“You had better come in, too, Mr. Wilmore, if you will,” he invited. “You were with Ledsam, the first day we met, and something which I have to say now may interest you.”
“If I am not intruding,” Wilmore murmured.
They entered the room, still jealously guarded. Sir Timothy closed the door behind them.
The apartment was one belonging to the older portion of the house, and had been, in fact, an annex to the great library. The walls were oak-panelled, and hung with a collection of old prints. There were some easy-chairs, a writing-table, and some well-laden bookcases. There were one or two bronze statues of gladiators, a wonderful study of two wrestlers, no minor ornaments. Sir Timothy plunged at once into what he had to say.
“I promised you, Lady Cynthia, and you, Ledsam,” he said, “to divulge exactly the truth as regards these much-talked-of entertainments here. You, Margaret, under present circumstances, are equally interested. You, Wilmore, are Ledsam’s friend, and you happen to have an interest in this particular party. Therefore, I am glad to have you all here together. The superficial part of my entertainment you have seen. The part which renders it necessary for me to keep closed doors, I shall now explain. I give prizes here of considerable value for boxing contests which are conducted under rules of our own. One is due to take place in a very few minutes. The contests vary in character, but I may say that the chief officials of the National Sporting Club are usually to be found here, only, of course, in an unofficial capacity. The difference between the contests arranged by me, and others, is that my men are here to fight. They use sometimes an illegal weight of glove and they sometimes hurt one another. If any two of the boxing fraternity have a grudge against one another, and that often happens, they are permitted here to fight it out, under the strictest control as regards fairness, but practically without gloves at all. You heard of the accident, for instance, to Norris? That happened in my gymnasium. He was knocked out by Burgin. It was a wonderful fight.
“However, I pass on. There is another class of contest which frequently takes place here. Two boxers place themselves unreservedly in my hands. The details of the match are arranged without their knowledge. They come into the ring without knowing whom they are going to fight. Sometimes they never know, for my men wear masks. Then we have private matches. There is one to-night. Lord Meadowson and I have a wager of a thousand guineas. He has brought to-night from the East End a boxer who, according to the terms of our bet, has never before engaged in a professional contest. I have brought an amateur under the same conditions. The weight is within a few pounds the same, neither has ever seen the other, only in this case the fight is with regulation gloves and under Queensberry rules.”