“Do you think I’d bring them here, Tom-o’-the-Road? No, no!” bruskly.
“That settles it.” The other made a gesture, contemptuous, dissenting.
John Steele’s manner changed; he turned suddenly on the fellow like lightning. “In the next place by giving you your choice of doing what I ask, or of being turned over to the traps.”
“The traps!” The other fellow’s face became contorted. “You mean that you—”
“Will give you up for that little job, unless—”
For answer the man launched his huge body forward, with fierce swinging fists.
What happened thereafter was at once brutish, terrible, Homeric; the fellow’s reserves of strength seemed immense; sheer animal rage drove him; he ran amuck with lust to kill. He beat, rushed, strove to close. His opponent’s lithe body evaded a clutch that might have ended the contest. John Steele fought without sign of anger, like a machine, wonderfully trained; missing no point, regardless of punishment. He knew that if he went down once, all rules of battle would be discarded; a powerful blow sent him staggering to the wall; he leaned against it an instant; waited, with the strong, impelling look people had noticed on his face when he was fighting in a different way, in the courts.
The other came at him, muttering; the mill had unduly prolonged itself; he would end it. His fist struck at that face so elusive; but crashed against the wall; like a flash Steele’s arm lifted. The great form staggered, fell.
Quickly, however, it rose and the battle was resumed. Now, despite John Steele’s vigilance, the two came together. Tom Rogers’ arm wound round him with suffocating power; strove, strained, to hurl him to earth. But the other’s perfect training, his orderly living, saved him at that crucial moment; his strength of endurance lasted; with a great effort he managed to tear himself loose and at the same time with a powerful upper stroke to send Rogers once more to the floor. Again, however, he got to his feet; John Steele’s every muscle ached; his shoulder was bleeding anew. The need for acting quickly, if he should hope to conquer, pressed on him; fortunately Rogers in his blind rage was fighting wildly. John Steele endured blow after blow; then, as through a mist, he found at length the opening he sought; an instant’s opportunity on which all depended.
Every fiber of his physical being responded; he threw himself forward, the weight of his body, the force of a culminating impetus, went into his fist; it hit heavily; full on the point of the chin beneath the brutal mouth. Tom Rogers’ head shot back as if he had received the blow of a hammer; he threw up his arms; this time he lay where he struck the ground.
John Steele swayed; with an effort he sustained himself. Was it over? Still Rogers did not move; Steele stooped, felt his heart; it beat slowly. Mechanically, as if hardly knowing what he did, John Steele began to count; “Time!” Rogers continued to lie like a log; his mouth gaped; the blow, in the parlance of the ring, had been a “knock-out”; or, in this case, a quid pro quo. Yes, the last, but without referee or spectators! The prostrate man did stir now; he groaned; John Steele touched him with his foot.