The Mettle of the Man Shows Through
LLEWELLYN V. HUGHES
It was a knock-out, but not for him, yet it took him from the ring to a good job.
A NOISY, swaying mob packed the Queen Street terminal, and on the roof of the Pullman ticket offices stood a youth with a huge megaphone.
“And who’s done most for the Varsity?”
Five hundred and thirty student throats emitted one raucous reply:
“And who’s the most popular man in Varsity?”
Again a thunderous response, swelling up to the iron girders, flooding the whole building:
“That’s enough, fellers; that’s enough!”
In the center of the surging, the shoving, the pushing, the struggling mass, buffeted by cheers, shouts and varsity yells, Jack Rodney bobbed up and down like a cork figure on a veritable sea of shoulders.
“Quit it, fellers; for the Lord’s sake. I’ll—I’ll miss my train.”
Swelling toward the iron gates, the departing student was unceremoniously dropped to the floor. In a flash the ticket collectors and the poor emigration official, together with their desk paraphernalia, were knocked off their pins and swept up against the iron stanchions. Those nearest Rodney formed a guard, arching their backs and locking arms.
“Open the gates; open the gates! Let him get through —or there’ll be some broken limbs!”
The gate rolled back just enough to let Rodney and one or two nearest him squeeze past, then it closed again. Varsity howled and roared, pressed itself against the iron palisade like bedlam behind bars. Jack, breathin* easier, safe on the train platform, held up his great arms for silence.
“Don’t quit the game, Jack, old boy. Think how much dough Carpentier pulled down over in Jersey. Believe me, you can lick ’em all! Yes, sir; every one of ’em!” “There he is. Look at him. One sweet looking baby, eh? Look at him!”
Indeed, Jack Rodney was good to look upon. His tweeds outlined a magnificent torso, and he had the shoulders and limbs of a young Olympian god; eyes clear and bright, surfeited with health and physical pride; teeth white and even, showing in a confident and lovable smile that had often been in evidence under the arc lights. Kind to his opponents, was Jack Rodney; kind even to mercy; for an eight-inch forearm jolt had knocked out many a man who might otherwise have suffered. What a thrill he was in the ring! One sweet, smiling bear-cat!
“Fellers, believe me, I’m sorry to go like this. I did my best for the old Varsity, but I guess I—”
“We’ll say you did, Jack! The best in the world.”
“A darn sight better than any knockkneed professor could do. Gee, but the faculty’s crazy. You brought more glory to the college than a jugful of political economy.”
“Or a barrel of piffling physics.”
This raised a volume of laughter.
“No, fellers. It’s fair enough. I got warned at half year, you remember.
Guess all I have is boxing sense.”
“You’re a world beater, Jack.”
“All aboard!” The conductor came back to warn them. “Montreal, sir?”
Jack nodded. His eyes were the least bit moist. “Well, s’-long, fellers. Don’t let the Varsity down, and—God bless you all.”
“Three cheers for Jack Rodney!”
They were still cheering as their champion put his foot on the step of the Pullman. To Morley Jones, his roommate, trainer, adviser, and lifelong chum he said:
“Be sure to let Viv know, Molly. Tell
her to come down to-morrow. No, better make it Wednesday.”
“Leave it to me,” said Molly. “And don’t do anything till I see you. I’ve got a few schemes up my sleeve for the future. And write to me.”
r‘You bet I will.” The train was moving out. “Explain to Viv; tell her I couldn’t bring her to the station with all that mob. And be sure to sell all my room furniture and give her the money. All you can get, Molly.”
“Sure, I understand. Leave it to me.”
The Montreal express pulled out and away from a diminishing pandemonium. Jack Rodney, the Olympic heavyweight champion, was going home. His college days had been abruptly terminated by order of the Dean of Toronto University.
ANY one in Montreal can tell you of the importance of James Alexander Rodney. A most respected citizen, they will say, owning the largest mansion in upper Drummond, president of something down town, and enormously wealthy. You may also be informed that for twenty-two years he has remained a widower. Some say it was a love match, which explains the reason why he married the daughter of a Lachine missionary. Be that as it may, since the hour Mary Rodney died—died in presenting her husband with a son and heir—J. A. R. has looked longingly in the eyes of no other woman—and never will.
On this particular morning, the something down town had to carry on without its president. J. A. R. was waiting in his library for a certain knock upon the door. In the drawer in front of him lay some disturbing information, and his steel-gray eyes had hardened just a little. He drummed softly on the polished surface of his desk, casting a glance every now and then at a photograph flamed in dull silver. For all his fifty-six years, there were only a half dozen men in Montreal handsomer than James Alexander Rodney, first place being denied him because he was slightly too broad for his height. Yet those shoulders could carry trouble when it came along; they had borne the loss of Mary Rodney all these years; and they were now squared to meet an additional grief, follow-
ing the reading of a letter with a Toronto postmark. The expected knock came at last.
A young, grave-faced giant filled the opening. “Good morning, dad!”
“Why, bless me if it isn’t Jack! Come in, Jack. This is a surprise. Had breakfast?”
“Yes, sir. I had something to eat on the train. I’ve just arrived.”
“Fine! Well, this is an unexpected pleasure, my boy. I was about to leave for the office. Sit down, sit down. What’s the news?”
Jack moistened his lips. “Haven’t—haven’t you
“From the faculty?”
Mr. Rodney’s face lit with understanding. “Oh, yes. About your victory. Inter-varsity champion, eh? That’s fine—fine! Knocked your man cold, too. Quite a feat, Jack! Congratulations!”
“I don’t mean that, sir. I mean—”
“I know, of course, that this is the middle of your term. Taking off a couple of days to see your old dad, I suppose?”
“I’ve been set down, sir. Expelled. My test exams were no good. They warned me at mid-year, and I—well, I wasn’t able to give the time to my studies—-not to catch up, I mean.”
“So that’s it.” Mr. Rodney’s voice had not changed. “Yes, sir. I’m terribly sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too.” Once again his attention strayed to the silver frame.
“I gave too much time to boxing and—and other matters. I know it was my own fault; I could have done better—not disgraced myself like this. I’ve no excuses.” From the drawer came the dean’s letter, and in silence it was passed across the table. The boy, surprised, looked up into his father’s eyes.
“Got it yesterday,” said Mr. Rodney. “A-shock; a very great shock. My only child. The one thing Mary left me.”
He rose at this and went to the window.
“Jack, I’d placed any amount of confidence in you. There were big things you and I might have done together —important things; things requiring the essentials of scholarship and concentration; things, in fact, that wanted those precise characteristics which the letter in your hand informs me you don’t possess.”
Jack remained silent.
“Son, I’m going to say something that will hurt you. I’m glad—-yes, glad your mother isn’t alive to witness your failure.”
The marble clock on the mantel ticked loudly for severa minutes; then Mr. Rodney moved and returned to his chair. “It amounts to this, then: your university shifts the burden of your education on to me, your father. All right. I’ll not shirk it; simply because you’re my son. I can’t give you a degree, of course; that now is beyond your reach. I’d give you mine if you could in all decency wear it. But the truth is, the only laurel that would fit your brow is a pair of boxing gloves.”
The boy winced.
“Well, we’ll start again. Your allowance stops from to-day. You’ll not get a penny from me but the salary you’ll earn as my office boy—for, by Heaven, that’s the only position in the firm you’d be capable of handling. You start to-morrow. The salary will be twelve dollars a week. And now my duties down town shall be interfered with no longer.”
He rose with the intention of leaving the room.
“Just a minute, sir.”
Mr. Rodney hesitated.
“To prove the sincerity of my regret for causing you this disappointment I’d be willing to lick your boots. But not for
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The Mettle of the Man Shows Through
Continued from page 16
twelve dollars a week, dad. I don’t intend to live here—in this house. I’ve got to find a small apartment—and finding it, I’ll need more than twelve dollars to keep it -going.”
“What, exactly, do you mean?”
“I’ve got a wife to keep, sir. I’ve been married for almost four months. That was the reason, not so much the boxing, why I couldn’t give the proper attention to—”
Steel eyes met steel eyes, then Rodney, senior, pressed a button on his desk.
“Phone to the office,” he told the servant, “and say that I will be unable to see Sir William Appleby this morning.”
The door closed. James Alexander Rodney betrayed his emotions so far as savagely to bite the end off his cigar and then to throw the weed away unsmoked.
“So that’s the way the wind blows! By the Lord Harry, Jack, you’ve played me shabbily! Yes, it’s taken all the starch out of my collar, I’m hanged if it hasn’t.” He dropped into a chair, and his head drooped a little on his breast.
“Where is this—woman?” he asked, lifting his face.
“She’ll be here on Wednesday, sir.” “And who is she? What is she? Come, let’s have it from start to finish.”
“Her name is Vivian Chester. She works—or did work—at Eaton’s store.” “Urn!”
“She’s beautiful,” flushed Jack, “and one of the purest, sweetest girls I’ve ever known.” The idea, thought J. A. R., of his son talking glibly about girls in the plural! “There isn’t another like her in the world. She’s the most wonderful—”
“Skip all that,” came the interruption. “Come to Hecuba. What’s the meaning of the whole damned business?”
“It’s no disgrace,” retaliated the son, “to marry some one not quite your social equal. You’ve often told me about mother —that she—”
“Perhaps not,” answered the father. “But it certainly is a disgrace to marry a girl you can’t afford to keep. That’s what j ou’ve done, in addition to having been l icked out of your college; and that’s what I didn’t do. I waited—d’you hear? —waited till I could offer your mother the comforts of a decent home.”
The boy was calmer now, though his face was pale.
“ƒ couldn’t wait,” he said ambiguously. “I mean, I couldn’t withhold my protection—loving her as I did. Her father died very suddenly—he was killed in a street accident—and Viv was left absolutely alone, destitute. She had nowhere to go, no one to look after her. I wanted to tell you, dad, believe me, I did; -we both did. But Viv thought it would be better to wait until I saw you on term day.” He hung his head. “I didn’t think it would be like this.”
James Alexander Rodney looked long at him.
“How old is this girl?”
“Viv, you mean?”
“Yes, Viv! It rimes, appropriately, with an article of the nursery.”
“But she’s not like other flappers. She’s got a sensible head on her shoulders.”
“An advantage over her husband, I see.”
There was a silence until the older man brought his fist down with a bang.
“Twelve dollars a week!” was his ultimatum as, finally, he rose and walked to the door.
“I can and must earn more than that,” said Jack.
“You can’t do it.”
“Yes, I can, dad. In the ring. Dan Morgan said I could earn a thousand dollars for one bout if I’d turn professional. I’ve licked every man that ever faced me. Mr. Levinson, of the Toronto Arena, offered me a hundred dollars for a scrap last month, but I refused.”
James Alexander Rodney looked his age just then. He attempted to speak, but instead pointed with a quivering finger at the silver frame. “Look at your mother,” he said. “If you further disgrace the memory of her, I’ll—I’ll break every bone in your body!”
“I’ve got a wife to look after.” Jack’s eyes were troubled. “She’ll be here Wednesday. I’d dare heaven and hell for her, dad; I swear it!”
“You’ll not dare the honor of this house, I tell you. Your private affairs have nothing to do with me. Good Lord, have you no decency at all? A prize fighter! I’d sooner see you dead in the putter!” Intense, he drew himself erect. “You’ll be at my office to-morrow morning. Twelve dollars a week.”
When his father had gone Jack Rodney did a strange thing.. He fell on his knees and after kissing his mother’s photograph, buried his head in his arms before it.
On Tuesday at nine o’clock the new office boy did not report for duty, and J. A. R. shrugged his shoulders. Nor was he on hand in the house, nor yet at the office on Wednesday morning. By the middle of the week a private detective was engaged, but it was not until Saturday afternoon that that wiseacre presented himself before his client, accompanied by an edition of the Montreal Star. His success, he claimed, lay in a photograph on the sporting page. He was dismissed; and a telephone call to the sporting editor achieved, in the short space of half an hour, Ihe desired address—•—No. 19 \/¿ Walker Avenue, Rosemount.
Mr. Rodney then turned his attention to the Sltir'x boxing column. It informed its read* rs that .Jack Rodney, the Olympic heavyweight champion, had turned professional, and was matched to fight Steve
Hewitt at Le Cirque National in two weeks’ time. Both men were training in the city. Herman Forest, the promoter, promised his patrons a rare treat.
Little dinner did Mr. Rodney eat that evening. His son a pugilist! That, the extent, the result of his love; of his careful, painstaking teaching; that, the sum total of a university education. A prizefighter! Bitterness fought for expansion; but filial regard held the mastery. Yes, what mattered the honor of his name? The boy and not the name was the thing. The lad!
James Alexander Rodney had no objection to pugilism as a sport, a display of muscular skill; he had been to Le Cirque National once or twice; enjoyed it. But a pugilist, while he may be a decent, lawabiding member of society, was not a useful one; not one of the world’s workers; not an ant. On the contrary, he was an iconclast, a destructionist; he didn’t put his shoulder to life’s wheel; he merely stood by and was built up by cereals and exercise until he became a blunt_ automaton! of superior strength and agility; an ogre; a common giant; a Baal god, whom the honest laborer was forced to respect in the street in order to protect his nose. That, finally, was how matters appeared, now that his son had pitched the Rodney cap into the ring.
The sporting editor of the Star proved a willing and entirely sympathetic listener; furthermore, he was, removed from his typewriter, of a similar opinion to James Alexander Rodney. At any rate, he supplied information and performed duties which enabled his questioner to prepare the ground work for a determined rehabilitation.
There was a perfectly timed visit to a small apartment on the third floor of a building in Rosemount. The door was open, and J. A. R. saw a little lady of the bobbed hair variety on her hands and knees. She looked up out of very blue, brave eyes, then went on scrubbing.
“No, thanks,” she decided briskly. “No books! Haven’t time to read ’em!” Rodney smiled. In any case, he thought her judgment was not so faulty.
“It’s not books,” he told her. “It’s boxing.”
“Oh! A reporter.”
“No. A father.”
She rose, letting the bar of soap fall with a plop into the bucket, dried her little hands, and sat down on a chair. A pretty child, he thought, despite her consternation and wet apron. Not so very unlike another—as he first saw her twenty-four years ago—except for this ridiculous hair business and an ample display of calf and ankle, still, on the whole, rather sturdy for all her demureness. Fancy young Jack choosing a girl of this sort! He had imagined a tall, handsome blonde of imperial mien. Quite the contrary. Astonishing!
“I’ve come,” he said quietly, “to enlist your services.”
“Nothing doing!”, The blue eyes flashed fire.
“Are you content that your husband should be a prize fighter?”
Vivian shook her head, but immediately changed it into a contrary motion. “Yes. That is, I don’t mind. He’s going to make a fortune.”
“Will you go and see him? In the ring?”
This troubled her. “If—if he wants me, I’ll go. But I don’t think he’ll ask me. I’m sorry, but I must go on with my work. I’ve got the other room to do yet, and—and the cooking. He’s got to have special things to eat, you see. I’ll tell him you called.” She walked to the door and opened it a little wider. “I’ve no intention of going.”
“Very well,” said Vivian promptly. “Then you’ll have to talk while I do my scrubbing.” The swish-swish of the floor brush prevented all further conversation until a certain little busybody was out of breath, and in the meantime J. A. R. familiarized himself with the nest in which his son apparently found happiness. It had nothing to commend itself but cleanliness, and undoubtedly the genius of that virtue lay in this curly headed bundle of animation at his feet.
At four o’clock he emerged jubilantly and gained his car. Only half of his scheme had he confided, but now that Vivian was with him, it promised a complete victory. The lad was the thing; and Mr. Rodney tightened his resolve. Not far wrong, either, in offering that brave little lady a position in his office at thirty dollars a week.
Preposterous! Jack beholden to a cheap boxing promoter for his rent and food! Well, thirty dollars a wpek would offset that, thank God! And Vivian—pretty name—had promised to keep it secret. He was inclined to think the boy hadn’t made a mistake there. Despite the extraordinary difference in their stature, she would handle him without gloves. He laughed. “No, thanks! No books.” The little rascal.
THAT which thrilled and delighted Montreal’s sporting element had a contrary effect on Jack Rodney. With his glove he wiped the perspiration from his forehead and, facing Herman Forest, sat down on a bench. The scene was the inside of Chicken Pratt’s small gymnasium where Jack trained every morning and afternoon and where he sparred with Bob Ryan, one-time middle-weight champion, whom he paid the small sum of five dollars a day for the privilege of advice and the use of his mug.
“Yes, it’s all off, Jack,” reiterated Forest. “Hewitt’s cut out. Guess you’ve got him scared.” He winked at Ryan. “What’s the idea?”
“I’ve just told you.”
“And my two hundred and fifty?” “Fades into thin air, Jack. Too bad.” Old Boy Ryan said; “Dat’s dis game all over, Jack. Dere ain’t nothin’ sure till you’re a champ.”
“Well, Bob, you lose, too. I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to pay you. I’ve spent every nickel I have getting an apartment for my wrife.”
“Dat’s all O.K., son.” Ryan turned a battered, ring-worm visage to Herman Forest. “Say, Herman, lemme tell you somethin’. Dis kid’s goin’ to make some of dese bums look sick some day; I’m tellin’ yer.”
Herman agreed. “I know. You go on the first opportunity, Jack. Same price, too. Maybe week after next.”
Jack wasn’t satisfied. “But how can you afford to put on the Fred Bolton-Bill Bennon go?”
“It’s not me,” smiled Forest. “There’s a wealthy sport at the back of it.”
Ryan jumped to his feet. “What’s dat? Fred Bolton? Cornin’ here for a scrap— wid Bennon?”
“Next Friday night. ’Stead of Jack’s go.”
“Why, Bolton wants a coupla thousand berries, at least.”
“Who’s back of it?”
Forest, preparing to depart, caressed with fat fingers the diamond in his necktie. “Ah!”, he said. “That’s a secret. Don’t forget, Jack—you go on the week after next. Keep up the training. So-long!”
Instead, Jack took off his gloves and laid a bare hand on Ryan’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Bob; I am, honestly. Is Forest on the level with me?”
“Oh, he’s on de level, all right. He’ll put you on de week after next. But what gets me is—”
“Then will you continue on the same terms, Bob?”
“Sure, I will! You did fine dis morning, and dat left’s improvin’, too. Dat’s all you need, Jack; your left. Believe me, you sure got a stick of dynamite in your right. A little more experience, and I’d bet on you against Bolton.”
Jack laughed at that.
“I ain’t kiddin’. I mean it!” He didn’t really mean it; but his professional eye had been pleased with Jack Rodney. There was, he knew, world-beating material in the boy, and all it needed was experience and proper training. “Now, don’t do nothin’ dis afternoon, and tomorrow, Sunday, take a ten-mile hike. See you Monday morning.”
Walking home—a considerable distance, but it saved five cents—Jack worried about grocery bills. All the money he had was a ten dollar bill locked up in his trunk. Vivian, kissing him, knew something was wrong.
“It’s all off,” he explained. “The fight, I mean.”
Apparently this pleased her. “I’d hate to see you get hurt, Jack, dear.”
“But how do you think we’re going to pay for our Sunday dinner, Viv? All I have is ten dollars.”
Looking up at him archly, she opened her small hand. A wad of money unfolded itself, as though it were alive.
“Was thirty,” said Vivian brightly,
“but I spent fifty cents for chocolates, and bought some tomatoes for lunch.” She pointed to the table.
His mouth was closed by her lips, and her vague explanation went down his throat. “I’m working. Now don’t struggle—not a word. Since last Monday, Jackie, dear. The most wonderful boss in the whole wide world! And, oh! I wish you could—could get something, too. Not have to box, I mean. Such easy hours, I’ve had; and he’s been absolutely a perfect dear to me. Now, don’t frown. He’s old —white hair and everything. And you didn’t guess, did you, all the week? I get two hours for lunch, so I was able to come home—Jack! Isn’t that a beautiful word? Home—and cook your meals; and I get off at four in the afternoon. So, you see, you never suspected, did you, dearest? I didn’t tell you, in case you’d object. Yes, I know what you said. But why shouldn’t a wife help? I’ve worked ever since I was sixteen, and thirty dollars a week isn’t to be sniffed at these days. Is it, dearest?”
So Jack went on training, and Vivian continued working, and on Tuesday afternoon still another link was welded in the chain that J.A.R. was forging to bind and graduate a son. In his own private office, Herman Forest opened his mouth in utter amazement; as would other mouths be similarly opened when facing the sporting page in the morning newspapers.
“You’ve certainly got me guessing, Mr. Rodney. Bennon will claim his money all the same if he don’t fight.”
“I understand, perfectly. My check is deposited. Give him his money, by all means.”
“And Bolton? What about him? He’ll know that Bennon hasn’t injured his hand.”
“Of course he will. But he gets another opponent: a college boy, by the name of Jack Rodney!”
The boxing promoter gasped!
“What! Stack young Rodney up against Bolton? Say, Mr. Rodney, quit your kidding. You don’t want to see your boy killed, do you? Bolton’s a top-notcher! There ain’t above six heavies in the country that would have a show with him.”
“Don’t agree with you,” said Mr. Rodney stiffly. “He was knocked out last March by an unknown man in New Orleans. You see, I know a little about your business, Mr. Forest.”
“Sam Price, the negro. Yes; but Bolton should never have gone in the ring that night. He told me. He’d been drinking to ward off a touch of influenza.”
“Uh, um! Well, there is a lot of influenza about,” suggested J.A.R. “And lots of good medicine here in Montreal to ward it off.”
Forest shook his head. “Listen! Bolton’s out for a return match with the champion. He’s in town now. His manager never leaves him from morning to night. Believe me, Mr. Rodney, your son—”
J. A. R. characteristically thumped the table. “Now, please leave my name and kinship out of it. I warned you before. I don’t want anybody to get the slightest idea that I’m mixed up in this—the boy, especially. What have you to worry about, Forest? I cover your expenses, I pay the fighters for you; you have nothing to do, so far as I can see, but sit back, enjoy the support and enthusiasm of your clientele—and rake in the shekels!”
“True. But I’ve an interest in”—he checked himself—“in the lad. Bob Ryan says he’s the best prospect he’s seen in years. He’s a little green, that’s all. I won’t say a world *beater, but he’ll make some of ’em hustle, believe me! Now, what’s the use of rushing him into a match of this sort? It’ll dishearten the boy to be beaten in his first go. What I say is, build up something easy for him as a starter; then, in a year or so, trot him out against a second rater.” Confidentially, he lowered his voice. “Otherwise— take it from me—you’ll spoil him.”
James Alexander Rodney was inwardly pleased by the prospect of spoliation, though he was reluctant to expose it to Herman Forest. He twisted his gray mustache and assumed a thoughtful expression. The promoter drove his point further home.
“Bolton’s left jab ’ll finish him.”
“You think so?”
“I don’t think. I know. The boy has nothing to counteract it. It would be a set-up for Bolton.”
Mr. Rodney’s eyes changed, first to w'arm steel, then back again to cold. As he
i opened the office door, he was fully and finally resolved. “I don’t believe it. The boy’s a wonder, I tell you. Give him five hundred and put the bout on. Good day!” A telegram went to Toronto the next morning. It was sent by an excited young man who wanted to know if “Molly” could come down to Montreal on the following Friday in order to see him box Fred Bolton. “Bob Ryan,” said the wire, “thinks I have a good chance. It’s ten rounds, and I get five hundred.” Molly didn’t sleep a wink that night, and packed his suit case on Thursday afternoon. But Fred Bolton, when he heard that a “college guy” was to go up against him instead of Bennon, made sure that his money was safe, eluded his trainer, and did what in his heart he had been longing to do ever since he arrived in Canada— had a glass of good ale.
With that under his belt, he sauntered into Chicken Pratt’s gymnasium with the humanitarian notion of giving Jack Rodney a little advice. This amazing breach of ring etiquette was picturesquely objected to by Bob Ryan. “You ain’t got nothin’ to tell dis bird. He’ll talk to you inside de ropes. Get outa here!”
“Now, listen! I only want to give Mr. College Boy a little—”
“You heard what he said,” interfered Jack. “I’ll see you Friday night.”
Fred Bolton grinned, and went out. His manager found him that night at about ten o’clock in the Windsor grill. He was not alone, but the presence of ladies failed to check the torrent of vernacular with which his adviser greeted him. A spade shall be called a spade if a boxing manager is worth his salt. “And, besides, there’s a guy been trying to get in touch with you all day. Says it’s urgent. Won’t give his name or nothing. He wants to see you personal.”
If anything, Bolton’s choice of epithet was a degree worse than that of his manager, but there were occasions when he controlled himself. This was one of them. “What’s his name?” he asked.
“Search me. Wouldn’t give a name. Says he will call here to see you in the morning.”
The morning’s visitor, of course, was James Alexander Rodney. He was not permitted to see the fighter alone, but before the final link was snapped into place he swore that necessary satellite—a manager—into promised secrecy.
“My object, Mr. Bolton, is to cure my son of ring fever. I have other plans for him. You are a sensible man; you will readily agree that a boy who has received a good education and has prospects which I, as his father, can put within his grasp, is making a serious mistake by becoming a boxer—a profession in which only champions like yourself have any chance.” “Sure, sure!”
“To cure him, I have gone to extreme lengths and not a little expense. All this fistic sensation of the past two weeks has been my manipulation, Mr. Bolton. Now,
I want you to complete my plans.”
The huge pugilist, gorilla-armed, thicknecked, lean faced, pinched his nose with his thumb and finger.
“Maybe I get you,” he drawled. To his surprise J.A.R. got a whiff of alcoholic breath. “Shoot!”
“It’s been a long preparation,” said Mr. Rodney. “First, I stopped his bout with Steve Hewitt. Then I arranged with Forest to get you and Bennon.” He smiled magnanimously at the fighter. “Bennon was just as pleased to get half his money and not meet you, Mr. Bolton.” The manager cut in with: “You said something!”
J. A. R. tapped Bolton on the knee. “You were the man I wanted.”
There was a silence.
“Since my boy won the Olympic championship, he’s been told by all and everybody that he could beat any man in the world. It’s turned his head. I’ve thought the thing over very carefully, and I’ve come to the opinion that this is the only way to cure him.
“There’s an old saying, Mr. Bolton: ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ I never believed in it, but I’m going to try it— once. You’ll be wrong if you underestimate my love for the boy. He’s all I have; my one and only child; I’d do anything for the impulsive young beggar; and I believe I’m doing this for his good.” He paused. “Don’t knock him out in the
first round; that may give him a false impression of his luck. Let him go until the fourth. Make him suffer; give him a good lesson—and for every blow you land, I’ll give you a dollar in addition to the money you’ll receive from Forest.”
Bolton laughed. “I get you.” His mind rolled back to the visit to Pratt’s gymnasium, and a young man’s presumptuous superiority. “Leave it to me,” he said grimly.
“The fourth, Bolton. I don’t want him disfigured, mind you.”
UNFORTUNATELY Le cirque National, like many another provincial boxing club, had little to do with true sportsmanship. This was not entirely the fault of its manager, Herman Forest. Clad in evening clothes, he never failed to make a little speech from the ring, urging fair play and an observance of the smoking rule. In neither was he obeyed. His fortnightly patrons were out to sit back, smoke, and shout, bellow, and scream for gore, gore, and more gore. If their favorite failed them, and was being beaten they clamored for his finish. A knockout! Nothing less was an adequate return for their entrance fee. And woe betide the athlete who trained in the open air, for when he entered Le Cirque National, he found the atmosphere of his dressing room surcharged with impurities, and after waiting his turn he needs must cut his way to his arena through a lung affecting fog that had come, and was still coming, from two thousand cigars or pipes.
The preliminaries were over, and gory enough had they been. The house was in a happy mood. Not a vacant seat. In the second row, and directly opposite a corner of the ring, sat a broad-shouldered, gray mustached gent eman, one of a dozen or so who refrained from smoking. J. A.R. wanted fair play.
The announcer, in French and English, began to inform the house that—-“Bolton —champion of the—•” Volumes of raw applause; Bolton, in a gray bathrobe, bowing like a Chinese mandarin in the ring. “And—Rodney—Olympic—of the —” J.A.R. was amazed to hear how well his son was received. He avoided looking at him, but to his annoyance, his heart was pounding vigorously. Introductions, cheers, announcements, cheers, challenges cheers, and the house tempered itself and lit cigars. A voice reached the ringside. “Don’t let him scare you, Rodney.” J.A.R. glanced up at his son, not ten feet before and slightly above him. A green and yellow jerseyed man, about as handsome as a bulldog, appeared to be his chief adviser. He was whispering final instructions, holding a towel over the lad’s shoulders with as dainty and devoted a touch as might be expected from a mother. A young college man was on the other side.
“Don’t let him get set, Jack. Dive into him. And for God’s sake, make him break clean.”
“Oh, shut up, Molly! How can I pay attention to both of you?”
Said Ryan: “Lissen! Keep yer lamps on me, d’yer understand? When I tell yer
“I get you, Bob.”
“Now, lissen! Lissen! Don’t let the dirty bum use his left. He’s been hittin’ de booze; so play fer hi»ribs.”
“All right, all right.”
The referee, looking like a spick and span tennis player, called both men to the center of the ring. The excitement began to swell like an oncoming storm, and it was “seconds out” and—the wait for the gong. James Alexander Rodney became fascinated. Up there, in that little white desert, was his flesh and blood, waiting to fight a picked opponent of his own weight and size. What a fearful business! One, a picture of physique, a magnificent satinskinned athlete, a Greek statue; Bolton, not so pleasing—thin legs; bulky about the shoulders; thick, short neck, surmounted by an inscrutable, saturnine face that had to do with fighting and nothing hut fighting. If o riy—the gong!
Jack advanced and offered his glove for the customary touch, but Bolton brought his right up to the face, and Jack was staggered to his heels. A roar of laughter
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came from all sides of the ring. He steadied himself and sparred cautiously. He was out to fight as he never had fought [ before. He knew perfectly well that this j man, thrusting, jabbing and swinging at him was—or should be—more than his match. But, as Molly had said, if he could go the full distance, his fortune would be made. He could, he would, go the ten rounds.
The mob was already in an uproar. Blood had come with Bolton’s second blow. Jack fought back, and to his intense relief felt his right sink into his opponent’s stomach.
“That’ll cost your dad another hundred,” said Bolton.
From then on to the end of the round Jack discovered that Bolton had much information to impart, which he was doing with a savagery of expression that spread itself to his fighting. Most of it he paid no attention to, and avoiding being hemmed in a corner, he once again whipped his right under Bolton’s guard. A grunt told him he had hurt his man. The house was shouting mad. Ryan was shrieking some advice from below him, but the gong ended all.
In his own corner, Molly, wiping his face with a cold sponge, was almost delirious with joy.
“Great stuff!” he said. “You’re a wonder, Jack, old boy!” Ryan mothered him, and again advised him to “keep away from his left.”
In the second round Jack knew he had little or no chance. Bolton, raining in his blows from all angles, kept up a continual chatter. “The fourth for yours, Mr. Colleger. D’yer see your dad down there?” Jack was careful not to look. “He’s giving me a dollar for every blow I land. Here’s a couple now. One-two-three.” Over his shoulder he called to his second, “Guess that’s about a hundred, isn’t it, buddy?”
Jack fought desperately until he took a left and right to the mouth that brought the house to its feet with tfre usual request for a knockout. He threw himself into a clinch, and his eyes cleared. He was glad to hear the gong.
“What the use me tellin’ yer about dat left?” said Ryan.
Molly was silent. Jack knew his seconds had a messy job on their hands.
The third was plain slaughter. The house, too, Jack heard, was now against him. In some way or other he managed to weather Bolton’s relentless attack and went shakily to his corner.
Bob Ryan, however, had not lost his confidence. “He’s tirin’ fast,” the old pugilist said. “Look at him blowin’ even now. A coupla rights to his stomach, Jack, and you’ll put him down.”
Molly was too busy with the sponge to say anything. The gong rang for the fourth.
Jack met Bolton’s grinning remark with a straight left to the neck. His one resolve now was to last through this round. While waiting in his corner he had spied his dad, sitting with drawn face, almost within arm’s length. He now knew the whole story from Bolton. He must last the round. His weakened condition from a steady left jab was the occasion of jeers from the upper part of the house. “Here it comes!”
Watching Bolton’s rapierlike left, he managed to avoid it and dance away. Bolton followed, however, landed a stiff uppercut, and, closing in, brought a right to the chin. Jack went down. In the midst of the vociferous din he heard Bob Ryan’s voice close beside him.
“Keep down—keep down. Wait for it— den clinch!”
Jack, on one knee, closed his eyes to the whirling canvas and listened to the referee. “Seven—-eight—nine—
He was up, and into a clinch. From that hold he was quickly pried loose, and a blow to his mouth sent him up against the ropes, ins legs wabbled, his eyes glazed and the gong! Thank God, he was still on his feet, and through the fourth round!
With the house still roaring, Jack’s sensations as he sat on the hard welcome stool were peculiar. Ilis body seemed numb; his face and chin were sore; his arms and shoulders red hot. The cold water poured by Molly over his head was nectar from heaven, but something warm continued to trickle down his cheek and from his lips.
Ryan was working over him like a
fury. He was, he knew, in a sorry plight; while Bolton was unmarked, except for a few dark smears on his neck and shoulders which were certainly not his own. Jack thought of his father—of Vivian. Was this, then, his desire? To embark upon a career in which, even if he eventually became champion of the world, he must suffer himself to be beaten and cut to pieces by some pugilistic brute or other who was, apart from fighting, his rank inferior?
It was heartrending to feel so utterly helpless, to know that despite the summoning of every honest ounce of strength he was unable to strike this foul-mouthed ruffian to the floor. Poor old dad! He was right, thought Jack, in wanting to save him from a mob of weather-vane partisans who howled like madmen until their appetite was satiated only when a man lay unconscious before their eyes.
Molly wanted to throw the towel into the ring. .
“Keep that thing out of sight, ordered Jack. “I’m going through with this busi-
n6“You betcha,” said Ryan. “And believe me, you’re goin’ to knock dat bum silly.”
As Jack responded to the gong for the fifth round he paused to lean over the ropes. Between torn and bleeding lips he said: “What say, dad? I’m still here!”
Then James Alexander Rodney did a most remarkable thing—a thing which put a black mark on his record of decorum and respectability. Springing to his feet, he yelled, in a voice that could be heard across
“Go for him, Jack! I’m rootin’ for you!”
If the whole house had rooted for him— which it did not—it wouldn’t have helped Jack Rodney. But that one well-known voice put new strength in him. Jack, instead of fighting on the defensive, flung himself into a vicious attack. Bolton was taken by surprise, and in trying to recover his balance he slipped on something staining the canvas and pitched forward.
Jack, swinging wildly, caught him flush on the chin. Bolton went down like a slithering ox. Instantly hell was let loose from all four quarters of the house. Jack, stepping back, could hardly believe his eyes as he watched a white arm go up and down over a prostrate body.
It was all over. Molly and Bob Ryan were smothering him with their irrelevant embraces. The ring was quickly littered with people. Jack was forced, dragged, pulled through the ropes, patted on his head and back by hundreds of unknown hands, and thrust into his dressing room.
Ryan stood guard at the door; but nothing on earth would have kept out James Alexander Rodney. His shoulders were primed to smash through any obstruction, and be burst in like a tornado.
“Jack,” he said, excitedly, “will you forgive me?”
“Every time, dad.”
“By Heaven, you were magnificent! I never saw such pluck, such courage.” Jack stood up to take his father’s hand. “Lord, boy, but you’re a terrible sight! A bloody but victorious son!”
“It was a fluke.” The boy bowed his head. “I won a victory, not so much in the ring, but”—he looked up resolutely— “over the ring. I’m through!” It was said quietly, but with such deadly earnestness that Molly and Bob Ryan had to gulp down their protestations.
James Alexander Rodney hardly trusted himself to speak. He patted his boy’s hand, and, walking to the far end of the little room, blew his nose with a clean handkerchief as though he had suddenly developed a bad cold. “Let’s go home, Jack. The car’s outside. Come as you are.”
“Not until I get my five hundred, dad. I earned it, didn’t I?” Jack, fumbling with his gloves, smiled. “Where’s that man Forest?”
Forest was sent for, and in the meantime the young fighter received first aid attention.
“Wants a coupla stitches,” said Ryan. “Two places.”
“Yes—up at my house,” interposed J.A.R. “I’ll telephone for a doctor.”
“One minute, dad. Don’t forget I’m passing up a good job, now that I beat Bolton. I’ve got to find work somewhere. How are the chances for that office boy’s salary?”
Near the door his father solemnly shook his head. “The position’s filled,” he said. “But there’s a junior partnership vacant if you’d like it. I’ve found out to-night that you’re just the man we need.”
He hurried out and made two phone calls. The first one was to his physician, and the other to a certain young lady in Rosemount. Both parties declared they would lose no time in getting to Drummond Street.
During the ride uptown Jack was tactfully acquainted with all the facts of the case. Mr. Rodney didn’t mince matters; he told his story openly and left nothing to the imagination.
Jack nodded. “So Vivian was in the game, too, was she? Dad, I guess it was all coming to me, although I meant well. A fellow’s got to support his wife. But I’ve certainly graduated all right, and I’ll say you were some professor.”
The doctor was waiting. His task was not a long one, even if complicated, and Jack presented a fairly good appearance when Vivian burst into the room. There was a strip of white plaster across his eyebrow, and a pretty Maltese cross of the same material on his left cheek; his lips also bore witness to a doctor’s hand. To Vivian, however, he was totally disfigured and appeared to be a young husband on the point of expiration.
“Oh, this is awful!” she sobbed. “Poor, dear Jack! They’ve nearly killed you. If I were only a man I’d go and scratch that Bolton’s eyes out!”
“It’s all right, Vivian,” he said, as she dropped on her knees beside his chair. “I’m not hurt.”
“Not hurt! Have you seen your face in a mirror? Oh, Jack, and you were so good looking too! Anyway, I’m glad you lost, dear.”
“Lost nothing! Who said I lost? I won.” “You won? What—with a face like that?”
“Certainly I won. By a knockout.” “Well, if you won, they must have scraped the other fellow into a basket and carried him to the ash barrel.”
James Alexander Rodney burst out laughing. “That’s just what they did, Vivian.”
She looked anxiously at him. “Then the scheme kind of slipped, after all, did it?”
“No,” said Jack, smiling at her. “I’m through with the ring forever and ever.” “He’s going into my office as junior partner.”
A little of the sunshine returned to Vivian’s eyes. “W-will that be in my department—I mean my office?”
“Actually in your chair, young lady. But with regard to your secretarial position, I’ve some sad news. I’m afraid I’ll have to discharge you.”
“Because we’ll need you here,” said Mr. Rodney. “This house has been far too long without a mistress.” He went to a photograph, picked it up, then put it into Vivian’s hands. “I’m sure she welcomes you as much as we do.”