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Title: Three Tales of the Ring Author: Robert E. Howard * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1303961h.html Language: English Date first posted: Jul 2013 Most recent update: Jul 2013 This eBook was produced by Roy Glashan. Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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AS I am coming up the steps of the fraternity house, I meet Tarantula Soons, a soph with an ingrown disposition and a goggle eye.
“You’re lookin’ for Spike, I take it?” said he, and upon me admittin’ the fact, he gives me a curious look and remarks that Spike is in his room.
I go up, and all the way up the stairs, I hear somebody chanting a love song in a voice that is incitement to justifiable homicide. Strange as it seems, this atrocity is emanating from Spike’s room, and as I enter, I see Spike himself, seated on a divan, and singing somethin’ about lovers’ moons and soft, red lips. His eyes are turned soulfully toward the ceiling and he is putting great feeling in the outrageous bellow which he imagines is the height on melody. To say I am surprized is putting it mildly and as Spike turns and says “Steve, ain’t love wonderful?” you could have knocked me over with a pile-driver. Besides standing six feet and seven inches and scaling upwards of 270 pounds, Spike has a map that makes Firpo look like and ad for the fashionable man, and is neitherto about as sentimental as a rhinoceros.
“Yeh? And who is he?” I ask sarcastically, but he only sighs amorously and quotes poetry. At that I fizz over.
“So that’s why you ain’t to the gym training!” I yawp. “You big chunka nothin’, the tournament for the intercollegiate boxin’ title comes off tomorrow and here you are, you overgrown walrus, sentimentaliin’ around like a three year old yearlin’ calf.”
“G’wan,” says he, tossin’ a haymakin’ right to my jaw in an absentminded manner, “I can put over any them palukas without no trainin’.”
“Yes,” I sneers, climbin’ to my wobbling’ feet, “and when you stack up against Monk Gallranan you won’t need any trainin’. That’s a cinch.”
“Boxin’,” says the infatuated boob, “is degradin’. I bet she thinks so. I don’t know whether I’ll even enter the tourneyment or not.”
“Hey!” I yells. “After all the work I’ve done getting’ you in shape. You figurin’ on throwin’ the college down?”
“Aw, go take a run around the block,” says Spike, drawing back his lip in an ugly manner.
“G’wan, you boneheaded elephant!” says I, drivin’ my left to the wrist in his solar plexus and the battle was on. Anyway, at the conclusion, I yelled up to him from the foot of the stairs “where the college will be too small for you.”
His sole answer was to slam the door so hard that he shook the house but the next day when I was lookin’ for a substitute for the heavyweight entries, the big yam appears, with a smug and self satisfied look on his map.
“I’ve decided to fight, Steve,” he says grandly. “She will have a ringside seat and women adore physical strength and power allied to manly beauty.”
“All right,” says I, “get into your ring togs. Your bout is the main event of the day and will come last.”
This managing a college boxing a show is no cinch. If things go wrong, the manager gets the blame and if things don’t, the fighters get the hand. I remember once I even substituted for a welterweight entry who didn’t show up. Just to give the fans a run for their money, I lowered my guard the third round and invited my antagonist to hit me—he did— they were four hours bringing me to and the fact that it was discovered he had a horseshoe concealed inn his glove didn’t increase my regard for the game. They’ve got the horseshoe in the museum now, but it isn’t much to look at as a horseshoe, being bent all out of shape where it came in contact with my jaw.
But to get back to the tournament. The college Spike and I represented had indifferent fortune in the first bouts; our featherweight entry won the decision on points and our flyweight tied with a fellow from St. Janice’s. As usual, heavyweights being scarce, Spike and Monk Gallranan from Burke’s University were the only entries. This gorilla is nearly as tall and heavy as Spike, and didn’t make the football team on account of his habit of breaking the arms and legs of the team in practice scrimmage. He is even more prehistoric looking than Spike, so you can imagine what those two cavemen looked like when they squared off together. Spike was jubilant, however, at the chance of distinguishing himself in an athletic way, he having always been too lazy to come out for football and the like. And this girl was there in a seat on the front row. The bout didn’t last long so I don’t know a better way than to give it round by round. What those two saps didn’t know about the finer points of boxin’ would fill several encyclopedias, but I’d had a second rate for giving Spike some secret instructions on infightin’, and I expected him to win by close range work, infightin’ bein’ a lost art to the average amateur.
Spike missed a left for the head and Monk sent a left to the body. Spike put a right to the face and got three left jabs to the nose in return. They traded rights to the body, and Monk staggered Spike with a sizzlin’ left to the wind. Monk missed with a right and they clinched. Spike nailed Monk with a straight right to the jaw at the break. Monk whipped a left to the head and a right to the body and Spike rocked him back on his heels with a straight left to the face.
Monk missed a right but slammed a left to the jaw. They clinched and Spike roughed in close. Monk staggered Spike on the break with a right to the jaw. Monk drove Spike across the ring with lefts and rights to head and body. Spike covered up, then kicked through with a right uppercut to the jaw that nearly tore Monk’s head off. Monk clinched and Spike punished him with short straight rights to the body. Just at the gong Spike staggered Monk with a left hook to the jaw.
Monk blocked Spike’s left lead and uppercut him three times to the jaw. Spike swung wild and Monk staggered him with a straight right to the jaw. Another straight right started him bleeding at the lips. Spike came out of it with a fierce rally and drove Monk to the ropes with a series of short left hooks to the wind and head. Monk launched an attack of his own and battered Spike to the middle of the ring where they stood toe to toe, trading smashes to head and body. Monk started a fierce rush and a straight left for the jaw. Spike ducked, let the punch slide over his shoulder, and crossed his right to Monk’s jaw, and Monk hit the mat. Just as the referee reached “Nine” the gong sounded.
Monk’s seconds worked over him but he was still groggy as he came out for the fourth round. I shouted for Spike to finish him quick, but be careful.
Spike stepped up, warily; they sparred for a second, then Spike stepped in and sank his left to the wrist in Monk’s solar plexus, following up with a right to the button that would have knocked down a house. Monk hit the mat and lay still.
Then Spike, the boob, turns his back on his fallen foeman and walks over to the ropes smilin’ and bowin’. He opens his mouth to say somethin’ to his girl-and Monk, who has risen meanwhile, beating the count, lifts his right from the floor and places it squarely beneath Spike’s sagging jaw. The referee could have counted a million.
But afterwards Spike says to me, sitting on the ring floor, still in his ring togs, he says, “Steve, girls is a lotta hokum. I’m offa ’em,” he says.
Says I, “Then if you’ve found that out, it’s worth the soakin’ you got,” I says.
READERS of this magazine will probably remember Ace Jessel, the big negro boxer whom I managed a few years ago. He was an ebony giant, four inches over six feet tall, with a fighting weight of 230 pounds. He moved with the smooth ease of a gigantic leopard and his pliant steel muscles rippled under his shiny skin. A clever boxer for so large a man, he carried the smashing jolt of a trip-hammer in each huge fist.
It was my belief that he was the equal of any man in the ring at that time —except for one fatal defect. He lacked the killer instinct. He had courage in plenty, as he proved on more than one occasion—but he was content to box mostly, outpointing his opponents and piling up just enough lead to keep from losing.
Every so often the crowds booed him, but their taunts only broadened his good-natured grin. However, his fights continued to draw a big gate, because, on the rare occasions when he was stung out of a defensive role or when he was matched with a clever man whom he had to knock out in order to win, the fans saw a real fight that thrilled their blood. Even so, time and again he stepped away from a sagging foe, giving the beaten man time to recover and return to the attack—while the crowd raved and I tore my hair.
The one abiding loyalty in Ace's happy-go-lucky life was a fanatical worship of Tom Molyneaux, first champion of America and a sturdy fighting man of color; according to some authorities, the greatest black ringman that ever lived.
Tom Molyneaux died in Ireland a hundred years ago but the memory of his valiant deeds in American and Europe was Ace Jessel's direct incentive to action. As a boy, toiling on the wharves, he had heard an account of Tom's life and battles and the story had started him on the fistic trail.
Ace's most highly prized possession was a painted portrait of the old battler. He had discovered this—a rare find indeed, since even woodcuts of Molyneaux are rare—among the collection of a London sportsman, and had prevailed on the owner to sell it. Paying for it had taken every cent that Ace made in four fights but he counted it cheap at the price. He removed the original frame and replaced it with a frame of solid silver, which, considering the portrait was full length and life size, was more than extravagant.
But no honor was too great for "Mistah Tom" and Ace merely increased the number of his bouts to meet the cost.
Finally my brains and Ace's mallet fists had cleared us a road to the top of the game. Ace loomed up as a heavyweight menace and the champion's manager was ready to sign with us—when an unexpected obstacle blocked our path.
A form hove into view on the fistic horizon that dwarfed and overshadowed all other contenders, including my man. This was "Mankiller Gomez," and he was all that his name implies. Gomez was his ring name, given him by the Spaniard who discovered him and brought him to America. He was a full-blooded Senegalese from the West Coast of Africa.
Once in a century, rings fans see a man like Gomez in action—a born killer who crashes through the general ruck of fighters as a buffalo crashes through a thicket of dead wood. He was a savage, a tiger. What he lacked in actual skill, he made up by ferocity of attack, by ruggedness of body and smashing power of arm. From the time he landed in New York, with a long list of European victories behind him, it was inevitable that he should batter down all opposition—and at last the white champion looked to see the black savage looming above the broken forms of his victims. The champion saw the writing on the wall, but the public was clamoring for a match and whatever his faults, the title-holder was a fighting champion.
Ace Jessel, who alone of all the foremost challengers had not met Gomez, was shoved into discard, and as early summer dawned on New York, a title was lost and won, and Mankiller Gomez, son of the black jungle, rose up as king of all fighting men.
The sporting world and the public at large hated and feared the new champion. Boxing fans like savagery in the ring, but Gomez did not confine his ferocity to the ring. His soul was abysmal. He was ape-like, primordial —the very spirit of that morass of barbarism from which mankind has so tortuously climbed, and toward which men look with so much suspicion.
There went forth a search for a White Hope, but the result was always the same. Challenger after challenger went down before the terrible onslaught of the Mankiller and at last only one man remained who had not crossed gloves with Gomez—Ace Jessel.
I hesitated to throw my man in with a battler like Gomez, for my fondness for the great good-natured negro was more than the friendship of manager for fighter. Ace was something more than a meal-ticket to me, for I knew the real nobility underlying Ace's black skin, and I hated to see him battered into a senseless ruin by a man I know in my heart to be more than Jessel's match. I wanted to wait a while, to let Gomez wear himself out with his terrific battles and the dissipations that were sure to follow the savage's success. These super- sluggers never last long, any more than a jungle native can withstand the temptations of civilization.
But the slump that follows a really great title-holder's gaining the belt was on, and matches were scarce. The public was clamoring for a title fight, sports writers were raising Cain and accusing Ace of cowardice, promoters were offering alluring purses, and at last I signed for a fifteen-round go between Mankiller Gomez and Ace Jessel.
At the training quarters I turned to Ace.
"Ace, do you think you can whip him?"
"Mistah John," Ace answered, meeting my eye with a straight gaze, "I'll do mah best, but I's mighty afeard I caint do it. Dat man ain't human."
This was bad; a man is more than half whipped when he goes into the fight in that frame of mind.
Later I went to Ace's room for something and halted in the doorway in amazement. I had heard the battler talking in a low voice as I came up, but had supposed one of the handlers or sparring partners was in the room with him. Now I saw that he was alone. He was standing before his idol—the portrait of Tom Molyneaux.
"Mistah Tom," he was saying humbly, "I ain't neveh met no man yet what could even knock me off mah feet, but I recon dat niggah can. I's gwine to need help mighty bad, Mistah Tom."
I felt almost as if I had interrupted a religious rite. It was uncanny; had it not been for Ace's evident deep sincerity, I would have felt it to be unholy. But to Ace, Tom Molyneaux was something more than a saint.
I stood in the doorway in silence, watching the strange tableaux. The unknown artist had painted the picture of Molyneaux with remarkable skill. The short black figure stood out boldly from the faded canvas. The breath of by- gone days, he seemed, clad in the long tights of that other day, the powerful legs braced far apart, the knotted arms held stiff and high— just as Molyneaux had appeared when he fought Tom Cribb of England over a hundred years ago.
Ace Jessel stood before the painted figure, his head sunk upon his mighty chest as if listening to some dim whisper inside his soul. And as I watched, a curious and fantastic idea came to me—the memory of a age-old superstition.
You know it had been said by students of the occult that statues and portraits have power to draw departed souls back from the void of eternity. I wondered if Ace had heard of this superstition and hoped to conjure his idol's spirit out of the realms of the dead, for advice and aid. I shrugged my shoulders at this ridiculous idea and turned away. As I did, I glanced again at the picture before which Ace still stood like a great image of black basalt, and was aware of a peculiar illusion; the canvas seemed to ripple slightly, like the surface of a lake across which a faint breeze is blowing...
When the day of the fight arrived, I watched Ace nervously. I was more afraid than ever that I had made a mistake in permitting circumstances to force my man into the ring with Gomez. However, I was backing Ace to the limit—and I was ready to do anything under heaven to help him win that fight.
The great crowd cheered Ace to the echo as he climbed into the ring; cheered again, but not so heartily, as Gomez appeared. They afforded a strange contrast, those two negroes, alike in color but so different in all other respects!
Ace was tall, clean-limbed and rangy, long and smooth of muscle, clear of eye and broad of forehead.
Gomez seemed stocky by comparison, though he stood a good six feet two. Where Jessel's sinews were long and smooth like great cables, his were knotty and bulging. His calves, thighs, arms and shoulders stood out in great bunches of muscles. His small bullet head was set squarely between gigantic shoulders, and his forehead was so low that his kinky wool seemed to grow just above his small, bloodshot eyes. On his chest was a thick grizzle of matted black hair.
He grinned insolently, thumped his breast and flexed his mighty arms with the assurance of the savage. Ace, in his corner, grinned at the crowd, but an ashy tint was on his dusky face and his knees were trembling.
The usual formalities were carried out: instructions given by the referee, weights announced—230 for Ace, 248 for Gomez. Then over the great stadium the lights went off except those over the ring where two black giants faced each other like men alone on the ridge of the world.
At the gong Gomez whirled in his corner and came out with a breath-taking roar of pure ferocity. Ace, frightened though he must have been, rushed to meet him with the courage of a cave man charging a gorilla. They met headlong in the center of the ring.
The first blow was the Mankiller's, a left swing that glanced from Ace's ribs. Ace came back with a long left to the face and a stinging right to the body. Gomez "bulled in," swinging both hands; and Ace, after one futile attempt to mix it with him, gave back. The champion drove him across the ring, sending a savage left to the body as Ace clinched. As they broke, Gomez shot a terrible right to the chin and Ace reeled into the ropes.
A great "Ahhh!" went up from the crowd as the champion plunged after him like a famished wolf, but Ace managed to get between the lashing arms and clinch, shaking his head to clear it. Gomez sent in a left, which Ace's clutching arms partly smothered, and the referee warned the Senegalese.
At the break Ace stepped back, jabbing swiftly and cleverly with his left. The round ended with the champion bellowing like a buffalo, trying to get past the rapier-like arm.
Between rounds I cautioned Ace to keep away from in-fighting as much as possible, where Gomez' superior strength would count heavily, and to use his footwork to avoid punishment.
The second round started much like the first, Gomez rushing and Ace using all his skill to stave him off and avoid those terrible smashes. It's hard to get a shifty boxer like Ace in a corner, when he is fresh and unweakened, and at long range he had the advantage over Gomez, whose one idea was to get in close and batter down his foes by sheer strength and ferocity. Still, in spite of Ace's speed and skill, just before the gong sounded Gomez got the range and sank a vicious left in Ace's midriff and the tall negro weaved slightly as he returned to his corner.
I felt that it was the beginning of the end. The vitality and power of Gomez seemed endless; there was no wearing him down and it would not take many such blows to rob Ace of his speed of foot and accuracy of eye. If forced to stand and trade punches, he was finished.
Gomez came plunging out for the third round with murder in his eye. He ducked a straight left, took a hard right uppercut square in the face and hooked both hands to Ace's body, then straightened with a terrific right to the chin, which Ace robbed of most of its force by swaying with the blow.
While the champion was still off balance, Ace measured him coolly and shot in a fierce right hook, flush on the chin. Gomez' head flew back as if hinged to his shoulders and he was stopped in his tracks! But even as the crowd rose, hands clenched, lips parted, hoping he would go down, the champion shook his bullet head and came in, roaring. The round ended with both men locked in a clinch in the center of the ring.
At the beginning of the fourth round Gomez drove Ace about the ring almost at will. Stung and desperate, Ace made a stand in a neutral corner and sent Gomez back on his heels with a left and right to the body, but he received a savage left in the face in return. Then suddenly the champion crashed through with a deadly left to the solar plexus, and as Ace staggered, shot a killing right to the chin. Ace fell back into the ropes, instinctively raising his hands. Gomez' short, fierce smashes were partly blocked by his shielding gloves—and suddenly, pinned on the ropes as he was, and still dazed from the Mankiller's attack, Ace went into terrific action and, slugging toe to toe with the champion, beat him off and drove him back across the ring!
The crowd went mad. Ace was fighting as he had never fought before, but I waited miserably for the end. I knew no man could stand the pace the champion was setting.
Battling along the ropes, Ace sent a savage left to the body and a right and left to the face, but was repaid by a right-hand smash to the ribs that made him wince in spite of himself. Just at the gong, Gomez landed another of those deadly left-handers to the body.
Ace's handlers worked over him swiftly, but I saw that the tall black was weakening.
"Ace, can't you keep away from those body smashes?" I asked.
"Mistah John, suh, I'll try," he answered.
Ace came in with a rush, his magnificent body vibrating with dynamic energy. Gomez met him, his iron muscles bunching into a compact fighting unit. Crash—crash—and again, crash! A clinch. As they broke, Gomez drew back his great right arm and launched a terrible blow to Ace's mouth. The tall negro reeled—went down. Then without stopping for the count which I was screaming at him to take, he gathered his long, steely legs under him and was up with a bound, blood gushing down his black chest. Gomez leaped in and Ace, with the fury of desperation, met him with a terrific right, square to the jaw. And Gomez crashed to the canvas on his shoulder blades!
The crowd rose screaming! In the space of ten seconds both men had been floored for the first time in the life of each!
"One! Two! Three! Four!" The referee's arm rose and fell.
Gomez was up, unhurt, wild with fury. Roaring like a wild beast, he plunged in, brushed aside Ace's hammering arms and crashed his right hand with the full wieght of his mighty shoulder behind it, full into Ace's midriff. Ace went an ashy color—he swayed like a tall tree, and Gomez beat him to his knees with rights and lefts which sounded like the blows of caulking mallets.
"One! Two! Three! Four—"
Ace was writhing on the canvas, trying to get up. The roar of the fans was an ocean of noise which drowned all thought.
"—Five! Six! Seven—"
Ace was up! Gomez came charging across the stained canvas, gibbering his pagan fury. His blows beat upon the staggering challenger like a hail of sledges. A left—a right—another left which Ace had not the strength to duck.
He went down again.
"One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight—"
Again Ace was up, weaving, staring blankly, helpless. A swinging left hurled him back into the ropes and, rebounding from them, he went to his knees—then the gong sounded!
As his handlers and I sprang into the ring Ace groped blindly for his corner and dropped limply upon the stool.
"Ace, he's too much for you," I said.
A weak grin spread over Ace's face and his indomitable spirit shone in his blood-shot eyes.
"Mistah John, please, suh, don't throw in de sponge. If I mus' take it, I takes it standin'. Dat boy caint last at dis pace all night, suh."
No—but neither could Ace Jessel, in spite of his remarkable vitality and his marvelous recuperative powers, which sent him into the next round with a show of renewed strength and freshness.
The sixth and seventh were comparatively tame. Perhaps Gomez really was fatigued from the terrific pace he had been setting. At any rate, Ace managed to make it more or less of a sparring match at long range and the crowd was treated to an exhibition illustrating how long a brainy boxer can stand off and keep away from a slugger bent solely on his destruction Even I marveled at the brand of boxing which Ace was showing, though I knew that Gomez was fighting cautiously for him. The champion had sampled the power of Ace's right hand in that frenzied fifth round and perhaps he was wary of a trick. For the first time in his life he had sprawled on the canvas. He was content to rest a couple of rounds, take his time and gather his energies for a final onslaught.
This began as the gong sounded for the eighth round. Gomez launched his usual sledge-hammer attack, drove Ace about the ring and floored him in a neutral corner. His style of fighting was such that when he was determined to annihilate a foe, skill, speed and science could do no more than postpone the eventual outcome. Ace took the count of nine and rose, back-pedaling.
But Gomez was after him; the champion missed twice with his left and then sank a right under the heart that turned Ace ashy. A left to the jaw made his knees buckle and he clinched desperately.
On the break-away Ace sent a straight left to the face and right hook to the chin, but the blows lacked force. Gomez shook them off and sank his left wrist deep in Ace's midsection. Ace again clinched but the champion shoved him away and drove him across the right with savage hooks to the body. At the gong they were slugging along the ropes.
Ace reeled to the wrong corner, and when his handlers led him to his own, he sank down on the stool, his legs trembling and his great dusky chest heaving from his exertions. I glanced across at the champion, who was glowering at his foe. He too was showing signs of the fray, but he was much fresher than Ace. The referee walked over, looked hesitantly at Ace, and then spoke to me.
Through the mists that veiled his muddled brain, Ace realized the significance of these words and struggled to rise, a kind of fear showing in his eyes.
"Mistah John, don' let him stop it, suh! Don' let him do it; I ain't hu't nuthin' like dat would hu't me!"
The referee shrugged his shoulders and walked back to the center of the ring.
There was little use giving advice to Ace. He was too battered to understand—in his numbed brain there was room only for one thought —to fight and fight, and keep on fighting—the old primal instinct that is stronger than all things except death.
At the sound of the gong he reeled out to meet his doom with an indomitable courage that brought the crowd to its feet yelling. He struck, a wild aimless left, and the champion plunged in, hitting with both hands until Ace sent down. At "nine" he was up, back-pedaling instinctively until Gomez reached him with a long straight right and sent him down again. Again he took "nine" before he reeled up and now the crowd was silent. Not one voice was raised in an urge for the kill. This was butchery—primitive slaughter —but the courage of Ace Jessel took their breath as it gripped my heart.
Ace fell blindly into a clinch, and another and another, till the Mankiller, furious, shook him off and sank his right to the body. Ace's ribs gave way like rotten wood, with a dry crack heard distinctly all over the stadium. A strangled cry went up from the crowd and Ace gasped thickly and fell to his knees.
"—Seven! Eight—" The great black form was still writhing on the canvas.
"—Nine!" And then a miracle happened; Ace was on his feet, swaying, jaw sagging, arms hanging limply.
Gomez glared at him, as if unable to understand how his foe could have risen again, then came plunging in to finish him. Ace was in dire straits. Blood blinded him. Both eyes were nearly closed, and when he breathed through his smashed nose, a red haze surrounded him. Deep cuts gashed cheek and cheek bones and his left side was a mass of torn flesh. He was going on fighting instinct alone now, and never again would any man doubt that Ace Jessel had a fighting heart.
Yet a fighting heart alone is not enough when the body is broken and battered, and mists of unconsciousness veil the brain. Before Gomez' terrific onslaught, Ace went down—broken—and the crowd knew that this time it was final.
When a man has taken the beating that Ace had taken, something more than body and heart must come into the game to carry him through. Something to inspire and stimulate him—to fire him to heights of superhuman effort!
Before leaving the training quarters, I had, unknown to Ace, removed the picture of Tom Molyneaux from its frame, rolled it up carefully and brought it to the stadium with me. I now took this, and as Ace's dazed eyes instinctively sought his corner, I held the portrait up, just outside the flare of the ring lights, so while illumined by them it appeared illusive and dim. It may be thought that I acted wrongly and selfishly, to thus seek to bring a broken man to his feet for more punishment—but the outsider cannot fathom the souls of the children of the fight game, to whom winning is greater than life, and losing, worse than death.
All eyes were glued on the prostrate from in the center of the ring, on the exhausted champion sagging against the ropes, on the referee's arm which rose and fell with the regularity of doom. I doubt if four men in the audience saw my action—but Ace Jessel did!
I caught the gleam that came into his blood-shot eyes. I saw him shake his head violently. I saw him begin sluggishly to gather his long legs under him, while the drone of the referee rose as it neared its climax.
And as I live today, the picture in my hands shook suddenly and violently!
A cold wind passed like death across me and I heard the man next to me shiver involuntarily as he drew his coat close about him. But it was no cold wind that gripped my soul as I looked, wide-eyed and staring, into the ring where the greatest drama of the boxing world was being enacted.
Ace, struggling, got his elbows under him. Bloody mists masked his vision; then, far away but coming nearer, he saw a form looming through the fog. A man—a short, massive black man, barrel-chested and might-limbed, clad in the long tights of another day—stood beside him in the ring! It was Tom Molyneaux, stepping down through the deal years to aid his worshiper —Tom Molyneaux, attired and ready as when he fought Tom Cribb so long ago!
And Jessel was up! The crowd went insane and screaming. A supernatural might fired his weary limbs and lit his dazed brain. Let Gomez do his worst now—how could he beat a man for whom the ghost of the greatest of all black warrriors was fighting?
For to Ace Jessel, falling on the astounded Mankiller like a blast from the Arctic, Tom Molyneaux's mighty arm was about his waist, Tom's eye guided his blows, Tom's bare fists fell with Ace's on the head and body of the champion.
The Mankiller was dazed by his opponent's sudden come-back—he was bewildered by the uncanny strength of the man who should have been fainting on the canvas. And before he could rally, he was beaten down by the long, straight smashes sent in with the speed and power of a pile-driver. The last blow, a straight right, would have felled an ox—and it felled Gomez for the long count.
As the astonished referee lifted Ace's hand, proclaiming him champion, the tall negro smiled and collapsed, mumbling the words, "Thanks, Mistah Tom."
Yes, to all concerned, Ace's come-back seemed inhuman and unnatural —though no one saw the phantom figure except Tom—and one other. I am not going to claim that I saw the ghost myself—because I didn't, though I did feel the uncanny movement of that picture. If it hadn't been for the strange thing that happened just after the fight, I would say that the whole affair might be naturally explained—that Ace's strength was miraculously renewed by a delusion resulting from his glimpse of the picture. For after all, who knows the strange depths of the human soul and to what apparently superhuman heights the body may be lifted by the mind?
But after the bout the referee, a steely-nerved, cold-eyed sportsman of the old school, said to me:
"Listen here! Am I crazy—or was there a fourth man in that ring when Ace Jessel dropped Gomez? For a minute I thought I saw a broad, squat, funny-looking negro standing there beside Ace! Don't grin, you bum! It wasn't that picture you were holding up—I saw that, too. It was a real man —and he looked like the one in the picture. He was standing there a moment—and then he was gone! God! That fight must have got on my nerves."
And these are the cold facts, told without any attempt to distort the truth or mislead the reader. I leave the problem up to you:
Was it Ace's numbed brain that created the hallucination of ghostly aid —or did the phantom of Tom Molyneaux actually stand beside him, as he believes to this day?
As far as I am concerned, the old superstition is justified. I believe firmly today that a portrait is a door through which astral beings may pass back and forth between this world and the next—whatever the next world may be—and that a great, unselfish love is strong enough to summon the spirits of the dead to the aid of the living.
WHEN the gong ended my fight with Kid Leary in the Sweet Dreams Fight Club, Singapore, I was tired but contented. The first seven rounds had been close, but the last three I'd plastered the Kid all over the ring, though I hadn't knocked him out like I'd did in Shanghai some months before, when I flattened him in the twelfth round. The scrap in Singapore was just for ten; another round and I'd had him.
But anyway, I'd shaded him so thoroughly I knowed I'd justified the experts which had made me a three to one favorite. The crowd was applauding wildly, the referee was approaching, and I stepped forward and held out my glove hand—when to my utter dumfoundment, he brushed past me and lifted the glove of the groggy and bloody Kid Leary!
A instant's silence reigned, shattered by a nerve-racking scream from the ringside. The referee, Jed Whithers, released Leary, who collapsed into the rosin, and Whithers ducked through the ropes like a rabbit. The crowd riz bellowing, and recovering my frozen wits, I gave vent to lurid langwidge and plunged outa the ring in pursuit of Whithers. The fans was screaming mad, smashing benches, tearing the ropes offa the ring and demanding the whereabouts of Whithers, so's they could hang him to the rafters. But he had disappeared, and the maddened crowd raged in vain.
I found my way dazedly to my dressing-room, where I set down on a table and tried to recover from the shock. Bill O'Brien and the rest of the crew was there, frothing at the mouth, each having sunk his entire wad on me. I considered going into Leary's dressing-room and beating him up again, but decided he'd had nothing to do with the crooked decision. He was just as surprised as me when Whithers declared him winner.
Whilst I was trying to pull on my clothes, hindered more'n helped by my raging shipmates, whose langwidge was getting more appalling every instant, a stocky bewhiskered figger come busting through the mob, and done a fantastic dance in front of me. It was the Old Man, with licker on his breath and tears in his eyes.
"I'm rooint!" he howled. "I'm a doomed man! Oh, to think as I've warmed a sarpint in my boozum! Dennis Dorgan, this here's the last straw!"
"Aw, pipe down!" snarled Bill O'Brien. "It wasn't Denny's fault. It was that dashety triple-blank thief of a referee—"
"To think of goin' on the beach at my age!" screamed the Old Man, wringing the salt water outa his whiskers. He fell down on a bench and wept at the top of his voice. "A thousand bucks I lost—every cent I could rake, scrape and borrer!" he bawled.
"Aw, well, you still got your ship," somebody said impatiently.
"That's just it!" the Old Man wailed. "That thousand bucks was dough owed them old pirates, McGregor, McClune & McKile. Part of what I owe, I mean. They agreed to accept a thousand as part payment, and gimme more time to raise the rest. Now it's gone, and they'll take the ship! They'll take the Python! All I got in the world! Them old sharks ain't got no more heart than a Malay pirate. I'm rooint!"
The crew fell silent at that, and I said: "Why'd you bet all that dough?"
"I was lickered up," he wept. "I got no sense when I'm full. Old Cap'n Donnelly, and McVey and them got to raggin' me, and the first thing I knowed, I'd bet 'em the thousand, givin' heavy odds. Now I'm rooint!"
He throwed back his head and bellered like a walrus with the belly- ache.
I just give a dismal groan and sunk my head in my hands, too despondent to say nothing. The crew bust forth in curses against Whithers, and sallied forth to search further for him, hauling the Old Man along with them, still voicing his woes in a voice like a steamboat whistle.
Presently I riz with a sigh and hauled on my duds. They was no sound outside. Apparently I was alone in the building except for Spike, my white bulldog. All at once I noticed him smelling of a closed locker. He whined, scratched at it, and growled. With a sudden suspicion I strode over and jerked open the door. Inside I seen a huddled figger. I jerked it rudely forth and set it upright. It was Jed Whithers. He was pale and shaking, and he had cobwebs in his hair. He kind a cringed, evidently expecting me to bust into loud cusses. For once I was too mad for that. I was probably as pale as he was, and his eyes dilated like he seen murder in mine.
"Jed Whithers," I said, shoving him up against the wall with one hand whilst I knotted the other'n into a mallet, "this is one time in my life when I'm in the mood for killin'."
"For God's sake, Dorgan," he gurgled, "you can't murder me!"
"Can you think of any reason why I shouldn't put you in a wheel- chair for the rest of your life?" I demanded. "You've rooint my friends and all the fans which bet on me, lost my skipper his ship—"
"Don't hit me, Dorgan!" he begged, grabbing my wrist with shaking fingers. "I had to do it; honest to God, Sailor, I had to do it! I know you won —won by a mile. But it was the only thing I could do!"
"What you mean?" I demanded suspiciously.
"Lemme sit down!" he gasped.
I reluctantly let go of him, and he slumped down onto a near-by bench. He sat there and shook, and mopped the sweat offa his face. He was trembling all over.
"Are the customers all gone?" he asked.
"Ain't nobody here but me and my man-eatin' bulldog," I answered grimly, standing over him. "Go on—spill what you got to say before I start varnishin' the floor with you."
"I was forced to it, Sailor," he said. "There's a man who has a hold on me."
"What you mean, a hold?" I asked suspiciously.
"I mean, he's got me in a spot," he said. "I have to do like he says. It ain't myself I have to think of—Dorgan, I'm goin' to trust you. You got the name of bein' a square shooter. I'm goin' to tell you the whole thing.
"Sailor, I got a sister named Constance, a beautiful girl, innocent as a newborn lamb. She trusted a man, Sailor, a dirty, slimy snake in human form. He tricked her into signin' a document—Dorgan, that paper was a confession of a crime he'd committed himself!"
Whithers here broke down and sobbed with his face in his hands. I shuffled my feet uncertainly, beginning to realize they was always more'n one side to any question.
He raised up suddenly and said: "Since then, that man's been holdin' that faked confession over me and her like a club. He's forced me to do his filthy biddin' time and again. I'm a honest man by nature, Sailor, but to protect my little sister"—he kinda choked for a instant—"I've stooped to low deeds. Like this tonight. This man was bettin' heavy on Leary, gettin' big odds—"
"Somebody sure was," I muttered. "Lots of Leary money in sight."
"Sure!" exclaimed Whithers eagerly. "That was it; he made me throw the fight to Leary, the dirty rat, to protect his bets."
I begun to feel new wrath rise in my gigantic breast.
"You mean this low-down polecat has been blackmailin' you on account of the hold he's got over your sister?" I demanded.
"Exactly," he said, dropping his face in his hands. "With that paper he can send Constance to prison, if he takes the notion."
"I never heered of such infermy," I growled. "Whyn't you bust him on the jaw and take that confession away from him?"
"I ain't no fightin' man," said Whithers. "He's too big for me. I wouldn't have a chance."
"Well, I would," I said. "Listen, Whithers, buck up and quit cryin'. I'm goin' to help you."
His head jerked up and he stared at me kinda wild-eyed.
"You mean you'll help me get that paper?"
"You bet!" I retorted. "I ain't the man to stand by and let no innercent girl be persecuted. Besides, this mess tonight is his fault."
Whithers just set there for a second, and I thought I seen a slow smile start to spread over his lips, but I mighta been mistook, because he wasn't grinning when he held out his hand and said tremulously: "Dorgan, you're all they say you are!"
A remark like that ain't necessarily a compliment; some of the things said about me ain't flattering; but I took it in the spirit in which it seemed to be give, and I said: "Now tell me, who is this rat?"
He glanced nervously around, then whispered: "Ace Bissett!"
I grunted in surprize. "The devil you say! I'd never of thought it."
"He's a fiend in human form," said Whithers bitterly. "What's your plan?"
"Why," I said, "I'll go to his Diamond Palace and demand the confession. If he don't give it to me, I'll maul him and take it away from him."
"You'll get shot up," said Whithers. "Bissett is a bad man to fool with. Listen, I got a plan. If we can get him to a certain house I know about, we can search him for the paper. He carries it around with him, though I don't know just where. Here's my plan—"
I listened attentively, and as a result, perhaps a hour later I was heading through the narrer streets with Spike, driving a closed car which Whithers had produced kinda mysteriously. Whithers wasn't with me; he was gone to prepare the place where I was to bring Bissett to.
I driv up the alley behind Ace's big new saloon and gambling-hall, the Diamond Palace, and stopped the car near a back door. It was a very high-class joint. Bissett was friends with wealthy sportsmen, officials, and other swells. He was what they call a soldier of fortune, and he'd been everything, everywhere—aviator, explorer, big game hunter, officer in the armies of South America and China—and what have you.
A native employee stopped me at the door, and asked me what was my business, and I told him I wanted to see Ace. He showed me into the room which opened on the alley, and went after Bissett—which could not of suited my plan better.
Purty soon a door opened, and Bissett strode in—a tall, broad- shouldered young fellow, with steely eyes and wavy blond hair. He was in a dress suit, and altogether looked like he'd stepped right outa the social register. And as I looked at him, so calm and self-assured, and thought of poor Whithers being driv to crime by him, and the Old Man losing his ship on account of his crookedness, I seen red.
"Well, Dorgan, what can I do for you?" he asked.
I said nothing. I stepped in and hooked my right to his jaw. It caught him flat-footed, with his hands down. He hit the floor full length, and he didn't twitch.
I bent over him, run my hands through his clothes, found his six- shooter and throwed it aside. Music and the sounds of revelry reached me through the walls, but evidently nobody had seen or heard me slug Bissett. I lifted him and histed him onto my shoulders—no easy job, because he was as big as me, and limp as a rag.
But I done it, and started for the alley. I got through the door all right, which I was forced to leave open, account of having both hands full, and just as I was dumping Ace into the back part of the car, I heered a scream. Wheeling, I seen a girl had just come into the room I'd left, and was standing frozen, staring wildly at me. The light from the open door shone full on me and my captive. The girl was Glory O'Dale, Ace Bissett's sweetheart. I hurriedly slammed the car door shut and jumped to the wheel, and as I roared off down the alley, I was vaguely aware that Glory had rushed out of the building after me, screaming blue murder.
It was purty late, and the route I took they wasn't many people abroad. Behind me I begun to hear Bissett stir and groan, and I pushed Spike over in the back seat to watch him. But he hadn't fully come to when I drawed up in the shadows beside the place Whithers had told me about—a ramshackle old building down by a old rotting, deserted wharf. Nobody seemed to live anywheres close around, or if they did, they was outa sight. As I clum outa the car, a door opened a crack, and I seen Whithers' white face staring at me.
"Did you get him, Sailor?" he whispered.
For answer I jerked open the back door, and Bissett tumbled out on his ear and laid there groaning dimly. Whithers started back with a cry.
"Is he dead?" he asked fearfully.
"Would he holler like that if he was?" I asked impatiently. "Help me carry him in, and we'll search him."
"Wait'll I tie him up," said Whithers, producing some cords, and to my disgust, he bound the unconscious critter hand and foot.
"It's safer this way," Whithers said. "He's a devil, and we can't afford to take chances."
We then picked him up and carried him through the door, into a very dimly lighted room, across that 'un, and into another'n which was better lit —the winders being covered so the light couldn't be seen from the outside. And I got the surprise of my life. They was five men in that room. I wheeled on Whithers. "What's the idee?" I demanded.
"Now, now, Sailor," said Whithers, arranging Bissett on the bench where we'd laid him. "These are just friends of mine. They know about Bissett and my sister."
I heered what sounded like a snicker, and I turned to glare at the assembled "friends". My gaze centered on a fat, flashy-dressed bird smoking a big black cigar; diamonds shone all over his fingers, and in his stick-pin. The others was just muggs.
"A fine lot of friends you pick out!" I said irritably to Whithers. "Diamond Joe Galt is been mixed up in every shady deal that's been pulled in the past three years. And if you'd raked the Seven Seas you couldn't found four dirtier thugs than Limey Teak, Bill Reynolds, Dutch Steinmann, and Red Partland."
"Hey, you—" Red Partland riz, clenching his fists, but Galt grabbed his arm.
"Stop it, Red," he advised. "Easy does it. Sailor," he addressed me with a broad smile which I liked less'n I'd liked a scowl, "they's no use in abuse. We're here to help our pal Whithers get justice. That's all. You've done your part. You can go now, with our thanks."
"Not so fast," I growled, and just then Whithers hollered: "Bissett's come to!"
We all turned around and seen that Bissett's eyes was open, and blazing.
"Well, you dirty rats," he greeted us all and sundry, "you've got me at last, have you?" He fixed his gaze on me, and said: "Dorgan, I thought you were a man. If I'd had any idea you were mixed up in this racket, you'd have never got a chance to slug me as you did."
"Aw, shut up," I snarled. "A fine nerve you've got, talkin' about men, after what you've did!"
Galt pushed past me and stood looking down at Bissett, and I seen his fat hands clenched, and the veins swell in his temples.
"Bissett," he said, "we've got you cold and you know it. Kick in— where's that paper?"
"You cursed fools!" Bissett raved, struggling at his cords till the veins stood out on his temples too. "I tell you, the paper's worthless."
"Then why do you object to givin' it to us?" demanded Whithers.
"Because I haven't got it!" raged Bissett. "I destroyed it, just as I've told you before."
"He's lyin'," snarled Red Partland. "He wouldn't never destroy such a thing as that. It means millions. Here, I'll make him talk—"
He shouldered forward and grabbed Bissett by the throat. I grabbed Red in turn, and tore him away.
"Belay!" I gritted. "He's a rat, but just the same I ain't goin' to stand by and watch no helpless man be tortured."
"Why, you—" Red bellered, and swung for my jaw.
I ducked and sunk my left to the wrist in his belly and he dropped like his legs had been cut out from under him. The others started forward, rumbling, and I wheeled towards 'em, seething with fight. But Galt got between us and shoved his gorillas back.
"Here," he snapped. "No fightin' amongst ourselves! Get up, Red. Now, Sailor," he begun to pat my sleeves in his soothing way, which I always despises beyond words, "there ain't no need for hard feelin's. I know just how you feel. But we got to have that paper. You know that, Sailor—"
Suddenly a faint sound made itself evident. "What's that?" gasped Limey, going pale.
"It's Spike," I said. "I left him in the car, and he's got tired of settin' out there, and is scratchin' at the front door. I'm goin' to go get him, but I'll be right back, and if anybody lays a hand on Bissett whilst I'm gone, I'll bust him into pieces. We'll get that paper, but they ain't goin' to be no torturin'."
I strode out, scornful of the black looks cast my way. As I shut the door behind me, a clamor of conversation bust out, so many talking at wunst I couldn't understand much, but every now and then Ace Bissett's voice riz above the din in accents of anger and not pain, so I knowed they wasn't doing nothing to him. I crossed the dim outer room, opened the door and let Spike in, and then, forgetting to bolt it—I ain't used to secrecy and such —I started back for the inner room.
Before I reached the other door, I heered a quick patter of feet outside. I wheeled—the outer door bust violently open, and into the room rushed Glory O'Dale. She was panting hard, her dress was tore, her black locks damp, and her dark eyes was wet and bright as black jewels after a rain. And she had Ace's six-shooter in her hand.
"You filthy dog!" she cried, throwing down on me.
I looked right into the muzzle of that .45 as she jerked the trigger. The hammer snapped on a faulty cartridge, and before she could try again, Spike launched hisself from the floor at her. I'd taught him never to bite a woman. He didn't bite Glory. He throwed hisself bodily against her so hard he knocked her down and the gun flew outa her hand.
I picked it up and stuck it into my hip pocket. Then I started to help her up, but she hit my hand aside and jumped up, tears of fury running down her cheeks. Golly, she was a beauty!
"You beast!" she raged. "What have you done with Ace? I'll kill you if you've harmed him! Is he in that room?"
"Yeah, and he ain't harmed," I said, "but he oughta be hung—"
She screamed like a siren. "Don't you dare! Don't you touch a hair of his head! Oh, Ace!"
She then slapped my face, jerked out a handful of hair, and kicked both my shins.
"What I can't understand is," I said, escaping her clutches, "is why a fine girl like you ties up with a low-down rat like Bissett. With your looks, Glory—"
"To the devil with my looks!" she wept, stamping on the door. "Let me past; I know Ace is in that room—I heard his voice as I came in."
They wasn't no noise in the inner room now. Evidently all of them was listening to what was going on out here, Ace included.
"You can't go in there," I said. "We got to search Ace for the incriminatin' evidence he's holdin' against Jed Whithers' sister—"
"You're mad as a March hare," she said. "Let me by!"
And without no warning she back-heeled me and pushed me with both hands. It was so unexpected I ignominiously crashed to the floor, and she darted past me and throwed open the inner door. Spike drove for her, and this time he was red-eyed, but I grabbed him as he went by.
Glory halted an instant on the threshold with a cry of mingled triumph, fear and rage. I riz, cussing beneath my breath and dusting off my britches. Glory ran across the room, eluding the grasping paws of Joe Galt, and throwed herself with passionate abandon on the prostrate form of Ace Bissett. I noticed that Ace, which hadn't till then showed the slightest sign of fear, was suddenly pale and his jaw was grim set.
"It was madness for you to come, Glory," he muttered.
"I saw Dorgan throw you into the car," she whimpered, throwing her arms around him, and tugging vainly at his cords. "I jumped in another and followed—blew out a tire a short distance from here—lost sight of the car I was following and wandered around in the dark alleys on foot for awhile, till I saw the car standing outside. I came on in—"
"Alone? My God!" groaned Ace.
"Alone?" echoed Galt, with a sigh of relief. He flicked some dust from his lapel, stuck his cigar back in his mouth at a cocky angle, and said: "Well, now, we'll have a little talk. Come here, Glory."
She clung closer to Ace, and Ace said in a low voice, almost a whisper: "Let her alone, Galt." His eyes was like fires burning under the ice.
Galt's muggs was grinning evilly and muttering to theirselves. Whithers was nervous and kept mopping perspiration. The air was tense. I was nervous and impatient; something was wrong, and I didn't know what. So when Galt started to say something, I took matters into my own hands.
"Bissett," I said, striding across the room and glaring down at him, "if they's a ounce of manhood in you, this here girl's devotion oughta touch even your snakish soul. Why don't you try to redeem yourself a little, anyway? Kick in with that paper! A man which is loved by a woman like Glory O'Dale loves you, oughta be above holdin' a forged confession over a innocent girl's head."
Bissett's mouth fell open. "What's he talking about?" he demanded from the world at large.
"I don't know," said Glory uneasily, snuggling closer to him. "He talked that way out in the other room. I think he's punch-drunk."
"Dorgan," said Bissett, "you don't belong in this crowd. Are you suffering from some sort of an hallucination?"
"Don't hand me no such guff, you snake!" I roared. "You know why I brung you here—to get the confession you gypped outa Whithers' sister, and blackmailed him with—just like you made him throw my fight tonight."
Bissett just looked dizzy, but Glory leaped up and faced me.
"You mean you think Ace made Whithers turn in that rotten decision?" she jerked out.
"I don't think," I answered sullenly. "I know. Whithers said so."
She jumped like she was galvanized.
"Why, you idiot!" she hollered, "they've made a fool of you! Jed Whithers hasn't any sister! He lied! Ace had nothing to do with it! Whithers was hired to throw the fight to Leary! Look at him!" Her voice rose to a shriek of triumph, as she pointed a accusing finger at Jed Whithers. "Look at him! Look how pale he is! He's scared witless!"
"It's a lie!" gulped Whithers, sweating and tearing at his crumpled collar like it was choking him.
"It's not a lie!" Glory was nearly hysterical by this time. "He was paid to throw the fight! And there's the man who paid him!" And she dramatically pointed her finger at Diamond Joe Galt!
Galt was on his feet, his small eyes glinting savagely, his jaws grinding his cigar to a pulp.
"What about it, Galt?" I demanded, all at sea and bewildered.
He dashed down his cigar with a oath. His face was dark and convulsed.
"What of it?" he snarled. "What you goin' to do about it? I've stood all the guff out of you I'm goin' to!"
His hand snaked inside his coat and out, and I was looking into the black muzzle of a wicked stumpy automatic.
"You can't slug this like you did Red, you dumb gorilla," he smirked viciously. "Sure, the dame's tellin' the truth. Whithers took you in like a sucklin' lamb.
"When you caught him in your dressin'-room, he told you the first lie that come to him, knowin' you for a soft sap where women's concerned. Then when you fell for it, and offered to help him, he thought fast and roped you into this deal. We been tryin' to get hold of Bissett for a long time. He's got somethin' we want. But he was too smart and too tough for us. Now, thanks to you, we got him, and the girl. Now we're goin' to sweat what we want out of him, and you're goin' to keep your trap shut, see?"
"You mean they ain't no Constance Whithers, and no confession?" I said slowly, trying to get things straight. A raucous roar of mirth greeted the remark.
"No, sucker," taunted Galt; "you just been took in, you sap."
A wave of red swept across my line of vision. With a maddened roar, I plunged recklessly at Galt, gun and all. Everything happened at once. Galt closed his finger on the trigger just as Spike, standing beside him all this time, closed his jaws on Galt's leg. Galt screamed and leaped convulsively; the gun exploded in the air, missing me so close the powder singed my hair, and my right mauler crunched into Galt's face, flattening his nose, knocking out all his front teeth, and fracturing his jaw-bone. As he hit the floor Spike was right on top of him.
The next instant Galt's thugs was on top of me. We rolled across the room in a wild tangle of arms and legs, casually shattering tables and chairs on the way. Spike, finding Galt was out cold, abandoned him and charged to my aid. I heered Red Partland howl as Spike's iron fangs locked in his britches. But I had my hands full. Fists and hobnails was glancing off my carcass, and a thumb was feeling for my eye. I set my teeth in this thumb and was rewarded by a squeal of anguish, but the action didn't slow up any.
It was while strangling Limey Teak beneath me, whilst the other three was trying to stomp my ribs in and kick my head off, that I realized that another element had entered into the fray. There was the impact of a chair-leg on a human skull, and Jed Whithers give up the ghost with a whistling sigh. Glory O'Dale was taking a hand.
Dutch Steinmann next gave a ear-piercing howl, and Bill Reynolds abandoned me to settle her. Feeling Limey go limp beneath me, I riz, shaking Steinmann offa my shoulders, just in time to see Reynolds duck Glory's chair- leg and smack her down. Bissett give a most awful yell of rage, but he wasn't no madder than me. I left the floor in a flying tackle that carried Reynolds off his feet with a violence which nearly busted his skull against the floor. Too crazy-mad for reason, I set to work to hammer him to death, and though he was already senseless, I would probably of continued indefinite, had not Dutch Steinmann distracted my attention by smashing a chair over my head.
I riz through the splinters and caught him with a left hook that tore his ear nearly off and stood him on his neck in a corner. I then looked for Red Partland and seen him crawling out a winder which he'd tore the shutters off of. He was a rooin; his clothes was nearly all tore offa him, and he was bleeding like a stuck hawg and bawling like one, and Spike didn't show no intentions of abandoning the fray. His jaws was locked in what was left of Red's britches, and he had his feet braced against the wall below the sill. As I looked, Red gave a desperate wrench and tumbled through the winder, and I heered his lamentations fading into the night.
Shaking the blood and sweat outa my eyes, I glared about at the battlefield, strewn with the dead and dying—at least with the unconscious, some of which was groaning loudly, whilst others slumbered in silence.
Glory was just getting up, dizzy and wobbly. Spike was smelling each of the victims in turn, and Ace was begging somebody to let him loose. Glory wobbled over to where he'd rolled offa the bench, and I followed her, kinda stiffly. At least one of my ribs had been broke by a boot-heel. My scalp was cut open, and blood was trickling down my side, where Limey Teak had made a ill- advised effort to knife me. I also thought one of them rats had hit me from behind with a club, till I discovered that sometime in the fray I'd fell on something hard in my hip pocket. This, I found, was Ace Bissett's pistol, which I'd clean forgot all about. I throwed it aside with disgust; them things is a trap and a snare.
I blinked at Ace with my one good eye, whilst Glory worked his cords offa him.
"I see I misjudged you," I said, lending her a hand. "I apolergize, and if you want satisfaction, right here and now is good enough for me."
"Good Lord, man," he said, with his arms full of Glory. "I don't want to fight you. I still don't know just what it was all about, but I'm beginning to understand."
I set down somewhat groggily on a bench which wasn't clean busted.
"What I want to know is," I said, "what that paper was they was talkin' about."
"Well," he said, "about a year ago I befriended a half-cracked Russian scientist, and he tried in his crazy way to repay me. He told me, in Galt's presence, that he was going to give me a formula that would make me the richest man on earth. He got blown up in an explosion in his laboratory shortly afterward, and an envelope was found in his room addressed to me, and containing a formula. Galt found out about it, and he's been hounding me ever since, trying to get it. He thought it was all the Russian claimed. In reality it was merely the disconnected scribblings of a disordered mind —good Lord, it claimed to be a process for the manufacture of diamonds! Utter insanity—but Galt never would believe it."
"And he thought I was dumb," I cogitated. "But hey, Glory, how'd you know it was Galt hired Whithers to throw my fight to Leary?"
"I didn't," she admitted. "I just accused Galt of it to start you fellows fighting among yourselves."
"Well, I'll be derned," I said, and just then one of the victims which had evidently come to while we was talking, riz stealthily to his all fours and started crawling towards the winder. It was Jed Whithers. I strode after him and hauled him to his feet.
"How much did Galt pay you for throwin' the bout to Leary?" I demanded.
"A thousand dollars," he stuttered.
"Gimme it," I ordered, and with shaking hands he hauled out a fold of bills. I fluttered 'em and saw they was intact.
"Turn around and look out the winder at the stars," I commanded.
"I don't see no stars," he muttered.
"You will," I promised, as I swung my foot and histed him clean over the sill.
As his wails faded up the alley, I turned to Ace and Glory, and said: "Galt must of cleaned up plenty on this deal, payin' so high for his dirty work. This here dough, though, is goin' to be put to a good cause. The Old Man lost all his money account of Whithers' crooked decision. This thousand bucks will save his ship. Now let's go. I wanta get hold of the promoter of the Sweet Dreams, and get another match tomorrer night with Kid Leary— this time with a honest referee."
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