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to amuse themselves in their own way. But still, Robert's parents were anxious about him, and they took more notice than they would at other times have done, of the manner in which the two boys behaved. They noticed that James was full of glee and fun, was pleased with everything that was done for him, and seemed to show as much fondness as ever for his young friend, of whom he had not seen much through the holidays. But not so with Robert. At first he appeared shy; then, for a little while, he was in high spirits, and romped almost to rudeness. Then he complained of being tired, and went away into a corner of the garden by himself, leaving James to amuse himself with his little sister. And when the evening came, and James was getting ready to return home, and invited his friend to spend a day with him, Robert
replied that he should rather be at home. And after James was gone, Robert seemed glad that he was gone, and asked his mother to let him go to bed.
That night Robert was very uneasy in his sleep. When his kind and careful mother went into his room before she herself retired to her own, she found him moving to and fro in his bed, and his forehead was quite wet with perspiration. He was asleep, but he was talking in his sleep, and his mother heard some things that he said. She did not hear much, but what she did hear made her very unhappy; it let her partly into the secret of her little boy's trouble. She did not wake him then, but she told her husband what she had heard, and what she feared; and they both prayed very earnestly to God that night, to pardon their son if he had
indeed done what they feared, and to give them grace to do what was right towards him.
In the morning, after breakfast, Robert's parents told him to remain in the room after the tea things were removed, for they wished to talk with him. So he stayed.
“ Robert,” said his father, "you were very uncomfortable in your sleep, last night. You talked aloud, and your mother heard some things that you said. Do you know what they were ?”
Robert looked very red, and the tears came into his eyes ; but he said, “ No, papa ; I do not know, I am sure.”
“ Well, I do not suppose you do, for persons who talk in their sleep do not generally know what they talk about. But I will tell you what you said, and then, perhaps, you will tell me the meaning of
it. For one thing, you repeated the text of Scripture which is on your writing piece.”
When Robert heard this, the colour left his cheeks, and he became very pale.
“ After that,” said his father, “ you muttered something about the writing desk, and said you wished there had not been any prize at all. And then you cried out, “I did blot your piece, James, I did blot your piece! Now, my dear Robert, will you tell me truly what all this means ?”
Then Robert burst into tears, and could not speak for a long time for sobbing. At length, he said, “ Oh, papa, I have been very wicked, and it is this that has made me so unhappy all through the holidays."
He then told his parents, without trying to hide anything, that when he had been working hard to gain the writing
prize, and found, after all, that his friend James had.succeeded better than himself, he felt so envious and jealous, that he was tempted to spoil James's piece. So, on the breaking up eve, after supper, he slipped out of the dining room, and into the school room, opened his friend's desk with his own key, which fitted it, and threw the pen full of ink upon the piece, just as it was found the next day.
“ But indeed,” he said, “I have been very, very unhappy, ever since I did it; and I cannot bear to look at the writing desk, nor to see James. Oh, what shall I do ?”
We may be sure that Robert's parents were very much grieved to find that their dear boy had acted so badly. They were godly, pious people; they had brought up their children to be true and honest in all their actions ; and this was the first time