WHO that has ever attended a country
school cannot recall how hard an ordeal it is for the new scholar who
timidly enters upon the life. There are always to be found boys devoid of
the finer feelings of sympathy, who take a somewhat fiendish delight in
making the new boy win his spurs by fighting his way up. Such was the
practice at this period with the "new boy" at the Ninth Concession school.
Scarcely was the first recess announced than there was a rush for "the
battle-ground," for every school had its fighting place. A fight was
promptly arranged between the "new boy" and some other lad about the same
size. The chip was placed on the second boyís shoulder, and the "new boy"
was urged to knock it off. Picture his situation, with no kind monitor to
advise him, and thinking it had to be done. With desperate courage he
knocked the chip off. Then there was a scuffle, and the two children were
engaged in combat, while the young bullies who set them to fight stood by,
"egging them on," and thoroughly enjoying the "sport."
Whitey Robertsís boy, Dannie, had
always been the ringleader in promoting these infantile encounters. He it
was who usually selected the antagonist, put the chip on the shoulder, and
if the boys were backward about beginning the encounter, pushed them
together in such a way as to break the status quo and precipitate
The day on which Jamie, the
six-year-old son of the Widow McMannus, first went to school, Dannie had
him promptly matched against Bill Pepperís boy Tom at "the poplars," which
was the battle-ground for the school, and which was just below the
playground. Tom was a little older than Jamie, and much heavier. He was
punishing the latter rather severely when there was a shout and a rush,
and Colin, who had been hurriedly sent for from the playground by a friend
of Jamieís, stepped into the arena, and seizing the children, who were
locked in a deadly grip, set them apart.
Colin was furious. He had always been fond of little
Jamie, and to see the child covered with blood set him on fire. With a
face blazing with wrath he exclaimed:
"Now, Dannie, youíve got the stump!
You know it was you set Tom and Jamie fighting. Surely, you wonít be such
a big coward as not to fight Colin, seeing he has stumped you out!"
The boys were all pleased at the
challenge, and most of them were anxious to see the young bully punished.
But Dannie, while he was always ready and anxious to set others fighting,
was not so ready to do it himself. He was not a coward, but he was one of
those boys who delighted to make mischief without facing the consequences,
so he hesitated for a moment or two, as he surveyed Jamieís angry
"Come!" roared Colin, growing
angrier every moment, and aching to be at the instrument of Jamieís
torture. "If you donít peel off your coat and jump into this ring, Iíll
whip you in your tracks!"
Dannie realised that he had to face
the music, and that Colin would keep his word, so he reluctantly discarded
his coat and waistcoat, and stood before him in the ring.
Colin had also laid aside his coat
and waistcoat, and as the two strapping lads faced each other, the young
band of excited spectators held their breath, for they knew that they were
about to witness a struggle for blood.
Dannie was the heavier of the two,
and was considerably taller than Colin. His face was flushed deeply, and
he wore a dogged, heavy look, which indicated that he intended to do his
very best. What Colin lacked in weight he made up in
and alertness, and the only advantage that Dannie
seemed to have, was his longer reach and greater strength.
Colin, whose excitement seemed to
leave him as Dannie entered the ring which the boys had formed, was very
pale. It was said of old, and I think with truth, that a pale face
indicated that the blood had gone to the heart, where it does its most
effective work in sustaining the strength of the combatant during the
fray. Two of the larger boys arranged to show "fair play," and everything
being ready, the boys took up their positions, and the contest began.
Dannie, with his head down, made an
impetuous rush at Colin, but the latter jumped nimbly to one side and gave
his antagonist a stinging blow on the ear. This enraged Dannie, and vowing
vengeance on Colin, he again rushed at him wildly, striking right and
left. Colin tried to keep out of his way, but did not succeed as well as
the first time, and consequently received an ugly blow on the chin, which
caused the blood to trickle.
"First blood for Dannie!" shouted a
couple of his friends.
Nothing daunted, however, Colin
sparred coolly about his antagonist, waiting an opportunity to strike.
Elated with his success, Dannie was growing more confident and less wary.
Colin observed this, and making a feint for the chest with his left hand,
landed a stinging blow under Dannieís eye with his right.
The blow staggered Dannie for an
instant, and there went up a wild cheer from Colinís sympathisers: "Good
boy, Colin! Give him another and heís done!"
But Dannie was far from being
"done," and quickly recovering himself, he rushed at Colin again, and
seizing him in his arms tried to throw him. He had the better hold, but it
would have been all he could do to throw his agile antagonist, had not
Colinís foot caught in a root, and this caused him to fall with Dannie on
top of him. His head struck heavily on the hard ground, and the fall
partially stunned him.
In a moment, however, Colin was on
his feet again, and although dazed for a few seconds, he was not beaten.
"Do you give in?" said Dannie,
coming up to him and getting ready to strike him again.
"Give in!" answered Colin, with
contemptuous emphasis. "Not if I know it!" And he rushed menacingly at his
antagonist. A swinging blow caught Dannie beneath the ear. The boys got
into close quarters again, and for several minutes the contest waged was a
hot one. Sometimes Dannie appeared to have the best of it, but the next
moment Colin, looking pale, determined, and triumphant, struck out to
right and left, raining his well-directed blows upon Dannieís face.
It was evident to all that this pace
could not be kept up much longer, and that the fight must end soon. All
held their breath, realising that, as the boys were pretty evenly matched,
much depended on the fortunes of war.
Shakespeare has truly said that
"Thrice armed is he who hath his quarrel just," and Colin knew that his
cause was just. Spurred by this conviction, after the two lads had rested
a brief space, Colin waded in, remarking quietly, "Now, Dannie, I am going
to finish you this round." No knight of the sword whose contests have been
immortalised by the pen, ever fought with greater determination and was
sustained by more righteous sentiment than animated the boyís breast, as
he started in to "finish Dannie."
Dannie made a vicious pass at
Colinís face, but he fell short, and the undelivered blow swung his body
round. Quick as lightning, Colin went at him, and before Dannie knew what
had happened, Colin gave him two smashing blows in the face. These stunned
him, and, before he could recover, Colin swung his left arm around
Dannieís neck and had him instantly in chancery. Then the triumphant Colin
continued to belabour Dannie in the face.
"When youíve had enough, just say
so, and Iíll stop!" said Colin, keeping up the fusillade on Dannieís
Presently, "I give in! Youíve got me
licked!" came a voice from beneath Colinís arm. He released him, and the
fight was over.
"Three cheers for Colin!" shouted a
voice, and "the poplars" rang with cheers for the young champion.
"I guess Iíve put a stop to his
setting new boys to fighting," said Colin, coolly, as he resumed his coat
and waistcoat and started for the pump to wash his face, which bore
evidences of the struggle through which he had just passed.
And sure enough, Colin had put an
effectual stop to it, for during the period in which he remained at school
no one was ever known to set the small boys fighting. The two young
fighters bore each other no ill-will, however, and were ever afterwards on
When Colin returned to the widowís
that evening, Mrs. McNabb observed the marks of the struggle through which
he had passed, and asked him about it. He frankly told her the story.
While proud of the boy for his manly conduct in defending Jamie,
Mrs. McNabb, fearful lest approval
should help to cultivate a quarrelsome spirit in the lad, spent half an
hour by his bedside that night before he fell asleep giving him homely
The master of course had heard all
about the affair, for he boarded with Dannieís parents, and was, according
to common report, "sweet on Kearstie," Dannieís eldest sister, ó a great,
easy-going, sonsie lassie, accustomed to giggle upon the slightest
provocation, and possessing less than a reasonable amount of wit and
shrewdness. Simon would have taken prompt notice of the fight if he could
have punished Colin and let Dannie off, without creating trouble for
himself; but the neighbours had learned the facts, and sympathy with Colin
was general. So Simon ignored the matter, secretly resolving to get even
with Colin and humiliate him.