Grand Magazine, August 1922
SALLY NICHOLAS, celebrating her inheritance of $25,000 by a trip to France, met Ginger Kemp, a red-headed young Englishman who had spent his time since leaving Cambridge in making a hash of the various jobs found for him by his exasperated family. Ginger, having made a large sum of money at the Casino, begged Sally to marry him, but she pointed out that she was already secretly engaged to a rising young playwright in New York. Having lectured Ginger on his slavish dependence upon his relatives (of whom she had met one specimen in his pompous cousin, Bruce Carmyle), Sally sailed for America, with the parting admonition, “Death to the Family.”
Meanwhile a new play, The Primrose Way, by Sally’s fiancé, Gerald Foster, threatened to collapse for lack of funds, and her brother Fillmore persuaded her to lend him the money to buy the show. She consented for Gerald’s sake, telling that morose young man nothing about it, however. The Primrose Way was such a success that Fillmore decided to launch a revue and other shows, in spite of the protests of Sally, and of his fiancée, Gladys Winch, a stolid, slangy, but remarkably clear-headed little girl whom Sally loved at first sight.
Ginger, having lost his money, went to America, and Sally persuaded Fillmore to take him into his office as general handyman. In this capacity he met Gerald Foster, who had been at school with him, and whom he described to Sally as “a bit of a worm.” When Sally flared up and told him she was engaged to Gerald, Ginger nearly collapsed.
“Oh! I say,” he said, “Foster’s married. He married his leading lady, Elsa Doland, the morning I left Chicago.”
Sally found Ginger a splendid pal in her hour of trouble. Nevertheless, to get away from her sympathetic friends, she decided to go to England. Upon her return she found Ginger had once more made a hash of things and left her brother’s office.
CHAPTER XIII (continued).
“WHERE is Mr. Nicholas?” she asked. It seemed to her that Fillmore was the only possible source of information. “Did you say he was out?”
“Really out, Miss,” said the office-boy, with engaging candour. “He went off to White Plains in his car half an hour ago.”
“White Plains? What for?”
“I guess what’s happened is, he’s gone up to take a look at Bugs Butler,” said the boy.
“Whose butler?” said Sally, mystified.
The office-boy smiled a tolerant smile. Though an admirer of the sex, he was aware that women were seldom alive to the really important things in life.
“Bugs Butler is training up at White Plains, Miss.”
“Who is Bugs Butler?”
Something of his former bleakness of aspect returned to the office-boy. Sally’s question had opened up a subject on which he felt deeply.
“Ah!” he replied, losing his air of respectful deference, as he approached the topic. “Who is he? That’s what they’re all saying, all the wise guys. Who has Bugs Butler ever licked?”
“I don’t know,” said Sally, for he had fixed her with a penetrating gaze and seemed to be pausing for a reply.
“Nor nobody else,” said the stripling, vehemently. “A lot of stiffs out on the coast, that’s all. Ginks nobody has ever heard of, except Cyclone Mullins, and it took that false alarm fifteen rounds to get a referee’s decision over him. The boss would go and give him a chance against the champ, but I could have told him that the legitimate contender was K-leg Binns. K-leg put Cyclone Mullins out in the fifth. Well,” said the office boy, in the overwrought tone of one chafing at human folly, “if anybody thinks Bugs Butler can last six rounds with Lew Lucas, I’ve two bucks right here in my vest pocket that says it ain’t so.”
Sally began to see daylight.
“Oh, Bugs—Mr. Butler is one of the boxers in this fight that my brother is interested in?”
“That’s right. He’s going up against the lightweight champ. Lew Lucas is the lightweight champ. He’s a bird!”
“Yes?” said Sally. This youth had a way of looking at her with his head cocked on one side, as though he expected her to say something.
“Yes, sir!” said the stripling, with emphasis. “Lew Lucas is a hot sketch. He used to live in the next street to me,” he added, as clinching evidence of his hero’s prowess. “I’ve seen his old mother as close as I am to you. Say, I seen her a hundred times. Is any stiff of a Bugs Butler going to lick a feller like that?”
“It doesn’t seem likely.”
“You spoke it!” said the lad, crisply, striking unsuccessfully at a fly which had settled on the blotting-pad.
There was a pause. Sally started to rise.
“And there’s another thing,” said the office-boy, loth to close the subject. “Can Bugs Butler make a hundred and thirty-five ringside without being weak?”
“It sounds awfully difficult.”
“They say he’s clever.” The expert laughed satirically. “Well, what’s that going to get him? The poor fish can’t punch a hole in a cake.”
“You don’t seem to like Mr. Butler.”
“Oh, I’ve nothing against him,” said the office-boy, magnanimously. “I’m only saying he’s no licence to be mixing it with Lew Lucas.”
Sally got up.
Absorbing as this chat on current form was, more important matters claimed her attention.
“How shall I find my brother when I get to White Plains?” she asked.
“Oh, anybody’ll show you the way to the training-camp. If you hurry, there’s a train you can make now.”
FILLMORE heaved a sigh of relief, and began to sidle from the room. It was a large room, half barn, half gymnasium. Athletic appliances of various kinds hung on the walls and in the middle there was a wide, roped-off space, round which a small crowd had distributed itself with an air of expectancy. This is a commercial age, and the days when a prominent pugilist’s training activities used to be hidden from the public gaze are over. To-day, if the public can lay its hands on the entrance money, it may come and gaze its fill.
This afternoon plutocrats to the number of about forty had assembled, though not all of these, to the regret of Mr. Lester Burrowes, the manager of the eminent Bugs Butler, had parted with solid coin. Many of those present were newspaper representatives and on the free list—writers who would polish up Mr. Butler’s somewhat crude prognostications as to what he proposed to do to Mr. Lew Lucas, and would report him as saying, “I am in really superb condition and feel little apprehension of the issue,” and artists who would depict him in a state of semi-nudity, with feet several sizes too large for any man.
Fillmore, rushing away to luncheon, encountered Sally at the door. He was looking over his shoulder at the moment and was not aware of her presence till she spoke.
Sally had spoken softly, but a dynamite explosion could not have shattered her brother’s composure with more completeness. In the leaping twist which brought him facing her he rose a clear three inches from the floor. He had a confused sensation, as though his nervous system had been stirred up with a pole.
If ever a man had an excuse for leaping like a young ram, Fillmore had it. He had left Sally not much more than a week ago in England, in Shropshire, at Monk’s Crofton. Yet here she was, in Bugs Butler’s training-camp at White Plains, in the State of New York, speaking softly in his ear without even going through the preliminary of tapping him on the shoulder to advertise her presence. No wonder that Fillmore was startled. And no wonder that, as he adjusted his faculties to the situation, there crept upon him a chill apprehension.
For Fillmore had not been blind to the significance of that invitation to Monk’s Crofton. Nowadays your wooer does not formally approach a girl’s nearest relative and ask permission to pay his addresses; but when he invites her and that nearest relative to his country home and collects all the rest of the family to meet her, the thing may be said to have advanced beyond the realms of mere speculation. Shrewdly Fillmore had deduced that Bruce Carmyle was in love with Sally, and mentally he had joined their hands and given them a brother’s blessing. And now it was only too plain that disaster must have occurred. If the invitation could mean only one thing, so also could Sally’s presence at White Plains mean only one thing.
“Sally!” A croaking whisper was the best he could achieve. “What—what——?”
“Did I startle you? I’m sorry.”
“What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at Monk’s Crofton?”
Sally glanced past him at the ring and the crowd round it.
“I decided I wanted to get back to America. Circumstances arose which made it pleasanter to leave Monk’s Crofton.”
“Do you mean to say——?”
“Yes. Don’t let’s talk about it.”
“Do you mean to say,” persisted Fillmore, “that Carmyle proposed to you and you turned him down?”
“I don’t think it’s particularly nice to talk about that sort of thing, but—yes.”
A feeling of desolation overcame Fillmore. That conviction, which saddens us all at times, of the wilful bone-headedness of our fellows, swept coldly upon him. Everything had been so perfect, the whole arrangement so ideal, that it had never occurred to him as a possibility that Sally might take it into her head to spoil it by declining to play the part allotted to her. It was not merely the suitor’s impressive wealth that made him hold this opinion. He honestly liked and respected the man. He appreciated his quiet aristocratic reserve. A well-bred fellow, sensible withal, just the sort of husband a girl like Sally needed. And now she had ruined everything. With the capricious perversity which so characterises her otherwise delightful sex, she had spilled the beans.
“Oh, Fill!” Sally had expected that realisation of the facts would produce these symptoms in him, but now that they had presented themselves she was finding them rasping to the nerves. “I should have thought the reason was obvious.”
“You mean you don’t like him?”
“I don’t know whether I do or not. I certainly don’t like him enough to marry him.”
“He’s a darned good fellow.”
“Is he? You say so. I don’t know.”
The imperious desire for bodily sustenance began to compete successfully for Fillmore’s notice with his spiritual anguish.
“Let’s go to the hotel and talk it over. We’ll go to the hotel and I’ll give you something to eat.”
“I don’t want anything to eat, thanks.”
“You don’t want anything to eat?” said Fillmore, incredulously. He supposed in a vague sort of way that there were eccentric people of this sort, but it was hard to realise that he had met one of them. “I’m starving.”
“Well, run along, then.”
“Yes, but I want to talk——”
He was not the only person who wanted to talk. At this moment a small man of sporting exterior hurried up.
“Say, Mr. Nicholas, you ain’t goin’? Bugs is just getting ready to spar,” said Mr. Lester Burrowes.
He glanced inquiringly at Sally.
“My sister—Mr. Burrowes,” said Fillmore, faintly. “Mr. Burrowes is Bugs Butler’s manager.”
“How do you do?” said Sally.
“Pleased to meecher,” said Mr. Burrowes. “Say——”
“I was just going to the hotel to get something to eat,” said Fillmore.
Mr. Burrowes clutched at his coat-button with a swoop, and held him with a glittering eye.
“Yes, but, say, before-you-go-lemme-tell-ya-somef’n. You’ve never seen this boy of mine, not when he was feeling right. Believe me, he’s there! He’s a wizard. He’s a Hindoo! Say, he’s been practising up a left shift that——”
Fillmore’s eye met Sally’s wanly, and she pitied him. Presently she would require him to explain to her how he had dared to dismiss Ginger from his employment—and make that explanation a good one; but in the meantime she remembered that he was her brother and suffering.
“He’s the cleverest lightweight,” proceeded Mr. Burrowes, fervently, “since Joe Gans. I’m telling you, and I know! He——”
“Can he make a hundred and thirty-five ringside without being weak?” said Sally.
The effect of this simple question on Mr. Burrowes was stupendous. He dropped away from Fillmore’s coat-button like an exhausted bivalve, and his small mouth opened feebly. It was as if a child had suddenly propounded to an eminent mathematician some abstruse problem in the higher algebra.
Females who took an interest in boxing had come into Mr. Burrowes’s life before—in his younger days, when he was a famous featherweight, the first of his three wives had been accustomed to sit at the ringside during his contests and urge him in language of the severest technicality to knock opponents’ blocks off—but somehow he had not supposed from her appearance and manner that Sally was one of the elect. He gaped at her, and the relieved Fillmore sidled off. He was not quite sure that he was acting correctly in allowing his sister to roam at large among the somewhat Bohemian surroundings of a training-camp, but the instinct of self-preservation turned the scale. He had breakfasted early, and if he did not eat right speedily it seemed to him that dissolution would set in.
“Whazzat?” said Mr. Burrowes, feebly.
“It took him fifteen rounds to get a referee’s decision over Cyclone Mullins,” said Sally, severely, “and K-leg Binns——”
Mr. Burrowes rallied.
“You ain’t got it right,” he protested. “Say, you mustn’t believe what you see in the papers. The referee was dead against us, and Cyclone was down once for all of half a minute and they wouldn’t count him out. Have you ever seen Bugs, ma’am?”
Sally had to admit that she had not had that privilege. Mr. Burrowes, with growing excitement, felt in his breast-pocket and produced a picture-postcard, which he thrust into her hand.
“That’s Bugs,” he said. “Take a slant at that and then tell me if he don’t look the goods.”
The photograph represented a young man in the irreducible minimum of clothing who crouched painfully, as though stricken with one of the acuter forms of gastritis.
“I’ll call him over and have him sign it for you,” said Mr. Burrowes, before Sally had had time to grasp the fact that this work of art was a gift and no mere loan. “Here, Bugs—wantcher.”
A youth in a dressing-gown, who had been talking to a group of admirers near the ring, turned, started languidly towards them, then, seeing Sally, quickened his pace. He was an admirer of the sex.
Mr. Burrowes did the honours.
“Bugs, this is Miss Nicholas, come to see you work out. I been telling her she’s going to have a treat.” And to Sally: “Shake hands with Bugs Butler, ma’am, the coming lightweight champion of the world.”
Mr. Butler’s photograph, Sally considered, had flattered him. He was, in the flesh, a singularly repellent young man. There was a mean and cruel curve to his lips and a cold arrogance in his eye; a something dangerous and sinister in the atmosphere he radiated. Moreover, she did not like the way he smirked at her.
However, she exerted herself to be amiable.
“I hope you are going to win, Mr. Butler,” she said.
The smile which she forced as she spoke the words removed the coming champion’s doubts, though they had never been serious. He was convinced now that he had made a hit. He always did, he reflected, with the girls.
“You betcher,” he assented, briefly.
Mr. Burrowes looked at his watch.
“Time you were starting, Bugs.”
The coming champion removed his gaze from Sally’s face, into which he had been peering in a conquering manner, and cast a disparaging glance at the audience.
“All right,” he said, bored.
His languor left him as his gaze fell on Sally again, and his spirits revived somewhat.
“I’ll go a couple rounds with Reddy for a starter,” he said. “Seen him anywheres? He’s never round when he’s wanted.”
“I’ll fetch him,” said Mr. Burrowes. “He’s back there somewheres.”
“I’m going to show that guy up this afternoon,” said Mr. Butler, coldly. “He’s been getting too fresh.”
The manager bustled off, and Bugs Butler, with a final smirk, left Sally and dived under the ropes. Presently Mr. Burrowes reappeared, shepherding a young man whose face was hidden by the sweater which he was pulling over his head. He was a sturdily built young man. The sweater, moving from his body, revealed a good pair of shoulders.
A last tug, and the sweater was off. Red hair flashed into view, tousled and disordered, and, as she saw it, Sally uttered an involuntary gasp of astonishment which caused many eyes to turn towards her. And the red-headed young man, who had been stooping to pick up his gloves, straightened himself with a jerk and stood staring at her blankly and incredulously, his face slowly crimsoning.
IT was the energetic Mr. Burrowes who broke the spell.
“Come on, come on,” he said, impatiently. “L’il speed there, Reddy.”
Ginger Kemp started like a sleep-walker awakened; then, recovering himself, slowly began to pull on the gloves. Embarrassment was stamped on his agreeable features. His face matched his hair.
Sally plucked at the little manager’s elbow. He turned irritably, but beamed in a distrait sort of manner when he perceived the source of the interruption.
“Who—him?” he said, in answer to Sally’s whispered question. “He’s just one of Bugs’s sparring-partners.”
Mr. Burrowes, fussy now that the time had come for action, interrupted her.
“You’ll excuse me, Miss, but I have to hold the watch. We mustn’t waste any time.”
Sally drew back. She felt like an infidel who intrudes upon the celebration of strange rites. This was man’s hour, and women must keep in the background. She had the sensation of being very small and yet very much in the way, like a puppy who has wandered into a church. The novelty and solemnity of the scene awed her.
She looked at Ginger, who, with averted gaze, was fiddling with his gloves in the opposite corner of the ring. He was as far removed from communication as if he had been in another world. She continued to stare, wide-eyed, and Ginger, shuffling his feet self-consciously, plucked at his gloves.
Mr. Butler, meanwhile, having doffed his gown, stretched himself, and, with leisurely nonchalance, put on a second pair of gloves, was filling in the time with a little shadow-boxing.
“Shadow-boxing,” a man near Sally observed, in a cavilling spirit to his companion. “Yes, he can do that all right, just like I can fox-trot if I ain’t got a partner to get in the way. But one good wallop, and then watch him.”
His friend assented with a curt nod.
“Ah!” he agreed.
“Just because he beats up a few poor mutts of sparring-partners,” said the first, disparagingly, “he thinks he’s someone.”
“Ah!” said the second.
As far as Sally could interpret these remarks, the full meaning of which was shrouded from her, they seemed to be reassuring. For a comforting moment she ceased to regard Ginger as a martyr waiting to be devoured by a lion. Mr. Butler, she gathered, was not so formidable as he appeared. But her relief was not to be long lived.
“Of course, he’ll eat this red-headed gink,” went on the first man. “That’s the thing he does best, killing his sparring-partners. But Lew Lucas——”
Sally was not interested in Lew Lucas. That numbing fear had come back to her. She tried to tear herself away, but something stronger than her own will kept her standing where she was; holding on to the rope and staring forlornly into the ring.
“Ready, Bugs?” asked Mr. Burrowes.
The coming champion nodded carelessly.
“Go to it,” said Mr. Burrowes.
Ginger ceased to pluck at his gloves and advanced into the ring.
OF all the learned professions, pugilism is the one in which the trained expert is most sharply divided from the mere dabbler. In other fields the amateur may occasionally hope to compete successfully with the man who has made a business of what is to him but a sport, but at boxing never; and the whole demeanour of Bugs Butler showed that he had laid this truth to heart. He comported himself with the care-free jauntiness of an infant about to demolish a Noah’s Ark with a tack-hammer.
Crouching, as was his wont, he uncoiled himself like a striking rattlesnake and flicked Ginger lightly over his guard. Then he returned to his crouch and circled sinuously about the ring with the amiable intention of showing the crowd, payers and deadheads alike, what real footwork was. If there was one thing on which Bugs Butler prided himself, it was his footwork.
The adverb “lightly” is a relative term, and the blow which had just painted a dull patch on Ginger’s cheek-bone affected those present in different degrees. Ginger himself appeared stolidly callous. Sally shuddered to the core of her being, and had to hold more tightly to the rope to support herself. The two wise guys mocked openly. To the wise guys, expert connoisseurs of swat, the thing had appeared richly farcical. They seemed to consider the blow, administered to a third party and not to themselves, hardly worth calling a blow at all. Two more, landing as quickly and neatly as the first, left them equally cold.
“Call that punching?” said the first wise guy.
“Ah!” said the second wise guy.
But Mr. Butler, if he heard this criticism—and it is probable that he did, for the wise ones had been restrained by no delicacy of feeling from raising their voices—was in no way discommoded by it. Bugs Butler knew what he was about. Bright eyes were watching him, and he meant to give them a treat. The girls like smooth work. He slid in and led once more.
Something solid smote Mr. Butler’s nose, rocking him on to his heels and inducing an unpleasant smarting sensation about the eyes. He backed away and regarded Ginger with astonishment, almost with pain. Until this moment he had scarcely considered him as an active participant in the scene at all, and he felt strongly that this sort of thing was bad form. It was not being done by sparring-partners.
A juster man might have reflected that he himself was to blame. He had undeniably been careless. In the very act of leading he had allowed his eyes to flicker sideways to see how Sally was taking this exhibition of science, and he had paid the penalty. Nevertheless, he was piqued. He shimmered about the ring, thinking it over. And the more he thought it over the less did he approve of his young assistant’s conduct. Hard thoughts toward Ginger began to float in his mind.
Ginger, too, was thinking hard thoughts. He had not had an easy time since he had come to the training-camp, but never till to-day had he experienced any resentment towards his employer. Until this afternoon Bugs Butler had pounded him honestly and without malice, and he had gone through it, as the other sparring-partners did, phlegmatically, taking it as part of the day’s work.
But this afternoon there had been a difference. Those careless flicks had been an insult, a deliberate offence. The man was trying to make a fool of him, playing to the gallery; and the thought of who was in that gallery inflamed Ginger past thought of consequences. No one, not even Mr. Butler, was more keenly alive than he to the fact that in a serious conflict with a man who to-morrow night might be lightweight champion of the world he stood no chance whatever; but he did not intend to be made an exhibition of in front of Sally without doing something to hold his end up. He proposed to go down with his flag flying, and in pursuance of this object he dug Mr. Butler heavily in the lower ribs with his right, causing that expert to clinch.
“Say, what d’ya think you’re getting at?” demanded the aggrieved pugilist, in a heated whisper in Ginger’s ear as they fell into the embrace. “Whass the idea, you jelly bean?”
Ginger maintained a pink silence. His jaw was set, and the temper which Nature had bestowed upon him to go with his hair had reached white heat. He dodged a vicious right which whizzed up at his chin out of the breaking clinch, and rushed. A left hook shook him, but was too high to do more. There was rough work in the far corner, and suddenly, with startling abruptness, Bugs Butler, bothered by the ropes at his back and trying to side-step, ran into a swing and fell.
“Time!” shouted the scandalised Mr. Burrowes, utterly aghast at this frightful misadventure. In the whole course of his professional experience he could recall no such devastating occurrence.
The audience was no less startled. There was audible gasping. The newspaper men looked at each other with a wild surmise and conjured up pleasant pictures of their sporting editors receiving this sensational item of news later on over the telephone.
As for Sally, she was conscious of a sudden, fierce, cave-womanly rush of happiness which swept away completely the sickening qualms of the last few minutes. Her teeth were clenched and her eyes blazed with joyous excitement. She looked at Ginger yearningly, longing to forget a gentle upbringing and shout congratulation to him. She was proud of him. And mingled with the pride was a curious feeling that was almost fear. This was not the mild and amiable young man whom she was wont to mother through the difficulties of a world in which he was unfitted to struggle for himself. This was a new Ginger, a stranger to her.
On the rare occasions on which he had been knocked down in the past, it had been Bugs Butler’s canny practice to pause for awhile and rest before rising to continue the argument, but now he was up almost before he had touched the boards. It was only too plain that Mr. Butler’s motto was that a man may be down, but he is never out. And, indeed, the knock-down had been largely a stumble. Bugs Butler’s educated feet, which had carried him unscathed through so many contests, had for this single occasion managed to get themselves crossed just as Ginger’s blow had landed, and it was to his lack of balance rather than the force of the swing that his downfall had been due.
“Time?” he snarled, casting a malevolent side-glance at his manager.
And in a whirlwind of flying gloves he flung himself upon Ginger, driving him across the ring, while Mr. Burrowes, watch in hand, stared with dropping jaw. Coolness, skill, and science—these had been the qualities of his protégé which had always so endeared him to Mr. Lester Burrowes and had so enriched their respective bank accounts; and now, on the eve of the most important fight in his life, before an audience of newspaper men, he had thrown them all aside and was making an exhibition of himself with a common sparring-partner.
That was the bitter blow to Mr. Burrowes. Had this lapse into the unscientific primitive happened in a regular fight he might have mourned and poured reproof into Bugs’s ear when he got him back in his corner at the end of the round, but he would not have experienced this feeling of helpless horror—the sort of horror a churchwarden might feel if he saw his favourite bishop yielding in public to the fascination of jazz. It was the fact that Bugs Butler was lowering himself to extend his powers against a sparring-partner that shocked Mr. Burrowes. There is an etiquette in these things.
And nothing could be more manifest than that Bugs Butler’s whole fighting soul was in his efforts to corner Ginger and destroy him. The battle was raging across the ring and down the ring and up the ring and back again; yet always Ginger, like a storm-driven ship, contrived somehow to weather the tempest. Out of the flurry of swinging arms he emerged time after time bruised, bleeding, but fighting hard.
For Bugs Butler’s fury was defeating its object. Had he remained his cool and scientific self he could have demolished Ginger and cut through his defence in a matter of seconds. But he had lapsed back into the methods of his unskilled novitiate. He swung and missed, swung and missed again, struck but found no vital spot. And now there was blood on his face, too. In some wild mêlée the sacred fount had been tapped, and his teeth gleamed through a crimson mist.
And then suddenly the end came, as swiftly and unexpectedly as the thing had begun. His wild swings had tired Bugs Butler, and with fatigue prudence returned to him. His feet began once more their subtle weaving in and out. Twice his left hand flickered home. A quick feint, a short, jolting stab, and Ginger’s guard was down and he was swaying in the middle of the ring, his hands hanging and his knees a-quiver.
Bugs Butler measured his distance, and Sally shut her eyes.
a thingamajig for dogs
THE only real and lasting happiness, we are told, is to be obtained by bringing happiness to others. Bugs Butler’s mood, accordingly, when some thirty hours after the painful episode recorded in the last chapter he awoke from a state of coma in the ring at Jersey City to discover that Mr. Lew Lucas had knocked him out in the middle of the third round, should have been one of quiet contentment. His inability to block a short left-hook followed by a right to the point of the jaw had ameliorated quite a number of existences.
It was with fierce satisfaction that Sally, breakfasting in her little apartment, informed herself through the sporting page of the details of the contender’s downfall. She was not a girl who disliked many people, but she had acquired a lively distaste for Bugs Butler.
Lew Lucas seemed a man after her own heart. If he had been a personal friend of Ginger’s he could not, considering the brief time at his disposal, have avenged him with more thoroughness. In round one he had done all sorts of diverting things to Mr. Butler’s left eye; in round two he had continued the good work on that gentleman’s body; and in round three he had knocked him out. Could anyone have done more? Sally thought not, and she drank Lew Lucas’s health in a cup of coffee and hoped his old mother was proud of him.
The telephone bell rang at her elbow. She unhooked the receiver.
“Oh, hullo,” said a voice.
“Ginger!” cried Sally, delightedly.
“I say, I’m awfully glad you’re back. I only got your letter this morning. Found it at the boarding-house. I happened to look in there and——”
“Ginger,” interrupted Sally, “your voice is music, but I want to see you. Where are you?”
“I’m at a chemist’s shop across the street. I was wondering if——”
“Come here at once!”
“I say, may I? I was just going to ask.”
“You miserable creature, why haven’t you been round to see me before?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I haven’t been going about much for the last day. You see——”
“I know. Of course.” Quick sympathy came into Sally’s voice. She gave a sidelong glance of approval and gratitude at the large picture of Lew Lucas which beamed up at her from the morning paper. “You poor thing! How are you?”
“Oh, all right, thanks.”
There was a slight pause at the other end of the wire.
“I say. I’m not much to look at, you know.”
“You never were. Stop talking and hurry over.”
“I mean to say——”
Sally hung up the receiver firmly. She waited eagerly for some minutes, and then footsteps came along the passage. They stopped at her door, and the bell rang. Sally ran to the door, flung it open, and recoiled in consternation.
He had stated the facts accurately when he had said that he was not much to look at. He gazed at her devotedly out of an unblemished right eye, but the other was hidden altogether by a puffy swelling of dull purple. A great bruise marred his left cheekbone, and he spoke with some difficulty through swollen lips.
“It’s all right, you know,” he assured her.
“It isn’t! It’s awful! Oh, you poor darling!” She clenched her teeth viciously. “I wish he had killed him!”
“I wish Lew Lucas, or whatever his name is, had murdered him. Brute!”
“Oh, I don’t know, you know.” Ginger’s sense of fairness compelled him to defend his late employer against these harsh sentiments. “He isn’t a bad sort of chap, really—Bugs Butler, I mean.”
“Do you seriously mean to stand there and tell me you don’t loathe the creature?”
“Oh, he’s all right. See his point of view and all that. Can’t blame him, if you come to think of it, for getting the wind up a bit in the circs. Bit thick, I mean to say, a sparring-partner going at him like that. Oughtn’t to have done it, of course, but somehow, when he started making an ass of me and I knew you were looking on—well, it seemed a good idea to have a dash at doing something on my own. No right to, of course. A sparring-partner isn’t supposed——”
“Ginger,” said Sally, “you’re too good to live.”
“Oh, I say!”
“I believe if someone sandbagged you and stole your watch and chain you’d say there were faults on both sides or something. I’m just a cat, and I say I wish your beast of a Bugs Butler had perished miserably. I’d have gone and danced on his grave. But whatever made you go in for that sort of thing?”
“Well, it seemed the only job that was going at the moment. I’ve always done a goodish bit of boxing, and I was very fit and so on, and it looked to me rather an opening. Gave me something to get along with. You get paid quite fairly decently, you know, and it’s rather a jolly life——”
“Jolly? Being hammered about like that?”
“Oh, you don’t notice it much. I’ve always enjoyed scrapping rather. And, you see, when your brother gave me the push——”
Sally uttered an exclamation.
“What an extraordinary thing it is. I went all the way out to White Plains that afternoon to find Fillmore and tackle him about that, and I didn’t say a word about it. And I haven’t been able to get hold of him since.”
“No? Busy sort of cove, your brother.”
“Why did Fillmore let you go?”
“Let me go? Oh, you mean—— Well, there was a sort of mix-up. A kind of misunderstanding.”
Ginger’s disfigured countenance betrayed embarrassment. He looked awkwardly about the room.
“It’s not worth talking about.”
“It is worth talking about. I’ve a right to know. It was I who sent you to Fillmore——”
“Now that,” said Ginger, “was jolly decent of you.”
“Don’t interrupt! I sent you to Fillmore, and he had no business to let you go without saying a word to me. What happened?”
Ginger twiddled his fingers unhappily.
“Well, it was rather unfortunate. You see, his wife—I don’t know if you know her——?”
“Of course I know her.”
“Why, yes, you would, wouldn’t you? Your brother’s wife, I mean,” said Ginger, acutely. “Though, as a matter of fact, you often find sisters-in-law who won’t have anything to do with one another. I knew a fellow——”
“Ginger,” said Sally, “it’s no good your thinking you can get out of telling me by rambling off on other subjects. I’m grim and resolute and relentless, and I mean to get this story out of you if I have to use a corkscrew. Fillmore’s wife, you were saying——”
Ginger came back reluctantly to the main theme.
“Well, she came into the office one morning, and we started fooling about——”
“Well, kind of chivvying each other.”
“At least, I was.”
“You were what?”
“Sort of chasing her a bit, you know.”
Sally regarded this apostle of frivolity with amazement.
“What do you mean?”
Ginger’s embarrassment increased.
“The thing was, you see, she happened to trickle in rather quietly when I happened to be looking at something, and I didn’t know she was there till she suddenly grabbed it.”
“The thing. The thing I happened to be looking at. She bagged it—collared it—took it away from me, you know, and wouldn’t give it back, and generally started to rot about a bit, so I rather began to chivvy her to some extent, and I’d just caught her when your brother happened to roll in. I suppose,” said Ginger, putting two and two together, “he had really come with her to the office, and had happened to hang back for a minute or two to talk to somebody or something. Well, of course, he was considerably fed to see me apparently doing jiu-jitsu with his wife. Enough to rattle any man, if you come to think of it,” said Ginger, ever fair-minded. “Well, he didn’t say anything at the time, but a bit later in the day he called me in and administered the push.”
Sally shook her head.
“It sounds the craziest story to me. What was it that Mrs. Fillmore took from you?”
“Oh, just something.”
Sally rapped the table imperiously.
“Well, as a matter of fact,” said her goaded visitor, “it was a photograph.”
“Who of? Or, if you’re particular, of whom?”
“Well—you, to be absolutely accurate.”
“Me?” Sally stared. “But I’ve never given you a photograph of myself.”
Ginger’s face was a study in scarlet and purple.
“You didn’t exactly give it to me,” he mumbled. “When I say give, I mean——”
“Good gracious!” Sudden enlightenment came upon Sally. “That photograph we were hunting for when I first came here! Had you stolen it all the time?”
“Why, yes, I did sort of pinch it——”
“You fraud! You humbug! And you pretended to help me look for it.” She gazed at him almost with respect. “I never knew you were so deep and snaky. I’m discovering all sorts of new things about you.”
There was a brief silence. Ginger, confession over, seemed a trifle happier.
“I hope you’re not frightfully sick about it?” he said, at length. “It was lying about, you know, and I rather felt I must have it. Hadn’t the cheek to ask you for it, so——”
“Don’t apologise,” said Sally, cordially. “Great compliment. So I have caused your downfall again, have I? I’m certainly your evil genius, Ginger. I’m beginning to feel like a regular rag and a bone and a hank of hair. First I egged you on to insult your family—oh, by the way, I want to thank you about that. Now that I’ve met your Uncle Donald I can see how public-spirited you were. I ruined your prospects there, and now my fatal beauty—cabinet size—has led to your destruction once more. It’s certainly up to me to find you another job, I can see that.”
“No, really, I say, you mustn’t bother. I shall be all right.”
“It’s my duty. Now, what is there that you really can do? Burglary, of course, but it’s not respectable.”
“I shall wangle something, I expect.”
“Yes, but what? It must be something good this time. I don’t want to be walking along and come on you suddenly as a street-cleaner. I don’t want to send for a carrier and find you popping up.”
“Of course, if I had a bit of capital——”
“Ah! The business man! And what,” inquired Sally, “would you do, Mr. Morgan, if you had a bit of capital?”
“Run a dog-thingummy,” said Ginger, promptly.
“What’s a dog-thingummy?”
“Why, a thingamajig. For dogs, you know.”
“Oh, a thingamajig for dogs. Now I understand. You will put things so obscurely at first. Ginger, you poor fish, what are you raving about? What on earth is a thingamajig for dogs?”
“I mean a sort of place like fellows have. Breeding dogs, you know, and selling them and winning prizes and all that. There are lots of them about.”
“Oh, a kennels!”
“I’m dashed keen on dogs, and I’ve studied them a bit. As a matter of fact, though it seems rather like swanking, there isn’t very much about dogs that I don’t know.”
“Of course. I believe you’re a sort of honorary dog yourself. I could tell it by the way you stopped that fight at Roville. I do believe it’s the one thing you couldn’t help making a success of. It’s very paying, isn’t it?”
“Works out at about a hundred per cent. on the original outlay, I’ve been told.”
“A hundred per cent.? That sounds too much like something of Fillmore’s for comfort. Let’s say ninety-nine and be conservative. Ginger, you have hit it. Say no more. You shall be the dog king, the biggest thingamajigger for dogs in the country. But how do you start?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, while I was up at White Plains, I ran into a cove who had a place of the sort and wanted to sell out. That was what made me think of it.”
“You must start to-day. Or early tomorrow.”
“Yes,” said Ginger, doubtfully. “Of course, there’s the catch, you know.”
“The capital. You’ve got to have that. This fellow wouldn’t sell out under five thousand dollars.”
“I’ll lend you five thousand dollars,” said Sally.
Another long instalment of this splendid story will appear in our next issue.
Printer’s errors corrected above:
In Ch. 13, magazine hyphenated “light-weight” at first mention but not thereafter; removed hyphen for consistency.
In Ch. 14, magazine had “Oh, a thingamagig for dogs”; amended to “thingamajig” for consistency of spelling.