Page images

find their way out of the blue satin bag into the fingers of the rightful possessor; unless some of the conjuring tribe, were hidden at the bottom of it, while each in succession thrust in her little hand. What was my surprise when, out of fifteen ladies, who had been pronounced deserving of reward for their improvement in music, the occasion of this first lottery, one only gained the prize: not by merit, or talent, or industry, superior to her competitors, but by the accident of putting her fingers on the right card; while all the rest, though judged deserving of reward, were to suffer the disappointment of excited expectation, and see another enjoy the recompense to which their own claim had been admitted equal, and perhaps was known to the superior ! I need not describe the repeated ceremony. One after another the lotteries went on, for each different branch of education.

I turned to my friend when the ceremony concluded, and asked her how she could suffer the minds of her children to be thus acted upon; their feelings thus senselessly excited; the very spirit and essence of gaming thus instilled ? She said it was the custom of the school; and she had never thought of any harm there could be in it. I reminded her of the conversation of the preceding evening with her little Julia, and remarked on the inconsistency of her keen perception of danger in the one case, with her blind insensibility to it in the other. For my own part, this system seemed to me such an outrage upon common sense, that on any evidence but fact, I could not have believed any rational governess could invent, or any careful parent suffer such a practice. When all was over, I made especial inquiry into the results; and I found one girl, whom I knew to be by no means the best, laden with prizes,

exultingly setting off to her home to exhibit proofs of an advancement she had not made, and display her triumph over companions she had by no means equalled. I saw another, an industrious, clever girl, going off, with tearful eyes and saddened spirits, without a single testimony of good conduct or recompense of exertion; though she had been worthy of drawing for every prize, and of all the school had best deserved to do so.

We contemn the wisdom of our ancestors, who, when they could not decide the merits of a cause, referred it to the decision of Heaven by some superstitious ordeal. Do the ladies who superintend these schools really believe that fortune will respect the merits of their pupils, and do they so intend to teach them? Or—more probable result, and yet more dangerous lesson for their after life—do they mean to teach them that success goes by chance, and not by merit; that it is better to be lucky than wise ; that to win a prize, is easier than to earn it? We doubt not that many of our readers who are not in these secrets, will think the practice so strange a one, we need not to bave spoken so much about it. I should have thought so too, did I not know that it is practised by some teachers and suffered by many parents, who, I believe, act under the influence of the best moral feeling, and the purest religious principle, in the management of the children committed to their care; and would by no means suffer them to receive such impressions under any other form.



When almost discouraged with my ill success in seeking after Consistency, I chanced to meet with a friend who was engaged in the same pursuit, and whose story I will endeavour to give nearly as I received it, which is as follows:

Not long since I spent some time with a family who were ever speaking of Consistency, and that too, after the manner of a most familiar acquaint

The word being perpetually on their lips, I could not doubt but they were well acquainted with the thing, and perhaps could afford the very information I had sought for so far in vain. Nothing could be more promising than the first aspect of things. With the first breath I drew in their abode, I seemed to inhale a love of this unknown—and so contagious is example, that before many days had elapsed, I found it impossible to express myself on any subject without using the word. It is a delightful word—it will do for any thing : with the help of a small négation it will stand for sin, or folly, or falsehood, or treachery, or caprice, or infidelity, or any thing within the whole compass of moral defectibility.

Whenever a fool committed folly, we said he was not consistent: when the false-hearted did one thing and professed another, we said they were not consistent: when the selfish betrayed their friends to serve themselves, we said they were not consistent; in short, whenever a sinner, under any form, com

mitted sin, we said he was not consistent. I was delighted, for in all the languages I had learned, I never found a word so universally applicable. But most of all was it valuable to designate those nameless discrepancies in our friends, which all are quick to perceive, but no one can readily describe. We were no slanderers, and would not for worlds have said those who did not please were false, or ignorant, or disagreeable, or any thing that perhaps they might not be, but we could always say they were inconsistent, without danger of contradiction: and we did say so of every one who had the misfortune to come within our observation. In one respect, at least, we obeyed the spirit of the Christian precept; for we treated our enemies in this matter full as well as our friends. Among the abundant examples and countless uses of this term, I know not where to select for the information of the reader: any instance I may give, can be but one of thousands.

We were just rid of some evening visitors with whom we had spent several hours in the rapid interchange of most polite discourse. They had said every thing that language can express, in praise of all that was in the house, or about the house, or within sight of any of the windows; and the ladies, my companions, had given back to the full the measure they had meted. If they said our drawings or fancy works were beautiful, we said they were nothing in comparison with theirs: if they praised our music, we were surprised that they, who were used to so much better, should be so very kind as to listen to it. We said their children were the largest, and their dogs the smallest, and their jewels the brightest, and their words the wisest, in the known world; for any thing I knew it might be so, for they

were strangers to me. As soon as they were gone, Miss Sarah said with a sigh—“What dreadful flatterers those people are; and they swallow it as willingly as they bestow it! There is no way

of pleasing them, but by the grossést compliments. They are very false: 'I know exactly what they mean when they admire any thing; they only want you to say that something of theirs is better. I make a point of saying so directly, because I know they will be disappointed if I do not.”

" Are they very superior people ?" I asked.

“0, by no means: they understand nothing; they praise every thing and every body alike: they think flattery must please others because it pleases them, and they bestow it as liberally as they desire it."

“ There is, at least, good-nature in the intention."

“ If they were more consistent in their good-nature; but they will not continue to praise us in our absence, I doubt.”

If they do,” thought I, “ we shall have better than requital at their hands :" but we were quite agreed that it was inconsistent to flatter people in their presence, and speak ill of them the moment they were gone.

“I wish,” said Matilda, one morning, with reference to a lady who had just made her first visit at the house,—- I wish Miss N.'s conduct were more consistent. If I knew nothing of her, I should be greatly taken with her manner and conversation this morning : I should really think her very sensible and serious”.

" And how do you know she is not ?" I asked, interrupting her.

"One can only judge the tree by its fruits, and her conduct is so very inconsistent." • In what

way you mean?





« PreviousContinue »