Chapter Fifty-seven

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"What?!" Benjamin scrambled to rise so quickly his chair fell over. He threw his napkin on the table and sprinted out of the room, pushing Lord Alvanley aside as he'd done so.

Mr. Brummell went to follow, but the waiter delayed him by handing him the bill for their meal. Lord Alvanley wasn't sure what to do, and so stayed put until Mr. Brummell could join him. He didn't wish to face Mr. Allister alone.

A crowd had gathered in the Coffee Room, he could hear the raucous blaggards already placing bets. So packed was the place that Benjamin was having difficulty squeezing through. Finally, he emerged to see a nightmare before him, his wife in a bare-knuckled fight!

Some enormous fellow was taking swings at Clara. It surprised him to see her get a few good body blows in as Clara dodged obvious knock-out punches, but he could already see blood on her opponent's face and her hands.

The crowd was intent on pushing him back as they did not want him to break up the fight before it reached an outcome. Benjamin knew he had to get to her. The man looked familiar, but at the moment Benjamin's mind was too frantic to figure out from where.

"Let me through!" he bellowed, and upon hearing his voice, Clara made a critical error. She turned to look for him.

It sickened Benjamin when he'd seen the large man connect with Clara's face, cutting her just above the eye. She staggered back, dazed, blood running down her cheek. The man sneered, ready to land a finishing blow, but by this time Benjamin had freed himself from the entanglements of the crowd. He pulled Clara back just in time to allow the man's fist to catch nothing but air.

Benjamin took a swing and the entire room cringed at the sickening crunch that his connection made when he struck the man in the nose. The man wiped the blood away with his sleeve and got back to a fighting stance, not willing to back down.

Suddenly there was a primal scream and Benjamin turned to watch Clara charge like a rampaging bull, head first right into the man's stomach causing him to double over, right before her momentum knocked them both to the ground.

Benjamin grabbed her arm before she struck the man again, in his prone position, and dragged her away, causing the entire room to groan in disappointment.

"What is the meaning of this?" The chairman of the club demanded to know.

Benjamin took out his handkerchief and dabbed as the blood seeping from Clara's brow.

"He's a thief!" Clara said, pointing at the man who was still winded and lying on the floor.

"What?" the chairman looked down at the man on the floor and back at Clara.

"Neither of you men are members of this club. State your reasons for being here at once!"

"I'm a courier. I just came to deliver a message is all," the man on the floor said rising to a seated position on the floor.

"He lies!" Clara declared, "I watched him most carefully. He is a pickpocket. You'll find no correspondence on him but if you search, I dare say you'll find several of your member's belongings among his person."

"The whelp is the liar! I only came to deliver a message to Mr. Banks, see?" the man on the floor's eyes widened in shock as whatever he expected to reveal as evidence from his pocket was not there. Frantically he searched his jacket and his eyes widened further still when he discovered something else.

"Search him!" the chairman directed, and before the large man got away, several members had him pinned while another searched him. They found a gold pocket watch, a bejeweled fountain pen, and a silver cigarette case. Those gentlemen that the items belonged to stepped forward to reclaim them.

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