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But at the beginning of the second week, the number of young writers was reduced to four. One of them became tired of keeping so closely to his desk; he wanted to get into the play-ground with his schoolfellows ; so he gave up his piece, and the hope of gaining the prize. Another, after he had taken great pains with his writing, and when he had got through more than a quarter of his work, made a sad blunder in spelling, which he did not find out until it was too late to alter it. This vexed him so much that he tore up his sheet of paper in anger, and would not ask his master for another that he might begin again.
At length the beginning of the fourth week came; and by this time it was clearly seen that the struggle for the prize would be between James and Robert; for though the other two boys had not given up their writing, and had nearly finished their pieces, they could easily see that theirs were not nearly 80 well written as those of the two friends. But which was the better written piece, James's or Robert's, not one of the boys could venture to decide.
All this time the contest had been car. ried on in great good humour. But now a little change took place, which shows how very hard it is to keep bad feelings and tempers from rising in the heart; and, how easy it is for what is kindly meant by one person, to give offence to another.
As the time drew very near when the pieces should be ready to show to the master, Robert became very snappish, and, indeed, very cross, to everybody who came near him, except to his friend James ; and even he did not quite escape the effect of this bad temper. One day, in particular, when he happened to look over Robert's shoulder, to see how he was getting on, Robert said, very hastily, “I wish you would mind your own business, James; I cannot bear to be looked over in this way, and you know that I cannot. You do it to tease me, and keep me from getting the prize.”
“ You should not say so," James answered. “I am sure I should as well like you to have the prize as to gain it myself; and, only that it would not be right, I would make my piece so much worse than yours that there should be no fear of my getting it. But this would be deceiving Mr. Deacon, and my father too. I must do my piece as well as I can : but, if yours is done better, I am sure I shall not be sorry. And you should not say that I knew you did not like to be looked over, for, at first, you used to ask me every day
to look at your piece. And indeed,” continued James, “it is a good thing for you that I have looked just at this moment; for see — ” and he pointed to a line of pencil printing which Robert had just begun to ink.
“And what is the matter there ?" asked Robert, still angrily.
“Why, do you not see there is a whole word left out? It is only a short word; but your piece would have been spoiled without it.”
Robert looked more closely, and saw that it was just as his friend said. But instead of feeling grateful to him for his caution, he was angry that the blunder had been made, and almost vexed with James for having found it out. However, he tried to say " Thank you ;” and he was wise enough to correct the mistake; but his good temper was gone. As for James, he went back to his own desk, very sorry that his friend had spoken unkindly to him, and thought unkindly of him; and almost wishing that the writing prize had never been set before them.
The last day of school had now come. The next morning was to be the breaking up, and in the afternoon the prizes were to be given by Mr. Deacon; and then, on the following day, the happy school-boys would be dispersed to their several homes for a whole month. Oh, what school-boy does not know the pleasures of thinking about a long Midsummer holiday?"
Well, on this last day of school, the writing pieces were almost finished ; but yet the writers lingered over them, looking them over from top to bottom, and giving, here and there, one more touch, or rubbing out the pencil marks which still remained. Even the two boys who had