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moon looked forth in all her splendour upon the quiet little village, when Mary, who had long remained awake, was startled from a feverish sleep into which she had just fallen, by the deep voice of Sandy in the road. In a moment she was at the door, all eager for the news that had kept her husband so long from her side. But alas ! there was no hearty grasp of the hand in store for her that night, no affectionate kiss ; a ghastly, haggard-faced man staggered past her into the cottage, and sank senseless at her feet.
There was no human being to turn to on that the first night of her sorrow, but at her side, and looking patiently in her face was Sandy-looking too, as if he said, " It's no fault of mine, mistress dear; so raising her hands a moment, as if appealing to heaven, she threw them around the neck of her faithful companion, crying as she did so, “Oh, Sandy, Sandy, God have mercy upon us !"
Years passed away, and if the words uttered on the night of her first trouble were forgotten by Mary Ford, they were remembered by One who heareth and forgetteth not.
The first visit of Ford to the Blue Boar was destined not to be the last. He did not, however, follow up that night of shame by an immediate repetition of the offence-weeks of the severest self-reproach followed, in which tears were seen in the eyes of the sturdy blacksmith. Never, he reasoned, would he again compit the fatal error ; never more should his wife have cause to blush for him. But alas, how frail is human nature ; many months had not passed ere Andrew revisited the Blue Boar, and in course of time it became a common thing with him to spend three or four nights there out of the seven. Then gradually the tale began to creep around the village that Ford, the blacksmith, was a drunkard. The neighbours passed poor Mary with a cold “good-day," and silently the roses withered from her cheeks, and lines of care and sorrow began to show themselves instead.
Amid the ruin settling slowly but surely down upon the home of the Fords, not the least astonished appeared Sandy. Crestfallen and restless, he would wander from the cottage to the smithy, where he would howl for hours. What a change !-even the dumb creature felt it—no longer might be heard the ceaseless clang of the hammer, no longer the cheery voice arrested the passer-by, and no longer might be seen the little children on their way to school watching, with shouts of joy, the bright sparks flying across the road, or stealthily peeping round the door, afraid of Sandy.
Ford, by almost imperceptible degrees, had now arrived at that stage of abject misery when neither the heartbroken appeals of a wife nor the good offices of friends are of the slightest avail. Drink was the end for which he lived. But the time had also come when He who searcheth the hearts of all, thought fit to bestow the mercy so humbly besought on that lonely night years before.
It is Christmas Eve, cold and dark, and the snow lies deep upon the ground. For hours the Blue Boar has been all alive, the lights from the little parlour gleam cheerfully out upon the road. Songs have been sung, and drink conc sumed in extra quantity ; for the company, among whom is the blacksmith, is determined to keep it up. Christmas comes but once a year, and why not enjoy themselves while they can, life is sad enough at best? But gradually they grow tired of their sorry work, and one by one they stagger off to their miserable homes. Ford, as has long been the case, is the last to depart. For days the miserable man has been in a state bordering upon madness; and now he goes reeling out into the darkness and the cold, with Sandy at his heels, lean and hungry. There is no moon to guide his uncertain steps: no light from a friendly cottage to tell him of his whereabouts. But the blacksmith has trod the path before, and seems in no way dismayed by the darkness or the cold, for he is trying to sing one of his favourite drinking songs as he flounders along. Suddenly, however, he stops and, striving in vain to clutch at a tree for support, sinks helplessly upon the ground. No one is astir, honest and sober men are in their beds long ago; but there is One abroad who seeth all, and remembereth the words of that despairing heart, “God have mercy upon us.” Sandy, as if conscious of something wrong, pricks up his ears and paws the ground, and then licks the ashen face and whines. The snow begins to fall afresh, and Sandy stands shivering for a moment more beside the body of his master, when sud
denly he shakes the snow from his back, and is off-off like the wind ; the half mile between him and his home is got over in quick time; he pauses not, but leaps the gardengate, and is panting breathlessly at the feet of Mary. “O God, have mercy upon us,” comes again from the lips of the despairing wife as she looks anxiously down the road amid the snow that is now falling thickly; but Sandy waits not. With a sagacity almost human, he seizes Mary by the dress, and endeavours to drag her after him. She sees it now; all is plain to her mind; her husband is dead or dying. Quickly wrapping a shawl around her, she prepares to follow Sandy; but then comes the thought, What can she, a weak woman, do alone? How bring home her miserable burden ? Ah, the horse, the horse left in the smithy; the brave little woman is soon upon its back, and guided by Sandy, hastens to the spot where the unhappy Andrew lies.
Well ! he was got home more dead than alive, and veeks passed away before the wretched man awakened to a knowledge of what was going on around him. By his bedside sat his gentle wife, watching as she had already done throughout long and weary nights, and there too, sat Sandy.
Andrew Ford, the blacksmith, had learned a bitter lesson. From the day of his recovery he was a changed man. The hammer rang once more in the smithy, the voice was heard again, and the children stopped to watch the bright sparks as of old, and the Blue Roar had a guest the less. Sandy resumed 'his interest in the mysteries of horseshoeing, etc., and the roses came back to Mary's cheeks. The blacksmith became a prosperous man again, and next to his God, the dearest objects to him on earth, were Mary and the faithful Sandy.
1. Write out, from memory, a short summary of the principal facts narrated in the above story.
2. What vice led to Andrew Ford's downfall ? and what appears to have been the weak point in his character that brought about his fall when he was first led into temptation ?
3. What other story is there in this volume that shows the benefits arising from sobriety and temperance ?
THE BIRDS OF THE AIR. quad-ru-peds (L. quatuor, four; pes, a foot], animals that have four legs and feet. ob-sta-cles (L. ob, against; sto, to stand), hinderances, obstructions.
an-nounce [L. ad, to; nuntio, to tell], to make known to, to proclaim. sol-i-ta-ry (L. solus, alone), lonely, retired. High mountains, broad rivers, sandy deserts, and stormy seas, form insuperable barriers to the general distribution of quadrupeds; but the power of flight confers upon birds the ability to surmount such obstacles. Yet to birds, as to every other species of animal life, there are bounds assigned, beyond which they cannot pass. The annual migrations of the feathered race at first sight appear to militate against this statement; but these movements are so invariable in their destination, and so constant in their duration, as to support its truth. Many birds arrive in our island at the beginning of winter, after enjoying the three months' constant daylight of the far north; and others, which have passed our winter skimming over the waters of the Nile, or sporting among the graceful palm trees of Northern Africa, return to announce that plants and flowers will soon burst into leaf and bloom once more under milder skies.
The British islands are distinguished for the variety of their feathered tribes, and more so for the number of their songsters and the sweetness of their notes. To the inaccessible cliffs of the north and west, the eagle bears away the struggling game; hawks and kites keep the smaller birds from increasing too rapidly; while the moping owl performs a similar service by destroying nocturnal vermin. Our dreary moors are enlivened by the cry of the lapwing, the scream of the curlew, and the stratagems of the plover. As soon as the first streak of light proclaims the advent of the life-giving sun, the robin and the lark invite the blackbird, the thrush, the linnet, and the finch to join the pleasing chorus. When the orb of day has sunk beneath the crimson-tinted clouds, the nightingale resumes his melodious song. Every solitary rock around our sea-girt shores is the resting-place of innumerable marine birds. The unfruitful soil and moist climate of our western shores render agriculture far from profitable; but the sea amply compensates for this defect. The net provides an almost constant supply of food; and the eggs, flesh, feathers, and oil of the numerous aquatic birds yield a rich return for the labours of the fowler. The law-protected stork builds its nest and rears its young on the tops of chimneys, and walks about the markets and canals of Holland feeding on frogs and vermin. The inhabitants of Norway, of Iceland, and of several of the more northern islands of Scot