The Gold Bat by P.G. Wodehouse
XXIII. What Renford Saw.
The health of Master Harvey of Seymour's was so delicately constituted that it was an absolute necessity that he should consume one or more hot buns during the quarter of an hour's interval which split up morning school. He was tearing across the junior gravel towards the shop on the morning following Trevor's sparring practice with O'Hara, when a melodious treble voice called his name. It was Renford. He stopped, to allow his friend to come up with him, and then made as if to resume his way to the shop. But Renford proposed an amendment. "Don't go to the shop," he said, "I want to talk."
"Well, can't you talk in the shop?"
"Not what I want to tell you. It's private. Come for a stroll."
Harvey hesitated. There were few things he enjoyed so much as exclusive items of school gossip (scandal preferably), but hot new buns were among those few things. However, he decided on this occasion to feed the mind at the expense of the body. He accepted Renford's invitation.
"What is it?" he asked, as they made for the football field. "What's been happening?"
"It's frightfully exciting," said Renford.
"You mustn't tell any one."
"All right. Of course not."
"Well, then, there's been a big fight, and I'm one of the only chaps who know about it so far."
"A fight?" Harvey became excited. "Who between?"
Renford paused before delivering his news, to emphasise the importance of it.
"It was between O'Hara and Rand-Brown," he said at length.
"By Jove!" said Harvey. Then a suspicion crept into his mind.
"Look here, Renford," he said, "if you're trying to green me--"
"I'm not, you ass," replied Renford indignantly. "It's perfectly true. I saw it myself."
"By Jove, did you really? Where was it? When did it come off? Was it a good one? Who won?"
"It was the best one I've ever seen."
"Did O'Hara beat him? I hope he did. O'Hara's a jolly good sort."
"Yes. They had six rounds. Rand-Brown got knocked out in the middle of the sixth."
"What, do you mean really knocked out, or did he just chuck it?"
"No. He was really knocked out. He was on the floor for quite a time. By Jove, you should have seen it. O'Hara was ripping in the sixth round. He was all over him."
"Tell us about it," said Harvey, and Renford told.
"I'd got up early," he said, "to feed the ferrets, and I was just cutting over to the fives-courts with their grub, when, just as I got across the senior gravel, I saw O'Hara and Moriarty standing waiting near the second court. O'Hara knows all about the ferrets, so I didn't try and cut or anything. I went up and began talking to him. I noticed he didn't look particularly keen on seeing me at first. I asked him if he was going to play fives. Then he said no, and told me what he'd really come for. He said he and Rand-Brown had had a row, and they'd agreed to have it out that morning in one of the fives-courts. Of course, when I heard that, I was all on to see it, so I said I'd wait, if he didn't mind. He said he didn't care, so long as I didn't tell everybody, so I said I wouldn't tell anybody except you, so he said all right, then, I could stop if I wanted to. So that was how I saw it. Well, after we'd been waiting a few minutes, Rand-Brown came in sight, with that beast Merrett in our house, who'd come to second him. It was just like one of those duels you read about, you know. Then O'Hara said that as I was the only one there with a watch--he and Rand-Brown were in footer clothes, and Merrett and Moriarty hadn't got their tickers on them--I'd better act as timekeeper. So I said all right, I would, and we went to the second fives-court. It's the biggest of them, you know. I stood outside on the bench, looking through the wire netting over the door, so as not to be in the way when they started scrapping. O'Hara and Rand-Brown took off their blazers and sweaters, and chucked them to Moriarty and Merrett, and then Moriarty and Merrett went and stood in two corners, and O'Hara and Rand-Brown walked into the middle and stood up to one another. Rand-Brown was miles the heaviest--by a stone, I should think--and he was taller and had a longer reach. But O'Hara looked much fitter. Rand-Brown looked rather flabby.
"I sang out 'Time' through the wire netting, and they started off at once. O'Hara offered to shake hands, but Rand-Brown wouldn't. So they began without it.
"The first round was awfully fast. They kept having long rallies all over the place. O'Hara was a jolly sight quicker, and Rand-Brown didn't seem able to guard his hits at all. But he hit frightfully hard himself, great, heavy slogs, and O'Hara kept getting them in the face. At last he got one bang in the mouth which knocked him down flat. He was up again in a second, and was starting to rush, when I looked at the watch, and found that I'd given them nearly half a minute too much already. So I shouted 'Time', and made up my mind I'd keep more of an eye on the watch next round. I'd got so jolly excited, watching them, that I'd forgot I was supposed to be keeping time for them. They had only asked for a minute between the rounds, but as I'd given them half a minute too long in the first round, I chucked in a bit extra in the rest, so that they were both pretty fit by the time I started them again.
"The second round was just like the first, and so was the third. O'Hara kept getting the worst of it. He was knocked down three or four times more, and once, when he'd rushed Rand-Brown against one of the walls, he hit out and missed, and barked his knuckles jolly badly against the wall. That was in the middle of the third round, and Rand-Brown had it all his own way for the rest of the round--for about two minutes, that is to say. He hit O'Hara about all over the shop. I was so jolly keen on O'Hara's winning, that I had half a mind to call time early, so as to give him time to recover. But I thought it would be a low thing to do, so I gave them their full three minutes.
"Directly they began the fourth round, I noticed that things were going to change a bit. O'Hara had given up his rushing game, and was waiting for his man, and when he came at him he'd put in a hot counter, nearly always at the body. After a bit Rand-Brown began to get cautious, and wouldn't rush, so the fourth round was the quietest there had been. In the last minute they didn't hit each other at all. They simply sparred for openings. It was in the fifth round that O'Hara began to forge ahead. About half way through he got in a ripper, right in the wind, which almost doubled Rand-Brown up, and then he started rushing again. Rand-Brown looked awfully bad at the end of the round. Round six was ripping. I never saw two chaps go for each other so. It was one long rally. Then--how it happened I couldn't see, they were so quick--just as they had been at it a minute and a half, there was a crack, and the next thing I saw was Rand-Brown on the ground, looking beastly. He went down absolutely flat; his heels and head touched the ground at the same time.
"I counted ten out loud in the professional way like they do at the National Sporting Club, you know, and then said 'O'Hara wins'. I felt an awful swell. After about another half-minute, Rand-Brown was all right again, and he got up and went back to the house with Merrett, and O'Hara and Moriarty went off to Dexter's, and I gave the ferrets their grub, and cut back to breakfast."
"Rand-Brown wasn't at breakfast," said Harvey.
"No. He went to bed. I wonder what'll happen. Think there'll be a row about it?"
"Shouldn't think so," said Harvey. "They never do make rows about fights, and neither of them is a prefect, so I don't see what it matters if they do fight. But, I say--"
"I wish," said Harvey, his voice full of acute regret, "that it had been my turn to feed those ferrets."
"I don't," said Renford cheerfully. "I wouldn't have missed that mill for something. Hullo, there's the bell. We'd better run."
When Trevor called at Seymour's that afternoon to see Rand-Brown, with a view to challenging him to deadly combat, and found that O'Hara had been before him, he ought to have felt relieved. His actual feeling was one of acute annoyance. It seemed to him that O'Hara had exceeded the limits of friendship. It was all very well for him to take over the Rand-Brown contract, and settle it himself, in order to save Trevor from a very bad quarter of an hour, but Trevor was one of those people who object strongly to the interference of other people in their private business. He sought out O'Hara and complained. Within two minutes O'Hara's golden eloquence had soothed him and made him view the matter in quite a different light. What O'Hara pointed out was that it was not Trevor's affair at all, but his own. Who, he asked, had been likely to be damaged most by Rand-Brown's manoeuvres in connection with the lost bat? Trevor was bound to admit that O'Hara was that person. Very well, then, said O'Hara, then who had a better right to fight Rand-Brown? And Trevor confessed that no one else had a better.
"Then I suppose," he said, "that I shall have to do nothing about it?"
"That's it," said O'Hara.
"It'll be rather beastly meeting the man after this," said Trevor, presently. "Do you think he might possibly leave at the end of term?"
"He's leaving at the end of the week," said O'Hara. "He was one of the fellows Dexter caught in the vault that evening. You won't see much more of Rand-Brown."
"I'll try and put up with that," said Trevor.
"And so will I," replied O'Hara. "And I shouldn't think Milton would be so very grieved."
"No," said Trevor. "I tell you what will make him sick, though, and that is your having milled with Rand-Brown. It's a job he'd have liked to have taken on himself."