Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/77

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49
SCHOOL DAYS IN ENGLAND.

Vernon was lighter and smaller; but quicker; still I used to think that Raleigh did not put out his full strength against him.

One of the first evenings when Vernon was complaining that Raleigh hadn't come in or sent, my father said: "Why not try, Joe?" (my nickname!) In a jiffy I had the gloves on and got my first lesson from Vernon who taught me at least how to hit straight and then how to guard and side-step. I was very quick and strong for my size; but for some time Vernon hit me very lightly. Soon, however, it became difficult for him to hit me at all and then I sometimes got a heavy blow that floored me. But with constant practice I improved rapidly and after a fortnight or so put on the gloves once with Raleigh. His blows were very much heavier and staggered me even to guard them, so I got accustomed to duck or side-step or slip every blow aimed at me while hitting back with all my strength. One evening when Vernon and Raleigh both had been praising me, I told them of Jones and how he bullied me; he had really made my life a misery to me: he never met me outside the school without striking or kicking me and his favorite name for me was "bog-trotter!" His attitude, too, affected the whole school: I had grown to hate him as much as I feared him.

They both thought I could beat him; but I described him as very strong and finally Raleigh decided to send for two pairs of four ounce gloves or fighting gloves and use these with me to give me confidence. In the first half-hour with the new gloves Vernon did not hit me once and I had to acknowledge that he was stronger and quicker even than Jones. At the end of the holidays they both made me promise to slap Jones's face the very first time I saw Mm in the school.