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entering into, Chip's house, the most dreadful tortures were practised upon himn: as I can answer in my own case.
Fancy, then, our astonishment at seeing a little threefoot wretch, of the name of Wills, one of Hawkins's fags (they were both in Potky's), walk undismayed amongst us lions at Chip's house, as the "rich and rare " young lady did in Ireland. We were going to set upon him and devour or otherwise maltreat him, when he cried out in a little shrill, impertinent voice, “ Tell Berry I want him!”
We all roared with laughter. Berry was in the sixth form, and Wills or any under-boy would as soon have thought of “wanting” him, as I should of wanting the Duke of Wellington.
Little Wills looked round in an imperious kind of way. “Well,” says he, stamping his foot, “ hear? Tell Berry that HAWKINS wants him!”
As for resisting the law of Hawkins, you might as soon think of resisting immortal Jove. Berry and Tolmash, who was to be his bottle-holder, made their appearance immediately, and walked out into the green where Hawkins was waiting, and, with an irresistible audacity that only belonged to himself, in the face of nature and all the regulations of the place, was smoking a cigar. When Berry and Tolmash found him, the three began slowly pacing up and down in the sunshine, and we little boys watched them.
Hawkins moved his arms and hands every now and then, and was evidently laying down the law about boxing. We saw his fists darting out every now and then with mysterious swiftness, hitting one, two, quick as thought, as if in the face of an adversary; now his left hand went up, as if guarding his own head, now his immense right fist dreadfully flapped the air, as if punishing his imaginary opponent's miserable ribs. The conversation lasted for some ten minutes, about which time gown-boys' dinner was over, and we saw these youths in their black, horned-button jackets and kneebreeches, issuing from their door in the cloisters. There were no hoops, no cricket-bats, as usual on a half-holiday. Who would have thought of play in expectation of such tremendous sport as was in store for us?
Towering among the gown-boys, of whom he was the head and the tyrant, leaning upon Bushby's arm, and followed at a little distance by many curious, pale, awestricken boys, dressed in his black silk stockings, which he always sported, and with a crimson bandanna tied round his waist, came Biggs. His nose was swollen with the blow given before school, but his eyes flashed fire. He was laughing and sneering with Bushby, and evidently intended to make minced meat of Berry.
The betting began pretty freely: the bets were against poor Berry. Five to three were offered - in gingerbeer. I took six to four in raspberry open tarts. The upper boys carried the thing farther still: and I know for a fact, that Swang's book amounted to four pound three (but he hedged a good deal), and Tittery lost seventeen shillings in a single bet to Pitts, who took the odds.
As Biggs and his party arrived, I heard Hawkins say to Berry, “For heaven's sake, my boy, fib with your right, and mind his left hand!”
Middle Briars was voted to be too confined a space for the combat, and it was agreed that it should take place behind the underschool in the shade, whither we all went. Hawkins, with his immense silver huntingwatch, kept the time; and water was brought from the pump close to Notley's the pastrycook's, who did not admire fisticuffs at all on half-holidays, for the fights kept the boys (away from his shop. Gutley was the only fellow in the school who remained faithful to him, and he sat on the counter --- the great gormandising brute !-- eating tarts the whole day.
This famous fight, as every Slaughter House man knows, lasted for two hours and twenty-nine minutes, by Hawkins's immense watch. All this time the air resounded with cries of “Go it, Berry!” “Go it, Biggs! “ Pitch into him!” “ Give it him!” and so on. Shall I describe the hundred and two rounds of the combat?
No! - It would occupy too much space, and the taste for such descriptions has passed away.
Ist round. Both the combatants fresh, and in prime order. The weight and inches somewhat on the gownboy's side. Berry goes gallantly in, and delivers a clinker on the gown-boy's jaw. Biggs makes play with his left. Berry down.
4th round. Claret drawn in profusion from the gownboy's grog-shop. (He went down, and had his front tooth knocked out, but the blow cut Berry's knuckles a great deal.)
15th round. Chancery. Fibbing. Biggs makes dreadful work with his left. Break away. Rally. Biggs down. Betting still six to four on the gownboy.
20th round. The men both dreadfully punished. Berry somewhat shy of his adversary's left hand.
1 As it is very probable that many fair readers may not approve of the extremely forcible language in which the combat is depicted, I beg them to skip it and pass on to the next chapter, and to remember that it has been modelled on the style of the very best writers of the sporting papers.
29th to 42nd round. The Chipsite all this while breaks away from the gown-boy's left, and goes down on a knee. Six to four on the gown-boy, until the fortieth round, when the bets became equal.
102nd and last round. For half-an-hour the men had stood up to each other, but were almost too weary to strike. The gown-boy's face hardly to be recognised, swollen and streaming with blood. The Chipsite in a similar condition, and still more punished about his side from his enemy's left hand. Berry gives a blow at his adversary's face, and falls over him as he falls.
The gown-boy can't come up to time. And thus ended the great fight of Berry and Biggs.
And what, pray, has this horrid description of a battle and a parcel of school-boys to do with Men's Wives?
What has it to do with Men's Wives? - A great deal more, madam, than you think for. Only read Chapter II, and you shall hear.
THE COMBAT AT VERSAILLES
AFTERWARDS came to be Berry's fag, and, though beaten by him daily, he allowed, of course,
no one else to lay a hand upon me, and I got no more thrashing than was good for me. Thus an intimacy grew up between us, and after he left Slaughter House and went into the dragoons, the honest fellow did not forget his old friend, but actually made his appearance one day in the playground in moustaches and a braided coat, and gave me a gold pencil-case and a couple of sovereigns. I blushed when I took them, but take them I did; and I think the thing I almost best recollect in my life, is the sight of Berry getting behind an immense bay cab-horse, which was held by a correct little groom, and was waiting near the school in Slaughter House Square. He proposed, too, to have me to “Long's," where he was lodging for the time; but this invitation was refused on my behalf by Dr. Buckle, who said, and possibly with correctness, that I should get little good by spending my holiday with such a scapegrace.
Once afterwards he came to see me at Christ Church, and we made a show of writing to one another, and did n't, and always had a hearty mutual goodwill; and though we did not quite burst into tears on parting, were yet quite happy when occasion threw us together, and so almost lost sight of each other. I heard lately that Berry was married, and am rather ashamed to say, that I was not so curious as even to ask the maiden name of his lady.