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CHURCH OF ENGLAND SUNDAY SCHOOL INSTITUTE, SERJEANTS' INN, 49, FLEET STREET, LONDON.

98

MILES LAMBERT'S THREE CHANCES.

Miles Vambert's Whree Chances.

BY MARY E. PALGRAVE.

CHAPTER VII. "I PROMISE."

• Do you

“Don't you

The fresh air did Margery good, and when they had sat a few minutes on a bench at the top of the garden, the colour began to come back into her pale cheeks.

“Oh, Miles !” she cried, after a long silence, “have you got Master Layne's letter? Do let me look at it again.”

“I haven't thought of it all day,” said Miles, sadly, as he felt in his pockets; “here it is."

“What a good, kind man his father is-Sir John, I mean,” said Margery, when she had puzzled her way through the letter. think you can write well enough to answer it, Miles? Why, you have hardly ever written a letter in your life!

You must help me; you write ever so much better than I do."

think you had better get Mr. Rexham to write it for you?” (Mr. Rexham was the Rector of Worth, the village nearest to Bottom.)

“No, no, we'll manage it between us,” said Miles; “Master Raymond won't look for anything very grand.” “And what shall you say, Miles ? ”

Say?-oh, I shall say I'm glad he hasn't forgotten me," answered Miles, evasively.

Ah, but about going to London?” “I don't know, I haven't made up my mind yet ; I must think about it a great deal first. Don't tease me, Madge, I can't bear it!”

Margery looked at him wistfully. “I should like you to go,” she said; “you would like to see London, wouldn't you?

“Like it? I should just think so! But the teaching is what I care most about.”

"Perhaps when Mother wakes up she will be better enough to hear about the letter. She'd be so pleased that you ’ve got such a chance.”

"I don't know that,” said Miles, shortly.

"Why shouldn't she be glad?” asked Margery, puzzled.

Oh, Margery, don't you see? Don't you see?he burst out. “ How can I go away to London and leave you all without any one to take care of

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LL that day poor Mrs. Lam

bert was so very ill that they hardly thought she would live through it. Miles did not go to the quarry, but sat in the kitchen trying to keep Robin quiet, and listening with a heavy heart to the

sounds from the inner room, to which the sick woman had been moved for greater quietness. Dick, generally the noisiest of the party, gave no trouble at all to-day, but sat curled up on the window-seat, as still as a mouse. Phyllis crept in and out, evidently longing to be of use, but not knowing how.

Fortunately for Margery she was not left alone to bear the burden of the nursing. . Mrs. Selby was constantly down at the cottage, and since Margaret Lambert had become so much worse, her kind neighbour scarcely left her all day.

Late in the afternoon, however, the poor woman rallied a little, and presently fell asleep. Mrs. Selby put on her sun-bonnet, and told Margery that she must run up home” for a short time to see after the milking, but that she would soon be back.

“ Your mother will want nothing now for a bit,” she said. Let Phyllis sit by her, and do you run out into the garden, child, and get a mouthful of fresh air ; I declare you look fit to drop!”

“Very well, ma'am," answered the girl, meekly, though she felt much more inclined to lie down on the floor just as she was, and go to sleep. She had scarcely had any rest for several nights.

And then you can lie down a bit when I come back," said Mrs. Selby, departing.

It seemed like good news to hear that Mother was actually asleep, and the spirits of the watchers in the kitchen rose again at once. Dick slid down from the window-seat, and, taking Robin's hand, led him off to play. Miles put his arm into Margery's, and they went out into the garden together, while Phyllis, very happy to be of use, established herself on the chair close to her mother's pillow.

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“ Mother," whispered Margery, faintly. She still clung, poor child, to the hope that in time her mother would be well again.

Well, but any way, how are you all to live without my wages? What else is there to look to now Father is gone?"

“ There's all those guineas in poor Father's belt, you know, Miles," said Margery, thinking of some coins which they had found sewn into the lining of 99

MILES LAMBERT'S THREE CHANCES.

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But there Miles stopped, for very shame, as the thought of his mother dying down there in the cottage came across him. Was he actually wishing himself away in the time of her trouble, and suffering, he, her only protector now?

“But I wonder what Master Layne would say I ought to do," he presently said to himself. "I think he'd tell me I ought not to let anything stand in the way

of my using the gift I've got. I know what I'll do,” and Miles roused himself from his melancholy attitude and his face brightened"I'll write and tell him just how the matter stands, and ask him to say what I'd best do. And whatever he says, I 'll abide by.”

He got up and began to consider where he could find a sheet of paper that would do to write his letter on, and how he should begin it. Writing a letter was not such an every-day affair with Miles Lambert, you see, as it is with most

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John Lambert's belt. They will last ever so long if I'm very careful, and by the time they're done you

All those guineas!?—Oh, Margery, I thought you had more sense! How long do you suppose twelve guineas is going to keep you all in food and clothes, and pay the rent, and put the boys to a trade, and I don't know what besides?"

“Then I'll work, dear Miles, I'll keep Mother and the children,” cried the girl, springing up with flushed cheeks and eager eyes.

“ Farmer will give me some work; he knows how strong I am; and you must go to London and be a great painteryou must! you shall !"

Nonsense, Margery, what could a girl like you do? A shilling a week would be about your wages, and how far would that go?” Miles's tone was rough, for a terrible struggle between inclination and duty was going on within him, and he longed to be alone to think the matter out; but there were tears in his eyes, and he put his hand lovingly on his sister's shoulder.

Go and lie down on my bed a bit, Madge,” he added, “and don't let us talk any more about this now, there's a good girl !”

Margery went away silently to the house, while Miles picked up Raymond Layne's letter, which she in her eagerness had let drift down to the ground, and read it over several times.

No more feeble, untaught attempts, with no one to tell him when he was wrong, or commend him when he was right. No more struggles with bad materials, with difficulties which seemed insurmountable. No more silent longings after encouragement and sympathy, and aching desires to express the beauties which he felt and loved so keenly, but which, the more he tried to grasp them, the more unattainable they seemed. Help and advice and teaching, plenty of time to work at his beloved art, good models to draw from, beautiful pictures to see-the very life, in fact, which he had always dreamt of as his heart's desire-all might now be his. Oh dear! what a temptation it was !

Miles rested his elbows on his knees and hid his face in his hands, while the tears trickled between his fingers. The longer he dwelt upon prospect which that letter opened before him the more enchanting it seemed, and the more difficult to

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“ Miles,” cried Dick from the bottom of the garden, "come in, Mother wants you.”'

The child had to come quite up the path and call again before his brother heard him, so lost was he in his thoughts.

“What do you want? Don't shout so; Mother's asleep,” he said rather roughly.

No, she isn't, she's awake and asking for you, and Mrs. Selby sent me to look for you. Oh, Miles! Mother does look so bad, and it hurts her so to breathe."

A sob broke from Dick. Miles took his hand in his and hurried indoors.

Margaret Lambert was lying propped up with pillows. Mrs. Selby was standing by her, and Phyllis was crouching on the floor at the foot of the bed, with her eyes fixed on her mother's face. Even Miles, inexperienced as he was, needed no one then to tell him that his mother was dying. Pale and awestruck he paused in the doorway, but Mrs. Selby beckoned to him to come near.

“Your Mother wants to speak to you," she said; and he stole up to the bed, and bent down to catch the feeble words.

“ Miles,” she said between her gasping breaths, “you 'll not go, will you? You'll not-leave—the poor

children?“Go?” repeated Miles, bewildered. He had no idea that his mother had heard or comprehended Raymond Layne's letter, though he now remembered that the door into the inner room had stood open while he read it.

“ That letter-I heard you read it-you ’ll not go away—and leave the children to starve? Mar.

the

give up:

“ It is too hard,” he groaned. “Why did God send me this chance just now when I can't use it? Why didn't it come a year ago, when I could have gone? or if it had been only a month sooner I should have been in London now, and

100

MILES LAMBERT'S THREE CHANCES.

gery's so young-I've no one to-trust them to

but you.

Miles turned scarlet and looked away. The sick woman caught hold of his hand.

“Promise,” she whispered, “promise, Miles, you won't leave them till they can fend for-call Margery—the children!” she gasped, before he could speak, while her hand dropped loosely back, and she sank down on her pillow.

Miles flew to fetch the younger ones and wake Margery, who started up the instant his hasty steps were heard. But quick as the children were their mother scarcely knew them, and even Baby Robin's soft kisses brought no light into her dying eyes, and his cry of “Mammy! Mammy!” fell unheeded on her dying ears.

An hour later Miles was kneeling at his dead mother's side, and saying over and over again between his sobs, “Not till they can fend for themselves! Mother, I promise, I promise!” while the bitterest part of his grief lay in the thought that even for one single moment he had hung back from giving her the promise she had asked.

“ Is there a bit of that paper left, Madge, which Mother got to write to Father on?" asked Miles, the following afternoon. He had been up to the quarry as usual in the morning, but Collins, with rough kindness, had sent him home early, saying

“Go and bide with the children, my lad; we'll get along without you till after the burying."

Margery went to the cupboard and brought out an old-fashioned desk, at the sight of which her tears began to fall again, for it recalled the sight of Mother bending over it and writing such long letters to her husband-letters which most likely had never reached him.

Miles sat silently down before it at the table. He wrote the date and “Honoured Sir” (which he had somewhere heard was the proper form of beginning a letter to one above him in station) at the top of a large sheet of paper which he found inside it, and then sat thinking how he should frame his letter.

Margery had put the kitchen as neat as hands could make it, and now sat idle, with drooping head, on the window-seat. Mrs. Selby had goodnaturedly taken the three younger children up to the farm with her for the day, so there was not a creature stirring, and over everything brooded an unusual hush. Perhaps it was that silent presence in the inner room which made life seem to be standing still,

Miles looked up suddenly, and found Margery's eyes fixed upon him with such a wistful, anxious look that he answered, as if she had spoken

What is it, Madge?”
“I was wondering—' She stopped.

Wondering what?" “Oh, Miles ! don't be angry with me,I can't help it. I was wondering what you were going to say to Master Layne.”

“Wait till I have done, and then you shall hear," answered Miles, gruffly. Raymond's proposal had never looked so tempting as now when he was going to refuse it, and he felt as if he could not bear to be worried with questions. He would not have kept Margery in suspense had he known how she had lain awake half the night trying to think what was to become of them all if Miles went away and left them, and how many times that morning, for fear of vexing him, she had choked down the questions which were on the tip of her tongue.

She struggled hard to be silent and wait patiently while his pen went scratching away across the paper, but after a minute she could bear it no longer. She sprang up from the window-seat, rushed across the kitchen to her brother's side, and catching hold of his arm, cried

“Oh, Miles, I can't bear it! Tell me—tell me, are you going away from us?”

He threw his arm round her, for she was shaking from head to foot with sobs, and pulled her down on the chair beside him.

“Why, Madge," he said, "you silly child! Do you think I'd go away and leave you all ?"

Margery dropped her head down on his shoulder with a great sob of relief.

“Are you really going to say 'No' to Master Layne, then ? ” she whispered.

“Why, yes, of course; how could you think I should do anything else ?

“Oh, it is such a grand chance for you, Miles. I can't think how you can bear to give it up.”

I must-I promised Mother,” he answered steadily. “I'm going to tell Master Layne so.'

“I'm afraid he will be very-sorry,” she faltered.

“ Never mind! You must think very badly of me, Madge, not to be sure I would never leave you and the children as long as you want me.”

Margery's only reply was to put her arms round his neck and cover his cheek with kisses.

So, between the two, a very short letter was with some difficulty written to Raymond Layne, and it ran thus :

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“ Honoured Sir,

“ Since I had the honour to receive a letter from you I have lost my mother. Before she died she asked me to promise that I would not leave home till my brothers and sisters were of an age to work for themselves, therefore I must not take

your

kind and generous offer, for which I return you many thanks, and am truly grateful to you and your father. "I am your most obedient servant to command,

“ Miles LAMBERT.”

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The Unjust Steward.

(Luke xvi. 1-12.)
By the Rev. Gordon CALTHROP, M.A.

HIS is a difficult parable, but I
hope I shall be able to explain
it to you. Be so good, however,
as to read it right through first.

To begin, then, the Lord Jesus (who is not the “lord” spoken of in the eighth verse) does not praise the unjust steward. Certainly not! The man

is a great rogue; he cheats, and what is worse still, he persuades others to cheat ; and you know perfectly well that the Saviour is always very much displeased with anything that is unfair, and that He expects His followers to be truthful and straightforward and honest in all their dealings with other people. But, at the same time, this bad man shows some qualities which are deserving of imitation, and which the disciples of Christ would do well to imitate-not, of course, in worldly things, but in spiritual things. For instance, he is prompt. He makes up his mind and acts at once. And we ought to be prompt in religion. How many young people there are who say, “I will give my heart to Jesus by-and-by. I am too young to do it now. There is plenty of time.” And then, perhaps, they die before the great work of life is done; or if they do not die, this putting-off and putting-off makes them careless and hard, and they never come to Christ at all. So we may learn something from this bad man—we may learn to imitate, not his badness, but his promptitude.

But we may learn something else.

This steward looks forward into the future, and manages, by his cleverness, to secure for himself a second home when he is turned out of the first.

Give your attention to this, my dear children, for this is the great lesson of the parable. The man does it dishonestly, as you see; but we are to do it according to the will of God. Let me try to make you understand what I mean.

You and I are passing through this world. That is clear enough, isn't it? We shall not stay here for ever ; but by-and-by we shall have left this world behind us, and be living in an altogether different state of existence. And will this new state be a home to us or not? That is the question. But what do you mean by a "home"? Well, you would not call a prison a “home.” You would not call a place of darkness and punishment a “home." You would not call a country where you were amongst strangers who did not care for you, and who perhaps hated you, a “home.” No! You say, "My home is a place where I am happy and enjoy myself, where I am surrounded by things I like and am fitted for, and especially where I live with those to whom I am dear, and whom I love. That is what I mean by home.” Observe, then. If this future world—this unseen world to which we are all of us travelling, some more slowly, others more rapidly-is to be a home for us, we must be fitted and prepared for it now. If when we pass into it we should unfortunately find that we are altogether out of harmony with it, altogether unsuited for it, why-we should be absolutely miserable.

Now, what our Lord tells us is really this—that we should be careful to live in such a way now, as that we shall find ourselves amongst friends when we go hence, and are no more seen. And how are we to make friends? In many ways. First, of course, by trusting in and loving and serving Jesus Himself. But also by helping with our money (if we have got any to spare), and by our kindness and sympathy, those who are poor and helpless and unfriended and untaught-such as the heathen abroad, or poor little ragged outcast children at home. When we die, they—at least those of them who have gone before—will come forward, stretching out loving hands of welcome, and lead us rejoicingly into the "everlasting habitations.”

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Whank God for your Reason.

GENTLEMAN visiting a lunatic asylum was

accosted by one of the patients, who said, “Sir, did you ever thank God for the use of your reason?"

Startled for a moment, he answered, “Well, I can't say that I ever did.” “Then do it at once," said the madman, “for I have lost mine,"

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