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How the Honourable Billy Darrell Raised the Wind

Pollie," said the Honourable Billy to his young wife, "what were you christened?"

"Mary," she replied.

"Then who was the first idiot to call you 'Pollie'?" he asked.

"Everyone have called me that always," said the Honourable Mrs. Darrell.

"Asses!" declared the Honourable Billy. "I shall call you Mary in future, for ever. And remember, Mary, that it should be really 'everyone has.' Now, dinna forget, lassie!"

Mary Darrell—but lately Mary Ryden, mill-girl—sighed a little, and grimaced prettily. " Fine" talk held so many unsuspected entanglements; but she was learning swiftly, almost minute by minute, the ways and the speech of her young, and certainly lovable, lord.

"Mary," said the Honourable Billy, some minutes later, looking up from his bank-book, "we've just exactly five pounds and six shillings left in the bank. My Uncle John promised me a thousand pounds the day I married you, or else I'd never have had the cheek to ask you—"

"Husht! Dear, do husht talking like that!" interrupted Mary. "As if I wouldn't be proud to be your wife, so how poor you was."

" 'Were,' bless you," said the Honourable Billy, drawing her gently to him.

His wife nodded, and continued.

"You must be a sensible boy, and let me go back to the mill until your stories are selling better, dear," she said coaxingly. "I should feel such a proud girl."

"Never!" remarked the Honourable Billy, very quietly, but in a tone that told her it was hopeless to press the point; though, in her heart, she believed that necessity would presently compel him to let her go back to her mill-work, where she could earn from twenty-five to twenty-eight shillings per week—sufficient to keep the two of them comfortably.

The Honourable Billy went to the corner cupboard, and reached down a bill-file, which he brought to the table, and began to examine.

"Two pounds three and sixpence to Tauton," he muttered, jotting down the amount on an envelope.

"I could do without butcher's meat," said Mary. "I love potatoes, and we could save a bit that way, dear."

"Yes," said the Honourable Billy grimly. "We might feed you on good plain water, whilst I have a good steak to my dinner! Mary, if I catch you doing that sort of thing, there'll be trouble!"

He lifted several more bills off the file.

"Seventeen and six to Motts for redecoratin'," he read out. "One pound fifteen to Jenkins for groceries. Fourteen pounds to Tuttles for new furniture. Tailor—poor devil!—wants something on account. I owe him ten pounds. Thank God, anyway, you made me pay the rent out of that last cheque. There's half a dozen old accounts here, and the big bill of Williams's for the pictures I bought, depending on that thousand of my uncle's that he forgot about, and then went and bust, poor old chap!"

He stopped speaking, and totted up the whole of their debts.

"Sixty-three pounds sixteen and nine-pence!" he declared at last. "And we've five pun sax in the bank; no stories sold, and meanwhile we've got to live. Tell you what, lassie—I've just got to rustle, and let you see I'm not just such a piece of show-goods as I know you imagine in that quaint little heart o' thine. I guess I've got to raise the wind pretty sudden, an' I'm going to do it, too, even if I indulge in burglary!"

"Why not let me go back to the mill, dear, really?" ventured his wife once more.

"Mary," said the Honourable Billy, taking her on to his knee, " hold your tongue!"

Which Mary did, literally, until her laughter forced her to let go.

"It's so slippy," she explained, with sublime impertinence. "And, anyway, I know you'll have to let me have my own way in the end."

And in the same moment in which she concluded this prophecy, there was a knock at the front door. She returned, carrying an opened letter, set out in varying sized print, and the blanks filled in with spidery writing.

"It's from some people called Stubbs," she said, looking very white and frightened. "They say as we've to pay Williams's bill by next Wednesday, or they'll summons us. And it was give to old George Cardman"—referring to the old weaver next door, who strongly disapproved of the Honourable Billy—"and now the whole Court will know"—meaning the Farm Court, in which their little cottage stood. "The postman ought to be more careful." And she fought to keep from crying.

"Cheer up, little woman!" said the Honourable Billy, taking the letter from her. "I'm going to raise some money jolly soon now. You'll see." Yet how this was to be achieved he had no distinct notion, and Pollie felt that this was so.

"Oh, let me go back to the mill, dear, until we're clear!" she begged him once more. "Do—do let me, dear! I should be so much happier, you don't know. I've always had such a horror of debt!"

"No!" said the Honourable Billy, almost fiercely. "You're never going back there again!"

And with that from her young lord and master she became silent, yet loving him queerly the more, even whilst her judgment made her feel impatient with him.

An hour later big Tom Holden called. He was the steam-lurry man at Grafter's mill, where Pollie had worked before she married the lovable but absurdly poor Honourable Billy. Tom, as it chanced, had been the Honourable Billy's rival, and had eventually fought with him concerning Pollie, with the result that he had found himself knocked out in something under a minute, much to his astonishment. He had eventually become the Honourable Billy's staunchest friend and admirer.

For a time Tom sat chatting quietly, but in a half-hearted fashion as if his thoughts were on the wander and his interest not truly in the topics raised. Eventually he caught the Honourable Billy's attention with a quick glance, and nodded meaningly towards the door, having first made sure that Mary was not looking at him.

From this manoeuvre the Honourable Billy gathered that Tom wished to speak to him privately outside; so that when, a few minutes later, the big driver rose to go, he reached for his cap.

"I'll come a few steps with you, Tom," he said. "I feel I want to stretch my legs." He turned to his wife. "Sha'n't be five minutes, dear," he explained, and followed Tom.

For perhaps a minute big Tom Holden walked at a rapid rate, wordless. Eventually he jerked out, apparently apropos of nothing:

"T' match at Jackson's Green is off."

"Oh!" said the Honourable Billy, immediately interested, for he knew that Holden referred to a boxing match that had been arranged between a local champion called Dan Natter, and Blacksmith Dankley, who worked a shoeing forge on the Longsite Road, and was reckoned the best man with his hands for many miles. "That's a beastly pity, Tom!" he added. "Why's it off?"

"Dan's sprained hisself—'s ankle or summat," replied Holden. "Doctor's sure's he con't fight, not for a three-month. I wor in Jackson's place t'-neet, an' he wor tur'ble cut up. He's like ta be, for he's bet big money 's he'll find a mon to lick t' feightin' blacksmith i' twenty roonds."

"Well," said the Honourable Billy, "why doesn't he get another man ? There's three weeks yet to the fight."

"He con't," replied Holden. "Dan's t' best mon i' these parts, an' a likely lad. Not but Dankley's the best mon to my thinkin'."

He relapsed into silence, and for some moments increased the speed of his steps, his actions suggesting suddenly to the Honourable Billy that he wrestled with some mental problem, or with a natural diffidence to say something that was in his mind. Abruptly he said:

"T' purse wor a hundred pounds, an' t' winner to share t' gate-money."

And again he fell to wordlessness and quick walking. Suddenly he brought out the thing that was in his mind.

"Happen tha'd be too proud to try for 't?" he said, with a queer little note of awkwardness in his voice.

"Me?" demanded the Honourable Billy, lost to all, save astonishment. "Good Lord!" Then, after an instant's pause: "I'm not half good enough. They'd never let me try."

"Tha' con ax 'em!" said Tom Holden briefly, and still walking.

"It'd be a godsend," remarked the Honourable Billy, after a further little space of thinking. "The way things are now I'd jump at it. Only, I tell you I'm not half good enough. Dankley's a thundering good man. He's an awful slogger, I've always heard; but he's got the science to back it. He'd be a first-rater if he'd only follow it up. I tell you, Tom, the Jackson crowd would just laugh at me if I put myself on offer."

"Happen tha c'ud try," said Holden, stopping and facing him. "Happen some o' them 'd laff t'other side the face 'fore tha was done. Tha's best man wi' tha hands 's a've seen; an' I knows wod I'm sayin', tho' I bean't no use to box mysen. Coom down wi' me t'-morrow neet, an' see Mister Jackson. He's fair mad to find a good mon to taake place o' Dan. Wilta?"

"Tom," said the Honourable Billy grimly, "if Jackson's fool enough to try me and risk his money on me, I'm game, you bet. And I'll, do my best for him, and that'll be for myself, too. I want the cash thunderin' bad."

" 'I," said Tom; "owd George Cardman wor sayin' summat 's made me think tha' wor short. Well, Aw'll call for thee t'-morrow neet at ha'-past seven. Tha'll do a-reet; tha'lt see. Good-neet. Don't say aught to Pollie." And with that he turned, and made off in the direction of his home without another word.

Said Pollie, when the Honourable Billy returned:

"What did Tom Holden want to say, dear? Was it anything important?"

"Why," said the Honourable Billy, "who said that Tom Holden wanted to say anything?"

Mary Darrell laughed, but asked nothing further; for she could trust her husband, and she would not force him into the position of having to fib, or else having to refuse blankly to tell her. Yet she half meant, in her way, to discover what it might be that Tom had been so palpably secret about.

The following day the Honourable Billy went off to see Williams, the man to whom he owed the big bill for pictures, and, after some talk, he managed to arrange things.

Then he went home to tell Mary that he had deferred the threatened fall of the sword for a month. But when he got home he found fresh trouble, for there, with his foot down to prevent the door from being closed, was a big, coarse-looking man, whose voice seemed to fill the Court.

"I'll ha' my money!" he was shouting to someone within the nearly closed door. "I'll ha' my money!" And he gave the door a shove with his great hand that forced it half open.

But it was immediately pushed to again, and a little, frightened voice from behind it was heard saying: "Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Oh, go away!" And then the sound of sobs.

"No; I'll not go away wi'out my money!" roared the man, thumping the door vigorously with each word to emphasise himself. "Tell that skulkin' toff that married thee to coom out an' pay his debts, 'stead o' loafin' ahind thy skirts like a great babby!"

"Go away! Oh, do go away, Mr. Jenkins!" said Mary's voice from behind the door, sobbing bitterly. "Oh, go away! Oh, go away!"

"Not I!" shouted the man. "I'll ha' my money! Send un out! I'll teach un! Send tha loafin' toff out!" And he thumped at the door till it quivered again; and poor little Mary Darrell, pushing desperately against it from behind, screamed piteously. "I'll teach un!" roared the big grocer. "I'll teach un!"

"Certainly!" said the Honourable Billy, at his elbow, in the quietest voice in the world. "Will you give the lesson here, Mr. Jenkins, or in the little field at the back? In any case, perhaps you will be good enough to stop bullying my wife." Then, as the man turned, half ashamed and blustering, upon him, "Oh, you hideous lout!" he said, with a flash of white-hot rage. And therewith he struck the big grocer with his open hand on the side of the face so hard that he knocked him down.

The burly grocer was doubtless a bully; though, possibly, he had not considered himself bullying in an unrighteous cause; but he had plenty of animal courage, and, moreover, he fancied himself somewhat with his fists. He got up, with an inarticulate roar, and hurled himself at the "toff."

"Urr! urr! urr!" he grunted, and with each grunt he drove a blow at the Honourable Billy's head. But the head refused to wait for the big red fists, and slid under them, swiftly and gracefully, or slipped to the side. Then the Honourable Billy shot his left hand in quickly, and broke one of the big grocer's short ribs; for he was uncommonly angry. And, because he was so uncommonly angry, he followed his left lead with his right fist with all his strength. There was a nasty, snicking, breaking sound, and the big man lay senseless on the floor of the Court with a broken jaw.

"My word! My word, sir!" said a quick voice behind the furious young man. "Knocked big Jenkins into heaven with a left and right, sir! My word, sir; but you're the man I'm looking for. My name's Jackson, sir—Jackson of Jackson's Bowlin' Green, at the back of the Black Anchor."

The Honourable Billy looked round, and found a small, rather dapper-looking man, with a somewhat Jewish kind of face, holding out a much-ringed hand to him.

"I'm Jackson, sir," repeated the little man, as if the name explained everything that might need explaining.

"Ye-es?" said the Honourable Billy, a little dazed still with the anger that had burned in him. He took the extended hand, and gave it a brief, unconscious shake, then dropped it, and turned to the man upon the ground.

"Allow me," interposed the little man, and knelt beside the big grocer, making a swift examination. "Broken rib; jaw broken and dislocated," he commented calmly. "You've got a good punch on you, sir—a rare good punch."

He put his hand over the man's heart, and afterwards pulled up one of his eyelids.

"Needs a doctor pretty bad," he remarked. "I've my light wagonette here; perhaps you'll give my man a lift, sir?"

He put his fingers into his mouth and whistled, and there drove in through the entrance of the Court a smart, light, sporty-looking wagonette, driven by a big, stout man in a light-grey top-hat, who chewed a straw and viewed the little group without any undue exhibition of emotion.

"Come and give us a lift, Marles!" said the little man briefly. "Be smart now!"

The man climbed down, and came leisurely across.

"Had his medicine good, Mr. Jackson, by the look of un!" he commented, stooping forward, hands on knees, and inspecting the man upon the ground.

"Take his shoulders," was all the reply his master made; and they set-to and got the weighty grocer into the wagonette.

"No, sir!" said Mr. Jackson, as the Honourable Billy made to follow. "You keep out o' this. Tom Holden mentioned you to me, and I was coming up to see you. After what I've seen I'm not going to have you gaoled, as you may be, for assault. Leave the whole thing in my hands, sir. I'll fix it up, if anyone can. You go home and stay there quietly until I come up and have a talk with you, sir. You'll know me—Jackson's my name, sir. Jackson!"

And with that he and his man got into the wagonette and drove off.

"He's right," muttered the Honourable Billy. And suddenly he remembered Mary. He rushed to his door, and found it closed. From within there came an indistinct sound of sobbing. He turned the handle and pushed, but was immediately aware that someone was pushing back. There came a little gasp of terror and hopelessness behind the door, and then his diminutive wife's voice frantically:

"Go away ! Go away ! Oh, go, go, go, go, go, go, go!"

And in the middle of this frightened and unstrung reiteration, the Honourable Billy pushed the door open and went in. He found Mary at the back of the door—a small, trembling, dishevelled figure, pushing and pushing, and sobbing desperately as she pushed—a thoroughly unnerved and terrified little woman.

"Oh," he said, with infinite tenderness, "my little defender of the castle!" And he caught her into his arms and carried her into the inner room. "Poor kiddy!" he muttered. "The brute has upset you."

"There—there—there's been—been three; one—one—one af-ter another," said Mary, unable yet to still her sobs. "They—they said such—such h-h-horrible things, and—and —and tried to come in-n-side. But I pushed against them; and—and—and then you—came in."

"Poor little woman," muttered the Honourable Billy. "No more answering the door when I'm out, remember; that is, not until I've paid all the brutes up. We'll never buy another shillingsworth from any of them as long as we live. The rotten brutes to bully you like that! If I'd caught 'em! If I'd caught 'em!" he added to himself, with a dreadful little note of savagery in his voice. Then, suddenly remembering the condition of Jenkins the grocer, he fell silent, troubled and bothered that he had hit so hard. Yet, in the same moment, fiercely sure that he would do the same thing again in like case.

Presently he had his wife hushed and assured, telling her that all would be well, and that he had found a method of earning enough money within a few weeks to pay off all their debts, and have something in the bank, if only things went right. But what was to prove this sudden road to wealth he was careful to hide from her.

Later, when Mr. Jackson returned to pay his promised call, the Honourable Billy ushered him into his little study, explaining to him, as soon as he had closed the door, that his wife must not hear a word of the match with Dankley, or she would be dreadfully upset.

Then Mr. Jackson got to work and proposed terms; yet, in the end, explained to the Honourable Billy that nothing could be signed until the committee who were running the affair along with him had signified their agreeableness for him to take the place of Dan Natter. Therefore, the Honourable Billy must call at the Black Anchor that night, where the committee were to meet in a private room, and discuss the situation, and choose some boxer to meet Dankley.

"And pretty glum they are, sir," said Jackson, gleefully rubbing his hands; "and so was I, for that matter, till I saw you paste big Jenkins. He's quite a tidy man with his fists, too, and a bit of a rough customer. We'll keep him quiet, though, till the match is over, even if we have to shanghai him, sir. You bet we will, as sure as my name's Jackson."

He stood up, and shook hands.

"You'll be down, then, sir, soon after eight to-night at the Black Anchor," he concluded. "Ask anyone, sir. Say you want Jackson's place; they'll show you. Ask for me. Good-night, sir,"

And with that he was off.

At seven-thirty, as arranged, big Tom Holden called for the Honourable Billy, who promptly told him that Jackson had been up himself to see him.

" 'I," said Holden, composedly. "Aa thowt he might; for I cracked tha up proper to him. Aa'm reet glad tha went for Jenkins; he's a rough lot an' dirty-mouthed, he is that."

At a few minutes past eight the two of them reached the Black Anchor, where Tom—who seemed to know his way about—led the way down the corridor to a room at the end. He opened the door, and pushed the Honourable Billy in, saying:

"Aa've brought a mon 's 'll lick Dankley inter fits. Mr. Jackson, there, knows 's he's a good 'un."

The Honourable Billy looked round him. He was in a big, brightly lit room, in which a dozen sporty-looking men, generally on the wrong side of forty, were sitting round a table, smoking and drinking. Mr. Jackson was at the head of the table, and held an auctioneer's gavel, with which, from time to time, he pounded on the table. Otherwise he seemed to be taking no part in the conversation, that had been warm and general when the two entered the room. Moreover, he took no notice of the Honourable Billy, beyond the most casual nod, and certainly ignored Tom Holden's reference to his knowledge of the young man's capabilities. It was evident to the Honourable Billy that he knew what he was doing; and that there was rhyme reason behind this unexpected noncommittal attitude.

A quick and general silence had met Tom Holden's remark, and there was a turning of heads and craning of necks as those at the table moved to view the new champion so forcibly announced.

Then, in the silence, there came a loud, rough voice, from a big man sitting near Mr. Jackson: "Fetch un in, Tom! Fetch un in! Don't keep us all waitin'!"

There was a sneering note in the man's tone that made the Honourable Billy look the more particularly at him. Thus he saw that the big man was not staring at him, as were the others; but looking ostentatiously at the door, as though he supposed the man to whom Tom Holden referred must be still without.

"Here he be," replied Holden, pointing to the Honourable Billy, and looking a little puzzled.

"What!" roared the big man, whose battered face, thick ears, and broken knuckles told that he was a pugilist. "What! Ha, ha, ha, ha! Aa could eat un wi'out salt—a stuck-up bloomin' young torf as fancies hisself a fi'tin'-man! Yon's no sort o' use to us, Tom, as tha should ha' known. Us wants a man, an' a dommed good un, too. Yon's mebbe one o' them fancy, soft-glove chaps. Us wants a lad as'll put the fear o' God inter Blacksmith Dankley. An' us'll never find one; an' that's my bettin' any day!"

From other men at the table there came a murmur of protests, not against the rudeness of the big pugilist, but against Tom Holden for attempting to foist such an obvious impossibility upon them as the Honourable Billy—a "torf."

As silence came again on the room, Mr. Jackson spoke, in a quiet, emotionless voice:

"I'm inclined to fancy the looks of the young gentleman," he said.

"Ha!" snorted the big boxer. "Ha, ha! Tha'd lose tha money if tha put it on the likes of 'im!"

"I was going to add, Bellett, when you interrupted me, that I was prepared to back my fancy," continued Mr. Jackson, in the same even voice. "For a reasonable sum, and for the sport of the thing, I'll back him against you, Bellett, that he outs you in three rounds."

"What!" shouted Bellett, anger and astonishment expressing themselves as comrades of wounded pride. "What! I'll out un wi' my coat on in two twos!" And he jumped up from his chair, with a spring that told of the powerful muscles hidden by his loose clothes.

"One moment, Bellett," said Mr. Jackson, who had an unmistakable eye to the main chance. "We'll book the bets first, and then clear the room, and you shall go ahead in proper order."

"Aa back mysen for twenty pun that I outs the calf in thirty secs!" said Bellett loudly, and throwing down two ten-pound notes on to the table.

Very calmly, Mr. Jackson covered them, and proceeded then to book bets with most of the men round the table, who evidently considered that the "torf" stood no chance at all with the formidable Bellett, and staked eagerly on what they considered a "dead cert." They must have thought that Mr. Jackson was a bit above himself that night, and betting out of sheer obstinacy; for it was plain to them that he was bound to lose his money in a very few minutes. Yet they should have remembered that Mr. Jackson was not noted for coming out on the wrong side either of a bet or a bargain.

As soon as the bets were all taken, the room was cleared, and Bellett gave a spring into the middle of the floor.

"Come on, my lad, if tha bain't 'feared!" he called. "Tha'd best take off tha coat." he added, for the Honourable Billy, seeing that Bellett had not stripped, had stepped forward silently, fully dressed as he was.

"Thanks," replied the Honourable Billy evenly. "But I'm rather susceptible to draughts."

"Oh, come on, my pretty lad, an' be done wi' tha gab!" said Bellett, squaring up. "Tha'lt feel more nor draughts in half a sec!"

"Stop!" shouted one of the men. "Gloves! You've no gloves on."

"Gloves be dommed!" said Bellett. "We'm all friends 'ere. Oo's to know?" And with the word he drove off with his left at the young Honourable.

The Honourable Billy stepped back easily, just out of distance, and pushing up the right-hand blow that followed like lightning, stepped in under the big man's arms, caught him round the body, and patted his back twice with the flat of his palm, saying, "Be calm, Bellett. Be calm, I beg of you." And was gone from him with two quick, steps.

There was a half-instant of silent astonishment from the onlookers, which was followed by an approving shout of laughter. But Bellett was certainly in no laughing mood. He sprang for the young man, and drove in right and left, right and left, right and left, a dozen furious blows in as many seconds, most of which the Honourable Billy slipped or guarded; but at the end of the rally, when he had been driven once all round the room in this fashion, he let through a heavy lefthander, which fairly floored him.

"Ha!" shouted Bellett, gasping, and standing exultantly over him, waiting for him to rise. "Got tha now, lad!"

"Not—quite!" jerked out the Honourable Billy, and dived clean through between the big man's feet, turned a complete somersault, and landed, standing, in time to meet his opponent's rush.

Bellett swung a mighty right and left at him, grunting. Billy slipped the first, and the second he blocked, standing in close to the big man's body. Immediately afterwards he upper-cut him savagely with the right, and as Bellett reeled, head jerked backwards, he hit him, thud, thud, left and right, clean on the mark, sending him down with a dreadful grunt to the floor, where he lay untended long after he had been informally counted out; for everyone in the room was eagerly shaking hands with the Honourable Billy, and apparently willing to forget for the time being that he bore the stigma of "toff-dom," imprinted large and general upon him.

"Tha'rt a hply surprise, lad!" said Bellett's voice suddenly from the floor; and turning, they saw that the big pugilist was sitting up, looking rather sick and dazed, but otherwise apparently right enough.

He got to his feet, staggering a little, and came across to the Honourable Billy.

"Tha's best man, dom tha, lad, as ever Aa've stood up to! Aa've no ill-feelin', lad. But tha's queerest torf as ever Aa've come up ag'in! Tha'lt suit fine, Aa'm thinkin', to win us a pot o' money ower the fight wi' Blacksmith Dankley."

He turned to the rest, who signified their approval by shouts of "Ay, ay! Yes, yes!" Whilst Mr. Jackson nodded, contentedly smiling as he picked up the stakes. He had known both the men he had to deal with, and the opportunity, and had gone the right way to make the most out of both.

"Aa towd tha so!" shouted big Tom Holden, at this point, to the room in general. "Aa towd tha so! Aa con't box, but Aa knows a good lad when Aa sees one. What dost tha think, now?"

" 'E's a 'oly terrer!" volunteered a small Cockney; and the room once more echoed the coincidence of their opinion.

And so it was arranged that the Honourable Billy should go into training immediately for the big fight with Blacksmith Dankley, and a glad, yet somewhat anxious man he was; for so much depended on his winning it.

But to hide everything from Mary the Honourable Billy found impossible, for she worried about his sudden distaste for pastry and sundry other normal delights; so he explained to her that he wished to be pretty "fit," as he had on a friendly sparring match with an acquaintance, which was certainly a modified form of describing a prize-fight!

The Honourable Billy followed his own methods of getting into condition. He knew his own constitution, and had no intention of running himself stale. He lived his ordinary life of moderation, merely taking a little more consideration as to what he ate, and adding to his normal amount of exercise two smart bouts a day with the gloves and a little skipping.

This hardly suited the old-fashioned strict views of Bellett, who desired to act as his trainer; but the big boxer had to admit that the Honourable Billy was certainly, as the saying goes, fit to fight for his life, and so contented himself with no more than an odd, misdirected growl or two of vague disapprobation.

Meanwhile, the Honourable Billy and his wife were steadily dodging duns, and by the time that the week of the fight arrived, he had a nice little stock of summonses pending at an early date. The only effect these had on the young man, was to make him the more fiercely determined to win the fight, and so pay all their debts at one sweep. But the effect on poor Mary was to make her grow thin; and the Honourable Billy had a very serious and angry talk with her one day, when he found that she had been eating as little as possible, so as to save in every way. He assured her that, in all probability, their troubles would be over in a few days, but gave no more definite statement; so that his small wife put no great faith in his hopes, but went about her house-work silently, and listening nervously for knocks that might betoken some fresh dun, come to post in a sheaf of bills and insolent, though just, demands.

"What sort of a chap is Dankley to look at?" the Honourable Billy asked his trainer one day as he dressed himself after the practice bout. "I've heard heaps about him, but I've never seen him. He's mighty strong, isn't he, by all accounts?"

" 'I, he is that!" replied Bellett, nodding. "Theer's only big Farm'r Dikkun as cou'd throw 'un, to my thinkin', lad. Not but Farm'r Dikkun should, for he weighs summat like seventeen score, an' t' blacksmith bain't no more nor fifteen stone odd; but he's a terrible hard-made man. Tha's geet tha work cut out, lad, if tha's to win. So Aa'm tellin' thee."

"I believe you, Bellett," replied the young man, and made up his mind that he would cycle along the Longsite road that afternoon and see whether he could not get an "unofficial" look at his opponent to be.

This he did, and dismounted at the forge. He had meant at first to hide the reason for his visit by making belief that he had casually dismounted in passing to light a cigarette, but decided to go his natural way, which was to be absolutely straight. Therefore he leant over his bicycle, and nodded to the big smith.

"Good-afternoon, Mr. Dankley," he said. "I felt I wanted to see you."

"I don't do nowt wi' them things, lad," replied the smith, getting up from the anvil, where he had been sitting a moment, and coming slowly to the entrance of the smithy.

"I didn't mean that," replied the Honourable Billy, smiling. "I meant that I wanted to see you—I mean that I'm the man they're backing against you; and I've heard so much about you, I felt I must come and have a look. I thought I'd be frank, and then there'd seem nothing underhand about it. See?"

Very solemnly the big smith rubbed his great, bony hand on his leathern apron, and solemnly reached it out to the Honourable Billy.

"Shake hands, lad. I didn't know thee for him as is matched again' me. I heard as it were one o' the gentry, an' I like thee for thy straight way."

He had been slowly shaking the Honourable Billy's hand throughout the whole of this speech, and now, ceasing, he took the cycle from him, and leant it against the outer wall of the smithy, inviting the young man to come in and take a rest on an old chair, which he proceeded to polish with his cap.

"So thou art the lad?" he said, after he had gone back to his anvil-seat. And he sat for maybe a full minute, looking gravely at the Honourable Billy, whilst, at his back, his striker and apprentice both stared with keen interest at the man who was matched against their formidable master.

Meanwhile, the Honourable Billy took in the details of his future opponent, noting the enormously muscular hands and forearms, and the amount of bone that went to the making of the wrists and fingers.

"Like ramming my face against a chunk of iron in the glove, to meet all that with his weight at the back of it!" was his mental comment. "He's one of those big, lean men, who never look as big or as strong as they are. He's just leather and bone, from fingers to toes, and I'm blest if I know how I'm going to hit him hard enough to knock him out. It'll be like slogging at pig-iron."

Thus the Honourable Billy's thoughts, and a wave of depression came upon him, for the man was so much more formidable than he had supposed.

Very slowly the big smith shook his head, gently; and again looked the young man over.

"What do'st thou weigh, lad?" he asked, at length.

"Thirteen stones four pounds," replied the Honourable Billy; whereupon the big smith showed some surprise.

"I hadn't thought it, lad," he said. "Thee doesn't look it. But thou'rt a well-made lad, sure enough." And once more he ran his appraising glance over him from head to feet.

"What do you weigh, Mr. Dankley?" asked the Honourable Billy.

"Fifteen stone thirteen an' a ha'f pound," replied the smith quietly. "I can give thee two stone an' nine pound, lad. Too much, lad—too much."

"Um!" said the Honourable Billy, feeling disconsolate.

"But there's youth to thy side of the bargain, lad," the smith comforted him. "I be seven and forty—seven and forty!"

"May I be half the man at seven-and-forty," replied the Honourable Billy fervently. He stood up. "Well, I'll do my best on Saturday," he said; "I can't do more—"

"Tha'lt be lickt!" interrupted the striker suddenly at this point. "Why, tha bain't more nor half so strong as I be; an' measter here he con outlift me wi' one hand."

"Hold thy tongue, Dave," said the big smith.

But the Honourable Billy took up the striker's remark, smiling.

"I'll try a lift with you, Dave," he said, catching up the name from Dankley. "Make your own choice."

The burly striker came forward, grinning, for he felt confident in his own very considerable powers, and had no conception of the muscular body that the Honourable Billy's well-cut clothes veiled so successfully into apparent average bulk.

"Aa'll lift tha' wi' fifty-six pun weights," he said, and brought out two from a recess near the wall. These, after rolling up his sleeves a little higher, he proceeded to lift, one in each hand, over his head, with a clumsy ease, holding them there for a few seconds, and then lowering them again to the ground.

"Theer!" he said, triumphantly. "See if tha con do that?"

The Honourable Billy made no reply in words, but, stepping forward, he pushed the two weights with his foot, until the handles came together. Then, stooping, he caught the two with his right hand, and lifted them with the greatest ease, without any jerk, clean up over his head with the one hand.

There came a little gasp of astonished admiration from the young apprentice, and the striker let out an oath of astounded disappointment, whilst even Dankley showed some surprise.

"Wait a moment," said the Honourable Billy, putting down the weights. He pulled off his coat, and rolling up his right shirtsleeve, displayed an arm that brought forth a second gasp of astonishment and complete admiration from the apprentice, but the sight of which reduced the burly striker to a state of stunned envy.

"Have you another weight the same as these?" asked the Honourable Billy; whereupon the apprentice ran across the smithy, and dragged one out from among some lumber, and placed it beside the two others.

"A piece of rope?" queried the Honourable Billy.

"Here, lad," said the big smith, courteously. And the Honourable Billy found that he had slipped his stout leather belt, and was holding it out to him.

"Thanks," said the Honourable Biliy, and buckled the three weights together. Then, taking the strap by the bight, he snatched the hundred-weight-and-a-half of metal to his shoulder with one hand, and pressed it thence easily to full arm's length above his head.

"Well done, lad! Well done!" said Dankley. "Thou art a strong lad, and no mistake. Go your ways now, an' don't come here again till after the match, lad, or there's them that'll say we had mind to cook summat. Good-arternoon, lad." And he shook hands once more with him. "Us shall see who'm best man on Saturday."

And so the Honourable Billy left him, feeling that, whatever happened, the man he had to fight was a thorough sportsman, and would box clean. But, for all that, he felt that the match would be bound to go to the big smith, if only his ring-craft were as good as rumour told, for the man's tremendous physique and calm, balanced assurance had impressed him very deeply, so that he was somewhat depressed as he pedalled home along the Longsite. This feeling was not eased when he reached his little cottage and found his wife weeping quietly in their combined study and sitting-room, and learned that there bad been two new summonses received by registered post whilst he had been out.

"By the lord," said the Honourable Billy, with tremendous earnestness, "I'll win! You see if I don't."

"Win what, dear?" asked his wife, quickly looking up at him through her tear-stains.

"It's a secret, little woman," said the Honourable Billy; "but I've got hopes of making some money soon. I shall know by Saturday night, and then we'll pay off all these debts and go away for a nice little holiday."

He nodded his head vigorously and patted her arm, but the memory of the gigantic blacksmith made him feel terribly unsure of winning.

"I will!" he said suddenly, aloud. "By the lord, I will!"

"What is it, dear?" asked his wife, looking up at him with a sense of vague fright. "Tell me what you are going to do? Tell me, dear? I'm bothered, and I shall only worry all the more if I don't know. Tell me, dear?"

But the Honourable Billy only gave her a hug, and told her there was nothing at all to worry about.

"I'll tell you on Saturday, dear," he said. "I shall know all about it then." And with that, seeing that he did not wish to say any more, she asked no further.

But she turned it over continually in her mind, with a slight sense of worry that grew, as she thought, putting this fact to that fact. Yet a day or two had passed before she had reasoned to the truth.

The following morning the Honourable Billy was chased into town by a couple of his creditors, and had fairly to run for it.

"Tha's had a breather!" was Bellett's critical comment as he entered, breathless. "What hasta bin doin'?"

"I'm worried to death with those confounded duns! They're following me everywhere!" said the Honourable Billy. "It's sickening!"

"They can't do nowt," said Bellett, "so as you keep 'em from gettin' into the 'ouse ! They can't gaol you, not till you've bin through th' coort, an' shown contempt o' the order to pay!"

"Is that so?" said the Honourable Billy. "All the same, it's deuced unpleasant; and if I let them come close, and they sling any of their dirty abuse, I shall be plugging them! Then I guess I shall get gaoled quick enough for assault!"

"Tha's reet there, lad!" replied Bellett sympathetically. "Th' judge never shows no mercy on a fightin' man, not so how he've done his best to keep out o' trouble!" He spoke with deep feeling that told much to the Honourable Billy, who remembered Bellett's early attitude to him. "Wot tha's got to do." continued the trainer, "is to lick Blacksmith Dankley, an' thou'll ha' brass an' to spare, lad. But tha mun mind his left, lad; he've a turrible quick left punch!"

"You can bet I'll do my best," said the Honourable Billy quietly, as he drew on his gloves for the bout. "But he's the hardest-looking case I've ever set eyes on, and he runs two stone nine heavier than I, and not an ounce of waste on him!"

"He's older, lad," said Bellett reassuringly, "and he's slower nor thee on 's feet, an' a trifle slower nor thee wi' his punch. But he's a turrible good man, he is that, an' I guess he've the reach o' thee ; an' he'll take more punishment, I'm thinkin', than tha con stand, lad. But thee keep up tha pecker! Tha's a s'prisin' strong lad, an' thee strips as big agin as thee looks i' tha clo'es!"

And with that they began the usual bout.

That night, the fight being on the morrow, Bellett wanted the young man to sleep down at his quarters, for a number of reasons which he stated plainly. But the Honourable Billy declared that his wife would worry if he did not go home, and promised to get to bed early and come down in good time in the morning, so as to escape meeting any of his creditors.

This he did, and got down to the trainer's room without trouble, where Bellett met him, and looked him over with an anxious and critical eye, declaring at the end that he was fit to fight for his life.

"And I need to be, Bellett!" replied the Honourable Billy soberly. "Wait till you see Dankley in the ring!"

"Ay, I knows Dankley!" replied Bellett. "He's a tur'ble good fighter, but I b'lieves tha'lt out un. Tha's quicker an' cleverer nor 'im wi' thy feet; but he's wonnerful clever wi' his 'ands, an' a tur'ble good two-'anded fighter. Lucky for thee there's to be no clinchin' an' wrastlin', for Dankley 'ud do thee out i' no time that way, lad; he wou'd that!"

The fight was arranged to begin at three o'clock prompt that afternoon, and at two-thirty Bellett came in to help the Honourable Billy to get into his fighting gear, which consisted of short, loose black drawers, striped at the sides with bright orange silk ribbon, and belted with a light elastic belt of the same colour. On his feet he had light boxing-pumps, with very short-legged socks. Over all he drew on his dressing-gown, and at ten minutes to three he followed Bellett out on to the bowling green, where his appearance was greeted by a loud cheer. For seats had been built up roughly all round the green, and at least three to four thousand people were there, awaiting the great match.

In the ring the Honourable Billy saw that the big smith already waited, dressed in a huge overcoat. He was sitting contentedly in his chair, and seemed entirely without concern or excitement of any kind. Behind him stood his striker and another man, who were evidently to act as his seconds. On his part, the Honourable Billy was seconded by Bellett and—by his own request—big Tom Holden, the lurry-man.

The Honourable Billy climbed into the ring, and the big smith rose and bowed gravely to him, with a curious old-fashioned courtesy that surprised and pleased the Honourable Billy; then re-seated himself, and seemed once more to resume his calm meditation.

"The man's a born gentleman!" muttered the young man. "I've never met a man I could like better!"

The preliminaries were speedily arranged, and a Mr. Ritter, who was to act as referee, inspected the ring.

"One minute!" called the timekeeper. And the two principals rose from their chairs and took off their outer wraps, each looking curiously to learn how the other would "strip."

The blacksmith had his coat off first, and stood revealed in a pair of short, blood-red drawers, buttoned loosely at the knees. He wore a plain leather belt, and had on the regulation pumps.

As he showed himself, a murmur of admiration and astonishment came from the on-looking thousands; for the man was a kind of gaunt Hercules. I mean that, whilst spare of muscular tissue about the wrists, hips, knees, shins, and elbows, he was yet tremendously muscled, in such, a fashion as to suggest that his muscular system consisted of immense masses of muscle, gathered into compact, rugged heaps, and possessing very little taper to the sinews, which seemed to show covered only by the hard, brown skin for half the length of his forearms and lower legs.

The effect was that though enormously muscular, he yet gave to the eye, through his great bony wrists and legs, an impression of gauntness, which was not lessened by the huge, gnarled neck, entirely void of any "grace-flesh" to give it beauty.

"Like a blessed 'orse and a rock rolled into one!" said a man in the crowd; and this certainly expressed somewhat the sense of gaunt but huge strength that the big blacksmith gave.

Very easily the Honourable Billy slipped out of his long dressing-gown, and stood strong and beautiful in the sunlight. Like the enormous blacksmith, he was naked except for his loose black silk running knickers, and the short socks and boxing pumps on his feet. But the difference in the two men was extraordinary.

Where the blacksmith showed the great bones and massive sinews, seeming covered only by the skin, the younger man tapered by beautiful degrees from the working mass of his muscles down to the steel-like tendons into which they blended.

Yet, for all that this beauty of outline was his, there was no mistaking the marvellous development of the torso; of the deltoids of the shoulders; of the great biceps that bunched up grandly as he bent his arms a time or two; and of the huge triceps at the back of the upper arms, that rippled and stood out strangely as he straightened his elbows. Even Dankley nodded in commendation, and reproved his striker calmly for some apparently disparaging remark.

As the younger man had removed his wrap, there had been a murmur from the enormous crowd, which had grown almost instantly to a silence, as they looked him over in an ever-growing wonder of appreciation, that finally burst out into a roar of applause. And through the deep note of the men's voices it was possible to detect the shriller interest of the gentler sex in the young gladiator. And directly the air was full of yellow roses—this being his colour—which were showered into the ring; and which one of the attendants at once proceeded unemotionally to sweep out with a broom.

Dankley, on his part, glanced round at the onlookers with a touch of grim humour, for never a red rose had been thrown. They took the point, and there came a burst of cheers and laughter, and immediately there came a storm of red roses, with renewed cheers and laughter.

As the attendant proceeded to sweep the red roses after the yellow, the crowd calmed down to an expectant silence and hum of undertalk, in which it was possible to hear odd remarks.

"T' blegsmith 'll out un sure!" the younger man heard one burly local assuring all within his vicinity; and directly afterwards Mr. Jackson's voice delightedly:

"Look at that abdominal development, sir; look at it! No waste weight there!" gleefully punning, and booking bets as fast as he could pencil them down.

"Sunshine trained, by the look of his skin. Looks like a blessed Greek god done in bronze," the Honourable Billy heard a tall, intellectual man remark to a friend; and suddenly realised that they were referring to him.

"Blacksmith Dankley's no beauty, but he's a heap stronger than the young chap," were the last words the Honourable Billy caught; for the next thing he knew the chairs and attendants were out of the ring, and he was shaking hands with the great blacksmith in the centre.

"Now, lad," said the big smith, as they gripped, "it's thee or me. An' God Almighty let the best man win!" he concluded, with a solemnity that was almost a prayer. Then they stepped back, and faced each other with their hands up.

For perhaps five complete seconds the two stood there, making no more movement than two statues of gladiators; the while they looked at each other, and tensioned each his nature to the first act in the rough game. Whilst round about them a tingling silence of suspense and fierce interest held the vast audience almost to breathlessness.

Abruptly the great blacksmith lowered his hands somewhat, and spoke to the Honourable Billy:

"Lead off, lad! Lead off!" he said. "My blood runs slower nor thine."

The Honourable Billy nodded, and stepping in swiftly, flicked Dankley twice on the right cheek with his glove, sufficiently hard to stir the big man's blood to retaliate. Then back out of distance. There came a touch of brightness into the older man's eyes, and a sudden alertness into his shoulders and knees; and the fight had begun.

The Honourable Billy circled swiftly to the right, and the other pivoted easily to cover him; then, like a flash, the young man stepped in. Smash! The Honourable Darrell found himself on his back half a dozen yards away.

He had altogether under-rated the speed of the big man's foot-work. He had been thinking of the smith's notorious left, and had not conceived that he would attempt to block him off with his right; for he had edged so much to Dankley's left, that it had not appeared to him a possibility in the time, owing to the smith's method of standing. And, lo! the great blacksmith had pushed up his lead with his enormous wrist like lightning, and punched him off his feet with the right.

He felt like the veriest amateur; shame and pain and sickness all shaking him towards losing his balance to get out of his difficulty; for already the big smith was standing over him, waiting to give the knock-out the instant he should rise.

And somewhere to his left he heard dully, and seemingly at a considerable distance, the monotonous sound of a man counting—"three, four, five." And abruptly it came to him that it was the voice of the referee counting him out. "Six." In another four seconds the fight would be at an end, unless he could rise and avoid the waiting smith, and he would have lost—knocked out of time like some village youth standing up to a professional pug in a travelling boxing-booth.

"Seven." And the money that would be lost by those who had backed him. "Eight." And the creditors and his little wife—their debts, their—His chance to earn the money was almost gone. "Nine!"

His life and his wits came back into him suddenly with a kind of such fierce abruptness that in one instant of time he had passed from the inert, sagging, almost lifeless man upon the floor of the ring into a man almost mad with the fierce determination yet to win; and in that same instant he had bounded to his feet, and with one terrific upper-cut jolted back the big smith's head, following it with a left and right on the body that drove the huge man backwards, almost staggering. All round the ring the young athlete pursued his man, driving in right and left, like a madman, more than a trained boxer, hulling his man time after time, and pasting him severely about the face with three flush hits in succession. For he was in those brief moments almost above himself physically and psychically, with the enormous revulsion from total despair to bright hope; and his blows and his movements were scarcely possible to follow, so utterly swift and vehement were they.

Of course, it is easily understood that, normally, the big blacksmith would never thus have been taken off his guard, but he had so entirely considered his man "done out" that he had relaxed his watchfulness in the last moments of the count, and so had been utterly taken aback when the "miracle" occurred. Yet, though he was thus temporarily at a disadvantage, he was far too clever and practised a boxer to allow his opponent long to have it all his own way, and before many seconds had passed, and whilst still the excited shouting and yelling of the audience at the rally filled the green with sound, the Honourable Billy received a couple of "propping-off" hits that took a lot of steam out of his mad rush, and reduced him to something like sanity and a realisation of where he was and what he was fighting for.

There followed a short passage of cautious work on both sides, for the big smith had received some very punishing blows, and one of the face hits had puffed up the flesh around his left eye, whilst the young man, on his part, was a little distressed and shaken, both by the effects of the primary blow and the combined results of his mad boring of his opponent, and the heavy jolts with which the smith had propped him off.

Time was called, and both men went to their corners, breathing heavily, the smith marked in several places upon his iron-like body, in addition to the puffed-up flesh about his left eye, whilst the Honourable Billy had a great, angry red blotch upon his ribs below his left arm, where he had received the smith's right, in the blow that had so nearly knocked him out. But, apart from this, he had no other marks, though his head was singing a little from one or two half-escaped punches of Dankley's.

"Ee, lad, aa thowt tha' wor done that time, sure!" whispered big Tom Holden, as he helped the young man into his chair and whipped open his towel.

Bellett, however, was grimly silent, doctoring the "punch"; after which, as he plied the sponge, he gave way to terse and pointed comment and advice.

"Tha's geet thyself plugged proper, lad," said Bellett almost fiercely. "Maybe's tha'lt feight now, an' quit foolin'. Dost tha' think Dankley's a fule or a babby? Thee larn thy man afore tha' goes to close feightin', or thee's as good as licked now this moment. Now, mind thee what I says. Use thy feet an' thy brains, if so be as they bain't all addled. Not but you come out of it better than might be," he concluded, with a faint note of encouragement as the call came for seconds out of the ring.

And directly afterwards, "Time!"

The Honourable Billy walked swiftly to the centre of the ring, and faced the big smith, who suddenly took the offensive with a speed of movement truly astonishing in so big a man, for he circled the younger man twice, almost as nimbly as a great cat, and twice managed to get his left home on to the young man's face, owing to his greater reach. Thrice in almost as many seconds the Honourable Billy tempted his opponent by uncovering himself somewhat, and thrice the smith's ponderous fist came almost home, but always a little to the left, so that a swift movement of the head or the feet, as the case might be, carried him into safety; and the third time he countered with his right, making Dankley grunt suddenly.

This was the only blow that he got home that round, and the audience kept a rather disappointed silence as each man walked to his corner, for they considered it to have been rather a tame spell, though the few more knowing ones had followed the game with the most severe appreciation, and clapped warmly a somewhat diminutive applause to the young man.

"Tha's done reet weel, lad!" was Bellett's approving comment. "Aa'm proud of thee, lad! Tha's larnin' tha' man, an' aa con see as tha've foun' summat to help thee."

"Yes," muttered the Honourable Billy, as they tended him with sponge and towel, "he's as quick on his feet as I am, though you said he wasn't, Bellett. But he doesn't hit quite straight. He hits just a trifle to the left always, and also I'm pretty sure his timing's a bit off. I b'lieve I can hit quicker, an' I'll prop him off good if I'm right."

Bellett nodded intelligently, but warned him:

"He've the reach o' thee, lad. Mind what thee's doin'! If tha' mistimes tha' poonch he'll get thee first wi' yon long reach, an' out tha' like a bullock!"

And with this solemn warning there came the cry for seconds out of the ring, and then the call of "Time!"

The big smith was first to the centre of the ring, and met his man with a quick and skilful rush, which showed that he meant to force the fighting. He made the full use of his tremendous reach of arm, and kept the Honourable Billy hard at work on the retreat, trying both to avoid punishment and the ropes. Eventually Dankley got home a powerful left-hand punch that seemed to stagger the younger man, and immediately followed it with a tremendous right-hand swing at the jaw. But the Honourable Darrell was less harmed than he had allowed to appear, and slipped swiftly under the prodigious swing, at the same time driving home his own right with a fierce half-arm jab into the great smith's short ribs that made Dankley gasp suddenly.

On the instant the young man seized his chance, and let out hard with his left at the same place, getting home tremendously, and immediately tried for the point of the big man's jaw as his head came forward. But the great blacksmith was too hard and too clever, and guarded the attack, getting in a couple of quick but clumsy jabs at the Honourable Billy's face that drove the young man out from under his guard, and so evened things somewhat.

From the tremendous audience there came a sharp ripple of clapping hands, and a storm of bravos and party-calls, intermingled with howls of advice to each of the men to go in and finish the other. But this the referee checked, threatening to exercise his powers unless better order and manners prevailed.

Meanwhile, the two men had stood back mutually a moment for a breather, until the disturbance had ended; and now once more advanced, the big smith showing more of care than he had shown hitherto in his battle with the Honourable Darrell. Thrice he feinted at the head, and made as though to come in at the body with his right; and thrice the Honourable Billy "stood off," studying his man. Directly afterwards, the great blacksmith attacked suddenly with stupendous vigour; rushing his man to the ropes with a succession of heavy right and left blows, delivered at short range, and taking the odd punches that the Honourable Billy managed to return as if they were no heavier than slaps.

Yet, the quickness of the younger man on his feet, and his exceptional headwork, saved him at first, and he seemed like breaking away into the open ring; when suddenly the smith dropped his guard, and the young man, unable to resist the temptation, drove a hard, straight left at him, which appeared to be utterly disregarded. For in the same instant, Dankley countered with his right at the body, bashing the Honourable Billy slam into the ropes; and then, stepping into him, he drove in a right and left that the half-sick and dazed man was quite unable to avoid; so that he hung against the ropes, guarding stupidly and almost ineffectually the attack which seemed likely to end the battle quickly.

There was not a sound in all the green, except the dull, heavy thud of the blows, and the gasps of the younger man intermingled with the grunts of the smith as he sent his blows home. And then suddenly across the rather terrible silence there came a shrill scream, and a woman's voice shouting: "Stop! Stop! Stop!"

The voice seemed to pierce to the young man's senses, and he made a desperate attempt to rally; forcing himself up from the ropes, and striking out with a kind of wild hopelessness at the great blacksmith, who gave way calmly a pace, and hit him wherever he wanted.

From the surrounding people there came a curious murmur, through which pierced again the scream and the cry of: "Stop! Stop! Stop!" in a woman's voice. The murmur rose into a roar of remonstrance, through which ran a sharp peal of hand-clapping that grew louder and louder. The green was full of an excited shouting, and then came the woman's voice again, dimly through the enormous uproar.

On the Honourable Billy it seemed to produce an extraordinary effect. He appeared literally to galvanise into life and control of his forces. He slipped a tremendous right-handed drive of the smith's, and countered on the big man's jaw with his left. The blacksmith replied with a sharp, fierce rally of blows, and came into half-arm fighting, hitting the Honourable Billy once almost off his feet. The young man circled swiftly to the right, keeping out of distance, and Dankley followed him with a heavy left-hand drive, which the Honourable Billy slipped his head under, and immediately got home a heavy half-arm blow on the blacksmith's ribs, making him reel.

In the same instant the uproar outside of the ring was redoubled. There came a flash of skirts across the ring, and a little woman, exceeding white of face, darted between the two men, just as the cry of "Time!" came sharply. She sprang at the great smith, and set two diminutive hands against his massive chest, pushing him back fiercely. "Stop! Stop! Stop!" she kept reiterating, in a voice that was scarcely above a tense whisper of sound. "Stop! Stop! Stop! You shall not! You shall not! Oh, tha sha'n't! Tha sha'n't, tha gre't brute!" she ended in broad Lancashire, and burst into fierce crying; but ceased not to push the brawny smith backwards.

"Mary!" shouted the Honourable Billy, and leapt forward. "Mary—"

Whatever he might have said more was lost in the enormous babel of sound without the ring. Hoarse roars of anger at the interruption, constant pounding of benches, cat-calls, and through all the shrill, insistent sound of the referee's whistle, calling for order.

But for the moment order was an impossibility. Hundreds of people had left their seats, and were invading the ring, some to inquire what it all meant, some to protest angrily at the interruption, some to declare that the Honourable Billy's little wife was right, and that the fight should go no further. And the diminutive cause of it all was sobbing her heart out in the Honourable Billy's arms, whilst the giant blacksmith stood by, and patted one of her hands with one of his enormous palms.

Gradually the audience were got in hand again, and persuaded or hustled—as the case might be—back to their seats, whilst the referee informed them in pointed words that he would stop the fight unless perfect order were kept.

He then turned to the occupants of the ring, and held a short discussion—not only with the promoters, who had now entered the ring, but with the principals themselves—the end of which was that it was resolved that the fight must go forward either to the full twenty rounds agreed upon, or else to a knock-out.

The only dissentient was the Honourable Mrs. William Darrell, alias Mary, who declared with a white and determined little face, and a nose that was not unbecomingly red, that she would not leave the ring without her husband, and that, if she had but learned earlier of the fight, it should never have been allowed to commence.

At this unexpected obstacle—and a very determined and vital one it was likely to prove in the circumstances—the promoters looked somewhat blankly at one another, whilst the timekeeper and referee conferred with one another. All recognised the peculiar delicacy of the situation, in that the lady was the wife of one of the principals; so that no one dared voice the only obvious solution of the puzzle, which was to gently but firmly remove the diminutive obstruction. Meanwhile, the great smith set the case out to the Honourable Mrs. William Darrell.

"Nay, lass," he said. " 'Tis but a game, when all be said. Thee go home, like a wise lass, an' 'twill soon be over belike; an' thy lad maybe the winner, if thou leave him easy minded."

But Mary was deaf to the big man's earnest advice, and clung, white-faced and determined, to her husband, who, after a little time of careful thought, told her that it was his wish, and all for the best, that the fight should continue, and that he wished for her to put no difficulty in the way.

For some minutes he argued with her, pointing out that the match must be concluded; that, apart from the prize which he hoped to win, there was a great deal of money hanging on the event; and that it must simply go forward, whatever their own private feelings might be.

And this way, and just as the big audience was beginning to stamp with impatience, and clap encouragement, she consented, and allowed Mr. Jackson to lead her from the ring. She kept a brave face, and turned once to wave encouragement to her young husband, at which the audience cheered her, but as soon as she was well away, she burst into hopeless crying, that sorely disturbed the businesslike Mr. Jackson, who gave much pointless and disturbed comfort, assuring her constantly that her husband would win, as surely as his own name was Mr. Jackson. And it was with this final assurance echoing in her ears that he left her in one of the private rooms of the Black Anchor, where she sobbed hopelessly a while, until, suddenly, she discovered that on the couch opposite there reposed nothing less than the Honourable Billy's everyday clothes, this being the very room which he had used as a dressing-room.

She dried her eyes, and going over to the pile of garments, began tenderly but methodically to fold them; in the midst of which occupation she was suddenly disturbed by a storm of cheering, quite close at hand. She ran to the window and discovered with a vast shock that it looked right down on to the green; and that she was actually but a short distance from the fight. She stared in a sort of fearful fascination, and saw to her horror that her husband lay flat in the ring, with the great smith standing over him, ready to strike, whilst near at hand was another man, who seemed to be saying something as he stooped over her husband.

In a very agony of distress, she threw up the window, and thrust her head and shoulders out. She heard the man's voice now; he was counting—"seven—eight—ni—" She did not hear the end of the count, for suddenly her husband's still figure came to life, and dashed up at the great smith.

She saw the big man strike at her husband twice, and miss him; then again, and knock him staggering across the ring. She saw the smith leap at the staggering man, and strike a tremendous blow, but her husband ducked his head with strange quickness, and the next instant there came the dull thud of a blow, and she saw the big smith sag in suddenly at the waist, and her husband, close up to him now, standing, and hitting with both hands. There was a tremendous roar of hoarse shouting from the audience, and fierce cries of both execration and applause; and suddenly she commenced to dance up and down, with clenched hands, and fierce, bright eyes, and shout: "Hit him, Billy! Hit him! Hit him, Billy! The great brute! Hit him! Oh, kill him!"

She saw the great smith strike a wild blow, and saw her husband knocked backward a couple of paces; she screamed fiercely again to her husband, amid the noise of the shouting, to play the executioner. She saw her husband leap forward, as the smith struck at him again; they seemed to strike together, but surely the Honourable Billy must have timed his blow a hundredth part of a second earlier than Dankley's, for the blacksmith's grizzled head went upward, sharply, and he lurched backward, splaying his arms, and so came with a dull thump to the floor of the ring.

Mary stared out, wide-eyed now, though her fists were still clenched intensely. She saw her husband spring forward, and stand ready, near to the fallen man, saw the other man (the referee) stoop towards the fallen smith, watch in hand, counting. As in a dream she heard the count mounting up—"seven—eight—" Still the man upon the floor of the ring never stirred, and still her husband kept his tense attitude of watchfulness. "Nine"—and absolute silence from the audience, broken suddenly by a fierce shouting of "Get up! Get up, man! Get up!" "Ten!"

The match was won, and her husband had won the match. At first, Mary Darrell did not realise that the fight was ended, but when she saw her husband being clapped on the back by every man who could get near to him, and saw Mr. Jackson pump-handling one of his gloved hands excitedly, whilst Bellett, the trainer did likewise with the other, she came out of her dream, and stood there in the window, white and silent, and extraordinarily proud of her man, who had beaten the enormous smith.

But when the Honourable William Darrell came into the room presently to dress, he found his diminutive wife mechanically folding and refolding his garments, blindly, whilst she wept, utterly unstrung. The men who had followed him to his dressing-room, gave back and left them when they saw that his wife was there, and the Honourable Billy caught her into his arms;

"It's all over, little woman," he assured her, "and we can pay every penny we owe, and I'm all right, lassie; look up, look up, and see for yourself. It's all over and done with, dear."

"I—I know" whispered Mary, looking up at him through her tears, and fumbling for her handkerchief. "I—I saw. I wanted you to kill him—the great, horrible brute, hitting you like that!"

The Honourable William Darrell roared, though with somewhat painful laughter, for his features were more than a little tender and swollen, owing to the force of the big smith's punches. His body also was badly bruised in places, where Dankley's immense blows had got home; and as Mary dried her eyes, and was able to see with more clearness, her indignation broke out afresh. Yet, presently, being a thoroughly sensible little woman, she admitted that it was not fair to blame Dankley.

"But, oh! I'm so glad you knocked him down, too!" she said.

"What a bloodthirsty young madam I've married," said the Honourable Billy. "But I'll admit I'm jolly glad, too. You see, what you describe, dear, as a knock-down, was really a knock-out, and by that same knockout, all our debts are paid, and there'll be money in the bank as well. Now dance, you war-like fairy!" And with that, and part-dressed as he was, he insisted on waltzing gravely round the room with her, after which he resumed his clothes and sedateness together, and so hastened out to inquire after the well-being of the great blacksmith.

He found him dressed, and apparently very little the worse for his knock-out, for he rose at once to shake hands quietly with the young man.

"I'm proud, lad, to ha' foughten wi' thee," he said gravely. "The god o' battles ha' seen fit for thee to win, yet 'twas thy fight an' my fight, lad, while it lasted. But thou art a strong and clever lad, an' better for thy years I never saw, an' proud am I to own it, an' to give thee credit and wish thee God's luck.

"And to thee, lass," he added, stepping forward to Mary Darrell, "I give thee my respect, an' may God bless thee an' thy lad through the years; and see thou stand strong for him always, lass, in the trouble of life, as to-day in the game that is now done, and thou do likewise wi' her, lad."

And with that, he patted each of them seriously upon the shoulder, as though he gave them a blessing. And afterwards called to his striker, and the two of them went home, and so passed out of this tale.

Perhaps one of the Honourable Billy's greatest surprises of that day came to him as he was making a slow way through the immense crowd of his newly won admirers, with his wife upon his arm. For, suddenly, a big, dishevelled-looking man came scrambling and shouting huskily through the crowd, and stopped before the Honourable Billy. He had no hat on, and his face was all bandaged up.

"Hey!" he said, rubbing two great, red hands, with a kind of excited humility, " I ha' coom to beg thy pardon, Mr. Darrell, an' thy missus's. Tha'rt greatest boxer Aa've ever seed, Mr. Darrell, an' Aa'm proud to think tha have poonched my head wi' thy own hands, an' I ax thy pardon humbly for all as I said."

"Yes," said Mary Darrell, answering for her husband. "We forgive you, Mr. Jenkins, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself. We shall pay you every farthing we owe you, and perhaps you'll learn to know honest people when you meet them. You were a horrible man that day!"

"I am fair 'shamed, missus," said the big grocer awkwardly. "But Mr. Darrell gave me what for"—and he pointed to his bandages—"an' I'm coom now to beg pardon—"

"That's all right, Jenkins," interrupted the Honourable Billy, and delighted the grocer and made him his friend for life by warmly shaking one of his big red hands, there, in token of amity, before the onlookers.

I will take this opportunity to tell that within three days the Honourable Billy and his wife owed not a farthing to anyone, and could have had credit unlimited only that this was against the Honourable Mrs. William Darrell's ideas.

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