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Title: Fist and Fang
Author: Robert E. Howard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0609091.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: December 2006
Date most recently updated: December 2006

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Fist and Fang
Robert E. Howard


I'VE FOUGHT ALL my life; sometimes for money, sometimes for fun--
once in a while for my life. But the deadliest, most vicious fight I
ever fought wasn't for none of them things; no, sir, I was fighting
wild and desperate _for the privilege of getting a bullet through my
brain!_

Stand by and I'll tell you why I was fighting so me and my best
friend would get shot.

I'm the heavyweight champion of the _Sea Girl,_ merchant ship, my
name being Steve Costigan. The Old Man is partial to warm waters and
island trade, see? Well, we was cruising through the Solomons on our
way to Brisbane, taking our time because the Old Man practically
growed up in the South Sea trade and knows all the old traders and
native chiefs and the like, and is always on the lookout for bargains
in pearls and such like.

Well, we hove to at a small island by the name of Roa-Toa which
had a small trading post on it. This post was run by the only white
man on the islands, a fellow named MacGregor, and him being an old
friend of the captain's, we run in for a visit.

The minute the Old Man had stepped onto the ramshackle wharf, Bill
O'Brien, my side kick, said to me, he said: "Steve, see that motor
launch down there by the wharf? Let's grab it and chase over to Tamaru
and see old Togo."

Tamaru was another little island so close to Roa-Toa you could see
the top of the old dead volcano. Togo was the chief; that wasn't his
name, but it was as near as we could come to pronouncing it. He was a
wrinkled old scoundrel and was a terrible sot, but very friendly to
the white men.

"The Old Man will likely stop at Tamaru," I said.

"He won't, either," said Bill. "Him and MacGregor will drink up
all the whiskey we got on board before he ever weighs anchor from Roa-
Toa. He won't stop by Tamaru because he won't have no liquor to give
to or trade with old Togo. Come on," said Bill. "We can easy make it
in that launch. If we hang around the mate will find somethin' for us
to do. Let's get to that launch and scoot before the Old Man or
MacGregor sees us. Mac wouldn't let us have it, like as not, if we
asked him."

So in a very short time we was heading out to sea, me and Bill,
and my white bulldog, Mike. I heard a kind of whooping above the
sputter of the motor, and looked back to see the Old Man and MacGregor
run out of the trading stores and they jumped up and down and shook
their fists and hollered, but we waggled our fingers at them and kept
on our course, full speed, dead ahead.



WELL, IN DUE time Tamaru grew up out of the ocean in front of us, all
still and dark green, with its dead volcano, and the trees growing up
the sides of the mountains.

Togo's village was right on the beach when we was there the year
before, but now much to our surprise we found nothing but a heap of
ruins. The huts was leveled, trees cut short close to the water's
edge, and not a sign of human life.

While we was talking, four or five natives come slithering out of
the jungle and approached us very friendly, with broad smiles. Mike
bristled and growled, but I put it down to the fact that no white dog
likes colored people. According to that, no black dog ought to like
white people, but it don't work.

Anyway, these kanakas made us understand in their pidgin English
that the village had been moved back in the jungle a way, and they
signified for us to come with them.

"Ask 'em how come they moved the village," I told Bill, who could
speak their language pretty well, and he said: "Aw, they say the salt
water made the babies sick. Don't worry about that; they likely don't
know theirselves why they moved. They don't often have no reason for
what they do. Let's go see Togo."

"Ask 'em how Togo is," I said, and Bill did, and said: "They says
he's as free from pain and sickness as a man can be."

The kanakas grinned and nodded. Well, we plodded after them, and
Mike he come along and growled deep down in his throat till I asked
him very irritably to please shut up. But he paid no attention.

After awhile we come on to a large open space and there was the
village. Just now they wasn't a sign of life, except a few native dogs
sleeping in the sun. A chill wiggled up and down my spine.

"Say," I said to Bill, "this is kind of queer; ask 'em where Togo
is."

"Where at is Togo?" said Bill, and one of the natives grinned and
pointed to a pole set in front of the biggest hut. At first I couldn't
make out what he meant. Then I did, and I suddenly got sick at my
stomach--and cold at the heart with fear. _On top of that pole was a
human head!_ It was all that was left of poor old Togo.

The next second two big kanakas had grabbed each of us from
behind, and a couple hundred more came swarming out of the huts.

Bill, he give a yell and ducked, throwing one of his natives clean
over his head, and he twisted half way round and knocked the other
cold with a terrible biff on the jaw. Then the one on the ground
grabbed Bill by the legs, and another hit him over the head with a
club, laying his scalp open and knocking him to his knees.

MEANWHILE I WAS having my troubles. The minute them two grabbed
me, Mike went for them, jerked one of them off me, got him down and
nearly tore him apart. At the same instant I jammed my elbow backward,
and by sheer luck connected with the other one's solar plexus. He
grunted and loosened his hold, and I wheeled round to smash him, but
as I did, I felt a sharp prick between my shoulders and knowed one of
them was holding a spear at my back. I stopped short and stood still.
The next minute me and Bill was tied hand and foot. I looked at Bill;
he was bleeding plenty from the cut in his head, but he grinned.

Well, all that took something less than a minute. Three or four
natives had went for Mike and pulled him off of his victim, which was
howling and bleeding like a stuck hog. The said victim staggered away
to the nearest hut, looking like a wreck on a lee shore, and the
others danced and jumped around Mike trying to stab him with spears
and hit him with clubs, without losing a leg at the same time; while
Mike tried to eat his way through them to me.

Then while I watched with my heart in my mouth, _crack!_ went a
pistol and Mike went down, rolling over and over till he lay still
with the blood oozing from his head. I give a terrible cry and began
to rave and tear at my ropes; I struggled so wild and desperate that I
jerked loose from the kanakas which was holding me, and fell on the
ground, being tied up like I was.

Then they pulled me and Bill roughly around to face a big dark
fellow who came swaggering up, a smoking pistol in his hand. At first
glance it struck me I'd seen him before, but all I wanted to do now
was get loose and tear his throat out with my bare hands for killing
Mike.

This bezark stopped in front of us, twirling his gun on his
forefinger and I looked close at him. If looks and wishes would kill,
he would of dropped dead three times in succession. A big, tall,
beautifully built native he was, but he didn't look like the rest. He
had a kind of yellow tint to his skin, whereas they was golden brown.
And his face wasn't open and good natured like theirs was in repose;
it was cruel and slant-eyed and thin-lipped. Malay blood there, I
quickly seen. A half breed, with the worst blood of both races. He was
dressed in just a loin cloth, like the rest, but somewhere, I knowed,
I'd seen him in different clothes and different surroundings. Well, if
I hadn't been so grieved and mad on account of Mike, I guess I'd have
knowed him right off.

"Well, Meestah Costigan," said the big ham, in a kind of throaty
voice, "you visit my island, eh? You like my welcome, maybeso? Maybeso
you stay a long time, eh? Glad you come, me; I rather see you than any
other man in the world!"

He was still grinning, but when he said the last his heavy jaws
come together like the snap of a alligator. And then Bill, who was
glaring at him like he couldn't believe his eyes, yelled: "Santos!"



IT ALL COME back to me in a flash! And I would of fell over from sheer
surprise, hadst I not been tied and held up. Sure, I remembered! And
you ought to, too, if you keep up with even part of the fighters that
comes and goes.

A couple of years ago I'd met Santos in a Frisco ring. Yeah!
Battling Santos, the Borneo Tiger, that Abie Hussenstein had
discovered slaughtering second-raters in Asiatic ports. Abie brought
him to America after Santos had cleaned up everything in sight over
there.

They is no doubt that the big boy was good. In America he went
through his first rank of set-ups like a sickle through wheat. He was
fast, fairly clever for a big man, and strong as a bull.

Well, his first first-rater was Tom York, you remember, and Tom
outboxed him easy in the first round, but in the second Santos landed
a crusher that broke Tom's nose and knocked out four teeth. From then
on it was a butchery, and the referee stopped it in the fifth to keep
York from being killed. After that the scribes raved over Santos more
than ever, called him a second Firpo and said he couldn't miss being
champion.

Abie was sparring for matches in the Garden and he sent Santos
back to Frisco to pad his k.o. record and keep in trim by toppling
some ham-and-eggers. Then, enter a dark man, the villain of the play--
otherwise Steve Costigan.

Santos was matched to meet Joe Handler ten rounds in San
Francisco. The very day of the fight, Handler sprained his ankle, and
they substituted me the last minute. I needn't tell you I went into
the ring on the short end of about a hundred to one, with no takers--
except the _Sea Girl_'s crew, who seem to think I can lick anybody,
simply because I've licked all of them.

Well, I reckon the praise and hurrah and all had went to Santos'
head. He come out clowning and playing up to the crowd. He feinted at
me with his big long brown arms and made faces and wise-cracks, as I
come out of my corner. He dropped his gloves, stuck out his jaw and
motioned me to hit him. This got a big laugh out of the crowd, and
while he was doing that, with his mouth wide open, laughing, I hit
him!

I reckon I was closer to him than he thought, for it was a wide
open shot. I crashed my right from my knee, and I plunged in behind it
with everything I had. I smashed solid on his sagging jaw so hard it
numbed my whole arm. I don't see how I come not to tear his jaw clean
off. Anyway, he hit the canvas like he figured on staying there
indefinite, and they had to carry him to his dressing room to bring
him to.

When everybody got their breath back, they yelled "fluke! fluke!"
And it was, because Santos would of licked me, if he'd watched
hisself. But it finished him; he'd lost his heart, or something.

His next start he dropped a decision to Kid Allison, and he lost
two more fights in a row that way. Hussenstein give him the bounce and
he dropped out of view. Santos had gone back to stoking, people
supposed; the public had forgot all about him, and I had too, nearly.
But here he was!

ALL THIS FLASHED through my brain as I stood and gawped at the big
cheese. Say, if Santos had looked tigerish in the ring, in civilized
settings, he looked deadly now.

He stuck the pistol back into his girdle and said, easy and lazy:
"Well, Meestah Costigan, you remember me, eh?"

"Yeah, I do, you dirty half-breed!" I roared. "What you mean
shootin' my dog? Lem'me loose, and I'll rip your heart out!"

He bared his white teeth in a kind of venomous smile and gestured
lazily toward the pole where old Togo's head was.

"You come to see your old friend, eh? Well, there he is! What left
of him. Now Santos is chief! The old man was fool; the young men, they
follow Santos. Now we make palaver; you my guests!"

And with that he laughed in a cold deadly way and said something
to the kanakas which was holding us. He turned his back and walked
toward his hut, them dragging us along anyway. I looked back, though,
and my heart give a jump. Old Mike got to his feet kind of groggy and
glassy-eyed, and shook his head and looked around for me. He seen me
and started toward me; then he seen Santos, and sneaked away among the
trees. I give a sigh of relief. Must be the bullet just grazed him
enough to knock him out; nobody had seen him get up and hide but me,
and he was safe for the time being, at least--which was something me
and Bill O'Brien wasn't--and I guess Bill felt the same way for he
looked kind of white.

Santos sat down in a chair, which was one the Old Man had give
poor old Togo, and we was propped up in front of him.

"Once we meet before, Costigan," he said, "in your country. Now we
meet in mine. This my country. I born here. Big fool, me. I leave with
white men on ship when very young. I scrub decks; then shovel coal. I
fight with other stokers. I meet Hus'stein and fight for him. He take
me to Australia--America; I lick everybody. Everybody yell when I come
in ring."

The grin had faded off his map and a wild light was growing in his
eyes; they was getting red.

"Then I meet you!" his voice had dropped to a kind of hiss. "They
tell me you one big ham. Nothing in the head! I think make people
laugh! I hold out my face, say: 'Hit me!' Then I think maybeso the
roof fall on me."

He was snarling like a wild beast now; his chest was heaving with
rage and his big hands was working like my throat was between them.

"After that, I not so good. People say dirty things now at me.
They say: 'Yellow! Glass chin! Throw him out!' Hus'stein say: 'Get
out! You no drawing card now!' I go to stoking again. I work my way
back to my people; my island."

He give a short grim laugh. He hit his breast with his fist.

"Me king, now! Togo old fool; friend to white man! Bah! I say to
young men: make me king! We kill white men, and take rum and cloth and
guns like our people did long ago. So I kill Togo, and old men that
follow him! And you--" His eyes burned into me.

"You make fool of me," he said slowly. "Aaahhh! I pay you back!"
He looked like a madman, gnashing his teeth and rolling his eyes as he
roared at us.

I LOOKED AT Bill, uncertain like, and Bill says, nervy enough, but
in a kind of unsteady voice: "You don't dast harm a white man. You may
be king of this one-horse hunk of mud, but you know blame well if you
knock us off, you'll have a British gunboat on your neck."

Santos grinned like a ogre and sank back in his chair. If he'd
ever been half way civilized, which I doubt, he had sure reverted back
to type again.

"The British have come," said he. "They knocked our village to
pieces and killed a few pigs. But we ran away into the jungle and they
could no find us. They shoot some shells around and then steam away,
the white swine! That was because we fire on a trading boat and kill a
sailor."

"Well," said Bill, "the _Sea Girl_'s anchored off Roa-Toa and if
you harm us, the crew won't leave nobody alive on this island. They
won't shoot at you from long range. They'll land and mop up."

"Soon I go to Roa-Toa," said Santos, very placid. "I think I like
to be king of Roa-Toa too; I kill MacGregor, and take his guns and
all. If your ship come here, I take her, too. You think I no dare kill
white man? Eh? Big fool, you."

"Well," I roared, the suspense being too much for me, "what you
goin' to do with us, you yellow-bellied half-breed!"

"I kill you both!" he hissed, smiling and playing with his gun.

"Then do it, and get it over with," I snarled, being afraid I'd
blow up if he dragged it out too long. "But, lem'me tell you
somethin'--"

"Oh, no," he smiled, "not with the pistol. That is too easy, eh? I
want you to suffer like I suffered."

"I don't get yuh," I growled. "It's all in the game. I don't see
why you got it in for me. If you'd a-licked me, I wouldn't of kicked.
Anyway, you got no cause to bump off Bill, too."

"I kill you all!" he shouted, leaping up again. "And you two--you
will howl for death before I get through. _Arrgh!_ You will scream to
die--but you will no die till I am ready."

He came close to me and his wild beast eyes burned into mine.

"Slow you will die," he whispered. "Slow--slow! For that blow you
strike me, you suffer--and for all I suffer at the hands of your
people, you shall suffer ten times ten!"

He stopped and glared at me.

"The Death of a Thousand Cuts shall be yours," he purred. "You
know that, eh? Ah, you been to China! I know you know it, because your
face go white now!" I reckon mine did, all right. I knew what he
meant, and so did Bill. "Me, I show them where to cut," went on
Santos, "for I have seen the Chinese torture like those."

I felt froze solid and my clothes were damp with sweat; also I was
mad, like a caged rat.

"All right, you black swine!" I yelled at him, kind of off my bat,
I reckon. "Go ahead--do your worst! But remember one thing--remember
that I licked you! I knocked you cold! Killin' me won't alter the fact
that I'm the best man!"

He screamed like a maddened jungle cat and I thought he'd go clean
nuts. I'd sure touched him to the quick there!

"You did no beat me!" he howled. "I was big fool! I let you hit
me! White pig, I break you with my hands! I tear your heart out and
give it to the dogs!"

"Well, why didn't you?" I asked bitterly. "You had your chance,
and you sure muffed it! I licked you then, and I can lick you now. You
wouldn't dare look at me crost-wise if my hands wasn't tied. I'll die
knowin' that I licked you."

His eyes was red as a blood-mad tiger's now, and they glittered at
me from under his thick black brows. He grinned, but they was no mirth
in it.

"I fight you again," he whispered. "We fight before I kill you. I
give you something to fight for, too: if I whip you, and no kill you--
you die under the knives; and your friend, too. If I whip you, and
kill you with my hands--your friend die under the cuts. But if you
whip me, then I no torture you, but kill you both quick." He tapped
his pistol.

Anything sounded better than the thousand cuts business, and,
anyway, I'd have a chance to go out fighting.

"And suppose I kill you?" I asked.

He laughed contemptuously. "No chance. But if you do, my people
shoot you quick."

"Take him up, Steve," said Bill. "It's the best of a bad bargain,
any way you look at it."

"I'll fight you on your own terms," I said to Santos.

He grunted, yelled some orders in his own tongue, and the stage
was set for the strangest battle I ever had.

In the open space between the huts, the natives made a big ring,
standing shoulder to shoulder, about three deep, the men behind
looking over the shoulders of those in front. The kids and women come
out of the huts and tried to watch the fight between the men's legs.

A sort of oval-shaped space was left clear. At each end of this
space stood a thick post, set deep in the ground. They tied Bill to
one of these posts.

"I can't be in your corner this fight, old sea horse," said Bill,
kind of drawn-faced, but still grinning.

"Well, in a way you are," I said. "You can't sponge my cuts and
wave a towel, but you can yell advice when the goin's rough. Anyway,"
I said, "you got a good view of the fight."

"Sure," he grinned, "I got a ringside seat."

About that time the kanakas unfastened my ropes, and I worked my
hands and fingers to get the circulation started again. Bill's hands
was tied, so we couldn't shake hands, but I clapped him on the
shoulder, and we looked at each other a second. Seafaring men ain't
much on showing their emotions, and they ain't very demonstrative, but
each of us knew how the other felt. We'd kicked around a good many
years together--

Well, I turned around and walked to the middle of the oval, and
waited. I didn't have to wait long. Santos came from the other end,
his head lowered, his red eyes blazing, a terrible smile on his lips.
All he wore was a loin cloth; all I had on was an old pair of pants.
We was both bare-footed; and, of course, bare-handed.

I'D NEVER SEEN anything like this in my life before. They was no
bright lights except the merciless tropic sun; they was no cheering
crowds--nothing but a band of savages that wanted our blood; they was
no seconds, no referee--only a hard-faced kanaka with gaudy feathers
in his hair, holding Santos' pistol. They was no purse but death. A
quick death if I won; a long, slow, terrible death if I lost.

Santos was rangy, big, tapering from wide shoulders to lean legs.
Speed and power there was in them smooth, heavy muscles. He was six
feet one and a half inch tall; heavier than when I first fought him,
but the extra weight was hard muscle. I don't believe he had a ounce
of fat on him. He must have weighed two hundred, which gave him about
ten pounds on me.

For a second we moved in a half circle, wary and deadly, and then
he roared and come lashing in like a tidal wave. He shot left and
right to my head so fast that for a second I was too busy ducking and
blocking to think. He was crazy to knock my head off; he was shipping
everything he had in that direction. Well, it's hard to knock a tough
man cold with bare-knuckled head punches. The raw 'uns cut and bruise,
but they ain't got the numbing shock the padded glove has. You'll
notice most of the knock-outs in the old bare-knuckle days was from
blows to the body and throat.

The moment I had a breathing space, I hooked a wicked left to the
belly. His ridged muscles felt like flexible steel bands under my
knuckles, and he merely snarled and lashed back with a right-hander
which bruised my forearm when I blocked it. He was fast and his left
was chain lightning--he shot it straight, he uppercut, and he hooked,
just like that--_zip! blip! blam!_

The hook flattened my right ear, and almost simultaneously he
threw his right with everything he had. I ducked and he missed by a
hair's lash. Jerusha! I heard that right sing past my head like a
slung shot, and Santos spun off balance and went to his knees from the
force of it. He was up like a cat, spitting and snarling, and I heard
Bill yell: "For the love of Mike, Steve, watch that right, or he'll
knock your head clean off!"

Well, I guess in a ring with ordinary stakes, Santos would have
finished me; but this was different. I'm tough any time; now I was
fighting for the privilege of me and my pard going out clean. The
thought of them sharp little knives put steel in me.

Santos grinned like a devil as he came in again. This time he
didn't rush, he edged craftily, left hand out, watching for a chance
to shoot his deadly right over. That's once I wished I was clever! But
I ain't, and I knew if I tried to box him, I wouldn't have a chance.
So I come in sudden and wide open; his right swished through the air
and looped around my neck as I ducked and I braced my feet and ripped
both hands to his midriff--_bam_--_bam!_ The next second his left
chopped down on the back of my head. I went into a clinch, and his
teeth snapped like a wolf's at my throat as I tied him up. He was
snarling at me in his language as we worked out of the clinch, and he
nailed me on the breakaway with a straight left to the mouth, which
instantly began to bleed.

The sight of the blood maddened the kanakas, and they began to
yell like jungle beasts. Santos laughed wild and fierce, and began
swinging at my head again with both hands. To date he hadn't tried a
single body blow. Three times he landed to the side of my head with a
swinging left, and I dug my right into his midriff. His right came
over, and I blocked it with my elbow, then shot my own right to his
belly again. He'd give a kind of sway with his whole body as he let go
the right to give it extra force, and his arm would snap through the
air like a big steel spring released.

_Crash!_ His left landed on the side of my head, and I seen ten
thousand stars. _Bam!_ His right followed, and I blocked it. But this
time it landed flush on the upper arm instead of the elbow, and for a
second I thought the bone was broke. The whole arm was numb, and,
desperate, I crashed into close quarters and ripped short-arm rights
to his belly, while he slashed at my head with short hooks. He wasn't
so good in close; he didn't like it, and he broke away and backed off,
spearing me with his long left as I followed.

BUT MY BLOOD was up now and I kept right on top of him. I slashed
a left hook to his face, sank a straight right under his heart--
_wham!_ He brought up a left uppercut that nearly ripped my head off.
He flailed in with a torrid right, and I hunched my left shoulder just
in time to save my jaw. At the same time I shot my right for his jaw
and landed solid, but a little high. He swayed like a tall tree, his
eyes rolled, but he come back with a screech like a tree cat and
flashed a vicious left to my already bleeding mouth. The right came in
behind it like a thunderbolt and I done the only thing I could--
ducked, and took it high on the front part of my head. Jerusha! It
felt like my skull was unjointed! I heard Bill scream as I hit the
ground so hard it nearly knocked the breath clean outa me.

It was just like being hit with a hammer. A stream of blood
trickled down into my eyes from where the scalp had been laid open.

I dunno why Santos stepped back and let me get up. Force of habit,
I guess. Anyway, as I scrambled up, shaking the blood outa my eyes, he
give me a ferocious grin and said: "Now I kill you, white man!" And
come slithering in to do it. He feinted his left, drew it back, and as
he feinted again, I threw my right, wild and overhand, desperate like,
and caught him under the cheek bone. Blood spurted and he went back on
his heels. I ripped a left to his belly and he grabbed me and held on
like a big python, clubbing me with his left till I tore loose.

He nailed me with the right as I went away from him, but it lacked
the old jar. I got a hard skull. No man could of landed like he did
without hurting his hand some, anyway. But his left was so fast it
looked and felt like twins. He shot it at one of my eyes in straight
jabs till I felt that eye closing, and then, as I stepped in with a
slashing right to the ribs, he came back with a terrible left hook
that split my other eyebrow wide open and the lid sagged down like a
curtain halfway over the eye.

"Work in close, Steve!" I heard Bill yell, above the howling of
the kanakas. "If he keeps you at long range, he'll kill you!"

I'd already decided that! I wrapped both arms around my head and
plunged in till my forehead bumped his chin, and then I started
ripping both hands to the belly and heart. His left was beating my
right cauliflower to a pulp, but I kept blasting away with both hands
till the whole world was blind and red; but he was softening. My fists
were sinking deeper into his belly at every blow, and I heard him
gasp. Then he wrapped his long, snaky arms around me and pinned me
tight. As we tussled back and forth, with his breath hot in my ear, he
sunk his teeth into my shoulder and worried it like a dog shaking a
rat, growling deep in his throat till I tore away by main strength,
and brought a stream of blood from his lips with a smashing right
hook.

Then Santos went clean crazy. He howled like a wolf and began
throwing punches wild and terrible, without aim or timing. He wasn't
thinking about that sore right no more. It was like the air was full
of flying sledge-hammers. Some he missed from sheer wildness; I
blocked till my arms and shoulders ached. Plenty landed. I slashed a
left to his face--and _crack!_--his right bashed into mine, smashing
my nose flat. I heard the bones crackle and snap and a red mist waved
in front of my eyes so I couldn't see. I felt faintly the impact of
another blow, and then I felt the ground under my shoulders.

I lay there, counting to myself; my head was clearing fast. Nobody
ever accused me of not being tough! Having my nose broke was a old
story. I said to myself: "Nine!" and got to my feet, wrapping both
arms around my head and crouching. Santos yelled and battered at my
arms while I glared at him over them, and suddenly I unwound and sank
my right to the wrist in his belly. Yes, he was getting soft from my
continued batterings! His body muscles was getting too sore to
contract hard and my fists sank in deep. Santos bent double, but came
up with a punishing left uppercut to the jaw that dazed me and before
I could recover, he ripped over that sledge-hammer right. It tore my
left ear loose from my head and I felt it flap against my cheek.

I was out on my feet; just fighting from the old battle instinct,
now. Some kind of a smash sent me back on my heels, and I felt myself
falling backward and couldn't stop. Then I fell against something and
heard a fierce voice in my ear: "Steve! He's weakening! Just one more
smash, old sea horse, and he's yours!"

We had fought back to the end of the oval space and I was leaning
against the post where Bill was tied. I made a desperate effort to
right myself. Santos was watching me with his hands down and a nasty
sneer on his face. He put his hands out and gripped my shoulders. He
was marked pretty well hisself.

"You licked now," he said. "The little knives, now they feast! The
Death of a Thousand Cuts, it is yours!"

AT THAT I went kind of crazy, too. I lunged away from the post,
and missed with a wild right, and the slaughter recommenced. Santos
was mad and bewildered. Well, he wasn't the first fighter who couldn't
understand why I kept getting up. My eyes was full of blood and sweat;
one was nearly closed, and the sagging lid nearly hid the other. My
nose was busted flat, one ear was hanging loose and the other swole
out of all proportions. My left shoulder and arm was so numbed from
blocking Santos' terrible right, I couldn't lift it but a few inches
above my waist line. My wind was giving out; I didn't know how long
the fight had been going on; it seemed to me like we'd been fighting
for centuries. I dunno what kept me on my feet; I dunno what kept me
going. I'd almost got to where I didn't know nor care what they did to
me. Sometimes I'd forget what we was fighting for. Sometimes I'd think
it was because Santos had killed Mike, then again it would be Bill I'd
think he'd killed. Once I thought we was back in the ring in Frisco.

Then I was down on my back, and Santos was kneeling on my chest,
strangling me. I tore his hold loose and threw him off, and then we
was standing toe to toe, trading slow, hard smashes. Then suddenly
Santos shifted his attack for the first time and catapulted a blasting
right to my body. Something snapped like a dead stick and I went to my
knees with a red-hot knife cutting into my left side.

Santos standing over me, kicked at me with his big bare feet till
I caught his legs, and as I clung on and he rained blows down at my
head, I heard Bill's voice above the uproar: _"You got his goat,
Steve! Get up! Get up once and he's licked!"_

I got up. I climbed that Malay devil's legs, paying no attention
to the punches he showered on me, and as I leaned on his chest and our
eyes glared into each other's, I saw a wild, terrible light had come
into his--the light that's in a trapped tiger's--scared and
bewildered, and dangerous as death. I'd fought him to a standstill--I
had his number! And at them thoughts, strength flowed back into my
arms. He flailed at me, but the kick was going from his blows; he was
nearly punched out.

I stepped back and then drove in again. He was snarling between
his teeth, and then he took a deep breath. The instant I saw his
midriff go in, I sank my left in to the wrist, and as he bent forward
I slugged him behind the ear, and he dropped to his knees. But he come
up, gasping and wild. He'd forgot all the boxing he ever knowed, now.
I stepped inside his wild swings and crashed my right under his heart,
and though it was the most fearful agony to do it, brought up my left
to his jaw. He went down on his haunches and I heard, in the deathly
silence which had fell, Bill yelling for me to give him the boots. But
I don't fight that way--even if I'd of had any boots on.

But Santos wasn't through. He was all savage now, and too
primitive to be stopped by ordinary means. I'd fought him to a
standstill; he was licked at this game. And he went clean back to the
Stone Age. He leaped off the ground, howling and slavering at the
mouth, and sprang at me with his fingers spread like talons; not to
hit, but to strangle, tear, claw and gnash. And as he came in wide
open, I met him with the same kind of punch I'd flattened him with
once; a blasting right I brought up from my knee. _Crack!_ I felt his
jaw-bone and my hand give way as I landed, and he turned a complete
somersault, heels over head, and crashed down on his back a dozen feet
away. You'd think that would hold a man, wouldn't you? Well, it
would--a man.

It's possible to break a man's jaw with your bare fist, and still
not knock him unconscious. Any ordinary man wouldn't be able to do
nothing more after that. But Santos wasn't a man, no more; he was a
jungle varmint, and he'd gone mad.

BEFORE I COULD tell what he was going to do, he whirled and tore a
long-handled battle-axe from the hand of a warrior in the front rank.
He must have been on the point of collapse; he'd taken fearful
punishment. Where he found strength for his last effort, I dunno. But
it all happened in a flash. He had the axe and was looming over me
like a black cloud of death before I could move. As he bounded in and
swung up the thing above his head, I threw up my right arm. That saved
my life; and the axe head missed the arm, but the heavy handle broke
my forearm like a match, and knocked me flat on my shoulders.

Santos howled, swung up the axe and leaped again--and a white
thunderbolt shot across me and met him in mid-air! Square on the
Malay's chest Mike landed, and the impact knocked Santos flat on his
back. One terrible scream he gave, and then Mike's iron jaws closed on
his throat.

In a second it was the craziest confusion you ever seen. Kanakas
whooping and yelling and running and falling over each other doing
nothing, and Bill swearing something terrible and tearing at his
bonds--and Mike making a bloody mess out of Santos in the middle of
all of it. I tried to get up, but I was done. I got to my knees and
slumped over again.

THE REST IS all like a dream. I saw the kanaka with the pistol
shoot at Mike, and miss--and then, like an echo, come another shot--
and the kanaka whooped, clapped his hand to the seat of his loin
cloth, and scooted. I heard yelling in white men's voices, shots and a
hurrah generally and then into my line of vision--considerably
blurred--hove the Old Man, MacGregor, and Penrhyn, the mate, all
cursing and whooping, with the whole crew behind them.

"Great Jupiter!" squawked the Old Man, red faced and puffing, as
he leaned over me.

"They've kilt Steve! They've beat him to death with axes!"

"He ain't dead!" snarled Bill, twisting at his ropes. "He has just
fit the toughest fight I ever seen--will some of you salt pork and
biscuit eaters untie me from this post?"

"Rig a stretcher," said the Old Man. "If Steve ain't dead, he's
the next thing to it. Hey, what the--!"

At this moment Mike came sauntering over and sat down beside me,
licking my hand.

"Wh-who--who is--_was--_that?" asked the Old Man, kind of white-
faced, pointing to what Mike had left.

"That there is what's left of Battlin' Santos, the Borneo Tiger,"
said Bill, stretching his arms with relish. "History repeats itself,
and Steve has just handed him a most artistic trimmin'--are you
goopin' swabs goin' to let Steve die here? Get him on board ship, will
you?"

"Look about Mike first," I mumbled. "Santos shot him with a
pistol."

"Just a graze," pronounced MacGregor, examining Mike's unusually
hard head. "Shot him with a pistol, eh? Guess if he'd used a rifle the
dawg would of slaughtered the whole tribe. Wait, don't put Costigan on
the stretcher till I mop off some of his blood."

I felt his hands feeling around over me, and I cussed when he'd
gouge me.

"He'll be all right," he pronounced, "soon's we've set his arm and
this rib here, and stitched his ear back on, and took up a few more
gashes. And that nose'll need some attention, though I ain't set many
noses."

I kind of dimly remember being carried back to the ship, with Mike
trotting alongside, and I heard Bill and the Old Man yappin' at each
other back and forth.

"--and no sooner had Mac here got through tellin' me that Santos
had killed old Togo and set hisself up as king, than we heard the
motor launch sputter, and see you two prize jackasses scootin' away
into the jaws uh death. We yelled and whooped but you was too smart to
listen--"

"How in the name of seven dizzy mermaids did you expect us to hear
you with the motor goin'?"

"--and I says, 'Mac,' I says, 'it ain't worth it to save their
useless hides, but we got to do it.' And it bein' a well-known fact
that a fast motor launch can make more speed than a sailin' vessel,
includin' even the _Sea Girl,_ which is all we had to rescue you in,
we have just now arrove at the village. Hadst it not been for me--"

"Hadst it not been for Steve, you would of found only a few hunks
of raw beef. Santos was goin' to carve us, and believe you me when I
tell yuh Steve fought him to a standstill! Steve was licked to a
frazzle, and didn't know it! Santos had everything, and he made Steve
into the hash which now lies on that stretcher, but the old sea horse
just naturally outgamed him. Accordin' to rights, Steve shoulda been
knocked cold five times."

_"Arrumph, arrumph!"_ growled the Old Man, but I could tell he was
that proud he couldn't hardly keep his feet on the ground. "I'd of
give the price of a cargo to see that fight. Well, we didn't do like
the British gunboat did--anchor off-shore and shell a few huts. We
went through that jungle like Neptune goes through the water, and all
of the bucks was too interested to know we was comin' till we swarmed
out on 'em.

"I'm tellin' you, we'd of scuppered a flock of them, if my crew
wasn't the worst aggregation of poor shots on the Seven Seas--"

"Well, hey," said the crew, "we didn't notice you bringin' down
nobody on the fly."

"Shut up!" roared the Old Man. "I'm boss here and I'll be
respected."

"For cats' sake," I snarled through my pulped lips, "will you
cock-eyed sea horses dry up and let a sufferin' man suffer in his own
way?"

"Don't think you rate so high, just because you're a little bunged
up," growled Bill; but they was a catch in his voice. From the way he
gripped my hand, I knowed exactly how he felt.



THE END



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