A DELL BOOK
London’s Hyde Park was decked out in all the splendor of a May morning. Sunlight beamed down from a clear blue sky and twinkled off a million dewdrops, giving a fresh, newly washed appearance to trees and grass. It was a perfect setting for the customary promenade along fashionable Rotten Row, the riders cantering along the wide stretch of turf that ran from Hyde Park Corner to Queen’s Gate, the pedestrians strolling on the footpath beside it, separated from the equestrians by a sturdy rail. Perfect except for one discordant detail. In the middle of an open stretch of grass well within sight of the Row some sort of commotion was rapidly drawing a crowd of the curious. That it was a fight became quickly evident. Not a duel—there were four participants instead of two and the morning was far too well advanced—but an indecorous outbreak of fisticuffs.
Gentlemen, and a few ladies too, rode closer to see what was transpiring. Many of the gentlemen stayed to watch the progress of the fight, their interest in the morning considerably piqued. A few, those unfortunate enough to be escorting ladies, were obliged to ride hastily onward since it was most certainly not a genteel sight for female eyes. Some pedestrians too approached the scene along the path that ran close by and either hurried on past or drew closer, depending largely upon their gender. “Scandalous!” one haughty male voice declared above the hubbub of the crowd gathered about the empty square in which the brawl was proceeding apace. “Someone ought to summon a constable. Riffraff should not be allowed into the park to offend the sensibilities of decent folk.” But although the shabby garments and generally grubby, unkempt appearance of three of the participants in the fight proclaimed them to be undoubtedly of the very lowest classes, the elegant though scant clothing and general bearing of the fourth told an entirely different story. “It is...