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The Friends; or, The Triumph of Innocence over False Charges

Herbert Strang

  Produced by Chris Curnow, Sue Fleming and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby The Internet Archive)

  _page 11._

  --"may Heaven bless & direct you"!

  _London, Published by Harvey & Darton, 56 Gracechurch Street, 10th Dec. 1822._]












  In one of the pleasant villages in the beautiful county of Kent, wassituated a boarding-school of considerable celebrity. It had, for manyyears, been distinguished for possessing an excellent master, in theperson of the Rev. Dr. Harris, who, by his amiable manners and soundknowledge, had obtained the friendship of the surrounding gentry; whilehis fatherly interest in behalf of the affairs of the poor, caused himto be universally beloved. He was curate of the parish, as well asschool-master; and his parishioners and scholars were alike the objectsof his tender regard and anxious solicitude.

  His family consisted of a wife and two daughters, who were equallyrespected by all who had the pleasure of their acquaintance. Mrs.Harris was, indeed, every way worthy of her amiable partner; and hergreatest pleasure consisted in doing good. Although frequently herselfin a very weak state of health; yet, neither the inclemency of theweather, nor the distance, deterred her from going, in person, tovisit, to comfort, and to assist those of her fellow-creatures whowere in distress. It was quite enough for her to know that any of herpoorer neighbours were in want, to command her immediate aid; and, bythus setting them a good Christian example, she was better enabledto assist her amiable husband in enforcing the mild and wholesomedoctrines of religion.

  Her lovely daughters, too, Juliana and Eliza, were of sufficient agesto be her companions in these charitable visits; and their heartspanted for the power to do good, and longed to receive and to deservesuch blessings as were bestowed, with grateful lips, upon their belovedmother, whenever she passed the cottages of the poor. They pitiedtheir wants and sufferings, and participated and rejoiced in theirhappiness; and frequently expressed a desire for riches, to enable themto relieve their misfortunes. Upon such occasions, Mrs. Harris neverfailed to impress upon their young minds this valuable truth: thatwealth does not always afford the best means of doing good. She used tosay, that those children who sincerely wish to do an act of charity,seldom want the means of doing something to relieve the necessitiesand soothe the afflictions of those who are pining in wretchedness;for even a kind consoling word, with a very little personal attention,was often esteemed more valuable, and even proved to be more useful,than money, to those whose spirits as well as bodies were pressed downby distress. Added to this advice, this excellent lady seldom let anopportunity pass of enforcing the most strict and pious attention totheir religious duties. Her motto was:

  "Teach me to feel another's woe, To hide the fault I see: That mercy I to others show, That mercy show to me."

  The school was at the extremity of the village, and attached to theparsonage-house. The situation was retired and beautiful. At a littledistance stood the village church, in all its ancient simplicity,except that it had, for some years, been nearly covered with ivy; themost pleasing decoration that it is possible for Nature to bestow upona country place of worship. Its green and glossy leaf, whether viewedby the soft glow of moon-light, or by the broad glare of sun-shine, isalways an object of admiration.

  The number of scholars was about forty; and in this, as in otherschools, boys of various dispositions were to be found. Some possessedall the good temper and vivacity that could be wished; and theirfaults were seldom of so serious a nature as to demand more than aslight reproof: while others were morose, passionate, envious, anddisobliging; imposing upon their younger school-fellows at everyopportunity, and perplexing those of their own age by frequentinterruptions in their sports and lessons.

  Amongst the number of those who were generally beloved by theirschool-fellows, were Henry Wardour and George Harrington, the sonsof two respectable tradesmen, who were partners in a very lucrativebusiness in London. George had been so unfortunate as to lose his mammawhen he was scarcely five years of age; and as he was the only child,Mrs. Wardour, who had always entertained great esteem for his parents,requested of his papa to allow her the pleasure of instructing him withher son Henry. To an offer so kind and advantageous, Mr. Harringtoncould have no objection; but fearing that the task would becomeirksome, and be too great an exertion for his friend, he endeavouredto persuade her from her purpose; when she replied: "The trouble, Sir,I beg you will not think about: it will be nothing. While teaching myown son, I shall feel a pleasure in imparting the same instructionto yours. Besides, I promised my dear friend Mrs. H. when on herdeath-bed, that I would be a parent to her son; therefore, Sir, I begyou will grant my request." Mr. Harrington consented, and deferred hisplan of sending George to a preparatory school; and he was admitted atonce into the house of Mrs. Wardour.

  Henry, who was about eight months older than his friend, looked uponthis arrangement with unusual joy. As he had no brother, George hadhitherto been his frequent play-fellow; and the knowledge that he wasnow about to live in the same house, to eat, drink, sleep, and playwith him, gave him a pleasure which he had never before felt.

  Thus, from so early an association, their friendship became deeplyrooted; and as Mrs. Wardour was a lady well qualified for the task shehad imposed upon herself, the lads made considerable progress in theireducation, and continued to do so until they were eleven or twelveyears of age, when their kind preceptress was attacked with a severesickness. In this state she had continued upwards of a month, when herhusband, seeing no immediate prospect of her recovery, and fearing thelads might lose all the learning they had received while under hercare, prevailed upon her to let them be sent to school. To this she atlength consented; and the school of Dr. Harris having been stronglyrecommended, they were put under the superintendence of that gentleman.

  Before leaving home, however, their parents gave them their partingblessing; and Mr. Wardour, pressing them affectionately by the hand,told them they were now about to begin a little world for themselves:"therefore," said he, in an earnest and impressive manner, "may Heavenbless and direct all your actions, so that you may grow up to behonest, brave, and good men. And remember well what I now say: if everI hear that you are quarrelsome, you will displease me much; but if Ifind that you are unjust in your dealings towards your school-fellows,I shall punish you severely. Above all, be friends to one another."With this advice, and a determination to attend to it, our littlefriends bid their parents farewell.

  The dispositions of Henry and George were somewhat different, and yetthey continued to be sincere friends. Henry was mild, good-natured,and patient. George was good-natured, but hasty and passionate; andthough Mrs. Wardour took great pains to impress upon his youthfulmind the danger he was continually in, from not being able to controlhis temper, she never succeeded in teaching him that mildness somuch a
dmired in her own son. But in every other respect he was trulyamiable; and if, in his passion, he was ever led into any seriouserror, he never failed to beg pardon of those whom he had offended, andalways made every amends in his power.

  By this failing in George's temper, Henry was too frequently asufferer; for he was always obliged to give up whatever play-thingsthe other wished for, which he generally did with readiness and goodtemper, although he was oldest of the two. But this was only the casewhen they were very young; for, from the time that they had left home,and had been put under the care of Dr. Harris, they were, if possible,greater friends than ever; and George had so far succeeded in masteringhis temper, as seldom to be in a passion, and never with his friendHenry. He still, however, possessed that nobleness and high spirit,which mostly checked him in doing a wrong action, and always promptedhim to interfere in behalf of any of his school-fellows whom he thoughtwere unjustly treated; in which he was ably seconded by his friendHenry.

  In personal appearance there was little similarity. Henry was weak,pale, and delicate: George, strong, fresh-coloured, and vigorous. Manya time had Mrs. Wardour watched over her weakly but truly beautifulboy, with an anxious eye, fearing that she should never be able to rearhim to manhood. But since he had been with Dr. Harris, his health hadmuch improved. His face, which had before been pale, was now tannedwith the heat of the sun; and the fresh country air had given anadditional brightness to his fine dark eyes: while the healthy roundface, and plump appearance of George, seemed to improve in a likedegree.

  In short, these boys, by their politeness and good-nature, rather thanby their appearance, were beloved by all their school-fellows, excepta few of the malicious, envious dispositions, who only disliked thembecause they sometimes resisted their impositions, and detected theirfalsehoods.

  With their master's family they were also more intimate; and though Dr.Harris never made any distinction, or showed any partiality to one boymore than to another, yet it was not so with his two daughters, Julianaand Eliza. They had their favourites; and though Henry and George werenearly the last comers, and had not been more than three months in theschool, they had so won upon the young ladies, (who were nearly of thesame age as themselves,) by their cheerfulness, and polite attention ingathering pretty flowers, cleaning their bird-cages, &c. as to be theirdecided favourites.

  Mrs. Harris had also entertained a regard for Henry, from the momentshe first saw him, as he strongly resembled a late son of hers, whowas unfortunately drowned when about his age.

  And it was well for Henry that he possessed so many friends; for inthe difficulties he afterwards had to contend with, he stood in greatneed of them; and as my little readers are now pretty well acquaintedwith their characters, they shall hear in what those difficultiesconsisted. But before entering upon the principal circumstances in thislittle history, it will be necessary to acquaint my young friends witha trifling affair that took place about a month or six weeks after thearrival of Henry and George. By their interference upon this occasion,they put an end to an evil, a species of _fagging_, which had beenpractised unknown to the master; while they at the same time rousedthe bad dispositions of some of the elder boys, as will be seen in thesequel.