THERE was once in a young apple-orchard a fine tree that some boys had carelessly cut with a hatchet. They had not cut the tree down, not yet so bad that it died, but the hatchet had left deep marks on its trunk. These, however, in time seemed to heal up and the bark closed over them, so that they could not be seen. The tree grew almost as well as the others, and bore fruit. Its apples were fine, large, red-streaked ones, that every one liked. When ripe and soft, they were very good, and few of them were allowed to go to waste.

If boys could get some of the "red-streaked" apples, they cared for none of the others. For a number of years the tree continued to grow and bear fruit. One summer evening, when it was loaded with ripening apples, there came a very severe storm of wind and rain. The storm was so great, and the night so dark, that no one dared go out of the house to see what damage was done, and how many trees had been blown over.

When morning came, the storm had gone, the sun shone brightly, and there was no wind. Two of the little boys in the house near the orchard went out early to see if any trees were blown over.

The orchard stood in a valley, protected on three sides by the hills, and those hills had been a protection to the trees now as before; but one tree was down: In a moment the boys saw that it was

the "red-streaked" apple-tree. Though apples had fallen, and a few limbs had been broken off from the others, all except the

"red-streaked" stood firmly upright.

The boys hurried to the fallen tree, and saw that it had broken off near the ground; nothing could be done to save it. They were ready to cry when they found their favorite apple-tree so hopelessly broken.  Sitting down on the fallen trunk, they looked carefully at the break, and saw marks near the heart of the tree of the cuts of an axe or hatchet.

"Look here!" said Johnnie, the older, to his brother. " Somebody has cut this many years ago."

There were the cuts of the hatchet plainly seen, and just there the tree had broken off. Had it not been for those cuts made many years before, that tree would probably have stood the storm. The injury then done had remained, and had only been covered, proving a weakness when the tree most needed strength.


Some time ago many people were surprised and pained to learn that a man whom all thought good and honest, had stolen a great amount of money and wasted it. People wondered how such a good man could be guilty of so great a sin. Though he had been in business many years, they had never heard of his being dishonest in any of his affairs; nor had he. But he had stolen when a boy, and had stolen more than once. As he grew to manhood, he became honest, and people forgot all about his boyhood dishonesty. Those who did business with him never heard of it. Like the cuts in the apple-tree, those acts of his thieving in his boyhood had left a weak place in that man's character. When a strong temptation came, his character broke at that place; it was the one weak spot. It ruined him.

Boys, girls, the sins of youth, the evil habits of childhood, do for your characters what the hatchet-cuts did for that young apple-tree. You may overcome them, repent of the sins, but those habits, those sins, leave weak places in your characters.

When you grow to be men and women, the world may forget-and so may you-those early habits of evil. You may entirely overcome them, but if a strong temptation comes, you may fall before it, and be guilty of that very sin you committed so many years before. Beware of evil habits; they are cuts in the strength of your character; they may grow over and be hidden, but they stay there; they weaken you. Give them up at once.




Sydney Clare.