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I - "-I'*'**.' V The Caravan…


I "-I' V The Caravan of Mystery. By ROY NORTON. Author of "The Plunderers," "The Vanishing Fleets, etc. Follow the fortunes of this pilgrim—an American down on his luck, picked up on a park bench by an employer of infinite surprises follow him across the Atlantic, through the gipsy camps of Europe, among the Apaches of Paris, hob- nobbing with titled folks and famous musicians, doing unquestionly the bidding of his curious employer, searching for something that is not revealed till the amazing climax of the story-follow the pilgrim on his unique journey and we have no doubt you will regard this tale as the strangest and most fascinating you have ever read. (Continued). CHAPTER IV. In a taxi we drove to an unsavory quarter of the city, and came to a halt by a building that was dark save for a single light struggling to shine through a cobwebbed window. My companion told the chauffeur to wait, and opened a door that waa unlocked. We climbed creaking stairs, dimly lighted from afar by a dirty incandes- cent light, that wound interminably until my companion came to a door that barred our passage, upon which he knocked vigorously. There were the sounds of footsteps over board floors, and first a tiny wicket, then the door was jerked open. Obediently I followed my employer inward, where, for a brief interval, I was amazed. We stood in the borders of one of those so-called athletic clubs -of the lower class, and empty benches lifted themselves around a padded ring and upward to the shadows of the roof. The whole room reeked with the ghosts of dead stogies and cigar- ettes, distinct, though not as visible, as a history written on the walls. This -edifying resort was empty, save for the men who admitted us, and our footsteps rang hollow and menacing as wa followed him. He led us to a dingy dressing room, and there left us for few minutes, reappearing with trunks and a pair of fighting shoes. He dropped them in front of where I sat on a rickety wooden chair, and, with a supercilious, wise grin, disappeared. The door banged after him, and his footsteps rambled down the empty hall. "Hurry! Huriv! Put them on, Carter! commanded my employer. "What? What's that?" I de- manded, starting from my chair. "Whv," said the professor, "you am to fight. "Mo?" I inquired, quite cool, but amazed. "1 am to fight.? What for? I'm not a pugilist." "No, and I hope not a coward," re- plied the professor. And then he ab- ruptly came forward and caught the lapel of my new dress coat between his fingers and glared up at me. "I hired you to do what I ordered," he said, in that rumbling bass of his "and I want to know if this is the "Way you keep a contract ?" I thought the matter over, but, being broke, I was determined to hold on to my job. If I was to be the in- strument of a private enmity. I would find a means to extricate myself with- out inflicting damage on a weaker man If I was to face a worthy an- tagonist, I could take care of myself. or at least gamely accept punishment. If I should meet. an equal, I could turn my encounter to a mere boxing bout, such as I delighted in and had on joyed a thousand times as boy, uni- versity student, and instructor. "All right!" I exclaimed, and began doffing that nice dress suit. He watched me with marked appro- bation as I stripped, and, slightly shivering, slipped into the trunks and bent down to lace the shoes. He threw a dirty old bath robe over my ■shoulders, and, wordless, watched me. "Now, then!" said I, bravely enough. "Lead me to it." For answer he flung open the door, and we walked out. The bench es were etill empty, the place dark save for the lights above the arena. Down in a corner of the ring lounged a man who looked up as we "appeared, and scarcely shifted his attitude from that of idle repose He was leaning across the ropes, joking with some men in short sleeves who stood beneath, and there was a vast confidence in his pose. The light shone on his short, bristling hair, and exposed his brawny neck. Like me. he was attired in a hath robe that had endured but not sustained, much wear. It was soiled at the belt and fringed at the bottom. As we came closer, I saw that from beneath it protruded a patched pair of veteran fighting shoes. The men to whom this ring occu- pant had ^>een talking suddenly hushed their voices and scattered out. Two of them, bearing sponges, gloves, and a pail, climbed into one corner—the un- tenanted one-and the others waited. Another man, wearing a derby hat at a sporty angle, and fully dressed, climbed through the ropes, and, with a grin. hailed us. "All set. gents!" he said, with an air o flight familiarity. "Been woiting' fur ye! I'll clock ye." He dragged a huge watch from his pocket and grinned and winked at the burlv man in the corner, who was now chewing gum. I climbed through the ropes, grim- ly intent on seeing this affair through, -and got a close look at my opponent. My first impression was that of a low- browed, heavy-jawed, tin-eared man of about thirty years of age. Tin ear? That is the peculiar cauliflower forma- tion that ears assume when badlv and repeatedly battered. My heart lifted in joyous response to my relief. I was not to take part in a private grudge against an unoffending and weaker eitizen". I was to meet a professional -—a veteran at- the game. And, more- over. I knew, as that man grinned at me. that I was to meet what we call & profession slugger. There was not only the utmost of good humour, but a certain amount of scorn in his eyes as he shook my hand and said: "So you's de gink I'm to put it over, eh ?" "Tc) fie:ht, I corrected. "^ight? Hah! Hah!" he retorted. The joke was so good that he turned to the referee and the men who had crawled into his corner and bawled: "He says to fight! Dis guy does. Wouldn't that twist yuh? Hah! Hah!" I think that derision dissipated my final scrupples, for I suppose that I am like most men in their prime, endowed with a certain vanity of prowess and a certain amount of temper. "That is what is said," I replied, as I turned to my chair in the corner and prepared to slip on the gloves that were tendered me. At that moment the hazard of retaining my employ- ment meant nothing. All I knew was the primordial detestation for any one who had so derisively challenged my physical ability. I became suddenly alert and inspected the gloves. "This isn't very regular, is it?'' I said, staring up at the man in front of me. "Why not new gloves? Let's play the game." Beneath the platform I heard an angry voice. It was the professor's. "Certainly! New gloves! he de- clared. "I'll pay for them." The referee attempted to expostu- lat-e--deferentiallv-but nay employer insisted, until the man with the derby hat leaped over the ropes and scuttled away for a new pair of gloves. I got up from my seat, walked across the ring, and, not heeding the frowns and oaths of my opponent, examined those he had flung at his feet. They were loaded with shot. If I had hitherto lacked anything in determination, this evidence of unfairness was sufficient to overcome all scruples. The profess- or was peering between the ropes, but I did not speak to him. "I'll do the best I can to get you for that!" I promised the pugilist, staring him directly in the eye. "Aw! I didn't need 'em, nohow," he assured me. "All I wanted was to save time, cull. I'd knock yer block off wit' a pair of pillows! After all arrangements had ,\>een made and time was called, we dis- pensed with the formality of shaking hands; but I con fess that I didn't feel quite so confident when I saw the muscular development of my antagon- ist as he came croughing toward me, intent on "feeling me out." It flashed through my head that if I could make him believe me a mere tyro with the gloves, he would soon rush to his own destruction through overconfidence and carelessness. I retreated as he advanced, and made awkward gestures with my arms and hands. By a, hasty side glance down through the ropes, I could see the professor wearing that same benevolent, tolerant smile. "Smack!" The pugilist's foot slapped the floor as he lunged at me. I muffled his glove, and leaped back, trying to appear more awkward. He laughed uproariously and wanted to know of the referee, who was cheer- fully grinning in the corner, if he couldn't make me stand still long enough to take my medicine. That was a huge joke for every one but me, and perhaps the professor,' whose face never changed. For a round that must have lasted three or four minutes I succeeded in keeping out of harm's way, mostly by nimble footwork, and so perfect was my condition that I was merely breathing a trifle faster when we sat down to rest. My seconds climbed in and perfunctorily fanned the air with a towel. Had it not been my part to appear a rank novice at the game, I would have chucked them both out of the ring. One of them, from sheer habit, I suppose, began to give me boxing instructions, telling me how I must hold my arms; also not to be afraid, because it didn't hurt much to be knocked out, anyhow The professor, our sole spectator, still smiled absently up ward at the lights. "Well, boss," remarked my antago- nist, looking down at him, "there ain't no use in exercisin' here all night. Besides I gotta go to a ball. So I'll just trim this slacker quick and git it done wit' "Perfectly correct," asserted the professor, with what might have been a smile bestowed on a Sunday-school class. "That's what I wish you to do." "Time!" shouted our referee, with scarcely a glance at his watch. I had mentally noted that my antagonist se- cured a rest of about five minutes, and also that he appeared to need it; but now, fully restored, he tore across the ring with a rush. I think he was the most surprised man that ever wore gloves! I dropped all pretence, and, to arouse his temper, said: "Why, you ,boob! Knock me out? Humph! I've got your size!" And as I talked, I ducked, parried, a.nd put. a nice, clean punch on the point, of his jaw. He fell back, and I stopped a,nd Laughed at him derisively, instead of following up my advantage. He rushed again, but more cautious- ly, and I saw by the look in his eyes that he suspected he had been fooled and that this might be a serious meet- ing. It was. I went after him with glee. I must admit that when put on the defensive, as he was immediately, he was hard to reach; but I was intent on finishing him in that round. He breathed heavily, and tried to crouch again. I straightened him up with a long uppercut that brought a grunt from his throat, and instantly gave him what the boys at the university used to call "the sleep poke." In an effort to save him, they rang the gong; but my adversary required near- ly ten minutes to awaken from his daze, in which time I assisted toward his resuscitation as best I could. Only once did I look for the professor. He






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I - "-I'*'**.' V The Caravan…