“What round?” she asked masticating leisurely.
“Third,” said Flynn with his gaze on his watch, “Time!”
And they went at it hammer and tongs. From my chair beside Miss Gore I watched the girl. Her hands were clasped over her knees as she leaned forward, her eyes glowing, watching the swift motions of the two men as they moved backward and forward. Miss Gore wore the fixed smile of the perpetually bored. She watched Jerry and Carty exchanging their blows, with a sphinxlike air as though inspecting half-naked men dancing around each other was her usual afternoon’s employment. She was admirable, accepting her lot in life with a philosophy which had in it something of the stoic. Only when Carty landed on Jerry’s lip and the blood showed did she wince.
“You—approve of this?” she whispered, then to me.
“No. I’m helpless,” I returned.
“Yes. It’s madness. She made him do—”
“Sh—” she warned, for the round had ended, and Marcia turned toward her. But I knew that she understood.
“You’re a good sport, Mr. Benham,” said Marcia to me, assuming her role with an air of enjoyment, “havin’ the boys up here to train. Jim’s comin’ fast, ain’t he?”
I nodded uncomfortably.
Her eyes twinkled mischievously. “You might of sent your honk-honk to the train for us though. Cost us a dollar from the station. What d’ye think of that? Don’t like the ladies, do you, Mr. Benham?” she laughed.
“I’ll be glad to send you back,” I said quickly enough.
“Oh, there ain’t a doubt of that, I’m sure. Nice house you’ve got—gym an’ all. You might ask us to stay awhile. Won’t you, Mr. Benham?”
She was very much amused at the awkwardness of the situation.
“I’m afraid I haven’t any more room,” I replied stiffly. How I hated that girl! The sight of blood had inflamed me. I believe I could have throttled her where she sat, but fortunately Flynn called “Time” and the bout went on.
It was to be war between us two from this moment. I knew what she meant. She had accepted my challenge and was defying me. Since I had not been able to dissuade Jerry from his fight, she was sure of her power. He was her creature now, to do with as she chose, I watched her furtively during the next round. She was silent, her gaze fixed upon Jerry, her eyes gleaming. There was something morbid in her suppressed excitement—something strange and unnatural in the fascination of her attention. She chewed gum constantly and was utterly absorbed, driven, it seemed to me, by some inner fire which she made no effort to control. She was primitive, savage. When Jerry’s blows landed, her lips parted and she breathed hard. I think at this moment he was the only man for her, her mate in savagery, the finest human beast in the world. When the round ended I moved away. I had seen enough.
Later, while the men were being rubbed down, Miss Gore, leaving Marcia with Flynn, came out to me on the terrace, where I had gone alone for a breath of clean air. I was utterly absorbed in my misery and I did not hear her step. Her deep voice just at my ear startled me.