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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhite Feather - Chapter IX - SHEEN BEGINS HIS EDUCATION
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White Feather - Chapter IX - SHEEN BEGINS HIS EDUCATION Post by :Adetola Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2856

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White Feather - Chapter IX - SHEEN BEGINS HIS EDUCATION

CHAPTER IX - SHEEN BEGINS HIS EDUCATION


The "Blue Boar" was a picturesque inn, standing on the bank of the
river Severn. It was much frequented in the summer by fishermen, who
spent their days in punts and their evenings in the old oak parlour,
where a picture in boxing costume of Mr Joe Bevan, whose brother was
the landlord of the inn, gazed austerely down on them, as if he
disapproved of the lamentable want of truth displayed by the majority
of their number. Artists also congregated there to paint the
ivy-covered porch. At the back of the house were bedrooms, to which the
fishermen would make their way in the small hours of a summer morning,
arguing to the last as they stumbled upstairs. One of these bedrooms,
larger than the others, had been converted into a gymnasium for the use
of mine host's brother. Thither he brought pugilistic aspirants who
wished to be trained for various contests, and it was the boast of the
"Blue Boar" that it had never turned out a loser. A reputation of this
kind is a valuable asset to an inn, and the boxing world thought highly
of it, in spite of the fact that it was off the beaten track. Certainly
the luck of the "Blue Boar" had been surprising.

Sheen pulled steadily up stream on the appointed day, and after half an
hour's work found himself opposite the little landing-stage at the foot
of the inn lawn.

His journey had not been free from adventure. On his way to the town he
had almost run into Mr Templar, and but for the lucky accident of that
gentleman's short sight must have been discovered. He had reached the
landing-stage in safety, but he had not felt comfortable until he was
well out of sight of the town. It was fortunate for him in the present
case that he was being left so severely alone by the school. It was an
advantage that nobody took the least interest in his goings and
comings.

Having moored his boat and proceeded to the inn, he was directed
upstairs by the landlord, who was an enlarged and coloured edition of
his brother. From the other side of the gymnasium door came an
unceasing and mysterious shuffling sound.

He tapped at the door and went in.

He found himself in a large, airy room, lit by two windows and a broad
skylight. The floor was covered with linoleum. But it was the furniture
that first attracted his attention. In a farther corner of the room was
a circular wooden ceiling, supported by four narrow pillars. From the
centre of this hung a ball, about the size of an ordinary football. To
the left, suspended from a beam, was an enormous leather bolster. On
the floor, underneath a table bearing several pairs of boxing-gloves, a
skipping-rope, and some wooden dumb-bells, was something that looked
like a dozen Association footballs rolled into one. All the rest of the
room, a space some few yards square, was bare of furniture. In this
space a small sweater-clad youth, with a head of light hair cropped
very short, was darting about and ducking and hitting out with both
hands at nothing, with such a serious, earnest expression on his face
that Sheen could not help smiling. On a chair by one of the windows Mr
Joe Bevan was sitting, with a watch in his hand.

As Sheen entered the room the earnest young man made a sudden dash at
him. The next moment he seemed to be in a sort of heavy shower of
fists. They whizzed past his ear, flashed up from below within an inch
of his nose, and tapped him caressingly on the waistcoat. Just as the
shower was at its heaviest his assailant darted away again,
side-stepped an imaginary blow, ducked another, and came at him once
more. None of the blows struck him, but it was with more than a little
pleasure that he heard Joe Bevan call "Time!" and saw the active young
gentleman sink panting into a seat.

"You and your games, Francis!" said Joe Bevan, reproachfully. "This is
a young gentleman from the college come for tuition."

"Gentleman--won't mind--little joke--take it in spirit which
is--meant," said Francis, jerkily.

Sheen hastened to assure him that he had not been offended.

"You take your two minutes, Francis," said Mr Bevan, "and then have a
turn with the ball. Come this way, Mr--"

"Sheen."

"Come this way, Mr Sheen, and I'll show you where to put on your
things."

Sheen had brought his football clothes with him. He had not put them on
for a year.

"That's the lad I was speaking of. Getting on prime, he is. Fit to
fight for his life, as the saying is."

"What was he doing when I came in?"

"Oh, he always has three rounds like that every day. It teaches you to
get about quick. You try it when you get back, Mr Sheen. Fancy you're
fighting me."

"Are you sure I'm not interrupting you in the middle of your work?"
asked Sheen.

"Not at all, sir, not at all. I just have to rub him down, and give him
his shower-bath, and then he's finished for the day."

Having donned his football clothes and returned to the gymnasium, Sheen
found Francis in a chair, having his left leg vigorously rubbed by Mr
Bevan.

"You fon' of dargs?" inquired Francis affably, looking up as he came
in.

Sheen replied that he was, and, indeed, was possessed of one. The
admission stimulated Francis, whose right leg was now under treatment,
to a flood of conversation. He, it appeared, had always been one for
dargs. Owned two. Answering to the names of Tim and Tom. Beggars for
rats, yes. And plucked 'uns? Well--he would like to see, would Francis,
a dog that Tim or Tom would not stand up to. Clever, too. Why once--

Joe Bevan cut his soliloquy short at this point by leading him off to
another room for his shower-bath; but before he went he expressed a
desire to talk further with Sheen on the subject of dogs, and, learning
that Sheen would be there every day, said he was glad to hear it. He
added that for a brother dog-lover he did not mind stretching a point,
so that, if ever Sheen wanted a couple of rounds any day, he, Francis,
would see that he got them. This offer, it may be mentioned, Sheen
accepted with gratitude, and the extra practice he acquired thereby was
subsequently of the utmost use to him. Francis, as a boxer, excelled in
what is known in pugilistic circles as shiftiness. That is to say, he
had a number of ingenious ways of escaping out of tight corners; and
these he taught Sheen, much to the latter's profit.

But this was later, when the Wrykinian had passed those preliminary
stages on which he was now to embark.

The art of teaching boxing really well is a gift, and it is given to
but a few. It is largely a matter of personal magnetism, and, above
all, sympathy. A man may be a fine boxer himself, up to every move of
the game, and a champion of champions, but for all that he may not be a
good teacher. If he has not the sympathy necessary for the appreciation
of the difficulties experienced by the beginner, he cannot produce good
results. A boxing instructor needs three qualities--skill, sympathy,
and enthusiasm. Joe Bevan had all three, particularly enthusiasm. His
heart was in his work, and he carried Sheen with him. "Beautiful, sir,
beautiful," he kept saying, as he guarded the blows; and Sheen, though
too clever to be wholly deceived by the praise, for he knew perfectly
well that his efforts up to the present had been anything but
beautiful, was nevertheless encouraged, and put all he knew into his
hits. Occasionally Joe Bevan would push out his left glove. Then, if
Sheen's guard was in the proper place and the push did not reach its
destination, Joe would mutter a word of praise. If Sheen dropped his
right hand, so that he failed to stop the blow, Bevan would observe,
"Keep that guard up, sir!" with almost a pained intonation, as if he
had been disappointed in a friend.

The constant repetition of this maxim gradually drove it into Sheen's
head, so that towards the end of the lesson he no longer lowered his
right hand when he led with his left; and he felt the gentle pressure
of Joe Bevan's glove less frequently. At no stage of a pupil's
education did Joe Bevan hit him really hard, and in the first few
lessons he could scarcely be said to hit him at all. He merely rested
his glove against the pupil's face. On the other hand, he was urgent in
imploring the pupil to hit _him as hard as he could.

"Don't be too kind, sir," he would chant, "I don't mind being hit. Let
me have it. Don't flap. Put it in with some weight behind it." He was
also fond of mentioning that extract from Polonius' speech to Laertes,
which he had quoted to Sheen on their first meeting.

Sheen finished his first lesson, feeling hotter than he had ever felt
in his life.

"Hullo, sir, you're out of condition," commented Mr Bevan. "Have a bit
of a rest."

Once more Sheen had learnt the lesson of his weakness. He could hardly
realise that he had only begun to despise himself in the last
fortnight. Before then, he had been, on the whole, satisfied with
himself. He was brilliant at work, and would certainly get a
scholarship at Oxford or Cambridge when the time came; and he had
specialised in work to the exclusion of games. It is bad to specialise
in games to the exclusion of work, but of the two courses the latter is
probably the less injurious. One gains at least health by it.

But Sheen now understood thoroughly, what he ought to have learned from
his study of the Classics, that the happy mean was the thing at which
to strive. And for the future he meant to aim at it. He would get the
Gotford, if he could, but also would he win the house boxing at his
weight.

After he had rested he discovered the use of the big ball beneath the
table. It was soft, but solid and heavy. By throwing this--the
medicine-ball, as they call it in the profession--at Joe Bevan, and
catching it, Sheen made himself very hot again, and did the muscles of
his shoulders a great deal of good.

"That'll do for today, then, sir." said Joe Bevan. "Have a good rub
down tonight, or you'll find yourself very stiff in the morning."

"Well, do you think I shall be any good?" asked Sheen.

"You'll do fine, sir. But remember what Shakespeare says."

"About vaulting ambition?"

"No, sir, no. I meant what Hamlet says to the players. 'Nor do not saw
the air too much, with your hand, thus, but use all gently.' That's
what you've got to remember in boxing, sir. Take it easy. Easy and cool
does it, and the straight left beats the world."

* * * * *

Sheen paddled quietly back to the town with the stream, pondering over
this advice. He felt that he had advanced another step. He was not
foolish enough to believe that he knew anything about boxing as yet,
but he felt that it would not be long before he did.

Content of CHAPTER IX - SHEEN BEGINS HIS EDUCATION (P G Wodehouse's novel: White Feather)

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