The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter 1, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 1

"But you see, father--"

"That was why me an' Natty Bell took you in hand--learned you all
we knowed o' the game--an' there aren't a fighting man in all
England as knows so much about the Noble Art as me an' Natty Bell."

"But father--"

"If you 'd only followed your nat'ral gifts, Barnabas, I say you
might ha' been Champion of England to-day, wi' Markisses an' Lords
an' Earls proud to shake your hand--if you'd only been ruled by
Natty Bell an' me, I'm disappointed in ye, Barnabas--an' so's Natty
Bell."

"I'm sorry, father--but as I told you--"

"Still Barnabas, what ain't to be, ain't--an' what is, is. Some is
born wi' a nat'ral love o' the 'Fancy' an' gift for the game, like
me an' Natty Bell--an' some wi' a love for reading out o' books an'
a-cyphering into books--like you: though a reader an' a writer
generally has a hard time on it an' dies poor--which, arter all, is
only nat'ral--an' there y' are!"

Here John Barty paused to take up the tankard of ale at his elbow,
and pursed up his lips to blow off the foam, but in that moment,
observing his son about to speak, he immediately set down the ale
untasted and continued: "Not as I quarrels wi' your reading and writing, Barnabas, no, and
because why? Because reading and writing is apt to be useful now an'
then, and because it were a promise--as I made--to--your mother.
When--your mother were alive, Barnabas, she used to keep all my
accounts for me. She likewise larned me to spell my own name wi' a
capital G for John, an' a capital B for Barty, an' when she died,
Barnabas (being a infant, you don't remember), but when she died, lad!
I was that lost--that broke an' helpless, that all the fight were
took out o' me, and it's a wonder I didn't throw up the sponge
altogether. Ah! an' it's likely I should ha' done but for Natty Bell."

"Yes, father--"

"No man ever 'ad a better friend than Natty Bell--Ah! yes, though I
did beat him out o' the Championship which come very nigh breaking
his heart at the time, Barnabas; but--as I says to him that day as
they carried him out of the ring--it was arter the ninety-seventh
round, d' ye see, Barnabas--'what is to be, is, Natty Bell,' I says,
'an' what ain't, ain't. It were ordained,' I says, 'as I should be
Champion o' England,' I says--'an' as you an' me should be
friends--now an' hereafter,' I says--an' right good friends we have
been, as you know, Barnabas."

"Indeed, yes, father," said Barnabas, with another vain attempt to
stem his father's volubility.

"But your mother, Barnabas, your mother, God rest her sweet
soul!--your mother weren't like me--no nor Natty Bell--she were
away up over me an' the likes o' me--a wonderful scholard she were,
an'--when she died, Barnabas--" here the ex-champion's voice grew
uncertain and his steady gaze wavered--sought the sanded floor--the
raftered ceiling--wandered down the wall and eventually fixed upon
the bell-mouthed blunderbuss that hung above the mantel, "when she
died," he continued, "she made me promise as you should be taught to
read an' cypher--an' taught I've had you according--for a promise is
a promise, Barnabas--an' there y' are."

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