"The King Is Dead"
BYRON M. FISHER
A dramatic story of the prize ring and a champion who couldn’t forget
EVER sit in an arena and listen to the sounds which rise from the crowd? Queer sensation. Try it some time. Just a sort of low murmur; no individual noises at all, except perhaps a shout as some human becomes a little more excited than his neighbors.
Probably some of you have. Then did you ever notice the difference between an ordinary night and a championship bout? It’s different; a lot different. There is a peculiar atmosphere. Everyone is in a state of tension. There is something uncanny about the deepthroated growl which goes up as the principals stride down the aisle. Gives you a queer feeling, if you stop to think about it.
Bob Dane noticed it as he strode down the aisle in the midst of bucket boys, towel toters and trainers. It gave him a queer feeling. Again he found the question of the outcome of thi3 battle clouding his mind as it had done so many times while he was in training. And again he dismissed it with an oath which was smothered by the mad clamor of the excitement-crazed mob.
The crowd was cheering him; shouting words of encouragement. The public loved him. He smiled bitterly as he thought of it. Why? Because he was a killer. But tonight . . .
Again that ominous something leaped into his mind to warn him. A jinx? No. It was logical that he should lose tonight. The man he was pitted against was a killer, too Grim Joe Blare. Grim Jew had courage and power. And he was young. Much younger than the champion! The newspapers thought that Bad Bob Dane was nearing theendof the trail. Hesneered as thereflashed through his mind a picture of the article by Jake Bud which had appeared the night before in the 7'imex. ‘‘The King Is Dead, Long Live the King,” was the headline. They were that sure he was going down to defeat.
As he reached the ringside a form rase from an aisle seat. It was a feminine form, slim and beautiful. Bad Bob Dane stopped, held out his arms, and received that morsel of loveliness within them while the screeching bank of humanity suddenly quieted, in admiration.
A strange couple. Bob Dane, the heavyweight boxing champion of the world; big, black, and powerful. His close-cropped, bullet head droop«! slightly, bringing into evidence his cauliflowered left ear and flattened nase. Claire Dane, his wife; dainty and finely molded.
Claire rested her soft cheek upon the rough one of the champion. Slowly her head turned until her lips brushed his.9
Something suddenly surged up within Bob Dane. Something which made him want to hurl this little hypocrite from him. She, basking in the light of his fame; pretending she loved him devotedly so that she might obtain the title of ‘‘the truest wife a fighter ever had." Truest! Bah! She didn’t know the meaning of the word !
But instead Dane kissed her, laughed, and ruffed her pretty blonde locks with his chin - for the crowd to see. The crowd did see. And the rough fidgeted, the sentimental thrilled, the uninitiated remarked that they were human.
Then, with one last little caress, she was gone.
The champion parted the ropes and climbed through them. Then he turned and gave those outside the curt little wave of the hand which had become almast a necessary part of his lights. A massive bank of humanity it was out there; a vast sea of white faces. Bright colors mingled with the dark shadows. There thunder«! forth a roar of sound. The mob were shrieking for their idol, shrieking eerily, madly; unmindful of what they were saying. They were giving the crowd’s tribute to a man who had never disappointed them; a man who had always shown them blood.
For a brief moment he gazed at them. Strange thoughts entered his mind; thoughts which had never been there before. The crowd noticed that stare and wondered. He had always ignor«i them in the past. The radio announcer mentioned it. The press boys made note of it as a sign that the champion had misgivings. Only a moment he stood there. Then he wheeled
and strode across the ring, without a glance into the opposite corner, where he knew lounged the lithe, hardas-nails man who was to be his opponent.
r I 'HERE were the customary introductions— Paddy McIntyre, the tiny flyweight champ; Bull O’Higgens, the leading welterweight contender; Boy Langlin, the new lightweight champ; Soldier Craebrau, the sensation from Madagascar.
Then the ring was cleared. Laffin’ Johnny Burke called them to the centre and gave them their instructions; the same instructions that each had heard scores of times before.
They turned and walked away. A handler whisked the champ’s bathrobe from his shoulders.
They faced the ropes. All was silent now; strange, creepy.
Both men wheeled. The champion’s face was wreathed in a mirthless smile; the smile which had broken the nerve of so many men of iron, a killer’s smile. Joe Blare’s features were grim, as they always were. His lips formed a narrow line, a cruel line. His eyes were cold, expressionless. His straight black hair hung down like a forelock, almost interfering with his vision.
They came together, pawing. For a moment the champion seemed to waver. Then he was in. His left flicked forward. He saw the challenger lurch sideways to avoid that cat’s paw. He hurled a right to those unprotected ribs. The challenger caught his breath and lashed out for the bullet head before him. But his glove glanced off, and Dane ripped him with a salvo of tearing hooks about the body. Again Blare lanced out. This time he was successful. The blow landed, but Dane did not seem to know. He just crouched a little lower and waded in. Left, right, left, right, smashed the blows to the challenger’s body. Blare tried to flit out of range and for a moment succeeded. A savage left fell short of thase reddening ribs by half an inch.
But now Dane was on Blare again. Bam, bam, bam; the blows thudded home with deadly precision. Dane saw a flash of pain reflected in the grim mask before him, and he knew well that those body punches were taking their toll. He heard the short, stifled gasps of his opponent as Blare was forced to clinch. But Dane was ready. Those grappling tentacles had hardly entwined themselves about his shoulders when he brought up his right in a savage snap which jolted Blare’s head back on his spine. In a frenzy, Blare clubbed Dane. His blows chopped home to the side of that close-cropped skull with dull thumps, but Dane’s arms were pistons as he returned fire to the other’s purpling stomach. Blare, for the first time, realized in full the truth of the stories which had been told regarding the champ’s hitting powers. He danced away. For half a minute they boxed, the challenger keeping at a distance, playing for time. Then Dane was boring in again. Blare backed away until the ropes scorched his back. Then, desperately, he lashed out with long rights, and slipped into the centre of the ring again before Dane could get close enough to pummel him.
The champ’s head was down. He was still grinning: a permanent, glued-on, mirthless grin. He was thinking. Wondering what the press boys were whispering now. He glided forward. It reminded one of a cocksure cat stealing upon -a cornered mouse. He feinted with his left and opened himself completely. The challenger darted in and lashed out with both hands, but both hands went over Dane’s head as the champ let fly a devastating left hook to the solar plexus. The effect was paralyzing. Dane was quick to see his advantage. He rocked Blare onto his heels with a swishing right from his knee. Then folded him up with a short belt in the stomach.
Blare tried to clinch. The champ chopped his ribs but somehow the challenger got hold and clung as Dane tried vainly to free himself and end it. The referee stepp«! between them and almost had to pry them apart. But that brief interval of rest had saved Blare from the fatal “K.O.” for this time at least. Dane
ploughed in again, but he was fighting a shadow now; a sh'adow which floated hither and yon with the grace of a panther. Grim Joe Blare had learned his lesson.
For seconds, precious seconds, Dane chased him. He must get in. He must not let Blare recover from the hammering which he had already taken. Suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks.
“When I want to learn to dance I’ll get my wife to teach me,” he snapped.
There was a laugh from the ringside.
Like lightning Joe Blare darted in. Three times he stabbed the grinning map before him; then he staggered under the crushing right which raised a great crimson blotch on his already inflamed ribs.
Vainly Blare tried to get out of range of the flailing fists which were seeking to batter him down. He blocked, ducked, sidestepped; did everything he knew, but still they kept penetrating his guard.
Suddenly something pressed against Blare’s back. Dane’s trap had worked. He saw his chance. He sprang forward like the tiger man that he was. His massive right crunched against the iron jaw of his opponent and the iron cracked. Joe Blare went down.
Even as the bruised form of the challenger slipped forward the bell gave vent to its resounding tones signifying the end of the round.
Saved by the bell. Dane had expected he would be.
rT'HE radio announcer thought the fight was over and
he did not hesitate to say as much. But he did not know the stuff of which Joe Blare was made.
Over in his corner they had been working on him; working anxiously, but coolly and thoughtfully. And when the bell sounded for the second stanza Joe Blare danced forth in apparently as good condition as at the beginning of the fight.
Dane charged. He could punch and he knew it. And he knew that no man could take the shellacking Blare had taken in the first round and still be as good as ever.
But this time Blare wasn’t backing away. He stood and swapped punches, left for left and right for right. Dane was rip-rip-ripping at the body, while the challenger hammered back doggedly at his rocklike head. Never did they clinch. It was a slugfest—and the mob was in clover.
A savage left sent a trickle of blood down Dane’s cheek. Another tiny streamlet was coloring his lips. But Dane didn’t know it. He was slugging it out, and he was happy. He liked this fellow before him. He liked any fellow that wasn’t afraid to maul. Dane’s massive shoulders twisted certain destruction into Blare’s stomach. But Blare was game. He punched back with everything he had.
Once the pain forced Blare to drop his arms, and then Dane looped over a solid smash which rattled every bone in the other’s body. Madly Blare lashed back. Dane was still smiling mercilessly. But under that smile there was pity and friendliness—though one would never have guessed it. Dane knew what Blare was taking, and he admired him warmly. He knew what a raw body, peeled and seared by pistons of leathercovered bone, felt like. But Blare had asked for it, so he must take it.
Blare was popping them at Dane’s eyas and they were telling. Once Dane had to shake his head to clear his vision; once he dashed water away with the back of his glove. But those body punches were telling, too; telling decisively. Involuntarily Blare took a backward step. It was the first signal to the mob as to who was getting the worst of it. Dane saw, and he knew. The body attack told every time. He had proved that when he had worn down the tough Freddy Goul. And now he was wearing down this new menace to his crown.
He battered away with renewed energy.
Blare staggered against the ropes and the champion was on him. A left to the eye lanced the brow and flooded the challenger’s countenance with crimson. A right mashed his lips. His legs began to buckle. Miraculously, he managed to get a hold and hang on.
Dane struggled to free himself. He uppercut once, twice, three times. Blare toppled forward, and Dane stepped aside to let him fall. But the challenger's right leg clawed ahead. For a moment he reeled drunkenly. Then staggered erect. Courage.
The champ drove in. The finish was just ahead. Already the newspaper lads were rattling off copy of a knock-out in the second, with Bad Bob Dane still king.
He smashed a solid left to the body, rocked Blare to his heels with a short hook to the jaw, and dropped him with a slamming right below the heart.
Dane retired to a neutral corner, still smiling. ‘ The King is Dead, Long Live the King.” He laughed.
The referee was counting. He reached “six,” and the inanimate, broken form on the floor had not budged. At seven Blare opened his eyes. At eight he tried to crawl up. Dane was watching him, and again he found himself admiring the pluck of the man.
With a superhuman effort, Blare dragged himself erect, hanging onto the ropes to support himself.
The mob was silent; mute testimony to a hero’s courage.
Dane came out. He hated to do this, but he knew he must. He turned an appealing eye to the referee, but that official shook his head. He knew that Blare would not want to go out that way. And then—the referee gasped—a bludgeon of leather-covered knuckles slammed lióme, and Bob Dane slumped to the canvas, while his opponent staggered crazily.
With that last ounce of reserve which every fighter possesses, Joe Blare had seized his advantage; and the referee was counting over the prostrate form of the other gladiator. But the champ wasn’t really hurt. A little dazed, but that was all. Better take the full count though, to let it wear off. He looked over at Blare. He was careering around the ring, shouting in ecstasy.
Dane stared in disbelief. Surely the man wasn’t fool enough to think that he was on the verge of victory. If so, he would soon discover his mistake. Dane ground his teeth in a strange, uncontrollable anger. This was no sign that he was going to lose.
He had been knocked down lots of times before, but he had never stayed.
Clang! The bell interrupted the count at six.
Disgustedly the champ rose and walked to his corner. Suddenly he noticed the scared faces of his handlers.
“What is wrong with you?” he snarled.
They did not respond, but got to work with smelling salts and water.
Then, for the first time, Dane realized that he was no longer smiling.
Grim Joe Blare had done what Branner, Sloventry, and all the others had failed to do. He
had knocked the grin from the champion’s lips.
Bob Dane was scowling savagely when he came up for the third.
He charged across the ring. Only a moment separated him from triumph, he thought: but he did not know this fellow’s recuperative powers. He ploughed in, to be met with a barrage of lefts and rights to the face. “The king is dead, is he?” he snarled, punctuating his words with torturing blows to Blare’s raw belly. “You rotten cur, after—” His harangue was cut short by a left hook which mashed his lips into thick slabs of mangled flesh.
Then it became wicked: two fighting maniacs lusting for blood. It seemed a miracle that any man so nearly out as Blare had been could stand up to such a beating as this. Yet he was not only standing up to it but giving as good as was sent, and laughing hysterically all the while.
But Dane must win.
Everybody realized it.
Blare was fighting a game but losing battle.
Those other rounds had had their effect. Little by little Dane hammered, battered, hewed, and hacked him to a gory pulp. There was no mercy in Dane’s
heart now. He was filled with an inexplicable fury. Somehow he had felt from the time the contract had been signed that he was about to fight his last great battle, and now, on the verge of an almost positive victory, the ominous warning seemed more poignant than ever.
And then it happened: happened in a way that even Dane had not dreamed of.
He was cutting, slashing, at Blare’s bloody body. He was facing the challenger’s corner. Blare was tottering, going out. Then the champ looked over at those in the challenger’s corner. He wondered what his opponent’s seconds and manager were thinking and saying now.
What he saw, though, was not trainers, not seconds, though they were all there, but a face. The face of a woman; a face he had seen before. His arms dropped. He forgot Blare; forgot those dazzling lights overhead; forgot everything except that in Blare’s corner was a
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woman ... he had once known— sobbing.
Dane stumbled. He did not know that the crowd was yelling itself hoarse; that his seconds were shrieking in his corner; that the radio announcer’s emotions had trailed his voice off into a guttural gurgle. They knew something was wrong.
And then Joe Blare came. His fists were rapiers of bone; slashing, stabbing, everywhere at once.
Dane staggered. He tried to block, but he could not. He could not see them coming for before his vision was a face, a beautiful face, stained with tears.
A blinding streak of light exploded before his clouded eyes. There came the sensation of falling . . falling. Then something checked the plunge. Something wide and hard, with the odor of resin strong upon it.
For a long time Bob Dane lay there. It was so soft and restful. He groped his hand along it. No, it was hard. But it seemed soft. Perhaps it wras both hard and soft. Funny. Both hard and soft. Who ever heard tell of that? Ha-ha. That was a good one. Why was he there, anyhow? There was a streak of light. Then he had fallen. A terrible fall. What before that? A face. But whose face? Why, why—he had it. Marion’s. But where was she? He hadn’t seen her. It must have been a dream. Where had he been to see her?
Seven. Who said that? Ah, he had it. He was at a prizefight. But why was he lying down?
That must be the referee. Over whom was he counting? Why . . . why . . . it must be over him! And he was down. Eight. Two more to make it. Got to get up, got to. Up . up . up.
The crowd was mad. On the verge of success, Bad Bob Dane had suddenly cracked. There he was on the floor. The count had reached eight and he was moving for the first time.
He twisted one leg under him. He was trying hard. He must make it. No champ could go out on a fluke. There was but a fraction of a second left. A second which seemed like an hour. There was the challenger over in a neutral corner, crouching, his body streaked with blood but the light of sudden determination in his eyes; the radio announcer by the south right-hand post, his lower lip sagging, too fascinated to do more than mechanically count with the referee. And there was the referee, stooping over the straining white figure on the canvas. His arm was raising for the last time.
“a-n-d—” Unconsciously he drawled the word.
With a sudden surge, the knee which seemed glued to the canvas pulled free. For a moment Dane hung there, poised uncertainly, his feeble strength striving to hold his gigantic frame erect. Then, with a crash, he crumpled and fell face-downward in the resin.
The king was dead; a new king was crowned.
There was next thing to a riot in the huge arena. The crowd milled about the ring. The new champion’s pretty whfe came bounding across the squared circle into the arms of Joe Blare, happy tears streaming down her cheeks, washing before them the tears which had been there but a few moments before. It was the end of a prize fight; a championship fight. There was the uproar from the crowd, the hysterical shrieking of someone who had lost or won a fortune cutting through it like a knife. The hundreds of hands reaching forth to congratulate the new champion. The name of Grim Joe Blare upon every lip. But what about the beaten champion? A few terse words
into the microphone saying that Joe Blare was a game fighter, it was a great scrap, and he wanted another chance. That was all. Tomorrow the press would speak of him. But not tonight. Tonight Joe Blare ruled supreme.
nPHREE days after the battle Chic Burbanks, sports reporter for the Times, rapped at the door of Bob Dane’s spacious flat.
There wras something queer about the final minute of that bout in Berkedale Stadium. The press had been vague. Bob Dane had lost when on the point of victory. Why? That was a question which Bob Dane had refused to answer. Some of the scribes said he had a heart attack. Others said that a lucky punch had paralyzed him. One daring chap went so far as to say that Dane had broken his hand and hadn’t the guts to finish the fight. But what the true reason was no one knew, for Bob Dane flatly refused to be interviewed on the subject.
Chic Burbanks thought he smelled a real yarn. And he believed he could get it.
His knock was answered by Paul Austin, Dane’s wizened little manager, who surveyed him suspiciously.
“Well?” he demanded.
“I’d like to see Dane if he’s in.”
“Who are you?”
“A friend of Dane’s.”
“One of them newspaper men?”
“Do you mean to insult me? Can’t a man call to see his friend without being accused of being a newsy?”
Dane’s little manager looked back over his shoulder.
“Hey, Bob, do you know this bird?”
A door opened somewhere in the flat. “Who is it?”
“It’s Chic Burbanks,” the boy from the Times called. “This watchdog of yours thinks I’m a nosey.”
Bob Dane laughed. “Let him come'in, Paul. I don’t mind seeing him.”
Chic sat down.
Paul Austin plodded sullenly across the floor to a door leading to a room opposite. It was not until the door closed behind him that Dane spoke.
“Well, Chick, you’ve done what no other nosey has been able to do. And,” he added, the corners of his mouth twitching a little grimly, “you couldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for the break you gave me a couple of years ago. Well, now that you’re here, what do you want to know? Why I didn’t knock Joe Blare kicking in that third stanza?”
Chic Burbanks eyed the other shrewdly for a moment. Slowly he removed one of Dane’s expensive cigars from his lips.
“No,” he said deliberately. “What I want to know is what you saw in Blare’s corner that made you lose your bout.” Bob Dane sprang to his feet. “What do you know about what I saw?” he demanded fiercely.
Inwardly Chic Burbanks chortled with glee. He had played a hunch and it had apparently proved correct. Outwardly he was still the calm, quiet young man he had been.
“What do I know? I don’t know any more than anyone else does. Everyone knows you saw something, but no one knows what. That’s wrhat started the yarns about you being covered from Blare’s corner.”
“About my being covered? Good lord, I didn’t know they thought that!” He paced furiously back and forth, then suddenly wheeled.
“I’m going to spill you the greatest true romance you’ve ever cocked your ear to,” he barked.
“I w'as born in a hick town out West instead of in the big city, as the papers say. Right from the start, I took to boxing. The old man and mom were the
goody-goody sort. They wanted to make me the same, I guess. Mighty good woman, ma was. But they was both down on all kinds of fun, from tiddlywinks to horseshoes. Pa was a deacon or something in the church, and he said that his son wasn’t going to be criticized for playing gambling games. And that wras what started me on the wrong track. If they had been a little looser I might have stayed straight. But that’s neither here nor there.
“When I went nuts over boxing, I tried to get them to let me put up a punching bag and a few traps in the barn. None of the folks about there knew much about boxing. I kidded them that all there was to it was healthy exercise. I set up a lot of stuff in the old barn and went to work.
I had a kid brother, Bert, who was only ten then, and he was crazy about it. Neither one of us knew much about the pro. side of it.
“I trained every spare moment for nearly two years. Then, one day, the old man told me he had to give up the place. There was a mortgage on it and he wasn’t able to pay the interest. Sounds like a book story, doesn’t it? Well, I told him I was going to New York and earn the interest. After a lot of palaver, he and ma said O.K. and I went.
“For two weeks I roved the streets, looking for a job. Then, one day, I ran into Barney Loff. You remember Barney, Chic? Best known fight manager in the big town a half-dozen years ago. I got a job at Barney’s gym, cleaning up. The second day I was there I went up to Barney after Sandy Duffy had been working out with a punch-soaker.
“ ‘Who is that bird?’ I says.
“ ‘Sandy Duffy, one of the best lightheavy tickets in the country,’ says Barney. ,
“ T could knock him kicking with a punch,’ I says.
“Barney just stared. Then he grinned in that sarcastic way of his. ‘Put ’em on,’ he says.
“I put ’em on. I could have murdered Duffy at his best, and right then he was pretty tired. I spilled him on his profile with just a total of five wallops.
“From that on, I was Barney’s big moment. He determined to put me to the top. I got some great fights and some great purses, most of which went home to mom and the old man. I wrote them I was working in a steel mill and playing the stock market with my earnings. They did not think much of the stock market business, but they said maybe it was all right.
“But I was a boxer. The mob doesn’t want boxers. Not much, that is. It would sooner see a boxer get licked than see him lick. Barney knew I had a punch like an elephant’s step, and he couldn’t understand why I didn’t use it. But I went on caressin’ ’em. I’ll tell you why it was, Chic. I was fighting under a different name. Paper-shy Jimmie MacGregor, they called me. The nickname was because I had never had my picture put in the papers and flatly refused to let the press-boys snap me. If I had been a killer nothing short of a miracle could have prevented them snapping me, and then Bert would have seen my picture and recognized me in spite of the fake name.
THEN I met Marion. She was a nice girl. The nicest that God ever made. I fell in love with her the first time I ever saw her. She was Barney’s daughter. She’d been brought up among fighters. Her picture of a model husband was a man with huge hands and a face like a slab of pork who the press-boys called ‘champ.’
“I managed to go with her for a time. I loved her a lot and l thought she loved me. Then one night I asked her to marry me. And then she told me that she couldn’t love me. That I wasn’t a fighter. Said that I must stop going with her
until I socked somebody for a bubble. Called me yellow and some more. Said I was afraid to get in and maul for fear that I w ould get my good-looking map mushed. Like a fool, I didn’t make a clean breast of it then and there. I thought Barney had put her up to it to make me slug ’em.
I stopped going with her, thinking that she’d soon get enough of it.
“Barney took me up to Canada about a month afterward to fight a ham they called champ of the Yukon. Thinking I was safe from noseys there, I lambasted the bird and knocked him seventeen miles | past purgatory.
“We buy a paper on the train, and find my picture and a round-for-round account of the bout taking up half the sports page. And that wasn’t the worst of it. A syndicate had got hold of it and had broadcast it from Bangor to Siam. Some reporter had seen the fight on his vacation and had dashed back to New York with it.
“Then we got home; me frothing at the mouth and Barney all smiles. I was hoping to see Marion. But all we found of Marion was a note saying she had been married while we were away and had gone away with her husband. She didn’t give the fellow’s name, but said he was a fighter who would some day be champ of the world.
“1 couldn’t believe it. It didn’t seem possible. I was still in a daze when I got a letter from Bert. He had found my picture in a paper. There was no doubt that it was me. He showed it to the folks. Mother was in poor health, and the shock killed her.
“I hurried home. Dad slammed the door in my face and tells me to get out and never come again. But, like a fool,
I coaxed Bert to come away with me. He was fifteen then.
“Soon after that I heard of dad’s death.
I never found out what happened to him, hut I didn’t care then. I was the madj man of the resin. You know what : happened. I bowled over all the light ¡ heavies in the country like dominoes, and then started through the heavies. 1 knocked out Jack Frock in two rounds and broke the champ’s jaw with one punch.
“While I was going to the top Bert was fighting too. I had trained him and had him trained by others. He was doing
well among the welters. But the day I won the title, Tommy Dickson laid him out with a foul. It was his only chance to dodge the polishing Bert was handing him. The kid died in a hospital without waking up. But I was hardened, I guess.
I laughed when they told me and went to a show with a Follies girl the day he was buried.
“Through it all I kept thinking of Marion. Then, one night, I met Claire Guelph. Somehow I thought she was another Marion. She liked me, too, or said she did. Anyway we were married the day before I met Cleve Branner. You mind what I did to Cleve?
“But it didn’t take me long to find out what Claire really thought of me. It was my money and fame that she liked. And I found I didn’t like her either, then. She wasn’t sweet like Marion. Only on the outside. Oh, well, wbat’s the use of telling you that.
“Well, anyhow, you know my record. Been the greatest fighting champ they’ve ever seen, even if I do say it. Defended my title seventeen times in ten years, and they all went out by the k.o. route except Padre, Sloventree, and Twentieth Century Joe Gans. and it was nothing but guts that had good old Twentieth Century on his feet at the end of the fifteenth.
“Guess I’m up to my last affair, Chic. Say, you takin’ this word for word? Oh, what difference does it make anyhow?
‘T had a hunch before I entered the ring with Blare that I was hanging on to the last knot in the rope. It wasn’t because oi anything the press said, but
something seemed to tell me that when a man bucks God some day he’s going to come to grief.
“Then, when I saw Joe staggering about and going out, 1 thought maybe I was coming through after all. But you remember when Joe’s wife came to hiseorner at the end of the second when he was so near out? Well, that woman was Marion. I was fighting the man she had married.
“I tried to forget it. I tried to hatter Joe down. And then 1 saw her again over there, crying. I remembered tha
note. She’d married a man who’d he champion some day. Well, I went sort of crazy, I guess. I forgot all about Blare and the fight. Then something hit me, and it was lights out.”
Bob Dane moved slowly back to the table and picked up his cigar.
Chic Burbanks stared blankly. “G-ggosh !” he stammered. “T-thanks, Boh.” Dane eyed him a moment. “Welcome, Chic,” he said slowly. Then he chuckled, with an odd sort of mirth. “Say, Marion turned out to be quite a prophet, didn’t she?”