The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter 2, page 1 of 3)


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Chapter 2

A slender man was Natty Bell, yet bigger than he looked, and
prodigiously long in the reach, with a pair of very quick, bright
eyes, and a wide, good-humored mouth ever ready to curve into a smile.
But he was solemn enough now, and there was trouble in his eyes as
he looked from John to Barnabas, who sat between them, his chair
drawn up to the hearth, gazing down into the empty fireplace.

"An' you tell me, John," said he, as soon as his pipe was well
alight,--"you tell me that our Barnabas has took it into his head
to set up as a gentleman, do you?"

"Ah!" nodded John. Whereupon Natty Bell crossed his legs and leaning
back in his chair fell a-singing to himself in his sweet voice, as
was his custom when at all inclined to deep thought:

"A true Briton from Bristol, a rum one to fib,
He's Champion of England, his name is Tom Cribb;"

"Ah! and you likewise tell me as our Barnabas has come into a fortun'."

"Seven--'undred--thousand--pound."

"Hum!" said Natty Bell,--"quite a tidy sum, John."

"Come list, all ye fighting gills
And coves of boxing note, sirs,
While I relate some bloody mills
In our time have been fought, sirs."

"Yes, a good deal can be done wi' such a sum as that, John."

"But it can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, Natty Bell,--nor
yet a gentlemen out o' you or me--or Barnabas here."

"For instance," continued Natty Bell, "for instance, John: "Since boxing is a manly game,
And Britain's recreation,
By boxing we will raise our fame
'Bove every other nation."

"As I say, John, a young and promising life can be wrecked, and
utterly blasted by a much less sum than seven hundred thousand pound."

"Ah!" nodded John, "but a sow's ear aren't a silk purse, Natty Bell,
no, nor never can be."

"True, John; but, arter all, a silk purse ain't much good if 't is
empty--it's the gold inside of it as counts."

"But a silk purse is ever and always a silk purse--empty or no,
Natty Bell."

"An' a man is always a man, John, which a gentleman often ain't."

"But surely," said Barnabas, speaking for the first time,
"a gentleman is both."

"No--not nohow, my lad!" exclaimed John, beginning to rasp at his
chin again. "A man is ever and allus a man--like me and you, an'
Natty Bell, an' a gentleman's a gentleman like--Sir George
Annersley--up at the great house yonder."

"But--" began Barnabas.

"Now, Barnabas"--remonstrated his father, rasping his chin harder
than ever--"wherefore argufy--if you do go for to argufy--"

"We come back to the silk purses and the sows' ears," added Natty Bell.

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