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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Fight between Tom Brown and Williams
By Thomas Hughes (1822–1896)
 
From ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’

TOM felt he had got his work cut out for him, as he stripped off his jacket, waistcoat, and braces. East tied his handkerchief round his waist, and rolled up his shirt-sleeves for him.  1
  “Now, old boy, don’t you open your mouth to say a word, or try to help yourself a bit,—we’ll do all that: you keep all your breath and strength for the Slogger.”  2
  Martin meanwhile folded the clothes, and put them under the chapel rails; and now Tom, with East to handle him and Martin to give him a knee, steps out on the turf and is ready for all that may come; and here is the Slogger too, all stripped, and thirsting for the fray.  3
  It doesn’t look a fair match at first glance. Williams is nearly two inches taller and probably a long year older than his opponent, and he is very strongly made about the arms and shoulders; “peels well,” as the little knot of big fifth-form boys, the amateurs, say,—who stand outside the ring of little boys, looking complacently on but taking no active part in the proceedings. But down below he is not so good by any means: no spring from the loins, and feeblish, not to say shipwrecky, about the knees. Tom, on the contrary, though not half so strong in the arms, is good all over; straight, hard, and springy from neck to ankle, better perhaps in his legs than anywhere. Besides, you can see by the clear white of his eye and fresh bright look of his skin that he is in tiptop training, able to do all he knows; while the Slogger looks rather sodden, as if he didn’t take much exercise and eat too much tuck. The time-keeper is chosen, a large ring made, and the two stand up opposite each other for a moment, giving us time just to make our little observations.  4
  “If Tom’ll only condescend to fight with his head and heels,” as East mutters to Martin, “we shall do.”  5
  But seemingly he won’t, for there he goes in, making play with both hands. Hard all, is the word: the two stand to each other like men; rally follows rally in quick succession, each fighting as if he thought to finish the whole thing out of hand.  6
  “Can’t last at this rate,” say the knowing ones, while the partisans of each make the air ring with their shouts and counter-shouts of encouragement, approval, and defiance.  7
  “Take it easy, take it easy—keep away, let him come after you,” implores East, as he wipes Tom’s face after the first round, with wet sponge; while he sits back on Martin’s knee, supported by the Madman’s long arms, which tremble a little from excitement.  8
  “Time’s up!” calls the time-keeper.  9
  “There he goes again, hang it all!” growls East, as his man is at it again as hard as ever.  10
  A very severe round follows, in which Tom gets out-and-out the worst of it, and is at last hit clean off his legs and deposited on the grass by a right-hander from the Slogger.  11
  Loud shouts rise from the boys of Slogger’s house, and the schoolhouse are silent and vicious, ready to pick quarrels anywhere.  12
  “Two to one in half-crowns on the big ’un,” says Rattle, one of the amateurs, a tall fellow, in thunder-and-lightning waistcoat, and puffy, good-natured face.  13
  “Done!” says Groove, another amateur of quieter look, taking out his note-book to enter it—for our friend Rattle sometimes forgets these little things.  14
  Meantime East is freshening up Tom with the sponges for next round, and has set two other boys to rub his hands.  15
  “Tom, old boy,” whispers he, “this may be fun for you, but it’s death to me. He’ll hit all the fight out of you in another five minutes, and then I shall go and drown myself in the island ditch. Feint him—use your legs!—draw him about! he’ll lose his wind then in no time, and you can go into him. Hit at his body, too; we’ll take care of his frontispiece by-and-by.”  16
  Tom felt the wisdom of the counsel, and saw already that he couldn’t go in and finish the Slogger off at mere hammer-and-tongs, so changed his tactics completely in the third round. He now fights cautious, getting away from and parrying the Slogger’s lunging hits, instead of trying to counter, and leading his enemy a dance all round the ring after him.  17
  “He’s funking: go in, Williams!” “Catch him up!” “Finish him off!” scream the small boys of the Slogger party.  18
  “Just what we want,” thinks East, chuckling to himself, as he sees Williams, excited by these shouts, and thinking the game in his own hands, blowing himself in his exertions to get to close quarters again, while Tom is keeping away with perfect ease.  19
  They quarter over the ground again and again, Tom always on the defensive.  20
  The Slogger pulls up at last for a moment, fairly blown.  21
  “Now then, Tom,” sings out East, dancing with delight.  22
  Tom goes in in a twinkling, and hits two heavy body blows, and gets away again before the Slogger can catch his wind; which when he does he rushes with blind fury at Tom, and being skillfully parried and avoided, overreaches himself and falls on his face, amid terrific cheers from the schoolhouse boys.  23
  “Double your two to one?” says Groove to Rattle, note-book in hand.  24
  “Stop a bit,” says that hero, looking uncomfortably at Williams, who is puffing away on his second’s knee, winded enough, but little the worse in any other way.  25
  After another round the Slogger too seems to see that he can’t go in and win right off, and has met his match or thereabouts. So he too begins to use his head, and tries to make Tom lose patience and come in before his time. And so the fight sways on, now one and now the other getting a trifling pull.  26
  It is grim earnest now, and no mistake. Both boys feel this, and summon every power of head, hand, and eye to their aid. A piece of luck on either side, a foot slipping, a blow getting well home, or another fall, may decide it. Tom works slowly round for an opening; he has all the legs, and can choose his own time: the Slogger waits for the attack, and hopes to finish it by some heavy right-handed blow. As they quarter slowly over the ground, the evening sun comes out from behind a cloud and falls full on Williams’s face. Tom darts in; the heavy right hand is delivered, but only grazes his head. A short rally at close quarters, and they close; in another moment the Slogger is thrown again heavily for the third time.  27
  “I’ll give you three to two on the little one in half-crowns,” said Groove to Rattle.  28
  “No, thank ’ee,” answers the other, diving his hands further into his coat-tails.  29
  Just at this stage of the proceedings the door of the turret which leads to the doctor’s library suddenly opens, and he steps into the close and makes straight for the ring, in which Brown and the Slogger are both seated on their seconds’ knees for the last time.  30
  “The doctor! the doctor!” shouts some small boy who catches sight of him; and the ring melts away in a few seconds, the small boys tearing off, Tom collaring his jacket and waistcoat and slipping through the little gate by the chapel, and round the corner to Harrowell’s with his backers, as lively as need be; Williams and his backers making off not quite so fast across the close; Groove, Rattle, and the other bigger fellows trying to combine dignity and prudence in a comical manner, and walking off fast enough, they hope, not to be recognized, and not fast enough to look like running away.  31
 
 
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