The prize-fighter had come out from his curtain, a squat, formidable figure, monstrous in chest and arms, limping slightly on his distorted leg. His skin had none of the freshness and clearness of Montgomery’s, but was dusky and mottled, with one huge mole amid the mat of tangled black hair which thatched his mighty breast. His weight bore no relation to his strength, for those huge shoulders and great arms, with brown, sledge-hammer fists, would have fitted the heaviest man that ever threw his cap into a ring. But his loins and legs were slight in proportion. Montgomery, on the other hand, was as symmetrical as a Greek statue. It would be an encounter between a man who was specially fitted for one sport, and one who was equally capable of any. The two looked curiously at each other: a bulldog, and a high-bred, clean-limbed terrier, each full of spirit.
“How do you do?”
“How do?” The Master grinned again, and his three jagged front teeth gleamed for an instant. The rest had been beaten out of him in twenty years of battle. He spat upon the floor. “We have a rare fine day for’t.”
“Capital,” said Montgomery.
“That’s the good feelin’ I like,” wheezed the fat butcher. “Good lads, both of them!—prime lads!—hard meat an’ good bone. There’s no ill-feelin’.”
“If he downs me, Gawd bless him!” said the Master.
“An’ if we down him, Gawd help him!” interrupted the woman.
“Haud thy tongue, wench!” said the Master, impatiently. “Who art thou to put in thy word? Happen I might draw my hand across thy face.”
The woman did not take the threat amiss.
“Wilt have enough for thy hand to do, Jock,” said she. “Get quit o’ this gradely man afore thou turn on me.”
The lovers’ quarrel was interrupted by the entrance of a new comer, a gentleman with a fur-collared overcoat and a very shiny top-hat—a top-hat of a degree of glossiness which is seldom seen five miles from Hyde Park. This hat he wore at the extreme back of his head, so that the lower surface of the brim made a kind of frame for his high, bald forehead, his keen eyes, his rugged and yet kindly face. He bustled in with the quiet air of possession with which the ring-master enters the circus.
“It’s Mr. Stapleton, the referee from London,” said Wilson.
“How do you do, Mr. Stapleton? I was introduced to you at the big fight at the Corinthian Club, in Piccadilly.”
“Ah, I dare say,” said the other, shaking hands. “Fact is, I’m introduced to so many that I can’t undertake to carry their names. Wilson, is it? Well, Mr. Wilson, glad to see you. Couldn’t get a fly at the station, and that’s why I’m late.”
“I’m sure, sir,” said Armitage, “we should be proud that any one so well known in the boxing world should come down to our little exhibition.”
“Not at all. Not at all. Anything in the interests of boxin’. All ready? Men weighed?”
“Weighing now, sir.”
“Ah, just as well I should see it done. Seen you before, Craggs. Saw you fight your second battle against Willox. You had beaten him once, but he came back on you. What does the indicator say?—one hundred and sixty-three pounds—two off for the kit—one hundred and sixty-one. Now, my lad, you jump. My goodness, what colours are you wearing?”
“The Anonymi Cricket Club.”
“What right have you to wear them? I belong to the club myself.”
“So do I.”
“You an amateur?”
“And you are fighting for a money prize?”