The smith stood with his mighty shoulders stooped something forward, his left arm drawn back, his right flung across his chest, and, so long as we fought, I watched that great fist and knotted forearm, for, though he struck oftener with his left, it was in that passive right that I thought my danger really lay.
It is not my intention to chronicle this fight blow by blow; enough, and more than enough, has already been said in that regard; suffice it then, that as the fight progressed I found that I was far the quicker, as I had hoped, and that the majority of his blows I either blocked or avoided easily enough.
Time after time his fist shot over my shoulder, or over my head, and time after time I countered heavily—now on his body, now on his face; once he staggered, and once I caught a momentary glimpse of his features convulsed with pain; he was smeared with blood from the waist up, but still he came on.
I fought desperately now, savagely, taking advantage of every opening, for though I struck him four times to his once, yet his blows had four times the weight of mine; my forearms were bruised to either elbow, and my breath came in gasps; and always I watched that deadly “right.” And presently it came, with arm and shoulder and body behind it—quick as a flash, and resistless as a cannonball; but I was ready, and, as I leaped, I struck, and struck him clean and true upon the angle of the jaw; and, spinning round, Black George fell, and lay with his arms wide stretched, and face buried in the grass.
Slowly, slowly he got upon his knees, and thence to his feet, and so stood panting, hideous with blood and sweat, bruised and cut and disfigured, staring at me, as one in amaze.
Now, as I looked, my heart went out to him, and I reached forth my right hand.
“George!” I panted. “Oh, George!”
But Black George only looked at me, and shook his head, and groaned.
“Oh, Peter!” said he, “you be a man, Peter! I’ve fou’t—ah! many ‘s the time, an’ no man ever knocked me down afore. Oh, Peter! I—I could love ’ee for it if I didn’t hate the very sight of ‘ee—come on, an’ let’s get it over an’ done wi’.”
So once again fists were clenched and jaws set—once again came the trampling of feet, the hiss of breath, and the thudding shock of blows given and taken.
A sudden, jarring impact—the taste of sulphur on my tongue—a gathering darkness before my eyes, and, knowing this was the end, I strove desperately to close with him; but I was dazed, blind —my arms fell paralyzed, and, in that moment, the Smith’s right fist drove forward. A jagged flame shot up to heaven—the earth seemed to rush up towards me—a roaring blackness engulfed me, and then—silence.
HOW I CAME UP OUT OF THE DARK
Some one was calling to me, a long way off.