Conniston swung at him with his left hand. The blow whizzed by Brayley’s ear, for he had foreseen it and had ducked. But as he retaliated with a crushing blow, Conniston sprang to the side, ducking. Now it was Brayley again who rushed, a leaping light of hope of victory, surety of victory, in his eyes.
But Conniston saw his one chance and took it. He did not give back. And he did not offer the poor defense of one arm against the flail of blows. Instead he stooped low, very low, jerking his body double, dropping suddenly under Brayley’s threshing arms, and hurled himself bodily to meet the attack, his left shoulder thrust forward, striking Brayley with the full impact of his hundred and eighty pounds just below the knees. They both went down, down together, and with Conniston underneath. But to Brayley the thing had come with a stunning shock of unexpectedness just as he saw the end of the fight, and Conniston was on his feet a second the first. Again as Brayley sprang up, Conniston stood over him. Again Conniston’s fist, his left, but driven with all of the power left in him, beat mercilessly into the already cut face, driving Brayley down upon his knees. Now he was swaying helplessly, hopelessly. But still the dogged spirit within him was undefeated. A strange sort of respect, involuntary, of mingled admiration and pity; surged into Conniston’s heart. He was not angry, he had not been angry from the beginning. This was merely a bit of his duty, a part of the day’s work, the beginning of regeneration, the keeping of a promise. He was sorry for the man. But he was not forgetting his promise. Brayley was swaying to his feet, his two big hands lifted loosely, weakly, before him. Through their inefficient guard Conniston struck once more, the last blow, swinging from the shoulder. And Brayley went down heavily, like a falling timber, and lay still.
For a little Conniston stood over him, watchful, wiping the blood from the gash in his cheek. He saw that Brayley’s eyes were closed, and felt a quick fear that he had killed him. Then he saw the eyelids flutter open, close, open again, as the foreman’s eyes rested steadily upon his. He waited. Brayley lifted his head, even struggled to his elbow, only to fall back prone.
They were not ten feet from the empty corral. Lonesome Pete, his saddle mended, rode slowly around the corner of the stable toward the gate. The horse which he was riding was a half-broken three-year-old, but Lonesome Pete was at home upon the backs of half-broken three-year-olds. And his red head was full of Jocelyn Truxton and “Macbeth.” He rode with his hat low over his eyes, one hand holding his horse’s reins, the other grasping firmly a little book. So it happened that Lonesome Pete rode through the gate and close to the two men and did not see them.