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“ As to that, Sophy,” rejoined Esther, haughtily, “ you and your friends may possibly be mistaken. I should be glad to know whether choosing a subject for our Scripture lesson is improper on a Sunday evening. That is what we have been talking about; is it not, Agnes ?"
Agnes assented, but she did so in a manner which betrayed to the keen observation of Sophy, that she was descending to the meanness of equivocation. This Sophy did not hesitate to tell her, and an angry scene ensued--Agnes accusing Sophy of ill-temper and prejudice, and Sophy upbraiding her in return with unkindness and dissimulation.
The loud sound of a bell, summoning the young ladies to the school-room, at length put an end to the dispute between the sisters; but it was with forced and resentful feelings, they turned their steps towards the house whither their companions had preceded them. It was a pleasing picture--that neat and old-fashioned school-room, with its large bay-window overlooking a considerable tract of fertile and highly cultivated land. Farm-houses, which in style and decoration resembled the neat villas of retired tradesmen, were scattered here and there; which together with the cottages of the labourers, and the picturesque tower of the church above-mentioned, formed an agreeable prospect. Neither was the interior of the cottage-like mansion, well known in the neighbourhood as the “ boarding school,” less agreeable in its way than the situation in which it stood.
Mrs. Ford, the lady who presided over the establishment in question, had been for more than thirty years a governess, yet she still retained a deep interest in the pursuits and pleasures of her pupils. It was her constant aim, and she had succeeded well, to combine with the discipline requisite in a school, the domestic enjoyments, the innocent freedom, and the decent gaiety which should ever be the characteristics of home. Had there, however, been any ground for apprehending that Mrs. Ford was too old to sympathize with the young people of whom she had the charge, her deficiency in this respect would have been amply compensated by her daughter, who resided with her, and was now in her twentieth year. Ellen Ford had been trained by her mother for the important work of education, and she had entered upon the duties assigned her with all the eagerness and zeal of a young and enthusiastic mind. She was fond of children-she loved their society-and had the tact required to draw them out, and make them happy. It was her delight to study their habits and dispositions, to join in their pursuits, and participate in their amusements. The position which Ellen held, gave her the advantage of guiding rather than controlling--a position which, if rightly understood and appreciated, possesses many advantages, and chiefly that of influencing through the medium of the affections. The young people, under Mrs. Ford's care, loved Ellen, for they knew she loved them. They feared to misconduct themselves, because they knew she would be really grieved by it. And so indeed she was, in a degree which could scarcely be realized by mere hireling teachers; but Ellen was pious as well as conscientious, and being deeply sensible of her responsible situation, she felt anxious to prove a true assistant to her beloved mother, by leading her young charge to the Fountain of all Good.
It was to spend an hour with Ellen Ford, that the bell had summoned the young people to the school-room, on the Sabbath evening in question. The time, the scene, and the previous religious exercises of the day, had conspired to cast an additional shade of seriousness over the mind of the young teacher, and, with the hopeful confidence of her age, she felt alınost persuaded that the light-hearted children around her, felt as she did. Nor was she altogether mistaken; for there is something infectious in genuine feeling, especially when as selfish in its nature, and as sweet and earnest in its expression, as was that of Ellen Ford. The girls, about twenty in number, seated themselves around the room, each with her pocket Bible and hymn-book; together with a slip of paper ready to put down the texts selected, when the subject had been chosen for the next week's Scripture lesson.
As Agnes and Esther entered the school-room, arm-in-arm, they paused for an instant, and glanced wistfully towards their accustomed seats, for they were in the habit of placing themselves so as to command a good view of what was passing amongst their schoolfellows, and yet elude, as much as possible, the observation of their teacher. This they found a convenient place, as it enabled them to carry on their much-loved gossip, by the aid of looks, signs, and twitches of their book-for though each possessed a Bible of her own, it appeared as if these devoted friends considered
it a proof of affection to strain their eyes, and render their position nncomfortable, by looking over the same small print. On this evening, however, either from accident or design, their favorite nook of observation was occupied by others, and finding their silent appeal disregarded, they, with ill-concealed disappointment, seated themselves in the nearest vacant places. But it was different with Sophy, who was the last to enter the room, and whose flushed cheek and disturbed expression were no sooner observed by her companions, than several seats were offered her. She felt the kindness; and as she gratefully returned the pressure of one gentle hand stretched out to invite her, she little imagined that the kindhearted girl, who had incommoded herself to make room for her in the comfortable recess by the window, was the very one selected by her sister and Esther, as the object of their unkind ridicule; it being no other than the Fanny Jackson before alluded to. Such small and trifling circumstances as these, serve to point out to the attentive observer, the estimation in which children are held by each other; a point of no small importance in forming a correct opinion of the dispositions of her pupils.
Happily for our friends, their governess was too much busied in selecting a portion of Scripture for their reading, to notice what otherwise would not have escaped her observation. A hymn was first sung by the children, who afterwards read part of Christ's sermon on the mount; and as the young governess looked upon the intelligent countenances, and listened to the correct replies and sensible observations of her pupils, she was almost proud of their attainments, and congratulated herself upon the success of her efforts to improve them.
“ And now, Agnes," said she, as soon as the reading was ended, “ have you decided upon a subject for your texts next week ?”.
« Yes, ma'am," returned Agnes, “ I have chosen - Pride.'”
The words of Agnes were such as would, in all probability, have been repeated by any of her companions, under similar circumstances; but there was an expression in her eye, as she sought Esther's answering look, and a scornful smile upon her lip, as she glanced from her friend to poor Fanny, who at the moment was arranging her sash, which sufficiently roused the attention of her governess, and instantly excited in her mind a painful suspicion of the truth.
This suspicion was accompanied by a keen nse of disappointment. She bent over the still-open volume before her, and a crowd of sorrowful reflections came rushing to her mind. She thought upon the deceitfulness of the human heart, which can thus lead us to observe and despise in others, the very sins which, whilst they “ most easily beset us,” pass unsuspected and unnoticed in ourselves. She felt humbled too, as she remembered how ready she had been to flatter herself into the belief that her anxious solicitude for the welfare of her mother's pupils, her affectionate counsels and her example, had produced a higher love of moral principle than was to be met with at most schools, and she felt deeply sensible of the utter unavailingness of the best directed efforts, without His blessing, who “ searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men."
“ Agnes,” she said, at length, looking earnestly at her, “ do you recollect the subjects of all your Scripture lessons since the last vacation ?”
“Oh,! yes, ma'am,” returned she, with an air of much self-satisfaction, “ I remember them perfectly."
“And the texts you selected every week-do you remember them also ?” · " I think so-indeed I feel pretty sure I could repeat them all.”
“Then, dear Agnes, your knowledge on religious subjects must be greater than it was four months ago; but I have been thinking how sad it is to reflect, that unless we make a right use of such knowledge, and reduce it to practice, it does not prove a blessing, but a curse. You have selected 'pride' as the subject of your lesson this week : now, let us all earnestly pray that God will enable us to apply the texts we shall select to ourselves, and to strive constantly against the sin to which, in some form or other, we are all prone.”
“I wish we had some one to point out to us the different ways in which we shew our pride,” observed Esther; " for you know, ma'am, we cannot tell each other, without giving offence; and I am sure, I think nothing is more detestable than pride."
“Are you really sincere in that wish, Esther ?" asked Ellen,
“ Indeed I am,” returned she, slightly colouring, for she felt that the question implied a doubt of her sincerity.
“Well then, I will, if agreeable to you, observe you attentively
during the next week; and next Sabbath evening, I will read to you the result of my observations.”
“Do-pray do-dear Miss Ellen ; we shall like it extremely," exclaimed many of the young ladies. Agnes and Esther, in particular, expressed much satisfaction with the proposal, and the matter being thus arranged, the children busied themselves in chosing texts for the week.
!To be continued.)
THE MESSAGE. I KNOW not what feelings are awakened in your minds, my dear young friends, as the first day of another year dawns upon you. To me it comes invested with peculiar, sometimes with overwhelming, solemnity. It ushers in a new period, and who can tell what there may be of new trials, new temptations, and new duties, shrouded in the mist of its unknown future. . That first step, seems such a step! Go forward we must; and, to what, we know not. I know what the believer will say with regard to the uncertainty of his path; and I do not forget that, with his hand in his Father's, he may calmly close his eyes, and step forward without one moment's misgiving, though not knowing where he may be called to place his foot. He who has made with him a “covenant ordered in all things,” sees through the obscurity, and that is sufficient for his child. But whilst this consideration removes all terror, it need not, and does not, neutralize the feeling of awe which these days bring with them--days which seem to contain as it were, the year in embryo. · A few weeks since, my mind was directed to the subject of this paper, by some remarks in a sermon, made in reference to the solemn message with which the prophet Jeremiah, (ch. xxviii. 16,) was charged:
“THIS YEAR THOU SHALT DIE!" My thoughts immediately reverted to the coming New Year's day,– a day which would be welcomed by so many. The day, in which, above all others in the year, resolutions are made, plans are sketched. and Fancy's magnifying glass is eagerly looked through, or her aid solicited in colouring the yet undeveloped scenery.
If, thought I, on that day some heavenly-commissioned mes