“Why, Mr. Hardy, I do believe that my lady boxer shall best yours in this contest.”

“Nonsense, Percival! I would wager my pith helmet that my Gertrude will knock the fancy hat off your pugilista this very day.”

“You have my Myrtle confused with some common barroom brawler, sir. I have no doubt she shall be the victor in this contest of fisticuffs.”

“Would you like to make this a little more interesting, Percival?”

“Quite, Mr. Hardy.”

“Let us say that whoever the trainer of the lady boxer who loses this fine match is will be obliged to shear his whiskers and look like some wretched Chinaman unable to grow a fine mustache like my own. Or, in your care, Percival, a beard.”

“I accept your terms, Mr. Hardy.”

“Thank you, Percival.”

“No, thank you, Mr. Hardy.”

“I hope you are prepared, Percival. I’ve brought along this white bucket and towel for when Gertrude defeats your unkempt Myrtle.”

“Unkempt, sir! You have crossed the line!”

“Unkempt, Percival. Look at the crudeness with which she applied the detail to her skirt. No man with functioning eyes would claim that to be the work of a fine seamstress.”

“The gall, Mr. Hardy! I might also comment on the utter lack of decoration on your Gertrude’s dress! Or do you consider her black sash the finest of French fashion?”

“Simplicity is in the vogue, Percival. We are entering an age when needless decoration will be a thing of the past. You look on Myrtle’s poor embroidery and see elegance, where as I, a man of the times, see the old fashion. She resides in the past, my loyal servant.”

“Your father never would have stood for such words, Mr. Hardy. No, he was a man of great tact and kindness. You do his memory a disservice.”

“Percival, this era of Victoria as Queen, long may she reign, is nearly at an end. Why, soon it shall be the twentieth century and the British Empire has never been stronger. We must look to the future, not only in the way we clothe our lady boxers, but also in our attitudes toward change. We have great steam engines now! Miraculous balloons that float delicately upon the air! Coal for every family that can afford it and jobs for the children of the families that cannot! Percival, do you not see we are living in a gilded age? That we are living on the very precipice of the future?”

“Mr. Hardy, I must confess that you have lost me here.”

“What I am telling you, Percival, is that you and your Myrtle are woefully out of touch with the times. You are much like those giant lizards being dug from the earth by intrepid British explorers.”

“If I did not know better, Mr. Hardy, I would venture that you were trying to insult me.”

“Never, Percival. I only seek to express that you shall never win this wager of our, for your fighter has no chance of defeating mine. Surely you’ve heard of the Chinese Wu Shu?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“Heavens, Percival!”

“My apologies for my grave misstep, Mr. Hardy.”

“Do see that you take measures to correct this, Percival. Anyhow, Wu Shu is a barbarous oriental fighting technique much too base for a good British gentleman like myself. However the study of this technique is not unlike dancing and I’ve found a great many women are quite adept at it. And when this ‘dance-fight’ is incorporated into a lady boxer’s repertoire of moves, I do find she becomes significantly more formidable. Would you like a demonstration?”

“No, sir, I consider the use of heathen knowledge to be a blight on our fair contest and tantamount to cheating. Indeed, if I did not know you to be a good Christian man, I would suspect you of indulging in the Devil’s handiwork.”

“Oh, Percival, you are so very superstitious. These are the Chinese we are discussing, not some heathen darkies from Africa. Have some sense, man. The Chinese may be no better than vermin, but heathens they are not. All right, granted, I will allow that some of them may be heathens, yet I know a good many Christian Chinese in Hong Kong who can prove to be quite white in their disposition. And those people do know their way around a duck.”

“If I believe you allow your Gertrude to execute some of your…what did you call it? ‘Woo shoe’ arts, I will consider you a scoundrel and scab, sir, and accuse you of foul play.”

“But, my man, that is the beauty of Wu Shu. You will never know. I defy you to call out Gertrude’s Wu Shu moves when she employs them on the manly countenance of your Myrtle, for she does resemble a man of poor breeding even when she is dressed in her finest.”


“Where did you find her, Percival? On the docks lifting crates onto a ship bound for India?”

“Well, I never! I will have you know, Mr. Hardy, that Myrtle is the daughter of my late brother Albert. I have raised since she was a child. She was a childhood playmate of your cousin Gertrude there.”

“I do say, Percival, I never knew that such a homely little girl would grow up into such a homely man.”

“You wound me, Mr. Hardy.”

“I vow not to cut your face as I shear your beard off later, Percival. I shall treat you like the most delicate of spring lambs as I remove your whiskers. Your wife will not recognize you when I have finished.”

“My wife has been in the grave these three years past, Mr. Hardy.”

“Oh, yes, quite. I do now recall. Be that as it may, were she alive today, Percival, she would not be able to recognize you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You would do well to continue to agree with me, Percival.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let us get this little match on, shall we?

“Yes, sir.”

In a lady boxing match for the ages, Myrtle defeated Gertrude in 10 rounds by technical knockout. However, instead of honoring his end of the wager and allowing Percival to shave his whiskers, Mr. Hardy accused Percival and Myrtle of incest and they were both hanged by the local constabulary.