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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XIX - Colinís First School Fight

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 hostilities.

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: ó"If the miserable bully who started this fighting will step into this ring, Iíll teach him something that heíll remember!"

A wild whoop of approval greeted this bold challenge, and a dozen juvenile voices exclaimed : ó

"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 champion.

"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 agility 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 imprisoned head.

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 cordial terms.

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 Christian advice.

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.

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