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White Feather - Chapter VII - MR JOE BEVAN Post by :happynetsurf Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :569

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White Feather - Chapter VII - MR JOE BEVAN

CHAPTER VII - MR JOE BEVAN


Almost involuntarily he staggered up to receive another blow which sent
him down again.

"That'll do," said a voice.

Sheen got up, panting. Between him and his assailant stood a short,
sturdy man in a tweed suit. He was waving Albert back, and Albert
appeared to be dissatisfied. He was arguing hotly with the newcomer.

"Now, you go away," said that worthy, mildly, "just you go away."

Albert gave it as his opinion that the speaker would do well not to
come interfering in what didn't concern him. What he wanted, asserted
Albert, was a thick ear.

"Coming pushing yourself in," added Albert querulously.

"You go away," repeated the stranger. "You go away. I don't want to
have trouble with you."

Albert's reply was to hit out with his left hand in the direction of
the speaker's face. The stranger, without fuss, touched the back of
Albert's wrist gently with the palm of his right hand, and Albert,
turning round in a circle, ended the manoeuvre with his back towards
his opponent. He faced round again irresolutely. The thing had
surprised him.

"You go away," said the other, as if he were making the observation for
the first time.

"It's Joe Bevan," said one of Albert's friends, excitedly.

Albert's jaw fell. His freckled face paled.

"You go away," repeated the man in the tweed suit, whose conversation
seemed inclined to run in a groove.

This time Albert took the advice. His friends had already taken it.

"Thanks," said Sheen.

"Beware," said Mr Bevan oracularly, "of entrance to a quarrel; but,
being in, bear't that th' opposed may beware of thee. Always counter
back when you guard. When a man shows you his right like that, always
push out your hand straight. The straight left rules the boxing world.
Feeling better, sir?"

"Yes, thanks."

"He got that right in just on the spot. I was watching. When you see a
man coming to hit you with his right like that, don't you draw back.
Get on top of him. He can't hit you then."

That feeling of utter collapse, which is the immediate result of a blow
in the parts about the waistcoat, was beginning to pass away, and Sheen
now felt capable of taking an interest in sublunary matters once more.
His ear smarted horribly, and when he put up a hand and felt it the
pain was so great that he could barely refrain from uttering a cry.
But, however physically battered he might be, he was feeling happier
and more satisfied with himself than he had felt for years. He had been
beaten, but he had fought his best, and not given in. Some portion of
his self-respect came back to him as he reviewed the late encounter.

Mr Bevan regarded him approvingly.

"He was too heavy for you," he said. "He's a good twelve stone, I make
it. I should put you at ten stone--say ten stone three. Call it nine
stone twelve in condition. But you've got pluck, sir."

Sheen opened his eyes at this surprising statement.

"Some I've met would have laid down after getting that first hit, but
you got up again. That's the secret of fighting. Always keep going on.
Never give in. You know what Shakespeare says about the one who first
cries, 'Hold, enough!' Do you read Shakespeare, sir?"

"Yes," said Sheen.

"Ah, now _he knew his business," said Mr Bevan enthusiastically.
"_There was ring-craft, as you may say. _He wasn't a novice."

Sheen agreed that Shakespeare had written some good things in his time.

"That's what you want to remember. Always keep going on, as the saying
is. I was fighting Dick Roberts at the National--an American, he was,
from San Francisco. He come at me with his right stretched out, and I
think he's going to hit me with it, when blessed if his left don't come
out instead, and, my Golly! it nearly knocked a passage through me.
Just where that fellow hit you, sir, he hit me. It was just at the end
of the round, and I went back to my corner. Jim Blake was seconding me.
'What's this, Jim?' I says, 'is the man mad, or what?' 'Why,' he says,
'he's left-handed, that's what's the matter. Get on top of him.' 'Get
on top of him? I says. 'My Golly, I'll get on top of the roof if he's
going to hit me another of those.' But I kept on, and got close to him,
and he couldn't get in another of them, and he give in after the
seventh round."

"What competition was that?" asked Sheen.

Mr Bevan laughed. "It was a twenty-round contest, sir, for seven-fifty
aside and the Light Weight Championship of the World."

Sheen looked at him in astonishment. He had always imagined
professional pugilists to be bullet-headed and beetle-browed to a man.
He was not prepared for one of Mr Joe Bevan's description. For all the
marks of his profession that he bore on his face, in the shape of lumps
and scars, he might have been a curate. His face looked tough, and his
eyes harboured always a curiously alert, questioning expression, as if
he were perpetually "sizing up" the person he was addressing. But
otherwise he was like other men. He seemed also to have a pretty taste
in Literature. This, combined with his strong and capable air,
attracted Sheen. Usually he was shy and ill at ease with strangers. Joe
Bevan he felt he had known all his life.

"Do you still fight?" he asked.

"No," said Mr Bevan, "I gave it up. A man finds he's getting on, as the
saying is, and it don't do to keep at it too long. I teach and I train,
but I don't fight now."

A sudden idea flashed across Sheen's mind. He was still glowing with
that pride which those who are accustomed to work with their brains
feel when they have gone honestly through some labour of the hands. At
that moment he felt himself capable of fighting the world and beating
it. The small point, that Albert had knocked him out of time in less
than a minute, did not damp him at all. He had started on the right
road. He had done something. He had stood up to his man till he could
stand no longer. An unlimited vista of action stretched before him. He
had tasted the pleasure of the fight, and he wanted more.

Why, he thought, should he not avail himself of Joe Bevan's services to
help him put himself right in the eyes of the house? At the end of the
term, shortly before the Public Schools' Competitions at Aldershot,
inter-house boxing cups were competed for at Wrykyn. It would be a
dramatic act of reparation to the house if he could win the
Light-Weight cup for it. His imagination, jumping wide gaps, did not
admit the possibility of his not being good enough to win it. In the
scene which he conjured up in his mind he was an easy victor. After
all, there was the greater part of the term to learn in, and he would
have a Champion of the World to teach him.

Mr Bevan cut in on his reflections as if he had heard them by some
process of wireless telegraphy.

"Now, look here, sir," he said, "you should let me give you a few
lessons. You're plucky, but you don't know the game as yet. And
boxing's a thing every one ought to know. Supposition is, you're
crossing a field or going down a street with your sweetheart or your
wife--"

Sheen was neither engaged nor married, but he let the point pass.

--"And up comes one of these hooligans, as they call 'em. What are you
going to do if he starts his games? Why, nothing, if you can't box. You
may be plucky, but you can't beat him. And if you beat him, you'll get
half murdered yourself. What you want to do is to learn to box, and
then what happens? Why, as soon as he sees you shaping, he says to
himself, 'Hullo, this chap knows too much for me. I'm off,' and off he
runs. Or supposition is, he comes for you. You don't mind. Not you. You
give him one punch in the right place, and then you go off to your tea,
leaving him lying there. He won't get up."

"I'd like to learn," said Sheen. "I should be awfully obliged if you'd
teach me. I wonder if you could make me any good by the end of the
term. The House Competitions come off then."

"That all depends, sir. It comes easier to some than others. If you
know how to shoot your left out straight, that's as good as six months'
teaching. After that it's all ring-craft. The straight left beats the
world."

"Where shall I find you?"

"I'm training a young chap--eight stone seven, and he's got to get down
to eight stone four, for a bantam weight match--at an inn up the river
here. I daresay you know it, sir. Or any one would tell you where it
is. The 'Blue Boar,' it's called. You come there any time you like to
name, sir, and you'll find me."

"I should like to come every day," said Sheen. "Would that be too
often?"

"Oftener the better, sir. You can't practise too much."

"Then I'll start next week. Thanks very much. By the way, I shall have
to go by boat, I suppose. It isn't far, is it? I've not been up the
river for some time, The School generally goes down stream."

"It's not what you'd call far," said Bevan. "But it would be easier for
you to come by road."

"I haven't a bicycle."

"Wouldn't one of your friends lend you one?"

Sheen flushed.

"No, I'd better come by boat, I think. I'll turn up on Tuesday at about
five. Will that suit you?"

"Yes, sir. That will be a good time. Then I'll say good bye, sir, for
the present."

Sheen went back to his house in a different mood from the one in which
he had left it. He did not care now when the other Seymourites looked
through him.

In the passage he met Linton, and grinned pleasantly at him.

"What the dickens was that man grinning at?" said Linton to himself. "I
must have a smut or something on my face."

But a close inspection in the dormitory looking-glass revealed no
blemish on his handsome features.

Content of CHAPTER VII - MR JOE BEVAN (P G Wodehouse's novel: White Feather)

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