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JAMES and Robert were very great friends. They were of nearly the same age ; they went to the same school; they were both very good scholars for their years ; which was the better of the two, even their master found it hard to say.

“ If there is any difference,” he said, “it is this—James is a little more attentive than Robert; and Robert is rather quicker in learning than James."

About a month before the school broke up for the holidays, Mr. Deacon, the master, brought into the dining room a parcel, which he opened on the table

round which his scholars were sitting, looking over their lessons for the next day. Among other things, this parcel contained a very pretty little writing desk. It was made of rose-wood; the corners of it were secured by brass ornaments; and there was a plate of brass let into the wood just in the middle of the top of the desk. What this plate was for, we shall have to tell by and by.

The little desk was nicely polished, and the brass work on it made it look very pretty indeed; and the boys, no doubt, took off their eyes from their books, to fix them upon

the desk. Mr. Deacon next took a key from his pocket, and unlocked the desk : and then the boys saw that it was lined with red leather, and had a great many contrivances, so as to make it as complete and useful for its purpose as so small

a writing desk could well be. There was a case for writing paper within ; and the lid, when opened, formed a sloping board for writing upon.

There was a space parted off for pens, and another for sealing wax, another for an ink glass, and another for a sand glass.

There was a little place also for a pen knife, and another for a paper knife, and another for a small round ruler. Nor were any of these places empty. The paper case was filled with writing paper; and pens, sealing wax, pen knife, paper knife, and ruler, were all in their proper places, as well as many other things which we need not mention. The boys saw at once that the desk was a new one; and they guessed—at least some of them did—why the master had opened it before them. Indeed, one of them said to another in a whisper, “That is one of the prizes."

The little fellow was right. It was the writing prize; and Mr. Deacon explained to his scholars the way in which he wished them to compete for it.

He told them that all who desired to do 80 were to give him their names on a piece of paper, and that he, in return, would furnish each of them with a large sheet of drawing paper and a sentence from Scripture; and that at the end of the month, he should expect to see the sentence written on the paper in any variety of hands which the writers should choose ;such as Italian hand, German text, Old English, Roman capitals, and good bold round text; and that the boy whose piece was the best written, provided it had no blunders, or blots, should receive the prize. That same evening, six of the scholars, who were reckoned the best writers in the school, gave in their names to Mr. Deacon,

and received from him the paper and the sentence of Scripture as he had promised. Among these scholars were the two friends, James and Robert. I may as well say also that the pieces were to be written out of school hours, and that Mr. Deacon strictly forbade any of the boys to give or receive help in writing them.

From this time forward, for a whole week, nothing was heard in the school room, between and after school hours, besides the busy scratching noise of pens on paper, or the sound of India rubber taking out pencil marks, --for Mr. Deacon had given orders that the six boys who were writing their prize pieces should not be disturbed by their schoolfellows; and the writers themselves were too busy to speak to each other, except now and then to ask a question and receive an answer in a low whisper.

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