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The Crofton Boys   By: (1802-1876)

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The Crofton Boys, by Harriet Martineau.

Crofton is the name of a boarding school which takes in boys aged from eight to perhaps thirteen. Such a school is known in the UK as a Prep School, and it is normal for well bred boys to attend such a school, as I and my brothers all did.

Hugh is packed off to school from his comfortable home in the Strand, London. His older brother is already at the school, and can give him some guidance, but on the whole he is on his own. Boys can be very cruel to one another, and Hugh gets his fair share of the bullying, the fights, the unfair masters, and the small squabbles over borrowed money. One day in the playground there is an episode which little Hugh tries to escape from by climbing over a wall. He is pulled back, and the very heavy loose coping stone on the top of the wall falls from onto his foot, crushing it so badly that it has to be amputated. That's about half way through the book.

How Hugh endures the operation, recovers, and rebuilds his life with the other boys at school, his family relations and the school staff takes up the rest of the book, which is well and sensitively written, coming as it does from a talented authoress who is no stranger to personal problems.




Mr Proctor, the chemist and druggist, kept his shop, and lived in the Strand, London. His children thought that there was never anything pleasanter than the way they lived. Their house was warm in winter, and such a little distance from the church, that they had no difficulty in getting to church and back again, in the worst weather, before their shoes were wet. They were also conveniently near to Covent Garden market; so that, if any friend dropped in to dinner unexpectedly, Jane and Agnes could be off to the market, and buy a fowl, or some vegetables or fruit, and be back again before they were missed. It was not even too far for little Harry to trot with one of his sisters, early on a summer's morning, to spend his penny (when he happened to have one) on a bunch of flowers, to lay on papa's plate, to surprise him when he came in to breakfast. Not much farther off was the Temple Garden, where Mrs Proctor took her children every fine summer evening to walk and breathe the air from the river; and when Mr Proctor could find time to come to them for a turn or two before the younger ones must go home to bed, it seemed to the whole party the happiest and most beautiful place in the whole world, except one. They had once been to Broadstairs, when the children were in poor health after the measles: and for ever after, when they thought of the waves beating on the shore, and of the pleasures of growing strong and well among the sea breezes, they felt that there might be places more delightful than the Temple Garden: but they were still very proud and fond of the grass and trees, and the gravel walks, and the view over the Thames, and were pleased to show off the garden to all friends from the country who came to visit them.

The greatest privilege of all, however, was that they could see the river without going out of their own house. There were three back windows to the house, one above another; and from the two uppermost of these windows there was what the children called a view of the Thames. There was a gap of a few yards wide between two high brick houses: and through this gap might be seen the broad river, with vessels of every kind passing up or down. Outside the second window were some leads, affording space for three or four chairs: and here it was that Jane and Agnes liked to sit at work, on certain hours of fine days. There were times when these leads were too hot, the heat of the sun being reflected from the surrounding brick walls; but at an earlier hour before the shadows were gone, and when the air blew in from the river, the place was cool, and the little girls delighted to carry their stools to the leads, and do their sewing there... Continue reading book >>

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