Gaston the Great
A Romance of the Prize Ring
GASTON CHEVRETTE, head up, chest out, trotted briskly down the road. He wore running shoes, an old pair of trousers, and a red sweater that emphasized his powerful shoulders. The morning air was crisp, the sky was clear, and the pastures still gleamed with dew shimmering in the sun.
When he entered the shade of a maple tree that extended its heavy branches above the road, his footsteps slackened and he came to a halt, breathing easily. Gaston Chevrette, however, was too restless and full of vitality for complete inaction at this hour of the morning; his effervescent vigor manifested itself by a series of odd manoeuvres.
Left arm extended, his chin hunched into the hollow of his shoulder, he advanced stealthily upon the unoffending
“So!” he hissed, “you would Ha!" He ducked, then flashed out both fists, smiting the air furiously with lefts and rights, and sidestepped nimbly. He continued in rapid French: “You think it is easy, my good friend! But no!
Gaston the Great is too quick for you. Ah, ha! That hurt, did it not? And that ! And that !"
He pranced about the tree, ducking, dodging, shooting out those murderous blows. He was careful to avoid hitting the tree—which, after all, had done him no harm—but he was apparently under the impression that his fists w'ere creating havoc.
"So! You are tiring, my fine fellow!" jeered Gaston, hugging himself as he fell into an imaginary clinch in the course of which he pounded the invisible opponent smartly. Then he skipped back, measuring the victim.
“Large pig, you have met your match at last!” he announced dramatically, whereupon he shot up his left, brought over the right, and walked away.
It was obvious that he had disposed of the antagonist. Gaston promptly adopted a more peaceful rôle. He ran back and crouched, eyeing the ground, his right arm rising and falling.
“One—two—three—four—you struggle to rise, eh? But you cannot get up! Seven—eight—you have no strength left-—ten !”
Gaston raised his right arm aloft, gravely shook hands with himself, and bowed again and again to the road. At this stage the illusion of uproarious cheers from the multitude was shattered by a genuine peal of delighted laughter from among the bushes beyond the fence.
The young man blinked, looked very sheepish, thrust his hands quickly into his pockets, and gazed sternly at the figure beyond the fence.
Gaston, it appeared, had been entertaining an angel unawares.
A girl leaned on the top rail, her chin cupped in her hand. She was altogether delicious, with white teeth, dancing dark eyes, chestnut hair and an impudent nose. Her sleeves were rolled back, revealing firm round arms, and she wore a little print dress that was as crisp and cool as the girl herself.
A pretty girl, indeed ! But she was laughing—and at him.
“I do not see, mademoiselle,” said Gaston, politely but bitterly, “that there is any joke.”
The dark eyes danced more merrily than ever, the peals of laughter broke out afresh.
“Oh, it was so funny !” she gasped. “You fight so fiercely, but there is no one to fight.”
“Exercise,” muttered Gaston.
“You were so funny, jumping about like a large grasshopper. It was necessary for me to hold my hand over my mouth.”
“Indeed?” said Gaston, for want of a more devastating
“You pretend to fight someone?”
"I do not care to discuss the matter."
"Poor fellow!” she said, regarding the tree sympathetically. “He had no chance against you. I am sorry for him.” Then she giggled outright.
“It is doubtless very comical,” conceded Gaston loftily.
The girl looked at Gaston with appreciative interest. He was a fine-looking young fellow, ruddy, clear-eyed and strong. Nor could Gaston be blamed for admiring her in return, for she was a picture of health, youth and windblown beauty.
“I have not seen you before,” she said. “You live nearby?”
Gaston remembered the instructions of his manager, M. Wilbrod Beauchemin, just in time.
“I am a visitor at the farm of M. Frenette.”
Her eyes widened. “Why, that is three miles away! Did you run all that distance?”
He coughed. “I am in a great hurry, mademoiselle. It is—urn—an errand. I go to the village for M. Frenette.”
“Is it M. Frenette you pretend to fight?”
“But no.” This girl was becoming altogether too curious. “You will pardon me. My errand—it is a matter of great importance.”
Gaston backed away and jogged off down the road.
The girl regarded the flight of this eccentric young man with a puzzled expression on her pretty face. Her acquaintance with handsome youths who ran three miles on errands and loitered to dispose of imaginary enemies by the roadside had been strictly limited.
“A matter of importance!” she sniffed. “Indeed!”
Her scepticism was probably due to the fact that Gaston had fled, not in the direction of the village but back toward the farm of M. Frenette.
He had covered a good half-mile before he realized his mistake.
He hoped he would see the girl again.
. WILBROD BEAUCHEMIN, that astute manager ^ of prize fighters, was no fool.
He had spirited his protégé away to the farm of his good friend M. Frenette two weeks before the date of the scheduled heavyweight battle between Gaston the Great and AÍ Flanagan for the Canadian title. It had been a publicity stunt, an inspiration of that great press agent, Romeo Sansregret, in one of his sober moments. And as a publicity stunt it had been a success.
Some sport writers had gone into a sweat over the inexplicable disappearance of Gaston the Great, challenger. Others, conscious that for ways that are dark and tricks that are vain the press agent is peculiar, refused to believe that Gaston was lost but used up quite as much space in speculations on the reasons behind a secret training campaign. M. Beauchemin rejoiced.
“Publicity!” he beamed. “First, get me a boy who can fight. Then keep his name in the papers.”
For a few days, the secret training campaign had gone well. But now M. Beauchemin was worried.
He suspected something. And when Wilbrod Beauchemin sensed trouble he invariably looked for the woman in the
The berry bushes in the neighborhood of the maple trees on the Perrault farm must have been remarkably fruitful, and M. Frenette must have shown a truly devilish ingenuity in finding errands for Gaston, because after that first meeting the young people saw each other every morning.
Romance, in fact, had flourished so well that by the end of the week Gaston became bold enough to admit to his adored Annette that he ran the daily three miles for the sole purpose of seeing her. And she, in turn, confessed that the berry bushes had long since been stripped clean and that she came to the maple trees every morning in the hope of seeing her beloved Gaston.
These developments were unknown to Wilbrod Beauchemin, but the worthy manager was sniffing about like an anxious beagle. He investigated, he heard rumors, and he galloped into the Frenette farmhouse one evening just as Gaston the Great, reeking of talcum and bay rum, was making an unobtrusive exit by the back door.
"So!” said M. Beauchemin, "it has happened.”
Gaston blushed and mumbled that he had been invited out for the evening.
“When a man takes all of one hour to select a necktie,” said M. Beauchemin with emotion, “there is but one reason. He is in love. Diable! As if I did not already have more trouble than any one man should bear.”
“My good Wilbrod—”
M.. Beauchemin held up a majestic hand in the manner of a traffic cop stopping a bicycle.
“You become popular with the neighbors!” he observed acidly. “You do not forget, perhaps, that you have a little engagement on your hands a week from tonight.”
Gaston meekly assured his manager that he had not forgotten.
“I am glad to hear that,” said M. Beauchemin. “By the manner in which you have let your sparring partners pound you, I thought the matter had slipped your mind.” Indignantly he wagged a finger beneath Gaston’s nose. “You have been going through the workouts for three days like a small calf with an ache of the stomach. This is no time for lovemaking. Mon dieu!" he cried piteously. “A girl. At such a time. You go now to see her.”
Gaston feebly murmured something about a need for fresh air.
“A girl. I know. Do you think I am blind? Or deaf? You have told her already, I suppose, that you are Gaston the Great?”
“But no. I have said nothing. She thinks I visit here.” “Let her remain thinking that. Mon dieu! I go to so great trouble finding a quiet place where you may train in secret, and you at once find yourself a girl. Beyond all doubt you will drive me to my grave with distraction before AÍ Flanagan knocks that stupid head of yours loose from your shoulders. I forbid you to leave this place tonight!” “It is a promise which must be kept,” said Gaston stubbornly.
“Promise. Bah! Have you forgotten that you are already engaged? Have you forgotten your engagement to Mademoiselle Dubois?”
“That does not count. I do not plan to marry Mademoiselle Dubois.”
He sidled away with the air of a small dog confidently expecting a swift kick, and escaped out the back door. The worthy Beauchemin spluttered a choice selection of the more obscure Gallic oaths and vainly endeavored to tear out a handful of his hair by way of expressing his great mental anguish.
“And this,” he howled, “is my reward. It is for this that I have guided you to a fight for the championship. Ingrate!”
Gaston was already halfway across the yard. The evening had begun badly, and his efforts to regain composure were in no wise aided by a threat that the baffled Beauchemin hurled after him as he was climbing the back
“Do not try my patience too far,” shouted the manager. “I can put a stop to this foolishness. I will tell this girl all about your engagement to Mademoiselle Dubois.”
This, reflected Gaston resentfully as he trudged toward the Perrault farm, was, to say the least of it, most unfair.
He determined to explain the whole situation to Annette when he saw her that very evening.
But he didn’t.
TN THE rural regions of Quebec it is no light matter to
pay court to a young lady of good family. The ceremony of meeting Annette’s parents had all the vivacious gaiety of a coroner’s inquest.
Madame Perrault was an iron-haired lady with steelrimmed spectacles, a flinty eye, a granite jaw, and the suspicious air of a magistrate with liver trouble. She sat bolt upright in an uncomfortable chair, knitting steadily.
M. Donat Perrault was a scraggly little man with a remarkable mustache of the variety commonly known as a soup-strainer. He had a fondness for rocking-chairs, and a habit of dispensing with boots and collar. He enveloped himself in a cloud of smoke from a stubby pipe and stared fixedly at Gaston from beyond this screen.
A number of grim and pop-eyed ancestors gazed disapprovingly at Gaston from their gilt frames.
Annette sat demurely on the sofa and said nothing.
Gaston sat stiffly on the extreme edge of his chair and tried to look bright.
M. Perrault’s rocking-chair squeaked monotonously. This was the only opposition that dared manifest itself to Madame Perrault’s monologue. For the good lady took complete charge of the conversation.
She began by informing Gaston that the weather of the past two weeks had been excellent. He already knew this.
She compared it favorably, and in detail, with the weather of corresponding periods in the previous five
This led to the important subject of crops, the price of hay and the high cost of living.
This suggested the advisability of a steady income for any young man with notions about marriage, and precipitated a questionnaire devoted to Gaston’s age, place of birth, family history and connections, political convictions and present employment.
Gaston steered safely past these shoals by informing the lady that he was about to put across a financial deal of considerable magnitude, and that it was his intention to buy a farm and settle down.
The lady reviewed a list of available properties in the neighborhood and wanted to know if Gaston was a relative of M. Frenette. This being denied, she probed deeper into the mystery of. Gaston’s presence at the Frenette farm, but learned nothing.
Then, very abruptly, she said:
“Annette tells me that you fight.”
Gaston blushed and stammered that he had only been exercising.
“She tells me you pretend to fight
Hollow laugh from Gaston.
“It does not seem very sensible,” said the lady, implying that she had her doubts as to Gaston’s mental soundness. “In any case, I do not like young men who fight.”
“Loafers!” grunted M. Perrault, rising momentarily from the cloud of smoke.
“My cousin once ran away to be a prize fighter. He was a black sheep,” explained the lady. She shook her head mournfully as she considered the wretched cousin, then:
“Your first name is Gaston.”
A plea of guilty was entered.
“You have the same name as this wild savage who fights in Montreal. He is very famous. I have read about him in the newspapers.”
“Gaston the Great!” piped up M. Perrault in a tone suspiciously expressive of reverent enthusiasm.
“Great!” The lady sniffed. “By all accounts he is a
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Gaston the Great
Continued from page 21
“He eats raw steak for breakfast,” said the old man, puffing industriously. “It is said that he has never been knocked out. Ah, what a fighter!" Then he added hastily as his wife transfixed him with a look: “A bad character, doubtless. A bad character. The knitting needles flashed violently.
“A barbarian. He likes nothing better than to knock other men senseless. He is a disgrace to the country.”
“Vulgar fellow,” mumbled Gaston.
“You have the same name. And you fight trees!”
“It is a common name. My father’s name was Gaston,” said the youth apologetically.
“There should be a law,” declared the lady. “All prize fighters should be thrown in jail. It is wicked to fight. I do not like men who fight. If you must exercise, it is more useful to chop wood. Young man,
I hope I shall not hear of you fighting
“He was not fighting, maman," pleaded Annette. “There was no one but the tree.” “Bad enough. I do not want to hear of it any more.”
Gaston, who had planned to reveal his identity, in strict confidence, to the family that very evening, now decided that it was scarcely an appropriate time to tell his life story. He had the impression that Madame Perrault did not like fighters.
So he didn’t.
NEXT day, in spite of the anguished protests of M. Wilbrod Beauchemin, Gaston the Great went back to Montreal.
The little matter of his engagement to Mademoiselle Renée Dubois, of the Café Bleu, dancer extraordinary, weighed heavily on his conscience. Gaston was now in love, steeped in it, drenched in it, up to his neck in it, and he realized that it is not honorable to pay court to one girl while affianced to another. The Perrault antipathy toward prize fighters could be overcome. He would win the title, depart rapidly with the proceeds, retire from the ring, confess all to the Perraults, marry Annette and buy a snug little farm somewhere beyond range of Madame Perrault’s voice. All that, he felt, could be managed. But as long as he remained engaged to Mademoiselle Dubois —well, women have odd notions about these points of etiquette. It was possible that Annette might fail to view the matter reasonably.
When he called on Mademoiselle Dubois at her apartment that afternoon she greeted him with a casual coolness remarkable in a fiancée of Canada’s most promising young heavyweight.
“Ah! You are back? Come in," she said carelessly.
Gaston stepped gingerly into the apartment and sat down. Renée, who was dark, red-lipped and pretty, as well as being one of the shrewdest young women in Montreal, fixed a calculating gaze upon him.
“Well? What is it?”
Gaston crushed his hat as though he hoped to wring water out of it.
“It is—urn—about the matter of our— um—engagement, mademoiselle.
"What about it?” said Renée sharply.
“I have been thinking—if it would not offend—if you do not mind—”
“Don’t stammer. What do you mean? Do you want to break the engagement
Gaston nodded, grateful for this assistance.
The girl smiled.
“You do not enjoy being engaged to me?” “Ah—but of course, mademoiselle—a pleasure. A great pleasure. But, after all, it was a business arrangement.”
“Of course. Your press agent knows his job, monsieur. It meant much publicity for us both.”
The engagement, in fact, haa been a master stroke on the part of Romeo Sansregret, the alcoholically inspired press agent. Mademoiselle Dubois had always been keenly alive to the value of publicity.
The Café Bleu needed publicity. AÍ Flanagan liked publicity. Gaston the Great required publicity. The fight demanded publicity. Great are the uses of publicity. Everyone had been happy. The newspapers had given columns to the announcement of the engage-
Because Mademoiselle Renée Dubois had been AÍ Flanagan’s sweetheart for two
Romeo Sansregret solemnly declared that the idea came to him in a flash, between the third and fourth drinks after breakfast, but nobody believed him. It was generally held that it must have taken at least a month to achieve such a masterpiece.
“Heavyweight Contender Steals Champ’s Girl,” one paper had put it frankly. There were photographs of Renée Dubois, photographs of AÍ Flanagan, photographs of Gaston the Great, photographs of the Café Bleu, photographs of the fight promoter. There were interviews with Mademoiselle Dubois: “Yes, we are engaged. We had intended to keep our betrothal secret until after the fight. I am very happy. Gaston is the finest man I have ever known. I am sure he will be the next champion."
Interviews with AÍ Flanagan: “I didn’t know anything about it until I saw it in the papers. 1 suppose Renée has a right to marry anyone she likes, but I don’t mind saying I’m mighty sore about this. What? Wish him happiness? I’ll make such a wreck of that bird when the fight comes off that they’ll have to postpone the wedding a
“Flanagan Incensed—Will Pound Rival to a Pulp.”
The public, as the saying is, ate it up. The heavyweight battle would be a grudge fight. The advance seat sale brightened perceptibly. So did the promoters.
And now this passionate romance was to be blighted. Now this trusting maiden was to be jilted. Never did a jiltee receive the news with such composure, with such an utter lack of tears, chest-heaving and recrimination.
“So!” said Mademoiselle Dubois. “You wish to throw me over."
“Um—well —it has become inconvenient—”
Mademoiselle Dubois reflected. The engagement had brought much publicity and her salary had been increased by the grateful management of the Café Bleu. A broken engagement would bring more publicity.
She agreed to consider herself jilted.
And when Gaston the Great had departed, stammering his gratitude, the heartbroken girl reached for the telephone and called up AÍ Flanagan’s manager.
“Great stuff!" gloated the manager when he heard of the wrecked betrothal. “Why didn’t Sansregret think of that? Engagement busted on eve of battle. I’ll have AÍ make a statement that he’ll tear Gaston limb from limb for breaking your heart. Boy. oh boy! The fight will be a sell-out.”
But if Romeo Sansregret had overlooked the latent possibilities of a broken engagement he was not slow to suggest ways and means of painting the lily. As press agent for the big fight it was his duty to keep the participants in the public eye. And when he heard that Gaston had jilted Mademoiselle Dubois he was smitten by an idea so brilliant, so dazzling, that he was awed by contemplation of his own genius.
“Such an idea!” he exclaimed raptly. “It will make people sit up and take notice.”
WHEN the skies of life are clearest, when the sun is brightest, when the shining goal of happiness seems within reach, when we are prone to congratulate ourselves upon our own cleverness—it is then that Fate often deals us the most jarring kick in the pants.
If Gaston the Great had obeyed the advice of Wilbrod Beauchemin that evening, he would have been resting quietly at the
secret training camp and Romeo Sansregret’s inspired publicity stunt would not have created such disaster. On the other hand, if he had not been visiting his adored Annette the publicity stunt would have lacked much of the drama, the romantic savor, that has since entitled it to rank as M. Sansregret’s masterpiece.
As it was, freed of the incubus of his engagement to the Dubois woman, his mind filled with plans for retirement, marriage and the purchase of a snug little farm as soon as he won the title, Gaston had hastened to the Perrault farm in spite of Beauchemin’s tearful objections as soon as he had completed the daily drudgery of pummelling sparring partners and punching bags. All unaware of the gathering cloud, he was sitting with Annette in the hammock under the apple trees at the very moment that AÍ Flanagan, accompanied by his manager, two newspapermen and three camp followers who possessed the railway fare and the leisure, arrived at the farm of M. Frenette in search of him.
When M. Beauchemin saw the enemy he suspected, and rightly, that the fight promoter had broken faith, when he learned that AÍ Flanagan had journeyed to this haunt for the express purpose of tweaking Gaston’s nose by way of teaching him that ladies’ hearts are not to be broken with impunity, he did some swift thinking. The presence of the newspapermen ensured publicity. This was always a consideration. The presence of AÍ Flanagan ensured trouble, and M. Beauchemin felt that a little trouble would not hurt his protégé at this stage.
He told them that the breaker of hearts was at that moment engaged in winning the affections of an innocent rural damsel on a nearby farm. He even volunteered to act as guide.
One of the newspapermen had snapped a picture of Gaston and the girl in the hammock before Gaston became aware of the approach of the little party. M. Perrault, apprised of the arrival of visitors, came running out of the house, closely followed by his good wife.
“What is it?” said Annette, frightened by the expression on Gaston’s face.
“Well,” said AÍ Flanagan, his hands on his hips, as he nodded his head in a menacing manner, “so this is where we find you, huh? Home wrecker !"
“This is—urn—indeed a surprise,” muttered Gaston. “If it is a matter of business, gentlemen—you will pardon me, Annette — we could talk this over quietly—”
“Nothing doing! I guess that little girl has a right to know the sort of a guy you are.”
“What? What is this about?” squeaked M. Perrault.
“When you stole my girl from me,” said Flanagan, remembering his lines with some difficulty, “I didn’t say anything, did I? It was up to her to pick the man she liked best. But when you throw her over and break her heart, it’s more than flesh and blood can stand.”
“M. Flanagan,” said Gaston hurriedly, “there is a mistake. I can explain. I beg
“I came here,” proceeded Flanagan, as the reporters scribbled rapidly, “because I couldn’t wait until Friday night to get a crack at you. When Friday night comes I’ll teach you to treat my girl the way you did. But right now —”
And, very deliberately, he tweaked Gaston’s nose.
M. Beauchemin, assisted by two of the camp followers who were acting under instructions, promptly seized Gaston's arms in case he should be tempted to settle the championship issue then and there, in a total absence of cash customers.
"This guy,” said Flanagan, addressing the Perrault family, “is a ham fighter that calls himself Gaston the Great. My name’s Flanagan. AÍ Flanagan, champeen of Canada. Maybe you’ve heard of me. I’m
sorry I bust in on you this way, but I couldn’t help it. This guy stole my girl in Montreal. I took it like a man. He got himself engaged to her. I wished him luck. But now he has thrown that little girl over, busted the engagement, and I wouldn’t be a man if I didn’t stand up for her. On Friday night this guy is going to fight me in Montreal and I am going to pound him to a pulp. Yes,” repeated Flanagan, relishing the phrase, “lam going to pound him to a pulp.”
Whereupon he turned to the stricken Gaston again.
“Yah!” he sneered. “Wait till I get you in the ring. Just wait. I’ll pound you to a pulp.”
And he tweaked Gaston’s nose again.
“Let’s go,” he said to his retainers. “I’ll finish him on Friday night. I’ll pound him to a pulp.”
One of the newspapermen, who had ecstatically photographed the nose-tweaking episode, then asked Gaston if he had anything to say for publication. He was answered only by a gurgle, unfortunately impossible of reproduction in cold type. Mr. Flanagan and cortège then departed. Wilbrod Beauchemin remained.
THERE never was such a crowd for a Canadian prize fight, before or since. Hundreds were turned away. It was, as AÍ Flanagan's manager predicted, a sellout. The mob contradicted the popular proverb that all the world loves a lover. Tickets had been sold on the express understanding that AÍ Flanagan intended to pound his rival to a pulp.
Wilbrod Beauchemin had abandoned hope. The publicity stunt, apparently, had backfired. Since his abject departure from the Perrault farm, Gaston the Great, instead of being inspired with a mad desire to annihilate AÍ Flanagan, had settled into a state of gentle melancholy.
Gaston the Great prepared himself to be garbed and anointed in his dressing room, allowed the gloves to be placed on his hands, and continued to stare blankly at the floor. Wilbrod Beauchemin was frantic.
“Wake up! Wake up!” he shouted, prancing about the room in dismay. “Forget about that girl. You are to fight for the championship.”
“Championship,” he muttered dolefully. “What does it matter? I have lost her.
I have lost my Annette.”
M. Beauchemin wept. He implored. He urged Gaston to brace up, to remember the championship. He might as well have talked to a hydrant. He had to steer the apathetic Gaston down the aisle when the fatal moment arrived.
Tremendous cheers for AÍ Flanagan, who audibly informed his attendants that he proposed to pound Gaston to a pulp. Chorus of jeers, hisses and catcalls for the breaker of trusting hearts.
The bell rang.
They did not shake hands. Was it not a grudge fight? Even if AÍ Flanagan had gone through that friendly motion he would not have found a hand to shake. For Gaston the Great, his eyes blazing with hatred and fury, simply snarled, “You would, eh?” and. came raging from his corner.
He tore into AÍ Flanagan like a catamount, pounded him, punched him, flailed him, overwhelmed him by the wildest and most astounding attack the champion had ever met. Vainly Flanagan tried to cover up, tried to get set. He was rushed off his feet; he was blinded and bewildered by a hurricane of leather; he was jolted into the ropes with such force that he bounded back directly into a vicious right hook that nailed him on the point of the jaw, and he went down as if he had been clubbed.
The fight—if it could be called thatlasted exactly forty-five seconds, not counting the ten seconds necessary to convince
Continued on page 30
Continued from page 28
the howling mob that a title had changed
hands. Gaston the Great glowered down at
his senseless victim.
“That,” he muttered, “will teach you to mind your own business.”
The referee raised his arm on high; the crowd demonstrated various stages of delirium and insanity in the more violent phases; Wilbrod Beauchemin tumbled over the ropes, wept, laughed, danced, kissed Gaston, kissed the referee, wept again and concluded by turning a handspring. Bedlam prevailed. AÍ Flanagan, carted ignominously to his corner, was doused with cold water that he didn’t feel and reproaches that he didn’t hear.
“Aha! You were fooling me!” shrieked Wilbrod joyfully as he embraced Gaston again. "You planned it all along! You are foxy, you!”
But the new champion thrust him wearily aside, fought his way through the milling crowd, and made his way back to the dressing room. It was observed that his expression was not that of a man who has just won a championship; it was that of a man who has lost one.
And there Beauchemin found him a few minutes later, the gloves still on his hands.
gazing dejectedly at the floor. And Beauchemin understood.
“You still worry about the girl?” said Beauchemin gently.
Gaston did not answer.
“My boy, you are a champion now. There are other girls. You will forget.”
Gaston shook his head.
"There is none but my Annette, and I have lost her— all because of that great dolt Flanagan,” he groaned.
M. Beauchemin saw light.
"So!” he murmured, thoughtfully, “you were angry at Flanagan?”
“Did it look," enquired Gaston, “as if I tried to be nice to him?”
M. Beauchemin admitted that he had not been under that impression. He wondered if he could tempt Gaston to become angry with Schmeling. It would be profit-;
"After all,” he pointed out, "it was only a publicity stunt.”
"I have lost my Annette."
There was a thunderous knock at the door. When M. Beauchemin eased the door open, a reporter popped in like a pea out of a pod.
“Telephone call for you at the box office, champ!” he announced. “Give me the first
statement you make on it, will you, champ?” “I am not answering telephone calls,” growled Gaston morosely.
“But it’s from your girl! That girl up on the farm! She’s calling you on long distance. The girl you were with when Flanagan—hey, champ! Listen, champ!” But Gaston was already on his way to the box office, the skirts of his bathrobe streaming like the tail of a comet.
Anyone who saw the fatuously beaming face of the new champion as he answered the telephone—and there were three newspapermen and the fight promoter to witness —would have known that he was receiving congratulations.
“But how—how.” he stammered, “did you hear so quickly?”
“We have a radio," Annette reminded him. “Ah! We were so excited ! My father knocked over a vase and bruised his knuckles on the door. He says you are to come and see us at once—my mother says so too— they wish to shake hands with you—” “They wish to—what?”
“They wish to shake hands with you. They are proud. I am so glad, my dear Gaston—”
"But—but—I thought they didn’t like— prize fighters—”
“It was when my mother read in the newspaper yesterday that you would get so much money if you won! She would not believe it at first. She says now that you must be very clever. Did you really win all that money, Gaston?”
“But yes, my darling. Every cent. I shall buy a farm. But Annette—you do not think badly of me—I can explain about that wretched engagement—”
“Why did you run away? I have not been angry, my own ! It was foolish of me to believe anything against you. When M. Beauchemin stayed behind he told me it was all arranged for the newspapers. When can I see you?”
One of the reporters was trying to share the receiver with Gaston, in an effort to get both sides of the dialogue first hand. The new champion barked at him: “What time is it?”
“Good! Annette, my darling, I have still time to catch the train at eleven o’clock. It is fortunate that the fight did not last long. I shall come with all speed.”
He scrambled out of the box office. The reporter nodded solemnly.
“The fight proved it and this proves it. The boy is a fast worker.”