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had the prize, for yours is the best written piece; but I cannot give a prize for spoiled work, and I hope this disappointment will be a lesson to you in future, and teach you to be more careful. Perhaps, if you take pains, the next writing prize may be yours ; but this must be given to your friend Robert : his piece is the best of the three."
So Robert received the writing desk ; and that same evening it was taken to an engraver's, that his name might be put on the brass plate that we spoke of.
James was glad that Robert had got the prize, and soon wiped away his tears. He would have been glad to have been able to take home to his parents a good writing piece, to show how much he had improved in half a year; and he was vexed to think he could have been so careless as to spoil it, after taking such pains. But he consoled himself with thinking that his copybooks would still show some very good writing, and also with hoping that the next writing prize might still be his.
The next day the boys all left school for the holidays,—some in a coach one way, some in a post-chaise another way. As to James and Robert, their parents, who lived very near together in the country, sent a carriage on purpose to fetch them.
A great part of the holidays was over, when one day Robert's mother said to her husband, “I cannot think what is the matter with our boy. He does not seem to be happy. He mopes about in the garden, and will not play with his little sister. He does not seem to relish his food; and he does not sleep comfortably, for, when I go into his room at night, he is often tossing about in his sleep, and
talking, and one night I found him awake and crying; but he would not tell me what was the matter with him. I think he cannot be well.”
“And I,” Robert's father replied, “have noticed that our son behaves in a very strange way. When I took him with me to our neighbour, Mr. L- , yesterday, he seemed not at all willing to go, and all along the road I could not get him to talk with me: he only said · Yes' and 'No' to every question I asked him. And when we got to Mr. L- 's house, he would hardly speak to his friend James, though James seemed as glad as ever to see him. I thought the boys must have had a quarrel at school; but Robert tells me they have not, and are as great friends as ever.”
“ Perhaps he does not like the thought of going back to school again so soon,” said Robert's mother.
“I hope he is not so silly as to let that trouble him so much. But suppose we were to invite his friend James to come and spend a day with him soon; that may put him into better spirits.”
So an invitation was sent to James, and he sent back a note to say that he should be very glad to come on the day that was fixed.
Robert was with his father and mother when the note arrived, and they told him what was in it; but he did not seem pleased, and he made no remark about it, such as, “I am very glad James is coming,” or, “Oh, we shall have a happy day together!”
“What can be the matter with you, Robert P” his father said. “Will nothing please you?”
Robert made no answer, but he looked ready to cry.
His father thought it best to take no notice of this; so he said, “ Your young friend writes very nicely, Robert: I think this note is written better than you would have written it. How is it he did not obtain the writing prize instead of you ? ”
“He would have had it, father; Mr. Deacon said so; only—only he had an accident with his piece. He—that is, it got blotted, and so was spoiled.” And Robert did not stay to be asked any more questions, but hastened out of the room.
“ This is very strange,” his father said ; “I wish I could find out what is the matter with the boy."
James paid his friend Robert the promised visit, and they were kindly allowed