Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/78

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MY LIFE AND LOVES.

On returning to school we always met in the big schoolroom. When I entered the room there was silence. I was dreadfully excited and frightened, I don't know why; but fully resolved: "he can't kill me", I said to myself a thousand times; still I was in a trembling funk inwardly though composed enough in outward seeming. Jones and two others of the Sixth stood in front of the empty fire-place: I went up to them: Jones nodded, "How d'ye do, Pat!"

"Fairly", I said, "but why do you take all the room?" and I jostled him aside: he immediately pushed me hard and I slapped his face as I had promised. The elder boys held him back or the fight would have taken place then and there: "will you fight?" he barked at me and I replied, "as much as you like, bully!" It was arranged that the fight should take place on the next afternoon, which happened to be a Wednesday and half-holiday. From three to six would give us time enough. That evening Stackpole asked me to his room and told me he would get the Doctor to stop the fight if I wished; I assured him it had to be and I preferred to have it settled.

"I'm afraid he's too old and strong for you", said Stackpole: I only smiled.

Next day the ring was made at the top of the playing field behind the haystack so that we could not be seen from the school. All the Sixth and nearly all the school stood behind Jones; but Stackpole, while ostensibly strolling about, was always close to me. I felt very grateful to him: I don't know why; but his presence took away from my loneliness. At first the fight was almost like a boxing-match. Jones shot out his left hand, my head slipped it and I countered with my right in his face: a moment later he rushed me but I ducked and side-stepped and hit him hard