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Boys are fond of birds. And no wonder; they are such merry pretty creatures. We love to see how nimbly they leap about, and if they can sing we like them all the bettter.
I knew a boy and girl who saved their money to buy a
canary. You all know, I expect, what a canary is. It is not an English bird, but though it comes from a foreign country there are many now bred and reared in England. It is mostly dressed all over in yellow feathers, and looks very pretty in its cage when singing its loud and merry songs.
Well: they bought a canary, and put it in a snug little cage. It was a good one; that is, one that would sing; and it did sing merrily in doors and out of doors. In doors, the more you talked the louder it sung; and when it was hung up in its cage on a branch of the apple-tree in the garden it made all the neighbourhood echo with its joyful notes.
We were all pleased with the canary. A larger and more handsome cage was provided for it; and the boy and his
sister, younger than he, attended to it well, giving it fresh water and seeds every morning.
As the summer came our little favourite was hung up in its cage nearly every day, either on the apple tree or under the large drooping ash before the parlour window.
But one day we found the cage open, and the canary gone! We made search for it in a gentleman's garden close by, and next day his gardener brought us a canary, but we all said it was not ours by its marks, and it would not sing. Day after day we hung up the cage with the door open hoping canary would come back to its little house, but it never did. One day we saw another canary among the trees of that gentleman's garden. It was flying about to escape from a host of spiteful sparrows who were flying after it, and pecking and persecuting it. We ran to rescue it if possible, but could not find it, and we never saw it again.
What became of it we do not know. Whether the sparrows killed it, or whether some terrible cat sprung on it and caught it we cannot tell. But we had often before seen some neighbour's cat, when prowling over the garden wall on an evening, watching the cage as if it longed to get at the bird.
Poor Canary ! How sorry we all were to lose thee! Better had it been for thee if thou hadst stayed in thy pretty cage to eat thy seeds and splash about in thy saucer full of fresh water, and sing us thy cheerful songs, than wander from our care and fall a prey to sparrows or cats.
This little tale may teach a lesson. It is better for young people to be under the restraining care of father and mother at home, than run abroad with such as may do them harm.
THE LITTLE COAL-PIT MISSIONARY. In this naturally beautiful, but spiritually lost and sinful world of ours, there are a many ways to which young people may do good, as the following true story will show :
The writer, under whose observation the subject of this anecdote personally came, lives upon one of the little mountains in the beautiful and picturesque county of Derby. I suppose that my young readers, especially those living in parts of England where there are not many hills, and where the scenery is not much varied, have often heard of the beauties of Matlock, Buxton, Castleton, Chatsworth, and other places, in what is called the Peak of Derbyshire, and I dare say have thought how they would like to see them.
Well, I must tell you that you have not heard too much about them; and if, in these days of cheap trips and special trains, you
should ever go into the neighbourhood of these places, I think you will say along with me that they are really beautiful, and that the scenery is truly majestic and grand. But I must tell you, and I think to those of you who never saw such things it will be interesting; that these little mountains are full of many kinds of minerals, such as ironstone, lead ore, coals, &c., while others are full of limestone, marble, and a kind of slate and spar. In order, therefore, to get at the ininerals, especially ironstone and coals, they have to sink deep pits, like wells, only much larger, and down in these pits there are thousands of men and boys employed day by day to get the ironstone of which iron is made, and the coals which, when placed on the fire, make us so warm
and comfortable in the dark cold days of winter.
They go down the pits now much easier than they used to do, and much safer; they used to go down in chains, but they now descend in what is called a chair, which holds about six of them, and it has a large iron plate at the top called a bonnet to prevent any thing falling upon their heads as they go down. Their work is very dreary and dangerous, and they are frequently bruised and lamed, sometimes burnt, and sometimes killed. They have only a candle to light them, which they stick in clay to make a candlestick, and which they fasten upon the side of the pit. They have ponies and asses to draw the coals about, and boys to guide them, while other boys sit against a doorway for eight or ten hours together just to open the door when any one passes by. I think most of my young readers will not envy the position of these poor boys; you would neither like the confinement nor the work, setting aside the danger, which these boys think but little about. I am sorry to tell you that these men and boys, although constantly exposed to danger and instant death, are very thoughtless and careless about their souls, and consequently very wicked. The anecdote I am going to relate, however, proves that there are some exceptions. I had often thought how much I should like to go down into one of these pits and see them at work; and one day, some months ago, a friend of mine told me that he was going down the next morning at four o'clock, and that he was going to join them at a prayer meeting, and give them a short address. I was very much surprised at this. And now, I thought, if I am to go, it is a good opportunity. If I wish to be as safe as it is possible to be under such circumstances, I must go now, for in a pit where there are praying men and praying boys, we may be quite sure it is safer than where there are none who love the Lord. I took the opportunity and went, when I got to the pit mouth I felt a little fear, but commiting myself into the Lord's hands I stepped upon the chair and was soon in the darkness of the bovels of the earth. After walking along the bottom of the pit we passed through a doorway and came upon a large open space, where we could stand upright, and where many could congregate together. I found about fifty colliers all seated upon the black floor, their candles stuck upon the walls, and many of them with their bibles and hymn books in their hands, all ready for the service. And to my surprise amongst all those flannel-clad men, with their grimy faces, I found a little girl; she appeared to be about ten years old, neatly clad and very clean ; of course I wondered what had brought her there, at that early hour, but the meeting having just commenced I had to wait before my curiosity could be satisfied. I commenced the meeting by giving out a hymn and starting a tune, which was sung with so much energy by those strong men, with strong voices, that the sound of God's praise echoed and re-echoed through all parts of the mine, making it appear like the house of God; one or two of the colliers then engaged in prayer, and other hymns were sung. My friend then began his part of the service, and was proceeding to read a chapter before giving out his text for the address, when, all at once, the little girl who had excited my curiosity stepped forward, her father stating, at the same time,