she said should have double weight.
" Yours has been a long life of showing kind-
ness, Granny," said her son affectionately.
"And haven't I had my reward?" replied
the old woman, as she looked around at the
circle of loving faces all turned towards her.
All this time, Oily was anything but comfort-
able. He could not enter into any of their
feelings with respect to what had been said; he
knew practically nothing of that Christian
charity which "suffereth long and is kind,"
and somehow it seemed as if Granny Owen
had been talking at him. Once he felt almost
inclined to be angry, and so he was glad when,
supper being over, Mr. Owen asked him to
come with him into the front room, which was
used as a sort of parlour. He had noticed
Oliver's flushed face, and thought it better
to speak to him alone than before all the
I have seen Joe Hallett since I parted from
you this afternoon, Oily."
This piece of news did not seem to give
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Oliver much pleasure, for his brow darkened,
and he did not speak.
We had a long chat about you," continued
Mr. Owen, without noticing the boy's angry
look; "and it is just what I expected, for you
have told me the truth so far; you have a
saucy tongue in your head, Olly, and until you
have learned to control it, you will never keep
in any employment. You remember the old
saying, 'A rolling stone gathers no moss.' You
are now of an age when you should be in some
permanent situation, where, by diligence and
good conduct, you might have a chance of mak-
ing your way in the world, but you will never
do so as it is. Joe Hallett, however hasty he
may be, bears no malice towards you, but spoke
most kindly. He is willing to give you another
trial, provided you go and see him, and ask his
pardon for your impertinence this morning,
and promise to try and do better for the
I'll never beg Joe's pardon, and that you
may tell him," muttered Oliver.
"Then I'm very much afraid you'll have to
starve, Oliver," said Mr. Owen, very quietly.
32 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
"You've such a bad character in the town,
that you won't find people very ready to give
you work, and that you know as well as I can
tell you. Don't be too positive, therefore, to-
night as to what you will or what you will not
do; take till Saturday to consider the matter.
Joe said you could not come on again until
Monday next, so let me know at dinner-time
on Saturday what you mean to do. I need not
tell you, my poor boy, that I can have no other
motive than your good for all the trouble I am
"I know that," said Oliver, in a softened
"Think it all well over then, Oily, and may
God give you grace to decide rightly. He is
' the author and giver of all good things,' you
know, lad. Ask Him to guide you; and there
would be no harm in trying one of my mother's
remedies when you get home; I don't think you
would ever regret doing so. By-the-by, who is
ill at your house ? I saw the doctor go in there
a short time since."
"There's no one ill but father, and the doc-
tor only comes to see him once a week now;
OLIVER DALE'S DECISI
he says he can do him no good. He was there
this morning, I think."
"But I mean within the last half-hour. I
saw him go in myself."
"I'm sure I don't know what he wanted,"
said Oily, and his tone said plainly that he did
not much care either.
Mr. Owen sighed as he looked at the boy's
unhappy face, and thought of the brotherly
love and kindness which bound all his own
young ones together.
"I will not keep you any longer now," he
said to Oliver; "you will have two whole days
to think over what I have said."
They returned to the kitchen, where Oliver
wished them all Good night." Granny Owen
took one of his hands in both of hers, and said,
as she looked him in the face, There's good in
you yet, lad, only it's frozen up; try kindness,
lad; be kind to somebody or something; 'tis
more blessed to give than to receive."
Good night, Mrs. Owen," said Oliver, turning
hastily away, for he could not bear the earnest
look which was bent upon him by the kind-
hearted old woman.
-3 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
He hurried along when he got into the street,
until he came to his home. Then he slackened
his pace. In spite of himself, he began com-
paring the home he had just left with that
which he was about to enter. He went round
to the back-door, wishing to get in, and creep
up-stairs to bed unobserved. The house was
very quiet, more so than usual, for there was
never much peace either day or night in the
Dales' cottage. No one was in the back-
kitchen; but, as he went quietly up-stairs, he
saw a light in the room which he occupied with
Dan and Fred and little Stevie. As he pushed
open the door, which was ajar, he saw his
mother kneeling by the side of the bed, on
which lay Stevie, moaning as if in great pain.
The child's face was flushed, and his eyes
sparkled with unnatural brightness.
Olly crept into the room. His mother turned
"See what you've done now," she said,
What have I done ?" asked Oily, in a tone
Of course you don't know; it's well to pre-
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
tend ignorance; why you knocked the child
down this evening in your passion, and broke
his arm for him,-that's what you've done; as
if I hadn't troubles enough before-there's your
father's illness,and bread's risen, and- "
Mrs. Dale was entering upon the list of her
troubles, when she stopped short at the sight of
Olly's pale face, and the sound of his voice, so
earnest, so sad. This was the cause, then, of
the doctor's visit.
Mother, mother," he exclaimed, "I did not
mean to do it. I knew nothing of it until this
moment. It was quite by accident that I
knocked little Stevie down, and I did not know
he was hurt."
Oliver spoke so much more gently than he was
wont to do, and seemed so really grieved, that
even Mrs. Dale forbore to reproach him further.
"I'm glad you've come home, at all events,"
she said, "the child's arm has to be bathed
with this lotion until he falls asleep, and till
the fever leaves him. I have all my work
standing still down-stairs, and it must be sent
home to-morrow; you can bathe the arm as
well as I can, if you choose to do it."
86 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
"I'll do it, mother, trust me," said Oily, in a
quiet, subdued manner, as he took his seat by
Stevie's bed, and watched his mother atten-
tively as she showed him what to do.
Presently she left him, and went down-stairs
to her work, and Oliver sat patiently bathing
his little brother's arm. Those were to be
blessed night-watches to Oliver Dale.
Lord, shower upon us from above,
The sacred gift of mutual love."
STRANGE thoughts passed through Oliver
Dale's mind that night as he knelt beside little
Stevie. Old Granny Owen's words, "Try kind-
ness, lad; be kind to somebody," rang in his
ears. What feeling was it that caused him to
look more gently on his little brother than he
had ever done before? Was his heart really
softening? Was God's Holy Spirit striving
with him, and guiding him into the way of
peace ? Most true it is that-
"Every virtue we possess,
And every conquest won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are His alone."
In a voice so softened, so changed that he him-
self almost started at the sound of it, he said,
"I am very sorry for you, Stevie."
38 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
"No, you are not," whined the child, in a
"How do you know I am not, Stevie ?"
Mother says so ; she says you are glad you
hurt me, and that you did it on purpose, and I
don't like you at all."
Any other time Oliver would have told Stevie
that it was all the same to him ; that he didn't
care either for his likes or dislikes; but some-
how, he felt it would not be quite true just
now. He did care a little. He wished Stevie
had not spoken so, and, in a low voice, he
Indeed, I didn't mean to hurt you, Stevie;
I didn't know you were behind me."
A mocking laugh sounded from the bed in
the other corner of the room. Oliver had
thought his two brothers were asleep, as they
had not spoken before since he came in.
"Don't believe him, Stevie," they said, with
You dare say that again," shouted Oliver,
his passion rising within him as he spoke.
"Don't believe him, I tell you," repeated
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 39
Oliver arose from his knees by Stevie's bed-
side, and, in an instant, was face to face with
his two brothers. Again those words of Granny
Owen. recurred to him, "Try gentleness instead
of anger and malice," and his uplifted arm fell.
His brothers hid themselves under the bed-
clothes as he approached, for he was bigger and
stronger than they. That simple action calmed
Oliver's anger. He could no longer see their
malicious looks; and, with an effort, he turned
away. Again a stifled laugh was heard, but to
Olly the danger was past. He resumed his place
by Stevie's bedside.
Oh, but it is hard," he thought, as he again
recalled part of old Mrs. Owen's words; "it is
very hard," and, hiding his face in his hands,
he leaned upon Stevie's bed, and burst into a
passionate flood of tears. Had Oliver ever so
wept before? The sight was so unusual that
even Dan and Fred forgot to taunt him, as they
lay and listened to his violent sobs. For some
time those sobs were the only sound that broke
the stillness of the room; it seemed as if the
long pent-up feelings of years were finding
vent, for still Oliver wept on. Had it not been
40 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
for the violence of his weeping, Oliver would
have been aware that, after a time, some one
else was crying also, but he heard nothing but
the sound of his own deep sobs. Then a little
thin arm was stretched forward, and a little
hand touched his cheek, whilst a weak voice
"I will believe you, Oily; don't cry so, and
I won't say I don't like you again."
Oliver looked up, and met Stevie's tearful
eyes fixed upon him.
"Thank you for saying so, Stevie," he said in
a choking voice, Stevie, I will love you if
you will let me."
Very patiently did Oliver bathe his brother's
arm for several hours, and at last, when the
day was just beginning to dawn, the little boy
fell into a quiet sleep. Then Oliver undressed
himself, and crept gently into bed, and went to
sleep also, with Stevie's cheek resting against
his. Had Oliver really found "somebody to
love ? He did not sleep very long, however,
for his two brothers woke very early, and
began to make a great noise in the room.
Little Stevie awoke too, but all the fever had
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
left him, and his arm had ceased to give him
Very soon there was a great noise in the
house; the baby crying, the little girls quarrel-
ling, and amidst all, and above all, Thomas
Dale's voice, raised to its highest pitch, asking
where that "lazy, impudent fellow was hiding
himself." "He'd best keep out of my sight,"
cried his father, and somehow Oliver thought
"Stay with me, Olly, won't you?" whispered
I'm glad you've made.yourself of some use
at last," said Mrs. Dale, when she found by the
look of Stevie's arm that Oliver had kept his
promise, and attended to it through the night.
"The best thing you can do is to stay here with
the child," she continued; "you've no work,
and he'll want somebody to see to him a bit."
Mrs. Dale spoke less snappishly than usual.
I'll stay, mother," said Olly.
He glanced at Stevie as he spoke, and saw a
bright flush pass over the child's face. Was
it possible! Could he give pleasure to any one?
He caught himself smiling at Stevie in return,
42 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
and when his mother went down-stairs he bent
over his little brother, and kissed him; he never
remembered having done so before.
When the doctor came to see Stevie that
morning, he said his arm was going on as
favourably as possible, and that, with care,
it would soon be well again. "It will require
care, though," he continued, "for if the child
falls down and puts the bone out of place, it will
be a serious thing."
Olly will take care of me, sir," said Stevie.
The doctor glanced at Oliver, who, with his
untidy dress and forbidding-looking countenance,
was not calculated to impress any one in his
"I will do my best, sir," he said.
"You can't do more, my boy. I'm glad to
see a big boy like you willing to help a younger
brother; you'll never lose anything by being kind."
Oliver blushed, for he felt how little he
deserved any praise.
But don't you go to work ? you're too old to
be doing nothing. I thought I saw you up at
the new church the other day, when I came to
see how the builders were getting on."
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
"You did see me there, I dare say, sir."
"Well, then, how can you attend to your
brother and be at work too?"
I don't work there now, please, sir."
"I'm sorry for it," said the doctor gravely;
" you were discharged for misconduct, I suppose."
Oliver hung his head.
"A bad example to younger brothers, boy.
By-the-by, I heard of two lads of the name
of Dale having been caught robbing a garden
yesterday ; were they any of your family?"
They were two of my boys, sir," said Mrs.
Dale; "the two next to this one," pointing to
Olly as she spoke. "I don't know what they'll
do next, I'm sure; they are always getting into
some scrape or another. Mr. Rowland would
have sent them to prison, only I begged him to
look over it this once, and he was kind enough
to listen to me, for their father's sake; for, you
see, he's got no work, nor isn't likely ever to do
Don't your boys go to school, Mrs. Dale ?"
"They ought to go, sir, and Mr. Howe, the
clergyman, has kindly offered to pay for them;
for I couldn't well afford to do so when my
44 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
husband was taken ill; but I can't get them to
go regularly, do what I will. They play truant,
and roam about the country."
"And has your husband no authority over
"Why, you see, sir, he hasn't the, strength to
use the stick now; not like he used to have
before his knee was taken bad."
My good woman, there are other ways of
having authority over boys besides beating
"There's none that I knows of, sir," said
More's the pity, more's the pity," replied
the doctor. I've not much faith in the use of
the stick, Mrs. Dale, except in very rare and
extreme cases; and I should have but a bad
opinion of that boy who would never do as he
ought but under such influence."
"Nothing else will tell upon my boys," said
Mrs. Dale in a positive tone of voice.
"Did you ever try what kindness or reasoning
with them would do ?"
"It would only be a waste of breath, I can
assure you, sir."
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
How do you know? did you ever try?"
Mrs. Dale was silent.
"I've more faith in kindness than in harsh
words and sticks," said the doctor; "but I am
afraid that you and your husband have allowed
your children by little and little, and from year
to year, to have their own way, and to mind
nobody. You know what the Bible says, Mrs.
Dale, Train up a child in the way he should
go, and when he is old he will not depart from
it.' Your husband, above all people, being a
gardener, knows that if a tree isn't trained when
it is young into the shape it is wished to grow,
it cannot be so trained at all; and what is very
easy to be done when the branches are young
and tender, becomes very difficult and almost
impossible when the tree has become old and
tough. It is just so with children; you cannot
begin too early to teach them habits of obedience,
and the longer you put it off, the greater trouble
it will be to you. Children, if left to run wild,
like trees left to run wild, will bring forth but
very bad fruit; their evil passions, uncontrolled,
will smother everything that is good in their
natures, and the very first persons they turn
46 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
against will be the very parents who have
brought them up so badly."
"I'm sure my children have turned against
me," said Mrs. Dale, with tears in her eyes.
"They've never one of them been the least
comfort in the world to me."
She had followed the doctor down-stairs, and
he was speaking to her in the passage.
"That is a sad admission, indeed, Mrs. Dale;
and I much fear that you and your husband are
greatly to blame for such a state of things; but
it is never too late to mend. Suppose you try
your hand upon that eldest boy of yours up-
stairs; he has some good in him, or I am much
mistaken. I liked the way he promised to
look after his little brother."
I was quite surprised to see how he has
taken to the child since his accident, sir," said
Mrs. Dale. He was never the one before that
to take the least notice of his brothers or sisters,
unless it was to tease them; but he watched by
Stevie all night; I'm sure I wouldn't have
believed it of him if I hadn't seen it."
"Let it be some encouragement to you, then,
to try and turn over a new leaf with your young
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
ones, Mrs. Dale. I'll speak to your husband
about it some day when I've half an hour to
spare; for you must both pull together in the
matter. I can see how it has been with Oliver;
his heart has been softened by the sight of his
brother's sufferings; don't let it harden again;
speak kindly and encouragingly to the boy.
What was he discharged for?"
"For impertinence, sir."
I'll have a little chat with him when I come
to-morrow to see your child's arm; till then
try good words instead of the stick, Mrs. Dale,
and tell me how it answers."
"What was Mr. Allen talking about all that
long time?" said Thomas Dale snappishly, as
his wife entered the kitchen after the doctor had
left. "I should think he had something else to
do with his time than to stand gossiping here
half the morning."
He was speaking about Olly."
"What's he to do with Olly?"
"Well, to tell you the truth, Tom, he was a
saying that it was just our faults that the boys
are turning out as bad as they are doing."
"What does he know about the matter?
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Haven't I beat them one and all, that is, when I
was able to do so ?"
"That's just it, Tom; he don't hold with so
"Why, what would he have?"
"He says boys do better with kind words
than with harsh blows. He told me not to take
his word for it, but to try and see how it
answered with Oily."
"Stuff and nonsense, wife, don't tell me; it's
of no use mincing matters with that boy Oily;
he's a sneak and a coward, and won't do any-
thing except for a good beating."
Thomas Dale looked up as he finished speak-
ing and saw Oliver standing before him, his
face crimson and his eyes sparkling with excite-
ment. He had come down-stairs to get Stevie
something to drink, and had overheard his
It's not true, father, and you know it isn't."
"None of your impertinence, sir," cried
Thomas Dale; "you won't find me put up with
it any more than Joe Hallett did."
"I was wrong to speak so," said Olly; with
an ill grace it must be confessed, still it was an
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
admission which he had never made before. "I
only mean," he added, "that if our home had
been a different one maybe we boys might have
been different too. I don't mean about being
poor, father, I shouldn't mind that; but I see
how different it is with the Owens, and they are
not over rich neither; no, it isn't that, but they
are always glad to get home, and they all seem
so happy together, and they have kind words for
each other, and for a neighbour too, and- "
"And so you're going to set yourself up to
teach your parents are you? And a pretty one
you are to do it; you, who are a burden upon
Them at your age, instead of helping them, as
you ought to be doing. Get along out of my
sight, and learn to practise before you preach."
Oliver returned to his post by Stevie's bed-
side, feeling more wretched than ever. His
father had said truly ; he was a burden to them,
and he ought at his age to be earning his own
living, at all events. What could he do ? There
was onfe thing he could do, one way was open
to him, but his pride, his false pride would not
let him think of that for a moment ; no, it was
more pleasant for him to lay all the blame on
50 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
his parents, to compare his home and Fred
Owen's, and then to make up his mind that hqd
he been in Fred's place he should have acted as
well and have been as industrious as Fred; in
fact, that he was a very ill-used individual, and
that no blame whatever was to be attached to
him. Truly the human heart is "deceitful
above all things."
I need not say that Oliver was quite wrong
in his reasoning. Some excuse was no doubt to
be made for him, but by no means to the extent
he imagined. No want of home comfort can
make it excusable in a boy to be constantly
throwing himself out of work by his imper-
tinence to those above him; and no faults in a
parent can take away from a child the obliga-
tion be is under to keep God's holy command-
ments and to "honour his father and mother."
When Oliver was a little boy he had attended
the Sunday-school regularly for some years, and
although I fear he never put into practice the
good lessons he learned there, still he had been
taught what was right, and could not therefore
plead ignorance as an excuse for his bad conduct.
But the good seed had fallen upon what was, as
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
yet, very barren ground, and had brought forth
"What is the matter, Olly?" said Stevie;
for Olly's was a very tell-tale face, and the
wrong thoughts in which he had been indulg-
ing had brought back the old sullen and dis-
contented look to his countenance.
I wish I was dead," he said sulkily.
I don't wish it, though, Oily."
"Because if you was dead, I should have
no one to take care of me," said little Stevie,
looking up in his brother's face.
Was it true? Had he really got some one
to take care of, some one who would miss
him if he were to die, some one to whom he
was not a burden, but a comfort? It was
pleasant to think of, and the unhappy expres-
sion on Olly's face faded away under the
influence of the thoughts of little Stevie's love.
Granny Owen was right. All the good in
Oliver Dale was "frozen up," and now the
warm sunny ray of brotherly love had thawed
a little bit of his cold heart.
"Nobody loves me but you, Stevie," he said,
52 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
laying his hand caressingly on his brother's
Presently Mrs. Dale came up-stairs.
I wish you'd go to the doctor's, Oily, and
fetch another bottle of lotion for Stevie's
arm; we may want some during the night, and
there's none left."
Oliver prepared to obey his mother at once;
there had been a time when he would have
grumbled, or made some objection. As he
was leaving the room, Mrs. Dale said to him,
"If you come across your father as you go out,
Oily, try and keep a civil tongue in your head;
we've had enough quarrelling for one day."
Mrs. Dale's tone was very sad ? Had she
been thinking over the doctor's words, and had
she begun to suspect the mistake her life had
been, and how she was now reaping what "she
had been sowing for many long years ?
Thomas Dale was sitting on a bench in the
little porch over the door.
"Now then, lazybones, where are you skulk-
ing to now ?" he cried, as Oliver passed him on
his way out.
An angry reply rose to the boy's lips. Why
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
should his father accuse him so unjustly?
Some better feeling, however, pleaded within
him; his mother's sad face rose up before him,
and, with a great effort at self-control, he said
"I'm going for Stevie's lotion, father."
The civil answer fell like oil upon troubled
waters, and checked Thomas Dale's wrath. He
made no other remark, and Oliver went on his
At the corner of the street he met Mr.
"Well, my lad, have you made up your mind
"You have till to-morrow to do so, and some-
thing tells me I shall see you then, and that all
will be well. How's your brother going on?
I heard of his accident, poor child."
He's better, thank you, Mr. Owen; I'm going
to the doctor's now for some lotion for him."
"That's right, Olly; 'be kindly affectioned
one to another with brotherly love,' that's
another rule for our conduct from the Book
of books. Good-bye, my lad."
"Do Thou direct our steps aright;
Help us Thy Name to fear;
And give us grace to watch and pray,
And strength to persevere."
MR. ALLEN was in his surgery when Oliver
entered, and whilst the lotion was preparing,
he spoke kindly to the boy, asking him several
questions about his home and family.
"Do you think Stevie will be well enough to
be left alone by Monday, sir?" asked Olly.
"I don't know quite what you mean, my
Only, sir, whether it will be necessary for me
to stay by him all day long then as I do now."
It was a strange question, but Oliver looked
the doctor openly in the face, while awaiting his
"Are you so soon tired of doing a little
good ?" said Mr. Allen gravely.
0 no, sir, indeed indeed I did not ask for
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
that," said poor Oily, with great earnestness.
" Stevie is the only one in the world who cares
for me, and I will nurse him as long as ever he
needs it, if it is for weeks and weeks to come.
But I have a reason for asking you the ques-
tion, sir; I cannot just now tell you what it is,
but indeed it isn't because I am tired of nursing
Stevie, sir, and I hope you'll believe me."
Well then," replied the doctor, if all goes
on well, there will be no particular necessity
for your being with him after the next day or
so-that is, if you have anything better to do.
He may get up on Monday, and all that will be
needful will be for some one to keep an eye
upon him, to prevent him from falling down,
or attempting to use his arm."
"Thank you, sir, that is what I wish to know,"
said Oily, as he took the bottle of lotion, and
left the surgery.
Old Mr. Rowland had called whilst Oliver was
from 'home, to speak to Thomas Dale about his
two boys, Dan and Fred. He pointed out to
the father the importance of their attending
school regularly, for that Satan is always ready
to find mischief for idle hands to do."
56 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
"I might have sent them both to prison, and
that you know quite well, Dale," continued Mr.
Rowland, "and it was out of compassion for you
that I refrained from so doing. I know also
that, in nine cases out of ten, boys come out of
prison worse than they go in; so I thought I'd
try another plan with them. Your wife tells
me that their schooling is paid for, so that is no
expense to you. You see that they go regularly
every day to school, and I will employ them both
for a couple of hours every evening during the
summer, in weeding my garden walks. They
will thus be able to earn a trifle a week, and will
be kept from getting into mischief by idling
about with bad companions. What do you say
to my proposal?"
"I'm quite willing, sir," said Thomas Dale;
"they're more plague than profit at home."
"Where are they now? can I speak to them
for a few minutes?"
They were here just the very instant before
you came in, sir. Wife, where are those two
"I know, father," whispered Sally, "they're
hiding in the coal-house."
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
The fact is, that the sight of old Mr. Rowland's
grey head, as he came up the garden path lead-
ing to the cottage, had so terrified the uneasy
consciences of Dan and Fred Dale, that they
had concealed themselves as quickly as possible,
nothing doubting but that Mr. Rowland had
repented of his leniency toward them, and was
come to take them to prison. It needed all
their father's threats, and, what had infinitely
more effect, Mr. Rowland's kind and gentle voice,
to re-assure them; and, at length, when they
were persuaded to emerge from their hiding-
place, they stood shaking and trembling from
head to foot before the old gentleman.
"What do you look so scared for, lads ?"
asked Mr. Rowland, "do you think I'm going
back from the promise I made your mother
yesterday? No such thing, no such thing;
when I say a thing I keep to it."
Still the boys went on trembling.
"I've no ill-will toward you, lads, though you
did try to do me harm ; and to show you that I
mean what I say, and that I am willing to look
over what happened yesterday, I have come
to make a proposal to you. Are you fond of
58 OLIVER DALE S DECISION.
gardening? You ought to be, with a gardener
for your father."
The boys did not answer, but they trembled
less, and Dan summoned up courage to look Mr.
Rowland- full in the face.
"Which would you prefer, to lead the idle
vagabond lives you are now doing, or to earn a
trifle every day ?"
"I'd like to earn something, sir," said Dan,
in a low voice.
And your brother, what does he say ?"
"He'd like it too, I know," continued Dan,
"only he's shy and can't say so."
"Well then," said Mr. Rowland, "I will
promise to employ you for two hours every
afternoon, from half-past four till half-past six ;
and I will give you each threepence every
evening when you have finished work. All my
walks want weeding, and that is what you will
have to do. But first of all you must promise
me something, if it is to be a bargain between
us; and that is, that you will both attend
school regularly. It is only on that condition
that I can employ you. Are you willing to
agree to it ?"
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 59
"Yes, sir," said Dan, "I am quite willing, and
so is Fred, sir, only he's too shy to say so."
Fred coloured, and looked very foolish, but
did not contradict his brother's assertion.
"Suppose we begin on Monday next, then,
boys, and may God grant it to be a turning-point
in your lives. It's a great blessing when God's
grace has so dwelt in a boy's heart, that he has
had no need of a turning-point, because he has
been led by God's Spirit all his life; but thanks
be to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, there
is hope for others also. It is never too late to
mend, never too late to ask for God's grace, for
Jesus Christ's sake; and, thus strengthened, to
amend our lives. Let Monday next, therefore,
be a new starting-point for you boys; let it be
the commencement of a new race, and God
grant," continued the old gentleman solemnly,
"that you may both have grace and strength
The boys did not speak; perhaps their silence
was more expressive than words. Dan hastily
brushed the sleeve of his jacket across his face,
to hide some unusual emotion, and Fred gulped
down something, which he afterwards described
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
to his brother as seeming like "a great lump
in his throat;" and then Mr. Rowland took his
leave, whilst Thomas Dale sat wondering at the
effect of a few gentle words upon boys whom
he declared he had beaten again and again,
without making any impression on them.
"Sure enough, he's a way of making boys
mind," said Mrs. Dale, when Mr. Rowland had
departed, and that without making much fuss,
or using a stick either."
Saturday morning had arrived, and Oliver
Dale had not yet made up his mind. He had
thought over the subject again and again, and
still, every time, there was the old difficulty in
the way, his false pride, that would not allow
him to ask Joe Hallett's pardon for his imper-
Stevie had passed a good night, and when
the doctor came to see him in the morning,
he said there was now no further cause for any
anxiety about him. He watched the expression
of Oliver's face as he gave that opinion, and
could not understand the boy's look.
"So now you may consider yourself as free,
Oliver," said Mr. Allen.
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Oliver's countenance did not express unquali-
fied pleasure at the news. Mr. Allen was fairly
I cannot understand the boy," he said to
himself. Mrs. Dale was not in the room.
"Now, Olly, my boy, tell me why you asked
me that question yesterday about your brother's
arm," said Mr. Allen, looking Oliver full in the
face. Perhaps I can help you with a little
advice. I have lived a little longer in the world
than you have, lad, and even I know what it is
to be doubtful how to act sometimes. It's good
to ask God to direct you in such a case. You
remember what Solomon says: 'Trust in the
Lord with all thine heart, and lean not
unto thine own understanding: in all thy
ways acknowledge ,Him, and He shall
direct thy paths.' We are far too apt to
neglect this excellent rule, and to forget that
nothing is too small or insignificant in the
sight of that benevolent God, without whose
special permission not even a sparrow can
fall to the ground. Have you asked Him
to direct your path in your present difficulty,
62 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
I am afraid not, sir; but I know what I
ought to do, sir."
"Then why do you not do it?"
It was not so easy to answer this question;
and Mr. Allen began to fear he should get no
further towards knowing the secret of Oliver's
What is it, Oily, that stands in the way of
your doing your duty? Is it pride-or what
is it ?"
There was a slight change in Oliver's coun-
tenance, and Mr. Allen felt he had hit upon
something near the truth.
I am speaking quite by guess, my boy, but
something tells me I am not far wrong, when I
speak of false pride standing in your way. If
I am right, take my advice, and ask God to
help you to overcome it. Believe me, there is
no truer courage than to acknowledge our
faults and to promise amendment; and there is
no greater cowardice than to' allow pride to
prevent us from so doing. I hope when we
meet again, I shall find you have decided
Oliver longed to speak out to Mr. Allen, and
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 63
tell him all, but somehow the words stuck in
his throat; pride-that ugly, false pride-still
choked up the way; and the good doctor was
gone, and Oily had not spoken a word.
Presently Dan and Fred came up-stairs; full
of the idea of earning money next week, they
could talk of nothing else, and were not very
kind in the remarks they made in Oliver's
hearing about his having no work to do, whilst
they, who were younger, would have constant
employment all the summer.
Oliver felt too sad at heart to get into an ill-
temper with them; and when they found he
continued so moody and silent, they soon left
him, and went down-stairs.
It was now eleven o'clock in the morning;
only one more hour, and Mr. Owen's dinner-
time would have arrived.
Oliver sat nervously fidgeting about on his
chair. His mother came up to put Stevie's bed
straight. She had spoken much less sharply
to Oily the last day or two; and now, when
she saw him sitting there, looking so really sad
and uncomfortable, she said to him,-
"You're not used to be in-doors so much,
64 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Oily; go out a bit, it will do you good, and
Sally shall look to Stevie."
"Thank you, mother; I think I will go out
a little, presently."
"Better go at once; it looks as if it would
"I'll go in about an hour, mother."
Mrs. Dale went down-stairs again, wondering
what had come over Oily-he seemed so "down
Even Stevie thought his brother anything
but a cheerful companion that morning, for he
scarcely answered when the child spoke to him,
and seemed as if his thoughts were far away.
At last, Stevie, finding it not much use to try
to engage his brother in conversation, gave it
up; and, lying so, quietly in bed, he soon fell
into a light slumber. He did not sleep long,
and when he awoke, Oliver was kneeling by
the bedside, his face hidden in his hands.
What is the matter, Olly ? What are you
doing?" whispered little Stevie.
"I am asking God to help me to do right,"
said Oliver, as he arose from his knees, and
kissed his brother affectionately.
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. G5
The sadness and doubt had passed away
from Olly's face; even Stevie noticed the differ-
ence in his looks.
"You are better now, Oily; I'm so glad !"
It was my own fault I was not better
before, Stevie. I'm going out for a little while,"
he continued, and mother will send Sally or
Emmy to keep you company whilst I am away.
I shall not be gone long."
He went down-stairs, and told his mother he
was going out.
"Sally's gone on an errand now," said Mrs.
Dale; "so Emmy must go and sit up-stairs.
Emmy! Emmy come here this minute !"
Emmy was playing in the garden, and began
to cry at having to come in.
Go up-stairs, and sit with Stevie," said her
"I don't want to," said the little girl.
I'll box your ears soundly for you," cried
Mrs. Dale, "if you don't make haste and go,
whether you want or not."
Oliver intercepted Emmy at the foot of the
Don't let Stevie see you crying, Emmy; he
66 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
is not well, you know; and you ought not to
mind going and sitting with him a little while.
If you had to lie in bed for two or three days,
you would like some one to be with you; but
you would not care to see any one if they were
crying and looking unhappy."
Emmy dried her tears with a corner of her
pinafore as Oily spoke.
"Now you look like little merry Emmy
again," said her brother.
Thomas Dale's leg was worse that morning,
and he was not able to get up. He lay in bed
scolding every one who came within his reach.
It was easier, however, for the children to keep
out of his way when he was confined to one
room up-stairs, than when he was able to limp
about the cottage; and thus, I fear, it was rather
a subject of joy than sorrow that "father's leg
was worse, and so he couldn't move." Truly
his life had been a great mistake.
Oliver bent his steps towards Mr. Owen's
cottage. As he entered the house the parlour-
door was partly open, and he saw a very pale,
delicate-looking woman lying upon a sofa, and
Fred Owen sitting by her side. It was but a
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. G7
moment's glance that Oily had, but that glance
told him a great deal. It showed him the in-
valid mother's sweet, patient face turned with a
look of fond love upon her eldest boy, whilst
Fred seemed the happiest of the happy as he
assisted his mother to her dinner, which he
held for her upon a little tray. All the young
Owens took it by turns thus to wait on their
mother during their dinner-hour; for Mrs.
Owen was generally able to be up for a short
time each day, and the first thing her husband
did, when coming home to dinner, was to carry
his wife in his arms down-stairs to the little
parlour, where she lay until he returned home
again to tea in the evening. She could not bear
the noise of all the children about her at once,
so they each took it by turns to be with her;
and the frequent remark, "It's my turn to wait
on mother to-day," uttered in a tone of delight,
proved how entirely the children found a
pleasure in the performance of their duty
to their sick parent. In the kitchen old
Granny Owen was bustling about, as usual
at such times, giving all the youngsters their
68 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
There was a kindly smile on the old woman's
face as she welcomed Oily.
I said you'd come, lad; you know the way
into the garden, and you'll find my son there;
he's just sticking a row of peas, as it looked
likely to rain, and then they'd be beaten down."
Oliver went through the back-kitchen into
the garden. It was not any larger than the
piece of ground behind their own cottage, and
yet what a different use had been made of it!
Every square yard was made to grow some-
thing. Mr. Owen had finished the row of peas
as Oily approached.
He held out his hand to him.
Well, Oily, what have you to say?"
Will you, at least have you time, to come
with me to Joe Hallett, Mr. Owen ?"
I'd make time, even if I had it not, Olly;
but, as it happens, my work lies close to his
just now; so that I can go with you very easily.
Thank God, my boy, that you have been en-
abled to decide wisely in this matter. You
know, Oily, it is not in our natures, fallen and
sinful as they are, to think any good thing of
ourselves; therefore it is God's grace alone
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
that has helped you to choose between right
"I should have decided sooner," said Oily,
" but I put off asking for God's help, and all
that time my pride would not let me do what
I knew to be right."
Come in and have a bit of dinner with us,
Oily, and then we'll go off together. I'm as
glad," continued warm-hearted John Owen,
" as if you were one of my own boys, that
I am," and he shook Oliver's hand as he
Having made up his mind to do what was
right, Oliver could not help remarking with
what different feelings he now listened to
Granny Owen's words; for the old woman
knowing, by her son's face, that all was right,
could not restrain her feelings of delight on
We shall live to see you as happy as our
own boys yet, lad; I know we shall," she said;
" you've quite a different look even now upon
your face to what you had that evening you
were here last week; but I knew it was in you,
lad, only it was frozen up, as I told you then."
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Oliver smiled at Granny Owen, as if to ac-
knowledge that she had been right.
What about the receipts, lad ?" whispered
Granny Owen, in a confidential tone; "have
you tried any ?"
I've tried to be kind to my little brother,"
said Olly blushing; for it seemed like praising
himself to say so.
That's it, lad; persevere, persevere, and
God's blessing be upon your efforts The child
will love you for it some day."
He does already, Mrs. Owen; he has told
me so;" and Oliver's face brightened up as he
spoke of his brother's love, -the one bright spot
in his hitherto cheerless life.
Persevere, lad, that's all I tell you; the
Bible tells us that faith can remove moun-
tains, and I know that love and kindness can
melt the coldest hearts. Have a turn with thy
father next, Olly; his life must be dark enough
just now; think what a pleasure it would be if
thou couldst brighten it up a little, lad, eh ?"
It seemed so formidable an undertaking in
Oliver's eyes, that he could only shake Granny
Owen's hand warmly at parting, and tell her
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
he would never forget her kind advice; and
then he and John Owen were soon on the way
to Joe Hallett.
As they went along Olly's heart more than
once almost failed him, so weak are even our
best resolves; but Mr. Owen talked cheerily to
him, half guessing what was passing in his
Just before they came to the building, he
turned round to Oily and said,-
"You're coming of your own free-will, Oily,
are you not, not from any feeling of compunction
on account of what I may have said ?"
No, sir, I come because you have taught me
to believe it to be right that I should do so."
That's well, my boy; and you fully intend,
with God's help, to endeavour to keep the pro-
mise you are about to make Joe Hallett ?"
Yes," answered Oily, in a low but firm voice.
Then come along, and the sooner it's done
There was a look of surprise on the faces of
many of the workmen as Oily made his appear-
ance, and several boys about his own age sneered
unkindly at him as he passed on, by John Owen's
72 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
side, to the part of the works where Joe was
"Can I speak with you a moment?" called
out Mr. Owen, as he saw Joe Hallett's face
appear above some brickwork high up in the
"I'll be down in a minute," answered Joe.
Everybody liked to oblige John Owen, every-
body had a kind word for him.
Joe Hallett greeted his friend with a hearty
shake of the hand, and then, for the first time,
noticed by whom he was accompanied.
This lad would like a word with you, Joe,"
said Mr. Owen, walking away a little space as
he spoke, and leaving Olly and Joe together.
Oliver made a great effort, and said in a
trembling voice, "I am very sorry I was so
impertinent to you last week, Joe; I beg your
pardon with all my heart, and if you'll take me
on again, I will try and do better for the
Joe Hallett's eyes had been gradually opening
wider and wider as Olly spoke, and by the time
he had finished he was actually staring at the
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Oliver Dale make an apology Oliver Dale
ask pardon of any one Well, wonders would
never cease !
"No one can do more than say he's sorry
when he's done wrong," said Joe, in a rough,
kind voice; "we all have our failings; I've
mine, and I knows it; but I hope bearing
malice isn't one of them; and when any one
begs my pardon, why, I've nothing more to say
than that I forgive him, 'even as I hope to be
forgiven,'" added Joe with solemnity. "I'll
speak to the foreman this very afternoon, Oily,
and you can come to work on Monday. I'll
make it all right for you, and I hope you'll do
better, for your own sake, Olly, for it's time you
took steadily to something. I'll do my best to
help you, I'll promise that. Here, you John
Owen," cried Joe, "come out of your hiding-
place"-for Mr. Owen had gone behind a piece
of brickwork, so that he might in no way
embarrass Oliver-" come along, old friend, it's
all right with the boy again; this is some of your
doing, I know," he continued, slapping John
Owen on the shoulder, "always going about
doing good, eh ? you'll thank him for it some of
74 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
these days, even more than you do now, boy,"
added Joe, turning to Oily as he spoke. So
John Owen returned to his work, and Oliver
went home with a lighter heart than he had
ever before felt.
The following Sunday, when Joe Hallett
knelt in humble reverence in the old parish
church, to receive that "true bread" which
cometh down from Heaven, and which "giveth
life unto the world," he felt that he had shown
"love and charity" to his "neighbour," and
that He who had enabled him so to act, would
even then give him grace to draw near with
faith, and receive that holy sacrament to his
great and endless comfort,"
"And go rejoicing on his way,
Renewed with strength Divine."
Speak gently, it is better far
To rule by love than fear;
Speak gently, let not harsh words mar
The good we might do here."
WHEN Oliver reached home, he found his
mother sitting in the front room, which she
used for ironing. The baby was upon her lap;
and, as Oily entered the room, she hastily wiped
her face with the corner of her apron. She had
evidently been weeping. "Another row with
father, I suppose," thought Oily. They were
things of frequent occurrence, and never
attracted much notice. A glance at his
mother's face, however, showed that she looked
sadder and less angry than she generally did
on such occasions; and something induced him
to ask her what was the matter.
"Matter enough, Oily !" exclaimed Mrs. Dale,
her tears breaking out afresh, there's the
Smiths have left the place over head and ears
76 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
in debt, and they owe me a matter of nearly
ten shillings, and I don't suppose I shall ever
see a farthing of it. What's to become of us
I'm sure I don't know, for the landlord came
only yesterday, and said I really must pay off
some of the rent we got so behind with in the
winter, and I had made up my mind to pay
him a couple of weeks' rent, at all events, out of
the money that was owing me by'the Smiths.
I declare everything seems to go wrong with
us; and I see nothing before us but the work-
house, for I can't do more than I do, and-"
What was it that made Oliver look so bright
and happy as he went over to where his mother
was sitting, and, bending over her, he said,
"Mother, this day week, please God, I shall
have six shillings to give you, and every Satur-
day night the same. I'm taken on again,
mother; I begged Joe's pardon, and he's pro-
mised to forgive the past, and I've promised to
do better for the future. So I hope I shall
never again be a burden to you; this last week
has taught me a lesson which I think I shall
never forget. And mother," continued Oliver,
in a voice trembling with emotion, "you have
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 77
been so kind to me the last few days, and I feel
as if I could love you so much, if you would let
me; and we might all, maybe, feel happier if
we were to try and be kinder one to another. I
see how it answers with the Owens, mother,
and Stevie, I declare, he loves me already,
because I have been a little kind to him since
he was ill ; and, oh, but it is nice to feel that
some one cares for you "
Again Mrs. Dale's tears flowed down her
cheeks-but this time they were tears of joy-
as she sat with Oliver's hand in hers, and felt
that she could no longer say that none of her
children had ever been the least comfort to
Olly," she said, I've not been the mother
I might have been to you all; but I'll try and
turn over a new leaf, that I will. If your
father was only not so-"
Perhaps we can turn father too, mother, if
we both try. Old Mrs. Owen says kindness
will do anything."
Ah, boy, boy! I might have turned him
long ago, had I acted differently. I've made a
78 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
Maybe it isn't yet too late to set it all
right, mother; so let us try."
With all my heart, Oily."
We must ask God to help us, mother."
That is what I've neglected to do, Oily."
Begin this very night, dear mother," said
Oliver, kissing her. Then he went up-stairs and
praised little Emmy, whom he found really
trying to amuse Stevie, and told her she might
now go and play in the garden again as long as
Poor little girl! it was a rare thing for her to
hear a word of praise. She held up her little
face to Olly as she passed him, and said, "I'll
come and mind Stevie again when you want
me to do so, Oily."
Why wasn't Emmy cross to-day ?" asked
Emmy likes to be spoken to kindly," said
And so do I," said Stevie.
Olive thought of what Granny Owen had
said-" Try good words instead of harsh words."
" She was right," he thought, everything she
said has turned out true."
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 79
That night, before going to bed, Mrs. Dale
prayed as she had not done for years. She
prayed for God's grace to make her more gentle
to her husband and children, and for strength
to do her duty by them. Thomas Dale was
even more irritable than usual that evening;
he always was so when he had been confined to
his bed all day. At another time his wife
would have been equally ill-tempered, and they
would have quarrelled the greater part of the
night. Now, however, she made no angry
retort to her husband's complaints. This was
a great point gained. In nine cases out of ten
it is the sharp answer that adds fuel to the fire,
whereas silence, or a gentle word, would check
the rising flame. There is an old stoiy related
of a woman who had a very bad-tempered hus-
band, and whose life was rendered very miser-
able in consequence. Some one told her that an
old woman, who lived in a lone cottage some
distance from the village, possessed the know-
ledge of a certain cure for bad-tempered hus-
bands. The unhappy wife went to her in all
haste, and begged her to tell her the secret.
"Most willingly," said the old woman. Take
80 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
this little bottle," said she, giving her a small
phial filled with a clear white liquid. When-
ever your husband comes home in an ill-humour
and begins to scold you, put a small quantity
of the contents of this phial into your mouth,
and hold it there without swallowing a drop of
it. You will find the effect to be wonderful."
With many thanks to the old woman, who
would take nothing for her advice, the wife
returned home, determined to try the remedy
on the very first occasion. She had not long to
wait. Her husband came home that evening
in one of his cross moods, and began fault-
finding directly he entered the cottage. His
wife ran in haste to the cupboard in which she
had placed the precious bottle, and poured a
little of the contents into her mouth. Then she
returned to her husband. She followed the old
woman's directions implicitly. She went about
her work as usual; but was not able to reply to
her husband 's grumblings on account of what
she held in her mouth. Very soon, to her
delight and surprise, his ill-humour passed
away, and in less than ten minutes he was play-
ing good-humouredly with the baby, whom, on
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
other occasions, he frequently took no notice of
for the whole evening. Delighted with the
success of the remedy, the poor wife never
failed to make use of it upon every occasion
when her husband appeared the least out of
temper, and it never once failed. At last the
contents of the bottle were exhausted, and she
took the first opportunity of paying another
visit to the old woman to beg of her to give
her a little more of her valuable medicine.
I've had more peace the last week or ten
days than I have had for years before," she
said; and I'll gladly pay you any reason-
able sum to have the bottle refilled." The old
woman smiled, as she replied,-
It is not an expensive medicine, neigh-
bour, and you have plenty of it within your
reach at home. A little cold water from the
pump or the well is all that is necessary!"
Then, seeing the wife's look of incredulous
astonishment, she continued, There's no virtue
in the liquid itself, neighbour, only so far as it
keeps you from being able to answer your hus-
band when he says an unkind or ill-tempered
thing; and cold water will have that effect as
82 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
well as anything else. Maybe you'll sion be
able to do without anything of the kind, now
that you've found out the value of a still
tongue; for, after all, that is the best cure for
ill-tempered husbands." The wife profited by
the old woman's good advice, and she and her
husband lived more happily together than they
had ever done before.
A wife has not done all her duty, however,
when she merely refrains from answering her
husband; indeed, such silence may sometimes
be carried too far, and degenerate into sulkiness.
The Bible tells us that grievous words stir up
anger;" but it also tells us that "a soft answer
turneth away wrath," and it is the duty of every
Christian wife and mother to exert an active
influence to promote peace and charity on earth.
When our Lord Jesus Christ calls those blessed
who are peacemakers," He means those who
strive to make all men love one another, those who
endeavour to banish from their homes, and from
all over whom they have any influence, that
spirit of "envy, hatred, malice, and all uncha-
ritableness," which is so unlike the Gospel of
love which our Saviour came to preach. "Love
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
is the fulfilling of the law." Blessed are all
who are striving towards such an end. They
are doing the very work which the Son of God
began when He came to earth the first time,
and which He will finish when He comes the
second time. Oh, let us then be more ready
than we are to pray for that spirit of Christian
love and charity which is "the very bond of
peace and of all virtues," and "without which
whosoever liveth is counted dead in the sight
Thomas Dale's knee was in a sad state of
inflammation all night long, and his irritability
,but increased the evil. His wife was up the
greater part of the night applying wet rags to
the inflamed limb. On former occasions it had
been her custom to grumble the whole of the
time she was thus occupied-to declare that
she had no peace night nor day, and that she
was tired of her life. Then Thomas Dale would
say hard words in reply, until a violent quarrel
would ensue. On this night, however, a great
change took place. Very patiently, and with-
out a single grumble, did Mrs. Dale wait upon
her suffering husband; and when, towards
84 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
morning, he fell into an uneasy slumber, she
felt grateful to God who had so far enabled her
to begin to do better, and had kept her from
showing any angry spirit to her husband.
She had had but little rest herself, and felt
weary when it was time for her to rise; but
she did so as noiselessly as possible, so as not to
awaken her husband; and, when she at last
crept down-stairs with the baby in her arms,
and left her husband sleeping more quietly, she
felt a sunny feeling at her heart to which she
had previously been an entire stranger-the
feeling of having acted kindly. Then she went
into the boys' bedroom, and begged them to
make as little noise as possible, for that their
father "had had no rest all night, and had
lately fallen asleep." Never had the young
Dales before heard such a reason given them
for their being quiet; Dan and Fred looked too
amazed to speak; but Oily kissed his weary-
looking mother with a smile, and that kiss and
that smile more than repaid her.
Dan and Fred Dale, as soon as they had
recovered from the surprise caused by their
mother's words, paid little or no attention to
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
her injunctions, and were soon shouting and
squabbling together at the pitch of their voices.
Sally and Emmy also were disputing and crying
down-stairs, so that Thomas Dale's sleep was
but of short duration, and a loud thumping on
the floor over head with his stick made known
to his wife that he was awake.
Run and see what your father wants, Dan,"
said his mother; "and tell him he shall have his
breakfast as soon as ever the kettle boils."
I'm not going near him," said Dan sulkily;
"he's in a precious bad humour, I know, by
the sound of his stick on the floor."
"I'll go, mother," said Oily, who had just
Perhaps you'd better not," answered Mrs.
Dale; "Emmy will go."
I'd rather go myself, mother," said Oily.
" Never fear; it will be all right."
Another and more violent rapping over head
with the stick made them all start, and Oliver
"Do you want anything, father?" he said
quietly; "mother will send your breakfast up
very soon, directly the kettle boils."
86 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
The tone of Oliver's voice was so different
that, for one moment, Thomas Dale eyed his
eldest son with wondering looks; then he said
angrily, "I don't want you, lazy bones; so you
need not trouble yourself to come. I want
something to drink; no one pays any attention
to me ; there have I been lying for hours and
hours, and not a soul coming near me."
Oliver might have replied that it was scarcely
an hour since his mother came down-stairs;
but he wisely refrained from so doing, and only
said, "I will bring you something directly,
father." He went down-stairs again, where he
found the tea already made ; and in a very few
minutes he re-entered his father's room with
a cup of tea and some slices of bread and butter.
I've brought your breakfast, father; and
now I have a bit of good news to tell you."
A likely thing, indeed; good news from
such as you !"
It's quite true, father, all the same; and
you'll say so when you hear it."
Thomas Dale had by this time drunk some of
his tea; his thirst was quenched, and he looked
something less angrily upon Oliver.
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
I have got into work again, father, up at
the new church. I am to begin to-morrow
"And how long will you stay there, I should
like to know? I'll give you a week at the
I don't ask you to believe me, father; for
It would be no use your asking me," inter-
rupted Thomas Dale; for I shouldn't do it.
That tongue of yours will never let you keep in
"I've begged Joe's pardon."
"Yes, and you'll have to do it again before
the week's out."
Oliver felt that his father had good reason
for all he said, and that he did not deserve to
be trusted, or to have his word believed. This
humbling thought kept him from making any
angry reply, and he merely contented himself
"I have never given you reason to trust me,
father, but I do hope that, before long, you will
be able to change your opinion of me."
"Seeing is believing," said his father with a
88 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
sneer; "but, until then, the least that's said
Oliver took his father's empty cup, and went
down-stairs with a sigh.
His false pride again struggled within him.
It was too bad of his father not to believe him;
it was a shame, that it was and-
But the still small voice of conscience also
made itself heard, and it spoke very differently.
What had Oily done to cause his father to
put faith in his promised amendment? His
heart, when allowed to speak the honest
truth, answered, "Nothing."
Was he not turned fourteen years old, and
had he not from time to time been thrown out
of work for the selfsame fault? It was most
true; so that, although Oily felt within himself
that his purposes of reformation were more
firmly established than they had ever been
before-for the best of all reasons, that now
he had asked for God's help, whereas formerly
he had not done so; still he knew that his
father could not be aware of the difference be-
tween his past and present resolutions, and
that it was, therefore, quite natural that he
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
should feel a doubt as to their stability. And
this is one of the heavy penalties we pay for a
course of wrong-doing; our word is not believed,
even when we know we are speaking what is
true. In such a case, there is nothing to be
done but to persevere in our good resolves, and
trust to time enabling us to redeem our cha-
racter, and to prove that our reformation is
"Well, Olly," said Mrs. Dale, as she watched
her son's desponding countenance when he
came from his father's room, "what success
have you had ?"
"Father won't believe me, mother, and I
can't wonder at it. I must bear his suspicions
patiently, and I hope some day to be able to
Sunday was a strange day with the Dales:
sometimes Sally and Emmy would go to the
Sunday-school; but it more frequently hap-
pened that they were not ready in time, and so
spent their morning playing in the back garden.
Fred .and Dan generally went roaming about
the country birds-nesting; but Mr. Rowland
90 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
had made it a part of the bargain that they
should go to the Sunday-school as well as to
the week-day one; so that they were got ready
and sent off, not without a good many sulky
and discontented looks. Oliver was standing
at the gate watching his two brothers going
down the street, when Fred Owen and two of
his brothers passed by. Oliver looked at them
wistfully. "We are going to the Sunday-
school," said Fred; "will you come too, Oly ? "
"I should like to, Fred," replied Olly; "but
I'm not fit," and he glanced at his shabby,
His mother had not been able to buy him
any since his father's illness, and he had earned
no money himself, so he had nothing but his
shabby working clothes to wear.
"It isn't so much one's clothes that they
mind about at the Sunday-school," said Fred,
"provided that our hands and faces are quite
clean, and our hair tidy."
"But you would be ashamed to walk along
the streets with me, Fred, and so would your
"Not we, not we!" cried the good-natured
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
boys in chorus; "father says," continued Fred,
"that doing wrong is the only thing of which
we ought to feel ashamed; and going to the
Sunday-school is doing right, we all know that;
so there's nothing to be ashamed of."
"Wait one minute, then, till I ask mother if
she can spare me," said Oliver, as he darted up
"Spare you!-to be sure I can," said Mrs.
Dale; "Sally has no shoes fit to go in, so she
must stay at home, and she can look after
To wash his hands and face and smooth his
hair was but the work of a few moments, after
which he joined the young Owens at the gate.
Some of the town boys stared rudely at the
group as they passed along; and then Fred
Owen would tell Olly not to mind, but to take
no notice whatever of them. Once a big idle
boy cried out, "What, Oily Dale! why, where
are you going?" and Fred Owen replied very
quietly, "He is going to the Sunday-school
with us, Ned;" and not another word was said.
The Owens were in the first class at the
school. Mr. Howe, the clergyman, taught them;
92 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
and it had so chanced that he had met Mr.
Owen the evening before, and from him had
learned all about Oliver's decision, and that he
had got into work again. The clergyman knew
all the disadvantages under which the boy
laboured at home, and it was at his suggestion
that Fred Owen was instructed to invite Olly
to accompany them to the Sunday-school.
Mr. Howe was greatly pleased, therefore, to see
how successful he had been, and he welcomed
Oily with many a kind, encouraging word.
When school was over, he called him aside;
told him how glad he was to find he had taken
his good friend, John Owen's advice, and pro-
mised him that, if he heard of his going on well
and steadily for the next fortnight, he would
give him a good suit of clothes to wear on
Sunday. "I shall hope to see you regularly at
the Sunday-school, Oliver," said Mr. Howe;
"what you hear and learn here will, with God's
blessing, help you through the week; and, I
need not tell you, my boy, that we all have
need of help from above to enable us to do our
duty properly. What we hear and learn on
Sunday, whether it be at church or at school,
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 93
will, if we ask God to bless it, help us to serve
Him better in word and in deed. I am glad to
see you making companions of the Owens,
Oliver; you will never repent having done so,
for they are well brought up, steady lads. It is
a great thing for a young lad like you to choose
Mr. Owen has been very kind to me, sir,"
said Oily; "if it hadn't been for him I--"
"I know all about it, Olly," said Mr. Howe,
with a kind smile; "John Owen has acted on
the blessed principle laid down by our Saviour,
' Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'
Would that every one would 'go and do like-
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to
dwell together in unity "-PSALM cxxxiii. 1.
SEVERAL weeks had passed away. Regularly
every Saturday night had Oily brought home
six shillings to his mother, who had thus been
able to pay off a good deal of the back rent that
was owing. Dan and Fred, too, continued work-
ing for Mr. Rowland, and their earnings, small
as they were, all helped. Mrs. Dale also had
as much washing as she could manage to get
through, so that the whole family might be said
to be doing very fairly, so far as their outward
circumstances went. But a still greater change
had taken place in their inward life since that
day when kind-hearted John Owen had spoken
to Olly under the lamp-post.
It was in the mother and her eldest son that
the change was most perceptible, for Thomas
Dale, now a more confirmed invalid than ever,
was but little altered. Mrs. Dale was indeed a
OLIVER DALE'S DECISION. 95
new creature. She worked early and late; had
still very, very much to put up with from her
husband's ill-temper, but she had, through God's
grace, learned to bear her burden patiently, and
had ceased to worry and fret under it. The love
which Oliver evinced towards her sweetened
her daily toil; and even Dan and Fred, and the
younger children, were becoming far more gen-
tle and tractable under the influence of kind
words. The countenance is a sure index of the
temper of its possessor. Folks said Mrs. Dale
looked much younger and better than she did
formerly, and yet, they would add, "she must
have plenty to put up with from that ill-tem-
pered husband of hers."
True, true," said old Granny Owen, who had
overheard the remark, "the bitterness is still
there, but she's found out the way to sweeten
it." Every one who knows what home is, knows
what a powerful influence, for good or for evil,
the mother exercises over a family. The very
word "mother," suggests the idea of the sweet,
loving, tender nurse of our helpless infancy-
the kind and watchful guide of our childhood-
the truest earthly friend of our riper years.
96 OLIVER DALE'S DECISION.
All this a mother may be, and where such is
the case, "her children arise up, and call her
But that such a happy state of things is the
exception, and not the rule, our every-day expe-
rience but too plainly tells us, and it is another
proof of the inward depravity of the human
heart, that so many go struggling along through
life in the crooked ways of ill-temper and un-
charitableness, who might have basked in the
smooth and sunny path of Christian love and
charity. And many, very many, never find out
their mistake, or only do so when it is too late
to retrace their steps.
Oliver Dale kept a watch over the door of
his lips," and, although a temper like his was
not to be subdued in a few weeks, still, by con-
stant and earnest prayer for God's help, and a
never-ceasing watchfulness on his own part, he
and Joe Hallett went on very smoothly together.
Joe was a thoroughly good-hearted man, and his
kindly feelings towards the boy who had come
so manfully and begged his pardon, made him
more careful in his own conduct towards the lad,
Prov. xxxi. 28.