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66

“Yes, yes ! dear sister; what we enjoy are truly nature's best gifts, but gratitude, instead of pride, should fill our insensible hearts; for what have we that we have not received from Him, the Giver of all good, who giveth all things liberally ?”

Toujours, toujours triste. I am surprised the rooks' caw over your head does not inspire you with mirth, as I presume it is their joyous note!"

True," said Ellen, “but early sorrows have subdued my feelings, and made my spirits far less buoyant than yours; the sunshine of your days must also be clouded some day or other, though that cloud may have its "silver lining,' and it behoves us all, dear Laura, to prepare, in a measure, for the chances and changes of life." “Well

, well !" replied Laura, “but I do dislike your moralizing, it is so ill-timed, you quite sadden my young heart by imaginary evils. Say, if you saw a tree, on which you once prided yourself, look half dead and withered, would you cut off the young shoots it made because the parent stem looked so dismal? Would you not rather say,

Let them flourish ?”

Plain, yet simple question, Laura,” said Ellen; “ I would your dear brother's loss were repaired by a more cheerful companion."

Ellen and Laura were the daughters of the Rev. Edward Lockyer, who died at the early age of fortytwo, leaving a widow with one son and two daughter s, the former was many years the senior. Mrs. Lock yer

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THEIR PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES.

had been a widow for years, and had devoted her life to the nurture and education of her children. Ellen, of late years, had shared the home duties with her mother, and relieved her parent's anxious mind by much endearing solicitude. Alfred Lockyer, a boy of fifteen, had just quitted the maternal roof for Sandhurst Military College, and with him had departed Laura's cheerful companion ; his lively sallies met with a cordial reception in her young

and merry heart.

At Mr. Lockyer's death his widow found herself in rather embarrassed circumstances, but the demise of an old aunt had given herself and children a very handsome competency. As the clergyman of the parish over which he once presided, he was most highly esteemed, and his loss regretted by rich and poor. The gentleman who was appointed to fill his vacant pulpit was a single man, about thirty-eight years of age, of good family and moderate fortune, named Devereux. His visits to the widow's cottage were frequent, and Mrs. Lockyer fancied he admired Ellen more than he had ventured to declare; she was not anxious to lose such a companion, who was her polar star. And in all her troubles the mother found her burdened heart relieved by her fond daughter's sympathy.

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Hope, like a sunbeam, shone on a merry heart.

"I WISH my

heart were like Pandora's box,” said the lively Laura, as she entered the breakfast-room where her more sober sister had been seated, waiting for the family circle.

“And why is this wish your salutation this morning?" said Ellen.

“ Because the box had hope at the bottom, and I should have a similar boon."

The entrance of Mrs. Lockyer interrupted, for a time, the conversation, for, after the affectionate greetings consonant with love one to another, Mrs. Lockyer, as was her custom, thanked the Giver of all good for the mercies of another night, with her children and household around her. She well knew the secret influence prayer had had upon

her mind, and she hoped and despaired not of its effects upon those of others.

“ You look triste, my dear Laura," said Mrs. Lockyer, “what has occurred to disturb the economy of

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your smiling face? Have you not passed a comfortable night in sweet sleep?"

“Oh, yes, mamma! I have, indeed, been in sweet dreams all night, but now my waking dreams may be best concealed.” “ Far otherwise, Laura; tell us all you

wish.” “ All I wish, mamma? Guess once ? guess twice ? but I will tell you; I am so anxious to go to the charity ball ; it will take place next Tuesday. May I go ? Mrs. De Tracy will be my chaperon if you object to accompany me, as I am sure Ellen will not go."

“Your request requires time, my child ; yes, time, to answer satisfactorily. To dancing, in the abstract, I do not object, it is a cheerful, healthful exercise, but the preparation for a ball, and the vanity to which it gives rise, is my main objection to such amusements ; bear in mind you are yet young to be introduced.”

Yes, mamma, but the proceeds are to be given to charity. Capital for me, because I may open my poor-box, and so pay for my own ticket; and again, Ellen can quiet her conscience with this plea, whilst I will reconcile all things for a merry, merry dance.” So saying the lively girl darted out of the

room.

Mrs. Lockyer and her elder daughter were now left to consider the propriety of Laura's request.

“How far, Ellen, can I comply with your sister's desire to accompany Mrs. De Tracy to the ball ? I

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am unwilling," continued Mrs. Lockyer, “ to deprive the dear girl of an evening's rational amusement ; and I really see no harm; and why should I be more scrupulous than Mrs. De Tracy, who has, like myself, children to introduce into a 'wide world,' replete, however, it may be, with temptations, cares, and anxieties ?"

“My dearest mother,” said Ellen, with respectful remonstrance, “would

you
like

your child to die in a ball-room? Can you ask the blessing of God upon its frivolities ? Nay more; by so doing do you acknowledge Him in all your ways ?”

“Extremes, extremes, my love," said Mrs. Lockyer. “Oh, be guarded, Ellen, how we make religion appear in an unfavourable light to young minds; it is, my child, the will of a gracious Father that we should enjoy all things liberally, and the innocent pastimes of the day I do not esteem sinful.”

“ Pardon me, mamma ; pastimes did you say ? to pass that time, which is as a talent entrusted to us, in vain and frivolous amusement, is, indeed, an abuse of God's gifts. Every moment, dearest mother, as it flies, carries with it to eternity a heavy weight, the importance of which is only estimated in proportion as it has been usefully employed.”

“We will discuss this topic further by-and-by," said Mrs. Lockyer to her daughter, "at present other duties engross our attention.”

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