“What’s this goldfish their feedin’ to the sea lion? Say, that story ain’t straight about young Benham bein’ Robinson?”
“Sure thing. Clancy will eat him alive—eat him alive,” the man repeated, slowly and with unction.
I glanced at the speaker. Squat, stout, heavy jowled—with a neck that pushed over the back of his collar—a follower of the ring, smug, assertive, confident. A prophet? I was not ready to admit that.
After the third bout three women and three men, following an usher, passed along the aisle just in front of me. I recognized her instantly in spite of the dark suit, large hat and heavy veil, for her walk betrayed her. One of the women was Marcia Van Wyck. Followed by the gaze of the men nearest them, they went to a box in the second tier just around the corner of the ring where I could see the girl distinctly. The other women of the party or the men I did not recognize, but Marcia attracted the attention of my neighbors.
“Some dame, that,” said one of them admiringly. “Know her, Charlie?”
“Naw,” replied the stout man. “Swells, I reckon, friends of the goldfish.”
As the bout on the boards proceeded and the attention of those nearest her was diverted, the girl settled into her seat and coolly removed her veil, watching the fight calmly, now and then exchanging a word with her companions. She was beautiful, distinguished looking, but in this moment of restraint, cold and unfeeling almost to the point of cruelty. She looked across the space that separated us, caught my gaze and held it, challenging, defying—with no other sign of recognition—and presently looked away.
The preliminaries ended, there was a rustle and stir of expectation. Men were rushing back and forth from the dressing rooms to the ring and whispering to the master of ceremonies between his introductions of various pugilists in a great variety of street clothes, who claimed the right to challenge the winner of the night’s heavyweight event. I had heard many of their names during the past three weeks at the Manor, and knowing something of the customs of the ring, was not surprised to see Tim O’Halloran and Sagorski. It was a little free advertising which meant much to these gentlemen and cost little. O’Halloran grinned toothlessly, at the plaudits that greeted his name, shuffled his feet awkwardly and bobbed down. Sagorski was not so popular, but the crowd received him good-naturedly enough, and amid cries of “Clancy” and “Bring on the Sailor” the Jew ungracefully retired.
I glanced at the girl; she was smiling up into the faces of these men as at old acquaintances. If there was any regret in her—any revulsion at the vulgarity of this scene into which she had plunged Jerry Benham—she gave no sign of it. It seemed to me that she was in her element; as though in this adventure, the most unusual she had perhaps ever attempted, she had found the very acme, the climax of her experience.