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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhite Feather - Chapter XIX - PAVING THE WAY
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White Feather - Chapter XIX - PAVING THE WAY Post by :Donwhale Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1533

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White Feather - Chapter XIX - PAVING THE WAY

CHAPTER XIX - PAVING THE WAY


Bruce had been perfectly correct in his suspicions. Stanning's wrist
was no more sprained than his ankle. The advisability of manufacturing
an injury had come home to him very vividly on the Saturday morning
following the Ripton match, when he had read the brief report of that
painful episode in that week's number of the _Field in the school
library. In the list of the Ripton team appeared the name R. Peteiro.
He had heard a great deal about the dusky Riptonian when Drummond had
beaten him in the Feather-Weights the year before. Drummond had
returned from Aldershot on that occasion cheerful, but in an extremely
battered condition. His appearance as he limped about the field on
Sports Day had been heroic, and, in addition, a fine advertisement for
the punishing powers of the Ripton champion. It is true that at least
one of his injuries had been the work of a Pauline whom he had met in
the opening bout; but the great majority were presents from Ripton, and
Drummond had described the dusky one, in no uncertain terms, as a holy
terror.

These things had sunk into Stanning's mind. It had been generally
understood at Wrykyn that Peteiro had left school at Christmas. When
Stanning, through his study of the _Field_, discovered that the
redoubtable boxer had been one of the team against which he had played
at Ripton, and realised that, owing to Drummond's illness, it would
fall to him, if he won the House Competition, to meet this man of wrath
at Aldershot, he resolved on the instant that the most persuasive of
wild horses should not draw him to that military centre on the day of
the Public Schools Competition. The difficulty was that he particularly
wished to win the House Cup. Then it occurred to him that he could
combine the two things--win the competition and get injured while doing
so.

Accordingly, two days after the House Boxing he was observed to issue
from Appleby's with his left arm slung in a first fifteen scarf. He was
too astute to injure his right wrist. What happens to one's left wrist
at school is one's own private business. When one injures one's right
arm, and so incapacitates oneself for form work, the authorities begin
to make awkward investigations.

Mr Spence, who looked after the school's efforts to win medals at
Aldershot, was the most disappointed person in the place. He was an
enthusiastic boxer--he had represented Cambridge in the Middle-Weights
in his day--and with no small trouble had succeeded in making boxing a
going concern at Wrykyn. Years of failure had ended, the Easter before,
in a huge triumph, when O'Hara, of Dexter's and Drummond had won silver
medals, and Moriarty, of Dexter's, a bronze. If only somebody could win
a medal this year, the tradition would be established, and would not
soon die out. Unfortunately, there was not a great deal of boxing
talent in the school just now. The rule that the winner at his weight
in the House Competitions should represent the school at Aldershot only
applied if the winner were fairly proficient. Mr Spence exercised his
discretion. It was no use sending down novices to be massacred. This
year Drummond and Stanning were the only Wrykinians up to Aldershot
form. Drummond would have been almost a certainty for a silver medal,
and Stanning would probably have been a runner-up. And here they were,
both injured; Wrykyn would not have a single representative at the
Queen's Avenue Gymnasium. It would be a set-back to the cult of boxing
at the school.

Mr Spence was pondering over this unfortunate state of things when
Sheen was shown in.

"Can I speak to you for a minute, sir?" said Sheen.

"Certainly, Sheen. Take one of those cig--I mean, sit down. What is
it?"

Sheen had decided how to open the interview before knocking at the
door. He came to the point at once.

"Do you think I could go down to Aldershot, sir?" he asked.

Mr Spence looked surprised.

"Go down? You mean--? Do you want to watch the competition? Really, I
don't know if the headmaster--"

"I mean, can I box?"

Mr Spence's look of surprise became more marked.

"Box?" he said. "But surely--I didn't know you were a boxer, Sheen."

"I've only taken it up lately."

"But you didn't enter for the House Competitions, did you? What weight
are you?"

"Just under ten stone."

"A light-weight. Why, Linton boxed for your house in the Light-Weights
surely?"

"Yes sir. They wouldn't let me go in."

"You hurt yourself?"

"No, sir."

"Then why wouldn't they let you go in?"

"Drummond thought Linton was better. He didn't know I boxed."

"But--this is very curious. I don't understand it at all. You see, if
you were not up to House form, you would hardly--At Aldershot, you see,
you would meet the best boxers of all the public schools."

"Yes, sir."

There was a pause.

"It was like this, sir," said Sheen nervously. "At the beginning of the
term there was a bit of a row down in the town, and I got mixed up in
it. And I didn't--I was afraid to join in. I funked it."

Mr Spence nodded. He was deeply interested now. The office of confessor
is always interesting.

"Go on, Sheen. What happened then?"

"I was cut by everybody. The fellows thought I had let the house down,
and it got about, and the other houses scored off them, so I had rather
a rotten time."

Here it occurred to him that he was telling his story without that
attention to polite phraseology which a master expects from a boy, so
he amended the last sentence.

"I didn't have a very pleasant time, sir," was his correction.

"Well?" said Mr Spence.

"So I was a bit sick," continued Sheen, relapsing once more into the
vernacular, "and I wanted to do something to put things right again,
and I met--anyhow, I took up boxing. I wanted to box for the house, if
I was good enough. I practised every day, and stuck to it, and after a
bit I did become pretty good."

"Well?"

"Then Drummond got mumps, and I wrote to him asking if I might
represent the house instead of him, and I suppose he didn't believe I
was any good. At any rate, he wouldn't let me go in. Then Joe--a man
who knows something about boxing--suggested I should go down to
Aldershot."

"Joe?" said Mr Spence inquiringly.

Sheen had let the name slip out unintentionally, but it was too late
now to recall it.

"Joe Bevan, sir," he said. "He used to be champion of England,
light-weight."

"Joe Bevan!" cried Mr Spence. "Really? Why, he trained me when I boxed
for Cambridge. He's one of the best of fellows. I've never seen any one
who took such trouble with his man. I wish we could get him here. So it
was Joe who suggested that you should go down to Aldershot? Well, he
ought to know. Did he say you would have a good chance?"

"Yes, sir."

"My position is this, you see, Sheen. There is nothing I should like
more than to see the school represented at Aldershot. But I cannot let
anyone go down, irrespective of his abilities. Aldershot is not child's
play. And in the Light-Weights you get the hardest fighting of all. It
wouldn't do for me to let you go down if you are not up to the proper
form. You would be half killed."

"I should like to have a shot, sir," said Sheen.

"Then this year, as you probably know, Ripton are sending down Peteiro
for the Light-Weights. He was the fellow whom Drummond only just beat
last year. And you saw the state in which Drummond came back. If
Drummond could hardly hold him, what would you do?"

"I believe I could beat Drummond, sir," said Sheen.

Mr Spence's eyes opened wider. Here were brave words. This youth
evidently meant business. The thing puzzled him. On the one hand, Sheen
had been cut by his house for cowardice. On the other, Joe Bevan, who
of all men was best able to judge, had told him that he was good enough
to box at Aldershot.

"Let me think it over, Sheen," he said. "This is a matter which I
cannot decide in a moment. I will tell you tomorrow what I think about
it."

"I hope you will let me go down, sir," said Sheen. "It's my one
chance."

"Yes, yes, I see that, I see that," said Mr Spence, "but all the
same--well, I will think it over."

All the rest of that evening he pondered over the matter, deeply
perplexed. It would be nothing less than cruel to let Sheen enter the
ring at Aldershot if he were incompetent. Boxing in the Public Schools
Boxing Competition is not a pastime for the incompetent. But he wished
very much that Wrykyn should be represented, and also he sympathised
with Sheen's eagerness to wipe out the stain on his honour, and the
honour of the house. But, like Drummond, he could not help harbouring a
suspicion that this was a pose. He felt that Sheen was intoxicated by
his imagination. Every one likes to picture himself doing dashing
things in the limelight, with an appreciative multitude to applaud.
Would this mood stand the test of action?

Against this there was the evidence of Joe Bevan. Joe had said that
Sheen was worthy to fight for his school, and Joe knew.

Mr Spence went to bed still in a state of doubt.

Next morning he hit upon a solution of the difficulty. Wandering in the
grounds before school, he came upon O'Hara, who, as has been stated
before, had won the Light-Weights at Aldershot in the previous year. He
had come to Wrykyn for the Sports. Here was the man to help him. O'Hara
should put on the gloves with Sheen and report.

"I'm in rather a difficulty, O'Hara," he said, "and you can help me."

"What's that?" inquired O'Hara.

"You know both our light-weights are on the sick list? I had just
resigned myself to going down to Aldershot without any one to box, when
a boy in Seymour's volunteered for the vacant place. I don't know if
you knew him at school? Sheen. Do you remember him?"

"Sheen?" cried O'Hara in amazement. "Not _Sheen_!"...

His recollections of Sheen were not conducive to a picture of him as a
public-school boxer.

"Yes. I had never heard of him as a boxer. Still, he seems very anxious
to go down, and he certainly has one remarkable testimonial, and as
there's no one else--"

"And what shall I do?" asked O'Hara.

"I want you, if you will, to give him a trial in the dinner-hour. Just
see if he's any good at all. If he isn't, of course, don't hit him
about a great deal. But if he shows signs of being a useful man, extend
him. See what he can do."

"Very well, sir," said O'Hara.

"And you might look in at my house at tea-time, if you have nothing
better to do, and tell me what you think of him."

At five o'clock, when he entered Mr Spence's study, O'Hara's face wore
the awe-struck look of one who had seen visions.

"Well?" said Mr Spence. "Did you find him any good?"

"Good?" said O'Hara. "He'll beat them all. He's a champion. There's
no stopping him."

"What an extraordinary thing!" said Mr Spence.

Content of CHAPTER XIX - PAVING THE WAY (P G Wodehouse's novel: White Feather)

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