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The School Friends; Or, Nothing New

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The School FriendsNothing NewBy WHG KingstonIllustrations by E. EvansPublished by George Routledge and Sons, London.

  The School Friends, by WHG Kingston.


  ________________________________________________________________________THE SCHOOL FRIENDS, BY WHG KINGSTON.



  Lance Loughton and Emery Dulman were brought up together at ElmerstonGrammar-School. They were both in the upper or sixth form; but Lancewas nearly at the head, while Emery was at the bottom, of the form.They were general favourites, though for different causes. Lance wasdecidedly best liked by the masters. He was steady, persevering, andstudious, besides being generous, kind-hearted, and brave--ever ready todefend the weak against the strong, while he would never allow a littleboy to be bullied by a big one if he could help it. Emery had talents,but they were more showy than solid. He was good-natured and full oflife and spirits, and having plenty of money, spent it freely. He was,however, easily led, and had in consequence done many foolish things,which got him into trouble, though he managed, on the whole, to maintaina tolerably good character.

  Lance and Emery were on friendly terms; and Lance, who thought he sawgood qualities in his companion, would gladly have won his confidence,but Emery did not like what he called Lance's lectures, and there wasvery little or no interchange of thought between them. Without it realfriendship can scarcely be said to exist. They were, however, lookedupon as school friends, and certainly Lance would at all times have beenready to do a friendly act for Emery.

  Emery was somewhat of a fine gentleman in his way. His father was atradesman in the place, and wished his son to assist him in hisbusiness, but Emery often spoke of entering the army or one of theliberal professions. He therefore considered himself equal to thosewhose fathers held a higher social grade than his own. His father'sstyle of life encouraged him in this. Mr Dulman had a handsome house,and gave dinners and parties; and at elections took a leading part, andentertained the proposed member and his friends, and indeed sometimestalked of entering Parliament himself, and altogether did a good deal toexcite the envy of his less successful fellow-townsmen.

  Emery constantly invited Lance to his house, and was really flatteredwhen he came; for Lance's father, who had died when he was very young,was a lieutenant in the navy; and his widowed mother, though left withonly her pension to depend on, was a lady by birth and education.Lance, however, very frequently refused Emery's pressing invitations.

  "I never met such a stay-at-home fellow as you are," exclaimed thelatter, when on one occasion Lance had declined attending a gay party Mrand Mrs Dulman were about to give. "We shall have half theneighbourhood present--Mr Perkins, our member, and I don't know how manyother grandees--and we want some young fellows like you, who can danceand do the polite. Mother says I must get you, for we don't know whatto do for proper partners for the young ladies."

  "I should have been happy to make myself useful," answered Lance,laughing; "but I am no great dancer, and my poor mother is so unwellthat I cannot leave her."

  "Oh, she has got little Maddie Hayward to look after her, so I will comeand get her to let you off."

  "I beg that you will not make the attempt," answered Lance, more gravelythan he had hitherto spoken. "My mother is seriously ill; besides Ihave work to do, and any time I can spare I must devote to her."

  "Oh, but a little gaiety will do you good, and you can cheer her up withan account of the party," persisted Emery.

  Lance was, however, firm, and he returned in a thoughtful mood to hishumble little cottage in the outskirts of the town.

  A sweet fair face met him at the jessamine-covered porch--that of a girlthree or four years younger than himself. It would not have beensurprising had he preferred her society to that of the fine ladies hisfriend had spoken of, though he certainly was not conscious that thishad in any degree influenced him.

  Madelene Hayward was indeed a lovely young creature, sweet-tempered andgood as she was beautiful. She was the orphan child of a distantrelative of Lieutenant Loughton. Having been left, when still aninfant, utterly destitute, she had been adopted by the kind-heartedofficer at his wife's earnest wish, and brought up as their daughter,although their own scanty means might have excused them in the eyes ofthe world had they declined the responsibility.

  Mrs Loughton had devoted herself to Maddie's education, and the younggirl repaid her with the most tender love. Some time before this MrsLoughton's old servant had married, and Maddie had persuaded her not toengage another in her place, consenting only that a woman should come into light the fires and do the rougher work which she was less able toperform. While Mrs Loughton was well, she herself attending to what wasnecessary, Maddie's duties were not very heavy, but since her illnessthey had of necessity much increased.

  Though she tried not to let Lance discover how hard she worked, he knewthat her attendance on his mother must occupy the chief part of hertime. His aim was therefore to relieve her as much as possible. Wherethere is a will there is a way. He soon learned to clean his shoes, andpurchasing needles and thread and worsted, to mend his clothes and darnhis socks; and Maddie was surprised to find one morning that his bed wasmade and his room set to rights, when she was sure that Dame Judkin hadnot gone into it. She found him out at last, and reproachfully askedwhy he had not given her his torn coat to mend, and a pair of sockswhich she had discovered darned in a curious fashion.

  "I wanted to try if I could not do it," he answered, smiling. "Justlook at that sleeve--I defy it to tear again in the same place."

  "Perhaps so, but as every one can see that there has been a rent, Ishall be accused of being a very bad tailoress, and I am afraid you willfind an uncomfortable lump in the heel of your socks. Do, dear Lance,bring the next pair requiring mending to me, and I will find time to damthem."

  Few could fail to admire Madelene Hayward.

  "How is our mother?" asked Lance, taking her hand, as he found herwaiting for him in the porch of their little cottage.

  "She has at last dropped off to sleep; but she has been in much pain allthe day," answered Maddie. "And, O Lance! I sometimes fear that shewill not recover. Yet our lives are in God's hands, and we can togetherpray, if He thinks fit, that hers may be preserved for our sakes--Icannot say for her own, as I am sure, resting on the merits of Him whodied for sinners, she is ready to go hence to enjoy that happiness Hehas prepared for those who love Him."

  "But, Maddie, do you really think mother is so ill?" asked Lance, withan anxious look. "I know that when she is taken, the change to her mustbe a blessed one; but, Maddie, what would become of you?"

  He spoke in a tone which showed the grief which Madelene's announcementhad caused him.

  "I have not thought about myself," she answered quietly. "My wish wasto prepare you for what I dread may occur, and to ask you to join yourprayer with mine that God will in His mercy allow her to remain longerwith us. He can do all things, and the prayer of faith availeth much."

  "I am sure it does," said Lance. "I will pray with you. I have toooften prayed as a matter of form, but now I can pray from the bottom ofmy heart."

  The young people lifted up their hearts and voices as they stoodtogether, hand in hand, in the porch, which was hid by a high hedge fromthe passers-by.

  They noiselessly entered the cottage. Mrs Loughton was still sleeping.Perhaps even then Lance realised the fact that Maddie was more to himthan any other being on earth, and he mentally resolved to exert all hisenergies to procure
the means of supporting her, should she be deprivedof her present guardian.

  They sat together in silence lest their voices might awaken MrsLoughton. Maddie had resumed her work, while Lance had placed his bookson the table; but his eyes scarcely rested on them--he was thinking ofthe future.

  Mrs Loughton at length awoke. She appeared revived by her sleep, themost tranquil she had enjoyed for many a day. After this, to the joy ofMaddie and her son, she rapidly got better, and with thankful heartsthey saw her restored to comparative health.

  Lance had no foolish pride, but he had refrained from asking any of hisschoolfellows, especially those who, like Emery, lived in fine houses,to enter his mother's humble cottage. One day, however, Emery overtookhim as he was returning from home. On reaching the cottage, hiscompanion pulled out his watch, observing that it was tea-time, andsaying in an off-hand way,