Citation
The Trial of skill, or, Which is the best story?

Material Information

Title:
The Trial of skill, or, Which is the best story?
Portion of title:
Which is the best story
Creator:
Nelson, Thomas, 1822-1892 ( Publisher )
Place of Publication:
London
Edinburgh
Publisher:
Thomas Nelson
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
208 p. : ill. ; 14 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Child authors -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Embossed cloth bindings (Binding) -- 1851 ( rbbin )
Bldn -- 1851
Genre:
Children's literature ( fast )
Embossed cloth bindings (Binding) ( rbbin )
fiction ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
England -- London
Target Audience:
juvenile ( marctarget )

Notes

Statement of Responsibility:
by the author of The Juvenile Sunday Library....

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University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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This item is presumed to be in the public domain. The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions may require permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections (special@uflib.ufl.edu) with any additional information they can provide.
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AAA2229 ( ltqf )
ALH9230 ( notis )
45501572 ( oclc )
026992046 ( alephbibnum )

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Full Text




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THE
TRIAL OF SKILL:

WHICH IS THE BEST ®tTORY?





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J. SUTECLIFEE, LITH# /OS, HICH ST

THOMAS NELSON
LONDON AND EDINBURGH.







THE

TRIAL OF SKILL;

OR,

WHICH IS THE BEST STORY?

RY THE AUTHOR oF

“ TH JUVENILE SUNDAY LIBRARY ™ “ VERY LITTLE TALES,” cc.



London:

THOMAS NELSON, PATERNOSTER ROW},
AND EDINBURGH.

ee

MOCO Ld.



SDINBURGH: PRINTED BY THOMAS NELSON.



ADDRESS

TO

MAMMAS AND THEIR CHILDREN.

—

Tux following Tales are submitted to the
Public, in the belief that parents will find them
at once sound and elevating in the principles
they inculcate, and possessing such a degree of
merit, as will render them worthy of their
children’s perusal.

From the preference often shown by young
people for truth above fiction, my little friends
will perhaps read the following Stories with ad-
ditional pleasure when they learn, that the man-
ner in which they originated occurred precisely
as related in the first chapter, and that many of
the circumstances, and the greater number of the



V1 ADDRESS.

characters exhibited in each of the Tales, are ac-
tually drawn from real life.

With a hearty desire that my dear young
readers may derive both amusement and instruc-
tion from this book, avoid the errors, and profit
by the virtues of the characters described, I
subscribe myself their sincerely affectionate
friend,

HuMPHREY ARDEN.



THE

TRIAL OF SKILL;

OR

WHICH IS THE BEST STORY?

ee

INTRODUCTORY,

Here, whilst the needle plies its busy tusk,
The poet's or historian’s page, by one
Made vocal for the amusement of the rest,
Beguiles the night.

“ Comg, Deborah, now let us make ourselves
snug,” said Sir Humphrey Arden (a testy old
bachelor, who had charge of all the spinsters of
his family), addressing a maiden sister, while
he seated himself in his large arm-chair, one
winter’s evening : “ Come, Deborah, draw your
chair opposite to mine, at the other side of this
fine fire : give one of the girls a book, and let us
defy the storm, which rattles against our win-
dows as if it were enraged at not being able to
find some chink or crevice through which to pay
us a visit,”



8 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

The maiden sister left the tea-table, and wil-
lingly obeyed. In truth, even had she not loved
the comforts of a “ blazing ingle, and a clean
hearth-stane” almost as well as her brother, she
would, it is believed, have complied with any
request of his in the same manner.

Her three nieces, the orphan children of a de-
ceased sister, aided her, with alacrity equal to
her own, in dressing out the fireside according to
the old bachelor’s conception of what was snug ;
and whilst the good lady moved a large folding
screen into the exact position he liked, and esta-
blished herself in the great chair opposite his,
Kate took her seat on a stool by his side, Kmma
drew her work-table nearer the fire, and Eliza-
beth ran to the book-case for a volume of stories,
which she knew it was her duty to read aloud to
the party this evening.

“ Must I read these stupid tales to-night
again?” said she, in a pleading voice, as she
seated herself at the table.

“ Yes, saucy niece, that you must,” said her
uncle, “ Finish them to-night, child, and let me
see with how good a grace you can do what is
disagreeable to you. Your aunt, you know,
must hear the book from end to end before she
will suffer me to give it to your little sister ;
and, for my own part, I should be glad to hear
what reason you have for the abuse you have all
given it.”

“I fear you are likely to hear very little of it



INTRODUCTORY. 9

to-night, my dear uncle,” said Kate, lifting, as
she spoke, one corner of a handkerchief which
the old gentleman had just thrown over his face,
preparatory to an evening’s nap, in which it was
his habit to indulge. “I predict the very first
page will put you to sleep, without the aid of
this thick curtain, or that blazing fire.”

“ Come, come, my dear girls, let your uncle
have his nap in peace,” said the old lady ; “ and
if you both dislike the book so much, choose
some other for our amusement to-night; and
Emma, who is not quite so high-flown as either
of you, will, I am sure, finish this for me to-
morrow.”

“ No, no, my dearest aunt,” cried Elizabeth,
hastily opening the book, “no person shall finish
it for you except myself ;”—and in less than an
hour the task. was done.

“ There now!” she exclaimed, as she pushed
the volume away ; “ there now; my uncle has
not heard one word of all the nonsense I have
been reading ; and when he awakes he will, as
usual, call us all fastidious, and hard to please,
for not liking it.”

“You must not, my dear aunt, let him scold
us to-night. Iam sure you cannot yourself say
any thing in favour of such stupid stories,” said
Kate.

“ Yes, she shall let me scold you,” cried out
Sir Humphrey, awakening just in time to hear
the last sentence, and arranging himself in his



10 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

chair for a more comfortable nap ; “ she can, I
am sure, say a great deal in favour of these
stories, for she is not such a great and mighty
critic as all of you young ladies seem to think
yourselves,”

“I fear I shall come in for share of your
scold to-night, brother,” said Deborah, “ for I
cannot pretend to like these tales better than my
nieces do,”

“ Judging by the progress you have made in
my bead purse, dear aunt,” said Emma, “ {
should think you like them less than any of us.
You have not dropped one stitch to-night: and
when we have a book that pleases you, I am
obliged, you know, to lay aside my own work,
and sit, ready to take up a bar in your knitting
at every second minute.”

Mrs Deborah smiled, “In truth, Humphrey,”
said she, “ you would not yourself approve of
these tales if you heard them; and I am sorry
you happened to buy them for our little girl,
since they are not such as we should like to see
in her hands.”

“Pho! pho! woman!” muttered Sir Hum-
phrey, again turning in his chair, “what harm
could they do her ?”

“ None in the world, my dearest uncle, I will
venture to say,” replied Elizabeth. “ I am cer-
tain my little sister will not read three pages of
the book when she finds how dull and prosing
it is.”



INTRODUCTORY. ll

* She would very soon perceive how over
strained and unnatural all the characters are,”
said Kate. “ I verily believe, the writer never
saw or spoke to a child in his life.”

“ My greatest objection to the book is, that it
seems a collection of little unnatural romances,”
said Emma. “The children are all such angels,
and are represented in a state of such perpetual
and perfect happiness, that I am sure, if I were
again a child, I should feel inclined to be very
much dissatisfied with my own lot, when I com-
pared it with that they are said to enjoy.”

“ Right,” said Mrs Deborah, with her most
approving smile, “ That, my love, is precisely
my chief objection to the book. I am persuaded
that tales of this kind often sow in young minds
the seeds of discontent, which after life may fail
to root entirely away. A tale, indeed, however
simply told, which abounds in scenes represent-
ing too gay and pleasant a picture of human
life, has all the pernicious qualities of a novel,
teaching the reader to expect what never can
arrive, It is, indeed, I should say, even more
dangerous than the novel, because it is read by
those who cannot perceive or guard against its
evil tendencies,”

“What a flourish of fine high sounding sense
and sentiment the author makes in his preface,”
said Kate, “ and then runs, all through his
book, into the very errors he professes to abhor.”

“ Yes,” said Emma, “ that, I confess, provokes



12 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

me ; for, seeing the danger, he should not cer-
tainly have placed it in the way of young crea-
tures,”

“ But he never wrote the preface,” cried Eliza-
beth, “ that is easily seen. The whole book,
indeed, seems a mere piece of patch-work—a
tissue of folly,—false, stupid, and pedantic, from
beginning to end,”

“ Good lack! good lack!” cried Sir Hum-
phrey, in wrath, and pulling down the handker-
chief from his face with a sudden jerk. “ What,
in the name of wonder, will this world come to,
when every saucy spinster, from fifteen to fifty,
thinks herself at liberty to abuse a poor author
in this manner? Why, ladies, you seem to
have words at will; but although you fancy
yourselves such admirable critics, I should like
to see which among you could write half so good
a story as the worst in that book.”

Mrs Deborah deliberately placed her head in
the position which she considered essential for
reflection ; and taking off her spectacles with one
hand, whilst with the other she drew a silver
snuff-box from her pocket,—“ Brother,” she
said, as she tapped it on the lid, “I believe I
may, without hesitation, assert, that there is not
a spinster of any age in the room who could not
with ease write a better story than the best in
this collection.”

Sir Humphrey rubbed his hands in ecstasy.
“ Well, Debby, let the trial be made: here are



INTRODUCTORY. 13

four of you ; and to her who writes a better story
than any in that volume, I will give the choice
of any book in my library.”

“ Now, would it not be well to punish my
uncle for slighting our abilities in this manner ?”
whispered Kate. “ How much I should like to
see him lose four of his best books! Do, dear
aunt, let us take him at his word, and try to win
them.”

“He deserves to be made repent the challenge,
I confess, my dear,” replied Mrs Deborah.

“Well, try it ; I beseech you, try it,” said the
testy Baronet, in his own mind fully persuaded
they would not succeed. “I am ready to run
the risk of losing my books ; for I want to con-
vince you all, it is not so easy a matter as you
imagine, to take up a pen and write just such a
story as you, my good sister, would like to put
into a child’s hand. Perhaps, too, when you
have all felt the difficulty yourselves, you will
not think quite so badly of that poor author as
you do at present.”

“I wish we had courage to try,” whispered
Elizabeth.

“Take courage, my dear,” said her uncle ;
“‘ you will never succeed in any thing without it.
I will give you all a week for the undertaking,
though I see Miss Kate, there, thinks she could
write a dozen such tales in a day; but I will
allow you a week ; and, as an additional induce-
ment, I promise the choice of a second book to



14 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

whichever brings me down the best executed, and
best designed story, before the end of that time.
Now, what say you all to the proposal ?”

“ Why, that we ought certainly to make the
attempt, since we can lose nothing by it, and
may gain so much,” answered Kate ; “ but de-
pend upon it, my dear uncle, if I have the good
fortune to succeed, nothing short of your fine
Shakspeare, with all Boydell’s plates, will satisfy
me.”

“ T doubt it not, you saucy one,” he replied ;
“but get along, and try to win it if youcan. I
must only criticise your story with severity
equal to your own; and if, after all my endea-
vours, I cannot find more faults in it than in
those you so much condemn, and that you
should rob me of one of my best books in that
manner, I shall contrive some means to have my
revenge, you may be assured.”

“ Do let us try,” said Elizabeth: “a failure
can do us no harm ; so let us all begin the at-
tempt this night ; and you, my dear aunt, will,
I hope, set us the example.” |

Neither Mrs Deborah nor Emma could, how
ever, be persuaded to join in the scheme, al-*
though Kate used various entreaties to make:
them accede to the proposal ; but her aunt, un-
willing to mar a project upon which her brother’s
heart seemed fixed, urged her nieces so strongly
to make the trial, that, after some time, she ob-
tained from Elizabeth and Kate a promise that





INTRODUCTORY. 15

they, at least, would commence the task on the
following day.

Taking up her candle, soon after, to retire for
the night, “ I am cool now, Humphrey,” said
she, “ and I feel conscious that I could not write
any tale to equal even the worst of those on the
table ; but some of your nieces, I think, will
make you repent your rashness. Their stories,
however, I hope, will be of the very simplest
kind ; and I trust, my dear Elizabeth, that you
will let yours be free from all romance or high-
coloured scenes. I confess it would gratify me
exceedingly should you bring down such a story
as your little sister might listen to with benefit.”

“ And have you no directions to give me, my
dear aunt ?” said Kate.

“ Here are directions for you both, in the
words of your favourite Cowper,” said Sir Hum-
phrey, lighting his taper, and taking the way to
his bed-chamber,—

A tale should be judicious, clear, succinct:
The language plain, the incidents well link’d.
Tell not as new what every body knows;
And, new or old, still hasten to a close.

The two girls declared they would ‘not stay to
receive directions which only Cowper himself
could follow, and ran off in great glee to discusg
the fittest subject for their undertaking. Whether
or not their dreams supplied materials for the
trial, has never been discovered, but it is possible
they may have done so ; for at the expiration of



16 THE TRIAL OF SKILI.

the appointed time, Sir Humphrey’s fire-side
presenting -its usual scene of comfort, and the
same group being assembled round the work-
table, Emma, who could not be induced to join
in the attempt, announced that the stories were
finished, and brought down for judgment.

Mrs Deborah heard the report with inward
satisfaction, Having given the last rub to her
spectacles, and pulled from her pocket the various
requisites for her complicated knitting, she
waited long in anxious expectation, whilst her
nieces arranged the pages of their little manu-
scripts, and debated who should first begin to
read,

In such trepidation, however, were they both
at thoughts of the exhibition which they fancied
themselves about to make, that they delayed
coming to any conclusion, until Sir Humphrey
snatched up one of the manuscripts, declaring he
would read it himself.

Arrangements having at length been made,
that the story of the youngest should be first
read, her uncle drew a seat close to his own for
Kate, threw himself back in his chair in the at-
titude of an attentive auditor, laughed heartily
at the agitation with which she opened her story,
And listened witout once closing his eyes whilst

she read, \





THE

SOLDIER’S RETURN.




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They were together night and day,

Through all their early years ;
Had the same fancies, feelings, thoughts,

Joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears.

“ Come, Louisa,” said little Emily Menden,
as she alighted with her mother and sister at
their own hall door, after a week’s absence from
home ; “ Come, Louisa, I dare say mamma will

have no objection to our running into the garden
ee



18 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

for a short time. I think all our flower seeds
must have sprung up while we have been away :
will you come and see ?”

Louisa was about to comply, but suddenly re-
collecting herself, she turned back ; and promis-
ing to join her sister, in case she could persuade
her mamma to go with them, she followed Mrs
Menden into the house. There, by a thousand
artifices, she tried to engage her mother’s atten-
tion, and finally led her into the garden, where
Mrs Menden usually felt as much pleasure as
either of her daughters.

Here it will be well to leave them, and ac-
count for the degree of melancholy which Louisa
had seen steal over her mother’s countenance ;
and which was the more easily perceived, be-
cause contented cheerfulness was in general the
predominant expression of her features.

Mrs Menden had had the misfortune to lose
her parents before that period when young
women most require their counsel and support...
She might otherwise have been deterred, at the
early age of seventeen, and in the midst of a
sanguinary war, from becoming the wife of an
officer only three years older than herself; and
who, even then, had displayed such distinguished
courage and talents in his country’s service, as
left little room to hope that he would be allowed
much leisure to enjoy the comforts of domestic
life. She married, unconscious of the fate which
awaited her, and in full expectation of as much







THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 19

happiness as can be met with in this world.
And so much, assuredly, might have been her
lot, could it have been secured by the attach-
ment and amiability of her husband; but she
soon found that the life of a soldier is chequered
with even more than the common shade of cares
and anxieties which belong to this world. Dur-
ing eleven years which had elapsed since her mar-
riage, she had never passed so many months at
one time in his society, or scarcely so many days
free from alarm for his safety. She had not seen
him for the last two years, and the period had
been one of peculiar toil and suffering to the
troops with whom he was acting. She had de-
voted the entire of that time to the education of
her two little girls, and had never left her own
house until the joyful news arrived that his
regiment was ordered home, and that he, with
his friend, Major Chrestone, might probably ar-
rive in England almost as soon as the letter
which carried the intelligence.

Major Chrestone was the only surviving
brother of Lady Onslow, Mrs Menden’s earliest
friend. His health had suffered much from
several severe wounds which he had received
during the war, in which a younger brother had
_ already fallen. His sister, for many years past,
alarmed for his safety, and now relieved from all
her fears, wrote to an old companion to come
and enjoy with her, at Onslow Hall, the delight
they must both feel on the return of friends so



20 THE TRIAL OF SKILL

dear to them. Thither Mrs Menden immediately
hastened with her daughters, in the fond hope of
meeting her husband a few days sooner than she
otherwise could, and of being, at the same time,
introduced to her friend’s brother, whom she had
never yet seen. But they were all doomed to
experience another of the trials and vicissitudes
occasioned by war.

The transports, bringing Colonel Menden’s
regiment home, had nearly gained the British
coast, and he had already stood on deck, an-
ticipating tne happiness of once more embracing
his wife and children, when they were met by
other ships carrying troops to the Continent,
where a fresh eruption of the war had taken
place. By them he received orders to turn
about and fall in with the squadron, and to unite
his regiment with those now assembling for the
purpose of averting this new and unexpected
danger.

Such unlooked for intelligence, when commu-
nicated at Onslow Hall, overwhelmed the whole
party with sorrow and disappointment.

Mrs Menden had lost, in the commencement
of the campaign, and at the same period when
Lady Onslow’s younger brother had fallen, three
near relations, whom she tenderly loved ; and
these misfortunes had rendered her more sensible
of the dangers to which her husband, and many
other dear connections, were still exposed.

Her disappointment, on the present occasion,





THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 21

was therefore proportioned to the joy she had
lately felt, when she believed all danger at an
end. Feeling that she could afford no comfort
to her friends, she resolved on hurrying back to
Menden Park ; and, whilst resuming her accus-
tomed pursuits, to try and maintain that cheer-
fulness which, in every situation of life, she
knew it was her duty to cherish.

The children, at the first moment of disppoint-
ment, appeared almost as much distressed as
herself ; but the sight of home, and all the plea-
sures connected with it, soon enabled them to
forget their sorrow, and again to anticipate, with
delight, the moment when their father should be
restored to them. As they chatted of all the
pleasant things which, they said, were sure to
happen when that long wished for period ar-
rived, their mother tried to catch the infection of
their spirits, and to persuade herself that this
new war might not continue long, and that it
might terminate without bloodshed.

“ Mamma,” said Emily, as they returned from
the garden, on the evening of their arrival,
“‘ whenever the real peace comes, you must write
to papa to bring Major Chrestone to Menden
Park, Will you not, mamma ? oh, I hope you
will.”

“ Willingly, my dear; but tell me why you
are so anxious for his coming ?”

“ T want to know if I should like him as well
as Lucy Onslow does. She was just as much



22 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

disappointed at his not coming home, as we all
were because papa did not come. Do you know,
mamma, though he is a grown up man, and has
so much to do, he wrote her a nice long letter,
and said in it that our papa and he had agreed
to roast an ox here whenever they returned, and
to set all the tenants dancing on the lawn. Will
not that be very nice, mamma ?”

“ Very nice, indeed. I long almost as much
as yourself to witness such a scene, and also to
become acquainted with Major Chrestone, who is
a favourite with every one who knows him.”

“Tam sure I do not wonder at his being a
favourite with Lucy, he is so good-natured to
her. She shewed me a nice set of gardening
tools which he made for her entirely himself.
He can make things of that kind just as well as
any smith or carpenter. Is not that very odd,
mamma ?”’

“ It is certainly very uncommon, Emily, if
that is what you mean by odd. I dare say he
converts his knowledge to many useful purposes ;
for, from what I have heard your papa say, I
think he must be a man of too much refinement
to take up such pursuits for mere amusement.”

“ You are quite right, mamma,” said Louisa.
“ Lucy told me, that when he first came from
the army, he had a person for a long time at
Onslow Hall, teaching him to be a carpenter, for
he said he had often wished to know something
of that trade when he was on service ; and he



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 23

afterwards said he found it so useful to himself
and others, that he has since tried to acquire a
knowledge. of all the mechanic arts.”

“ Yes, indeed, mamma,” said Emily, “ Lucy
says he can do a great many more things even
than papa; and there was something else Lady
Onslow said he was, besides a smith, or a carpen-
ter, or a turner, or any of those things; some-
thing a great deal nicer than any of them, but I
forget the name of it.”

“ Tell me what it enables him to do, and, per-
haps, I may find out the name for you.”

“ Tt enables him to cut and polish pebbles and
precious stones, and he has made a great number
of beautiful things of them for Lady Onslow.”

“A lapidary is the word you want then, I
suppose.”

“ Oh! yes, that is the name: and do you
know, it was he who cut the catechism so beau-
tifully on the little marble slab, which hangs up
at Lucy’s bedside ?”

“ Then this wonderful man engraves as well as
polishes stones: but what catechism do you
speak of ?”

“ A set of questions, mamma, which Lucy is
obliged to answer every night before she sleeps.”

“ And to what do the questions relate ?”

“ They relate to—to—Louisa will tell you,
mamma.”

“To her conduct through the day, I believe,”
said Louisa, “ Lady Onslow told me, that every



24 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

child who wishes to be good, should try to find
out, before they sleep, whether they have done
any harm during the day or not ; and she says,
when people grow up, it is very hard to get into
the habit of doing this, unless they have been ac-
customed to it from childhood. So she has
always made Lucy ask herself this little cate-
chism when she lies down at night. But Lucy
told her mamma she often fell asleep before all
the questions were answered : Major Chrestone,
theréfore, cut them on the slab, and fastened a
pencil to it, and she now writes either yes or no
to each question, just before she goes to bed every
night.”

“ Do you understand, mamma ?”

“ Perfectly. Then Lady Onslow, I suppose,
sees the answers, and is able to judge if they are
correct. I am quite sorry I did not see this cate-
chism, my dear girls, for I think the plan so
excellent, I should like to adopt it with you.”

“JT knew you would say that, mamma, so I
_ took a copy of it ; and here it is,” said Louisa,
producing a paper from which she said the fol-
lowing questions :—

LUCY ONSLOW'’S NiGHTLY CATECHISM,

1. Did I this morn devoutly pray

For God's protection through the day?
2. And did [ read his sacred word,

To make my life therewith accord ?
3. Did J, for any purpose, try

To hide the truth, or tell a lie ?



tS
o

THE SOLDIER'S RETURN,

ale

. Did I, to all who came my way,
Due courtesy and kindness pay ?
Or if distress my aid implored,
Did I that aid with joy afford ?
. Did I my thoughts with prudence guide,
Checking ill-humour, anger, pride ?
. Did I from every word refrain,
That could give any creature pain ?
Did I with cheerful patience bear
The little ills we all must share ?
And did I, when the day was o’er,
God’s watchful care again implore ?

- 7 of 8

_

When Louisa ceased reading, Mrs Menden ex-
pressed the highest approbation of the catechism,
and said, she no longer wondered at their little
friend Lucy’s steady and reflecting character,
which, she thought, might probably have been
produced by this plan of nightly examination.

‘“ Mamma,” said Emily, rather mournfully,
“do you think it would ever make me steady
and reflecting ?”

“I think, my dear child, that it might greatly
assist your endeavours to become so: the habit
of passing judgment on your own actions will in
time teach you to consider what that judgment
must be, when you are about to commit any
fault ; and you know it is only very wicked per-.
sons indeed, who can be guilty of an error after
they have reflected on its impropriety.”

Mrs Menden lost no time in preparing one of
these catechisms for each of her daughters. As
she had not Major Chrestone to engrave them
for her, she printed the questions on two boards,



26 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

to which she fastened black-lead pencils ; and
that same night the little girls commenced the
plan which had succeeded so well with their
young companion.

A short time after their arrival at home, the
children, in taking their morning’s walk, passed
by a cottage where they had a few weeks before
often visited a poor old woman, called Alice
Dillon, Mrs Menden’s nurse, who was then upon
her death-bed. The house had, as they thought,
remained untenanted since the old woman’s
death, and they were now surprised, and strongly
attracted by the appearance of a little girl who
stood at the door, crying in a most piteous
manner.

_ As she seemed to be quite alone, and not more

than eight years old, the girls went forward to
inquire what was the matter, and to try if they
could comfort her ; but her replies were so broken
and incoherent, they could scarcely understand
what she said. With great difficulty they dis-
covered that her name was Ally Fisher; that
she had come to that place the day before with
her mother, who was gone to the next market
town on business; and that she cried because
she was frightened, and unhappy at being left so
long alone.

“ It was very cross of your mother to leave
you,” said Emily. “ My mother could not help
going,” exclaimed the child; “ she is never
cross,”





THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 27

“Then why did she not take you with her ?”

“ Because she knew I could not walk so far.”

“ Well, do not cry, Ally,” said Lousia ; “ we
will leave Mrs Saiphly, our maid, with you,
until your mother comes home ; and you need
not be afraid of any thing, while she is beside
you.”

While she spoke, Ally, who kept her eyes

constantly fixed on a turn in the road at some \
distance, ran to the top of the nearest stile, and ~

after a few moments’ hesitation, exclaiming, “ 1
see her, I see her!” bounded off without wait-
ing to give them any reply.

The girls ascended the same stile to discover if
the person whom they saw approach, were indeed
the child’s mother ; but to their great disappoint-
ment they saw poor Ally stop short, and sit
down on the side of the road, while the woman
walked on without taking any notice of her.

Mrs Saiphly could scarcely prevail on them to
return home without going back to comfort her ;
she, however, promised that she would herself go
to the child the moment she had left them at
their own door ; and aware that they had al-
ready outstaid their time, they were at length
about to comply, when they perceived another
person at the turn of the road. They now saw
Ally start up and run to this person with arms
stretched out as far as they could reach. The
little girls then willingly hurried home, and had
no sooner entered the drawing-room, than they



28 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

began to tell Mrs Menden their adventure. They
dwelt particularly on the little stranger’s beauty
and excessive distress; and were a good deal
mortified at perceiving their mamma less inclined
to pity than to blame her for not having borne
her mother’s absence better. ‘‘ Indeed, mamma,
if you had seen her,” said Emily, “ I think you
prea not blame her ; I am quite sure she is not
/ a bold child.”

“ How can you be quite sure, my love ?”
| _ “ Because she did not cry as naughty children
| do ; she tried to suppress her sobs, and did not
seem cross, but looked so melancholy with her
(large eyes full of tears, that I think she could

/ not be naughty.”

“T have seen large eyes full of tears before
now,” replied Mrs Menden, archly, “ and have
been obliged to acknowledge that there was a
little naughtiness with them.”

Emily blushed, but good-humouredly con-
tinued, “ Well, mamma, if you will just take a
walk with us to Dillon’s Hill this evening, you
can see yourself whether Ally is a bold child or
not.”

“ Do, dear mamma,” said Louisa; “ and per-
haps you will allow me to take her the last
coarse frock you gave me to make ; for though
she looked so clean and pretty, she had on very
bad clothes.”

From the child’s name, and present residence,
Mrs Menden had some idea that she might be

j





THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 29

the daughter of her foster-sister, Liddy Dillon,
who, she knew, had become the wife of a soldier,
called Fisher, about the time of her own mar-
riage. Anxious to know if her conjecture were
right, she readily granted the children their re-
quest, and promised to go with them to see the
little girl after tea.

‘“ Do, mamma,” said Emily, “ pray do, if you
please, allow us to get our lessons after we return,
and let us go now. We shall perhaps be in time
to see Dillon’s whole herd of cows milked at the
foot of the hill, and you know that it is so pretty.
I can carry your camp chair, and Louisa will
bring your work-basket, and you may sit and
work there the whole evening.”

“I hope you will not insist on my sitting
there so long, Emily,” said her mother, smiling ;
“but I will take you there with pleasure while
it is fine. I hope, however, I may rely on your
driving the farmer’s whole herd of cows out of
your head, when you come back, and applying
yourself to your lessons as you ought to do; so
get your bonnets, and come along.”

“Oh! thank you, mamma, thank you. In-
deed, I will not once think of the cows after we
come home, and I will stay in the house all the
rest of the evening, to get my lessons. I assure
you, mamma, upon my honour, I will.”

“ Another promise for the slate, Emily ! con-
firmed by an oath, too,” said Mrs Menden.

Her daughter’s countenance fell at the mention



30 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

of this hated slate, which, before we proceed, re-
quires some explanation, There was not in this
little girl’s character any fault which gave Mrs
Menden more uneasiness, than a habit she had
contracted of making promises, without consider-
ing whether she should ever be able to perform
them,—a habit which generally grows into one
of premeditated falsehood, if not stopped in time.
But to check it in poor Emily (though in other
respects a docile and obedient child) had been
found a troublesome task. Quick in her imagi-
nation, and thoughtless to an extreme, she was
no sooner made sensible of what was proper to
be done, than she fancied herself certain of being
able to perform it ; and the moment a fault in
her conduct was clearly pointed out, she felt so
much distress, that she began to make the most
vehement protestations of amendment.

On one occasion, after quietly listening to the
end of a long declaration, that she would never
do so and so again, but always do such and such
things, her mother said to her,—‘ I wonder,
Emily, if keeping an account of all the good
resolutions you make in the course of one short
week would help to convince you that the half
of them could scarcely be fulfilled in a year.”

“ Indeed, mamma, I do not think I make
many resolutions now, and I am sure I never
break one, except when I forget.”

“ But you forget so very often, my love.”

“ Well, mamma, do let us keep an account.





THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 31

Just write down on something every resolution
I make, and then put a mark whenever! break
one ; and I am sure you will find I do not for-
get so often as you think.”

“ If you wish it, Emily, here is a large slate,
which will exactly answer the purpose ; but I
give you notice, the plan, once begun, shall be
continued every week for half a year. The slate
shall hang over the mantel-pieve, and never be
removed during that time, let who may come to
the house.”

“ Well, mamma, hang it up,” said Emily,
after considering some moments, “ I am deter-
mined I will never make another resolution ;
and then, you know, there cannot be any written
down.”

Mrs Menden smiled, took up the slate, and
wrote at the top, in large characters,—

?

RESOLUTIONS MADE BY EMILY MENDEN,
Firsit—She resolves to make no resolutions.

Then, taking down a picture, and hanging up
the slate in its stead, “ Now,” said she, “ I have
only to keep the account by writing down each
promise as it is made, and putting a mark over
it as it is broken.”

Emily was a little disconcerted when she saw
the slate fairly in its place ; but still confident



32 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

of her own powers, and more cautious than usual,
lest she should break her first resolution, she
chatted with her accustomed gaiety all that
evening, without once forgetting herself.

Before the week was ended, however, the slate
was full of promises ; and heartily did she re-
pent her rashness, when, on Saturday morning,
some friends having called to visit her mother,
one of them asked her to explain the strange
ornament which hung over the mantel-piece.

Many entreaties were urged by both the girls
that night to make Mrs Menden take down the
slate, and give up the plan; but she replied,
that she could not require them to keep their re-
solutions if she broke her own. The slate had,
therefore, kept its place for nearly half its ap-
pointed time, and was beginning to produce such
good effects, that there was now rarely a promise
to be seen on it.

But on this unlucky evening of their projected
walk to Dillon’s Hill, the thoughts of seeing
Ally Fisher, and the farmer’s herd of cows milked
at the foot of the hill, had completely thrown
poor Emily off her guard ; and her mortification
was extreme when she saw her mother write
down, first, a promise to pull every weed out of
her garden before she slept, and then another, to
remain in the house all the evening, for the pur-
pose of getting her lessons,

Her face glowed with vexation as she felt the
impossibility of keeping both these resolutions





THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 33

i

' ie. «
a in * \ rk
a . # : ,
= ht ~ sa :
= - = r= a.
an



without giving up her walk, and to do that re
quired more self-denial than she at that moment
possessed.

Fearing to have time for reflection, she caught
up her bonnet, and tied it in haste closely round
her face ; but after moving her chin up and down,
and backwards and forwards, for several mo-
ments, she exclaimed, “ Oh, dear, dear! I have
tied the string of this nasty bonnet so tight, it
quite chokes me: what shall I do, mamma ?”

“ T think the best thing you can do, my love,
will be to untie it.”

“ But I have got it into a hard knot, and that
is so difficult to untie.”

“ It requires some patience, I know ; but you
will make it much worse if you pull it in that
manner. Had you not better come forward to

G



34 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

the glass, and try to find the proper loop to
open ?”

“Emily approached, but her eyes were dimmed
with tears, and she sought in vain for the loop,
which became closer every moment, until Louisa
good-naturedly came to her assistance, and in a
short time the ribbon was untied.

Her mortification, however, still remained ;
and, anxious that it should be attributed to any
cause rather than the real one, she said, as she
saw her sister fold up the frock she was going to
carry with her, “ How lucky you are, Louisa, to
have that frock to give the poor little girl. I
wish I had something to take to her, too.”

“ You may give her the last petticoat you had
to make, if it be finished,” said her mother.

“ But it is not finished, mamma; and it will
be very provoking to go without any thing, when
Louisa has that nice frock to take her.”

“Then I will not take the frock until your
petticoat is ready,” said her sister, “and we will
take them both together some other time.”

Mrs Menden opposed this, saying, “ It would
be very hard the little girl should be deprived of
the frock she so much required, merely because
Emily could not have the pleasure of taking her
any thing.”

“ Oh, mamma!” said Emily, earnestly, “ if
you would only just put off your walk until to-
motrow evening, I should then have the petticoat
ready fo her, and—and—”





THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 35

“ T cannot, my dear child, consent to gratify a
wish so entirely selfish. Ifyou happen to lose a
pleasure yourself, Emily, you must try to re-
joice that others have not lost it also; but since
you think it provoking to see your sister enjoy
a satisfaction, only because you cannot partake
of it, I advise youto remain at home, which, I
confess, I at first supposed you would have done
from better motives.”

Emily burst into tears ; and Mrs Menden, say-
ing she hoped to find her a more rational girl on
her return, took Louisa by the hand, and com-
menced her walk. |
_ After their departure, Emily sat for some
minutes given up to grief; andat last, aloud and
angrily, exclaimed, “ Oh, that slate! that vile,
nasty slate! it is for ever getting me into scrapes
and troubles.”

But her reason gradually began to operate,
and she soon grew tired of railing at the ‘slate.
“ I was a fool,” she said within herself, “ not to
say 1 would stay at home, and perform my pro-
mises, as I first had thoughts of doing. Then I
am sure mamma would have been pleased with
me ; but now I have made her angry, and lost
my walk too. Oh! I was very silly. I wonder
what could have made me so silly? And then,
why did I say it would be provoking to go to
see Ally, without taking her something as well
as Louisa? I am sure I have no such feeling
now. Well,” she continued, carrying on her re-



36 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

flections, “ I will make one, just one resolution
more : I will try and remember always to put
my hands on my mouth the moment I feel my-
self growing cross, and never take them off, or
speak another word, until I am in good humour
again.”

With this determination she was so well satis-
fied, that she began to consider what was the
next most prudent thing she would do; and at
length she decided to try and have her long ne-
glected petticoat finished, and her garden weeded,
before her mother’s return.

We will now leave her seated at her book in
the summer-house, and follow her mother and
sister on their walk to the hill. They had pur-
sued their way almost in silence, except when
lamenting the unlucky vow, and the unusual fit
of haughtiness which kept Emily at home. And
Louisa seemed but little to enjoy the excursion,
until she was roused by her mother’s asking, if
that lovely child, who stood at the hay-stack
near Dillon’s gate, were the same she had seen
in the morning.

“ Yes ! that is she, indeed. How much pret-
tier she looks, now that she is not crying! Is
it not strange that she can look so clean and
neat in all those rags? Oh, mamma! I am
quite glad you made me bring her the frock to-
night.” So saying, Louisa hastened forward to
accost the child, and ask if her mother had yet
returned.



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 37

“Yes, thank you, Miss,” said she, dejectedly ;
“my mother came home soon after you were
here this morning, but she is very angry with
me for crying so much.”

There was, besides her uncommon beauty, an
appearance of dejection and timidity about this
poor child, which, joined to a look of ill health,
interested Mrs Menden greatly, and made her no
longer wonder at the compassion which she had
excited in her daughters. The strong resem-
blance she bore to Liddy Dillon confirmed the
supposition of her being the child of that per-
son ; and, taking the little girl by the hand, she
desired to be led into the house to her mother.

On entering the cottage, she saw a young .
woman sitting at work. It was Liddy, but so
altered in appearance, that ifshe had not imme-
diately recognised her mistress, Mrs Menden
could scarcely have believed her to be the once
blooming and happy girl whom she remembered
as the most deserving and most esteemed at-
tendant that had ever been about her person.

They had been nursed on the same milk, had
lived together from infancy in the same house,
and had never been separated until a few months
before they both married. They had never met
since that time; but this attachment, which
arose, on one side, from esteem and confidence,
and, on the other, from gratitude for uniform
kindness, was stronger and more lasting than is



38 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

often felt by persons of equal rank, who live
amidst the dissipations of the world. Mrs Men-
den, therefore, met her foster sister with all the
affection of an old friend. She condoled with
her upon the death of her good old mother,
which had taken place shortly before her return ;
and asked kindly for her husband and brother,
who, she had heard, belonged to’ the same regi-
ment.

They had been killed in battle, on the same
day, Liddy said ; and, scarcely able to articulate
more, she pointed to Ally, declaring she was now
the only comfort left to her on earth.

“ T hope, for my sake, you will try to forget
whatever displeased you in her conduct this
morning, and grant her your forgiveness,” said
Mrs Menden, greatly shocked, and anxious to
change the current of Liddy’s thoughts,

She promised to comply with this request, and
instantly granted the little penitent’s pardon.
“ But, Ally,” she said, embracing her, whilst ac-
costing Louisa, to whom she had not before
spoken, “ this dear young lady must never be
so kind to you again, unless you try to bear your
troubles, whatever they may be, with more pa-
tience than she saw you do this morning.”

Louisa vouched for her little favourite’s future
good conduct, and soon after drew her away to
present her with the offering she had brought.

Mrs Menden congratulated the poor widow on



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 39

her daughter’s prepossessing manner and appear-
ance, and expressed her belief that the little girl
would grow up a blessing to her.

“ She would be, thank God,” replied Liday,
“all that my heart could wish, if it were not
that her health is delicate ; and that the many
frightful scenes it has been her lot to witness,
have given a fearfulness and melancholy to her
character, quite unnatural at her age, and of
which, I fear, she will hardly ever get the
better.”

Mrs Menden confessed she had perceived this
delicacy, and apparent dejection ; and acknow-
ledged it might require a mother’s utmost skill
and attention to overcome both. “ But all our
trials, dear Liddy, are blessings in disguise ; and
I cannot help considering it an advantage, that
your child should now require such constant care,
as must keep you from brooding over your own
afflictions, and induce you to suppress every feel-
ing, the sight of which might increase her me-
lancholy.

“It isa proof of the watchful kindness of God,
that, along with our heaviest afflictions, he al-
ways sends such motives to exertion, as will, if
duly attended to, help to support us under their
weight.

‘* Pious resignation, and a grateful sense of the
mercy and wisdom of whatever He does, can
make us all submit, without murmuring, to his
will ; but it is only by strong active exertion,



AO THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

and constant suitable occupation, that we can
support a cheerful appearance under our afflic-
tions,

“ You know, Liddy, this was always the opi-
nion of your excellent mother,—an opinion
which helped to support her under all her severe
trials ; and, I am sure, you will not now neglect
to follow her example.”

Liddy, with tears, declared there was nothing
she more earnestly wished, than to follow her
mother’s example in all things ; but along with
the strength of her body, she had, she said, so
completely lost all power over her mind, that she
doubted her capability of fulfilling the duties she
had still to perform.

Mrs Menden urged every consideration which
religion could suggest to cheer and comfort her,
until the hour approached which obliged them
to return home,

** You must come to me to-morrow,” said she,
kindly pressing her hand at parting. “ Bring
your little girl along with you, and we will con-
sult together on the best plan for the recovery -
her health and spirits.”

She then called Louisa, and, having desired
Ally to bring her mother, without fail, to Men-
den Park next day, took leave, with a kindness
and cordiality which were not the least accept-
able part of the consolation she offered.

Arrived at the garden gate, on their return
home, they stopped for a moment to observe

7
Â¥



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 41

Emily, who (stretched at full length on a leathern
carpet, which was part of her garden apparatus)
lay weeding her last flower-bed with more dili-
gence than they had ever seen her exhibit
before.

“ Shall I help you, Emily ?” said Louisa,
running close to her side, before she suspected
they had returned.

“Oh, Louisa!” cried she, starting, but scarcely
looking up; “ I am sorry you are come home
before I have finished my task. How fast you
must have walked to be here so soon !”

“‘ Soon, Emily ?” repeated her sister ; “ I as-
sure you we have been three full hours away,
by mamma’s watch, and I thought we had been
much longer, for we walked very slowly ; but
may I not help you to get up this vile bishop’s
weed ?”

“ No, no, I thank you, Louisa, I must do it all
myself,” said the little girl, putting her sister
gently away. “ To be sure, it is a sad trouble-
some job, and I fear I have pulled up many of
my seedlings ; but I have been thinking all the
time, that this evening will come into my mind
when I am going to make what mamma calls a
rash vow; and then it will certainly prevent
me ever taking another, or ever being so cross
again, as I was to-night.”

“If it do so, my love, I am sure you will
never regret any part of it,” said Mrs Menden.

_ Emily wheeled round at this unexpected re-



42 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

mark, “ She said my love,” she whispered to her-
self, “and I know by her voice she is not
angry ;” and then she added aloud, shaking the
mould from her hands as well as she could, “ Oh,
mamma! I shall not regret any thing,—I shall
not regret the vow, or the loss of the walk, or
any thing else,—if you are not displeased with
me.”

“TI was displeased with you, very much in-
deed, Emily ; and am still vexed that you pos-
sess so little self-ecommand; but since you are
anxious to repair your faults, I will endeavour
to forget the frettish child I left behind me, and
I shall hope never to see so unwelcome a guest
at Menden Park again,” said Mrs Menden, stoop-
ing to embrace her child.

“ I will not promise, but I will try, mamma,”
said Emily, forgetting her dirty hands, and clasp-
ing them round her mother’s neck; “ and I
think I never shall be cross again, for inddee it
has made me very unhappy.”

“I trust you never will, my love ; you know
not how unhappy it made me too.” Her mother
then seated herself in the little summer-house, to
wait until she had done her task.

Mrs Menden delighted in seeing her children
cultivate their garden, and took pains to procure
them flowers, and to afford them as much assist-
ance as she could in that innocent and healthful
occupation ; she did not profess to be a botanist
herself, nor aid she desire the title for her girla,



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 43

but sne wished that they should make themselves
acquainted with the names and properties of ail
the plants with which they met. This would,
she knew, at once strengthen their memories,
and give them a habit of minute investigation,
which might be useful to them in after life. She
was, therefore, glad to find their taste, in this re-
spect, agree with her wishes, and perceived with
pleasure that they had already acquired all the
knowledge of the vegetable world which she was
able to give.

To stimulate them to a farther pursuit of this
study, she had lately made them a present of a
book called “ Berkenhout’s Synopsis,” and taught
them how to find out there the name of every
British plant they met with. She engaged never
to refer to this book herself, and promised them
a premium for every new flower, of which they
could in future teach her the name.

Many premiums had already been won, and
some lost, (for the prize was forfeited whenever
the name of the flower was forgotten,) and the
girls had now no greater amusement, than in
collecting a heap of weeds at every different stage
of their growth, and trying to puzzle their
mamma with them.

She had not been many minutes seated in the
arbour, when Emily finished the task she had
imposed on herself; and springing from her
knees, something in the attitude of a kangaroo,
she shook the clay from about her, and called



44 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

on her sister to come and admire her garden, de-
claring there was not a single weed left in it.
Louisa laid down a little plant which she had
just brought to shew her mother, and ran to
seize the wheelbarrow with which the indefa-
tigable Emily was preparing to carry off her
weeds ; “ You have performed your vow com-
pletely, Emily,” she said, “and you must be
very tired, so let me wheel away this rubbish
for you ; and here,” she added, “ take a hand-
ful of weeds, and try to puzzle mamma, until I
have done.”

Emily thanked her sister, but looked timidly
towards the arbour for permission, not daring to
move until she saw her mother’s hand held out
in full token of reconciliation. She then sprang
to her side, and having collected a large handful
of plants, instantly began her efforts to win a
premium.

She had, however, little chance of success, for
the same plants had come frequently under re-
view before, and she was about to fling them all
away in despair, when she perceived on the seat
beside her the little flower which Louisa had laid
down there. “I shall win a premium now,”
thought she. “ Mamma does not know this weed,
I am sure, nor can Louisa either, else she would
have shewn it to me.” Away she ran into the
house for Berkenhout, but she was in too great
haste to examine the book with the necessary
care and patience, and her mother presently saw



THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 45

her return with the Synopsis in her hand, look-
ing very much disappointed.

“Well, Emily,” she said, “ I see you have
found some plant which is new to you; have
you discovered its name ?”

“ No, mamma, I cannot find it out, though I
have looked all over the book for it.”

“ Looked all over the book, Emily, in scarcely
two minutes !|”

“I mean that I have looked in every place
where I should be likely to find the description
of this plant ; but it is certainly not in the book,
and I am quite sure it is some new flower just
sprung up, that nobody ever heard of before.”

“ But, Emily, there is nothing new under the
sun! there is no such thing as a new flower
just sprung up, that nobody ever heard of be-
fore.”

“ Oh, mamma, do you not remember Mr Per-
kins, the Dutch gardener, last summer bringing
you a great number of plants which he said were
all quite new ?”

“I do remember his bringing me flowers,
which he said were new in this country, but
they were made along with all other things by
God Almighty at the beginning of the world,
and there never was any thing formed since that
time.”

“ Then, mamma, what did Mr Perkins mean by
saying héxcould make new flowers himself ?”

“ He spoke improperly, for he only meant that



46 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

he could give some flowers a different colour
from that which they originally possessed; a
thing which is often done.”

“Oh! how, mamma ?”

“ By putting them into an artificial soil, which
will either increase or diminish the proportion of
iron natural to the plant: you know, I believe,
that iron is the ingredient which gives colour to
flowers,”

‘“ Yes, mamma, I remember your telling me
so once; and when Mr Perkins comes back, I
will make him teach me how to prepare the ar-
tificial soil, and I will change the colour of all
my flowers, and surprise Lucy Onslow, when
she comes to see us, with blue pinks, and black
snow-drops, and scarlet blue-bells,—oh! how
much I wish she was here now. I suppose, too,
he could tell me the name of this little plant,”
she added, again looking over the Synopsis ;
“but here comes Louisa, she also will wonder
what it is.”

Louisa did not wonder: she had discovered
the plant some days before, when her mother
and sister were engaged at lessons, but had quite
forgotten it from that time until she came into
the garden this evening. A wish then arising in
her mind that she might win something which
would be useful to Ally Fisher, brought the
flower to her recollection, and she had just
gathered a sprig of it to shew to Mrs Menden,
as her sister finished her task.





THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 47

On seeing the flower, and the Synopsis together
in Emily’s hand, she felt at first a little morti-
fied, but the annoyance passed quickly from her
mind. “It is better,” thought she, “ that Emily
has got the premium ; it will put her into good
spirits again, after her disappointment this even-
ing.”

“ Well, Emily,” she good-humouredly said,
‘“ what have you won by that pretty little flower
in your hand ?”’

“ I have not won any thing, Louisa, for I can-
not find its name any where in the book.”

Louisa hesitated, but, after a few seconds, said,
“ Did you look among the chickweeds, Emily ?
I think it is like some of them ;” and as her
sister held the book, she turned over the leaves
towards the place, where she had before, after a
long search, found the description, and then sat
down,

Emily drew her finger along the lines as she
read, and at last joyfully exclaimed, “ Yes, yes,
here it is ; this must be the very flower I hold
inmy hand. Here, mamma, take it, and listen
if this is not the exact description: just listen,
mamma :—Stem and branches small, and spread-
ing on the ground like grass ; flowers very small,
and of a greenish white ; corolla of four petals ;
calyx of four leaves.”

“That is certainly the plant in my hand,
- Emily ; now, let me hear its name,” said Mrs
Menden. |



48 | THER TRIAL OF SKILL.

“ Pearl-wort chicxweed, or moss-like pink,”
cried Emily, laying the book on her mother’s
lap, and dancing about the arbour in ecstacy.

“ Now, dear mamma, perhaps you will grant
me something as a premium, which I have been
wishing for all the evening.”

Mrs Menden expressed her readiness to give
the premium ; “ but, Emily,” she said, “I fear
this cannot be the plant Berkenhout means, for
he says the moss-pink grows on old walls, or dry
sandy soil.”

“ Dear me,” interrupted Emily, “ and this must
have grown in my ranunculus bed, where I
pulled up all those weeds. O what a disappoint-
ment !”

“ That is the flower Berkenhout means,” said
Louisa : “ you will find it is, mamma, and Emily
is quite right.”

‘How can that be, Louisa? you know the
flower must answer the description perfectly ;
and here is a great difference in one particular.”

“ Yet,” replied Louisa, colouring, “ I know
well it is the same flower: I can shew it to you,
mamma, growing on the walls of the ivy tower
at the foot of the garden.”

“ Oh! thank you, dear Louisa,” cried Emily,
quite satisfied that it had from thence made its
way into her garden ; and again thinking her-
self secure of her premium.

Mrs Menden guessed the truth, and, unwilling
to frustrate her eldest daughter’s kind intention,



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«1 finished my petticoat,” said she, “after you went away
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THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 49

she took the flower, which had excited so much
curiosity, hope, and fear, and held it in her hand,
as if anxious to investigate its beauties, and make
herself acquainted with its peculiar characteris-
tics, so as to determine for herself if it corres-
ponded with the definition of the Pearl-wort
chickweed, in “ Berkenhout’s Synopsis of British
plants,” to which her daughters had referred it.

While thus engaged, seemingly in investigat-
ing the minute features of the delicate little
plant in her hand, Mrs Menden was watching
the expressions of the two girls’ features, so
strongly indicative at the moment of their dif-
ferent characters. After a brief pause she re-
plied by asking Emily what premium she wished
to have. |

“I finished my petticoat,” said she, “after
you went away this evening, mamma, and I
wish very much you would make up for this
night’s disappointment, by letting me take it to
Ally before breakfast to-morrow morning.”

“You must choose some other premium,
Emily; I cannot grant this; for you know 1
never allow you to receive a remuneration for
any loss which your own misconduct brings
upon you.”

Emily hung down her head, abashed at hav-
ing forgotten this wise rule ; but she submitted
to the decision with good humour.

The party then returned to the house. Louisa
recounted all that had been lost during the walk,,

D



50 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

and Emily heard, with pleasure, that Ally
Fisher and her mother were to pay them a visit
at the Park next day.

In the morning Mrs Menden made a collec-
tion of whatever clothes and books she thought
would be most useful to Ally, and desired the
girls to have them ready to give her.

The moment the little girl arrived, they ran to
conduct her into a room where their offering
was prepared, and scarcely would allow their
mother time to accost her, until they presented
their various gifts.

All were thankfully received by their little
visiter, but she appeared more delighted with
some of the books, than with any other part of
the donation.

“The ‘ Son of a Genius,’ by Mrs Hofland,”
she said aloud, as she read the title of one;
“that will do nicely to read to my mother in
the evenings. I am sure she never saw it.”

“ It isa very beautiful story, and would do
nicely to read to any one,” said Mrs Menden ;
“ but who taught you to read so well, Ally ?”

“ My mother taught me every thing I know,
ma’am ; and when we were with the regiment,
daddy Fisher, and daddy Dillon, used to teach
me, too, every night when they came in from
guard,”

“ Had you two daddies, Ally ?” asked Emily,
with surprise: “ I have but one.”

“Thad two, Miss,” she answered, in a low





THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 51

voice, while tears gushed to her eyes ; and stoop-
ing forward, as if afraid her mother should hear
her, “ I had two once; but they are both dead :
they were killed together by the French in one
day.”

Emily, repenting that she had asked the ques-
tion, remained silent; and Louisa, wishing to
divert Ally’s attention, took up another book,
and recommended it also for her mother’s
amusement,

Ally took it from Louisa’s hand, and, having
read the title page, gazed a few moments at the
outside, then cautiously turned over the leaves
as if afraid of some disappointment. At length,
appearing to have satisfied herself, she cried out
in the greatest delight, “ It is, it is my own
book,—‘ Lazy Laurence,’ ‘ The White Pigeon,’
* Simple Susan.—Oh! I never will lose it
again ;” and she wrapped it carefully up in her
apron.

“Where had you that book before, Ally ?”
asked Emily.

“JT had it in France, Miss, but I thought it
was lost when my mother grew sick there.”

“Dear me,” said Emily, “ how did you get
this little book all the way in France ? perhaps
it is not the same you mean.”

“ Indeed, Miss, it is the very same,” said the
little girl, holding it fast ; “ the Captain brought
it to me himself from London, the last time he
came home to the regiment.”



52 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

“ What captain, Ally ?”

“ Captain Chrestone, Miss, our own Captain,
that was killed,” said the child, her eyes again
filling with tears.

The girls, vexed that they had unluckily led
to another subject which distressed their little
favourite, procured leave to take her into the
garden, and spared no pains in trying to amuse
her and make her forget her sorrow.

When they were gone, Mrs Menden inquired
into the particulars of Captain Chrestone’s death,
feeling a deep interest in all which related to
that event, from having known him intimately
herself, and also from having witnessed the
affliction into which Lady Onslow had been
thrown by his loss, |

Liddy, whose family had lived under his es-
pecial care from the time she had first joined the
regiment, was well disposed to speak on the sub-
ject. She told her mistress how his death had
occasioned one of the shocks which had so much
affected her poor little girl. “ He was,” she
said, “ the friend and favourite of every creature
in the regiment ; but his kindness to herself, her
husband, brother, and child, was more than he
could ever have been repaid in this world.”

“ It happened, that the very morning he was
killed, when all was bustle and confusion in the
camp, from the expectation of a speedy engage-
ment, Ally, who loved him as if he had been her
equal, was standing with some other children,





THE SOLDIER 8 RETURN. 53

looking at a fine ox which the sutler was about
to purchase, when the animal, enraged by its
confinement, broke loose amongst the crowd, and
injured many of the people. Captain Chrestone,
who, with some of his friends, had been stand-
ing by, tried, like every one else, to get out of the
way ; but hearing the terrified shriek of a child,
he stopped, and saw Ally fallen to the ground,
and the ox rushing towards her. He never in
his life thought of himself, when he knew an-
other to be in danger,” said Liddy, “ and he im-
mediately turned upon the enraged creature,
struck it such a blow across the forehead with
his sword, that the animal staggered a few paces
back, and then, tearing up the earth in its fury,
ran forward, and left my child unhurt. Her
preserver snatched her into his arms, half dead
with terror, and carried her home to me, quite
happy at having saved her life, He had her
still by the hand, standing at the door of our
tent, and was trying to make her forget her
alarm, when the drum, which we had all been
expecting, beat to arms ; and, bidding me be of
good courage, for that, with the help of God, he
would bring my husband and brother safe back
to me again that night, he hurried away ; and
the next minute we heard his voice echoing over
the hills while he mustered his men to the line.
“ Many a day had I stood watching for the
sound of that voice, which I knew among a
thousand the moment it reached my ears ; for he



54 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

always used to give three cheers when he ap-
proached the camp, if he was bringing all the
men of his own company safe home to their
wives and children. When the troops marched
off, I took my station with Ally on one of the
highest hills in view,” continued Liddy, “ until
evening fell, and the firing ceased, when I gave
her in charge to a woman, whose husband was
on duty in the camp, and then I hastened away,
- as was my usual custom, to meet the men on
their return from the field.

“My heart boded no good when I saw them
advance, and heard no cheering voice announcing
their approach. Already I fancied myself a
widow,” said the afflicted creature, bursting into
sorrow, “ but my husband and brother were both
among the few privates of our company who
escaped that day unhurt ; and of all the officers,
our brave Captain alone was missing. The men,
who had at first some hopes he might have been
carried in wounded to the camp, would not rest
till they returned to the field to look for him ;
and, thinking I might be of use, in case they
should be so happy as to find him still alive, I,
for the first time in my life, followed them to the
scene of slaughter. After many hours of fruit-
less search, we were preparing to return home,
and had passed a spot which we all fancied we
had examined before, when sounds of feeble,
convulsive sobbing, which seemed to come from
some one on the ground, induced us to go back



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 55

and try if we could afford any assistance. You
may imagine our horror, and astonishment, dear
madam, when we discovered my poor child lying
beside the lifeless body of her benefactor, with
her arms clasped round his neck, as if he had
been still alive !”

Mrs Menden, shuddering, inquired how such
a circumstance could have happened.

“ T little suspected,” replied Liddy, “ that the
woman I had left her with, was one of those
wretched beings who support themselves by plun-
dering the slain ; and still less did I think that
she would bring a child of four years old along
with her to such a place: but so it was. Ally
had willingly followed her, in the hope of find-
ing me, and chance had directed them to the
very spot which we had sought for in vain.”

“* May be he is only sleeping, father,’ said
Ally, when William tried to lift her away from
the body : but it was God’s will that he should
never awake more in this world. A ball had
passed through his heart ; and we had at least
the comfort of knowing, that he had not suffered
a lingering or painful death. We felt, however,
as if the credit and courage of the whole regi-
ment was gone, now its best and bravest officer
was slain.

“William was obliged to carry Ally home ;
she trembled so exceedingly she could not walk,
and that night she shewed the first symptoms of
debility and weakness, from which she has never



56 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

since recovered. My husband got some assistance
to bring the remains of our beloved Captain to
our tent, where every soldier in the company
watched over him by turns, until the surgeon
had the body sent home, to be buried in its native
earth.”

Mrs Menden, whose thoughts were led by this
recital to her own husband and friends, who
were still subject to the same dreadful vicissitudes
of war, was unable to restrain her tears, as she
expressed a wish, that, should any of them fall,
they might meet with equal respect and affection
from those about them.

“ May Heaven preserve you from the grief of
losing any of them!” cried Liddy ; “ but, oh !”
she added fervently, “oh, may you be preserved
from the horror of losing them all in one short
moment, as I lost mine !”

After a pause, she continued, with a little
more composure,—“ But they were loved and
regarded by all who knew them: they were
good, and brave, and generous both to friends
and foes. They trusted in their Saviour, and
they are now reaping the rich reward he has_
prepared for them in a better world.”

“Yes, Liddy,” said Mrs Menden, “that they
trusted in Him who was able to save, must indeed
have been a happy recollection for you ; and the
certainty of meeting them again, where there are
no wars nor sorrows, if you persevere in the same
path of religious trust and resignation, will, I



THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 57

hope, enable you to bear up under your severe
afflictions.”

Liddy tried to check her tears, declaring that
she felt relief in talking to one who listened to
her with so much compassion; and then con-
tinued her narrative.

“There were many sufferers in the camp, as
well as myself, the day of the battle of .
Out of eight hundred men who went from our
regiment into the field, only two hundred and
seven returned, and of our own company only
three. These poor fellows could hardly speak
to me, when I inquired if ad their companions
were slain. At length they confessed that they
had seen my brother fall in the beginning of the
day ; and that scarcely an hour after, my husband
had been killed by a grape shot, while fighting
like a lion on the same spot.

“I waited for no other word, but ran off to
the field of battle, not knowing what I did; and
that night,” said the poor widow, sobbing as if
her heart would burst, “I walked through the
field with as little compassion for the slain that
were lying there, as if I had no feeling left. My
whole soul was fixed on one object. I thought
only of finding the remains of my husband and
brother, and the bodies which were not clothed
in the uniform of our regiment, excited no sensa-
tion in my mind. I went over the ground again
and again, still busied in my fruitless search, till
morning began to dawn, when I heard the muf-





58 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

fled drum beat for the purpose of mustering the
men to bury their dead.

“I remember seeing them advance, with the
surgeon at their head; but I know nothing of
what happened to me after that for many months,
when one day I awoke from sleep, and felt my-
self so weak and ill, that I had not power even
to ask where I was. I only knew my poor little
Ally, who leaned over me in the bed with a look
of such misery, that I burst into tears at the
sight. From that time, my health and reason,
which had been quite lost, began to return
together. I found I had been placed at a com-
fortable lodging, by the joint kindness of our
surgeon and his brother officers ; and that as all
my little property had been plundered after the
battle, they had raised a subscription for my
support during my illness, and made every neces-
sary arrangement with my hostess for the care
of myself and my child.

“ Whenever my strength was sufficiently re-
stored, this good woman procured me some
needle-work, by which I was able to support
myself, and after a long time, I earned as much
money as paid my passage to England, where I
landed only last week. I hastened as fast as I
could to my mother’s cottage, in the hope of
finding her alive. But, alas! she too was gone.
God was, however, gracious in sparing her the
sight of my afflictions. His blessed will be done!
I had refrained from writing to her, fearing the
news I had to communicate might imbitter her



i
THE SOLDIERS RETURN. 59

last moments; and I rejoice that she died in
ignorance of my fate.”

Mrs Menden again spoke comfort to her foster
sister, and relieved her mind from one subject of
uneasiness, by describing her mother’s death as
the happiest and most peaceful she had ever seen.

She then inquired, with friendly interest, into
her plans and future prospects of support. She
knew Liddy had received an education in every
useful part of information, little inferior to her
own ; that she was a good English scholar, an
excellent accomptant, and a clever workwoman.
But she found her now at a loss how to turn
these acquirements to account ; and heard with
concern, that she had not the means of procuring
shelter for herself or her child beyond the present
week, Her only surviving relation was farmer
Dillon, from whom her mother had rented her
little cabin, and who (as the only favour he could
afford to bestow) now allowed Liddy to inhabit
it, until he could find a better tenant.

“You need suffer no farther uneasiness on this
subject, Liddy,” said her kind mistress ; “ whilst
I have power to procure you a home, you shall
never want one ; and I hope, in a few days, I
shall be able to strike out some plan for you,
which will meet your approbation.”

They then went into the garden in search ot
the children. The moment Ally saw Liddy
approach, she ran to meet her, holding up a long
piece of straw plat, which the girls had taught



60 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

her to make : “ See mother,” cried she, “ what I
have learned to do; I shall be very soon able to
make a bonnet for you.”

“T am glad to find you have been so good, and
so well employed in my absence,” said her
mother; “you see it is possible to be very
happy for a little while without me, Ally.”

Mrs Menden asked the little girl if she should
like to go to school, and learn to do many useful
things for herself and her mother.

“Yes, ma’am, very much, if my mother would
stay with me.”

* But it would not be good for your mother
to stay there, though it would be very good for
you, Ally ; and I think you would find yourself
very happy at an excellent school, where I could
send you.”

Ally became alarmed: she drew close to her
mother’s side, and looking anxiously in her face,
said, while tears started to her eyes, “Is God
going to take you away, mother ?”

“No, Ally, do not look so much frightened, I
am not going away from you any where.”

“Then, you know you told me, after you
were so ill, that you would keep me with you
always, until God took you away to himself.”

Liddy promised to be faithful to her engage-
ment ; and Mrs Menden, seeing it was no time
to urge her proposal farther, after giving them
some refreshment, suffered them to depart.

In the course of the day, Louisa and Emily



THE SOLDIER 8 RETURN. 61

heard the particulars of Liddy’s story from their
mamma, and dreamed all night of nothing but
little Ally, and the thousand schemes they had
formed for her advantage. On the moment of
their awaking next morning, they crept to Mrs
Menden’s bedside, and having satisfied themselves
she was not asleep, eagerly ran to the window to
count, as was their daily custom, how many
new flowers were opened in their gardens below.

Emily no sooner drew up the curtain than she
pulled it down again, to shut out the prospect.

“Oh! how I hate a wet Sunday,” she cried ;
“Tt is raining in torrents, and we can neither go
to church, nor have a walk to see our poor pen-
sioners, nor get into our gardens this whole day.”

‘‘ Tf you cannot have any of those gratifications
to-day, Emily, I hope you will be satisfied with
others which are within your reach.”

“ But I was so sure of going to see the poor
woman to-day, mamma.”

“ And will it be a great misfortune, either to
you or to them, if you should not be able to go
until to-morrow, or even till the next day ?”

“Oh! no, mamma, not just a misfortune, but
it will certainly be a disappointment.”

“That I have no doubt of: but, my dear
child, you have not, I hope, quite forgotten your
catechism since last night ; you surely recollect
that we must have some disappointment, or /ittle
al, to bear every day of our lives; and I think
you will allow this is a very little one.”



62 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

Emily, blushing, acknowledged it was; and
resolved that she would try to think no more of
it. She then drew on her wrapper, and went
through the business with which she and her
sister had been taught the habit of commencing
every new day of their existence. That ended,
she set about dressing herself, but could not, or
rather did not, avoid frequently stealing to the
window, to watch if there were any sign of
improvement in the weather. At last, casting
her eyes on a timepiece which lay on her
mother’s toilet, she stood quite still, and ex-
claimed, “ I know, mamma, I shall be set in the
stocks to-day at breakfast, for I am not half
dressed yet, and more than seven of my twelve
minutes are gone.”

“Unless you wish to breakfast in them, you
had better not waste any more time in watching
the weather, or looking at the clock. Do not,
dear child, let one subject of vexation lead you
into another. If you exert yourself, you may
yet be dressed within your twelve minutes ; and
may also make the day, wet as it is, turn out
pleasantly. Come, Louisa, I see you are already
dressed ; and as I am not afraid of finding the
day too long, I wish to breakfast early.”

“ Well, what signifies one wet day ?” said
Emily, as the door closed after her mother and
sister. “I will not be cross, and I will exert
myself, and try, as mamma says, to make the
day turn out a pleasant one.”





ful

es

With | ee si aah *
‘it HO 4 ae

yeaa

intial: sais
4 ie Ai Srrite i
ire

Ur : G i MTT ea

tT Hil .

Na, my love, the books must be locked up tonight.
Pare &h







THE SOLDIER'S RETURN 63

Emily did exert herself, and we are happy to
say, she did not breakfast in the stocks;- but
how the day turned out, remains to be described.

When the repast was over, as the rain continued
to fall, she collected some of their favourite books
out of their Sunday library, and sat down to
read along with her mamma and sister.

“T wonder if little Ally Fisher would like
these Sunday stories as well as we do, mamma;
I wish you would allow me to lend her one of
the volumes,” said she.

“You may take her one this evening, if you
please,’ said Mrs Menden; “and should the
weather grow fine, you might stay to make her
read you one of the tales, and observe.if she
likes it.”

“Oh, yes! indeed, mamma, I do please it;
and if the evening should not be fine, I can do
it to-morrow, as you told me in the morning,
when I wanted to go and see the old woman.”

“No, my love, the books must be locked up
to-night: I will not, you know, take them out
for you to-morrow; on our next holiday, how-
ever, you know you will have my entire sanction
to take them.”

“The next holiday! dear mamma; why must
I wait so long?”

“ Because, Emily, I do not lightly break
through a rule that has been made with your
entire approval, and entered into by all as a



64 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

determination of our future ‘mode of procedure.
These beautiful books, you are aware, were se-
lected with a view to your amusement and in-
struction on those days specially set apart for
relaxation; nor can I allow a rule thus finally
established to be broken through, even for your
little favourite’s sake.”

“ But, dear mamma, if I did not look at it my-
self, but only lent it.”

“You know, Emily, that our agreement im-
plied that they were not to be meddled with for
any reason whatever. But you have other books
that will please Ally quite as well, and these you
have full liberty to give if you wish.”

Emily seemed to reflect, and then said, “I
think, mamma, it could do no great harm to
break through the rule this one time, for little
Ally’s sake.”

“ But, Emily, my longer experience teaches
me that there is harm in breaking through any
rule, however trifling, even once, unless it be on
some unavoidable occasion. You will never, my
child, be a wise or steady character, if you think
otherwise. I would, however, do a great deal
for little Ally’s sake; and as I have not yet paid
the last premium you won from me, I will, if
you wish it, get some other equally nice book
that you may give it her when you next meet.”

“ Dear mamma, I am so much obliged to you!
I do, indeed, wish it very much; and [| will tell
Ally how I won the premium, and I will teach



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 65

her how to learn the names of the flowers, and
how to observe the beauties that are discoverable
even in the smallest and most inattractive weeds
that we used to think quite contemptible and
unworthy of our notice.”

Mrs. Menden smiled as she replied, “ You
may instruct your little friend Ally as far as you
are able, in the knowledge of Botany, but I am
afraid both the teacher and the pupil will find
their memories deficient, in attempting to over-
take such comprehensive studies as you are pro-
posing immediately to introduce little Ally
to.”’

“ But dear mamma,” replied Emily, “I will
teach her to know the pearlwort chickweed, and
will paint a sprig of it in the first leaf of her
book, and then, I am sure, neither she nor I will
ever forget it.”

“And I hope also, Emily, you will never
forget that you owe this gratification entirely to
the kind forbearance of your sister.”

‘Do I, mamma ?” said Emily in surprise.

“You do,indeed. She had just pulled up the
flower, and brought it into the arbour, when you
called her to look at your garden. She laid it
down on the seat where you found it, only that
she might go and assist you. Whenshe returned
and saw you in possession of the plant, I per-
ceived that she did not like to cause you a second
disappointment that evening ; and you may re-
member how readily she taught you to find tlre

E



66 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

name of the flower, and permitted you to win
the premium, which she might have obtained
herself.”

Kmily’s eyes filled. “Oh, mamma! I wish
you had given it to Louisa; she deserved it a
great deal more than I did.”

“Then I should have disappointed her kind
intention of gratifying you.”

“Well, mamma, I wish you would give it to
her now,” said Emily.

“No, my love, it is not necessary to offer her
any reward : actions of this kind always bring
their own recompense. Louisa has been already
sufficiently repaid by the satisfaction which dis-
interested conduct always produces in the person’s
own mind, and by the increased affection which
it procures from all other persons around them.
You may, therefore, keep the books for your
little friend Ally : I shall be happy to see you
give her any thing which may be useful or
amusing. I never saw a child whom I thought
more deserving of kindness, or more capable of
receiving instruction.”

“Then, mamma, you like Ally as well as we
do ; for I suppose it is of her you are speaking,”
cried Louisa, who at this moment entered the
parlour.

“Yes Louisa, it is,” said Emily.

“Now, mamma, do you not think she is the
prettiest child you ever saw; and do you not
agree with us, that she could not be very naughty ?



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 67

“Do you mean because she is pretty, Emily ?”

“No, not just because she is pretty,” said she,
gazing at her sister; “yet I think pretty people
are always very good.”

“Do you think so too, Louisa ?”

“T do mamma ; at least, all the pretty people
whom I know, I like very much.”

“T will not ask you to give up this opinion,”
said Mrs Menden, smiling ; “ I only request you
to observe whether or not you have any founda-
tion for it.”

“Mamma,” said Louisa, “I think papa is one
of the handsomest men I ever saw, and I am
sure he is the best.”

“It happens, that he is quite as good as he is
handsome; but I myself know many perséns
equally virtuous, who are less well looking : his
being good, therefore, cannot be owing to his
being handsome.”

The girls were silent for some time ; at length
Emily asked her mother if she recollected what
Sir Robert Onslow had said to her the last day
they all went to Onslow Hall ?

Mrs Menden remembered perfectly many
things Sir Robert had said.

“Then, mamma, you know that was the first .
time we had seen his fine new house; and do
you not recollect his lamenting the expense he
had been obliged to go to, in buying furniture
suitable to it, and his saying that it was necessary



68 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

always to fit out a place so that the inside and
the outside might correspond ?”

“T recollect,” replied Mrs Menden, “that you
then told me, you did not understand what he
said, for you thought the word ‘ correspond’
meant writing letters.”

“Yes, mamma, but you told me it meant to
match, or suit ; and that was exactly what made
me remember the whole conversation so well,
Now, I think that God, who is much wiser than
Sir Robert Onslow, or any body else, would
never make people with beautiful outsides, and
ugly insides, that would not match or suit.”

“There is some ingenuity in your argument,
Emily,” said her mother, smiling, “ but no sound
reasoning. You are right in saying God would
not make people with ugly insides, for that he
does not do. Although He forms our bodies,
He does not, to use your phrase, fit up our minds,
but having provided us with materials,—that is,
given us intellects or implements to work with,
—calls on us to furnish them for ourselves.
Neither did Sir Robert Onslow, you know,
furnish his own house,—he only provided the
materials, and gave directions how it was to be
done ; and you may remember hearing him say,
that he at first got a careless upholsterer, who
made such awkward furniture, as quite disfigured
his handsome rooms. He was, therefore, obliged
to take down all this man had done, and hire



THE SOLDIERS RETURN. 69

another, who, from the same materials, fitted the
apartments up in the beautiful manner you have
seen. Now those persons who take no pains in
furnishing their minds, and make no good use of
the intellects God has given them, may be com-
pared to the workman who disfigured Onslow
Hall. I could point out to you many very hand-
some people, who turn their talents to such bad
account, that their good appearance only makes
the ugliness and unsuitableness of their minds
more disgusting.”

Emily acknowledged that her argument was
turned against herself; but she continued to
converse on the subject until the bell rang for °
assembling the domestics to join in the service
of the day.

It chanced that one of the lessons for the
morning was the sixth chapter of Saint Mark,
and when Emily found herself again alone with
her mother and sister, she recurred to the topic
on which they had just before been speaking :
“T think,” said she, “the daughter of Herodias
must have been very beautiful, when she could
please Herod and ali his court so much, merely
by dancing before them.”

Mrs Menden replied, that she was indeed famed
in history for her beauty. “But what think
you of her character, Emily ?”

“Ido not recollect hearing any thing of her
character, mamma.”

“But can you not form some opinion of 1 ?”



70 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

Emily declared she could not. Louisa, however,
after a little reflection, said she must have been
avery wicked girl, “for you recollect, Emily,
she carried the head of John the Baptist herself
to her mother, and I am sure she could not have
done that if she had not been very cruel.”

“ Oh !” cried Emily, “ I never thought of that ;
I wonder I did not think of it before ; that is
quite enough to prove that her beauty did not
make her amiable : she must, indeed, have been
a very cruel creature. Mamma, what character
in the Bible do you like best ?”

“TI do not think I ever yet decided on that
point ; but you, I suppose, approve most of
Absalom. His beauty was greater than that of
any other person mentioned in Scripture.”

“Oh, mamma! do you think I could like such
a shocking creature, who rebelled against his
own father? No; the person I like best is
Joseph. I am sure no one could find a fault in
his character.”

“That is strange, for I do not recollect that
his looks are particularly commended.”

“T see I must give up that opinion, mamma,”
said Emily; “and yet I think Joseph must
have been at least well-looking, for I heard you
once say, mamma, that good temper makes every
body handsome ; and he was so gentle and for-
giving, he must have been good tempered ; and
then, too, he was so kind and affectionate to his
father and his brothers, that I suppose it made



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 71

his eyes sparkle, and his mouth smile and look
nice, the way papa looks, Louisa, when he is
pleased with any thing we say Or do.”

“You make me believe,” said Mrs Menden
smiling, “that Joseph must ‘have been handsome ;
and I fully agree with you in thinking him at
least the finest character in the Old Testament.
He could not indeed have possessed so many
eminent virtues without their giving a sweet and
pleasant expression to his features, however rough
they might have been ; but I now recollect that
we are told he was well-favoured.”

Emily expressed great delight at hearing her
mother approve of her opinion ; and their con-
versation was at that moment joyfully interrupted
by the arrival of a large packet from Colonel
Menden, which they had been for some time
expecting. His letter was written in good
spirits, and contained so many pleasant remarks
and anecdotes of the country he was in, that
dinner was announced before the party were
half satisfied with reading it.

Emily wondered very much that her papa
did not say whether or not he would allow them
to go to him, since there seemed no chance of his
soon returning ; but Louisa reminded her, that
their mother’s letter, making a joint request from
them all on that subject, had only been written
a few days before, and that their papa could not
have received it before he sent away the present
packet.



72 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

In the evening Mrs Menden told the children
she intended to place Liddy Fisher in the new
porter's lodge, for which she had been so long
looking for a worthy tenant, and that she would
consign to their care the task of preparing it -for
her reception.

This information threw the little girls into a
state of perfect delight ; for, added to the pleasure
of providing a home for Liddy and her daughter,
they. felt the happiness of knowing that their
mother would not have promised them so great
an indulgence, unless she had been thoroughly
satisfied with their conduct.

When their glee had a little subsided, they
inquired in what manner the lodge was to *be
prepared ; and reminded their mother that there
was not any kind of furniture in it at the present
moment,

“Very true,” she replied, “but it is perfectly
dry and comfortable, and I mean that you should
fit it up yourselves with some of the discarded
furniture which is locked up in one of the offices,
and a few other articles which I can spare you
out of the house. The little garden is well
stocked with vegetables, and only requires to
have the walks cleaned ; so, if you think you
can prepare the place to-morrow morning, I will
give you a holiday to work at it, and in the
evehing you may go and bring home its new
mistress,”

“Oh, mamma !” cried Emily, leaping about



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 73

like a little mad creature, “how glad I am that
I am nobody's child in the whole world but
yours, for I am sure no other little girl is half
so happy,—except you, Louisa,” she added, “ and
you, I think, must be a great deal happier even
than I am, for you are a great deal better.”

“Indeed, Emily, I do not know why you
should say so,” said Louisa, “for I do not think
Iam either happier or better than yourself.”
And they both ran off to tell Saiphly all that
had passed.

When they were gone, Mrs Menden retired to
her own apartment to read her husband’s letter
over again, to return thanks for his present
safety, and to pray ror its long continuance ; for,
joyful as the letter had made her, it did-not
leave her without some anxiety on his account.

On coming down to tea, she found her daughters
still busied in farming plans for the next day’s
employment ; and, at their request, she promised
to leave the entire management and decoration
of the lodge to themselves. They might have
old William the butler, and their maid Saiphly,
at their command all the morning, she said, to
assist in their arrangements; and the only
stipulation was, that she should have the power
of altering whatever she thought wrong, before
Liddy was brought home.

When nine o’clock arrived, Emily, not yet
tired of discussing the subject, entreated leave to
sit up for half an hour longer



74 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

“What! and prolong this hateful wet Sun-
day ?” said her mother.

“Oh! indeed, mamma, this has been the plea-
santest day I ever spent ; and I resolved, when
you were reading prayers to night, that 1 would
never be afraid of a wet Sunday again.”

“Then I hope my child will remember in
whose presence she made the resolution, and try
to keep it,” said Mrs Menden, kissing her little
daughter, as she bade her good night.

The girls were soon in bed, and asleep. A
bright sun, darting through their window,
awoke them at six o’clock the following morn-
ing ; and great was their delight at the clear
blue sky, unspotted by a cloud, which presented
itself to their view, and promised them a fine day
for their undertaking.

Mrs Menden got up even earlier than usual, to
collect as much bedding, house linen, and wear-
ing apparel, as she could spare for their purpose ;
and the first part of the morning was spent,
according to Saiphly’s recommendation, in alter-
ing some of the things so as to suit Liddy’s new
establishment.

After breakfast, their mother conducted them
to the office where the old furniture was kept,
and allowed them to select whatever was neces-
sary.

“William,” she observed, “has been to the
village already, to purchase all the articles for
the kitchen, which I knew would be required ;



THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 75

and Saiphly and he will remove and place every
thing according to your directions.”

She then left them to the care of their two
good-natured attendants, who, as well as Am-
brose, the gardener, whom they had enlisted in
their service, were provided with full occupation
for that morning.

The quarter bell rang to summon them to dress
for dinner, just as their task was finished ; and
the repast was no sooner ended, than Mrs Menden
was led to the lodge, to give her opinion of what
had been done.

She found all arranged to her perfect satisfac-
tion, and was much pleased with the air of cheer-
fulness and comfort they had contrived to give
to every part of the house. In the sleeping room
an excellent bed stood, prepared for use, The
Sunday evening stories for Ally, some other
books, and a supply of clothes, with a good
stock of working materials, lay neatly spread on
the shelves of an open closet, in one corner of the
room ; and in the kitchen, where all had been
attended to with equal care, a table was laid out
for dinner ; and pots, well stored with victuals,
for a plentiful repast, std6d ready to be hung
upon the fire,

The children were then despatched on their
joyful embassy, and commissioned to present
Liddy with five pounds, which Mrs Menden sent
her in advance from the salary belonging to tlie
situation.



76 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

The ground was scarcely felt beneath their
feet as they flew across the fields to the cottage ;
and when they reached it, breathless with joy
and speed, they stopped not a moment to explain
their errand; but merely telling Liddy she was
wanted by their mother, and seizing Ally by
the hands, they ran with her towards the lodge
in silence.

Mrs Menden was still sauntering about the
avenue, when she saw them all return ; but she
did not hear the exclamation of joyful surprise
uttered by the little girl, when, stopping to admire
the roses and woodbine which thickly covered
its walls, she was informed by her two young
friends, that the house, the garden, and all the
pretty flowers about it, belonged to herself and
her mother.

Liddy looked as much surprised as her
daughter ; and when Louisa delivered Mrs Men-
den’s message as they led her through the house,
so well prepared for her reception, she could find
no words expressive of her feelings. But though
silent, even Emily saw that she was grateful ;
and if the girls were somewhat disappointed at
her not appearing mote elated by the gift, they
had ample satisfaction from Ally’s unconstrained
and artless rapture. At one moment she would
snatch a cloth and rub the chairs and tables,
already shining from the care of abler hands
than hers; then she would run and gather
flowers for her mother, flinging her arms around



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 77

her neck, and scarcely wait to give the intended
kiss, until some fresh object of delight caught
her eye, and called forth some equally strong
expression of her joy.

It was late before Louisa could persuade her
sister that it was time to return to their mamma;
but at last, assuring Liddy that they should
often see her, they hastened back to recount all
that had passed.

Every look, and word, and action of little Ally
was described with delight ; but Emily acknow-
ledged, with some chagrin, that Liddy did not
seem half so much gratified as she expected ; and
it required all Mrs Menden’s rhetoric to persuade
her that the poor woman was probably as much
rejoiced and as grateful as her daughter.

When tea was over, their mother left them to
get their lessons for the next day, and walked to
the lodge, in hopes of being able to cheer the
widow’s spirits, and turn her mind from the
painful reflections to which this change in her
circumstances, however desirable, might pro-
bably have given rise.

She found her sitting at the door, and evi-
dently in sorrow, whilst her daughter played at
some distance in the garden.

The good creature arose hastily, as she saw
her mistress approach, and wiping away the
tears from her eyes, met her with a smile of gra-
titude,

“ You have done too much for me, ma’am,”



78 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

she said ; “ so much, that I fear you will think
me a sad thankless creature, for appearing sor-
rowful in the midst of your bounty ; but,”

“ T will have no thanks, dear Liddy,” replied
Mrs Menden, “ and deserve none, since I have
only performed a duty which I am sure you
would have performed for me, had our situations
been reversed ; sit down, therefore, and let us be
silent on the subject of thanks, and enjoy this
sweet evening hour together. All I wish is, to
see you become a little more cheerful and
happy.”

*“* Indeed, dear madam, I try to become so, be-
cause I know it is my duty ; but I cannot,” said
Liddy, tears flowing afresh as she spoke, “ I can-
aot, especially this evening, get my poor husband
out of my thoughts for one moment. He was
more worthy than I am of such a situation as
this, and he would have been so happy here with
m e,””

“ He was, I know, worthy of a far better place,
and you have every reason to believe, that where
he now is, he is happier than he could be even
with you. I must not see you, Liddy, give way
to these feelings, which, however natural they
may be, are still, we know, improper; and yet
they are so difficult to suppress, that you must
ever look for aid to Him who can alone give you
strength to conquerthem, I trust, through His
assistance, I shall soon see you able to draw com-
fort from the attachment of ‘your child, and ‘the





THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 79

regard of your friends, amongst whom I wish
you ever to reckon me.” |

Liddy, with tears of heartfelt gratitude, ex-
pressed her sense of Mrs Menden’s kindness,
when Ally drew near, and perceived that her
mother had been in distress,

She immediately dropped a bunch of flowers
which she had been gathering, and ran into the
house, but presently returned with a volume of
stories in her hand which Emily had obtained
and already presented to her.

“ You have not seen this pretty book yet,
mother,” said she. “ I should not have left you
alone, and I[ will not do so again, but will sit
down and read you one of these new stories, if
you will let me, after the lady is gone.”

“ You shall read it for me to-morrow,” said
her mother, smiling affectionately on her ; “ but
you must now pick up all those flowers which
you have scattered about the door. I know you
will try to keep this place neat and orderly for

the lady and her daughters, who have been so —

kind to us both.”

Ally gave the book into her mother’s hand,
and began to pick up the flowers.

While she was collecting them, Liddy looked
into the stories, and, struck with some writing
in the,first page, could not help pouring forth
praises of the two little girls who were so kind
to her child. She held out the book to Mrs Men-



80 TIE TRIAL OF SKILL. ©

den, who saw written, in Emily’s hand, these
words,— )

* This is Ally Fisher’s book. It was procured
for her by Louisa Menden.’

_“ We have both reason to be grateful for many
blessings, Liddy ; but for none more than the
amiable dispositions of our children,” said Mrs
Menden, who then told her the circumstance by
which the stories had been obtained.

While she spoke, Ally brought forward the
bunch of flowers which she had collected from
the ground, and as she presented them to Mrs
Menden, abruptly asked if it was still her wish
that she should go to school.

“] wish you to do every thing which will
make you good and happy,” said Mrs Menden,
taking the flowers, and drawing the little girl to
her side.

“ Then I will go to school to-morrow, if you
please,” said Ally, firmly ; “ but I hope it will
not be to any place very far away.”

“No, Ally,” replied Mrs Menden, kissing her
cheek, “ it shall not be very far away ; you may
see the school-house, where I mean you should
go, in the opposite field: your mother can take
you to it herself, and will be able to superintend
your mstruction there, if she pleases. Then you
will learn how to take care of her, and to sup-.
port her should it be necessary, when she grows
old, and may require your aid.”





TIME SOLDIER'S RETURN. 1



The party hastened on deck.—See page 91.

Ally’s reply was interrupted by the appear-
ance of farmer Dillon, who, surprised at his
cousin’s long absence, had come to conduct her
home.

Mrs Menden, happy to see her looking a little
more cheerful than when they first met, was glad
to leave her under his care ; and left it to herself.
to tell him of her present situation.

Ally kept her resolution of attending the
school, and in a short time seemed not to. mind
the daily separation from her mother.

Mrs Menden was astonished at observing the
rapid progress she had made in the course of une
month, and found she had excited such a spirit
of emulation amongst the scholars as was of use
to them all,

F



8Y THE TRIAL OF SKILM.

Louisa and Emily were charmed at her im-
provement, On the first day of examination,
after she had entered, they returned in high
spirits from the school: and, instead of going
into the house with their mother, they ran off to
their gardens, which they were anxious to shew
in perfect order to some ladies who were to dine
at Menden Park that day.

Mrs Menden had gone into the drawing-room
to rest, and found on the table a packet from
her husband, giving such a gratifying answer to
the last letter she had written to him, that she
immediately went to seek her children, and com-
municate its contents to them.

What was her surprise and mortification, on
reaching the garden gate, to see Emily run, with
every indication of passion, and fling something
over the wall, while Louisa, in an agony of grief,
stood wringing her hands, as if some sad misfor-
tune had befallen her.

After gazing at them for some time in aston-
ishment, she, in a voice of marked displeasure,

demanded an explanation of what she saw
‘The culprits started at her voice.

“Oh, mamma!” cried Louisa, struggling to
suppress the sobs which she was now unable to
conquer, “ Emily has pulled up my beautiful
almond tree, and thrown it over the wall in a
passion,”

“ But, mamma, she broke mine first,” said
Emily, in a voice of equal anger.





THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. E3

“I broke yours quite by accident, when I
was taking away a weed, which was twisted
round it,” sobbed Louisa.

“ Ambrose would have given you another al-
mond tree, had you asked it, Emily,” said Mrs
Menden coldly ; “and yours, Louisa, beautiful
as it may have been, was scarcely worth such
sinful anger or such violent sorrow.”

“No, mamma, I know it was not,” sobbed
Louisa ; “ but I think Emily should not have
pulled up my tree, merely because I accidentally
broke hers.”

“ And I am sure she had no right to come
and pull up weeds or any thing else out of my
garden,” said Emily.

“The brothers of your favourite Joseph, had
no right to sell him to the Egyptians ; yet the
injury never drove him into the dreadful passion
of anger, Louisa—or the still more hateful crime
of revenge, Emily.”

“TI have this moment received a letter from
your father, which I had brought out to read to
you; but I am sorry to find that neither of you
deserve to hear it, nor are you worthy to spend
the day with me, or with the friends whom I
have invited to dinner: you will therefore re-
main in your room ; and on your conduct there,
throughout the day, and your patient endurance
of this punishment, will depend my forgiveness
of your misconduct, Louisa, to-night. For you,



84 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

Emily, I know not when you can expect my
pardon.”

She then left them, saying she would send
their maid to bring them from the garden. At
sight of her deep displeasure, their tears flowed
from such real sorrow, as quickly touched the
heart of their affectionate attendant ; but though
kind and indulgent to the children, Saiphly was
too obedient to her mistress, to attempt mitigat-
ing any punishment which she thought proper
to inflict. They followed her in silence to the
house, and as they passed through the dressing-
room, where their mamma was preparing for
dinner, found it difficult to retain that compo-
sure on which they knew her forgiveness partly
depended,

As soon as they were shut up in their own
apartment, Louisa’s sobs and grief were re-
doubled. Her spirits were naturally weaker
than those of her sister ; and in conformity with
her mother’s advice, to keep herself constantly
employed, when she found it difficult to conquer
a fit of crying, she ran to her baby-house, and
began to new model and arrange every thing in
it, with the hope of regaining her self-command,
She did not feel at first any interest in the work,
but by degrees perceived the benefit of her exer-
tion ; and by the time her arrangements were
finished, she had completely recovered her com-
posure.



9
THE SOLDIER 8 RETURN. 85

Emily, on the contrary, struck by the deep dis-
pleasure marked in her mother’s manner towards
her, sat like a picture of remorse, lost in tears of
penitence and sorrow, until her sister, pitying
her distress, at length asked her to join in some
employment which might amuse them both.

“ Suppose,” she said, “ we try to make the new
kind of dressing pincushion mamma has been so
long wishing for. Here are our work-boxes, and
here are all the things she gave us yesterday for
making the attempt.”

“Tam afraid mamma would not wish me to
do any thing for her to-day,” said Emily mourn
fully.

“ Indeed, Emily, I am sure she would wish
you to do any thing of the kind, that would help
to make you happy.”

“ But I cannot be happy,” said Emily, burst-
ing into a fresh flood of tears, “ until mamma
has forgiven me for being in a passion, and until
you, Louisa, have forgiven me for pulling up
your almond tree. I think mamma will not
kiss me or forgive me to-night ; but if you knew
how sorry I am for being cross to you, Louisa, I
am sure you would forgive me.”

Louisa threw her arms round her sister’s neck,
‘“ I am sure mamma will forgive us both,” said
she, “ whenever she knows we are sorry for hav-
ing displeased her ; and as to me, Emily, I do
not care about my almond tree now ; I am only
sorry that I happened to break yours.”



56 THE TRIAL OF SKILL

The little girls soon felt happier for having
spoken to each other in this manner; and they
commenced their new work with such alacrity,
that the pincushion was laid upon the toilet,
their lessons learned, and all the business of the
evening satisfactorily completed, when Saiphly
announced to them that it was their time for
going to bed.

This was the first night on which they had
ever retired to rest, without receiving their
mother’s blessing ; and at that recollection they
were obliged to renew all their struggles to pre-
vent a fresh burst of sorrow.

It was late when Mrs Menden’s friends left
her ; and, when she withdrew to her room after
their departure, her first business was, as usual
to examine her daughters’ catechisms, and ob
serve if the answers they had written agreed
with her opinion of their conduct.

Opposite the question,—

Did I my heart with patience guide
Checking ill-temper, anger, pride ?

She saw, on both boards, the negatives she ex-
pected ; and she was pleased and affected at read-
ing, on each, an humble entreaty from her
daughters, that she would grant them her pardon
before she slept.

“Iam as anxious to forgive you, my chil-
dren, as you can be to receive my pardon,” said
she, going to their bedside, on finding they were



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 87

still awake. “ Saiphly tells me you have con-
ducted yourselves in a manner which proves you
are sorry for your faults, and I am therefore well
disposed to look on you again with love and
favour. But I must not, Emily, indulge myself
at the risk of injuring you; and as your be-
haviour this morning betrayed a disposition, of
which I thought you incapable, you deserve a
heavier punishment than any I have yet inflicted
on you. You must therefore submit either to
lose your garden for one month, or not to receive
my pardon, until to-morrow morning.”

“Oh! mamma,” sobbed Emily, stretching
out her arms; “Oh! do forgive me; I will
give up my garden for as long as you please,
only forgive me to-night.”

“ Reflect before you decide,” said her mother.
‘The spring, with all its sweetest flowers, will
be past before the garden can return into your
hands ; my displeasure, however painful for the
time, will be over in one night.”

“Oh! do mamma, do, pray, forgive us both,”
cried Louisa eagerly. “Emily could not be
happy until she has received your pardon.”

“No, mamma, indeed I could not,” sobbed
Emily ; and still persisting in her wish to resign
the garden, she received that blessing without
which, neither she nor Louisa had found it pdos-
sible to rest ; and they both, shortly ~~ for-
got all their cares in sleep.



88 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

Here Kate stopped for a few minutes to take
breath ; and stealing an inquiring glance round
the table, she perceived, with pleasure, that her
aunt’s knitting was cast aside, and that her
uncle kept his eye fixed with a pleased expres-
sion on her face. He was tapping the lid of a
gold snuff-box, which he held ready to take a
pinch from, at the first convenient pause ; his
legs were crossed ; the upper foot shook with a
quick regular motion, which, she knew well,
indicated satisfaction.

“They like the beginning of my story toler-
ably well,” thought she. “ There is nothing in
it, I see, of which they disapprove ; but what
will they think of the second part ? for oh what
a falling off I know to be there !”

Her reflections were interrupted by an en-
treaty from Elizabeth that she would preceed,
Sir Humphrey snuffed the candles, and placed
them nearer to her ; and when Mrs Deborah had
again taken her seat, after getting up to fix her
niece’s head and shoulders in a perfectly per-
pendicular position, Kate resumed her story,



THE

SOLDIER’S RETURN.

PART II.

Weave the crimson web of war,
Let us go, and let us fly
Where our friends the conflict share,

Where they conquer, where they die.
. GRAY.

No sooner were their eyes opened the next
morning, than the two girls came to Mrs Menden’s
bedside, to inquire what answer their father had
given to her request, that they should be allowed
to join him abroad.

“He has granted it, my dear girls. He will
meet us himself at Ostend, and he proposes that
we should remain abroad with him, until the



90 TILE TRIAL OF SKILL.

restoration of peace shall, please God, enable us
all to return home together.”

“Oh, joy! joy!” cried Emily in ecstasy,
“ and we shall see’ papa immediately.”

“No, not immediately ; we have many pre-
parations to make before we can set out ; and
afterwards a long voyage to take, which, I fear,
you will think neither speedy nor agreeable.”

“ Oh, no matter, mamma ; no matter. I am
sure it will be all very pleasant,” said both
girls, running off to complete, as fast as possible,
the irksome task of dressing.

But though Mrs Menden endeavoured to re-
strain her own impatience, and to check the
unbounded rapture of her daughters, she found
it impossible to do either ; and the preparations
fur their departure went on so rapidly, that, on
the third day after the receipt of Colonel Menden’s
letter, they were all ready to commence their
journey.

Mrs Menden now pitied her unfortunate
foster-sister more deeply than ever, feeling her-
self secure of recovering that happiness which
Liddy could never hope to enjoy again. To
keep her from brooding over her misfortunes,
and to occupy her time as much as possible, it
was agreed, that she should fill Saiphly’s place
in the mangement of the house, while that faith-
ful servant attended her mistress to the Continent

It was a lovely morning in the month of June,
when the party set off, escorted by William, the



THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 91

old butler, who, though he acknowledged himself
no very courageous seaman, insisted on seeing
his mistress, and his dear young ladies, across
the water, and delivering them safely, with his
own hands, into his master’s care,

The weather was fine; the journey from
Menden Park to Harwich, where they were to
embark, was delightful ; and all things promised
fair for a speedy and prosperous voyage.

It proved, indeed, more speedy than any of
the passengers wished, for the wind, getting up
in the night, blew a gale sostrong, as to frighten
all on board. Louisa and Emily were not
amongst those who suffered least from sickness
and terror ; but all the miseries of the voyage
were forgotten, when the sweet and welcome
sound of the bells at Ostend, announced that
they were in that harbour.

The party hastened on deck ; and whilst the
cheerful peal increased on their ear, and the gay
and busy scene closed around them, they saw a
crowd of persons on shore press forward, each to
receive and welcome some expected friend.

Mrs Menden’s whole frame trembled with
emotion, at the thought of once more seeing her
husband in safety; and whilst her eager eye
strained through the crowd in search of his
well-known form, Louisa, whose looks followed
her mother’s, cried out, that Russel, her papa’s
servant, who saved his life so often, was there



Full Text





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TRIAL OF SKILL:

WHICH IS THE BEST ®tTORY?


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J. SUTECLIFEE, LITH# /OS, HICH ST

THOMAS NELSON
LONDON AND EDINBURGH.

THE

TRIAL OF SKILL;

OR,

WHICH IS THE BEST STORY?

RY THE AUTHOR oF

“ TH JUVENILE SUNDAY LIBRARY ™ “ VERY LITTLE TALES,” cc.



London:

THOMAS NELSON, PATERNOSTER ROW},
AND EDINBURGH.

ee

MOCO Ld.
SDINBURGH: PRINTED BY THOMAS NELSON.
ADDRESS

TO

MAMMAS AND THEIR CHILDREN.

—

Tux following Tales are submitted to the
Public, in the belief that parents will find them
at once sound and elevating in the principles
they inculcate, and possessing such a degree of
merit, as will render them worthy of their
children’s perusal.

From the preference often shown by young
people for truth above fiction, my little friends
will perhaps read the following Stories with ad-
ditional pleasure when they learn, that the man-
ner in which they originated occurred precisely
as related in the first chapter, and that many of
the circumstances, and the greater number of the
V1 ADDRESS.

characters exhibited in each of the Tales, are ac-
tually drawn from real life.

With a hearty desire that my dear young
readers may derive both amusement and instruc-
tion from this book, avoid the errors, and profit
by the virtues of the characters described, I
subscribe myself their sincerely affectionate
friend,

HuMPHREY ARDEN.
THE

TRIAL OF SKILL;

OR

WHICH IS THE BEST STORY?

ee

INTRODUCTORY,

Here, whilst the needle plies its busy tusk,
The poet's or historian’s page, by one
Made vocal for the amusement of the rest,
Beguiles the night.

“ Comg, Deborah, now let us make ourselves
snug,” said Sir Humphrey Arden (a testy old
bachelor, who had charge of all the spinsters of
his family), addressing a maiden sister, while
he seated himself in his large arm-chair, one
winter’s evening : “ Come, Deborah, draw your
chair opposite to mine, at the other side of this
fine fire : give one of the girls a book, and let us
defy the storm, which rattles against our win-
dows as if it were enraged at not being able to
find some chink or crevice through which to pay
us a visit,”
8 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

The maiden sister left the tea-table, and wil-
lingly obeyed. In truth, even had she not loved
the comforts of a “ blazing ingle, and a clean
hearth-stane” almost as well as her brother, she
would, it is believed, have complied with any
request of his in the same manner.

Her three nieces, the orphan children of a de-
ceased sister, aided her, with alacrity equal to
her own, in dressing out the fireside according to
the old bachelor’s conception of what was snug ;
and whilst the good lady moved a large folding
screen into the exact position he liked, and esta-
blished herself in the great chair opposite his,
Kate took her seat on a stool by his side, Kmma
drew her work-table nearer the fire, and Eliza-
beth ran to the book-case for a volume of stories,
which she knew it was her duty to read aloud to
the party this evening.

“ Must I read these stupid tales to-night
again?” said she, in a pleading voice, as she
seated herself at the table.

“ Yes, saucy niece, that you must,” said her
uncle, “ Finish them to-night, child, and let me
see with how good a grace you can do what is
disagreeable to you. Your aunt, you know,
must hear the book from end to end before she
will suffer me to give it to your little sister ;
and, for my own part, I should be glad to hear
what reason you have for the abuse you have all
given it.”

“I fear you are likely to hear very little of it
INTRODUCTORY. 9

to-night, my dear uncle,” said Kate, lifting, as
she spoke, one corner of a handkerchief which
the old gentleman had just thrown over his face,
preparatory to an evening’s nap, in which it was
his habit to indulge. “I predict the very first
page will put you to sleep, without the aid of
this thick curtain, or that blazing fire.”

“ Come, come, my dear girls, let your uncle
have his nap in peace,” said the old lady ; “ and
if you both dislike the book so much, choose
some other for our amusement to-night; and
Emma, who is not quite so high-flown as either
of you, will, I am sure, finish this for me to-
morrow.”

“ No, no, my dearest aunt,” cried Elizabeth,
hastily opening the book, “no person shall finish
it for you except myself ;”—and in less than an
hour the task. was done.

“ There now!” she exclaimed, as she pushed
the volume away ; “ there now; my uncle has
not heard one word of all the nonsense I have
been reading ; and when he awakes he will, as
usual, call us all fastidious, and hard to please,
for not liking it.”

“You must not, my dear aunt, let him scold
us to-night. Iam sure you cannot yourself say
any thing in favour of such stupid stories,” said
Kate.

“ Yes, she shall let me scold you,” cried out
Sir Humphrey, awakening just in time to hear
the last sentence, and arranging himself in his
10 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

chair for a more comfortable nap ; “ she can, I
am sure, say a great deal in favour of these
stories, for she is not such a great and mighty
critic as all of you young ladies seem to think
yourselves,”

“I fear I shall come in for share of your
scold to-night, brother,” said Deborah, “ for I
cannot pretend to like these tales better than my
nieces do,”

“ Judging by the progress you have made in
my bead purse, dear aunt,” said Emma, “ {
should think you like them less than any of us.
You have not dropped one stitch to-night: and
when we have a book that pleases you, I am
obliged, you know, to lay aside my own work,
and sit, ready to take up a bar in your knitting
at every second minute.”

Mrs Deborah smiled, “In truth, Humphrey,”
said she, “ you would not yourself approve of
these tales if you heard them; and I am sorry
you happened to buy them for our little girl,
since they are not such as we should like to see
in her hands.”

“Pho! pho! woman!” muttered Sir Hum-
phrey, again turning in his chair, “what harm
could they do her ?”

“ None in the world, my dearest uncle, I will
venture to say,” replied Elizabeth. “ I am cer-
tain my little sister will not read three pages of
the book when she finds how dull and prosing
it is.”
INTRODUCTORY. ll

* She would very soon perceive how over
strained and unnatural all the characters are,”
said Kate. “ I verily believe, the writer never
saw or spoke to a child in his life.”

“ My greatest objection to the book is, that it
seems a collection of little unnatural romances,”
said Emma. “The children are all such angels,
and are represented in a state of such perpetual
and perfect happiness, that I am sure, if I were
again a child, I should feel inclined to be very
much dissatisfied with my own lot, when I com-
pared it with that they are said to enjoy.”

“ Right,” said Mrs Deborah, with her most
approving smile, “ That, my love, is precisely
my chief objection to the book. I am persuaded
that tales of this kind often sow in young minds
the seeds of discontent, which after life may fail
to root entirely away. A tale, indeed, however
simply told, which abounds in scenes represent-
ing too gay and pleasant a picture of human
life, has all the pernicious qualities of a novel,
teaching the reader to expect what never can
arrive, It is, indeed, I should say, even more
dangerous than the novel, because it is read by
those who cannot perceive or guard against its
evil tendencies,”

“What a flourish of fine high sounding sense
and sentiment the author makes in his preface,”
said Kate, “ and then runs, all through his
book, into the very errors he professes to abhor.”

“ Yes,” said Emma, “ that, I confess, provokes
12 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

me ; for, seeing the danger, he should not cer-
tainly have placed it in the way of young crea-
tures,”

“ But he never wrote the preface,” cried Eliza-
beth, “ that is easily seen. The whole book,
indeed, seems a mere piece of patch-work—a
tissue of folly,—false, stupid, and pedantic, from
beginning to end,”

“ Good lack! good lack!” cried Sir Hum-
phrey, in wrath, and pulling down the handker-
chief from his face with a sudden jerk. “ What,
in the name of wonder, will this world come to,
when every saucy spinster, from fifteen to fifty,
thinks herself at liberty to abuse a poor author
in this manner? Why, ladies, you seem to
have words at will; but although you fancy
yourselves such admirable critics, I should like
to see which among you could write half so good
a story as the worst in that book.”

Mrs Deborah deliberately placed her head in
the position which she considered essential for
reflection ; and taking off her spectacles with one
hand, whilst with the other she drew a silver
snuff-box from her pocket,—“ Brother,” she
said, as she tapped it on the lid, “I believe I
may, without hesitation, assert, that there is not
a spinster of any age in the room who could not
with ease write a better story than the best in
this collection.”

Sir Humphrey rubbed his hands in ecstasy.
“ Well, Debby, let the trial be made: here are
INTRODUCTORY. 13

four of you ; and to her who writes a better story
than any in that volume, I will give the choice
of any book in my library.”

“ Now, would it not be well to punish my
uncle for slighting our abilities in this manner ?”
whispered Kate. “ How much I should like to
see him lose four of his best books! Do, dear
aunt, let us take him at his word, and try to win
them.”

“He deserves to be made repent the challenge,
I confess, my dear,” replied Mrs Deborah.

“Well, try it ; I beseech you, try it,” said the
testy Baronet, in his own mind fully persuaded
they would not succeed. “I am ready to run
the risk of losing my books ; for I want to con-
vince you all, it is not so easy a matter as you
imagine, to take up a pen and write just such a
story as you, my good sister, would like to put
into a child’s hand. Perhaps, too, when you
have all felt the difficulty yourselves, you will
not think quite so badly of that poor author as
you do at present.”

“I wish we had courage to try,” whispered
Elizabeth.

“Take courage, my dear,” said her uncle ;
“‘ you will never succeed in any thing without it.
I will give you all a week for the undertaking,
though I see Miss Kate, there, thinks she could
write a dozen such tales in a day; but I will
allow you a week ; and, as an additional induce-
ment, I promise the choice of a second book to
14 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

whichever brings me down the best executed, and
best designed story, before the end of that time.
Now, what say you all to the proposal ?”

“ Why, that we ought certainly to make the
attempt, since we can lose nothing by it, and
may gain so much,” answered Kate ; “ but de-
pend upon it, my dear uncle, if I have the good
fortune to succeed, nothing short of your fine
Shakspeare, with all Boydell’s plates, will satisfy
me.”

“ T doubt it not, you saucy one,” he replied ;
“but get along, and try to win it if youcan. I
must only criticise your story with severity
equal to your own; and if, after all my endea-
vours, I cannot find more faults in it than in
those you so much condemn, and that you
should rob me of one of my best books in that
manner, I shall contrive some means to have my
revenge, you may be assured.”

“ Do let us try,” said Elizabeth: “a failure
can do us no harm ; so let us all begin the at-
tempt this night ; and you, my dear aunt, will,
I hope, set us the example.” |

Neither Mrs Deborah nor Emma could, how
ever, be persuaded to join in the scheme, al-*
though Kate used various entreaties to make:
them accede to the proposal ; but her aunt, un-
willing to mar a project upon which her brother’s
heart seemed fixed, urged her nieces so strongly
to make the trial, that, after some time, she ob-
tained from Elizabeth and Kate a promise that


INTRODUCTORY. 15

they, at least, would commence the task on the
following day.

Taking up her candle, soon after, to retire for
the night, “ I am cool now, Humphrey,” said
she, “ and I feel conscious that I could not write
any tale to equal even the worst of those on the
table ; but some of your nieces, I think, will
make you repent your rashness. Their stories,
however, I hope, will be of the very simplest
kind ; and I trust, my dear Elizabeth, that you
will let yours be free from all romance or high-
coloured scenes. I confess it would gratify me
exceedingly should you bring down such a story
as your little sister might listen to with benefit.”

“ And have you no directions to give me, my
dear aunt ?” said Kate.

“ Here are directions for you both, in the
words of your favourite Cowper,” said Sir Hum-
phrey, lighting his taper, and taking the way to
his bed-chamber,—

A tale should be judicious, clear, succinct:
The language plain, the incidents well link’d.
Tell not as new what every body knows;
And, new or old, still hasten to a close.

The two girls declared they would ‘not stay to
receive directions which only Cowper himself
could follow, and ran off in great glee to discusg
the fittest subject for their undertaking. Whether
or not their dreams supplied materials for the
trial, has never been discovered, but it is possible
they may have done so ; for at the expiration of
16 THE TRIAL OF SKILI.

the appointed time, Sir Humphrey’s fire-side
presenting -its usual scene of comfort, and the
same group being assembled round the work-
table, Emma, who could not be induced to join
in the attempt, announced that the stories were
finished, and brought down for judgment.

Mrs Deborah heard the report with inward
satisfaction, Having given the last rub to her
spectacles, and pulled from her pocket the various
requisites for her complicated knitting, she
waited long in anxious expectation, whilst her
nieces arranged the pages of their little manu-
scripts, and debated who should first begin to
read,

In such trepidation, however, were they both
at thoughts of the exhibition which they fancied
themselves about to make, that they delayed
coming to any conclusion, until Sir Humphrey
snatched up one of the manuscripts, declaring he
would read it himself.

Arrangements having at length been made,
that the story of the youngest should be first
read, her uncle drew a seat close to his own for
Kate, threw himself back in his chair in the at-
titude of an attentive auditor, laughed heartily
at the agitation with which she opened her story,
And listened witout once closing his eyes whilst

she read, \


THE

SOLDIER’S RETURN.




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They were together night and day,

Through all their early years ;
Had the same fancies, feelings, thoughts,

Joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears.

“ Come, Louisa,” said little Emily Menden,
as she alighted with her mother and sister at
their own hall door, after a week’s absence from
home ; “ Come, Louisa, I dare say mamma will

have no objection to our running into the garden
ee
18 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

for a short time. I think all our flower seeds
must have sprung up while we have been away :
will you come and see ?”

Louisa was about to comply, but suddenly re-
collecting herself, she turned back ; and promis-
ing to join her sister, in case she could persuade
her mamma to go with them, she followed Mrs
Menden into the house. There, by a thousand
artifices, she tried to engage her mother’s atten-
tion, and finally led her into the garden, where
Mrs Menden usually felt as much pleasure as
either of her daughters.

Here it will be well to leave them, and ac-
count for the degree of melancholy which Louisa
had seen steal over her mother’s countenance ;
and which was the more easily perceived, be-
cause contented cheerfulness was in general the
predominant expression of her features.

Mrs Menden had had the misfortune to lose
her parents before that period when young
women most require their counsel and support...
She might otherwise have been deterred, at the
early age of seventeen, and in the midst of a
sanguinary war, from becoming the wife of an
officer only three years older than herself; and
who, even then, had displayed such distinguished
courage and talents in his country’s service, as
left little room to hope that he would be allowed
much leisure to enjoy the comforts of domestic
life. She married, unconscious of the fate which
awaited her, and in full expectation of as much




THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 19

happiness as can be met with in this world.
And so much, assuredly, might have been her
lot, could it have been secured by the attach-
ment and amiability of her husband; but she
soon found that the life of a soldier is chequered
with even more than the common shade of cares
and anxieties which belong to this world. Dur-
ing eleven years which had elapsed since her mar-
riage, she had never passed so many months at
one time in his society, or scarcely so many days
free from alarm for his safety. She had not seen
him for the last two years, and the period had
been one of peculiar toil and suffering to the
troops with whom he was acting. She had de-
voted the entire of that time to the education of
her two little girls, and had never left her own
house until the joyful news arrived that his
regiment was ordered home, and that he, with
his friend, Major Chrestone, might probably ar-
rive in England almost as soon as the letter
which carried the intelligence.

Major Chrestone was the only surviving
brother of Lady Onslow, Mrs Menden’s earliest
friend. His health had suffered much from
several severe wounds which he had received
during the war, in which a younger brother had
_ already fallen. His sister, for many years past,
alarmed for his safety, and now relieved from all
her fears, wrote to an old companion to come
and enjoy with her, at Onslow Hall, the delight
they must both feel on the return of friends so
20 THE TRIAL OF SKILL

dear to them. Thither Mrs Menden immediately
hastened with her daughters, in the fond hope of
meeting her husband a few days sooner than she
otherwise could, and of being, at the same time,
introduced to her friend’s brother, whom she had
never yet seen. But they were all doomed to
experience another of the trials and vicissitudes
occasioned by war.

The transports, bringing Colonel Menden’s
regiment home, had nearly gained the British
coast, and he had already stood on deck, an-
ticipating tne happiness of once more embracing
his wife and children, when they were met by
other ships carrying troops to the Continent,
where a fresh eruption of the war had taken
place. By them he received orders to turn
about and fall in with the squadron, and to unite
his regiment with those now assembling for the
purpose of averting this new and unexpected
danger.

Such unlooked for intelligence, when commu-
nicated at Onslow Hall, overwhelmed the whole
party with sorrow and disappointment.

Mrs Menden had lost, in the commencement
of the campaign, and at the same period when
Lady Onslow’s younger brother had fallen, three
near relations, whom she tenderly loved ; and
these misfortunes had rendered her more sensible
of the dangers to which her husband, and many
other dear connections, were still exposed.

Her disappointment, on the present occasion,


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 21

was therefore proportioned to the joy she had
lately felt, when she believed all danger at an
end. Feeling that she could afford no comfort
to her friends, she resolved on hurrying back to
Menden Park ; and, whilst resuming her accus-
tomed pursuits, to try and maintain that cheer-
fulness which, in every situation of life, she
knew it was her duty to cherish.

The children, at the first moment of disppoint-
ment, appeared almost as much distressed as
herself ; but the sight of home, and all the plea-
sures connected with it, soon enabled them to
forget their sorrow, and again to anticipate, with
delight, the moment when their father should be
restored to them. As they chatted of all the
pleasant things which, they said, were sure to
happen when that long wished for period ar-
rived, their mother tried to catch the infection of
their spirits, and to persuade herself that this
new war might not continue long, and that it
might terminate without bloodshed.

“ Mamma,” said Emily, as they returned from
the garden, on the evening of their arrival,
“‘ whenever the real peace comes, you must write
to papa to bring Major Chrestone to Menden
Park, Will you not, mamma ? oh, I hope you
will.”

“ Willingly, my dear; but tell me why you
are so anxious for his coming ?”

“ T want to know if I should like him as well
as Lucy Onslow does. She was just as much
22 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

disappointed at his not coming home, as we all
were because papa did not come. Do you know,
mamma, though he is a grown up man, and has
so much to do, he wrote her a nice long letter,
and said in it that our papa and he had agreed
to roast an ox here whenever they returned, and
to set all the tenants dancing on the lawn. Will
not that be very nice, mamma ?”

“ Very nice, indeed. I long almost as much
as yourself to witness such a scene, and also to
become acquainted with Major Chrestone, who is
a favourite with every one who knows him.”

“Tam sure I do not wonder at his being a
favourite with Lucy, he is so good-natured to
her. She shewed me a nice set of gardening
tools which he made for her entirely himself.
He can make things of that kind just as well as
any smith or carpenter. Is not that very odd,
mamma ?”’

“ It is certainly very uncommon, Emily, if
that is what you mean by odd. I dare say he
converts his knowledge to many useful purposes ;
for, from what I have heard your papa say, I
think he must be a man of too much refinement
to take up such pursuits for mere amusement.”

“ You are quite right, mamma,” said Louisa.
“ Lucy told me, that when he first came from
the army, he had a person for a long time at
Onslow Hall, teaching him to be a carpenter, for
he said he had often wished to know something
of that trade when he was on service ; and he
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 23

afterwards said he found it so useful to himself
and others, that he has since tried to acquire a
knowledge. of all the mechanic arts.”

“ Yes, indeed, mamma,” said Emily, “ Lucy
says he can do a great many more things even
than papa; and there was something else Lady
Onslow said he was, besides a smith, or a carpen-
ter, or a turner, or any of those things; some-
thing a great deal nicer than any of them, but I
forget the name of it.”

“ Tell me what it enables him to do, and, per-
haps, I may find out the name for you.”

“ Tt enables him to cut and polish pebbles and
precious stones, and he has made a great number
of beautiful things of them for Lady Onslow.”

“A lapidary is the word you want then, I
suppose.”

“ Oh! yes, that is the name: and do you
know, it was he who cut the catechism so beau-
tifully on the little marble slab, which hangs up
at Lucy’s bedside ?”

“ Then this wonderful man engraves as well as
polishes stones: but what catechism do you
speak of ?”

“ A set of questions, mamma, which Lucy is
obliged to answer every night before she sleeps.”

“ And to what do the questions relate ?”

“ They relate to—to—Louisa will tell you,
mamma.”

“To her conduct through the day, I believe,”
said Louisa, “ Lady Onslow told me, that every
24 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

child who wishes to be good, should try to find
out, before they sleep, whether they have done
any harm during the day or not ; and she says,
when people grow up, it is very hard to get into
the habit of doing this, unless they have been ac-
customed to it from childhood. So she has
always made Lucy ask herself this little cate-
chism when she lies down at night. But Lucy
told her mamma she often fell asleep before all
the questions were answered : Major Chrestone,
theréfore, cut them on the slab, and fastened a
pencil to it, and she now writes either yes or no
to each question, just before she goes to bed every
night.”

“ Do you understand, mamma ?”

“ Perfectly. Then Lady Onslow, I suppose,
sees the answers, and is able to judge if they are
correct. I am quite sorry I did not see this cate-
chism, my dear girls, for I think the plan so
excellent, I should like to adopt it with you.”

“JT knew you would say that, mamma, so I
_ took a copy of it ; and here it is,” said Louisa,
producing a paper from which she said the fol-
lowing questions :—

LUCY ONSLOW'’S NiGHTLY CATECHISM,

1. Did I this morn devoutly pray

For God's protection through the day?
2. And did [ read his sacred word,

To make my life therewith accord ?
3. Did J, for any purpose, try

To hide the truth, or tell a lie ?
tS
o

THE SOLDIER'S RETURN,

ale

. Did I, to all who came my way,
Due courtesy and kindness pay ?
Or if distress my aid implored,
Did I that aid with joy afford ?
. Did I my thoughts with prudence guide,
Checking ill-humour, anger, pride ?
. Did I from every word refrain,
That could give any creature pain ?
Did I with cheerful patience bear
The little ills we all must share ?
And did I, when the day was o’er,
God’s watchful care again implore ?

- 7 of 8

_

When Louisa ceased reading, Mrs Menden ex-
pressed the highest approbation of the catechism,
and said, she no longer wondered at their little
friend Lucy’s steady and reflecting character,
which, she thought, might probably have been
produced by this plan of nightly examination.

‘“ Mamma,” said Emily, rather mournfully,
“do you think it would ever make me steady
and reflecting ?”

“I think, my dear child, that it might greatly
assist your endeavours to become so: the habit
of passing judgment on your own actions will in
time teach you to consider what that judgment
must be, when you are about to commit any
fault ; and you know it is only very wicked per-.
sons indeed, who can be guilty of an error after
they have reflected on its impropriety.”

Mrs Menden lost no time in preparing one of
these catechisms for each of her daughters. As
she had not Major Chrestone to engrave them
for her, she printed the questions on two boards,
26 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

to which she fastened black-lead pencils ; and
that same night the little girls commenced the
plan which had succeeded so well with their
young companion.

A short time after their arrival at home, the
children, in taking their morning’s walk, passed
by a cottage where they had a few weeks before
often visited a poor old woman, called Alice
Dillon, Mrs Menden’s nurse, who was then upon
her death-bed. The house had, as they thought,
remained untenanted since the old woman’s
death, and they were now surprised, and strongly
attracted by the appearance of a little girl who
stood at the door, crying in a most piteous
manner.

_ As she seemed to be quite alone, and not more

than eight years old, the girls went forward to
inquire what was the matter, and to try if they
could comfort her ; but her replies were so broken
and incoherent, they could scarcely understand
what she said. With great difficulty they dis-
covered that her name was Ally Fisher; that
she had come to that place the day before with
her mother, who was gone to the next market
town on business; and that she cried because
she was frightened, and unhappy at being left so
long alone.

“ It was very cross of your mother to leave
you,” said Emily. “ My mother could not help
going,” exclaimed the child; “ she is never
cross,”


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 27

“Then why did she not take you with her ?”

“ Because she knew I could not walk so far.”

“ Well, do not cry, Ally,” said Lousia ; “ we
will leave Mrs Saiphly, our maid, with you,
until your mother comes home ; and you need
not be afraid of any thing, while she is beside
you.”

While she spoke, Ally, who kept her eyes

constantly fixed on a turn in the road at some \
distance, ran to the top of the nearest stile, and ~

after a few moments’ hesitation, exclaiming, “ 1
see her, I see her!” bounded off without wait-
ing to give them any reply.

The girls ascended the same stile to discover if
the person whom they saw approach, were indeed
the child’s mother ; but to their great disappoint-
ment they saw poor Ally stop short, and sit
down on the side of the road, while the woman
walked on without taking any notice of her.

Mrs Saiphly could scarcely prevail on them to
return home without going back to comfort her ;
she, however, promised that she would herself go
to the child the moment she had left them at
their own door ; and aware that they had al-
ready outstaid their time, they were at length
about to comply, when they perceived another
person at the turn of the road. They now saw
Ally start up and run to this person with arms
stretched out as far as they could reach. The
little girls then willingly hurried home, and had
no sooner entered the drawing-room, than they
28 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

began to tell Mrs Menden their adventure. They
dwelt particularly on the little stranger’s beauty
and excessive distress; and were a good deal
mortified at perceiving their mamma less inclined
to pity than to blame her for not having borne
her mother’s absence better. ‘‘ Indeed, mamma,
if you had seen her,” said Emily, “ I think you
prea not blame her ; I am quite sure she is not
/ a bold child.”

“ How can you be quite sure, my love ?”
| _ “ Because she did not cry as naughty children
| do ; she tried to suppress her sobs, and did not
seem cross, but looked so melancholy with her
(large eyes full of tears, that I think she could

/ not be naughty.”

“T have seen large eyes full of tears before
now,” replied Mrs Menden, archly, “ and have
been obliged to acknowledge that there was a
little naughtiness with them.”

Emily blushed, but good-humouredly con-
tinued, “ Well, mamma, if you will just take a
walk with us to Dillon’s Hill this evening, you
can see yourself whether Ally is a bold child or
not.”

“ Do, dear mamma,” said Louisa; “ and per-
haps you will allow me to take her the last
coarse frock you gave me to make ; for though
she looked so clean and pretty, she had on very
bad clothes.”

From the child’s name, and present residence,
Mrs Menden had some idea that she might be

j


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 29

the daughter of her foster-sister, Liddy Dillon,
who, she knew, had become the wife of a soldier,
called Fisher, about the time of her own mar-
riage. Anxious to know if her conjecture were
right, she readily granted the children their re-
quest, and promised to go with them to see the
little girl after tea.

‘“ Do, mamma,” said Emily, “ pray do, if you
please, allow us to get our lessons after we return,
and let us go now. We shall perhaps be in time
to see Dillon’s whole herd of cows milked at the
foot of the hill, and you know that it is so pretty.
I can carry your camp chair, and Louisa will
bring your work-basket, and you may sit and
work there the whole evening.”

“I hope you will not insist on my sitting
there so long, Emily,” said her mother, smiling ;
“but I will take you there with pleasure while
it is fine. I hope, however, I may rely on your
driving the farmer’s whole herd of cows out of
your head, when you come back, and applying
yourself to your lessons as you ought to do; so
get your bonnets, and come along.”

“Oh! thank you, mamma, thank you. In-
deed, I will not once think of the cows after we
come home, and I will stay in the house all the
rest of the evening, to get my lessons. I assure
you, mamma, upon my honour, I will.”

“ Another promise for the slate, Emily ! con-
firmed by an oath, too,” said Mrs Menden.

Her daughter’s countenance fell at the mention
30 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

of this hated slate, which, before we proceed, re-
quires some explanation, There was not in this
little girl’s character any fault which gave Mrs
Menden more uneasiness, than a habit she had
contracted of making promises, without consider-
ing whether she should ever be able to perform
them,—a habit which generally grows into one
of premeditated falsehood, if not stopped in time.
But to check it in poor Emily (though in other
respects a docile and obedient child) had been
found a troublesome task. Quick in her imagi-
nation, and thoughtless to an extreme, she was
no sooner made sensible of what was proper to
be done, than she fancied herself certain of being
able to perform it ; and the moment a fault in
her conduct was clearly pointed out, she felt so
much distress, that she began to make the most
vehement protestations of amendment.

On one occasion, after quietly listening to the
end of a long declaration, that she would never
do so and so again, but always do such and such
things, her mother said to her,—‘ I wonder,
Emily, if keeping an account of all the good
resolutions you make in the course of one short
week would help to convince you that the half
of them could scarcely be fulfilled in a year.”

“ Indeed, mamma, I do not think I make
many resolutions now, and I am sure I never
break one, except when I forget.”

“ But you forget so very often, my love.”

“ Well, mamma, do let us keep an account.


THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 31

Just write down on something every resolution
I make, and then put a mark whenever! break
one ; and I am sure you will find I do not for-
get so often as you think.”

“ If you wish it, Emily, here is a large slate,
which will exactly answer the purpose ; but I
give you notice, the plan, once begun, shall be
continued every week for half a year. The slate
shall hang over the mantel-pieve, and never be
removed during that time, let who may come to
the house.”

“ Well, mamma, hang it up,” said Emily,
after considering some moments, “ I am deter-
mined I will never make another resolution ;
and then, you know, there cannot be any written
down.”

Mrs Menden smiled, took up the slate, and
wrote at the top, in large characters,—

?

RESOLUTIONS MADE BY EMILY MENDEN,
Firsit—She resolves to make no resolutions.

Then, taking down a picture, and hanging up
the slate in its stead, “ Now,” said she, “ I have
only to keep the account by writing down each
promise as it is made, and putting a mark over
it as it is broken.”

Emily was a little disconcerted when she saw
the slate fairly in its place ; but still confident
32 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

of her own powers, and more cautious than usual,
lest she should break her first resolution, she
chatted with her accustomed gaiety all that
evening, without once forgetting herself.

Before the week was ended, however, the slate
was full of promises ; and heartily did she re-
pent her rashness, when, on Saturday morning,
some friends having called to visit her mother,
one of them asked her to explain the strange
ornament which hung over the mantel-piece.

Many entreaties were urged by both the girls
that night to make Mrs Menden take down the
slate, and give up the plan; but she replied,
that she could not require them to keep their re-
solutions if she broke her own. The slate had,
therefore, kept its place for nearly half its ap-
pointed time, and was beginning to produce such
good effects, that there was now rarely a promise
to be seen on it.

But on this unlucky evening of their projected
walk to Dillon’s Hill, the thoughts of seeing
Ally Fisher, and the farmer’s herd of cows milked
at the foot of the hill, had completely thrown
poor Emily off her guard ; and her mortification
was extreme when she saw her mother write
down, first, a promise to pull every weed out of
her garden before she slept, and then another, to
remain in the house all the evening, for the pur-
pose of getting her lessons,

Her face glowed with vexation as she felt the
impossibility of keeping both these resolutions


THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 33

i

' ie. «
a in * \ rk
a . # : ,
= ht ~ sa :
= - = r= a.
an



without giving up her walk, and to do that re
quired more self-denial than she at that moment
possessed.

Fearing to have time for reflection, she caught
up her bonnet, and tied it in haste closely round
her face ; but after moving her chin up and down,
and backwards and forwards, for several mo-
ments, she exclaimed, “ Oh, dear, dear! I have
tied the string of this nasty bonnet so tight, it
quite chokes me: what shall I do, mamma ?”

“ T think the best thing you can do, my love,
will be to untie it.”

“ But I have got it into a hard knot, and that
is so difficult to untie.”

“ It requires some patience, I know ; but you
will make it much worse if you pull it in that
manner. Had you not better come forward to

G
34 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

the glass, and try to find the proper loop to
open ?”

“Emily approached, but her eyes were dimmed
with tears, and she sought in vain for the loop,
which became closer every moment, until Louisa
good-naturedly came to her assistance, and in a
short time the ribbon was untied.

Her mortification, however, still remained ;
and, anxious that it should be attributed to any
cause rather than the real one, she said, as she
saw her sister fold up the frock she was going to
carry with her, “ How lucky you are, Louisa, to
have that frock to give the poor little girl. I
wish I had something to take to her, too.”

“ You may give her the last petticoat you had
to make, if it be finished,” said her mother.

“ But it is not finished, mamma; and it will
be very provoking to go without any thing, when
Louisa has that nice frock to take her.”

“Then I will not take the frock until your
petticoat is ready,” said her sister, “and we will
take them both together some other time.”

Mrs Menden opposed this, saying, “ It would
be very hard the little girl should be deprived of
the frock she so much required, merely because
Emily could not have the pleasure of taking her
any thing.”

“ Oh, mamma!” said Emily, earnestly, “ if
you would only just put off your walk until to-
motrow evening, I should then have the petticoat
ready fo her, and—and—”


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 35

“ T cannot, my dear child, consent to gratify a
wish so entirely selfish. Ifyou happen to lose a
pleasure yourself, Emily, you must try to re-
joice that others have not lost it also; but since
you think it provoking to see your sister enjoy
a satisfaction, only because you cannot partake
of it, I advise youto remain at home, which, I
confess, I at first supposed you would have done
from better motives.”

Emily burst into tears ; and Mrs Menden, say-
ing she hoped to find her a more rational girl on
her return, took Louisa by the hand, and com-
menced her walk. |
_ After their departure, Emily sat for some
minutes given up to grief; andat last, aloud and
angrily, exclaimed, “ Oh, that slate! that vile,
nasty slate! it is for ever getting me into scrapes
and troubles.”

But her reason gradually began to operate,
and she soon grew tired of railing at the ‘slate.
“ I was a fool,” she said within herself, “ not to
say 1 would stay at home, and perform my pro-
mises, as I first had thoughts of doing. Then I
am sure mamma would have been pleased with
me ; but now I have made her angry, and lost
my walk too. Oh! I was very silly. I wonder
what could have made me so silly? And then,
why did I say it would be provoking to go to
see Ally, without taking her something as well
as Louisa? I am sure I have no such feeling
now. Well,” she continued, carrying on her re-
36 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

flections, “ I will make one, just one resolution
more : I will try and remember always to put
my hands on my mouth the moment I feel my-
self growing cross, and never take them off, or
speak another word, until I am in good humour
again.”

With this determination she was so well satis-
fied, that she began to consider what was the
next most prudent thing she would do; and at
length she decided to try and have her long ne-
glected petticoat finished, and her garden weeded,
before her mother’s return.

We will now leave her seated at her book in
the summer-house, and follow her mother and
sister on their walk to the hill. They had pur-
sued their way almost in silence, except when
lamenting the unlucky vow, and the unusual fit
of haughtiness which kept Emily at home. And
Louisa seemed but little to enjoy the excursion,
until she was roused by her mother’s asking, if
that lovely child, who stood at the hay-stack
near Dillon’s gate, were the same she had seen
in the morning.

“ Yes ! that is she, indeed. How much pret-
tier she looks, now that she is not crying! Is
it not strange that she can look so clean and
neat in all those rags? Oh, mamma! I am
quite glad you made me bring her the frock to-
night.” So saying, Louisa hastened forward to
accost the child, and ask if her mother had yet
returned.
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 37

“Yes, thank you, Miss,” said she, dejectedly ;
“my mother came home soon after you were
here this morning, but she is very angry with
me for crying so much.”

There was, besides her uncommon beauty, an
appearance of dejection and timidity about this
poor child, which, joined to a look of ill health,
interested Mrs Menden greatly, and made her no
longer wonder at the compassion which she had
excited in her daughters. The strong resem-
blance she bore to Liddy Dillon confirmed the
supposition of her being the child of that per-
son ; and, taking the little girl by the hand, she
desired to be led into the house to her mother.

On entering the cottage, she saw a young .
woman sitting at work. It was Liddy, but so
altered in appearance, that ifshe had not imme-
diately recognised her mistress, Mrs Menden
could scarcely have believed her to be the once
blooming and happy girl whom she remembered
as the most deserving and most esteemed at-
tendant that had ever been about her person.

They had been nursed on the same milk, had
lived together from infancy in the same house,
and had never been separated until a few months
before they both married. They had never met
since that time; but this attachment, which
arose, on one side, from esteem and confidence,
and, on the other, from gratitude for uniform
kindness, was stronger and more lasting than is
38 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

often felt by persons of equal rank, who live
amidst the dissipations of the world. Mrs Men-
den, therefore, met her foster sister with all the
affection of an old friend. She condoled with
her upon the death of her good old mother,
which had taken place shortly before her return ;
and asked kindly for her husband and brother,
who, she had heard, belonged to’ the same regi-
ment.

They had been killed in battle, on the same
day, Liddy said ; and, scarcely able to articulate
more, she pointed to Ally, declaring she was now
the only comfort left to her on earth.

“ T hope, for my sake, you will try to forget
whatever displeased you in her conduct this
morning, and grant her your forgiveness,” said
Mrs Menden, greatly shocked, and anxious to
change the current of Liddy’s thoughts,

She promised to comply with this request, and
instantly granted the little penitent’s pardon.
“ But, Ally,” she said, embracing her, whilst ac-
costing Louisa, to whom she had not before
spoken, “ this dear young lady must never be
so kind to you again, unless you try to bear your
troubles, whatever they may be, with more pa-
tience than she saw you do this morning.”

Louisa vouched for her little favourite’s future
good conduct, and soon after drew her away to
present her with the offering she had brought.

Mrs Menden congratulated the poor widow on
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 39

her daughter’s prepossessing manner and appear-
ance, and expressed her belief that the little girl
would grow up a blessing to her.

“ She would be, thank God,” replied Liday,
“all that my heart could wish, if it were not
that her health is delicate ; and that the many
frightful scenes it has been her lot to witness,
have given a fearfulness and melancholy to her
character, quite unnatural at her age, and of
which, I fear, she will hardly ever get the
better.”

Mrs Menden confessed she had perceived this
delicacy, and apparent dejection ; and acknow-
ledged it might require a mother’s utmost skill
and attention to overcome both. “ But all our
trials, dear Liddy, are blessings in disguise ; and
I cannot help considering it an advantage, that
your child should now require such constant care,
as must keep you from brooding over your own
afflictions, and induce you to suppress every feel-
ing, the sight of which might increase her me-
lancholy.

“It isa proof of the watchful kindness of God,
that, along with our heaviest afflictions, he al-
ways sends such motives to exertion, as will, if
duly attended to, help to support us under their
weight.

‘* Pious resignation, and a grateful sense of the
mercy and wisdom of whatever He does, can
make us all submit, without murmuring, to his
will ; but it is only by strong active exertion,
AO THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

and constant suitable occupation, that we can
support a cheerful appearance under our afflic-
tions,

“ You know, Liddy, this was always the opi-
nion of your excellent mother,—an opinion
which helped to support her under all her severe
trials ; and, I am sure, you will not now neglect
to follow her example.”

Liddy, with tears, declared there was nothing
she more earnestly wished, than to follow her
mother’s example in all things ; but along with
the strength of her body, she had, she said, so
completely lost all power over her mind, that she
doubted her capability of fulfilling the duties she
had still to perform.

Mrs Menden urged every consideration which
religion could suggest to cheer and comfort her,
until the hour approached which obliged them
to return home,

** You must come to me to-morrow,” said she,
kindly pressing her hand at parting. “ Bring
your little girl along with you, and we will con-
sult together on the best plan for the recovery -
her health and spirits.”

She then called Louisa, and, having desired
Ally to bring her mother, without fail, to Men-
den Park next day, took leave, with a kindness
and cordiality which were not the least accept-
able part of the consolation she offered.

Arrived at the garden gate, on their return
home, they stopped for a moment to observe

7
Â¥
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 41

Emily, who (stretched at full length on a leathern
carpet, which was part of her garden apparatus)
lay weeding her last flower-bed with more dili-
gence than they had ever seen her exhibit
before.

“ Shall I help you, Emily ?” said Louisa,
running close to her side, before she suspected
they had returned.

“Oh, Louisa!” cried she, starting, but scarcely
looking up; “ I am sorry you are come home
before I have finished my task. How fast you
must have walked to be here so soon !”

“‘ Soon, Emily ?” repeated her sister ; “ I as-
sure you we have been three full hours away,
by mamma’s watch, and I thought we had been
much longer, for we walked very slowly ; but
may I not help you to get up this vile bishop’s
weed ?”

“ No, no, I thank you, Louisa, I must do it all
myself,” said the little girl, putting her sister
gently away. “ To be sure, it is a sad trouble-
some job, and I fear I have pulled up many of
my seedlings ; but I have been thinking all the
time, that this evening will come into my mind
when I am going to make what mamma calls a
rash vow; and then it will certainly prevent
me ever taking another, or ever being so cross
again, as I was to-night.”

“If it do so, my love, I am sure you will
never regret any part of it,” said Mrs Menden.

_ Emily wheeled round at this unexpected re-
42 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

mark, “ She said my love,” she whispered to her-
self, “and I know by her voice she is not
angry ;” and then she added aloud, shaking the
mould from her hands as well as she could, “ Oh,
mamma! I shall not regret any thing,—I shall
not regret the vow, or the loss of the walk, or
any thing else,—if you are not displeased with
me.”

“TI was displeased with you, very much in-
deed, Emily ; and am still vexed that you pos-
sess so little self-ecommand; but since you are
anxious to repair your faults, I will endeavour
to forget the frettish child I left behind me, and
I shall hope never to see so unwelcome a guest
at Menden Park again,” said Mrs Menden, stoop-
ing to embrace her child.

“ I will not promise, but I will try, mamma,”
said Emily, forgetting her dirty hands, and clasp-
ing them round her mother’s neck; “ and I
think I never shall be cross again, for inddee it
has made me very unhappy.”

“I trust you never will, my love ; you know
not how unhappy it made me too.” Her mother
then seated herself in the little summer-house, to
wait until she had done her task.

Mrs Menden delighted in seeing her children
cultivate their garden, and took pains to procure
them flowers, and to afford them as much assist-
ance as she could in that innocent and healthful
occupation ; she did not profess to be a botanist
herself, nor aid she desire the title for her girla,
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 43

but sne wished that they should make themselves
acquainted with the names and properties of ail
the plants with which they met. This would,
she knew, at once strengthen their memories,
and give them a habit of minute investigation,
which might be useful to them in after life. She
was, therefore, glad to find their taste, in this re-
spect, agree with her wishes, and perceived with
pleasure that they had already acquired all the
knowledge of the vegetable world which she was
able to give.

To stimulate them to a farther pursuit of this
study, she had lately made them a present of a
book called “ Berkenhout’s Synopsis,” and taught
them how to find out there the name of every
British plant they met with. She engaged never
to refer to this book herself, and promised them
a premium for every new flower, of which they
could in future teach her the name.

Many premiums had already been won, and
some lost, (for the prize was forfeited whenever
the name of the flower was forgotten,) and the
girls had now no greater amusement, than in
collecting a heap of weeds at every different stage
of their growth, and trying to puzzle their
mamma with them.

She had not been many minutes seated in the
arbour, when Emily finished the task she had
imposed on herself; and springing from her
knees, something in the attitude of a kangaroo,
she shook the clay from about her, and called
44 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

on her sister to come and admire her garden, de-
claring there was not a single weed left in it.
Louisa laid down a little plant which she had
just brought to shew her mother, and ran to
seize the wheelbarrow with which the indefa-
tigable Emily was preparing to carry off her
weeds ; “ You have performed your vow com-
pletely, Emily,” she said, “and you must be
very tired, so let me wheel away this rubbish
for you ; and here,” she added, “ take a hand-
ful of weeds, and try to puzzle mamma, until I
have done.”

Emily thanked her sister, but looked timidly
towards the arbour for permission, not daring to
move until she saw her mother’s hand held out
in full token of reconciliation. She then sprang
to her side, and having collected a large handful
of plants, instantly began her efforts to win a
premium.

She had, however, little chance of success, for
the same plants had come frequently under re-
view before, and she was about to fling them all
away in despair, when she perceived on the seat
beside her the little flower which Louisa had laid
down there. “I shall win a premium now,”
thought she. “ Mamma does not know this weed,
I am sure, nor can Louisa either, else she would
have shewn it to me.” Away she ran into the
house for Berkenhout, but she was in too great
haste to examine the book with the necessary
care and patience, and her mother presently saw
THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 45

her return with the Synopsis in her hand, look-
ing very much disappointed.

“Well, Emily,” she said, “ I see you have
found some plant which is new to you; have
you discovered its name ?”

“ No, mamma, I cannot find it out, though I
have looked all over the book for it.”

“ Looked all over the book, Emily, in scarcely
two minutes !|”

“I mean that I have looked in every place
where I should be likely to find the description
of this plant ; but it is certainly not in the book,
and I am quite sure it is some new flower just
sprung up, that nobody ever heard of before.”

“ But, Emily, there is nothing new under the
sun! there is no such thing as a new flower
just sprung up, that nobody ever heard of be-
fore.”

“ Oh, mamma, do you not remember Mr Per-
kins, the Dutch gardener, last summer bringing
you a great number of plants which he said were
all quite new ?”

“I do remember his bringing me flowers,
which he said were new in this country, but
they were made along with all other things by
God Almighty at the beginning of the world,
and there never was any thing formed since that
time.”

“ Then, mamma, what did Mr Perkins mean by
saying héxcould make new flowers himself ?”

“ He spoke improperly, for he only meant that
46 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

he could give some flowers a different colour
from that which they originally possessed; a
thing which is often done.”

“Oh! how, mamma ?”

“ By putting them into an artificial soil, which
will either increase or diminish the proportion of
iron natural to the plant: you know, I believe,
that iron is the ingredient which gives colour to
flowers,”

‘“ Yes, mamma, I remember your telling me
so once; and when Mr Perkins comes back, I
will make him teach me how to prepare the ar-
tificial soil, and I will change the colour of all
my flowers, and surprise Lucy Onslow, when
she comes to see us, with blue pinks, and black
snow-drops, and scarlet blue-bells,—oh! how
much I wish she was here now. I suppose, too,
he could tell me the name of this little plant,”
she added, again looking over the Synopsis ;
“but here comes Louisa, she also will wonder
what it is.”

Louisa did not wonder: she had discovered
the plant some days before, when her mother
and sister were engaged at lessons, but had quite
forgotten it from that time until she came into
the garden this evening. A wish then arising in
her mind that she might win something which
would be useful to Ally Fisher, brought the
flower to her recollection, and she had just
gathered a sprig of it to shew to Mrs Menden,
as her sister finished her task.


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 47

On seeing the flower, and the Synopsis together
in Emily’s hand, she felt at first a little morti-
fied, but the annoyance passed quickly from her
mind. “It is better,” thought she, “ that Emily
has got the premium ; it will put her into good
spirits again, after her disappointment this even-
ing.”

“ Well, Emily,” she good-humouredly said,
‘“ what have you won by that pretty little flower
in your hand ?”’

“ I have not won any thing, Louisa, for I can-
not find its name any where in the book.”

Louisa hesitated, but, after a few seconds, said,
“ Did you look among the chickweeds, Emily ?
I think it is like some of them ;” and as her
sister held the book, she turned over the leaves
towards the place, where she had before, after a
long search, found the description, and then sat
down,

Emily drew her finger along the lines as she
read, and at last joyfully exclaimed, “ Yes, yes,
here it is ; this must be the very flower I hold
inmy hand. Here, mamma, take it, and listen
if this is not the exact description: just listen,
mamma :—Stem and branches small, and spread-
ing on the ground like grass ; flowers very small,
and of a greenish white ; corolla of four petals ;
calyx of four leaves.”

“That is certainly the plant in my hand,
- Emily ; now, let me hear its name,” said Mrs
Menden. |
48 | THER TRIAL OF SKILL.

“ Pearl-wort chicxweed, or moss-like pink,”
cried Emily, laying the book on her mother’s
lap, and dancing about the arbour in ecstacy.

“ Now, dear mamma, perhaps you will grant
me something as a premium, which I have been
wishing for all the evening.”

Mrs Menden expressed her readiness to give
the premium ; “ but, Emily,” she said, “I fear
this cannot be the plant Berkenhout means, for
he says the moss-pink grows on old walls, or dry
sandy soil.”

“ Dear me,” interrupted Emily, “ and this must
have grown in my ranunculus bed, where I
pulled up all those weeds. O what a disappoint-
ment !”

“ That is the flower Berkenhout means,” said
Louisa : “ you will find it is, mamma, and Emily
is quite right.”

‘How can that be, Louisa? you know the
flower must answer the description perfectly ;
and here is a great difference in one particular.”

“ Yet,” replied Louisa, colouring, “ I know
well it is the same flower: I can shew it to you,
mamma, growing on the walls of the ivy tower
at the foot of the garden.”

“ Oh! thank you, dear Louisa,” cried Emily,
quite satisfied that it had from thence made its
way into her garden ; and again thinking her-
self secure of her premium.

Mrs Menden guessed the truth, and, unwilling
to frustrate her eldest daughter’s kind intention,
a
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«1 finished my petticoat,” said she, “after you went away
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THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 49

she took the flower, which had excited so much
curiosity, hope, and fear, and held it in her hand,
as if anxious to investigate its beauties, and make
herself acquainted with its peculiar characteris-
tics, so as to determine for herself if it corres-
ponded with the definition of the Pearl-wort
chickweed, in “ Berkenhout’s Synopsis of British
plants,” to which her daughters had referred it.

While thus engaged, seemingly in investigat-
ing the minute features of the delicate little
plant in her hand, Mrs Menden was watching
the expressions of the two girls’ features, so
strongly indicative at the moment of their dif-
ferent characters. After a brief pause she re-
plied by asking Emily what premium she wished
to have. |

“I finished my petticoat,” said she, “after
you went away this evening, mamma, and I
wish very much you would make up for this
night’s disappointment, by letting me take it to
Ally before breakfast to-morrow morning.”

“You must choose some other premium,
Emily; I cannot grant this; for you know 1
never allow you to receive a remuneration for
any loss which your own misconduct brings
upon you.”

Emily hung down her head, abashed at hav-
ing forgotten this wise rule ; but she submitted
to the decision with good humour.

The party then returned to the house. Louisa
recounted all that had been lost during the walk,,

D
50 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

and Emily heard, with pleasure, that Ally
Fisher and her mother were to pay them a visit
at the Park next day.

In the morning Mrs Menden made a collec-
tion of whatever clothes and books she thought
would be most useful to Ally, and desired the
girls to have them ready to give her.

The moment the little girl arrived, they ran to
conduct her into a room where their offering
was prepared, and scarcely would allow their
mother time to accost her, until they presented
their various gifts.

All were thankfully received by their little
visiter, but she appeared more delighted with
some of the books, than with any other part of
the donation.

“The ‘ Son of a Genius,’ by Mrs Hofland,”
she said aloud, as she read the title of one;
“that will do nicely to read to my mother in
the evenings. I am sure she never saw it.”

“ It isa very beautiful story, and would do
nicely to read to any one,” said Mrs Menden ;
“ but who taught you to read so well, Ally ?”

“ My mother taught me every thing I know,
ma’am ; and when we were with the regiment,
daddy Fisher, and daddy Dillon, used to teach
me, too, every night when they came in from
guard,”

“ Had you two daddies, Ally ?” asked Emily,
with surprise: “ I have but one.”

“Thad two, Miss,” she answered, in a low


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 51

voice, while tears gushed to her eyes ; and stoop-
ing forward, as if afraid her mother should hear
her, “ I had two once; but they are both dead :
they were killed together by the French in one
day.”

Emily, repenting that she had asked the ques-
tion, remained silent; and Louisa, wishing to
divert Ally’s attention, took up another book,
and recommended it also for her mother’s
amusement,

Ally took it from Louisa’s hand, and, having
read the title page, gazed a few moments at the
outside, then cautiously turned over the leaves
as if afraid of some disappointment. At length,
appearing to have satisfied herself, she cried out
in the greatest delight, “ It is, it is my own
book,—‘ Lazy Laurence,’ ‘ The White Pigeon,’
* Simple Susan.—Oh! I never will lose it
again ;” and she wrapped it carefully up in her
apron.

“Where had you that book before, Ally ?”
asked Emily.

“JT had it in France, Miss, but I thought it
was lost when my mother grew sick there.”

“Dear me,” said Emily, “ how did you get
this little book all the way in France ? perhaps
it is not the same you mean.”

“ Indeed, Miss, it is the very same,” said the
little girl, holding it fast ; “ the Captain brought
it to me himself from London, the last time he
came home to the regiment.”
52 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

“ What captain, Ally ?”

“ Captain Chrestone, Miss, our own Captain,
that was killed,” said the child, her eyes again
filling with tears.

The girls, vexed that they had unluckily led
to another subject which distressed their little
favourite, procured leave to take her into the
garden, and spared no pains in trying to amuse
her and make her forget her sorrow.

When they were gone, Mrs Menden inquired
into the particulars of Captain Chrestone’s death,
feeling a deep interest in all which related to
that event, from having known him intimately
herself, and also from having witnessed the
affliction into which Lady Onslow had been
thrown by his loss, |

Liddy, whose family had lived under his es-
pecial care from the time she had first joined the
regiment, was well disposed to speak on the sub-
ject. She told her mistress how his death had
occasioned one of the shocks which had so much
affected her poor little girl. “ He was,” she
said, “ the friend and favourite of every creature
in the regiment ; but his kindness to herself, her
husband, brother, and child, was more than he
could ever have been repaid in this world.”

“ It happened, that the very morning he was
killed, when all was bustle and confusion in the
camp, from the expectation of a speedy engage-
ment, Ally, who loved him as if he had been her
equal, was standing with some other children,


THE SOLDIER 8 RETURN. 53

looking at a fine ox which the sutler was about
to purchase, when the animal, enraged by its
confinement, broke loose amongst the crowd, and
injured many of the people. Captain Chrestone,
who, with some of his friends, had been stand-
ing by, tried, like every one else, to get out of the
way ; but hearing the terrified shriek of a child,
he stopped, and saw Ally fallen to the ground,
and the ox rushing towards her. He never in
his life thought of himself, when he knew an-
other to be in danger,” said Liddy, “ and he im-
mediately turned upon the enraged creature,
struck it such a blow across the forehead with
his sword, that the animal staggered a few paces
back, and then, tearing up the earth in its fury,
ran forward, and left my child unhurt. Her
preserver snatched her into his arms, half dead
with terror, and carried her home to me, quite
happy at having saved her life, He had her
still by the hand, standing at the door of our
tent, and was trying to make her forget her
alarm, when the drum, which we had all been
expecting, beat to arms ; and, bidding me be of
good courage, for that, with the help of God, he
would bring my husband and brother safe back
to me again that night, he hurried away ; and
the next minute we heard his voice echoing over
the hills while he mustered his men to the line.
“ Many a day had I stood watching for the
sound of that voice, which I knew among a
thousand the moment it reached my ears ; for he
54 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

always used to give three cheers when he ap-
proached the camp, if he was bringing all the
men of his own company safe home to their
wives and children. When the troops marched
off, I took my station with Ally on one of the
highest hills in view,” continued Liddy, “ until
evening fell, and the firing ceased, when I gave
her in charge to a woman, whose husband was
on duty in the camp, and then I hastened away,
- as was my usual custom, to meet the men on
their return from the field.

“My heart boded no good when I saw them
advance, and heard no cheering voice announcing
their approach. Already I fancied myself a
widow,” said the afflicted creature, bursting into
sorrow, “ but my husband and brother were both
among the few privates of our company who
escaped that day unhurt ; and of all the officers,
our brave Captain alone was missing. The men,
who had at first some hopes he might have been
carried in wounded to the camp, would not rest
till they returned to the field to look for him ;
and, thinking I might be of use, in case they
should be so happy as to find him still alive, I,
for the first time in my life, followed them to the
scene of slaughter. After many hours of fruit-
less search, we were preparing to return home,
and had passed a spot which we all fancied we
had examined before, when sounds of feeble,
convulsive sobbing, which seemed to come from
some one on the ground, induced us to go back
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 55

and try if we could afford any assistance. You
may imagine our horror, and astonishment, dear
madam, when we discovered my poor child lying
beside the lifeless body of her benefactor, with
her arms clasped round his neck, as if he had
been still alive !”

Mrs Menden, shuddering, inquired how such
a circumstance could have happened.

“ T little suspected,” replied Liddy, “ that the
woman I had left her with, was one of those
wretched beings who support themselves by plun-
dering the slain ; and still less did I think that
she would bring a child of four years old along
with her to such a place: but so it was. Ally
had willingly followed her, in the hope of find-
ing me, and chance had directed them to the
very spot which we had sought for in vain.”

“* May be he is only sleeping, father,’ said
Ally, when William tried to lift her away from
the body : but it was God’s will that he should
never awake more in this world. A ball had
passed through his heart ; and we had at least
the comfort of knowing, that he had not suffered
a lingering or painful death. We felt, however,
as if the credit and courage of the whole regi-
ment was gone, now its best and bravest officer
was slain.

“William was obliged to carry Ally home ;
she trembled so exceedingly she could not walk,
and that night she shewed the first symptoms of
debility and weakness, from which she has never
56 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

since recovered. My husband got some assistance
to bring the remains of our beloved Captain to
our tent, where every soldier in the company
watched over him by turns, until the surgeon
had the body sent home, to be buried in its native
earth.”

Mrs Menden, whose thoughts were led by this
recital to her own husband and friends, who
were still subject to the same dreadful vicissitudes
of war, was unable to restrain her tears, as she
expressed a wish, that, should any of them fall,
they might meet with equal respect and affection
from those about them.

“ May Heaven preserve you from the grief of
losing any of them!” cried Liddy ; “ but, oh !”
she added fervently, “oh, may you be preserved
from the horror of losing them all in one short
moment, as I lost mine !”

After a pause, she continued, with a little
more composure,—“ But they were loved and
regarded by all who knew them: they were
good, and brave, and generous both to friends
and foes. They trusted in their Saviour, and
they are now reaping the rich reward he has_
prepared for them in a better world.”

“Yes, Liddy,” said Mrs Menden, “that they
trusted in Him who was able to save, must indeed
have been a happy recollection for you ; and the
certainty of meeting them again, where there are
no wars nor sorrows, if you persevere in the same
path of religious trust and resignation, will, I
THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 57

hope, enable you to bear up under your severe
afflictions.”

Liddy tried to check her tears, declaring that
she felt relief in talking to one who listened to
her with so much compassion; and then con-
tinued her narrative.

“There were many sufferers in the camp, as
well as myself, the day of the battle of .
Out of eight hundred men who went from our
regiment into the field, only two hundred and
seven returned, and of our own company only
three. These poor fellows could hardly speak
to me, when I inquired if ad their companions
were slain. At length they confessed that they
had seen my brother fall in the beginning of the
day ; and that scarcely an hour after, my husband
had been killed by a grape shot, while fighting
like a lion on the same spot.

“I waited for no other word, but ran off to
the field of battle, not knowing what I did; and
that night,” said the poor widow, sobbing as if
her heart would burst, “I walked through the
field with as little compassion for the slain that
were lying there, as if I had no feeling left. My
whole soul was fixed on one object. I thought
only of finding the remains of my husband and
brother, and the bodies which were not clothed
in the uniform of our regiment, excited no sensa-
tion in my mind. I went over the ground again
and again, still busied in my fruitless search, till
morning began to dawn, when I heard the muf-


58 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

fled drum beat for the purpose of mustering the
men to bury their dead.

“I remember seeing them advance, with the
surgeon at their head; but I know nothing of
what happened to me after that for many months,
when one day I awoke from sleep, and felt my-
self so weak and ill, that I had not power even
to ask where I was. I only knew my poor little
Ally, who leaned over me in the bed with a look
of such misery, that I burst into tears at the
sight. From that time, my health and reason,
which had been quite lost, began to return
together. I found I had been placed at a com-
fortable lodging, by the joint kindness of our
surgeon and his brother officers ; and that as all
my little property had been plundered after the
battle, they had raised a subscription for my
support during my illness, and made every neces-
sary arrangement with my hostess for the care
of myself and my child.

“ Whenever my strength was sufficiently re-
stored, this good woman procured me some
needle-work, by which I was able to support
myself, and after a long time, I earned as much
money as paid my passage to England, where I
landed only last week. I hastened as fast as I
could to my mother’s cottage, in the hope of
finding her alive. But, alas! she too was gone.
God was, however, gracious in sparing her the
sight of my afflictions. His blessed will be done!
I had refrained from writing to her, fearing the
news I had to communicate might imbitter her
i
THE SOLDIERS RETURN. 59

last moments; and I rejoice that she died in
ignorance of my fate.”

Mrs Menden again spoke comfort to her foster
sister, and relieved her mind from one subject of
uneasiness, by describing her mother’s death as
the happiest and most peaceful she had ever seen.

She then inquired, with friendly interest, into
her plans and future prospects of support. She
knew Liddy had received an education in every
useful part of information, little inferior to her
own ; that she was a good English scholar, an
excellent accomptant, and a clever workwoman.
But she found her now at a loss how to turn
these acquirements to account ; and heard with
concern, that she had not the means of procuring
shelter for herself or her child beyond the present
week, Her only surviving relation was farmer
Dillon, from whom her mother had rented her
little cabin, and who (as the only favour he could
afford to bestow) now allowed Liddy to inhabit
it, until he could find a better tenant.

“You need suffer no farther uneasiness on this
subject, Liddy,” said her kind mistress ; “ whilst
I have power to procure you a home, you shall
never want one ; and I hope, in a few days, I
shall be able to strike out some plan for you,
which will meet your approbation.”

They then went into the garden in search ot
the children. The moment Ally saw Liddy
approach, she ran to meet her, holding up a long
piece of straw plat, which the girls had taught
60 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

her to make : “ See mother,” cried she, “ what I
have learned to do; I shall be very soon able to
make a bonnet for you.”

“T am glad to find you have been so good, and
so well employed in my absence,” said her
mother; “you see it is possible to be very
happy for a little while without me, Ally.”

Mrs Menden asked the little girl if she should
like to go to school, and learn to do many useful
things for herself and her mother.

“Yes, ma’am, very much, if my mother would
stay with me.”

* But it would not be good for your mother
to stay there, though it would be very good for
you, Ally ; and I think you would find yourself
very happy at an excellent school, where I could
send you.”

Ally became alarmed: she drew close to her
mother’s side, and looking anxiously in her face,
said, while tears started to her eyes, “Is God
going to take you away, mother ?”

“No, Ally, do not look so much frightened, I
am not going away from you any where.”

“Then, you know you told me, after you
were so ill, that you would keep me with you
always, until God took you away to himself.”

Liddy promised to be faithful to her engage-
ment ; and Mrs Menden, seeing it was no time
to urge her proposal farther, after giving them
some refreshment, suffered them to depart.

In the course of the day, Louisa and Emily
THE SOLDIER 8 RETURN. 61

heard the particulars of Liddy’s story from their
mamma, and dreamed all night of nothing but
little Ally, and the thousand schemes they had
formed for her advantage. On the moment of
their awaking next morning, they crept to Mrs
Menden’s bedside, and having satisfied themselves
she was not asleep, eagerly ran to the window to
count, as was their daily custom, how many
new flowers were opened in their gardens below.

Emily no sooner drew up the curtain than she
pulled it down again, to shut out the prospect.

“Oh! how I hate a wet Sunday,” she cried ;
“Tt is raining in torrents, and we can neither go
to church, nor have a walk to see our poor pen-
sioners, nor get into our gardens this whole day.”

‘‘ Tf you cannot have any of those gratifications
to-day, Emily, I hope you will be satisfied with
others which are within your reach.”

“ But I was so sure of going to see the poor
woman to-day, mamma.”

“ And will it be a great misfortune, either to
you or to them, if you should not be able to go
until to-morrow, or even till the next day ?”

“Oh! no, mamma, not just a misfortune, but
it will certainly be a disappointment.”

“That I have no doubt of: but, my dear
child, you have not, I hope, quite forgotten your
catechism since last night ; you surely recollect
that we must have some disappointment, or /ittle
al, to bear every day of our lives; and I think
you will allow this is a very little one.”
62 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

Emily, blushing, acknowledged it was; and
resolved that she would try to think no more of
it. She then drew on her wrapper, and went
through the business with which she and her
sister had been taught the habit of commencing
every new day of their existence. That ended,
she set about dressing herself, but could not, or
rather did not, avoid frequently stealing to the
window, to watch if there were any sign of
improvement in the weather. At last, casting
her eyes on a timepiece which lay on her
mother’s toilet, she stood quite still, and ex-
claimed, “ I know, mamma, I shall be set in the
stocks to-day at breakfast, for I am not half
dressed yet, and more than seven of my twelve
minutes are gone.”

“Unless you wish to breakfast in them, you
had better not waste any more time in watching
the weather, or looking at the clock. Do not,
dear child, let one subject of vexation lead you
into another. If you exert yourself, you may
yet be dressed within your twelve minutes ; and
may also make the day, wet as it is, turn out
pleasantly. Come, Louisa, I see you are already
dressed ; and as I am not afraid of finding the
day too long, I wish to breakfast early.”

“ Well, what signifies one wet day ?” said
Emily, as the door closed after her mother and
sister. “I will not be cross, and I will exert
myself, and try, as mamma says, to make the
day turn out a pleasant one.”


ful

es

With | ee si aah *
‘it HO 4 ae

yeaa

intial: sais
4 ie Ai Srrite i
ire

Ur : G i MTT ea

tT Hil .

Na, my love, the books must be locked up tonight.
Pare &h

THE SOLDIER'S RETURN 63

Emily did exert herself, and we are happy to
say, she did not breakfast in the stocks;- but
how the day turned out, remains to be described.

When the repast was over, as the rain continued
to fall, she collected some of their favourite books
out of their Sunday library, and sat down to
read along with her mamma and sister.

“T wonder if little Ally Fisher would like
these Sunday stories as well as we do, mamma;
I wish you would allow me to lend her one of
the volumes,” said she.

“You may take her one this evening, if you
please,’ said Mrs Menden; “and should the
weather grow fine, you might stay to make her
read you one of the tales, and observe.if she
likes it.”

“Oh, yes! indeed, mamma, I do please it;
and if the evening should not be fine, I can do
it to-morrow, as you told me in the morning,
when I wanted to go and see the old woman.”

“No, my love, the books must be locked up
to-night: I will not, you know, take them out
for you to-morrow; on our next holiday, how-
ever, you know you will have my entire sanction
to take them.”

“The next holiday! dear mamma; why must
I wait so long?”

“ Because, Emily, I do not lightly break
through a rule that has been made with your
entire approval, and entered into by all as a
64 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

determination of our future ‘mode of procedure.
These beautiful books, you are aware, were se-
lected with a view to your amusement and in-
struction on those days specially set apart for
relaxation; nor can I allow a rule thus finally
established to be broken through, even for your
little favourite’s sake.”

“ But, dear mamma, if I did not look at it my-
self, but only lent it.”

“You know, Emily, that our agreement im-
plied that they were not to be meddled with for
any reason whatever. But you have other books
that will please Ally quite as well, and these you
have full liberty to give if you wish.”

Emily seemed to reflect, and then said, “I
think, mamma, it could do no great harm to
break through the rule this one time, for little
Ally’s sake.”

“ But, Emily, my longer experience teaches
me that there is harm in breaking through any
rule, however trifling, even once, unless it be on
some unavoidable occasion. You will never, my
child, be a wise or steady character, if you think
otherwise. I would, however, do a great deal
for little Ally’s sake; and as I have not yet paid
the last premium you won from me, I will, if
you wish it, get some other equally nice book
that you may give it her when you next meet.”

“ Dear mamma, I am so much obliged to you!
I do, indeed, wish it very much; and [| will tell
Ally how I won the premium, and I will teach
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 65

her how to learn the names of the flowers, and
how to observe the beauties that are discoverable
even in the smallest and most inattractive weeds
that we used to think quite contemptible and
unworthy of our notice.”

Mrs. Menden smiled as she replied, “ You
may instruct your little friend Ally as far as you
are able, in the knowledge of Botany, but I am
afraid both the teacher and the pupil will find
their memories deficient, in attempting to over-
take such comprehensive studies as you are pro-
posing immediately to introduce little Ally
to.”’

“ But dear mamma,” replied Emily, “I will
teach her to know the pearlwort chickweed, and
will paint a sprig of it in the first leaf of her
book, and then, I am sure, neither she nor I will
ever forget it.”

“And I hope also, Emily, you will never
forget that you owe this gratification entirely to
the kind forbearance of your sister.”

‘Do I, mamma ?” said Emily in surprise.

“You do,indeed. She had just pulled up the
flower, and brought it into the arbour, when you
called her to look at your garden. She laid it
down on the seat where you found it, only that
she might go and assist you. Whenshe returned
and saw you in possession of the plant, I per-
ceived that she did not like to cause you a second
disappointment that evening ; and you may re-
member how readily she taught you to find tlre

E
66 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

name of the flower, and permitted you to win
the premium, which she might have obtained
herself.”

Kmily’s eyes filled. “Oh, mamma! I wish
you had given it to Louisa; she deserved it a
great deal more than I did.”

“Then I should have disappointed her kind
intention of gratifying you.”

“Well, mamma, I wish you would give it to
her now,” said Emily.

“No, my love, it is not necessary to offer her
any reward : actions of this kind always bring
their own recompense. Louisa has been already
sufficiently repaid by the satisfaction which dis-
interested conduct always produces in the person’s
own mind, and by the increased affection which
it procures from all other persons around them.
You may, therefore, keep the books for your
little friend Ally : I shall be happy to see you
give her any thing which may be useful or
amusing. I never saw a child whom I thought
more deserving of kindness, or more capable of
receiving instruction.”

“Then, mamma, you like Ally as well as we
do ; for I suppose it is of her you are speaking,”
cried Louisa, who at this moment entered the
parlour.

“Yes Louisa, it is,” said Emily.

“Now, mamma, do you not think she is the
prettiest child you ever saw; and do you not
agree with us, that she could not be very naughty ?
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 67

“Do you mean because she is pretty, Emily ?”

“No, not just because she is pretty,” said she,
gazing at her sister; “yet I think pretty people
are always very good.”

“Do you think so too, Louisa ?”

“T do mamma ; at least, all the pretty people
whom I know, I like very much.”

“T will not ask you to give up this opinion,”
said Mrs Menden, smiling ; “ I only request you
to observe whether or not you have any founda-
tion for it.”

“Mamma,” said Louisa, “I think papa is one
of the handsomest men I ever saw, and I am
sure he is the best.”

“It happens, that he is quite as good as he is
handsome; but I myself know many perséns
equally virtuous, who are less well looking : his
being good, therefore, cannot be owing to his
being handsome.”

The girls were silent for some time ; at length
Emily asked her mother if she recollected what
Sir Robert Onslow had said to her the last day
they all went to Onslow Hall ?

Mrs Menden remembered perfectly many
things Sir Robert had said.

“Then, mamma, you know that was the first .
time we had seen his fine new house; and do
you not recollect his lamenting the expense he
had been obliged to go to, in buying furniture
suitable to it, and his saying that it was necessary
68 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

always to fit out a place so that the inside and
the outside might correspond ?”

“T recollect,” replied Mrs Menden, “that you
then told me, you did not understand what he
said, for you thought the word ‘ correspond’
meant writing letters.”

“Yes, mamma, but you told me it meant to
match, or suit ; and that was exactly what made
me remember the whole conversation so well,
Now, I think that God, who is much wiser than
Sir Robert Onslow, or any body else, would
never make people with beautiful outsides, and
ugly insides, that would not match or suit.”

“There is some ingenuity in your argument,
Emily,” said her mother, smiling, “ but no sound
reasoning. You are right in saying God would
not make people with ugly insides, for that he
does not do. Although He forms our bodies,
He does not, to use your phrase, fit up our minds,
but having provided us with materials,—that is,
given us intellects or implements to work with,
—calls on us to furnish them for ourselves.
Neither did Sir Robert Onslow, you know,
furnish his own house,—he only provided the
materials, and gave directions how it was to be
done ; and you may remember hearing him say,
that he at first got a careless upholsterer, who
made such awkward furniture, as quite disfigured
his handsome rooms. He was, therefore, obliged
to take down all this man had done, and hire
THE SOLDIERS RETURN. 69

another, who, from the same materials, fitted the
apartments up in the beautiful manner you have
seen. Now those persons who take no pains in
furnishing their minds, and make no good use of
the intellects God has given them, may be com-
pared to the workman who disfigured Onslow
Hall. I could point out to you many very hand-
some people, who turn their talents to such bad
account, that their good appearance only makes
the ugliness and unsuitableness of their minds
more disgusting.”

Emily acknowledged that her argument was
turned against herself; but she continued to
converse on the subject until the bell rang for °
assembling the domestics to join in the service
of the day.

It chanced that one of the lessons for the
morning was the sixth chapter of Saint Mark,
and when Emily found herself again alone with
her mother and sister, she recurred to the topic
on which they had just before been speaking :
“T think,” said she, “the daughter of Herodias
must have been very beautiful, when she could
please Herod and ali his court so much, merely
by dancing before them.”

Mrs Menden replied, that she was indeed famed
in history for her beauty. “But what think
you of her character, Emily ?”

“Ido not recollect hearing any thing of her
character, mamma.”

“But can you not form some opinion of 1 ?”
70 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

Emily declared she could not. Louisa, however,
after a little reflection, said she must have been
avery wicked girl, “for you recollect, Emily,
she carried the head of John the Baptist herself
to her mother, and I am sure she could not have
done that if she had not been very cruel.”

“ Oh !” cried Emily, “ I never thought of that ;
I wonder I did not think of it before ; that is
quite enough to prove that her beauty did not
make her amiable : she must, indeed, have been
a very cruel creature. Mamma, what character
in the Bible do you like best ?”

“TI do not think I ever yet decided on that
point ; but you, I suppose, approve most of
Absalom. His beauty was greater than that of
any other person mentioned in Scripture.”

“Oh, mamma! do you think I could like such
a shocking creature, who rebelled against his
own father? No; the person I like best is
Joseph. I am sure no one could find a fault in
his character.”

“That is strange, for I do not recollect that
his looks are particularly commended.”

“T see I must give up that opinion, mamma,”
said Emily; “and yet I think Joseph must
have been at least well-looking, for I heard you
once say, mamma, that good temper makes every
body handsome ; and he was so gentle and for-
giving, he must have been good tempered ; and
then, too, he was so kind and affectionate to his
father and his brothers, that I suppose it made
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 71

his eyes sparkle, and his mouth smile and look
nice, the way papa looks, Louisa, when he is
pleased with any thing we say Or do.”

“You make me believe,” said Mrs Menden
smiling, “that Joseph must ‘have been handsome ;
and I fully agree with you in thinking him at
least the finest character in the Old Testament.
He could not indeed have possessed so many
eminent virtues without their giving a sweet and
pleasant expression to his features, however rough
they might have been ; but I now recollect that
we are told he was well-favoured.”

Emily expressed great delight at hearing her
mother approve of her opinion ; and their con-
versation was at that moment joyfully interrupted
by the arrival of a large packet from Colonel
Menden, which they had been for some time
expecting. His letter was written in good
spirits, and contained so many pleasant remarks
and anecdotes of the country he was in, that
dinner was announced before the party were
half satisfied with reading it.

Emily wondered very much that her papa
did not say whether or not he would allow them
to go to him, since there seemed no chance of his
soon returning ; but Louisa reminded her, that
their mother’s letter, making a joint request from
them all on that subject, had only been written
a few days before, and that their papa could not
have received it before he sent away the present
packet.
72 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

In the evening Mrs Menden told the children
she intended to place Liddy Fisher in the new
porter's lodge, for which she had been so long
looking for a worthy tenant, and that she would
consign to their care the task of preparing it -for
her reception.

This information threw the little girls into a
state of perfect delight ; for, added to the pleasure
of providing a home for Liddy and her daughter,
they. felt the happiness of knowing that their
mother would not have promised them so great
an indulgence, unless she had been thoroughly
satisfied with their conduct.

When their glee had a little subsided, they
inquired in what manner the lodge was to *be
prepared ; and reminded their mother that there
was not any kind of furniture in it at the present
moment,

“Very true,” she replied, “but it is perfectly
dry and comfortable, and I mean that you should
fit it up yourselves with some of the discarded
furniture which is locked up in one of the offices,
and a few other articles which I can spare you
out of the house. The little garden is well
stocked with vegetables, and only requires to
have the walks cleaned ; so, if you think you
can prepare the place to-morrow morning, I will
give you a holiday to work at it, and in the
evehing you may go and bring home its new
mistress,”

“Oh, mamma !” cried Emily, leaping about
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 73

like a little mad creature, “how glad I am that
I am nobody's child in the whole world but
yours, for I am sure no other little girl is half
so happy,—except you, Louisa,” she added, “ and
you, I think, must be a great deal happier even
than I am, for you are a great deal better.”

“Indeed, Emily, I do not know why you
should say so,” said Louisa, “for I do not think
Iam either happier or better than yourself.”
And they both ran off to tell Saiphly all that
had passed.

When they were gone, Mrs Menden retired to
her own apartment to read her husband’s letter
over again, to return thanks for his present
safety, and to pray ror its long continuance ; for,
joyful as the letter had made her, it did-not
leave her without some anxiety on his account.

On coming down to tea, she found her daughters
still busied in farming plans for the next day’s
employment ; and, at their request, she promised
to leave the entire management and decoration
of the lodge to themselves. They might have
old William the butler, and their maid Saiphly,
at their command all the morning, she said, to
assist in their arrangements; and the only
stipulation was, that she should have the power
of altering whatever she thought wrong, before
Liddy was brought home.

When nine o’clock arrived, Emily, not yet
tired of discussing the subject, entreated leave to
sit up for half an hour longer
74 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

“What! and prolong this hateful wet Sun-
day ?” said her mother.

“Oh! indeed, mamma, this has been the plea-
santest day I ever spent ; and I resolved, when
you were reading prayers to night, that 1 would
never be afraid of a wet Sunday again.”

“Then I hope my child will remember in
whose presence she made the resolution, and try
to keep it,” said Mrs Menden, kissing her little
daughter, as she bade her good night.

The girls were soon in bed, and asleep. A
bright sun, darting through their window,
awoke them at six o’clock the following morn-
ing ; and great was their delight at the clear
blue sky, unspotted by a cloud, which presented
itself to their view, and promised them a fine day
for their undertaking.

Mrs Menden got up even earlier than usual, to
collect as much bedding, house linen, and wear-
ing apparel, as she could spare for their purpose ;
and the first part of the morning was spent,
according to Saiphly’s recommendation, in alter-
ing some of the things so as to suit Liddy’s new
establishment.

After breakfast, their mother conducted them
to the office where the old furniture was kept,
and allowed them to select whatever was neces-
sary.

“William,” she observed, “has been to the
village already, to purchase all the articles for
the kitchen, which I knew would be required ;
THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 75

and Saiphly and he will remove and place every
thing according to your directions.”

She then left them to the care of their two
good-natured attendants, who, as well as Am-
brose, the gardener, whom they had enlisted in
their service, were provided with full occupation
for that morning.

The quarter bell rang to summon them to dress
for dinner, just as their task was finished ; and
the repast was no sooner ended, than Mrs Menden
was led to the lodge, to give her opinion of what
had been done.

She found all arranged to her perfect satisfac-
tion, and was much pleased with the air of cheer-
fulness and comfort they had contrived to give
to every part of the house. In the sleeping room
an excellent bed stood, prepared for use, The
Sunday evening stories for Ally, some other
books, and a supply of clothes, with a good
stock of working materials, lay neatly spread on
the shelves of an open closet, in one corner of the
room ; and in the kitchen, where all had been
attended to with equal care, a table was laid out
for dinner ; and pots, well stored with victuals,
for a plentiful repast, std6d ready to be hung
upon the fire,

The children were then despatched on their
joyful embassy, and commissioned to present
Liddy with five pounds, which Mrs Menden sent
her in advance from the salary belonging to tlie
situation.
76 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

The ground was scarcely felt beneath their
feet as they flew across the fields to the cottage ;
and when they reached it, breathless with joy
and speed, they stopped not a moment to explain
their errand; but merely telling Liddy she was
wanted by their mother, and seizing Ally by
the hands, they ran with her towards the lodge
in silence.

Mrs Menden was still sauntering about the
avenue, when she saw them all return ; but she
did not hear the exclamation of joyful surprise
uttered by the little girl, when, stopping to admire
the roses and woodbine which thickly covered
its walls, she was informed by her two young
friends, that the house, the garden, and all the
pretty flowers about it, belonged to herself and
her mother.

Liddy looked as much surprised as her
daughter ; and when Louisa delivered Mrs Men-
den’s message as they led her through the house,
so well prepared for her reception, she could find
no words expressive of her feelings. But though
silent, even Emily saw that she was grateful ;
and if the girls were somewhat disappointed at
her not appearing mote elated by the gift, they
had ample satisfaction from Ally’s unconstrained
and artless rapture. At one moment she would
snatch a cloth and rub the chairs and tables,
already shining from the care of abler hands
than hers; then she would run and gather
flowers for her mother, flinging her arms around
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 77

her neck, and scarcely wait to give the intended
kiss, until some fresh object of delight caught
her eye, and called forth some equally strong
expression of her joy.

It was late before Louisa could persuade her
sister that it was time to return to their mamma;
but at last, assuring Liddy that they should
often see her, they hastened back to recount all
that had passed.

Every look, and word, and action of little Ally
was described with delight ; but Emily acknow-
ledged, with some chagrin, that Liddy did not
seem half so much gratified as she expected ; and
it required all Mrs Menden’s rhetoric to persuade
her that the poor woman was probably as much
rejoiced and as grateful as her daughter.

When tea was over, their mother left them to
get their lessons for the next day, and walked to
the lodge, in hopes of being able to cheer the
widow’s spirits, and turn her mind from the
painful reflections to which this change in her
circumstances, however desirable, might pro-
bably have given rise.

She found her sitting at the door, and evi-
dently in sorrow, whilst her daughter played at
some distance in the garden.

The good creature arose hastily, as she saw
her mistress approach, and wiping away the
tears from her eyes, met her with a smile of gra-
titude,

“ You have done too much for me, ma’am,”
78 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

she said ; “ so much, that I fear you will think
me a sad thankless creature, for appearing sor-
rowful in the midst of your bounty ; but,”

“ T will have no thanks, dear Liddy,” replied
Mrs Menden, “ and deserve none, since I have
only performed a duty which I am sure you
would have performed for me, had our situations
been reversed ; sit down, therefore, and let us be
silent on the subject of thanks, and enjoy this
sweet evening hour together. All I wish is, to
see you become a little more cheerful and
happy.”

*“* Indeed, dear madam, I try to become so, be-
cause I know it is my duty ; but I cannot,” said
Liddy, tears flowing afresh as she spoke, “ I can-
aot, especially this evening, get my poor husband
out of my thoughts for one moment. He was
more worthy than I am of such a situation as
this, and he would have been so happy here with
m e,””

“ He was, I know, worthy of a far better place,
and you have every reason to believe, that where
he now is, he is happier than he could be even
with you. I must not see you, Liddy, give way
to these feelings, which, however natural they
may be, are still, we know, improper; and yet
they are so difficult to suppress, that you must
ever look for aid to Him who can alone give you
strength to conquerthem, I trust, through His
assistance, I shall soon see you able to draw com-
fort from the attachment of ‘your child, and ‘the


THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 79

regard of your friends, amongst whom I wish
you ever to reckon me.” |

Liddy, with tears of heartfelt gratitude, ex-
pressed her sense of Mrs Menden’s kindness,
when Ally drew near, and perceived that her
mother had been in distress,

She immediately dropped a bunch of flowers
which she had been gathering, and ran into the
house, but presently returned with a volume of
stories in her hand which Emily had obtained
and already presented to her.

“ You have not seen this pretty book yet,
mother,” said she. “ I should not have left you
alone, and I[ will not do so again, but will sit
down and read you one of these new stories, if
you will let me, after the lady is gone.”

“ You shall read it for me to-morrow,” said
her mother, smiling affectionately on her ; “ but
you must now pick up all those flowers which
you have scattered about the door. I know you
will try to keep this place neat and orderly for

the lady and her daughters, who have been so —

kind to us both.”

Ally gave the book into her mother’s hand,
and began to pick up the flowers.

While she was collecting them, Liddy looked
into the stories, and, struck with some writing
in the,first page, could not help pouring forth
praises of the two little girls who were so kind
to her child. She held out the book to Mrs Men-
80 TIE TRIAL OF SKILL. ©

den, who saw written, in Emily’s hand, these
words,— )

* This is Ally Fisher’s book. It was procured
for her by Louisa Menden.’

_“ We have both reason to be grateful for many
blessings, Liddy ; but for none more than the
amiable dispositions of our children,” said Mrs
Menden, who then told her the circumstance by
which the stories had been obtained.

While she spoke, Ally brought forward the
bunch of flowers which she had collected from
the ground, and as she presented them to Mrs
Menden, abruptly asked if it was still her wish
that she should go to school.

“] wish you to do every thing which will
make you good and happy,” said Mrs Menden,
taking the flowers, and drawing the little girl to
her side.

“ Then I will go to school to-morrow, if you
please,” said Ally, firmly ; “ but I hope it will
not be to any place very far away.”

“No, Ally,” replied Mrs Menden, kissing her
cheek, “ it shall not be very far away ; you may
see the school-house, where I mean you should
go, in the opposite field: your mother can take
you to it herself, and will be able to superintend
your mstruction there, if she pleases. Then you
will learn how to take care of her, and to sup-.
port her should it be necessary, when she grows
old, and may require your aid.”


TIME SOLDIER'S RETURN. 1



The party hastened on deck.—See page 91.

Ally’s reply was interrupted by the appear-
ance of farmer Dillon, who, surprised at his
cousin’s long absence, had come to conduct her
home.

Mrs Menden, happy to see her looking a little
more cheerful than when they first met, was glad
to leave her under his care ; and left it to herself.
to tell him of her present situation.

Ally kept her resolution of attending the
school, and in a short time seemed not to. mind
the daily separation from her mother.

Mrs Menden was astonished at observing the
rapid progress she had made in the course of une
month, and found she had excited such a spirit
of emulation amongst the scholars as was of use
to them all,

F
8Y THE TRIAL OF SKILM.

Louisa and Emily were charmed at her im-
provement, On the first day of examination,
after she had entered, they returned in high
spirits from the school: and, instead of going
into the house with their mother, they ran off to
their gardens, which they were anxious to shew
in perfect order to some ladies who were to dine
at Menden Park that day.

Mrs Menden had gone into the drawing-room
to rest, and found on the table a packet from
her husband, giving such a gratifying answer to
the last letter she had written to him, that she
immediately went to seek her children, and com-
municate its contents to them.

What was her surprise and mortification, on
reaching the garden gate, to see Emily run, with
every indication of passion, and fling something
over the wall, while Louisa, in an agony of grief,
stood wringing her hands, as if some sad misfor-
tune had befallen her.

After gazing at them for some time in aston-
ishment, she, in a voice of marked displeasure,

demanded an explanation of what she saw
‘The culprits started at her voice.

“Oh, mamma!” cried Louisa, struggling to
suppress the sobs which she was now unable to
conquer, “ Emily has pulled up my beautiful
almond tree, and thrown it over the wall in a
passion,”

“ But, mamma, she broke mine first,” said
Emily, in a voice of equal anger.


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. E3

“I broke yours quite by accident, when I
was taking away a weed, which was twisted
round it,” sobbed Louisa.

“ Ambrose would have given you another al-
mond tree, had you asked it, Emily,” said Mrs
Menden coldly ; “and yours, Louisa, beautiful
as it may have been, was scarcely worth such
sinful anger or such violent sorrow.”

“No, mamma, I know it was not,” sobbed
Louisa ; “ but I think Emily should not have
pulled up my tree, merely because I accidentally
broke hers.”

“ And I am sure she had no right to come
and pull up weeds or any thing else out of my
garden,” said Emily.

“The brothers of your favourite Joseph, had
no right to sell him to the Egyptians ; yet the
injury never drove him into the dreadful passion
of anger, Louisa—or the still more hateful crime
of revenge, Emily.”

“TI have this moment received a letter from
your father, which I had brought out to read to
you; but I am sorry to find that neither of you
deserve to hear it, nor are you worthy to spend
the day with me, or with the friends whom I
have invited to dinner: you will therefore re-
main in your room ; and on your conduct there,
throughout the day, and your patient endurance
of this punishment, will depend my forgiveness
of your misconduct, Louisa, to-night. For you,
84 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

Emily, I know not when you can expect my
pardon.”

She then left them, saying she would send
their maid to bring them from the garden. At
sight of her deep displeasure, their tears flowed
from such real sorrow, as quickly touched the
heart of their affectionate attendant ; but though
kind and indulgent to the children, Saiphly was
too obedient to her mistress, to attempt mitigat-
ing any punishment which she thought proper
to inflict. They followed her in silence to the
house, and as they passed through the dressing-
room, where their mamma was preparing for
dinner, found it difficult to retain that compo-
sure on which they knew her forgiveness partly
depended,

As soon as they were shut up in their own
apartment, Louisa’s sobs and grief were re-
doubled. Her spirits were naturally weaker
than those of her sister ; and in conformity with
her mother’s advice, to keep herself constantly
employed, when she found it difficult to conquer
a fit of crying, she ran to her baby-house, and
began to new model and arrange every thing in
it, with the hope of regaining her self-command,
She did not feel at first any interest in the work,
but by degrees perceived the benefit of her exer-
tion ; and by the time her arrangements were
finished, she had completely recovered her com-
posure.
9
THE SOLDIER 8 RETURN. 85

Emily, on the contrary, struck by the deep dis-
pleasure marked in her mother’s manner towards
her, sat like a picture of remorse, lost in tears of
penitence and sorrow, until her sister, pitying
her distress, at length asked her to join in some
employment which might amuse them both.

“ Suppose,” she said, “ we try to make the new
kind of dressing pincushion mamma has been so
long wishing for. Here are our work-boxes, and
here are all the things she gave us yesterday for
making the attempt.”

“Tam afraid mamma would not wish me to
do any thing for her to-day,” said Emily mourn
fully.

“ Indeed, Emily, I am sure she would wish
you to do any thing of the kind, that would help
to make you happy.”

“ But I cannot be happy,” said Emily, burst-
ing into a fresh flood of tears, “ until mamma
has forgiven me for being in a passion, and until
you, Louisa, have forgiven me for pulling up
your almond tree. I think mamma will not
kiss me or forgive me to-night ; but if you knew
how sorry I am for being cross to you, Louisa, I
am sure you would forgive me.”

Louisa threw her arms round her sister’s neck,
‘“ I am sure mamma will forgive us both,” said
she, “ whenever she knows we are sorry for hav-
ing displeased her ; and as to me, Emily, I do
not care about my almond tree now ; I am only
sorry that I happened to break yours.”
56 THE TRIAL OF SKILL

The little girls soon felt happier for having
spoken to each other in this manner; and they
commenced their new work with such alacrity,
that the pincushion was laid upon the toilet,
their lessons learned, and all the business of the
evening satisfactorily completed, when Saiphly
announced to them that it was their time for
going to bed.

This was the first night on which they had
ever retired to rest, without receiving their
mother’s blessing ; and at that recollection they
were obliged to renew all their struggles to pre-
vent a fresh burst of sorrow.

It was late when Mrs Menden’s friends left
her ; and, when she withdrew to her room after
their departure, her first business was, as usual
to examine her daughters’ catechisms, and ob
serve if the answers they had written agreed
with her opinion of their conduct.

Opposite the question,—

Did I my heart with patience guide
Checking ill-temper, anger, pride ?

She saw, on both boards, the negatives she ex-
pected ; and she was pleased and affected at read-
ing, on each, an humble entreaty from her
daughters, that she would grant them her pardon
before she slept.

“Iam as anxious to forgive you, my chil-
dren, as you can be to receive my pardon,” said
she, going to their bedside, on finding they were
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 87

still awake. “ Saiphly tells me you have con-
ducted yourselves in a manner which proves you
are sorry for your faults, and I am therefore well
disposed to look on you again with love and
favour. But I must not, Emily, indulge myself
at the risk of injuring you; and as your be-
haviour this morning betrayed a disposition, of
which I thought you incapable, you deserve a
heavier punishment than any I have yet inflicted
on you. You must therefore submit either to
lose your garden for one month, or not to receive
my pardon, until to-morrow morning.”

“Oh! mamma,” sobbed Emily, stretching
out her arms; “Oh! do forgive me; I will
give up my garden for as long as you please,
only forgive me to-night.”

“ Reflect before you decide,” said her mother.
‘The spring, with all its sweetest flowers, will
be past before the garden can return into your
hands ; my displeasure, however painful for the
time, will be over in one night.”

“Oh! do mamma, do, pray, forgive us both,”
cried Louisa eagerly. “Emily could not be
happy until she has received your pardon.”

“No, mamma, indeed I could not,” sobbed
Emily ; and still persisting in her wish to resign
the garden, she received that blessing without
which, neither she nor Louisa had found it pdos-
sible to rest ; and they both, shortly ~~ for-
got all their cares in sleep.
88 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

Here Kate stopped for a few minutes to take
breath ; and stealing an inquiring glance round
the table, she perceived, with pleasure, that her
aunt’s knitting was cast aside, and that her
uncle kept his eye fixed with a pleased expres-
sion on her face. He was tapping the lid of a
gold snuff-box, which he held ready to take a
pinch from, at the first convenient pause ; his
legs were crossed ; the upper foot shook with a
quick regular motion, which, she knew well,
indicated satisfaction.

“They like the beginning of my story toler-
ably well,” thought she. “ There is nothing in
it, I see, of which they disapprove ; but what
will they think of the second part ? for oh what
a falling off I know to be there !”

Her reflections were interrupted by an en-
treaty from Elizabeth that she would preceed,
Sir Humphrey snuffed the candles, and placed
them nearer to her ; and when Mrs Deborah had
again taken her seat, after getting up to fix her
niece’s head and shoulders in a perfectly per-
pendicular position, Kate resumed her story,
THE

SOLDIER’S RETURN.

PART II.

Weave the crimson web of war,
Let us go, and let us fly
Where our friends the conflict share,

Where they conquer, where they die.
. GRAY.

No sooner were their eyes opened the next
morning, than the two girls came to Mrs Menden’s
bedside, to inquire what answer their father had
given to her request, that they should be allowed
to join him abroad.

“He has granted it, my dear girls. He will
meet us himself at Ostend, and he proposes that
we should remain abroad with him, until the
90 TILE TRIAL OF SKILL.

restoration of peace shall, please God, enable us
all to return home together.”

“Oh, joy! joy!” cried Emily in ecstasy,
“ and we shall see’ papa immediately.”

“No, not immediately ; we have many pre-
parations to make before we can set out ; and
afterwards a long voyage to take, which, I fear,
you will think neither speedy nor agreeable.”

“ Oh, no matter, mamma ; no matter. I am
sure it will be all very pleasant,” said both
girls, running off to complete, as fast as possible,
the irksome task of dressing.

But though Mrs Menden endeavoured to re-
strain her own impatience, and to check the
unbounded rapture of her daughters, she found
it impossible to do either ; and the preparations
fur their departure went on so rapidly, that, on
the third day after the receipt of Colonel Menden’s
letter, they were all ready to commence their
journey.

Mrs Menden now pitied her unfortunate
foster-sister more deeply than ever, feeling her-
self secure of recovering that happiness which
Liddy could never hope to enjoy again. To
keep her from brooding over her misfortunes,
and to occupy her time as much as possible, it
was agreed, that she should fill Saiphly’s place
in the mangement of the house, while that faith-
ful servant attended her mistress to the Continent

It was a lovely morning in the month of June,
when the party set off, escorted by William, the
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 91

old butler, who, though he acknowledged himself
no very courageous seaman, insisted on seeing
his mistress, and his dear young ladies, across
the water, and delivering them safely, with his
own hands, into his master’s care,

The weather was fine; the journey from
Menden Park to Harwich, where they were to
embark, was delightful ; and all things promised
fair for a speedy and prosperous voyage.

It proved, indeed, more speedy than any of
the passengers wished, for the wind, getting up
in the night, blew a gale sostrong, as to frighten
all on board. Louisa and Emily were not
amongst those who suffered least from sickness
and terror ; but all the miseries of the voyage
were forgotten, when the sweet and welcome
sound of the bells at Ostend, announced that
they were in that harbour.

The party hastened on deck ; and whilst the
cheerful peal increased on their ear, and the gay
and busy scene closed around them, they saw a
crowd of persons on shore press forward, each to
receive and welcome some expected friend.

Mrs Menden’s whole frame trembled with
emotion, at the thought of once more seeing her
husband in safety; and whilst her eager eye
strained through the crowd in search of his
well-known form, Louisa, whose looks followed
her mother’s, cried out, that Russel, her papa’s
servant, who saved his life so often, was there
92 THE TRIAL OF SKILL. .

amongst the throng, just coming up to meet
them.

The good soldier hastened forward to assist
them on shore, and could scarcely restrain the
honest expression of his joy at seeing them
again,

“TI need not ask you how you do, Russel,”
said Mrs Menden, holding out her hand to the
preserver of her husband’s life ; “ you look just
as well, after all your hardships, as you did three
years ago, when you promised to bring your
master back to me, safe and well, before so many
months. But tell me why I do not see him
with you ? is he still well, and is he here ?

“Tle is well; but he is not here,” replied
Russel, his face losing a little its expression of
gladness. “ He has been in many a hard fought
battle since you and he parted, my dear mistress,
but I never saw him flinch from a soldier’s duty,
until he was refused leave to come and meet you
at this place. There is not, however, a man in
the army at the present moment in better health
than himself; and I am sure there will be none
happier, when he gets you and my sweet young
ladies by his side again.”

“Tt seems strange he could not be allowed to
come and meet me, if matters remain as quiet as
when he last wrote,” said Mrs Menden.

Russel informed her, he had brought a letter
from his master, which would explain matters
better than he could do; and when they arrived
5 '
THE SOLDIER § RETURN. 93

at the hotel where he had made preparations for
their reception, he gave her the packet. From
it she learned, that the enemy had mustered a
very strong force in the neighbourhood of the
British army, and that they must inevitably try
their fate in the field before many days were
passed. The action, he said, would be decisive ;
and he wished her to remain at Ostend until the
conflict was over.

To this she felt the strongest repugnance ; and
believing that, in case of his being wounded,
her care might be essential to his recovery, or
at least to his comfort, she, for once, determined
to disobey him, and proposed to leave the chil-
dren under Saiphly’s care, and to proceed herself
to Brussels, where she would be within his
reach.

She was, however, dissuaded from this plan
by Russel, who said he never could answer to
his master for letting her go there, as it would
be the first place to which the enemy would
advance, in case of their being successful: but
he thought Odaine, a village some miles to the
left of our army, and which was out of the line
of march the enemy would take, either in ad-
vancing or afterwards retreating, would be a
place of perfect security ; and as he told her the
families of many British officers had already
come there for safety from Brussels, knowing
that from thence they could readily cross the
country to the sea, if it became necessary to fly,
94 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

she resolved to follow his advice, and take her
children there along with her.

“How soon could we reach Odaine ?” said
Mrs Menden, after she had made up her mind to
the measure,

“ Probably we might be there on Sunday,”
replied Russel, “if we set out with a detachment
of troops, that starts hence this evening.”

“Then,” said Mrs Menden, “let every thing
be prepared for our departure. To commence
our journey will only refresh us, after the con-
finement of the packet, and I shall be ready to
set out at any hour you appoint.”

Her anxiety to get within reach of her hus-
band at so critical a moment was scarcely greater
than that felt by Russel to hasten back to the
scene of action. While he sought out the com-
mander of the detachment, and arranged matters
with him for their departure, old William busied
himself in procuring some refreshment for the
travellers, and making preparations for their
journey.

A change of clothes, and a few hours’ sleep,
completely renovated the strength and spirits of
the children. As they got into the carriage
with their mother and Saiphly, and drove along,
escorted by a strong body of dragoons, and a
long train of carts and ammunition waggons, they
began to change the opinion which, with much
chagrin, they had expressed some time before,
that they had seen nothing new or amusing




=

a strong body of draguens,

Lowy

Lor

-

hw

ur
o

They drove ulon

aN

Fae
*

Pry

THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 95

since they left home; and that all the green
fields, trees, houses, and people, looked just ake
those they had left in England.

Unacquainted with the contents of their
father’s letter, and cheered, after their first dis-
appointment, by the thought, that they were
now actually on the road to meet him, they
chatted merrily of the strange scene before them.
To, this they were encouraged by Saiphly, who
endeavoured to direct. their attention - from her
agitated mistress, whose distress became, at
times, but too apparent, as the danger of her -
husband rose with fresh horror to her recollec-
tion.

The party continued its route night and day,
stopping only at intervals, when it. was necessary
to refresh the horses, At last, on the morning
of the second day’s journey, worn out by anxiety
and fatigue, Mrs Menden endeavoured to follow
the example of her children, who had slept un-
interruptedly for the last five hours. She found
it, however, impossible to procure a moment’s
rest ; and as the day advanced, her fears were
roused almost to agony by the sound of cannon,
which she heard rolling like distant thunder
_ through the air.

“ The battle is then begun,” said she to Russel,
who rode close by the carriage window. “ How
far do you think we are still from Odaine ?”

“ Not quite a mile,” was the reply.

At this moment a troop of Prussian hussars

v
96 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

appeared, crossing the country in much disorder,
just in front of the detachment.

“What news do they bring ?” said Russel, to
one of the dragoons, who had galloped forward
to interrogate the stragglers.

“Bad enough, by all I could understand from
their Broken English,” replied the soldier. “ 'They
say the battle has raged for these two days, and
that in an hour or two, at most, our army will
be routed.”

“But who believes them?” called out the
indignant soldier. Then furiously spurring on
his horse, he ordered the postilion to keep pace
with the cavalry, who, heedless of all fatigue,
arged on their wearied horses, and entered the
village at a brisk trot,

Iiere they were met by an officer of the guard,
who had charge of the sick and wounded sent
into this place of safety the day before.

“ What tidings from the camp, Holton ?” said
the commander of the detachment, without wait-
ing to greet an old acquaintance.

“We were victorious yesterday,’ returned
Holton ; but there was more of anxiety than
exultation in the voice with which he made the
reply. “ We fell back last night upon a village
near this, and I fear they have some tough work
on yonder heights this morning.”

“Have we lost many lives, your honour er.
asked Russel in a low voice; “Can you tell me
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 97

if the regiment of light infantry has been much
engaged, and if Colonel Menden is safe.”

“Your regiment was in the hottest part of
the action yesterday,’ said Holton; “but I
left Colonel Menden in perfect health at six
o'clock in the evening, and I trust to find
him in the same state half an hour hence ; for,
thank God, I am now at liberty to quit this
place, and share the danger with my com-
panions,”

Several others crowded round the officer at
this moment, to interrogate him as to the wel-
fare of those in whom they felt a deep inter-
est. Somewere longing to know how it sped
with the British arms; others, like Mrs Menden,
to inquire for some dear friend.

To a careless observer, the group of eager and
anxious questioners might have formed no un-
interesting study, but there was no one there
sufficiently uninterested and unemployed to find
leisure for such a study. At length the more
eager questioners drew off, after listening to the
hasty replies of the officer, who resigned his
charge, according to orders, into Ripley’s hands,
and returned to the field. That officer did
not receive the trust very graciously, but
he was obliged to submit. One of his first
cares was, to procure a lodging for Mrs. Men-
den, whose alarm and agitation had been
dreadfully increased by all she heard. He
soon fonnd her comfortable accommodation, and

a
98 7 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

pitying the distress she appeared to suffer, re-
solved to pay her every attention in his power.

The children did not awake until the carriage
stopped at the door of their lodging, when per-
ceiving the expression of alarm in their mother’s
look and manner, they caught an’ apprehension
of some impending danger. This was increased
on their entrance into the house, by the dreadful
cannonading, which they then heard for the first
time; and, deprived of the spirits which had
sustained them through the fatigues of their
journey, they seemed no longer able to struggle
against their terror and weariness.

Mrs Menden busied herself, with the haste
and eagerness of one afraid of having time for
reflection, in preparing a place for them to get
some repose. She had just assisted them to bed,
and was still standing by their side, when the
firing increased with such tremendous rapidity,
that the house shook to its centre.

She sunk upon the sideof their bed. “Sleep,
sleep, my children,” she cried; in a voice of such
misery, that the girls, who had never before
seen her lose her self-possession, clung trembling
to each other, and closed their eyes, as if anxious
to obey her, without daring to speak. In a few
minutes the cannonading slackened, and -per-
ceiving them steal an inquiring look at her, she
assumed sufficient composure to speak to them
with cheerfulness, and after a short time had the


-: .

THE SOLDIER 8 RETURN. 99

satisfaction of seeing them sink into a quiet

' slumber.

When fully assured that they were asleep, she
stole to the window, from whence there was a
view of the country towards the camp; and
seating herself-at the open casement, she watched,
with breathless agitation, an immense assemblage
of people, who had collected on a hill beyond
the village, and seemed to regard the scene of
action with anxiety equal to her own. :

She had not been long there, when the firing
recommenced with double fury ; and unable to
control her feelings, she summoned Saiphly to
her place, and went to join young Ripley and
Russel, who paced with hurried steps before her
windows.

“ Do not feel so much alarmed, dear madam,”
said the former, advancing to meet her. “The
enemy have a bad cause, and cannot much
longer maintain it against our gallant com-
mander.”’

“And my master has been in the hottest of
twenty battles before this, and the same Power
who preserved his life then, will guard it still,”
said Russel.

She clasped her hands, but made no reply.

“Why are you not by his side, good Russel ?” .

she at length said. “I should feel happier if
you were with him.”

Russel looked as if he would feel so too, but
he recollected his master’s charge to stay by her


100 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

in case of danger, and hesitated, being unwilling
to leave her.

At this moment a couple of soldiers, and some
women from the hill, passed up the street, bear-
ing with them an officer, to all appearance dead,
whom they carried into a house close by Mrs
Menden’s.

She turned away in agony, dreading it might
be her husband, or some friend she loved.

“How goes the day ?” said Russel, as the men |
hastened back to the action.

“Hard enough,” replied one of them: “the
brunt of the battle has fallen on our left wing; ©
but we shall conquer yet, I hope.” |

“You are well out of the fray to-day,” ex- |
claimed the second soldier, who glanced his eye |
on Russel’s uniform ; “ your regiment was almost |
surrounded by the enemy’s cavalry when we |
left the field, and I fear will be cut to pieces
before we get back.”

“T’ll stay no longer idling here,” cried Russel.
“You, lieutenant, cannot quit your post; I
leave my mistress to your care ; I can do her no
good, and may do some elsewhere.” So saying
he soon outstripped the fleetest of the men who
pursued their way to the field.

Poor Ripley bit his lips, and inveighed bitterly
against the unlucky order which chained him to
the guard that day. He was, however, a man of
true courage, and felt that he might shew as
much firmness by submitting to a mortification,


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 101

as by fighting a battle. Having also a kind and
feeling heart, he immediately turned all his atten-
tion towards his terrified companion, whom he
found it difficult to rouse from the stupefaction
into which the last information had plunged her,

Thinking his best plan would be to give her
some employment, and try inany way to engage
her attention, he proposed that they should go
together and offer assistance to the wounded
officer who had just been carried past them ;
since there was at that time, he knew, no medical
aid to be had in the village.

Mrs Menden had thought of this before; but
enervated by the excessive fatigue and anxiety
she had undergone, the fortitude which, in gene-
ral, marked her character, had for the moment
forsaken her, and she had been deterred from
making the proposal by a vague dread of meet-
ing in the sufferer some person she knew—an
apprehension which, at any other time, would
have made her fly to his relief.

Willing, however, to act as her reason told her
she ought, she followed Ripley to the house in
silence.

On entering the first door they found open,
she saw two women very composedly sitting
smoking beside the officer, who lay, to all ap-
pearance, lifeless on the floor.

“It is not any person I know, cried she,
springing forward with awakened energy ; and
her companion felt astonished at the judgment
102 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

and activity which she now exerted to restore
life to the stranger.

Having discovered, amongst many dangerous
wounds, a severe contusion on his chest, she in-
quired, from the women, what had been done for
his relief? With undisturbed composure they
replied that nothing had been done, because the
gentleman was dead. They, however, shewed
themselves very ready to be useful in any way
that could be pointed out to them, and while
one hastened to prepare a warm bath, the other
ran to some distance in the village, to try and
procure a lancet, with which, when she returned,
Ripley took courage to open a vein in the suf-
ferer’s arm. With heartfelt satisfaction, they
perceived the blood begin to flow ; and as hope rose
in their minds, all their efforts were redoubled;
but there was still little sign of life, and it was
many hours before Mrs Menden had any reason
to suppose that their exertions would prove fin-
ally successful.

In the mean time, Russel pursued his rapid
flight to the field of battle, and casting around an
eager look for his own regiment, which he con-
sidered the pride and glory of the whole army,
he soon discovered it maintaining an unequal,
but unyielding conflict with two regiments of
chasseurs, by which it was attacked on each side,
whilst a howitzer from the opposite height poured
a destructive fire right upon its centre,

“* They are lost!” he exclaimed, on seeing his
















THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 103

brave Colonel strain every nerve to extricate the
regiment from so perilous a situation—“ They
will be slaughtered to a man, my brave master
and all, and I will never survive their down-
fall!”

With this determination in his mind, he
thought for a moment how he might sell his life
to most advantage ; and making his way to join
the corps, he pushed forward through the centre
of the square, resolved, at least, to make one
effort for their relief. He watched his oppor-
tunity, and rushing on several paces in the
enemy's front, threw himself on his face, just as
a ball from the howitzer tore up the ground by
his side, almost burying him in the devastation
it created.

“ Safe for once,” said he, rising on one knee,
and shaking off the earth with which he was en-
cumbered ; then cooly taking aim at the soldier
who stood by the cannon’s mouth preparing for
another charge, he fired, and saw the man fall.

Another race, and Russel was again flat on the
ground, charging his musket as he lay, when a
second ball passed without touching him.

“Two of our enemies sent where they will
never trouble us more,” he exclaimed, having
fired his piece with his former success: “now
one more race and the game is my own.”

He ran, escaped, fired again, saw his third ad-
versary fall, and the fourth, ‘panic-struck, desert
his post; then springing forward, he laid his
104 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

hand upon the cannon, and shouting with the
voice of Stentor, “ A gun taken !”” he waved his
cap for his companions to advance,*

Urged on by his unparalleled example, and
relieved from the murderous fire of the howitzer,
the men were enabled to form, so as to pour one
volley close in amongst the enemy, and rushing
furiously upon them, at the point of the bayonet,
they fought as British soldiers alone can fight,
and soon drove them at full flight back upon
their lines.

The right wing of the army was, by this time,
completely successful, and the commander in
chief, aware that a large body of horse was ad-
vancing from the left to follow up the victory,
formed his troops into one ponderous line, and
rushed like a torrent down the heights, driving
the flying enemy before them.

% % * » * *

“ Where is Russel, our brave preserver ?” asked
Colonel Menden, when the battle and pursuit had
eeased.

“Close by your honour’s side,” replied the
hero, as, intoxicated with delight, he seized his
master’s hand, and wished him joy of the victory.
He, however, soon perceived with horror, that
Colonel Menden was desperately wounded, and
almost covered with blood.

* This gallant exploit was actually performed, in a former
action, by Robert Russel, a private in the 85th Light Infantry,
well known to all the officers of his corps,
THE SOLDIERS RETURN. 105

“ Gently, good Russel,” said the Colonel, shrink-
ing from his grasp; “that. arm has had two
bullets through it this morning. - My horse, tog,
has no longer strength to carry me, so assist me
_ to dismount ; but as you do so, my friend, let me
know where you left your mistress, and why you
quitted her ?”

Russel was about to reply, but his master had
no sooner left the saddle, than, exhausted by pain,
fatigue, and loss of blood, he fell to the earth in
a state of insensibility. .

The faithful servant, and the men around him,
forgot their own fatigue, and all the toils and
glories of the day, in anxious zeal to render him
assistance, quickly carried to the village, accompanied by
the surgeon of his regiment, and by many suf-
ferers who stood in equal need of assistance.

As the party entered the town, Russel, seeing
his master still insensible, ran on before to ap-
prise Mrs Menden of her husband’s situation and
near approach. He found she had just left her
own house, having gone to visit the wounded
officer, whose life she still considered in extreme
danger.

She was standing by the bedside, examining
a slight wound on his, head, which had not been
observed before, when Russel, unperceived by
her, presented himself at the door.

“Is the battle over, and is your Colonel safe 2?”
hastily exclaimed the invalid, with flushed cheek
106 | THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

and agitated voice, as he caught the first view of
- Russel’s well-known countenance.

Before Mrs Menden turned round to see whom
he thus eagerly addressed, she was startled by
the voice which replied in ill-repressed agita-
tion —

“ The day is won, sir ; but we have bought it
with the loss of many lives.”

Seized with sudden tremor, she would have
fallen to the ground, had not the good soldier
sprang forward to her assistance,

“Your master ?—Oh! tell me!” was all she
could articulate.

“I will not deceive you, my dear mistress :
my master is wounded, but, I trust, not danger-
ously. He is now at your lodging, and, with
your care, in a little time, his wounds may not
signify. Let me entreat you, dear lady, to shew
as much resolution, now the battle is over, as he
did in the midst of it.”

“ Is it possible that I owe my preservation to
the wife of my best friend?” said the invalid,
affectionately pressing her hand. “ Hasten to
him, dear madam—he may require your care,—
and tell him you have saved the life of Arthur
Chrestone.”

Mrs Menden’s pale cheek flushed with joyful
surprise at this intelligence; but the certainty
that her husband was alive, the knowledge that
he was wounded, and, above all, the thought
that he was so near, filled her with such various









THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. — 107

emotions, that, without being able to speak, she
merely pressed the hand of her newly-discovered
friend with affection equal to his own, and hur-
ried away, glad to accept support from the arm
of her faithful domestic, A few seconds brought
her to her own house, but her fortitude almost
forsook her as she reached the door of the apart-
ment where Colonel Menden lay impatiently
waiting for her, |

On entering, she saw him stretched on the
couch where he had just been laid, wounded,
exhausted, and almost covered with blood. The
two little girls hung over him weeping by his
side, with grief and fear depicted on each ex-
pressive countenance,

He struggled to suppress every sign of pain as
she approached, and while he leaned forward to
meet her, there was only visible in his eye an
expression of the joy he felt at beholding her
once more. He almost, for the time, forgot the
agony of his wounds; but his pale and haggard
appearance, and the quantity of blood which
flowed from his arm, struck terror to the heart
of Mrs Menden.

“You must not speak to me,” she said, sink-
ing on her knees beside his couch, and pressing
his outstretched hand against her forehead—* I
am sufficiently happy at seeing you alive—you
must not speak to me until you are better.”

The injunction, however, was unheeded, and
he could not be persuaded to let her quit him,
108 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

until the surgeon, alarmed for the consequences,
protested there was an absolute necessity for
paying immediate attention to his wounds, which
had been already too long neglected.

Mrs Menden sent the girls away, but entreated
leave to remain and assist, if possible, in what-
ever operation might be necessary ; nor could
she be persuaded to leave the room, until her
husband, declaring he would not submit to any
while she was present, urged her so anxiously
to retire, that, unwilling any longer to resist his
wishes, she obeyed.

When Surgeon Trebor examined the broken
arm, he found the shoulder bone shattered in
two places, and the part so dreadfully inflamed
in consequence of many hours’ exertion and
neglect, that he felt the greatest apprehension
for his patient’s life. Amputation, from the state
and nature of the wound, was impracticable, and
he was under the painful necessity of acquaint-
ing Mrs Menden with her husband’s situation,
as she alone could attend to the precautions re-
quisite for his safety.

The kind-hearted surgeon was moved even to
tears on beholding the agony his statement in-
fiicted ; and he watched over Mrs Menden with
fatherly interest, whilst; day after day, he saw
her hover round the sick-bed of her husband,
administering with ceaseless anxiety to his wants,
and concealing, with heroic firmness, every feel-
ing, the sight of which might agitate his mind,
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 109

and by consequence augment both his danger and
his suffering.

For many days his life was held by an uncer-
tain tenure ; but Colonel Menden, happily for.
himself, possessed such a calm and placid temper,
and bore the excruciating agony occasioned by
his complicated wounds with such matchless
patience and resignation, that his fever, receiving
no increase from mental irritation, was able to
be kept under, by the skill and care of his attend-
ants, and at length gave way to the remedies
applied. He then began to shew decided symp-
toms of recovery, and the kind surgeon, who had
perceived throughout his illness that he was fully
aware of his danger, had the satisfaction of as-
suring him, that all fears for his life were at
length at an end.

“ You must give these happy tidings to Mrs
Menden yourself, my dear sir,” said he, as she,
at that moment, stole softly into the room ; but
Colonel Menden, with a cheerful smile, replied
that he believed they would be welcome, come
from whom they might.

Surgeon Trebor staid for a short time to wit-
ness the renewed happiness of the grateful pair,
and felt all his care and anxiety rewarded, by
seeing the animated expression of felicity which
gradually spread over Mrs Menden’s mild coun-
tenance, as her mind opened to the full convic-
tion of her husband’s safety.

“ How happy our friend Mr Trebor ought to
110 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

be,” she remarked to her husband, in the course
of their conversation, “ who has been blessed with
power to save so many valuable lives in the course
of his own, and how trifling are all other worldly
benefits, when compared with those which a
physician is often enabled to bestow.”

Trebor, though thankful for any good he might
have done, disclaimed all praise of this kind,
declaring, he did not ascribe to his art the de-
gree of power which it was generally thought
to possess. “I have seen,” said he, “so many
deaths occur from what appear to me inadequate
causes, and again, so many recoveries take place
after every hope in human remedies seemed vain,
that I am persuaded we can do little more than
alleviate the sufferings of our fellow-creatures ;
and in this respect,” he added, “I fancy, you
ladies have fully as much influence as any of
the faculty.”

Mrs Menden asked, “ In what way ?”

“ By early inuring your children to hardship,
and teaching them to endure suffering without
that dread and irritation which, in cases like the
present, always increase fever and bring on ad-
ditional disease. I have,” said he, “ but this
morning lost a patient, whose situation was not
half so desperate as that of Colonel Menden, and
whose death was certainly produced by the fre-
quent excitement occasioned by his own impa-
tience and apprehension.”

Trebor now rose to depart ; and Mrs Menden
THE SOLDIER’S RETURN. 111

soon after withdrew, to communicate to her
children the happy news, which she eould not
fully enjoy until it was shared with them. With-
out knowing the extent of their father’s danger,
they had been kept close prisoners in a distant
part of the house, but had read enough in the
anxious faces around them to excite an alarm of
which they hardly understood the cause, ~

“My children,” she said, encireling them in
her arms as she entered their room, “ my beloved
children, your father will live to bless and pro-
tect you still; he is pronounced out of danger,
and we shall all once more be happy.”

~ “OQ mamma!” said Louisa, returning her em-
brace, “is he then no longer in pain ?”

“ And when,” said Emily, “ when may we see
him again? We will sit quietly by his bedside,
and only try to be useful, if you will let us go to
him,”

“You cannot, my dear girls, be more anxious
to see him than he is to see you; but he must
still be kept in perfect quiet, and, for his sake, I
know you will patiently submit to your confine-
ment a short time longer. We shall all, I trust,
very soon be restored to each other ; for, since
the night of our arrival here, I have not had
time to attend even to you, my children, or in-
deed scarcely to think of you, so much have I
been occupied by the sight of your father’s suf-
fering, and the dread of what it might produce.”

She next informed them of her surprise at
112 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

finding in the wounded officer, whom they knew
she had been attending, the uncle of their little
friend, Lucy Onslow, which information filled
them with increased delight. This she had care-
fully concealed from them, whilst his case ap-
peared so,very doubtful, being unwilling to height-
en the distress which their alarm about their
father, their almost constant separation from her,
and their confinement in a very comfortless
lodging, all conspired to occasion.

Major Chrestone, she confessed, was still in a
state of suffering, but she held out to them a hope,
that in a few days he might be able to see them ;
and whenever that was the case, she promised
that they should be permitted to assist in nurs-
ing and attending him, as she did herself. She
also promised to take them for a few minutes
into their father’s room whenever he awoke,
and after again embracing them, hastened away
to his friend, whom she had not seen for some
hours.

No hope, no prospect of future pleasure, had
however, power to cheer the girls, as they saw
their mother depart again from their prison with-
out them. They now began to demonstrate a
truth which is pretty generally acknowledged,
that those who can submit to real trials with
fortitude and resignation, often suffer themselves
to be overcome by trifles, which they ought to
blush for thinking about.

Louisa and Emily had borne their long and irk-
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN, 113



some imprisonment with perfect patiance, while
their fears for their father’s safety were kept
alive; but now when their apprehension was
removed, and when they were so near emanci-
pation, they began to complain of their lot. All
Saiphly’s endeavours failed to keep them in good
humour, Her prettiest stories, heard over and
over again, had now lost their charm ; and it
was in vain she tried to remind them, that their
father was much better, that their confinement
was nearly at an end, and that their dejection
and impatience were now unreasonable,

It was very hard, they said, to have left Men-
den Park, for nothing in the world but to be
shut up in a nasty little lodging, without being
able to get out of the house, or even to see their
father.

“ Indeed, Saiphly,” said Louisa, in reply to a
H
ll4 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

disapproving shake of her maid’s head, and more
than half ashamed of the tears which ran down
her cheeks ; “ indeed, Saiphly, it is no wonder I
ery, for every thing has turned out unluckily
since we left home. It would be quite enough
to make any body cry.”

“ My dear young lady, I am sure you will not
repeat that sentence if you consider a little about
it: I did not expect to hear you, who have just
been told your father was out of danger, say,
that every thing has turned out unluckily since
you left home.”

“ Well, Saiphly, I did not mean every thing,
but I am sure most things have.”

“No, my dear child, nor yet most things. God,
as he always does, has ordered matters providen-
tially and happily for us all, ever since we came
here,”

“Why, now, Saiphly, was it happy that papa
got his arm broken, and was put to such pain
and torture for nothing ?’”’ said Louisa.

“ And was it happy that Major Chrestone, who
is loved so much by every body, was nearly
killed ?” rejoined her sister,

*“ And what happiness is there in this cold wet
weather, which keeps us all shut up in the house
in the middle of summer, when we ought to be
running about the fields at Menden Park,” con-
tinued Louisa, “ as happy as the bees that are
buzzing about in our gardens, and sucking our
pretty flowers,”









THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 115

“ Softly, softly, dear young ladies,” said Saiphly,
smiling at their vehemence; “your questions
come too quickly, if you mean to have them all
answered. Your father, Miss Menden, was not
put to pain and torture for nothing ; for you
know, in trying to save our kingdom from de-
struction, it could not be avoided that some per-
sons should suffer; and hundreds fell in their
country’s defence, upon the same field where his
life was spared. I therefore think it was very
providential, that his head did not reeeive the
two bullets which shattered his arm.”

“That is happy for us indeed,” said Louisa.

“And then, :-Miss Emily, I think it was a
happy thing that Major Chrestone, instead of
being left, like many others, on the field, when
all his men supposed him dead, should have been
carried to this place, where your mamma, by
God's appointment, no doubt, was at hand to use
the proper means for his recovery.”

“And what can you say for the weather,
Saiphly ?” said Emily, half convinced of her folly.

“I can say, that as the poor wounded soldiers
must have had their fevers heightened, and all
their sufferings increased, by the heat which is
usual at this season of the year, it was kind and
merciful of God to send such weather as is most
beneficial to their health, and will greatly hasten
their recovery.”

“Well, Saiphly, if it does that,” said Louisa,
“TI will not call it bad weather any longer.”

i
Sai ee ae ba
a he ie ® , o
' +, an” te gt *. “
oe 3.00% cose “ee . —

so
116 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

“ Heigh ho!” sighed Emily, “ I wish what was
good and pleasant for one person could be good
for all. I wonder God does not make that the
case. I wonder he did not make papa and Major
Chrestone both eseape unhurt, and that he did
not save all the people who were killed in that
vile battle. That is what I would have done.
And if I were God, I would let all persons have
whatever they wished for; and give them leave
to do whatever they pleased ; and I would have
made them strong like lions, that nothing might
hurt them ; and I would have given them wings
like birds, 80 that they might fly away wherever
they liked ; and and

“Oh! stop, stop, dear Emily,” said Louisa,
putting her hand on her sister’s mouth. “ I am
sure mamma would not like to hear you say all
this ; I fear it is wrong ; very, very wrong ; but
it is I who am in fault, for I began to complain
first.”

“It is, indeed, very wrong to use God’s name
so foolishly,” said Saiphly, “and to be dissatisfied
with any thing that he had done for us, Your
discontent, Miss Emily, reminds me of a story,
which I think I never told you yet. If you
wish, I will relate it to you now.’

The girls eagerly drew their seats besiitacdied:
requesting she might tell it, and she ee
began,













THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 117

THE THREE SILVER FISHES.

Along the sheltered side of a pleasant hill, upon
a time, there ran a very clear river, and in that
river lived three silver trouts, the prettiest little
fishes that ever swam the water, Now, the Good
Spirit who guards and protects all the fishes of
the sea, took great care of those little helpless
trouts, and let them want for nothing that was
good or proper for them. But two of them grew
sad and discontented, the one wished for this
thing, and the other wished for that, and neither
of them could take pleasure in any thing he had,
because he was always longing for something he
had not. Now this was very naughty in these
little trouts ; for the Good Spirit was kind and
gracious, and had never withheld from them any
thing which could turn out to their advantage.
But instead of thanking him for all his care and
kindness, they blamed him in their foolish hearts
for refusing any thing that their foolish fancies
made them ask. In short, there was no end to
their wishing for this thing and longing for the
other, and every day they fretted more and more
because they did not get whatever they pleased
to demand.

At'last, the Good Spirit was so provoked, that
he resolved to punish their naughtiness by grant-
s all their wishes, and he resolved to make the

pane
118 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

conduct of these little trouts a warning and ex-
ample to all the fishes of the flood. So he called
them to the margin of the river, and told them
he had determined to grant them all their wishes,
and bade them now ask for whatever they de-
sired.

Now, the eldest of these silver trouts was a
proud conceited little fish, and wanted to be set
up above all other creatures of its kind. And he
replied boldly, “ May it please your greatness, I
do not like the life I lead in this poor rocky
stream. You have put me into a little, narrow,
troublesome river, where I am straitened on the
right side, and straitened on the left side; and I
can neither get down into the ground, nor up into
the air, nor go where, nor do any thing I have a
mind to. I cannot but envy those creatures who
do whatever they please, and seem so free and
happy. These are your favourites, the little
winged birds, who mount this way and that
through the air, who fly up into the heavens, and
down again to the earth, and appear to have every
thing at their command. Now, if you will give
me wings like theirs, that I may quit this nar-
row stream as often as I please, I shall then have
something for which I can thank you.”

Immediately he felt the wings he wished for,
springing from either side of his shoulders ; and
in a few minutes he spread them forth, and rose
proudly out of the water.

At first, he took wonderful delight in finding
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 119

himself able to fly. He mounted high into the
air, above the very clouds, and looked down with
scorn on all the fishes, his companions, whom he
had left in the river. He flew over mountains,
meadows, and woods, but never thought of mark-
ing the way for his return, and sought diversion
far and wide, until growing faint with hunger
and fatigue, he was at length obliged to descend
and look for some refreshment. The little fool
forgot that he was now in a strange country,
many miles from the sweet stream where he was
born and bred, and where he had been taken care
of by his kind Creator. So when he came down,
he lay amongst dry rocks, and scorching sands,
where there was neither fly nor worm for him to
eat, nor a drop of water to quench his thirst ; and
there he remained faint, and weary, and unable
to rise, gasping, fluttering, and beating himself
against the stones, in pain and misery, until at
length he died.

Now, though the second little silver trout was
not quite so high minded as the first, yet he did
not want for pride, and he was besides a very
narrow hearted, selfish little fish, who cared not
what became of all the fishes in the tide, provided
he was safe and snug himself. He had no desire,
to be sure, to ramble into strange places, where
he knew not what might happen to him ; nor did
he wish for wings to fly out of the pleasant river,
where he had hitherto found all that was neces-
120 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

sary for his happiness. So he answered his Creator
with great respect, and said, “ I lived, may it
please you, most good and powerful Spirit, quite
safe, happy, and comfortable, until one day,
when, as I lay at ease under a cool bank, shel-
tering myself from the heat of the mid-day sun,
I saw a great rope come down along the stream,
and it fastened itself, I know not how, to the jaws
of a little fish about my size, which was swim-
ming before me in the water, and he was imme-
diately lifted up, struggling, apparently in great
pain, and was carried away out of my sight, I
know not where. So I trembled in great fear,
and grew very sad, for I dreaded that this evil
which had befallen my little friend, might some-
time happen to myself, and I have been anxious
and unhappy, and affrighted ever since. But if
you will tell me the cause of this misfortune that
befel the trout, and teach me to foresee and under-
stand all the dangers which a little fish can meet
with, I shall then be happy and contented, for
I shall always know how to take care of my-
self ?”

The moment he had ceased speaking, his un-
derstanding was opened, and he knew the nature
of nets and hooks, lines, baits, and all the other
perils to which poor fishes areliable. For a little
time he greatly rejoiced in his knowledge, and
he said to himself, “ Now, I shall certainly be the
happiest of all trouts, for as 1 am forewarned
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 121

of every danger which can befal me, I shall have
nothing to do but to keep myself safe out of their
way.”

ie that time forward, he took care never to
venture into any deep holes, where he formerly
loved to disport himself, lest a pike, or some other
ravenous fish, might be there ready to swallow
him up. Neither did he rest long in any shallow
place, especially in hot weather, lest the sun
should dry them up, and leave him on the hard
ground. When he saw the shadow of a cloud
moving upon the river, “ Ah!” said he, “ here
are the fishermen with their nets ;” and he im-
mediately crept close under the nearest bank,
where he lay trembling and shaking in terror
until the cloud passed away. Again; when he
saw a fly skim along the water, or a worm coming
down the stream, he did not dare to bite, how-
ever hungry he might be. “No, no,” he would
say, “ I have too much wisdom to be tempted in
that manner ; let those ignorant fools be caught,
who do not know their danger,—but for me, I
know this fly may hide some frightful hook,
which would drag me from the water to destruc-
tion ; so I must not touch it, though J sicken for
want of food.”

Thus did this over-careful trout live in per-
petual alarm ; he never ate nor drank in com-
fort, nor could he sleep in peace, nor wake in
quiet, lest some evil might befal him. So he
122 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

daily grew more wretched, and pined and wasted
away with care and sadness ; until, at last, worn
to a shadow with hunger, fear, and melancholy,
he died, from dread of dying, the most miserable
of all deaths.

Then the Good Spirit came to the young silver |
fish, and asked him what he desired to have,
and bade him freely tell all his wishes, “ Ah !”
said this darling little trout, “ you know, Good
Spirit,—for you know, and can do all things,—
that I am but a poor, ignorant, little fish, blind
and foolish, that know not what is good, or what
is bad for me. I only wonder how you came to
think of such a useless, worthless little being as
myself ; or how I was thought worth the trouble
of being brought into this world ; still more I
wonder why you placed me in this pretty quiet
stream, with all these pleasures round me. You
have kept me in safety by night and by day,
throughout my past life, and I will still de-
pend upon your care; but, if I must ask some-
thing, it is, that you would do with me whatever
you think best and fittest, and that you would
make me content and pleased to live or die, just
when and where, and as you would have me.”

Now when this precious little trout had made
this humble prayer, in his good and trusting
heart, the great and Good Spirit felt such love and
kindness for hin as was never known before. He
promised to be his father and his friend for ever ;


TUE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 123

and said he could not choose but take great care
of any little fish that trusted so wholly to his
love and pleasure.

So his Creator went wherever he went, and was
always with him and about him, and was to him
as a father: and he put contentment into his
mind, and joy into his heart ; and whether the
waters were rough or smooth around him, that
little trout always slept in peaee, and waked in
gladness ; and whether he was full or hungry, or
whatever happened, he was still pleased and
thankful : and he lived and died the happiest
little fish that ever swam in any water.

“ And that is the prettiest little fable 1 ever
listened to,” said Emily, as Saiphly’s story ended.

Louisa also protested it was the prettiest she
had ever heard, and immediately proposed making
a little book, and writing the story in it for her
mamma, if she could only hear it once again.

But her maid assured her, that trouble would
be unnecessary, as the fable was a very old one,
with which her mamma was, no doubt, well
acquainted.*

“Then you did not make it for me?” said

* Mr Brook, who introduced this beautiful fable in one of
his novels, “ The Fool of Quality,” would not, it is presumed,
have objected to see it here presented to the young persons for
whom he so kindly intended it; nor,-it is believed, would he
have disapproved of the alterations in the language, which
naturally arise from the manner of its introduction,
124 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

Emily in surprise. “ I declare I was quite sure
you had made it yourself, and that you meant
one of these little trouts that grew sad and dis-
eontented, for me.”

“ Did you think there was any resemblance ?”
asked. Saiphly.

“ Yes, indeed, I thought, all the time you were
telling the story, that I was very often like the
first naughty little fish ; but I would much ra-
ther be like the youngest little silver trout that
was so good, and humble, and contented. That
is what I will try to be in future, Saiphly, and
I know that is what you wish.”

“ Tt is, indeed, just what I wish,” replied their
excellent attendant ; “for if, like it, you trust to
the love and good pleasure of your God, he will
be a father and a friend to you for ever, as the
fable tells ; and you, too, will sleep 3 in peace and
wake in gladness, and be—”

“ And be the happiest little fish that ever swam
in any water,” said Emily, quoting the last words
of the fable ; “‘ you see how well I remember your
story. Papa used to laugh at me very often, and
call me a troublesome little fish sometimes ; but
I hope he will now call me a good little one ; and
I am sure he may call me a happy one if I ever
get back into his room again,”

Just as this sentence was finished, Mrs Menden
appeared at the door, and to their inexpressible
delight, carried them away to visit their father,
as she had promised.
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 125

In a short time afterwards, Colonel Menden
was able to sit up, and soon to have his children
almost constantly with him; and the zeal and
tenderness with which they watched his looks
and studied to afford him comfort, could scarcely
be exceeded by the more skilful assiduity of their
mother.

They had now also permission to assist her in
attending Major Chrestone ; and they were not a
little astonished on their first visit, to find him a
person of more than ordinary plainness ; fancy
having taught them to expect the reverse.

The excessive height and lankness of his figure
might have produced awkwardness, had not the
ease and self-possession of his manner preserved
him from that defect; and the natural coarseness
of his features, which was greatly heightened by
the deep scars of a confluent small-pox, would
have amounted to positive ugliness, but for the
expression of every good and noble disposition
which constantly beamed over his countenance.

After their surprise at his plain appearance
was over, the girls soon forgot that he was not so
handsome as their papa; and in a little time he
became one of their greatest favourites, and they
his almost constant companions,

Whilst sitting with him, their little friend
Lucy was a never-failing theme of conversation,
and he seemed to take equal pleasure with them-
selves in talking of her.

Time passed swiftly on ; and one morning as
126 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

the children, somewhat earlier than usual, stole
into their father’s room, anxious to know how
he had spent the night, they were agreeably sur-
prised to find him already up and dressed.

“ Well, my girls,” said he, as they entered, “I
am getting so well, that I think I shall soon be
able to try my skill at a butterfly chase with
you again ; do you remember the last we had at
Menden Park, Louisa ?”’ |

“ Yes, papa, I do quite well; and do you re-
member how much frightened mamma was, when
you tumbled into the pond, in trying to catch
the great tiger moth for me; and how we all
laughed when we saw you come out, quite co-
vered with mud and dirt ?”

“ Oh !” cried Emily, “ I wish I could remem-
ber that, it must have been so funny. I hope,
papa, we shall have a chase here, whenever you
are able ; it would be so droll to see you running
in your cocked hat, and this strange dress you
wear ; and besides, I want to see a foreign but-
terfly, —I wonder if they are like our English
ones,”

“‘ But when papa is able to chase butterflies, I
hope we shall be at Menden Park,” said Louisa :
“ I wish we were all there again, for it is a much
pleasanter place than this: 1 wonder, papa, now
you are so well, that you do not take us all home
again.”

“It is exactly what I wish to do,” said Colonel
Menden ; “ I have already procured leave to
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 127

depart ; but you will have no objections, I hope,
to wait until your friend, Major Chrestone, is
able to accompany us.”

“No,” the girls both declared ; they would be
sorry to go without him ; and the whole party
soon after adjourned to his lodgings to talk over
their proposed journey. It was the first time
Colonel Menden had been able to visit his friend,
and the meeting between them was indeed a
happy one.

From this time Major Chrestone’s health be-
gan rapidly to amend, and in the course of an-
other fortnight, Surgeon Trebor declared he might
begin his journey with safety.

The little girls found it hardly possible to con-
tain their joy, when Mrs Menden at length
informed them, they were to set out on their way
home the following morning. Their only sub-
ject of regret was, that they could not take home
with them all the wounded soldiers in the village,
and various were the schemes they proposed for
the relief of the poor sufferers, whom they had
frequently visited along with their mother, in
the course of the last few weeks.

Mrs Menden, fearing that those who were dis-
abled would be left destitute of all assistance,
when she and their other friends were gone, had
set on foot a subscription for their relief, And
Major Chrestone and her husband, the evening
before their intended departure, accompanied her
on her last visit to the soldiers, for the purpose
128 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

of inquiring into their circumstances, and trying
if they could be of any service to them on their
arrival in England.

The subscription money was divided into
separate parcels, and committed to the children’s
care, and the evening being fine, the whole party
set out on their charitable excursion.

After visiting several invalids, the gentlemen
were happy to find, that they should be able to
render essential service to many, and especially
to some who belonged to their own regiment.

As they approached the lodging of the last
person whom they meant to visit, the two girls
began to lament that they had not kept the
largest share of money for the poor soldier who
lived there, as he was, they said, a much greater
object of compassion than any of the others,
He was an Irishman, who had been for several
weeks at the point of death, having lost a leg in
the battle, and received several other severe
wounds, from which it was at first supposed he
could not recover. He was, besides, the best
tempered and most contented creature in the
world, Louisa said, and Mrs Menden corroborated
the statement, saying he had by his patience so
strongly attached to him an old Dutch woman,
the widow of an English settler in the country,
with whom he lodged, that she treated him as
her own son, and by her care and kindness
greatly assisted his restoration,

On entering the house, the party distinctly


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN 129

ts ey pi a,
ps tl oO ae



THANE NAAT LANL
ial iN \\ ny i

"i fing
it ) a

i i iit

heard the person spoken of, expostulating in an
inner apartment with his hostess, on the hard-
ship of being kept fast tied to a chair, when he
was very well able to walk.

“Able to valk! Phere be t’oder laig? and
how you vill march vidout dat ?” said his com-
panion.,

The soldier laughed, and said, if she would
take the trouble of looking, she might, perhaps,
find it on the field of battle not far off ; “ but
if you would let me use that wooden one,” added
he, pointing to one of rather clumsy form, which
lay on the table, “I could get on very well.”

‘‘No, no, you no muss get on dat,” said she,
“dat hurt poor vounded laig von times already ;
dat be von vile forme, du tout like lag de chair.”*

Â¥ A wooden frame for stretching stockings
I
130 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

“Why then, to tell no lie, it is a little like the
- leg of a chair,” replied he ; “but never mind, it
will not hurt me, now that my wound is almost
healed ; and as to the form, it is just as shapely
as the leg I lost, and might serve me to walk
with rather the best of the two, for my own ugly
thief was as little good worth at the business, as
any limb in Christendom.”

“ Comment ! mon ami ?” said the good woman,
kindly rubbing the remaining limb from the
knee to theankle. “ Pourquoi dit tu que l’autre
jambe ne valait rien pour marcher ; voyant que
celle-ci va trés-bien ?” Perceiving that her
companion did not quite understand her, she
endeavoured to explain, “ L’autre membre tu sais
voss laide ! had ver leetle bon ; now diss von, il
me semble, is tout beau; and haf ver much
large bon. Dites moi, je tu prie, comment est
ca? say what for, phy is dat ?”

“Moo bow,” said the soldier in surprise, and
looking, with rather an approving smile, at the
limb in question, as he stretched it out before
him ; “very large bone! and too bow! what
can she mean? I never before heard that leg
called too bow, or two large either, and to say
the truth, I think it a straight, tight, well built
little bit of bone as ever was covered with flesh,
—very different from the things I see dangling
at the hips of the mounseers here, in her country.
The other leg, I confess, she might have said
was a little bandy, had she seen it.” Getting
THE SOLDIER S RETURN. 131

into good humour as he spoke, he added, You
could scarcely feel a bone in it large or small, »
Jebide, the day I lost it, for it was shattered
and bruised almost to pieces, and nearly carried
away from me once before, where there was no
kind friend like you to look after either it or
me.”

To an inquiry where that had happened, he
said it was in a country he did not wish to
name, where he had been taken prisoner, and
kept in a dungeon for a twelvemonth, with his
leg in that shattered state, and nobody to mind
or listen to his complaints. “Sure enough,”
said he, “I thought it would have dropped off
me some day, and that I should have dropped
off after it into the grave. But it pleased God
to order things otherwise ; and here I am yet to
tell my own story. My leg healed of itself, in
spite of the barbarity of my jailor ; and though
swelled and little fit for use, I contrived to drag
it after me, and limped away one night from the
prison with two of my companions, who had
found out a way by which they might at any
time have escaped before, only they would not
consent to leave me behind. We were making
our way home to England, when we heard that
the war in this county was re-commenced with
fresh vigour, and a great army assembling to
bring it to an end at once: as fortune would
have it, we fell in with some of the transports
carrying our troops, and were brought to the
132 .- THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

army ‘the very evening before the battle ; and
“ what was still better luck, I found my own
regiment in the camp.”

'* © Oh! mans be still still-vish for fight !” said
the peaceful Jebide. “Phy for you go near
’armée vid sick laig ?”

' €J did not wish to fight, or to bid sick leg
fight this time ; for, to say the truth, I thought
we should neither of us be able for any useful
service, and my Colonel ordered me to stay in
the camp, but I could not help hobbling a bit
after the men, just to see how they got on ; and
when I saw the day going so hard with my
comrades, I picked up the first musket I met
with, forgot my limping gait, and tried to fight.
as well as the best of them ; but I had not been
an hour in the field, when a confounded cannon
ball carried my leg clean away from me; and
now I tell you, as I have often done before, I
must try to get home to my wife the best way
I can without it.”

“ Vel, but stay vid me von leetel time more
long, and when you be strong man, den take de
laig and go.”

The impenetrable soldier vowed he would rest
no longer without endeavouring to make his
way home. “And mind, Jebide,” said he, “if
it please God that I should find my wife alive,
you must promise to cross the water and come
to see us both; and if you do, Ill promise for


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 133.

her that she will be as kind a daughter to you,
as you have been a mother to her husband.” -

Colonel Menden, who had been unwilling to
interrupt the conversation sooner, now caine for-
ward, and advised the soldier to yield to his
good friend’s entreaties, and remain at Odaine,
until he could be sent home along with the other
invalids in the village.

The Irishman was preparing to reply in the
same determined strain, when Major Chrestone
asked him if he had been in the battle of
in the year 1803, and under what captain he
had then served.

The man turned suddenly round at hearing
the question, while joy brightened every feature
in his honest face: “I served,” said he, “in that
and four other battles by Captain Chrestone’s
side; and was, moreover, your worships own
servant for the three first years you were in the
army.” |

“T thought I could not be mistaken,” said
Major Chrestone, shaking him heartily by the
hand. “This is the brave fellow, Menden, who,
at the hazard of his own life, rescued me on the
field of battle at New Orleans ; and whose death,
I not many days since mentioned to you with
so much regret, as a matter of which I was
certain,”

The whole party rejoiced at this unexpected
meeting, and considered it a most providential
circumstance, that the discovery had heen made


134 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

before the troops left Odaine. The little girls
were loud in their exclamations of delight, and
the poor man himself seemed so much overjoyed,
that he writhed from side to side upon his chair,
scarcely knowing what he did.

Major Chrestone proposed that Colonel and
Mrs Menden should set out the next day without
him, saying, he could not now think of leaving
Odaine, until his faithful servant was able to
accompany him; they had been long accustomed
to travel together, he said, and should take ex-
cellent care of each other by the way.

The good soldier made many grateful acknow-
ledgments, but protested against his master’s
journey being delayed on his account.

“Please your honour,” said he to the Major,
after the subject had been debated for some time
amongst them, “may I make bold to ask if this
gentleman, whom I well remember to have seen
when he was an ensign in the 62d regiment, is
the person to whom Menden Park belongs, and
if this is his lady, who has been so kind to me
ever since I was brought here ?”

The Colonel, who began to recollect him,
answered in the affirmative ; and inquired if he
was acquainted with Menden Park, and if any
thing could be done for him there.

The man hesitated, and then said he should be
able to stay more contentedly at Odaine if he
could get any person to inquire after his wife,


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 135

whose friends all lived in that part of the world,
and to let him know how she fared.

Colonel Menden promised to make any inquiry
he desired; and took out his pocket book to
write down the woman’s name, and any other
directions he had to give.

“Tf she be still alive,” said he, every expres-
sion of joy fading from his face as he uttered
the doubt, “all I wish is, to have her told that
I am living ; ; and that I will soon, please God,
be at home with her. She hasthought me dead,
no doubt, for a long time, and I fear that might
go near to break her heart.”

“Then let us hear her name, my good fellow ;
give us her name ; and if she lives in our neigh-
bourhood, we shall be sure to find her out.”

“Her name, please your honour, is Liddy
Fisher, and she used to live-————”’

“Liddy Fisher!” exclaimed the little girls,
joyfully interrupting him.

“Say no more, say no more, my good friend,”
said Mrs Menden, taking the rough soldier’s
hand ; “I am happy to tell you I left Liddy
Fisher in my own house in tolerable health not
many weeks since,”

“ Heaven bless you for the news !” exclaimed
Fisher, clasping his hands fervently : “ was she
only tolerably, dear lady ? I suppose she-grieves
for her husband, as for one dead ?” said he in
great agitation, |

“She was well in health, though far from
136 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

happy, when we parted. Grief for your supposed
loss had, indeed, nearly broken her heart ; but
she will now, I trust, be repaid for all her
sufferings.”

“ And can you tell me if I have still a child ?”
said Fisher, hardly able to repress his emotion.

“Yes, yes,” said Emily, pressing forward,
“the prettiest and best little girl in the world ;
and we shall make her so happy when we tell
her you are alive.”

Poor Fisher stooped to tie the string of his
shoe, which was already tied fast enough.

“Mamma, dear mamma,” said Emily, “do
let me be the first to tell Liddy the news.”

“And, Fisher,’ said Lousia, “ you must give
me a letter to take home; Liddy will never
believe we have seen you, unless you write to
her.”

The poor fellow drew the sleeve of his coat
hastily across his eyes, as he raised his head,
and in the overflowing gratitude of his heart
exclaimed, “ I wonder why God has always been
so good to me, that I never met with a misfor-
tune yet, since I was born: and oh! but it
would have been the pity I had been killed in
the battle, as sometimes I used to wish I had ;
but asore heart I would have had, to have missed
this happy day.”

The party could not help smiling at his Irish
method of expressing his happiness.

“Tam sure God will not be less inclined to
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 137

continue his goodness to you, from seeing you so
thankful for it,” said Mrs Menden, “I have
known many persons pass through life without
ever losing a limb, or being imprisoned, who
were much less grateful.”

“Tt would be a shame for me if I was not
thankful,” said Fisher, “for sure, if I did lose a
leg, it was the bad one was taken, and the good
one left ; and sure, I could be nothing else but
thankful for having my master, and the colonel,
and you, and these sweet young ladies, all sent
here to befriend me as you have done, and to
bring me this good news from my poor wife and
child.”

“ Fisher, my good fellow,” said Colonel Menden,
“TI remember once coming into your mater’s
tent, and finding you describing the affliction
which the soldiers’ wives suffered during an
action. I think you ended your account, by
protesting you would never marry, so long as
you staid in the army.”

“TI remember it, sir,” replied Fisher, smilingly
“and with your honour’s leave, I think you
were of the same mind.”

“And I think I told you both, you would not
hold to the determination for six months,” said
Major Chrestone; “I hope, Fisher, you kept
your resolution somewhat longer than the Colonel
did his; he, I think, married within the half-
year.”

Fisher shook his head, “I kept mine pretty


138 THE TRIAL OF SKILL:

well for the space of three months, or so; but
about that time I was sent with a recruiting
party to a town near Menden Park, where I met
poor Liddy, and, some how or other, I never
thought of my resolution again, until his honour
brought it to my mind this minute.”

“ But how came you to leave Major Chres-
tone’s service? I think’ I also heard you declare
you would never live in any other,’’ said Colonel
Menden.

“IT must answer that question,” said his master,
seeing Fisher unwilling to reply. “ When first
went abroad with General Bresque, my poor
brother Robert stepped into my ensigncy, and
as his youth and delicate health made him re-
quire a careful attendant more than I did, Fisher,
at my request, remained with him; and by his
conduct towards him, he has conferred on all
our family obligations which we can never suf-
ficiently repay.”

Mrs Menden remembered Liddy’s account of
Captain Chrestone’s death, and was not surprised
that both the master and servant seemed dis-
tressed even by this allusion to it.

“ Come,” said she, “let us talk no more of the
past, but try and think of some plan for getting
Fisher back to his wife as soon as possible.”

“That is all I want or wish, to make me com-
pletely happy,” cried he, gratefully thanking
her. He at the same time declared he felt per-
fectly equal to the journey, and that he had al-


THE SOLDIER S RETURN. —

ready made his arrangements for beginning it
with the first waggon that started from Odaine.

“Well, Fisher,” said Major Chrestone, after
having consulted some minutes with his friends,
“since you are so bent on setting out imme-
diately, you shall go along with me to-morrow.
The carriage in which I shall be obliged to travel
is constructed for the accommodation of invalids ;
and as we must proceed slowly, I trust you will
not suffer by taking my present servant's place
by my side.”

It would be vain to attempt a description of
Fisher’s joy and gratitude at this proposal. The
final arrangements were speedily settled ; Louisa
slipped her last parcel of money into his hand,
and the party took leave.

On opening it when they were gone, he re-
joiced to see a sum of money which, he hoped,
might be some compensation to his worthy host-
ess for all the care and tenderness she had be-
stowed on him during his illness. Jebide had
hitherto refused every proffered remuneration ;
and far from seeming to desire his departure, she
appeared quite dejected whenever he spoke of its
approach.

Whilst he revolved during the evening in his
own mind, how he could best contrive to requite
this good old woman’s kindness, he received a
second donation, with a message from his master,
desiring that he would draw on him for any
sum he might farther require before his journey.
140 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

There was nothing now wanting to his perfect
happiness, and he retired to rest, thankful for the
unexpected blessings of the day; and resigned
himself with confidence to his all-gracious Father,
who had heaped so many benefits upon him, and
who had added to all his other gifts one still
more invaluable than the rest—a grateful and
contented spirit.

He was dressed and ready for the road next
morning long before old Jebide could be per-
suaded it was time for him to depart. She re-
luctantly assisted him to fasten on the wooden
leg ; and when he had returned her the key ofa
cupboard, in which he had deposited his. gift,
and at length insisted on bidding her farewell,
she gave him her blessing with the affection of
a parent, while tears of sincere regret ran down
her cheek ; and as she watched him making his
way with difficulty from the door, she sobbed
out after him, “Faites attention, mon pauvre
boiteux, and have care of autre laig; and no
more come back for de fight, but come again
surement for see de friend.”

He waved his hand affectionately in reply,
and called aloud his hope to see her again in some
part of the world,

The travellers pursued their way by easy stages ;
and, after a prosperous voyage, landed, in health
and safety, once more on British ground.

Louisa, Emily, and Fisher, fancied the journey
of the two following days the most tedious they
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 14]

had ever gone; but at length they began to re-
cognise the roads, woods, and gentlemen’s seats,
in the neighbourhood of Menden Park, and soon
found themselves within its beautiful demesne.

Mrs Menden now gave her coachman orders to
drive on before the other carriages, that she
might have time to prepare Liddy for the sur-
prise which awaited her; and whilst, with her
husband, she sat silently enjoying the happiness
of being restored to their home, under so many
fortunate circumstances, the children, unable to
sit still, leaned from the carriage window, ad-
miring, as they drove along, every object within
their view, all of which seemed to have gained
some new charm during their absence.

“How green and beautiful the lawn looks !”
cried one, as they drove through a new planta-
tion which skirted the avenue.

“And do look, mamma, at the shrubbery,”
said the other: “did you ever see it look so
pretty ? And see, Louisa, I declare there is old
Ambrose sitting reading in my garden, just as
he used to do before we went away.”

“Yes, Kmily ; and now he perceives the car-
riage, and has thrown away the newspaper : and
see,’ she added, clapping her hands in ecstasy,
“T declare, mamma, here are all the party from
Onslow Hall come to meet us. Oh! how glad
Major Chrestone will be to see them. Look!
look! Sir Robert, and Lucy, and Lady Onslow,
all standing on the steps to receive us.”
142 THE TRIAL OF SKILL,

The carriage stopped, and the meeting between
these affectionate and happy friends was scarcely
over, when a group of domestics, with little Ally
Fisher in the midst, came forward to welcome
their master and mistress.

Mrs Menden, having kindly accosted them all,
disengaged herself from the throng as soon as she
possibly could ; and taking Ally by the hand,
asked her where her mother was to be found,
desiring to be led to her directly.

“TI left my mother waiting at the breakfast-
room door to see you ma'am: she could not come
forward,” said Ally, “though I am sure she is
just as glad you are come as any body else.”

“T have no doubt of that,” said Mrs Menden,
advancing rapidly to meet Liddy; but she was
shocked, notwithstanding the pleasure which was
evident in her countenance at this meeting, to
perceive the ravages which affliction, even in
the space of a few weeks, seemed to have made
in her whole appearance ; and she sincerely la-
mented that it had not been in her power to
save her so much needless sorrow.

The sound of the second carriage rolling to
the door threw Mrs Menden into considerable
embarrassment ; for doubting what effect the tid-
ings she had to communicate might produce on
the feeble frame before her, she every moment
felt more at a loss how to introduce the subject ;
and the bustle of the new arrivals, now distinctly
heard in the hall, told her it was necessary im-
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 143

mediately to make known the truth in some
manner.

Her agitation was so apparent, that Liddy,
fancying she was over fatigued by her journey,
anxiously begged leave to fetch her some refresh-
ment.

“No, no,” said her kind mistress, drawing
both Ally and her mother into the breakfast-room
along with her, “ you must stay here with me ;
I am quite well, but to tell you the truth, Liddy,
I feel agitated on your account, for I am not sure
how you will receive the news I am about to
communicate.”

“ Do not thus discompose yourself on my ac-
count, my dear mistress,” said Liddy firmly, but
pausing for a moment to conjecture what the
news could be. “ I am well used to sorrow, and
I can bear it, perhaps, better than you expect ;
so do not fear to speak, whatever it may be.”

“ But if I should have only joyful news to tell
you, Liddy! Will you promise me to bear that
with equal fortitude ?”

“ Joyful news !” repeated Liddy with astonish-
ment, and perfectly unsuspicious of the truth,
“ Alas, dear madam, it may look like indiffer-
ence, which I should be sorry to feel, but I be-
lieve you cannot tell me any news of that kind
that I shall not be able to bear. The greatest
joy Ihad reason to expect was seeing you return
in health and happiness, and I am sure there is
144 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

nothing in the world besides to give me greater
pleasure.”

“Yes, Liddy,” said Emily, who at that mo-
ment entered the room, leading in her father.
“Yes, there is a great deal more pleasure for you
yet, and here is papa come to see you ; | am sure
you are glad of that.”

“Yes, my dear young lady, I rejoice to see
him with all my heart,” said the good creature,
hastily wiping a tear from her cheek, “and I
trust he will never be taken away from you and
my dear mistress again.”

“T trust not,” said the Colonel, kindly shaking
her hand. “It is probable I shall be allowed to
remain with my family in peace for the rest of
my life ; and I hope I shall be fortunate enough
to see everybody in my house as happy as I am
myself; I think, at least, I have brought home
news that will make one individual in it happy
for the remainder of her days.”

“ But Liddy will not hearken to good news,”
said Mrs Menden. “I cannot get her to believe
that we have any for her.”

“Then her little daughter must persuade her
of the truth,” said the Colonel, drawing Ally
gently towards her mother. “She must tell
Liddy, that many of us soldiers, who have been
fighting our country’s battles, have escaped, al-
most by miracle, from the jaws of death.”

“Yes, Ally,”’ said Mrs Menden, “ tell your



THE SOLDIER S RETURN. 145



mother she may yet be as happy as any woman
in the world—even as happy as I am myself.
Tell her that you, dear child, may probably one
day rejoice as much as your young friends have
done at the return of their father.”

Ally trembled at this appeal ; but it was from
feelings which she could not thoroughly under-
stand. She saw there was something meant,
which painfully disturbed her parent, and gently
disengaging herself from Colonel Menden, she
turned away, saying, “ No, ma’am, I cannot tell
my mother that ; you know my father can never
come back,”

She walked towards the door, which was half
- open, and amongst the crowd who stood around
it, instantly descried the well-remembered face
of her father.

K
146 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

She gazed for some moments in speechless and
immoveable amazement; but at length satisfied
that her sight did not deceive her, she sprang
with one bound into his arms, and clinging round
his neck, cried out, but in a voice so feeble as
scarcely to be heard, “ Oh! daddy! daddy! my
own dear daddy Fisher! My mother will never
ery again.”

Liddy’s ears just caught the words. Her sight
became dim ; she sank unconsciously on her knees,
and felt herself the next moment encircled in her
husband’s arms. Large tears rolled down the
soldier’s sunburnt cheeks, as he tried to soothe
the speechless agitation of his faithful partner.
He pressed her again and again to his heart, and
promised never more to leave her, if she would
only speak to him one word, “ Do, dear mother,”
said Ally, endeavouring to clasp her little arms
round them both, and kissing first the cheek of
one and then the other. “ Do speak to him,
mother ; it is my own dear daddy, indeed it is:
Will you not speak to him ?”

A stranger who had entered the breakfast par-
lour at this moment, and seen the faces of the
group assembled there, would have found it dif- |
ficult to believe that this was a day of rejoicing
at Menden Park.

The men, ashamed of their emotion, stole out
of the room, to conceal the tears which fell from
their eyes ; and the females hurried away to get
restoratives for Liddy, and, when they saw her


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 147

a little more composed, left her to enjoy in pri-
vate, with her husband and child, the restoration
of that happiness which she thought had fled

for ever.

The voice of conquest now is o'er,

The cry of discord sounds no more;
Silent, amidst our British hills,

Is war with all her countless ills;

And they who ‘ve fought with heart and hand,
To guard and save their native land ;
Who ‘ve wrestled long with all her foes,
And toil’d and bled for her repose,

Now home returned, sit down to rest,
Belov'd, and honour'd, and caress'd,

By God and by their country bless’d.



As the last words were finished, Sir Humphrey
very deliberately drew out his snuff-box, and,
according to his usual custom, when any thing
particularly pleased him, took two or three long-
drawn pinches with peculiar satisfaction.

After replacing the box in his waistcoat pocket,
“Truly, Kate,” said he, “I did not think you
could have written any thing that would please
me so much. Now, do not look so modest, child!
There may be a great many faults in the com-
position of a good story, for aught I know, and
your aunt, who is so good a judge, will, I sup-
pose, tell you it is full of errors ; but it suits my
taste, my girl, and that is enough for me. You


148 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

have exactly hit off the character of my gallant
nephew and his two excellent friends, in the de-
scription of Colonel Menden, and the two Chres-
tone’s ; and have introduced the anecdote of that
brave fellow Russel with such good effect, that
even these circumstances would, in themselves,
make me approve of your tale. So come along,
and take your Shakespeare, and the set of prints
with it; and, unless your sister’s composition
should surpass ‘ The Soldier’s Return,’ you shall
have the choice of any other book in my collec-
tion besides.”

Mrs Deborah loudly exclaimed against this
unqualified approbation, declaring she had been
sadly disappointed by the second part of Kate's
story. The first part, she confessed, did merit
some commendation ; but the introduction of the
battle, the hair-breadth ’scapes, and unexpected
discoveries, and, above all, the concluding scene
at Menden Park, were so out of character, in a
child’s story, that she felt some doubts as to her
niece’s having won the premium.

Kate acknowledged she had not the least title
to it, and assured her uncle she was agreeably
surprised to find her story deemed worthy of any
commendation.

Emma and Elizabeth perfectly coincided in
Sir Humphrey’s opinion of their sister’s work,
and Elizabeth declared that hers would not be
found to bear the slightest competition with it.
But no argument could persuade Mrs Deborah


THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. 149

to change her opinion of its merit ; and she in-
sisted upon it, that Kate must strike out at least
one half of her narrative, before “ The Soldier's
Return” could be considered deserving of any
reward.

“ Well, well,” said Sir Humphrey, “ we will
discuss the point some other time; and now,
Elizabeth,” clapping his second niece rather more
roughly upon the shoulder than she liked, “ Now,
my girl, your trial comes! Do you think you
can produce as good a story to-morrow evening,
as we have heard to-night ?”

“Do not ask the question, dearest uncle,” she
replied, with disappointment strongly marked in
her looks : “ I shall not, believe me, give you one
the twentieth part so good ; for I have toiled the
whole week without writing any thing either
good or useful to please my aunt, or interesting
and amusing to please myself. In short, I find
I have no talent for composition—although, to
speak the truth, I fancied, before I began, that
any person could write a story for children,”

“Well, you must not be discouraged,” said
her uncle kindly. “ You have probably suc-
ceeded better than you imagine, and we will all
promise not to be too severe upon your story
when we have heard it. But get along to bed,
now, as fast as you can, and, no doubt, my little
romancer will dream of something before morn-
ing with which to embellish her work.”

Elizabeth spent much of the next day at her
150 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

writing desk, busied in trying to improve her
story ; but was still dissatisfied with her work,
when, tea being ended, the appointed hour ar-
rived, and she was summoned to the trial.

With a step indicating the failure of all her
hopes, she stole to her uncle’s side; and, when
she had crept close under his wing, received his
kindest smile, and a few encouraging kisses,
having cleared her throat for the hundredth time,
she at length began :—


THE

BLACK OAK NECKLACE,

Whene’er this little group their country calls,
From academic shades and learned halls,

To fix her laws, her spirit to sustain,

And light up glory through her wide domain ;
Their various tastes in different arts display’d,
Like temper’d harmony of light and shade,
With friendly union in one mass shall blend,
And this adorn the state, and that defend.

Mr Hampton, a clergyman residing in the
north of Ireland, was born to an abundant for-
tune ; but circumstances, which it is needless
here to enumerate, left him, at his father’s death,
possessed only of excellent talents, the kindest
heart, an independent spirit, and a curacy.

His loss of fortune he regretted chiefly because
it deprived him of all power to continue that as-
sistance to the surrounding poor, which they so


152 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

much required, and which his family had
hitherto liberally bestowed.

But his was not a mind to remain inactive
under the loss of one means of usefulness, whilst
so many others were still open to him, He re-
solved, since he was himself prevented the hap-
piness of relieving his fellow-creatures, that he
would devote his life to the instruction of youth,
and endeavour to give those, who might have
more power, the will which he possessed. He
was confirmed in this determination by some
friends, who, seeing him so well fitted for such a
task, wished to place their sons under his care,
—a plan which they preferred to sending them
to public seminaries, where, from the number of
scholars to be taught, it is often impossible that
each child should receive the attention which is
necessary to form a real Christian, or a perfect
gentleman.

In these two characters, no less than in that
for classical learning, Mr Hampton was resolved
his pupils should excel, if any pains of his could
make them do so: and, that he might have more
time to bestow on this laudable endeavour, he
determined to take no more than six scholars
into his house at once.

He was but twenty-six when he commenced
this arduous undertaking, to which, even at that
early age, he cheerfully and zealously devoted
his whole time and attention; and from that


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 153

moment, until the period when the following
circumstances occurred, it was never observed
that the children committed to his charge looked
on him in any other light than that of an indul-
gent and affectionate father.

The house in which he resided (near to the
well-known port of Donaghadee) was situated
within a pleasant walk of the sea-side, which,
during their play-hours, was the favourite haunt
with the set of young students who inhabited the
mansion at the time our history commences.

In passing a cottage which stood near the
beach, the little group had frequently observed
a poor but decent looking young man sitting at
the door, engaged with unusual eagerness in
carving into a particular shape small pieces of
wood, which he cut from a block close by him.

On the same bench generally sat an interesting
looking girl of about seventeen, who appeared in
extreme ill-health, but who was busily employed
in polishing the bits of wood, which her compa-
nion from time to time threw into her lap.

For upwards of a month the boys never passed
the cottage without seeing this pair occupied in
the same manner, save that, when the evenings
were cold and damp, the girl sat within doors,
while her companion worked without. He
seemed anxious also, at these times, to make her
lay aside her industry, and often refused to take
her in the pieces of wood she asked for, saying
154 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

they had more work finished than would be
called for till Christmas.

The boys felt their curiosity excited by seeing
two grown persons pursuing with such eagerness
an employment which appeared to them so child-
ish ; but having no excuse for opening a wicket
which enclosed a little court before the cottage,
or for going in to observe them more closely,
they remained long ignorant of the nature of
their employment. At length, however, they all
agreed to walk to the cottage in the forenoon of
their next holiday, and if the young people still
continued their occupation, to make some apology
for the intrusion, and not to come away without
discovering what their work was.

The morning was fine on which they set out
for their rambles, but on reaching the little gate,
they found it locked, the cottage door shut, and
the bench empty.

“ How provoking!” cried Henry Merle, one
of the elder boys, to his disappointed but more
patient companions. “ There can be no harm
in vaulting over the hedge,” continued he, “ just
to see what those pieces of wood are like, which
lie scattered about the bench ;” and before the.
words were well uttered, he had some of them in
his hand.

They were bits of black oak, evidently meant
to represent a shamrock leaf, and though broken
and cast away, they seemed carved with the ut-
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 155

most neatness ; but Henry was as much at a loss
to discover their use as ever.

He was himself very ingenious, and like most
other people, felt his interest doubly excited to-
wards a person who seemed to possess a taste in
unison with his own,

His dispositions were amiable, and his talents
good, but it is here necessary to add, that these
qualifications were rendered useless by a habit
of haste and thoughtlessness, which was apparent
in every thing he did. No boy in school could
get his lesson so quickly as Henry Merle ; but
knowing this, he would lounge over his book,
indulging some flight of fancy, until a few
minutes before the lesson should be said; then
he would fix it on his mind, or rather on his
eye, by connecting the leading points with any
of the objects in his view : all of which had been,
perhaps, used for the same purpose on different
subjects the day before. And hence it was, that
he could hardly cast a glance around the walls
of his school-room, without having some ludi-
crous idea suggested to his mind, by the motely
group which each object presented.

Lessons so learned, however fluently said,
might engender a taste for the grotesque and
ridiculous, but could never teach habits of atten-
tion and reflection, which are amongst the chief
advantages derived from study. In these ac-
quirements, Merle was observed to improve less
than any of his school-fellows. He had unfor
156 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

tunately heard his father once repeat a remark,
which is not more false than it is dangerous,
“that men of talent are apt to run in debt to
time, trusting to their wits to pay the arrears.”
Merle therefore imagined, that to adopt this plan
would be to prove himself a man oftalent. Ac-
cordingly, whatever might be the occupation in
which he engaged with his companions, he al-
lowed them all to get the start of him at first,
trusting to his adroitness for overtaking in the
end, And this vain confidence in his abilities,
which he took for courage, often tempted him
to run into difficulties, from which he seldom
escaped without severe mortification.

“These leaves are beautiful,” said he to him-
self, as he examined one of the shamrocks which
he held in his hand; “ I could help the young
man in his work, I am sure, if I but knew how
it was finished. I will just put my head through
the window, it opens so easily, and look at these
others which hang over the fire-place.”

The leaves, however, which hung there in
little festoons, looked so tempting, that Henry
was in the room before his friend Edward Hil-
ton could call to him that the poor sick girl was
probably in the house, and might be terrified by
his sudden entrance.

At the same moment the cottager came to the
gate, which he hastily unclosed, set down a
small basket he had been carrying, leaped in
after Henry, whom he had seen enter, and push-
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE, 157

ing him aside with indignation, ran forward
to a pallet, which Merle had not observed before,
saying in a soothing and affectionate voice,
“ Nancy, achree! it is me that’s here: sure,
woman, you wouldn't be frightened for one of
the school-boys ; he didn’t know you were here,
Pll warrant, and will not harm you.” .

The invalid raised herself from her straw pal-
let, with the intention of assuring them both she
was not alarmed; but the trembling frame and
inarticulate accents soon brought Merle toa sense
of the indiscretion he had committed; shame
getting the better of the surprise into which he
was at first thrown by the young man’s entrance,
he stammered out an assurance, that he only
wanted to look at the festoons on the chimney-
piece, and leaped out to his friend Hilton, who
had come forward to bring him away.

“Had you not better stay and ask,” whis-
pered Hilton, “if we could be of any use to these
poor people ?”’ .

“ IT should rather you would do it,” answered
Merle, who felt really shocked at the effect his
rashness seemed to have produced on the poor
emaciated sufferer ; but before either could sum-
mon courage to ask the question, the young man
shut down the window, and, after speaking again
to Nancy, came out to the bench to recommence
his work.

Seeing the culprit still stand there, he said, in
a steady but respectful tone of voice, “ Young
158 THE TRIAL OF SKILU.

gentleman, you look so sorry for frightening my
poor sister, that I am bold to hope you will not
be angry if I ask you and your companions just
to walk softly past the end of our cottage, in the
mornings when you go to bathe ; it’s little sleep
she gets, poor thing ! by night or day, and some-
times you rouse her out of the first she has had
for many nights together.”

“ We will keep at a distance on the grass in
future ; and I wish we knew any thing else we
could do, that would be of the least use to your
sister,” cried Merle.

“ Thank you, sir, thank you kindly,” replied
the cottager ; and after pausing a few seconds,
his face brightening, as if with the hope that they
might be of service to him, he continued, “ I am
strong and able to work, and I was brought up
to a good trade, by which I might easily earn
bread enough for both myself and my sister, but
I cannot find in my heart to leave her, and go to
a distance, in search of employment: so I'll just
make free to tell you the only way of living we
have at present, and how I think you might be
of use to us both, since you are so kind as to
wish it.

“ One day as I sat beside Nancy, thinking
how I would manage to keep her from want,
when our last shilling was spent, and idling over
this piece of old oak that I found in the bog hard
by, cutting it into twenty shapes for want of
better to do: ‘ Make me some more of them


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 159

pretty leaves, Harry,’ says she, ‘and Ill shew
you what we'll do with them, that will, perhaps,
bring us a little money.’”

Here he took from his basket some of the fes-
toons which had tempted Merle to commit the
rudeness for which he was now so sorry, and
shewed them to the boys: “I had cut the bits of
stick into that form, at first without any design ;
then from single leaves I began to cut them into
shamrocks, and as fast as I could make them,
she tied them up in this manner, and brought
them to this nice polish with a little chalk and
turpentine and constant rubbing ; and we both
began to think that, with more pains and prac-
tice, we could make some that would be pretty
enough to offer for sale, as necklaces for the
quality that like wearing such things.

“We worked late and early, until we had
finished one to please us ; then I took it down to
Mr Bonner, at the Soole, (it’s him that keeps the
pleasure-boat upon the water, and that’s kind
and good to every body), and I asked him to try
and get it sold for Nancy, to some of the com-
pany he took out pleasuring with him in his
boat. So he was as kind as could be, and
praised the necklace out of measure, and desired
me to bring him more when we could get them
made, and he mostly got one or two sold for us
every month this half-year past, which enables
me to get her a little nourishment. But poor
Mr Bonner has been ill this fortnight, and when
160 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

I went down to-day with the last necklace we
made, I found there had been none sold since he
grew bad, and that there were many lying on
our hands, God bless him! it was his good
word that made our work go off ; and now poor
Nancy will have nothing to live on but the dry
potatoe and salt until he gets afoot again. Lord
be praised for that itself!”

“ That shall not be the case,” cried all the boys
at once, for they had all crept forward, on seeing
their two companions on such amicable terms
with the owner of the cottage. “ I think,” said
Hilton eagerly, “ we could each contrive to get
one necklace sold for you, and we will, at all
events, try to do what we can.”

The honest cottager thanked them all for their
kindness, and declared they could not do him a
greater service.

It was immediately agreed amongst them, that
at the midsummer holidays, which were to com-
mence in a few days, each boy should take home
a necklace, and ask some member of his family
to become the purchaser ; and it would be hard
to say whether the poor young peasant, or his
youthful friends, seemed most elated by the pro-
posal, The boys then left him with an assur-
ance of returning the following week, and led
him to share in the hope which they entertained,
that they would not bring back one of his neck-
laces unsold,

“ Don’t be afraid, Harry, I will take care to


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 1€1



make the boys steal am the cottage, 80 that
Nancy shall never be disturbed again,” said
Merle, as he followed his companions through
the gate, forgetting at the moment a wise injunc-
tion of his master’s, that he should not venture
to make any promise, until he had subdued that
thoughtlessness of character, which made ale °
persons doubtful whether he would fulfil his
engagements or not.

“God bless you, sir, for that promise, more
than all the rest,” said the cottager ; and as the
boys departed, he hastened in to communicate to
his sister their good fortune. He found her in a
quiet sleep, and returned to resume his work,
saying to himself, “ Now if I could manage to
get her a drop of milk every day, till the young

gentlemen return.”
L
162 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

“ Oh! the Lord lighten their hearts in the
time of need, and keep that time far off,” ex-
claimed he in ecstasy as he perceived, lying on
the bench, six small deposits of money, and saw
his generous young friends again hastening past
a great thorn-tree, which grew in the corner of
the little enclosure before his door.

He quickly collected the treasure, and found
it fully sufficient to supply his sister’s wants, far
more than the time the boys were to be absent ;
then fastening the wicket after him, with a light
and thankful heart he ran to a neighbouring farm
to procure her some food by the time she should
awaken,

No less joyous were the boys, when, fairly past
the cottage, they began to indulge in that feeling
of happiness which is ever produced by a con-
sciousness of being useful. They bounded along
the path, forgetful at the moment that there
were any other creatures in existence besides the
cottager, his sister, and themselves.

“ You never laid your money better down than
on that stone bench,” said an old man, who over-
took them on their way ; “ there’s not an honester
working lad in the parish than Harry Burne, and
it’s no wonder for him, for he’s come of honest
parents, as may be seen by himself and his sis-
ter, poor thing ; it’s her that’s sick in the house,
—I warrant ye did not see her ?”

The last part of this sentence, which was
intended for a question, received no other reply
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 163

than by Merle’s quickly asking, who her parents
were #

“Do yoursee yon pretty white house, with the
two square chimneys, over there at the Braefoot ?
Well! her father and mother lived there in times
past ; and well they lived, with their sixteen acres
of land, their three cows, and a horse for the
plough. An’ it’s them that bred their children
in the fear of God, and gave them the best edu-
cation to boot, which the parish afforded, But
where’s the house or home that didn’t grieve
after health or wealth last year? And as for
them, God’s name be blessed! they grieved for
both. The father was out night and day, striving
to save the crops from the rain; and, when they
were all destroyed, to kiln-dry some straw for
the poor dumb beasts, that couldn’t find a dry
rood of ground on the whole farm, to lay their
side upon. But what with wet clothes, and want
of firing, he took bad with a cold, and went to
his bed; and, at last, with fretting for one thing
or another, to himself be it told, he turned it to
the typhus fever, and the good wife took it off
him ; and when he came to himself (for he was
like one out of his right mind, and still raved
about the crops and the children), he found the
wife clean dead, and Harry, whose last journey
had been to the graveyard with his mother, was
down in the fever too.

“So Dennis (as there was nobody to cast an
eye after any thing) just thought he must run
164 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

out and take a look about the farm, and the
cattle, and all his other affairs; but not a praty-
rig* had he, that wasn’t up to the shoe-mouth
under water, and not a horn or hoof alive, at all,
at all, upon the land : so he gives a groan (it was
myself that met him at the house door, just as
he was coming in), ‘ and fien be in them cares,
now the wife’s dead,’ says he, ‘ if the poor chil-
dren had but a mouthful of bread to eat ;’ and
with that he staggers back to his bed, and some-
how or another he sickened over again, as bad
as ever, and never got up more.

“That very night week, when my wife was
helping this poor heart-broken Nancy to lay him
out, ‘ O Molly,’ says she,—and she was a young
thing too to take sorrow so much to heart,—‘ 0
Molly, why does not this fever take me that was
always frail and useless ? but I hope it’s me that
you will be laying out next, if my sins are for-
given. Harry, thank God, is coming finely
through all,’ she added, and as if she was sorry
that he was coming through, that was the first
tear she shed since her mother died. My wife
thinks the poor thing had the fever herself all
the time, but because she was doneyt by nature,
it did not seize on her as it did on the strong
ones of the family, and she would never give up
tending the father, and mother, and Harry, while
she had a foot to stand on. Troth, I’m feared it

* Potatoe ridges + Weak.
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 165

will take all her brother’s care to keep her out
of a decay. He, poor fellow, was forced to throw
up the farm, and sell all the plenishing, to pay
the arrear rent, and that money was due for all
the medicine and victuals they had got in their
sickness. It was a neighbour and friend of his
own that lent him this waste cottage, for the
season, to see if Nancy would recover her health
in it, before they went to travel.” *

“ She shall recover her health,’ cried Merle,
switching the grass as he walked along, to drive
away the melancholy with which he felt the old
man’s tale was likely to impress him. “ My
father is a physician, and he shall tell me what
will cure her.”

“ You’re surely not so old as you look, young
man, that speak so thoughtless,” said the mendi-
cant with a stern air (for such he really was,
notwithstanding the freedom of his manner.) “If
it be not God’s will, shell not recover for your
father, nor for all the doctors in Ireland, and
there’s a many of them.”

Merle acknowledged the justice of the reproof,
and they all hastened forward to recount to their
kind master the adventures of the morning.

As they approached Mr Hampton’s enclosure,
the whole group were attracted by a beautiful
goat, the joint property and equal favourite of

* A term for going to beg.
166 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

them all, which ran forward to meet them, re-
peating her wonted call, to welcome their return.

The younger boys forgot every thing, to run in
search of a car, and harness, in which they were
fond of driving her about the avenue. After
caressing her for some time, with a countenance
on which it is difficult to say whether pain or
pleasure was most marked, Edward hinted to
his companions, that when one of his sisters was
supposed to be in danger of consumption, she
had received much benefit from drinking goat’s
whey.

The idea was no sooner suggested, than they
all proposed to resign their right in Nanny to
her poor namesake ; not without apprehension
that the two boys, who just then advanced with
the car, would hardly listen to their proposal.

The moment it was made, however, one of them
said, he had heard Mr Hampton complain that
she destroyed all his trees. The other, flinging
away the reins which were already in the ani-
mal’s mouth, and drawing himself up a little,
protested he had long been thinking they were
all too large for this sort of play, and that the
goat had better be resigned to Nancy. Nanny,
however, got many a wistful look and kind word
from each of her old friends, ere they proceeded
to announce to Mr Hampton her destination.

They found him at the gate, talking to their

friend Canty Maguire, the beggarman, who had


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 167

been a parishioner of his own, and was amongst
the many sufferers who had been driven from a
comfortable home by the late calamitous season.
From him he had already learned the circum-
stances of their visit to the cottage ; where, un-
seen or unheeded by the boys, he occupied a seat,
which he had appropriated to himself under the
thorn tree, in Harry's court-yard, and where he
had been a quiet observer of all that passed,

“Troth,” added he, when his story was finished,
“ Harry would fain keep me sitting with him the
whole day long under the thorn tree, while he is
at work, to chat about his father and mother,
and times long syne, which the poor lad says
makes him work the harder for Nancy.”

Mr Hampton, who wished to teach his pupils
both to think and act for themselves on every
occasion, resolved to leave the care of this family
in their own hands, so long as he saw them pro-
ceed judiciously in the management of it. He,
therefore, made no other comment on the story,
but to commeml Harry Burne’s good temper, in
not driving them from his house, on seeing it so
unjustifiably entered, and to express his appro-
bation of their plan for disposing of Nanny and
the necklaces. He also offered them to assist, if
they wished, in trying to get the latter sold, or
in any other way in which they chose to make
him useful to them.

The boys eagerly caught at his offer, and begged
leave to return that evening to take Nanny to
168 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

her mistress, and to get some more necklaces to
dispose of.

“ What! said Mr Hampton, “ before you have
parted with those you have already in your pos-
session? I advise you to think twice before you
do either of these things ; and recollect, it is not
how you can most speedily serve these young
people, that you are to consider, but how you
can most lastingly and effectually be of use to
them. However, you have my ready consent to
the walk; and I am only sorry I cannot offer to
lend you my purse, which is to-day quite empty,
as I fear these poor people must suffer want.’

The boys smiled and blushed, but remained
silent.

“ Hoot, lads!” cried the beggar, “ you should
not let the gentleman fret for want of money on
their account, that never fretted for it on his
own. Troth, sir,” said he, turning to Mr Hamp-
ton, “ I saw enough laid beside Harry’s door this
morning to keep want or hunger off these ten
days.”

“ Why,” said Mr Hampton, in an affectionate
manner, which was usual with him when he
wished to correct an error, “ why are vou, my
dear boys, unwilling to acknowledge, if any good
reason calls for the discovery, that you gave your
money to relieve a fellow-creature from dis-
tress ?”

He paused for a reply ; and Merle, who in this
instance spoke the sentiments of the whole party,
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 169

said, “ that, for his part, he thought it would
appear like boasting, to tell he had given Harry
money.”

“You must then consider it something to boast
of,” said Mr Hampton: “I saw you, Henry, the
other day, observe with surprise Mr G ’s
strange gesticulation, when a certain flattering
person asked him how much money he had laid
out that year onalms. Did you think his man-
ner bespoke much humility ?”

“No,” said Merle laughingly, “ not at all; he
winked and nodded, and signed for silence, and
tried, for his very life, to look modest and humble;
but I thought he would have succeeded much
hetter if he had answered, as you did, when the
same person attempted to flatter you by asking
the same question,—that you gave no more than
your fortune afforded, or your duty required.”

“T never wish you to remark on the manners
of those around you, Henry, except for example
and warning, with the design that you should
avoid whatever is wrong, and try to imitate what
is right. For me, I consider the desire to relieve
distress, wherever we meet it, as so common a
propensity, I had almost said so selfish a grati-
fication, that I am generally inclined to doubt
the humility of those who seem to apprehend
that it should call forth any particular commen-
dation.”

Having, shortly after this conversation, reached
the house, the boys took some time to consider


170 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

why Mr Hampton disapproved of their taking
Nanny home that night ; and, after a short deli-
beration, it struck Hilton that she would only
be a burden to Harry until her kid was born ;
and that, if they should be unable to sell all the
necklaces, or get a smaller price for any of them
than they expected, she would then be some com-
pensation for the disappointment.

They were all again around Mr Hampton ina
few minutes, to say, they had given up thoughts
of their walk ; and to beg that he would allow
them to send Alice, the gardener’s daughter, with
some milk and medicine to their patient. This
request was readily granted ; after which, they
spent the evening, and the next day, in prepara-
tions for their several journeys, and in anticipa-
ting the pleasures which awaited them amongst
their relatives and friends at home.

It was so late in the evening of their arrival,
when the boys were all returned to school, after
their vacation, that it was six o’clock the follow-
ing morning before they found themselves on the
way to Harry Burne’s cottage.

They had not proceeded far, when Merle re-
collected that he wished to add something, by
way of peace-offering, from his own pocket, to a
sum of money which his father had given him
for one of the necklaces. He now, however, found
that he had left his purse behind at the parsonage,
safely packed up at the bottom of his trunk. He


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 171

paused for a moment, to consider what he should
do; then crying out, “Oh, I may trust to my
speed for overtaking them all,” he ran back for
the intended gift.

“T shall want something for nurse,” he said
as he reckoned the contents of his purse, “ and
something for old Tom the gardener, and a new
ribbon for his pretty daughter, who made us the
nice harness for Nanny :” and, by the time he
had settled how much he could spare for Harry
Burne, he found it would require all his agility
to overtake his friends before their arrival at the
cottage. He did not, in fact, reach them, until
they had gained the favourite thorn, from whence
they saw Harry, already at his work, sitting with
a cordial smile, watching them as they crept cau-
tiously over the ground past Nancy’s window.

“ Stop,” shouted Merle, as loudly as the swift-
ness of his pace, and want of breath would allow ;
“Stop, boys ; wait for me, I say, why do you not
wait for me 7?” He was brought, however, to his
recollection by seeing them all place their fingers
on their lips, as, vexed and disappointed, they
perceived, by Harry's turning suddenly into the
cottage, that poor Nancy had been disturbed : and
he flung himself upon a stone which lay at the
foot of a thorn tree outside the hedge, resolving
not to appear.

Edward instantly came back, and declared they
had never missed him on the way, or that they
would certainly have waited for him ; but, with
172 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

something of the irritation which persons who
feel themselves in fault are frequently disposed
to vent on others, he declared his determination
of not going any farther, and throwing down the
money to be delivered to Harry Burne, he rudely
turned his back upon his friend. Edward, seeing
his companions already at the door, took the par-
cel in some surprise, and followed them.

The anxious cottager rose, with a flush of ex-
pectation and pleasure, to receive them all,
“Thank you kindly, gentlemen, thank you
kindly, for minding* poor Nancy : you will be
proud to see her now looking so purely in the
mornings, when you pass,” said he, with a more
respectful bow than the boys had ever received in
their lives before.

They expressed their joy at his sister’s amend-
ment, and each presented his offering of money,
which, when collected together, seemed to the
overjoyed and speechless Harry, a sum sufficient
to supply all his wants.

Large tears rolled down his cheeks before he
could exclaim, “ Och, father! your children will
not want bread now : and, Nancy dear! ye'll get
a bedstead to keep you off the cold ground, and
warm clothing to cover you, and plenty to eat,
and a whole roof over your head. God be good
to them that sent it !”

“ Did she require so many necessaries ?” cried

* Remembering,
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 173

the boys, who knew not why they were half in-
clined to shed tears too.

“Try if you have money enough to do so
much,” said Edward Hilton.

“ T’ll warrant you, sir: there’s twenty shil-
lings, will put clothes upon herself; and three
half-crowns will buy timber for the bedstead ;
then the roof, plague on it! it will take two col-
lar-braces, which will be six thirteens ;* and a
pair of blades will be half-a-guinea, and the rib-
bery for the weather-side of the house, that will
be five hogs ;+ and the watling and the thatch,
that will be a full pound more : that’s three pound
eleven and five pence,” cried Harry, having cal-
culated as he went along so rapidly, that the boys
could scarcely depend upon his accuracy. “ Lord
save you all! there’s nine-and-twenty shillings
over ; that will keep us, not rich, but well to live,
till more comes in,”

Would that be enough to buy yourself a coat,
Harry ?” asked Edward.

‘Thank your honour,” replied he, bowing as
low as if he had received a present of a new one ;
and glancing a half ashamed look at the tattered
garment on his back, “ This coat will do just
well enough ; and I’ll be after going to the fair
in the morning, to buy a goat. There was one
here yesterday, said her milk would be pure good

* A thirteen is an English shilling, that is, thirteen pence
Irish,

t A hog is likewise an English shilling.
174 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

for Nancy, and he offered me her grazing on the
whinny brae below : but I little thought I would
so soon come at the price of her.”

“ You must not mind the goat, Harry,” mail
Edward, “ we have provided one for you, and our
companion, who was so sorry for frightening your
sister the other day, means to bring it to you this
evening. Here is the money for his necklace,
which I forgot to give before.”

“God bless him and you both! I hope the
young gentleman is well,” said Harry ; “ myself
missed him all along, but was loath to ask, lest
you should think I was looking for more, after
all you did for me.”

Merle, who, during this dialogue, sat with his
head bent, so as not to be visible over the little
hedge, mortified at his own thoughtlessness, dis-
appointed at not presenting his own offering, and
thrown off his guard by his friend Hilton’s gener-
osity, could neither restrain his tears nor conceal
his vexation.

“Oh!” he cried, “ when will Mr Hampton
teach me to think twice before Iact ? Iwas the
first to promise caution in passing Nancy’s win-
dow, and the only one to forget that promise: I
shall never equal Edward, or the youngest boy at
school, in reflection or steadiness. -

Troth will you,” said a voice from under the
tree at the inside of the fence: “I never saw the
body yet couldn’t mend himself of a fault, when
once it vexed him,”
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 175

Merle started up at the sudden rejoinder, not
at first understanding from whence the voice pro-
ceeded, and on rising was immediately perceived
by Burne.

“ You're surely not thinking of the day I pushed
you so rudely by me, Master Merle, when you'll
not come inside the gate,” said Harry, cordially
advancing towards him.

“No, Harry, but I’m thinking how I forgot
your sister to-day, when all the other boys re-
membered her, and that has made me ashamed
to go in,”’ returned the self-condemned Henry.

“ Never vex your kind heart for that,” said
the honest cottager: “it would do her more
harm to see you fretting about it.”

“Don’t stop the lad to fret a bit,” cried the
voice from beneath the tree: “ troth, it will just
take the spur from his heel the next time he rides
on a fool’s errand.”

“ Oh, whist ! Canty, whist !” said Harry, in-
dignantly, “ ye did not hold the reins so tight
yourself, when ye kept the school at the Burn
Foot, or I would have been a brave scholar now,
and a better lad too.”

Poor Merle was the only boy who was not
much amused by the old schoolmaster’s blunt-
ness; and he was by no means sorry when
they all took leave, promising to return in the
evening with Nanny, whose kid was now a few
days old.

“ Arrived at home, he employed the remainder
176 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

of his play hours in finishing a very curious little
edifice, which his father had taught him to con-
struct, in imitation of one he had seen used by a
goat-herd on the Pyrenees, It was made of coarse
wicker-work, formed into five flat leaves, which
were interlaced at intervais with strong cords, in
such a manner that, by pulling the cords in the
proper direction, each leaf moved into its right
place, and f ... lying one on the top of the other
in a flat and portable shape, they could be in a
moment erected into a comfortable shelter against
the inclemency of the weather. Mr Merle had
frequently seen the goat-herd above mentioned
raise a shed of this kind over some sick or in-
jured animal that he wished to defend from the
cold ; and Henry was never satisfied with hear-
ing a description of it, until he became so per-
fectly master of its mechanism, as to be able to
undertake the manufacture of one for his own
favourite goat.

The performance had been kept a profound
secret from all the boys except Edward Hilton,
who assisted him in preparing the edifice ; and
Mr Hampton had kindly permitted them to carry
on the manufacture in hisown workshop. It had
now been several months in progress, and Henry
was that evening not the least happy of the party,
whilst balancing the great wicker platform on his
head, and maintaining a profound silence, he fol-
lowed his laughing and inquisitive companions
to the cottage. Here they found Harry seated

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1
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. L777.

The enjoyment anticipated on the completion
of their task had long formed the subject of de-
lightful contemplation to both of the ingenious
mechanics, and while the secrecy they had felt it in-
cumbent on them to maintain, had served still fur-
ther to whet their anticipations for the future, they
had indulged in many congratulations between
themselves, as they showed to each other the
different merits of their work as it approached
towards completion. They pulled the cords
again and again to see that it worked according to
their design, and delighted in gazing on the com-
fortable looking shelter that it made when erected
for use. On reaching the cottage, they found
Harry seated on the bench, with Canty Maguire
by his side; and were delighted at the pleasure
they saw sparkle in his eye, when they presented
him with the animal, which both they and he
hoped might restore hissister to her former health.

“T’ll just run in for Nancy to thank you her-
self,’ said he, as if he thought his own gratitude
an inadequate return.

As she came forward to do so, the boys could
not help thinking he must be mistaken in sup-
posing her better ; for, as they compared her
wasted frame and pallid cheeks with the stout
and healthy forms of the sisters from whom they
had lately parted, they began to fear their pre-
sent came too late to be of use. The poor girl,
however, seemed delighted with the gift ; and at
their departure sat down on the bench to watch

M
4
178 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

them, as, followed by Harry and the good old
beggarman, they led Nanny to her pasture on the
whinny brae.

“Long may they enjoy their health!” she
cried. “ Long, long may it be, before they see
their parents laid in the cold ground! Mine
would bless them now, could they see what
trouble they are taking for their poor Nancy.”

The party had by this time gained the hill ;
and one of the boys, suddenly recollecting him-
self, declared they had forgotten a tether for
Nanny, without which she would certainly follow
them home again ; whilst another, with a sorrow-
ful countenance, begged Harry Burne to build
her a little shed, as she had always been accus-
tomed to shelter at night.

“ Never mind,” said Merle, who was now busily
engaged fastening to her horn a cord which was
attached by a swivel to his platform; “ never
mind, she will not desire to stir from this by and
by. Come here, Edward,” added he; “ knock
those iron spikes, which you see at the two far
corners of this wicker table of mine, firmly into
the ground.” Hilton obeyed. Henry then, hav-
ing all prepared, pulled the cords, and up rose
the fabric like the castles of old in Fairy Land.
Two other spikes being then knocked down at
the two front corners, to keep the edifice fast,
Nanny, who had been frequently introduced to it
as an inmate before, marched into the door with
stately crest, followed by her little offspring, and
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 179

stretched herself out to rest. Henry explained
the construction of it to all the party, and shewed
Harry how it could easily be moved to any fresh
or sheltered side of the hill.

The boys were all in astonishment: Harry,
who examined the work minutely, was full of
admiration ; and the wonder of old Canty Ma-
guire was only equalled by his volubility. “ Well,
well,” cried he, “ sure enough, the ingeniousness
of man flags* the world for invention !”

“ Barring t the bees,” he added, after a pause ;
“ but to be sure, they beat the universe.”

Here all the boys, having already lingered too
long, hastened off to give vent to the laughter
which their own glee and Canty’s Irish phraseo-
logy excited.

* Surpasses. t Excepting, + Surpuen.
THE

BLACK OAK NECKLACE.

PART II.

The redbreast oft, at evening hours,
Shall kindly lend his little aid,
With hoary moss, and gather’d flowers,
To deck the ground where she is laid.
CoLuins.

THE boys continued, from time to time, to get
some of the necklaces disposed of for Harry,
through Mr Hampton’s assistance ; and the cot-
tage, with its new thatch and better furniture,
especially when its youthful owners sat at the
door in their new clothes, assumed a look of com-
fort, which never failed to inspire the young
people with fresh spirits, as they passed on their
daily visit to Nanny on the hill.
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 181

In a little time they became disappointed at
perceiving no change in Nancy’s health. They
observed also that Harry, notwithstanding his
improved condition, had lost all heart, as he
termed it himself, about his sister. By his own
ingenuity, and the profits of his work, he had,
however, been able to purchase implements, and
make himself a turning lathe, with which he
soon became an expert and successful mechanic ;
and was well pleased to renounce his former oc-
cupation, which, from its trifling nature, had
been extremely irksome to his active and indus-
trious turn of mind.

His young friends were one evening taking
him the product of the last necklace he had
made, hoping, at the same time, to get a lesson
in turning, with which he often good-naturedly
indulged them, when, going as usual softly round
the cottage, for fear of disturbing Nancy, they
saw her sitting on the bench, resting her head on
her hand.

In a voice of more than usual energy, she
conversed with her brother, who stood leaning
against the cottage, listening to her with an air
of such deep attention and distress, that the boys
felt unwilling to disturb them by advancing.

Whilst they stood silently gazing on the scene,
and watching Nanny, who, dragging her tether
along, cropped the young shrubs unheeded by her
master, they caught the sound of Nancy’s voice,
as she thus expostulated :—
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186 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

“She cannot be dead,” exclaimed Merle im-
petuously ; yet the tears, which chased each
other down his face, denied the rash assertion.

“You spake the truth,” said Molly Maguire,
the venerable woman who sat by the bedside,
“you spake the truth, young gentleman ; she
never lived till now! ‘That smile upon her lips,
if I had not believed before, would tell me so,
It ’s there, since ten minutes before her death,
when she raised herself up a little on her bed,
and called in peace and joy upon her Saviour’s
name: then, looking with a keen glance, that
seemed to pierce the very skies, ‘ Harry! Harry !’
said she, in a hurried voice, and pointing with
her hand to where she looked, ‘Is it, Harry—is
it my father and mother that I see ?’ and after a
minute’s pause, the smile spread, as you see it
now, over her whole face, and I could just hear
her whisper, ‘ My God and Saviour will be there
too!’ Sure lam, she’s with them now, in bliss,”
said the good old woman, while tears, but not of
sorrow, rolled down her aged face.

“That’s my joy and comfort,’ sobbed Harry,
from the doorway, as he stood with eyes fixed
on the pale form of his sister; “sorry would I
be to fret against the will of God, and vex het
in her happy dwelling. He has done better for
her than ever I could do.”

The boys, one and all, sobbed almost as fast
as Harry ; and pressing anxiously round hin,
some seized his hands, whilst others offered such


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 187

words of consolation as they could command.
Mr Hampton, not less affected than themselves,
induced the young man to accompany them
part of the way home, and all felt happy to see
him somewhat revived by the walk. But the
warm eulogium bestowed by them all on his
departed sister, was what seemed to have most
power in attracting his attention. At length,
the pious simplicity of all that Mr Hampton
uttered, led back his mind to perfect resignation ;
and he resumed his wonted confidence in that
protecting care, that providential wisdom, which
had, as he himself expressed it, removed a shorn
lamb from the storm, and left one surviving who
was better able to contend against the blast.
“She has taught me to stand every storm that
may blow,” said he calmly; “it was hard,
indeed, very hard, to see her feeble frame suffer-
ing, when I had no power to help her; but her
mind was strong! She trusted in her Saviour,
and knew that he would never leave her nor
forsake her, and through his heavenly aid, she
remained patient and contented to the end. Now
she is with Him in peace and glory; so come
. what will to me, I’ll try to bear it manfully.”
Harry then thanked Mr Hampton and his
young friends for all their kindness, and returned
home; but before he reached that now melan-
choly abode, he was joined by the honest and
considerate old beggar man, who, in his own
blunt way, offered such shrewd and affectionate


188 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

consolation as was not lost upon the mourner :
since his heart was ever as much alive to the
comforts as to the sorrows of his situation.

Mr Hampton continued his walk in silence,
until observing that Merle seemed oppressed with
sadness, he said to him, “ My dear Henry, you
will endeavour, I hope, to drive from your mind
every painful impression you may have received
from the scene we have just witnessed: you
should not give way to any feeling which could
make you desire to forget the sight; but ought
rather to cherish the recollection, as a powerful
means of exciting the most useful reflections. If
properly considered, you will find it well calcu-
lated to afford that confidence in the merciful
providence of God which we should all make it
our chief study to attain, since it is this alone
which can support us under the various trials
and distresses of life. I look upon Harry Burne,”
Mr Hampton added, “as a fit example for the
imitation of all my pupils. His pious resigna-
tion, manly fortitude, and brotherly affection,
will, I am certain, procure for him the continu-
ance of your kindness; and I hope you will
make me henceforward a sharer in whatever plans .
you may form for his benefit.”

Such was their kind master’s manner towards
them on every occasion where he could possibly
make them feel their own powers of usefulness ;
and he never failed to follow in the path they


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 189

chose to point out, provided he saw it would in
any manner lead them to the end in view.”

The following day he was pleased to see that
Henry, without falling back into thoughtlessness,
was able to resunie his usual cheerfulness. It
seemed, indeed, that the awful scene, of which
he had been a spectator, had, for the first time,
roused religious reflections in his mind, and
made him feel what Mr Hampton had often
endeavoured to inculcate, “that no thoughtless
character can meet death with fortitude, much
less with hope and joy, as poor Nancy Burne
had done.”

Mr Hampton observed him, all that morning,
watching for a moment to speak to him alone,
and took care to afford him the opportunity he
sought. In the course of their conversation
Merle told him, that old Canty Maguire had
said, “Any one could conquer his faults, who
was really sorry forthem.” “ But I do not find
it so,” said Henry : “being vexed at them does
not tell me how to cure them.”

“It is, however, very apt to make us look
about for some plan, which may enable us to
conquer them. Have you any such plan in
your mind, Henry ?”

“No, sir, I cannot say Ihave; I was wishing,
indeed, last night, that you would take me out
of the class in which I am at present placed,
and allow me a seat near yourself, apart from
my schoolfellows, where the certainty of being


| a THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

under your eye would keep my attention alive,
and, perhaps, enable me to get my lessons with-
out resorting to that mechanical system of which
you so much disapprove. You have often told
me, that a habit of fixing my attention every
day, for the time necessary to get through my
business in the common way, would help to
make me steady ; and I am resolved not to ask
a seat among my companions again until I am
able to get my lessons as they do.”

“Do you call this having no plan for con-
quering your faults ?” asked Mr Hampton smil-
ing. “I believe you could not have fallen upon
a better. I will, therefore, readily accede to
your wish, and I trust you may have full faith
in Canty’s adage. You must not, however, my
dear Henry, expect to cure yourself of this, or of
any other fault, except by a habit of shunning,
when you can, or of successfully resisting when
you cannot shun, those temptations which have
hitherto seduced you into it.”

They were now interrupted by the other boys,
who came to propose a scheme for drawing
Harry Burne from his lonely habitation.

This was, to engage him by the day, to teach
them, during play hours, the use of his turning
lathe, for which they would each ask their
parents leave to remunerate him. Mr Hampton
readily acquiesced in the scheme ; and as Harry
was now become an excellent house carpenter,
he placed under his superintendence an addition
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE, 191

he was obliged to make at the parsonage ; by
which means Harry obtained ample occupation
for upwards of twelve months.

By the profits arising from his several employ-
ments, he was shortly after enabled to rent the
cottage, and a small farm from his landlord.
Here Canty Maguire and his venerable partner
took up their abode along with him. Nor were
they dispossessed, even after Thomas, the old
gardener (having declared that he would never
let any one but a good son, and a good brother,
be the husband of his pretty Alice), bestowed his
wealthy daughter on our hero.

Very shortly after this declaration, the youth-
ful and happy pair were united by Mr Hampton.
Hilton’s birth-day was chosen for the wedding,
and Harry led home his blooming bride, escorted
by the boys, who, in great delight, joined in all
the rural sports of the evening, and danced on the
green until the setting sun warned their kind
master to lead them home.



“ I’m proud to see you, sir,” said Harry Burne
to Captain Merle, as Henry some years afterwards
rode past the cottage on his way to visit Mr
Hampton.

“ And I am happy to see you, honest Harry,
looking so well, and with so many indications of
prosperity around you,” said Merle, as he glanced
his eye over the snug farm-yard and four rosy
children at the wicket. “ How is my good friend
192 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

Alice? and is my worthy old monitor, Canty
Maguire, still alive ?”

“ Thank your honour kindly,” replied Harry,
“ Alice is just purely ; and Canty and the old
wife’s sitting in the chimney corner yet; and
there’s Nanny browsing on the brae, almost as
good as the day your honour brought her to the
cottage. One would think poor Nancy keeps
her word, and watches over me and mine, to
keep us all from harm: There’s a wean,* that’s
called for her, and her very marrow,f and she
never had a brash of sickness since she was born
yet.”

“ We sometimes see merit rewarded even in
this life, Harry,” said Merle, holding out his hand
to bid adieu.

But Harry still detained him, to inquire after
all his young companions, especially Master Ed-
ward Hilton.

“ They have all been fortunate in life, and all
turned out as well as their excellent preceptor’s
care taught the world to expect,” replied Merle ;
“but Hilton,” he added, “ is already the pride
of his family, an honour to his friends, and likely
to become his countrys greatest ornament,—a
prudent and accomplished statesman.”

Harry then suffered him to depart, having
obtained a promise that he would call again at
the cottage, before he left the country. Merle

* Child. t Counterpart.
THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 1938

then spurring his horse forward, was soon out of
sight, and in a few minutes after was pressed in
the arms of his kind and affectionate master,



Hit ea

139

“ Finished ! already finished !” cried Sir Hum-
phrey, roused by the cessation of Elizabeth’s
voice as she closed her little manuscript. “ I
hope, child, you have not spoilt your story, by
concluding it so abruptly. ‘ They danced on the
green, till the setting sun warned them to return ;’
were not these your last words? But it is an
excellent story, child, an excellent story, inte-
resting and well told ; I wish, however, you had
not cut it so intolerably short at the end.”

“What does my uncle mean?” exclaimed
Elizabeth, addressing herself to Mrs Deborah,
and fixing her eyes on the laughable visage of

N
194 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

Sir Humphrey ; “I fear,” she added, with evi-
dent mortification, “I have not succeeded in
keeping him awake, even so well as I used to
do with those stupid tales which I had foolishly
hoped to surpass.”

“ He seems, indeed, a little bewildered,” replied
Mrs Deborah ; “and in spite of all the pathos of
your story, Lizzy,” (this she said with marked
emphasis,) “I fear he has stolen a nap unob-
served by us.”

“No, Deborah, I have not stolen a nap, and I
do not object to the pathos of her story in the
least ; but,” he added, “a marriage coming 80
soon after the description of a death scene, and,
above all, the sudden conclusion of the story,
have, I confess, disappointed me.”

The fact was, the old gentleman had been s0
much pleased by what Mrs Deborah called the
pathos in Elizabeth’s story, particularly in the
death scene of poor Nancy, that he was not pre-
pared for the sudden transition from it to the
joyous festivities of a wedding ; and he thought
the description in the passage he quoted so much
out of place, that he was completely absorbed by
his intended criticisms, and had not heard one
word of the concluding sentences.

After some explanation, Elizabeth again read
the.sequel of her story, and was pleased to ob-
serve that her uncle now appeared satisfied.
Emma and Kate were also warm in their
praises, but poor Elizabeth had still the mor


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE. 195

tification to perceive, that her production did
not meet with the approbation of her aunt.

She, however, good humouredly said, she
thought quite as little of it as any person could
do, and besought Mrs Deborah not to feel any
unwillingness to express her real opinion, de-
claring, that even if the story had been better
told, she should have deserved no credit for it,
since she had only written down the facts, with
which they were all so well acquainted, in the
life of the poor young Irishman, who lately
earned his livelihood by making black oak neck~
laces at Donaghadee.

Kate protested that the story deserved much
more commendation than hers, and Emma de-
clared it was far superior to any of those with
which it was to be compared; but their aunt
maintained that Elizabeth had taken so much
pains to produce pathetic description, rather than
practical instruction, that she could not help
considering it below the level of any in Mr
’s collection, and she, therefore, pronounced
it undeserving of the premium. “There are,
too,” she said, “so many inelegant phrases, and
so many sentences in it contrary to the rules of
Lindley Murray, by which you have all been
so carefully taught, that I A

“Confound your grammar rules, and Lindley
Murray into the bargain !” said the old Baronet
testily ; “I will not have any piece of writing
measured in this manner, by rule and compass,




196 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

like a carpenter’s square, and then cast aside by
a cross critic, for some half hair’s-breadth of
error ; no, I hate all such criticizing,” he added,
quite forgetting himself, as he sometimes did, to
the great distress of his good sister. He did not
in reality, however, like Elizabeth’s story so well
as that of Kate, which better suited his military
spirit ; but what he most liked in “ The Black
Oak Necklace,” was the very pathos of which
Mrs Deborah complained, and irritated by what
he called her too great fastidiousness, he wished
to adjudge the premium to Elizabeth. She, how-
ever, acknowledged the justice of her aunt's
censure, and confessed that she had shewn so
little ingenuity or judgment in her story, that
she positively would not accept of a reward which
she felt she did not merit.

“T do not see the want of ingenuity,” said her
uncle, “ and few people of your years are remark-
able for solidity of judgment, my girl ; indeed,
we are all at any age too apt to have our judg-
ment led astray by prejudice and fancy. One
may shew this, perhaps, by too great love of the
pathetic, and the other by over great hatred,—
both are equally errors in judgment,” he added,
with a glance at his sister; “ but I assert, that
the girl who wrote the story you have just read
to us, could probably write a much more able
work; and since it is decidedly written with
more pathos and feeling than the ‘ Soldier's Re-
turn,’ I have no hesitation in adjudging it the


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE, 197

second premium, let other people think what
they may.’

Elizabeth protested against this decision, and
really felt that her sister’s story deserved the
premium much better than her own:; but Sir
Humphrey commanding her not: to say another
word on the subject, hastily quitted the room,
and as hastily returned, bringing in one hand a
beautiful bound copy of “ Retirement,” a: work
just come out, which all the girls had been most
anxious to read, and in the other a “ Milton’s
Paradise Lost,” which he had once heard Eliza-
beth say she should like better than any other
book in his library. Her eyes sparkled with
delight as she received the first prize; but the
second she still persisted in refusing, and Mrs
Deborah asserted that she was right, loudly de- |
claring that the second premium could not be
justly awarded to either story, since the merits
and demerits of both were, in her mind, so equal,
that it would be impossible to decide which was
to be preferred, “The only method of proving
the superiority,” she said, “ would be to let each
author try who should most improve their work,
by lopping off the overwrought and redun-
dant parts.” At this suggestion, the Baronet
became almost outrageous: he seized the manu-
scripts in haste, and carefully locked them both
_ Up in his desk, vowing he would, on no account,
_ submit to their being altered in the slightest
particular:
198 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

Vainly did the girls entreat that he would re-
store them even for a few hours, that they might
endeavour to improve them according to their
aunt’s wish.

“Do, my dear uncle,” cried Kate ; “do let
me at least endeavour to make mine more what
my aunt approves. There are, indeed, innumer-
able faults in it, which were evident to myself
on a second reading, and which I should wish to
remove before I read it to my little sister.”

Elizabeth also made the same entreaty, but
their uncle still protested the stories should not
be touched, and that Elizabeth should be con-
sidered the victor, and receive the prize. This
she again positively declined, repeating that she
could not accept a reward which she felt she did
not merit.

‘“‘ Very well, ladies,” said the old Baronet,
somewhat piqued, “I am a silly old fellow I
know, and I perceive you all think I can-
not discern a good story from a bad one; but
since I shall not get leave to abide by my own
judgment, and since the second premium is not
to be given on my award, I will e’en submit the
question to those on whose opinion you will per-
haps have more dependence.”

The girls enquired how this was to be done,
- but could obtain no satisfactory answer.

Mrs Deborah proposed leaving the matter to
the decision of the little girl for whom the stories -
were ultimately intended, and Sir Humphrey,


THE BLACK OAK NECKLACE, 199

seeming to agree, said he would read them to
Mary himself next morning.

For the wole day after, all the little girl’s
play hours were devoted to hearing the tales,
with which she was so much delighted, that her
sisters thought their trouble in writing them
well repaid. When finished, she petitioned to
have them read over again, but fearful of morti-
fying either of her sisters, she declared she thought
both the stories equally pretty, and no persua-
sion could induce her to tell which she preferred,

‘Don’t you think they would make a nice
little book, Mary, if they were printed ?” said
Sir Humphrey, archly.

“ Oh yes, uncle, very nice. I wish they were
made into a little printed book. They would be
a great deal nicer than ‘ Jack the Giant Killer,’
or the ‘ White Cat,’ or any of these stories, which
my aunt was so angry with you for giving me.
Do, pray, dear uncle, get them printed, if you
can, and then I may read them for myself as
often as I please.”

“That, my little girl, I promise you, is exactly
what I mean to do,” replied her uncle. “ They
shall stand in your library in the best print, and
finest binding I can give them, before a month
goes past, and we shall then have abundant op-~
portunities of discovering which story is gene-
rally preferred.”

“The girls, in consternation, made a desperate
attempt to seize the key of the desk, and recover
200 THE TRIAL OF SKILL.

their papers ; but failing in all their efforts, they
offered to submit to any decision he pleased to
make, if he would only give up the scheme of
publication.

“No, no,” said he, laughing heartily, as he
placed the key securely in his waistcoat pocket,
“with a blessing the decision shall now be made
by the public ; you refused my offer once, Eliza-
beth, and I do not mean to repeat it.”

“ You shall have no farther trouble,’ he added,
pushing them both away, and hardening himself
against their entreaties ; “as sure as my name is
Humphrey, I will send your stories to the press,
and before one month goes over your heads, you
shall see them in print, on that bracket. No small
entertainment will it be to me,” continued this
provoking old man, “ when I put the book into
some visiter’s hand, and ask him to decide which
is the best story! I think I see you both writh-
ing under the apprehension of his detecting some
of the characters, and discovering the authors.

“There will be no appeal from the judgment
we shall thus obtain ; and should you meet with
some rough treatment from a few clever critics,
young ladies, I hope it will teach you not to be
so severe on the next poor writer who falls into
your hands.”

The girls were silent, either from the idea that
it was in vain to speak, or from the hope that
this whim of their provoking old uncle would a
die away, if not too warmly opposed. ry

4a
THE BLACK 0AK NECKLACE. 201

But the whim has not died away, the threat is
_ put in execution, and Sir Humphrey trusts that
the young people, to whom he dedicates this
volume, may never disapprove of the trick by
which he hopes to have benefited them, and
punished his saucy nieces,
02

THE MOTHER AND CHILD.

THE MOTHER AND CHILD.

Behold! a little baby boy,
A happy babe is he:
His face, how bright,
His heart, how light,
His throne his mother’s knee.

Now in her face with laughing eye
I see him gaily peep,
And now, at rest
Upon her breast,
He gently sinks to sleep.

His lips are red, his teeth like pearls,
The rogue! he has but two;
His golden hair,
How soft and fair,
His eyes, how bright and blue.

His tiny hands are white and plump,
And waking, or asleep,
Beneath his clothes
His little toes
How cunningly they peep!

Oh! many things are beautiful,
The bird that sings and flies—
The setting sun,
.~When day is done—
The rainbow in the skies.
© SAY, BUSY BEE. 208

My own pet lamb is innocent,
And full of play is he—
The violet
With dew drops wet
Is sweet and fair to me.

But there is one more beautiful,
Gay, tender, sweet, and mild,
A baby boy
With heart of joy,
A loved and loving child.
Mrs. WELLS.

wes

O SAY, BUSY BEE.
O say, busy bee, whither now are you going,
Whither now are you going, to work, or to play?
“Tam bound to the garden, where roses are
blowing,

For I must be making sweet honey to-day.

Sweet honey—sweet honey—
For I must be making sweet honey to-day.”

O say, pretty dove, whither now are you flying,
Whither now are you flying, to London or Rome?
“Tam bound to my nest where my partner is
sighing,
And waiting for me in my snug little home.
Little home—little home—
And waiting for me in my snug little home.”

So we, all so happy, while daily advaneing
In wisdom and knowledge, in virtue and love,
904 THE boa.

Will sing on our way, in our progress rejoicing,

As brisk as the bee, and as true as the dove.
Will sing—will sing—

As brisk as the bee, and as true as the dove.

THE DOG.

“ He will not come,” said the gentle child,

And she patted the poor dog’s head,
And she pleasantly call’d him and fondly smil’d,
But he headed her not, in his anguish wild,

Nor arose from his lowly bed.

’*Twas his Master’s grave where he chose to rest,
He guarded it night and day,

The love that glowed in his grateful breast,

For the friend who had fed, controlled, carest,
Might never fade away.

And when the long grass rustled near,
Beneath some hasting tread,

He started up with a quivering ear,

For he thought ’twas the step of his Master dear,
Returning from the dead.

But sometimes, when a storm drew nigh,
And the clouds were dark and fleet,
He tore the turf with a mournful cry,
As if he would force his way, or die,
To his much-loved Master's feet.

So there through the Summer’s heat he lay, |
Till Autumn nights grew bleak, | #
THE BOY'S FIRST GRIEF. 205

Till his eye grew dim with his hope’s decay,
And he pined, and pined, and wasted away,
A skeleton gaunt and weak.

And oft the pitying children brought

Their offerings of meat and bread,
And to coax him away to their homes they sought,
But his buried master he ne’er forgot,

Nor strayed from his lonely bed.

Cold Winter came with an angry sway,
And the snow lay deep and sore,

Then his moaning grew fainter day by day,

Till close where the broken tomb-stone lay,
He fell, to rise no more.

And when he struggled with mortal pain,
And Death was by his side,

With one loud cry that shook the plain,

He called for his Master,—but all in vain,
Then stretched himself and died.

L. H. 5.

THE BOY’S FIRST GRIEF.

Oh! call my brother back to me,
T cannot play alone ;

The summer comes, with flower and bee—
Where is my brother gone?

The butterfly is glancing bright
Across the sunbeam’s track ;

I care not now to chase its flighi—
Oh! call my brother back.
206 TO A CHILD SIX YEARS OLD.

The flowers run wild—the flowers we sowed,
Around our garden tree;

Our vine is drooping with its load—
Oh! call him back to me.

“He would not hear my voice, fair child!
He may not come to thee;

The face that once like springtime smiled,
On earth no more thou lt see!

A rose’s brief bright life of joy,
Such unto him was given;

Go, thou must play alone, my boy—
Thy brother is in heaven!”

And has he left the birds and flowers,
And must I[ call in vain ;

And through the long, long summer hours—
Will he not come again?

And by the brook, and in the glade,
Are all our wanderings o’er?
Oh! while my brother with me played,
Would I had loved him more!
Mrs. Humans.

TE

TO A CHILD SIX YEARS OLD.

Six years, six happy years, have lit
The sunshine of thy brow;

And the bright clustering buds of joy
Are twining round it now.
LITTLE LUCY. 207

Thy guileless heart dreams not of cares
Which coming years shall bring ;
But thy light buoyant bosom
The world has yet to wring.

Yes, there are thorns, young dreamer,
Among earth’s fairest flowers ;

And clouds will sometimes shadow o’er
Life’s brightest, sunniest hours.

Expect not perfect bliss, while here
’Tis nowhere to be found;

Its accents fall upon the ear
With an unearthly sound.

The proudest schemes of human bliss
Dissolve and fade in air,
In heaven, it has its dwelling place,
O! seek and find it there.
AUGUSTA.

LITTLE LUCY
Friend.

Do you grieve to lie on your lonely bed,
When the sun is so brightly shining ;

The merry birds carol above your head, ©
Yet I hear not a word of repining.

Oh no! tho’ I suffer, and great is my pain, ,
Yet I read with much comfort and pleasure;

in,

Â¥>
208 LITTLE LUCY.

With much to enjoy, why should I complain,
When a book is to me a rich treasure.

For me, too, the fairest fruits and flowers
Are selected by fond friends’ affection.

I love the bright sun—the cooling showers—
And thank God for his care and protection.

Brother picks the nuts from their dark brown coat,
The ripe peaches and pears from the tree ;

Here, on my couch, from their pleasures remote,
I rejoice, in their kindness for me.

When I hear below, in the busy street,
Companions joyful to school repairing,

There’s music to me in their moving feet,
Rosy health sweet contentment declaring.

Friend.
God tempers the wind to the lamb that is shorn,
And meteth thy strength to thy trial.
You have his precious word ;—no outcast forlorn ;
Ask his grace, an@ ne’er fear a denial.
M. M. B.

THE END.



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