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"She hated me. She hates me still ... yes...." He waited. The doctor was embarrassed and came back to the object of the visit. "I should be ever so much more comfortable in my mind if you saw a specialist, Mr.—er—Jackson. You see how difficult it is for me to give an opinion? I may be wrong. I know nothing of your history, your medical history I mean. There are so many men in town who could give you a better and more valuable opinion than I. A country practitioner like myself is rather in a backwater. One has the usual cases that come to one in a small country town, maternity cases, commonplace ailments ... it is difficult to keep abreast of the extraordinary developments in medical science...." "Do you know anything about Machonicies College?" asked the colonel unexpectedly. "Yes, of course." The doctor was surprised. "It is one of the best of the technical schools. Many of our best doctors and chemists take a preparatory course there. Why?" "I merely asked. As to your specialists ... I hardly think I shall bother them." Dr. Merriget watched the tall figure striding down the red-tiled path between the banked flowers, and was still standing on the doorstep when the whine of his visitor's machine had gone beyond the limits of his hearing. "H'm," said Dr. Merriget as he returned to his study. He sat awhile thinking. "Mr. Jackson?" he said aloud. "I wonder why the colonel calls himself 'Mr. Jackson'?"
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Colonel Chartres Dane lingered irresolutely in the broad and pleasant lobby. Other patients had lingered awhile in that agreeable vestibule. In wintry days it was a cozy place; its polished panelled walls reflecting the gleam of logs that burnt in the open fireplace. There was a shining oak settle that invited gossip, and old prints, and blue china bowls frothing over with the flowers of a belated autumn or advanced spring-tide, to charm the eye.
In summer it was cool and dark and restful. The mellow tick of the ancient clock, the fragrance of roses, the soft breeze that came through an open casement stirring the lilac curtains uneasily, these corollaries of peace and order had soothed many an unquiet mind.
Colonel Chartres Dane fingered a button of his light dust-coat and his thin patrician face was set in thought. He was a spare man of fifty-five; a man of tired eyes and nervous gesture.
Dr. Merriget peered at him through his powerful spectacles and wondered.
It was an awkward moment, for the doctor had murmured his sincere, if [Pg 4]conventional, regrets and encouragements, and there was nothing left but to close the door on his patient.
"You have had a bad wound there, Mr. Jackson," he said, by way of changing a very gloomy subject and filling in the interval of silence. This intervention might call to mind in a soldier some deed of his, some far field of battle where men met death with courage and fortitude. Such memories might be helpful to a man under sentence.
Colonel Dane fingered the long scar on his cheek.
"Yes," he said absently, "a child did that—my niece. Quite my own fault."
"A child?" Dr. Merriget appeared to be shocked. He was in reality very curious.
"Yes ... she was eleven ... my own fault. I spoke disrespectfully of her father. It was unpardonable, for he was only recently dead. He was my brother-in-law. We were at breakfast and she threw the knife ... yes...."
He ruminated on the incident and a smile quivered at the corner of his thin lips.
"She hated me. She hates me still ... yes...."
The doctor was embarrassed and came back to the object of the visit.
"I should be ever so much more comfortable in my mind if you saw a specialist, Mr.—er—Jackson. You see how difficult it is for me to give an opinion? I may be wrong. I know nothing of your history, your medical [Pg 5]history I mean. There are so many men in town who could give you a better and more valuable opinion than I. A country practitioner like myself is rather in a backwater. One has the usual cases that come to one in a small country town, maternity cases, commonplace ailments ... it is difficult to keep abreast of the extraordinary developments in medical science...."
"Do you know anything about Machonicies College?" asked the colonel unexpectedly.
"Yes, of course." The doctor was surprised. "It is one of the best of the technical schools. Many of our best doctors and chemists take a preparatory course there. Why?"
"I merely asked. As to your specialists ... I hardly think I shall bother them."
Dr. Merriget watched the tall figure striding down the red-tiled path between the banked flowers, and was still standing on the doorstep when the whine of his visitor's machine had gone beyond the limits of his hearing.
"H'm," said Dr. Merriget as he returned to his study. He sat awhile thinking.
"Mr. Jackson?" he said aloud. "I wonder why the colonel calls himself 'Mr. Jackson'?"
He had seen the colonel two years before at a garden party, and had an excellent memory for faces.
He gave the matter no further thought, having certain packing to superintend—he was on the eve of his departure for Constantinople, a holiday trip he had promised himself for years.[Pg 6]
On the following afternoon at Machonicies Technical School, a lecture was in progress.
" ... by this combustion you have secured true K.c.y.... which we will now test and compare with the laboratory quantities ... a deliquescent and colorless crystal extremely soluble...."
The master, whose monotonous voice droned like the hum of a distant, big, stationary blue-bottle, was a middle-aged man, to whom life was no more than a chemical reaction, and love not properly a matter for his observation or knowledge. He had an idea that it was dealt with effectively in another department of the college ... metaphysics ... or was it philosophy? Or maybe it came into the realms of the biological master?
Ella Grant glared resentfully at the crystals which glittered on the blue paper before her, and snapped out the bunsen burner with a vicious twist of finger and thumb. Denman always overshot the hour. It was a quarter past five! The pallid clock above the dais, where Professor Denman stood, seemed to mock her impatience.
She sighed wearily and fiddled with the apparatus on the bench at which she sat. Some twenty other white-coated girls were also fiddling with test tubes and bottles and graduated measures, and twenty pairs of eyes glowered at the bald and stooping man who, unconscious[Pg 7] of the passing of time, was turning affectionately to the properties of potassium.
"Here we have a metal whose strange affinity for oxygen ... eh, Miss Benson?... five? Bless my soul, so it is! Class is dismissed. And ladies, ladies, ladies! Please, please let me make myself heard. The laboratory keeper will take from you all chemicals you have drawn for this experiment...."
They were crowding toward the door to the change room. Smith, the laboratory man, stood in the entrance grabbing wildly at little green and blue bottles that were thrust at him, and vainly endeavoring by a private system of mnemonics to commit his receipts to memory.
"Miss Fairlie, phial fairly; Miss Jones, bottle bones; Miss Walter, bottle salter."
If at the end of his collection he failed to recall a rhyme to any name, the owner had passed without cashing in.
The laboratory of the Analytical Class was empty. Nineteen bottles stood on a shelf and he reviewed them.
No, he had said nothing about "aunt" or "can't" or "pant."
He went into the change room, opened a locker and felt in the pockets of the white overall. They were empty. Returning to the laboratory, he wrote in his report book:
"Miss Grant did not return experiment bottle."[Pg 8]
He spelt experiment with two r's and two m's.
Ella found the bottle in the pocket of her overall as she was hanging it up in the long cupboard of the change room. She hesitated a moment, frowning resentfully at the little blue phial in her hand, and rapidly calculating the time it would take to return to the laboratory to find the keeper and restore the property. In the end, she pushed it into her bag and hurried from the building. It was not an unusual occurrence that a student overlooked the return of some apparatus, and it could be restored in the morning.
Had Jack succeeded? That was the thought which occupied her. The miracle about which every junior dreams had happened. Engaged in the prosecution of the notorious Flackman, his leader had been taken ill, and the conduct of the case for the State had fallen to him. He was opposed by two brilliant advocates, and the judge was a notorious humanitarian.
She did not stop to buy a newspaper; she was in a fret at the thought that Jack Freeder might not have waited for her, and she heaved a sigh of relief when she turned into the old-world garden of the courthouse and saw him pacing up and down the flagged walk, his hands in his pockets.
"I am so sorry...."
She had come up behind him, and he turned on his heel to meet her. His face spoke success. The elation in it told her everything she wanted[Pg 9] to know, and she slipped her arm through his with a queer mingled sense of pride and uneasiness.
" ... the judge sent for me to his room afterwards and told me that the attorney could not have conducted the case better than I."
"He is guilty?" she asked, hesitating.
"Who, Flackman ... I suppose so," he said carelessly. "His pistol was found in Sinnit's apartment, and it was known that he quarrelled with Sinnit about money, and there was a girl in it, I think, although we have never been able to get sufficient proof of that to put her into the box. You seldom have direct evidence in cases of this character, Ella, and in many ways circumstantial evidence is infinitely more damning. If a witness went into the box and said, 'I saw Flackman shoot Sinnit and saw Sinnit die,' the whole case would stand or fall by the credibility of that evidence; prove that witness an habitual liar and there is no chance of a conviction. On the other hand, when there are six or seven witnesses, all of whom subscribe to some one act or appearance or location of a prisoner, and all agreeing ... why, you have him."
Her acquaintance with Jack Freeder had begun on her summer vacation, and had begun romantically but unconventionally, when a sailing boat overturned, with its occupant pinned beneath the bulging canvas. It was Ella, a magnificent swimmer, who, bathing, had seen[Pg 10] the accident and had dived into the sea to the assistance of the drowning man.
"This means a lot to me, Ella," he said earnestly as they turned into the busy street. "It means the foundation of a new life."
His eyes met hers, and lingered for a second, and she was thrilled.
"Did you see Stephanie last night?" he asked suddenly.
She felt guilty.
"No," she admitted, "but I don't think you ought to worry about that, Jack. Stephanie is expecting the money almost by any mail."
"She has been expecting the money almost by any mail for a month past," he said dryly, "and in the meantime this infernal note is becoming due. What I can't understand——"
She interrupted him with a laugh.
"You can't understand why they accepted my signature as a guarantee for Stephanie's," she laughed, "and you are extremely uncomplimentary!"
Stephanie Boston, her some-time room mate, and now her apartmental neighbor, was a source of considerable worry to Jack Freeder, although he had only met her once. A handsome, volatile girl, with a penchant for good clothes and a mode of living out of all harmony with the meager income she drew from fashion-plate artistry, she had found herself in difficulties. It was a condition which the wise had long predicted, and Ella, not so wise, had dreaded. And then one day the young artist had[Pg 11] come to her with an oblong slip of paper, and an incoherent story of somebody being willing to lend her money if Ella would sign her name; and Ella Grant, to whom finance was an esoteric mystery, had cheerfully complied.
"If you were a great heiress, or you were expecting a lot of money coming to you through the death of a relative," persisted Jack, with a frown, "I could understand Isaacs being satisfied with your acceptance, but you aren't!"
Ella laughed softly and shook her head.
"The only relative I have in the world is poor dear Uncle Chartres, who loathes me! I used to loathe him too, but I've got over that. After daddy died I lived with him for a few months, but we quarrelled over—over—well, I won't tell you what it was about, because I am sure he was sorry. I had a fiendish temper as a child, and I threw a knife at him."
"Good Lord!" gasped Jack, staring at her.
She nodded solemnly.
"I did—so you see there is very little likelihood of Uncle Chartres, who is immensely rich, leaving me anything more substantial than the horrid weapon with which I attempted to slay him!"
Jack was silent. Isaacs was a professional moneylender ... he was not a philanthropist.
When Ella got home that night she determined to perform an unpleasant duty. She had not forgotten Jack Freeder's urgent insistence upon her seeing Stephanie Boston—she had simply avoided the unpalatable.[Pg 12]
Stephanie's flat was on the first floor; her own was immediately above. She considered for a long time before she pressed the bell.
Grace, Stephanie's elderly maid, opened the door, and her eyes were red with recent weeping.
"What is the matter?" asked Ella in alarm.
"Come in, miss," said the servant miserably. "Miss Boston left a letter for you."
"Left?" repeated Ella wonderingly. "Has she gone away?"
"She was gone when I came this morning. The bailiffs have been here...."
Ella's heart sank.
The letter was short but eminently lucid:
"I am going away, Ella. I do hope that you will forgive me. That wretched bill has become due and I simply cannot face you again. I will work desperately hard to repay you, Ella."
The girl stared at the letter, not realizing what it all meant. Stephanie had gone away!
"She took all her clothes, miss. She left this morning, and told the porter she was going into the country; and she owes me three weeks' wages!"
Ella went upstairs to her own flat, dazed and shaken. She herself had no maid; a woman came every morning to clean the flat, and Ella had her meals at a neighboring restaurant.
As she made the last turn of the stairs she was conscious that there was a man waiting on the landing above, with his back to her door.[Pg 13] Though she did not know him, he evidently recognized her, for he raised his hat. She had a dim idea that she had seen him somewhere before, but for the moment could not recollect the circumstances.
"Good evening, Miss Grant," he said amiably. "I think we have met before. Miss Boston introduced me—name of Higgins."
She shook her head.
"I am afraid I don't remember you," she said, and wondered whether his business was in connection with Stephanie's default.
"I brought the paper up that you signed about three months ago."
Then she recalled him and went cold.
"Mr. Isaacs didn't want to make any kind of trouble," he said. "The bill became due a week ago and we have been trying to get Miss Boston to pay. As it is, it looks very much as though you will have to find the money."
"When?" she asked in dismay.
"Mr. Isaacs will give you until to tomorrow night," said the man. "I have been waiting here since five o'clock to see you. I suppose it is convenient, miss?"
Nobody knew better than Mr. Isaacs' clerk that it would be most inconvenient, not to say impossible, for Ella Grant to produce four hundred pounds.
"I will write to Mr. Isaacs," she said, finding her voice at last.
She sat down in the solitude and dusk of her flat to think things out. She was overwhelmed,[Pg 14] numbed by the tragedy. To owe money that she could not pay was to Ella Grant an unspeakable horror.
There was a letter in the letter-box. She had taken it out mechanically when she came in, and as mechanically slipped her fingers through the flap and extracted a folded paper. But she put it down without so much as a glance at its contents.
What would Jack say? What a fool she had been, what a perfectly reckless fool! She had met difficulties before, and had overcome them. When she had left her uncle's house as a child of fourteen and had subsisted on the slender income which her father had left her, rejecting every attempt on the part of Chartres Dane to make her leave the home of an invalid maiden aunt where she had taken refuge, she had faced what she believed was the supreme crisis of life.
But this was different.
Chartres Dane! She rejected the thought instantly, only to find it recurring. Perhaps he would help. She had long since overcome any ill-feeling she had towards him, for whatever dislike she had, had been replaced by a sense of shame and repentance. She had often been on the point of writing him to beg his forgiveness, but had stopped short at the thought that he might imagine she had some ulterior motive in seeking to return to his good graces. He was her relative. He had some responsibility ... again the thought inserted itself, and suddenly she made up her mind.[Pg 15]
Chartres Dane's house lay twelve miles out of town, a great rambling place set on the slopes of a wooded hill, a place admirably suited to his peculiar love of solitude.
She had some difficulty in finding a taxi-driver who was willing to make the journey, and it had grown dark, though a pale light still lingered in the western skies, when she descended from the cab at the gateway of Hevel House. There was a lodge at the entrance of the gate, but this had long since been untenanted. She found her way up the long drive to the columned portico in front of the house. The place was in darkness, and she experienced a pang of apprehension. Suppose he was not there? (Even if he were, he would not help her, she told herself.) But the possibility of his being absent, however, gave her courage.
Her hand was on the bell when there came to her a flash of memory. At such an hour he would be sitting in the window-recess overlooking the lawn at the side of the house. She had often seen him there on warm summer nights, his glass of port on the broad window-ledge, a cigar clenched between his white teeth, brooding out into the darkness.
She came down the steps, and walking on the close-cropped grass bordering the flower-beds, came slowly, almost stealthily, to the library window. The big casement was wide open; a faint light showed within, and she stopped dead, her heart beating a furious rat-a-plan at the[Pg 16] sight of a filled glass on the window-ledge. His habits had not changed, she thought; he himself would be sitting just out of sight from where she stood, in that window-recess which was nearest to her. Summoning all her courage, she advanced still farther. He was not in his customary place, and she crept nearer to the window.
Colonel Chartres Dane was sitting at a large writing-table in the center of the room; his back was toward her, and he was writing by the light of two tall candles that stood upon the table.
At the sight of his back all her courage failed, and, as he rose from the table, she shrank back into the shadow. She saw his white hand take up the glass of wine, and after a moment, peeping again, she saw him, still with his back to her, put it on the table by him as he sat down again.
She could not do it, she dare not do it, she told herself, and turned away sorrowfully. She would write to him.
She had stepped from the grass to the path when a man came from an opening in the bushes and gripped her arm.
"Hello!" he said, "who are you, and what are you doing here?"
"Let me go," she cried, frightened. "I—I——"
"What are you doing by the colonel's window?"
"I am his niece," she said, trying to recover some of her dignity.[Pg 17]
"I thought you might be his aunt," said the gamekeeper ironically. "Now, my girl, I am going to take you in to the colonel——"
With a violent thrust she pushed him from her; the man stumbled and fell. She heard a thud and a groan, and stood rooted to the spot with horror.
"Have I hurt you?" she whispered. There was no reply.
She felt, rather than saw, that he had struck his head against a tree in falling, and turning, she flew down the drive, terrified, nearly fainting in her fright. The cabman saw her as she flung open the gate and rushed out.
"Anything wrong?" he asked.
"I—I think I have killed a man," she said incoherently, and then from the other end of the drive she heard a thick voice cry:
"Stop that girl!"
It was the voice of the gamekeeper, and for a moment the blood came back to her heart.
"Take me away, quickly, quickly," she cried.
The cabman hesitated.
"What have you been doing?" he asked.
"Take—take me away," she pleaded.
Again he hesitated.
"Jump in," he said gruffly.
Three weeks later John Penderbury, one of the greatest advocates at the Bar, walked into Jack Freeder's chambers.
The young man sat at his table, his head on[Pg 18] his arm, and Penderbury put his hand lightly upon the shoulders of the stricken man.
"You've got to take a hold of yourself, Freeder," he said kindly. "You will neither help yourself nor her by going under."
Jack lifted a white, haggard face to the lawyer.
"It is horrible, horrible," he said huskily. "She's as innocent as a baby. What evidence have they?"
"My dear good fellow," said Penderbury, "the only evidence worth while in a case like this is circumstantial evidence. If there were direct evidence we might test the credibility of the witness. But in circumstantial evidence every piece of testimony dovetails into the other; each witness creates one strand of the net."
"It is horrible, it is impossible, it is madness to think that Ella could——"
Penderbury shook his head. Pulling up a chair at the other side of the table, he sat down, his arms folded, his grave eyes fixed on the younger man.
"Look at it from a lawyer's point of view, Freeder," he said gently. "Ella Grant is badly in need of money. She has backed a bill for a girl-friend and the money is suddenly demanded. A few minutes after learning this from Isaacs' clerk, she finds a letter in her flat, which she has obviously read—the envelope was opened and its contents extracted—a letter which is from Colonel Dane's lawyers, telling[Pg 19] her that the colonel has made her his sole heiress. She knows, therefore, that the moment the colonel dies she will be a rich woman. She has in her handbag a bottle containing cyanide of potassium, and that night, under the cover of darkness, drives to the colonel's house and is seen outside the library window by Colonel Dane's gamekeeper. She admitted, when she was questioned by the detective, that she knew the colonel was in the habit of sitting by the window and that he usually put his glass of port on the window-ledge. What was easier than to drop a fatal dose of cyanide into the wine? Remember, she admitted that she had hated him and that once she threw a knife at him, wounding him, so that the scar remained to the day of his death. She admitted herself that it was his practice to put the wine where she could have reached it."
He drew a bundle of papers from his pocket, unfolded them, and turned the leaves rapidly.
"Here it is," and he read:
"Yes, I saw a glass of wine on the window-ledge. The colonel was in the habit of sitting in the window on summer evenings. I have often seen him there, and I knew when I saw the wine that he was near at hand."
He pushed the paper aside and looked keenly at the wretched man before him.
"She is seen by the gamekeeper, as I say,"[Pg 20] he went on, "and this man, attempting to intercept her, she struggles from his grasp and runs down the drive to the cab. The cabman says she was agitated, and when he asked her what was the matter, she replied that she had killed a man——"
"She meant the gamekeeper," interrupted Jack.
"She may or may not, but she made that statement. There are the facts, Jack; you cannot get past them. The letter from the lawyers—which she says she never read—the envelope was found open and the letter taken out; is it likely that she had not read it? The bottle of cyanide of potassium was found in her possession, and—" he spoke deliberately—"the colonel was found dead at his desk and death was due to cyanide of potassium. A candle which stood on his desk had been overturned by him in his convulsions, and the first intimation the servants had that anything was wrong was the sight of the blazing papers on the table, which the gamekeeper saw when he returned to report what had occurred in the grounds. There is no question what verdict the jury will return...."
It was a great and a fashionable trial. The courthouse was crowded, and the public had fought for a few places that were vacant in the gallery.
Sir Johnson Grey, the Attorney-General, was to lead for the Prosecution, and Penderbury had Jack Freeder as his junior.[Pg 21]
The opening trial was due for ten o'clock, but it was half-past ten when the Attorney-General and Penderbury came into the court, and there was a light in Penderbury's eyes and a smile on his lips which amazed his junior.
Jack had only glanced once at the pale, slight prisoner. He dared not look at her.
"What is the delay?" he asked irritably. "This infernal judge is always late."
At that moment the court rose as the judge came on to the Bench, and almost immediately afterwards the Attorney-General was addressing the court.
"My lord," he said, "I do not purpose offering any evidence in this case on behalf of the Crown. Last night I received from Dr. Merriget, an eminent practitioner of Townville, a sworn statement on which I purpose examining him.
"Dr. Merriget," the Attorney-General went on, "has been traveling in the Near East, and a letter which was sent to him by the late Colonel Dane only reached him a week ago, coincident with the doctor learning that these proceedings had been taken against the prisoner at the bar.
"Dr. Merriget immediately placed himself in communication with the Crown officers of the law, as a result of which I am in a position to tell your lordship that I do not intend offering evidence against Ella Grant.
"Apparently Colonel Dane had long suspected that he was suffering from an incurable[Pg 22] disease, and to make sure, he went to Dr. Merriget and submitted himself to an examination. The reason for his going to a strange doctor is, that he did not want to have it known that he had been consulting specialists in town. The doctor confirmed his worst fears, and Colonel Dane returned to his home. Whilst on the Continent, the doctor received a letter from Colonel Dane, which I purpose reading."
He took a letter from the table, adjusted his spectacles, and read:
"Dear Dr. Merriget,—It occurred to me after I had left you the day before yesterday, that you must have identified me, for I have a dim recollection that we met at a garden party. I am not, as you suggested, taking any other advice. I know too well that this fibrous growth is beyond cure, and I purpose tonight taking a fatal dose of cyanide of potassium. I feel that I must notify you in case by a mischance there is some question as to how I met my death.—Very sincerely yours,
"I feel that the ends of justice will be served," continued the Attorney-General "if I call the doctor...."
It was not very long before another Crown case came the way of Jack Freeder. A week after his return from his honeymoon, he was[Pg 23] sent for to the Public Prosecutor's office, and that gentleman interviewed him.
"You did so well in the Flackman case, Freeder, that I want you to undertake the prosecution of Wise. Undoubtedly you will gain kudos in a trial of this description, for the Wise case has attracted a great deal of attention."
"What is the evidence?" asked Jack bluntly.
"Circumstantial, of course," said the Public Prosecutor, "but——"
Jack shook his head.
"I think not, sir," he said firmly but respectfully. "I will not prosecute in another case of murder unless the murder is committed in my presence."
The Public Prosecutor stared at him.
"That means you will never take another murder prosecution—have you given up criminal work, Mr. Freeder?"
"Yes, sir," said Jack gravely; "my wife doesn't like it."
Today, Jack Freeder is referred to in legal circles as a glaring example of how a promising career can be ruined by marriage.
Ten minutes before Snub Reilly left his dressing-room a messenger delivered a letter. His seconds and his manager protested against his reading anything which might well be disturbing at such a critical moment, for the little man was fighting for his title, and Curly Boyd, the aspirant to championship honors, had knocked out four successive opponents before he claimed his right to a meeting with the World Champion.
"Let me see it," said Snub, and he was something of an autocrat. The letter was typewritten and was signed by two reputable men whose names were honored in the sporting world.
Snub read the letter slowly.
"A challenge," he said tersely, "for £10,000 a side."
"Who is the feller?" asked his manager.
"They call him 'An Unknown'; he wants to meet the winner of tonight's fight. Send a wire and say I accept."
His manager grinned. He was a stout man with a moist face, and he had infinite confidence in Snub, but——
"Better wait till after the fight?" he suggested.[Pg 25]
"Send it," said Snub curtly, and put on his dressing-gown.
Manager Seller dispatched the wire, not without some discomfort of mind. The fourth round brought him relief.
Curly Boyd, an approved European champion, had himself to thank for such an early ending to his rosy dreams. He had detected, as he thought, a certain unsteadiness in Snub's leg movements, an uncertainty that was a hint of a stagger. So Curly, relying upon his excellent fitness, had put everything into a projected left and right. Incidentally he was fighting the greatest ring strategist of his day, and when he uncovered his jaw for the fraction of a second....
"Eight ... nine ... ten—out!" said a far-away voice in Curly's ear. Somebody shook him by his gloved hand, and he heard above the roaring in his head a louder roar, and dropped his head wearily to catch a glimpse of a figure in a flowered dressing-gown slipping through the gangway into the gloom behind the ring seats.
It was a fine thing for Snub, because the eyes of the world were on that fight—outside the building limousines were parked twenty deep—and before he reached his dressing-room the news of his victory was quivering in dots and dashes on every line and cable that ran from the city.
He stripped off his dressing-gown and submitted to the attentions of the masseur with some sign of impatience. Ten minutes after the[Pg 26] fight he left the building by a side door, and mingled with the thousands who crowded about the entrances. Modesty was Snub Reilly's favorite vice.
The echoes of such a combat were not to die down in a day, for Snub was something of a national hero. This champion who never gave interviews, who was so taciturn and secretive that his very seconds did not meet him until the day before his fights, appealed to the popular imagination as no other ring favorite had done. And when, at the end of the press description, it was announced that "An Unknown" had challenged the winner for a purse of $50,000 (£10,000), and the challenge had been accepted, there was an added value to the news.
Even staid and sleepy Rindle, dedicated to the education of youth, was excited, wildly excited for Rindle. The headmaster read the account of the fight at breakfast and hummed and ha'd his approval of the lightning stroke which laid the presumptuous Curly Boyd so low. And on the opposite side of the breakfast table Vera Shaw, nineteen and beautiful, hid a newspaper on her lap, read furtively and was thrilled. A group of boys en route from their dormitories-houses to prayers and morning school, gathered about one daring soul who had broken all school regulations by purchasing forbidden literature, and whooped joyously.
It was natural that Barry Tearle, the mathematical master, should stop in the midst of cor[Pg 27]recting exercises, hitch up his gown at the neck for comfort, and sit back to study the account. Natural, because he was also games master and instructor of the noble art to Rindle School.
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