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thoughtful and attentive. The fact is, that in the stage of his inner life at which Tom had lately arrived, his intimacy with, and friendship for East, could not have lasted if he had not made him aware of, and a sharer in, the thoughts that were beginning to exercise him. Nor indeed could the friendship have lasted if East had shown no sympathy with these thoughts ; so that it was a great relief to have umbosomed himself, and to have found that his friend could listen.
Tom had always had a sort of instinct that East's levity was only skin-deep, and this instinct was a true one. East had no want of reverence for anything he felt to be real: but his was one of those natures that burst into what is generally called recklessness and impiety the moment they feel that anything is being poured upon them for their good, which does not come home to their inborn sense of right, or which appeals to anything like self-interest in them. Daring and honest by nature, and outspoken to an extent which alarmed all respectabilities, with a constant fund of animal health and spirits which he did not feel bound to curb in any way, he had gained for himself, with the steady part of the school, (including as well those who wished to appear steady as those who really were so,) the character of a boy whom it would be dangerous to be intimate with ; while his own hatred of every thing cruel, or underhand, or false, and his hearty respect for what he could see to be good and true, kept off the rest.
Tom, besides being very like East in many points
of character, had largely developed in his composition the capacity for taking the weakest side. This is not putting it strongly enough, it was a necessity with him, he couldn't help it, any more than he could eating or drinking. He could never play on the strongest side with any heart at football or cricket, and was sure to make friends with any boy who was unpopular, or down on his luck.
Now, though East was not what is generally called unpopular, Tom felt more and more every day, as their characters developed, that he stood alone, and did not make friends among their contemporaries ; and therefore sought him out. Tom was himself much more popular, for his power of detecting humbug was much less acute, and his instincts were much more sociable. He was at this period of his life, too, largely given to taking people for what they gave themselves out to be; but his singleness of heart, fearlessness, and honesty, were just what East appreciated, and thus the two had been drawn into great intimacy.
This intimacy had not been interrupted by Tom's guardianship of Arthur.
East had often, as has been said, joined them in reading the Bible; but their discussions had almost always turned upon the characters of the men and women of whom they read, and not become personal to themselves. In fact, the two had shrunk from personal religious discussion, not knowing how it might end; and fearful of risking a friendship very dear to both, and which they felt somehow, without quite knowing why, would never be the same, but
either tenfold stronger or sapped at its foundation, after such a communing together.
What a bother all this explaining is ! I wish we could get on without it. But we can't. However, you'll all find, if you haven't found it already, that a time comes in every human friendship, when you must go down into the depths of yourself, and lay bare what is there to your friend, and wait in fear for his answer. A few moments may do it; and, it may be (most likely will be, as you are English boys), that you never do it but once. But done it must be, if the friendship is to be worth the name. You must find what is there, at the very root and bottom of one another's hearts; and if you are at one there, nothing on earth can, or at least ought, to sun. der you.
East had remained lying down until Tom finished speaking, as if fearing to interrupt him; he now sat up at the table and leant his head on one hand, taking up a pencil with the other and working little holes with it in the table-cover. After a bit he looked up, stopped the pencil, and said, " Thank you very much, old fellow; there's no other boy in the house would have done it for me but you or Arthur. I can see well enough," he went on after a pause, “ all the best big fellows look on me with suspicion; they think I'm a devil-may-care reckless young scamp - so I am – eleven hours out of twelve — but not the twelfth. Then all of our contemporaries worth knowing, follow suit of course; we're very good friends at games and all that, but not a soul of them but you and Arthur ever tried to break through the
crust, and see whether there was anything at the bottom of me; and then the bad ones I won't stand, and they know that.”
“ Don't you think that's half fancy, Harry ?"
“ Not a bit of it,” said East, bitterly, pegging away with his pencil. “I see it all plain enough. Bless you, you think everybody's as straightforward and kind-hearted as you are."
“ Well, but what's the reason of it? There must be a reason. You can play all the games as well as any one, and sing the best song, and are the best company in the house. You fancy you're not liked, Harry. It's all fancy."
“ I only wish it was, Tom. I know I could be popular enough with all the bad ones, but that I won't have, and the good ones won't have me."
6 Why not?” persisted Tom; "you don't drink or swear, or get out at night; you never bully, or cheat at lessons. If you only showed you liked it, you'd have all the best fellows in the house running after
“ Not I,” said East. Then with an effort he went on, “ I'll tell you what it is. I never stop the Sacrament. I can see from the Doctor downwards, how that tells against me."
66 Yes, I've seen that," said Tom, " and I've been very sorry for it, and Arthur and I have talked about it. I've often thought of speaking to you, but it's so hard to begin on such subjects. I'm very glad you've opened it. Now, why don't you?”
" I've never been confirmed,” said East. “ Not been confirmed!" said Tom, in astonish
ment. I never thought of that. Why weren't you confirmed with the rest of us nearly three years ago? I always thought you'd been confirmed at home.”
“ No," answered East, sorrowfully; " you see this was how it happened. Last Confirmation was soon after Arthur came, and you were so taken up with him, I hardly saw either of you. Well, when the Doctor sent round for us about it, I was living mostly with Green's set — you know the sort. They all went in- I dare say it was all right, and they got good by it; I don't want to judge them. Only all I could see of their reasons drove me just the other way. 'Twas, because the Doctor liked it;' no boy got on who didn't stay the Sacrament;' it was • the correct thing,' in fact, like having a good hat to wear on Sundays., I couldn't stand it. I didn't feel that I wanted to lead a different life, I was very well content as I was, and I wasn't going to sham religious to curry favour with the Doctor, or any one else.”
East stopped speaking, and pegged away more. diligently than ever with his pencil. Tom was ready to cry. He felt half sorry at first that he had been confirmed himself. He seemed to have deserted his earliest friend, to have left him by himself at his worst need for those long years. He got up and went and sat by East, and put his arm over his shoulder.
“Dear old boy," he said, “how careless and selfish I've been. But why didn't you come and talk to Arthur and me?"