The evening before, Sarah had shown her sampler to her father and mother; they thought it very well marked, and her mother said she was nearly sure Sarah must get the prize. The verse marked on her sampler was this:
"Lord, I have pass'd another day,
And come to thank thee for thy care;
Forgive my faults, in work and play,
And listen to my evening prayer."
Sarah was pleased that her father and mother should think her sampler so pretty, for she had had a great deal of trouble with it, as she had had to look in her Testament to see how most of the words were spelled before she could mark them.
When Sarah reached her Aunt Jones's house she found Ellen not yet dressed, and looking rather sulky. As she cam in at the door, she heard her aunt say, "I cannot help it, Ellen; I will not allow you to wear clothes unfit for your station, and I hope Mrs. Willis will not give you such things again."
"I cannot go in my old bonnet, mother; it is so shabby," replied Ellen. "I trimmed this last night on purpose to wear today; and I think it is very hard that you will not let me have it."
Mrs. Jones now saw Sarah, and Ellen asked her cousin if she did not think her bonnet very pretty.
"You are a neat little girl, Sarah," said her aunt, before the child had time to answer her cousin; "you look very neat; and I wish Ellen would be contented to be the same."
"Look, Sarah," said Ellen; "mother wants me to put on that shabby old thing, when I have got this bonnet so prettily trimmed."
"It is nearly half past two," said Mrs. Jones; "and if you are not quick, Sarah cannot wait for you. Once for all, you shall not wear this gay ribbon; and if you do not like to put on your other bonnet, you may stay at home. I will not give in to you in this; so now you must suffer for your vanity. Put this on at once, and go with Sarah; or stay at home and lose the treat."
So saying, Mrs. Jones took the gayly-trimmed bonnet up stairs. Perhaps some little girls will think Ellen's mother unkind; but if they could know the evil of vanity they would think her very kind indeed. Gay dress, such as Ellen wished for, was most improper; and so far from admiring it, both Mr. and Mrs. Stanley, and every other well-judging person, would have pitied Ellen for trying to copy wealthy people; so that she would have lost the good opinion of those people whom she most wished to please. Mrs. Jones knew both the sin and the danger of vanity, and she often thought of her child's failing, and prayed that God would make Ellen see her folly and sin, and teach her to seek for "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in his sight of great price."
Ellen was obliged to to in her old bonnet, which, though tidy enough, was very brown and shabby. She was rather out of humor at first, but soon recovered her good temper, and she and Sarah talked of the pleasures of the afternoon.
"I wonder who will get the prize?" said Sarah, as they got near the parsonage.
"So do I," said Ellen; "who do you think, Sarah?"
They were now joined by several of their companions, and everybody was asking the same question.
"I should think you would, Margaret," said Sarah to a tall girl near her. "You work so nicely."
"But," said Margaret, "I have had so little time that I was obliged at last to hurry with my sampler, and it is not so nicely done as it might be."
"Perhaps Annie will get it," said Jane Price.
"Not she," answered Ellen; "she cannot work at all well; besides, she is such a poor, sickly girl, she is hardly ever able to come to school three days together, so that she has not learned much."
"I hope, though, that she may get the prize," said Jane. "I am sure I shall not; and I would rather Annie or Sarah did than any other of you."
"Sarah! Sarah get the prize!" exclaimed Ellen; "that is too good. No, indeed, Miss Jane, I should be more likely to get it, I think."
Sarah felt hurt; she knew that it was not her fault that she was backward, and the discontent she had so often felt at her lot was returning; but the party had reached the parsonage, and as the two Misses Stanley were seen coming toward them, the conversation dropped.
The young ladies took the children into the garden, and showed them their seats. Each little girl's name was written on a slip of paper, which was put into her plate, so that there was no confusion. Besides the children from the Rosedale School, there were about forty from a neighboring school in which Mr. Stanley took an interest, so that altogether there was a large party. When the children had taken their places, Mr. Stanley said grace; and then cake, fruit, and tea were handed round. All the time of tea Ellen was uncomfortable. She fancied, like most vain people, that every one was looking at her; and she said to herself more than once, "I have a great mind to tell Miss Lucy that I have got a nice, pretty bonnet at home; she must wonder to see me in this."
Now, it so happened, that Miss Lucy did not notice what Ellen had on, for she was busy during great part of the time in trying to arrange a comfortable seat for a poor little cripple, who had been brought by two elder sisters; and during the rest of the time she was taking care of a row of little girls who were standing at a low bench to eat their share of the feast.
After tea the children were assembled on the grass; and Mr. Stanley said a few words to them about the faults he had had to complain of lately in their conduct, and then noticed the improvements he had observed. He told them that they must remember that no schooling would do them real good unless they tried to practice what they learned. He then reminded them that God knew their thoughts, and could always see their hearts; and that they could not deceive Him, though they might deceive man; and, he said, he particularly wished them to remember this, because he knew that some of the children (he would not mention their names) had been very sly lately. He then bid them remember their own weakness, and told them to pray to God for help to do and think what was right; and when he had given them some more good advice, he told the ten little girls who had had samplers to bring them to Miss Lucy.
Ellen looked round her with triumph.
"Now for my present!" said she to herself.
to be continued