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not much hope of gaining the prize, were pleased that they had persevered and succeeded so well. They thought that their pieces would please their master and their friends; and they hoped that if another prize should be given “next half,”' they might have a greater chance of success by having taken pains this time. James and Robert, too, seemed in good spirits, and as friendly as ever with each other; and though each of them thought that his friend was sure of the pretty writing desk, there was not a word of envy passed between them.
At length the supper bell rang, and the boys put their finished pieces each into his own desk, and hastened to the dining room; and in another hour all were in bed; though I fancy all were not asleep, for schoolboys do not go to sleep very early on the eve of a breaking up.
The time came for Mr. Deacon to distribute bis prizes. The school-room was filled with eager expecting schoolboys ; and the master's desk was covered with nicely bound books, among which might also be seen the pretty writing desk. Then Mr. Deacon entered the school, and all was hushed into silence.
After some of the prizes had been given, Mr. Deacon asked for the writing pieces, that he might decide which of the four boys was to receive the writing desk. Three boys directly rose from their seats, and, taking the pieces from their desks, placed them in the master's hands.
“ Here are but three,” he said ; "where is the other ?”
No one answered ; and when he looked to see whose was the missing one, he found that it was James's.
Then he glanced round the room, and
saw that James was not among the boys, and no one could tell where he was.
“It is strange that he should be absent now," said the master; but we cannot go on without him. Will one of you go and find him ? "
Then one of the boys ran out of the room to find their schoolfellow, and soon afterwards returned with him. But poor James came in rather unwillingly, and it was plain that he had been crying.
“Why, James,” inquired Mr. Deacon, speaking very kindly, “what is the matter with you ? why were you not here ? and where is your piece ?"
“ I have had an accident with my piece, sir," James replied; " and I did not like to show it."
“ An accident! I am sorry for that. What sort of an accident ? Let me see it."
Then James took the paper from his desk, and showed it to his master. There was a large blot upon it, as though a pen full of ink had been thrown upon it, and left to remain until it was dry.
How did this happen ?” asked Mr. Deacon: and this time he did not speak quite so kindly as before ; for he did not like that his scholars should be careless with ink. If he saw a blot in a copy book, it was sure to vex him.
James said that he could not tell how it happened. He thought that he put the piece into his desk safely. He had laid it flat on the top of his books, because the last line was not quite dry; when the supper
bell rang, and he remembered putting his pens into the desk afterwards. He thought he had wiped them quite clean; but in the morning he found one of them had not been wiped, and lay
on his piece so as to ink it and spoil it.
“ A sad accident, indeed!” said Mr. Deacon. “ You locked your desk, I sup
It was one of the rules of the school, that every boy should keep his desk locked ;
and James answered that he had safely locked his.
“ And do you suppose that anybody else could have blotted
?" No: James could not think that any one else had done it. He felt sure that the accident must have happened through his own carelessness.
Then Mr. Deacon asked all the boys in the school if they knew anything of the matter; but they said that they did not.
“ Well,” said the kind master, “I am sorry
your misfortune, James. If it had not been for this blot, you would have