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Full text of "The Sailor Steve Costigan Stories"

Title: The Bull Dog Breed

Author: Robert E. Howard

* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *

eBook No.: 0609151.txt

Language: English

Date first posted: December 2006

Date most recently updated: December 2006



This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott



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The Bull Dog Breed

Robert E. Howard





"AND SO," CONCLUDED the Old Man, "this big bully ducked the

seltzer bottle and the next thing I knowed I knowed nothin'. I come to

with the general idee that the _Sea Girl_ was sinkin' with all hands

and I was drownin'--but it was only some chump pourin' water all over

me to bring me to. Oh, yeah, the big French cluck I had the row with

was nobody much, I learned--just only merely nobody but Tiger Valois,

the heavyweight champion of the French navy--"



Me and the crew winked at each other. Until the captain decided to

unburden to Penrhyn, the first mate, in our hearing, we'd wondered

about the black eye he'd sported following his night ashore in Manila.

He'd been in an unusual bad temper ever since, which means he'd been

acting like a sore-tailed hyena. The Old Man was a Welshman, and he

hated a Frenchman like he hated a snake. He now turned on me.



"If you was any part of a man, you big mick ham," he said

bitterly, "you wouldn't stand around and let a blankety-blank French

so-on and so-forth layout your captain. Oh, yeah, I know you wasn't

there, then, but if you'll fight him--"



"Aragh!" I said with sarcasm, "leavin' out the fact that I'd stand

a great chance of gettin' matched with Valois--why not pick me

somethin' easy, like Dempsey? Do you realize you're askin' me, a

ordinary ham-an'-egger, to climb the original and only Tiger Valois

that's whipped everything in European and the Asian waters and looks

like a sure bet for the world's title?"



"Gerahh!" snarled the Old Man. "Me that's boasted in every port of

the Seven Seas that I shipped the toughest crew since the days of

Harry Morgan--" He turned his back in disgust and immediately fell

over my white bulldog, Mike, who was taking a snooze by the hatch. The

Old Man give a howl as he come up and booted the innocent pup most

severe. Mike instantly attached hisself to the Old Man's leg, from

which I at last succeeded in prying him with a loss of some meat and

the pants leg.



The captain danced hither and yon about the deck on one foot while

he expressed his feelings at some length and the crew stopped work to

listen and admire.



"And get me right, Steve Costigan," he wound up, "the _Sea Girl_

is too small for me and that double-dash dog. He goes ashore at the

next port. Do you hear me?"



"Then I go ashore with him," I answered with dignity. "It was not

Mike what caused you to get a black eye, and if you had not been so

taken up in abusin' me you would not have fell over him.



"Mike is a Dublin gentleman, and no Welsh water rat can boot _him_

and get away with it. If you want to banish your best A.B. mariner,

it's up to you. Till we make port you keep your boots off of Mike, or

I will personally kick you loose from your spine. If that's mutiny,

make the most of it--and, Mister First Mate, I see you easin' toward

that belayin' pin on the rail, and I call to your mind what I done to

the last man that hit me with a belayin' pin."



There was a coolness between me and the Old Man thereafter. The

old nut was pretty rough and rugged, but good at heart, and likely he

was ashamed of himself, but he was too stubborn to admit it, besides

still being sore at me and Mike. Well, he paid me off without a word

at Hong Kong, and I went down the gangplank with Mike at my heels,

feeling kind of queer and empty, though I wouldn't show it for

nothing, and acted like I was glad to get off the old tub. But since I

growed up, the _Sea Girl_'s been the only home I knowed, and though

I've left her from time to time to prowl around loose or to make a

fight tour, I've always come back to her.



Now I knowed I couldn't come back, and it hit me hard. The _Sea

Girl_ is the only thing I'm champion of, and as I went ashore I heard

the sound of Mushy Hansen and Bill O'Brien trying to decide which

should succeed to my place of honor.



WELL, MAYBE SOME will say I should of sent Mike ashore and stayed

on, but to my mind, a man that won't stand by his dog is lower down

than one which won't stand by his fellow man.



Some years ago I'd picked Mike up wandering around the wharfs of

Dublin and fighting everything he met on four legs and not averse to

tackling two-legged critters. I named him Mike after a brother of

mine, Iron Mike Costigan, rather well known in them higher fight

circles where I've never gotten to.



Well, I wandered around the dives and presently fell in with Tom

Roche, a lean, fighting engineer that I once knocked out in Liverpool.

We meandered around, drinking here and there, though not very much,

and presently found ourselves in a dump a little different from the

general run. A French joint, kinda more highbrow, if you get me. A lot

of swell-looking fellows was in there drinking, and the bartenders and

waiters, all French, scowled at Mike, but said nothing. I was

unburdening my woes to Tom, when I noticed a tall, elegant young man

with a dress suit, cane and gloves stroll by our table. He seemed well

known in the dump, because birds all around was jumping up from their

tables and waving their glasses and yelling at him in French. He

smiled back in a superior manner and flourished his cane in a way

which irritated me. This galoot rubbed me the wrong way right from the

start, see?



Well, Mike was snoozing close to my chair as usual, and, like any

other fighter, Mike was never very particular where he chose to

snooze. This big bimbo could have stepped over him or around him, but

he stopped and prodded Mike with his cane. Mike opened one eye, looked

up and lifted his lip in a polite manner, just like he was sayin': "We

don't want no trouble; go 'long and leave me alone."



Then this French dipthong drawed back his patent leather shoe and

kicked Mike hard in the ribs. I was out of my chair in a second,

seeing red, but Mike was quicker. He shot up off the floor, not for

the Frenchman's leg, but for his throat. But the Frenchman, quick as a

flash, crashed his heavy cane down across Mike's head, and the bulldog

hit the floor and laid still. The next minute the Frenchman hit the

floor, and believe me he laid still! My right-hander to the jaw put

him down, and the crack his head got against the corner of the bar

kept him there.



I bent over Mike, but he was already coming around, in spite of

the fact that a loaded cane had been broken over his head. It took a

blow like that to put Mike out, even for a few seconds. The instant he

got his bearings, his eyes went red and he started out to find what

hit him and tear it up. I grabbed him, and for a minute it was all I

could do to hold him. Then the red faded out of his eyes and he wagged

his stump of a tail and licked my nose. But I knowed the first good

chance he had at the Frenchman he'd rip out his throat or die trying.

The only way you can lick a bulldog is to kill him.



Being taken up with Mike I hadn't had much time to notice what was

going on. But a gang of French sailors had tried to rush me and had

stopped at the sight of a gun in Tom Roche's hand. A real fighting man

was Tom, and a bad egg to fool with.



By this time the Frenchman had woke up; he was standing with a

handkerchief at his mouth, which latter was trickling blood, and

honest to Jupiter I never saw such a pair of eyes on a human! His face

was dead white, and those black, burning eyes blazed out at me--say,

fellows!--they carried more than hate and a desire to muss me up! They

was mutilation and sudden death! Once I seen a famous duelist in

Heidelberg who'd killed ten men in sword fights--he had just such eyes

as this fellow.



A gang of Frenchies was around him all whooping and yelling and

jabbering at once, and I couldn't understand a word none of them said.

Now one come prancing up to Tom Roche and shook his fist in Tom's face

and pointed at me and yelled, and pretty soon Tom turned around to me

and said: "Steve, this yam is challengin' you to a duel--what about?"



I thought of the German duelist and said to myself: "I bet this

bird was born with a fencin' sword in one hand and a duelin' pistol in

the other." I opened my mouth to say "Nothin' doin'--" when Tom pipes:

"You're the challenged party--the choice of weapons is up to you."



At that I hove a sigh of relief and a broad smile flitted across

my homely but honest countenance. "Tell him I'll fight him," I said,

"with five-ounce boxin' gloves."



Of course I figured this bird never saw a boxing glove. Now, maybe

you think I was doing him dirty, pulling a fast one like that--but

what about him? All I was figuring on was mussing him up a little,

counting on him not knowing a left hook from a neutral corner--takin'

a mean advantage, maybe, but he was counting on killing me, and I'd

never had a sword in my hand, and couldn't hit the side of a barn with

a gun.



Well, Tom told them what I said and the cackling and gibbering

bust out all over again, and to my astonishment I saw a cold, deadly

smile waft itself across the sinister, handsome face of my tete-a-

tete.



"They ask who you are," said Tom. "I told 'em Steve Costigan, of

America. This bird says his name is Francois, which he opines is

enough for _you._ He says that he'll fight you right away at the

exclusive Napoleon Club, which it seems has a ring account of it

occasionally sponsoring prize fights."



AS WE WENDED our way toward the aforesaid club, I thought deeply.

It seemed very possible that this Francois, whoever he was, knew

something of the manly art. Likely, I thought, a rich clubman who took

up boxing for a hobby. Well, I reckoned he hadn't heard of me, because

no amateur, however rich, would think he had a chance against Steve

Costigan, known in all ports as the toughest sailor in the Asian

waters--if I do say so myself--and champion of--what I mean--ex-

champion of the _Sea Girl,_ the toughest of all the trading vessels.



A kind of pang went through me just then at the thought that my

days with the old tub was ended, and I wondered what sort of a dub

would take my place at mess and sleep in my bunk, and how the

forecastle gang would haze him, and how all the crew would miss me--I

wondered if Bill O'Brien had licked Mushy Hansen or if the Dane had

won, and who called hisself champion of the craft now--



Well, I felt low in spirits, and Mike knowed it, because he

snuggled up closer to me in the 'rickshaw that was carrying us to the

Napoleon Club, and licked my hand. I pulled his ears and felt better.

Anyway, Mike wouldn't never desert me.



Pretty ritzy affair this club. Footmen or butlers or something in

uniform at the doors, and they didn't want to let Mike in. But they

did--oh, yeah, they did.



In the dressing room they give me, which was the swellest of its

sort I ever see, and looked more like a girl's boodwar than a

fighter's dressing room, I said to Tom: "This big ham must have lots

of dough--notice what a hand they all give him? Reckon I'll get a

square deal? Who's goin' to referee? If it's a Frenchman, how'm I

gonna follow the count?"



"Well, gee whiz!" Tom said, "you ain't expectin' him to count over

you, are you?"



"No," I said. "But I'd like to keep count of what he tolls off

over the other fellow."



"Well," said Tom, helping me into the green trunks they'd give me,

"don't worry none. I understand Francois can speak English, so I'll

specify that the referee shall converse entirely in that language."



"Then why didn't this Francois ham talk English to me?" I wanted

to know.



"He didn't talk to you in anything," Tom reminded me. "He's a

swell and thinks you're beneath his notice--except only to knock your

head off."



"H'mm," said I thoughtfully, gently touching the slight cut which

Francois' cane had made on Mike's incredibly hard head. A slight red

mist, I will admit, waved in front of my eyes.



When I climbed into the ring I noticed several things: mainly the

room was small and elegantly furnished; second, there was only a small

crowd there, mostly French, with a scattering of English and one Chink

in English clothes. There was high hats, frock-tailed coats and gold-

knobbed canes everywhere, and I noted with some surprise that they was

also a sprinkling of French sailors.



I sat in my corner, and Mike took his stand just outside, like he

always does when I fight, standing on his hind legs with his head and

forepaws resting on the edge of the canvas, and looking under the

ropes. On the street, if a man soaks me he's likely to have Mike at

his throat, but the old dog knows how to act in the ring. He won't

interfere, though sometimes when I'm on the canvas or bleeding bad his

eyes get red and he rumbles away down deep in his throat.



TOM WAS MASSAGING my muscles light-like and I was scratching

Mike's ears when into the ring comes Francois the Mysterious. _Oui!

Oui!_ I noted now how much of a man he was, and Tom whispers to me to

pull in my chin a couple of feet and stop looking so goofy. When

Francois threw off his silk embroidered bathrobe I saw I was in for a

rough session, even if this bird was only an amateur. He was one of

these fellows that _look_ like a fighting man, even if they've never

seen a glove before.



A good six one and a half he stood, or an inch and a half taller

than me. A powerful neck sloped into broad, flexible shoulders, a

limber steel body tapered to a girlishly slender waist. His legs was

slim, strong and shapely, with narrow feet that looked speedy and

sure; his arms was long, thick, but perfectly molded. Oh, I tell you,

this Francois looked more like a champion than any man I'd seen since

I saw Dempsey last.



And the face--his sleek black hair was combed straight back and

lay smooth on his head, adding to his sinister good looks. From under

narrow black brows them eyes burned at me, and now they wasn't a

duelist's eyes--they was tiger eyes. And when he gripped the ropes and

dipped a couple of times, flexing his muscles, them muscles rippled

under his satiny skin most beautiful, and he looked just like a big

cat sharpening his claws on a tree.



"Looks fast, Steve," Tom Roche said, looking serious. "May know

somethin'; you better crowd him from the gong and keep rushin'--"



"How else did I ever fight?" I asked.



A sleek-looking Frenchman with a sheik mustache got in the ring

and, waving his hands to the crowd, which was still jabbering for

Francois, he bust into a gush of French.



"What's he mean?" I asked Tom, and Tom said, "Aw, he's just sayin'

what everybody knows--that this ain't a regular prize fight, but an

affair of honor between you and--uh--that Francois fellow there."



Tom called him and talked to him in French, and he turned around

and called an Englishman out of the crowd. Tom asked me was it all

right with me for the Englishman to referee, and I tells him yes, and

they asked Francois and he nodded in a supercilious manner. So the

referee asked me what I weighed and I told him, and he hollered: "This

bout is to be at catch weights, Marquis of Queensberry rules. Three-

minute rounds, one minute rest; to a finish, if it takes all night. In

this corner, Monsieur Francois, weight 205 pounds; in this corner,

Steve Costigan of America, weight 190 pounds. Are you ready,

gentlemen?"



'Stead of standing outside the ring, English style, the referee

stayed in with us, American fashion. The gong sounded and I was out of

my corner. All I seen was that cold, sneering, handsome face, and all

I wanted to do was to spoil it. And I very nearly done it the first

charge. I came in like a house afire and I walloped Francois with an

overhand right hook to the chin--more by sheer luck than anything, and

it landed high. But it shook him to his toes, and the sneering smile

faded.



TOO QUICK FOR the eye to follow, his straight left beat my left

hook, and it packed the jarring kick that marks a puncher. The next

minute, when I missed with both hands and got that left in my pan

again, I knowed I was up against a master boxer, too.



I saw in a second I couldn't match him for speed and skill. He was

like a cat; each move he made was a blur of speed, and when he hit he

hit quick and hard. He was a brainy fighter--he thought out each move

while traveling at high speed, and he was never at a loss what to do

next.



Well, my only chance was to keep on top of him, and I kept

crowding him, hitting fast and heavy. He wouldn't stand up to me, but

back-pedaled all around the ring. Still, I got the idea that he wasn't

afraid of me, but was retreating with a purpose of his own. But I

never stop to figure out why the other bird does something.



He kept reaching me with that straight left, until finally I dived

under it and sank my right deep into his midriff. It shook him--it

should of brought him down. But he clinched and tied me up so I

couldn't hit or do nothing. As the referee broke us Francois scraped

his glove laces across my eyes. With an appropriate remark, I threw my

right at his head with everything I had, but he drifted out of the

way, and I fell into the ropes from the force of my own swing. The

crowd howled with laughter, and then the gong sounded.



"This baby's tough," said Tom, back in my corner, as he rubbed my

belly muscles, "but keep crowdin' him, get inside that left, if you

can. And watch the right."



I reached back to scratch Mike's nose and said, "You watch this

round."



Well, I reckon it was worth watching. Francois changed his

tactics, and as I come in he met me with a left to the nose that

started the claret and filled my eyes full of water and stars. While I

was thinking about that he opened a cut under my left eye with a

venomous right-hander and then stuck the same hand into my midriff. I

woke up and bent him double with a savage left hook to the liver,

crashing him with an overhand right behind the ear before he could

straighten. He shook his head, snarled a French cuss word and drifted

back behind that straight left where I couldn't reach him.



I went into him like a whirlwind, lamming head on full into that

left jab again and again, trying to get to him, but always my swings

were short. Them jabs wasn't hurting me yet, because it takes a lot of

them to weaken a man. But it was like running into a floating brick

wall, if you get what I mean. Then he started crossing his right--and

oh, baby, what a right he had! Blip! Blim! Blam!



His rally was so unexpected and he hit so quick that he took me

clean off my guard and caught me wide open. That right was lightning!

In a second I was groggy, and Francois beat me back across the ring

with both hands going too fast for me to block more than about a

fourth of the blows. He was wild for the kill now and hitting wide

open.



Then the ropes was at my back and I caught a flashing glimpse of

him, crouching like a big tiger in front of me, wide open and starting

his right. In that flash of a second I shot my right from the hip,

beat his punch and landed solid to the button. Francois went down like

he'd been hit with a pile driver--the referee leaped forward--the gong

sounded!



As I went to my corner the crowd was clean ory-eyed and not

responsible; and I saw Francois stagger up, glassy-eyed, and walk to

his stool with one arm thrown over the shoulder of his handler.



But he come out fresh as ever for the third round. He'd found out

that I could hit as hard as he could and that I was dangerous when

groggy, like most sluggers. He was wild with rage, his smile was gone,

his face dead white again, his eyes was like black fires--but he was

cautious. He side-stepped my rush, hooking me viciously on the ear as

I shot past him, and ducking when I slewed around and hooked my right.

He backed away, shooting that left to my face. It went that way the

whole round; him keeping the right reserved and marking me up with

left jabs while I worked for his body and usually missed or was

blocked. Just before the gong he rallied, staggered me with a flashing

right hook to the head and took a crushing left hook to the ribs in

return.



THE FOURTH ROUND come and he was more aggressive. He began to

trade punches with me again. He'd shoot a straight left to my face,

then hook the same hand to my body. Or he'd feint the left for my face

and drop it to my ribs. Them hooks to the body didn't hurt much,

because I was hard as a rock there, but a continual rain of them

wouldn't do me no good, and them jabs to the face was beginning to

irritate me. I was already pretty well marked up.



He shot his blows so quick I usually couldn't block or duck, so

every time he'd make a motion with the left I'd throw my right for his

head haphazard. After rocking his head back several times this way he

quit feinting so much and began to devote most of his time to body

blows.



Now I found out this about him: he had more claws than sand, as

the saying goes. I mean he had everything, including a lot of stuff I

didn't, but he didn't like to take it. In a mix-up he always landed

three blows to my one, and he hit about as hard as I did, but he was

always the one to back away.



Well, come the seventh round. I'd taken plenty. My left eye was

closing fast and I had a nasty gash over the other one. My ribs was

beginning to feel the body punishment he was handing out when in

close, and my right ear was rapidly assuming the shape of a cabbage.

Outside of some ugly welts on his torso, my dancing partner had only

one mark on him--the small cut on his chin where I'd landed with my

bare fist earlier in the evening.



But I was not beginning to weaken for I'm used to punishment; in

fact I eat it up, if I do say so. I crowded Francois into a corner

before I let go. I wrapped my arms around my neck, worked in close and

then unwound with a looping left to the head.



Francois countered with a sickening right under the heart and I

was wild with another left. Francois stepped inside my right swing,

dug his heel into my instep, gouged me in the eye with his thumb and,

holding with his left, battered away at my ribs with his right. The

referee showed no inclination to interfere with this pastime, so, with

a hearty oath, I wrenched my right loose and nearly tore off Francois'

head with a torrid uppercut.



His sneer changed to a snarl and he began pistoning me in the face

again with his left. Maddened, I crashed into him headlong and smashed

my right under his heart--I felt his ribs bend, he went white and sick

and clinched before I could follow up my advantage. I felt the drag of

his body as his knees buckled, but he held on while I raged and swore,

the referee would not break us, and when I tore loose, my charming

playmate was almost as good as ever.



He proved this by shooting a left to my sore eye, dropping the

same hand to my aching ribs and bringing up a right to the jaw that

stretched me flat on my back for the first time that night. Just like

that! _Biff--bim--bam!_ Like a cat hitting--and I was on the canvas.



Tom Roche yelled for me to take a count, but I never stay on the

canvas longer than I have to. I bounced up at "Four!" my ears still

ringing and a trifle dizzy, but otherwise O.K.



Francois thought otherwise, rushed rashly in and stopped a left

hook which hung him gracefully over the ropes. The gong!



The beginning of the eighth I come at Francois like we'd just

started, took his right between my eyes to hook my left to his body--

he broke away, spearing me with his left--I followed swinging--missed

a right--_crack!_



He musta let go his right with all he had for the first time that

night, and he had a clear shot to my jaw. The next thing I knowed, I

was writhing around on the canvas feeling like my jaw was tore clean

off and the referee was saying: "--seven--"



Somehow I got to my knees. It looked like the referee was ten

miles away in a mist, but in the mist I could see Francois' face,

smiling again, and I reeled up at "nine" and went for that face.

_Crack! Crack!_ I don't know what punch put me down again but there I

was. I beat the count by a hair's breadth and swayed forward,

following my only instinct and that was to walk into him!







FRANCOIS MIGHT HAVE finished me there, but he wasn't taking any

chances for he knowed I was dangerous to the last drop. He speared me

a couple of times with the left, and when he shot his right, I ducked

it and took it high on my forehead and clinched, shaking my head to

clear it. The referee broke us away and Francois lashed into me,

cautious but deadly, hammering me back across the ring with me

crouching and covering up the best I could.



On the ropes I unwound with a venomous looping right, but he was

watching for that and ducked and countered with a terrible left to my

jaw, following it with a blasting right to the side of the head.

Another left hook threw me back into the ropes and there I caught the

top rope with both hands to keep from falling. I was swaying and

ducking but his gloves were falling on my ears and temples with a

steady thunder which was growing dimmer and dimmer--then the gong

sounded.



I let go of the ropes to go to my corner and when I let go I

pitched to my knees. Everything was a red mist and the crowd was

yelling about a million miles away. I heard Francois' scornful laugh,

then Tom Roche was dragging me to my corner.



"By golly," he said, working on my cut up eyes, "you're sure a

glutton for punishment; Joe Grim had nothin' on you.



"But you better lemme throw in the towel, Steve. This Frenchman's

goin' to kill you--"



"He'll have to, to beat me," I snarled. "I'll take it standin'."



"But, Steve," Tom protested, mopping blood and squeezing lemon

juice into my mouth, "this Frenchman is--"



But I wasn't listening. Mike knowed I was getting the worst of it

and he'd shoved his nose into my right glove, growling low down in his

throat. And I was thinking about something.



One time I was laid up with a broken leg in a little fishing

village away up on the Alaskan coast, and looking through a window,

not able to help him, I saw Mike fight a big gray devil of a sled

dog--more wolf than dog. A big gray killer. They looked funny

together--Mike short and thick, bow-legged and squat, and the wolf dog

tall and lean, rangy and cruel.



Well, while I lay there and raved and tried to get off my bunk

with four men holding me down, that blasted wolf-dog cut poor old Mike

to ribbons. He was like lightning--like Francois. He fought with the

slash and get away--like Francois. He was all steel and whale-bone--

like Francois.



Poor old Mike had kept walking into him, plunging and missing as

the wolf-dog leaped aside--and every time he leaped he slashed Mike

with his long sharp teeth till Mike was bloody and looking terrible.

How long they fought I don't know. But Mike never give up; he never

whimpered; he never took a single back step; he kept walking in on the

dog.



At last he landed--crashed through the wolf-dog's defense and

clamped his jaws like a steel vise and tore out the wolf-dog's throat.

Then Mike slumped down and they brought him into my bunk more dead

than alive. But we fixed him up and finally he got well, though he'll

carry the scars as long as he lives.



And I thought, as Tom Roche rubbed my belly and mopped the blood

off my smashed face, and Mike rubbed his cold, wet nose in my glove,

that me and Mike was both of the same breed, and the only fighting

quality we had was a everlasting persistence. You got to kill a

bulldog to lick him. Persistence! How'd I ever won a fight? How'd Mike

ever won a fight? By walking in on our men and never giving up, no

matter how bad we was hurt! Always outclassed in everything except

guts and grip! Somehow the fool Irish tears burned my eyes and it

wasn't the pain of the collodion Tom was rubbing into my cuts and it

wasn't self-pity--it was--I don't know what it was! My grandfather

used to say the Irish cried at Benburb when they were licking the

socks off the English.



THEN THE GONG sounded and I was out in the ring again playing the

old bulldog game with Francois--walking into him and walking into him

and taking everything he handed me without flinching.



I don't remember much about that round. Francois' left was a red-

hot lance in my face and his right was a hammer that battered in my

ribs and crashed against my dizzy head. Toward the last my legs felt

dead and my arms were like lead. I don't know how many times I went

down and got up and beat the count, but I remember once in a clinch,

half-sobbing through my pulped lips: "You gotta kill me to stop me,

you big hash!" And I saw a strange haggard look flash into his eyes as

we broke. I lashed out wild and by luck connected under his heart.

Then the red fog stole back over everything and then I was back on my

stool and Tom was holding me to keep me from falling off.



"What round's this comin' up?" I mumbled.



"The tenth," he said. "For th' luvva Pete, Steve, quit!"



I felt around blind for Mike and felt his cold nose on my wrist.



"Not while I can see, stand or feel," I said, deliriously. "It's

bulldog and wolf--and Mike tore his throat out in the end--and I'll

rip this wolf apart sooner or later."



Back in the center of the ring with my chest all crimson with my

own blood, and Francois' gloves soggy and splashing blood and water at

every blow, I suddenly realized that his punches were losing some of

their kick. I'd been knocked down I don't know how many times, but I

now knew he was hitting me his best and I still kept my feet. My legs

wouldn't work right, but my shoulders were still strong. Francois

played for my eyes and closed them both tight shut, but while he was

doing it I landed three times under the heart, and each time he wilted

a little.



"What round's comin' up?" I groped for Mike because I couldn't

see.



"The eleventh--this is murder," said Tom. "I know you're one of

these birds which fights twenty rounds after they've been knocked

cold, but I want to tell you this Frenchman is--"



"Lance my eyelid with your pocket-knife," I broke in, for I had

found Mike. "I gotta see."



Tom grumbled, but I felt a sharp pain and the pressure eased up in

my right eye and I could see dim-like.



Then the gong sounded, but I couldn't get up; my legs was dead and

stiff.



"Help me up, Tom Roche, you big bog-trotter," I snarled. "If you

throw in that towel I'll brain you with the water bottle!"



With a shake of his head he helped me up and shoved me in the

ring. I got my bearings and went forward with a funny, stiff,

mechanical step, toward Francois--who got up slow, with a look on his

face like he'd rather be somewhere else. Well, he'd cut me to pieces,

knocked me down time and again, and here I was coming back for more.

The bulldog instinct is hard to fight--it ain't just exactly courage,

and it ain't exactly blood lust--it's--well, it's the bulldog breed.



NOW I WAS facing Francois and I noticed he had a black eye and a

deep gash under his cheek bone, though I didn't remember putting them

there. He also had welts a-plenty on his body. I'd been handing out

punishment as well as taking it, I saw.



Now his eyes blazed with a desperate light and he rushed in,

hitting as hard as ever for a few seconds. The blows rained so fast I

couldn't think and yet I knowed I must be clean batty--punch drunk--

because it seemed like I could hear familiar voices yelling my name--

the voices of the crew of the _Sea Girl,_ who'd never yell for me

again.



I was on the canvas and this time I felt that it was to stay; dim

and far away I saw Francois and somehow I could tell his legs was

trembling and he shaking like he had a chill. But I couldn't reach him

now. I tried to get my legs under me, but they wouldn't work. I

slumped back on the canvas, crying with rage and weakness.



Then through the noise I heard one deep, mellow sound like an old

Irish bell, almost. Mike's bark! He wasn't a barking dog; only on

special occasions did he give tongue. This time he only barked once. I

looked at him and he seemed to be swimming in a fog. If a dog ever had

his soul in his eyes, he had; plain as speech them eyes said: "Steve,

old kid, get up and hit one more blow for the glory of the breed!"



I tell you, the average man has got to be fighting for somebody

else besides hisself. It's fighting for a flag, a nation, a woman, a

kid or a dog that makes a man win. And I got up--I dunno how! But the

look in Mike's eyes dragged me off the canvas just as the referee

opened his mouth to say "Ten!" But before he could say it--



In the midst I saw Francois' face, white and desperate. The pace

had told. Them blows I'd landed from time to time under the heart had

sapped his strength--he'd punched hisself out on me--but more'n

anything else, the knowledge that he was up against the old bulldog

breed licked him.



I drove my right smash into his face and his head went back like

it was on hinges and the blood spattered. He swung his right to my

head and it was so weak I laughed, blowing out a haze of blood. I

rammed my left to his ribs and as he bent forward I crashed my right

to his jaw. He dropped, and crouching there on the canvas, half

supporting himself on his hands, he was counted out. I reeled across

the ring and collapsed with my arms around Mike, who was whining deep

in his throat and trying to lick my face off.



THE FIRST THING I felt on coming to, was a cold, wet nose

burrowing into my right hand, which seemed numb. Then somebody grabbed

that hand and nearly shook it off and I heard a voice say: "Hey, you

old shellback, you want to break a unconscious man's arm?"



I knowed I was dreaming then, because it was Bill O'Brien's voice,

who was bound to be miles away at sea by this time. Then Tom Roche

said: "I think he's comin' to. Hey, Steve, can you open your eyes?"



I took my fingers and pried the swollen lids apart and the first

thing I saw, or wanted to see, was Mike. His stump tail was going like

anything and he opened his mouth and let his tongue loll out, grinning

as natural as could be. I pulled his ears and looked around and there

was Tom Roche--and Bill O'Brien and Mushy Hansen, Olaf Larsen,

Penrhyn, the first mate, Red O'Donnell, the second--and the Old Man!



"Steve!" yelled this last, jumping up and down and shaking my hand

like he wanted to take it off, "you're a wonder! A blightin' marvel!"



"Well," said I, dazed, "why all the love fest--"



"The fact is," bust in Bill O'Brien, "just as we're about to weigh

anchor, up blows a lad with the news that you're fightin' in the

Napoleon Club with--"



"--and as soon as I heard who you was fightin' with I stopped

everything and we all blowed down there," said the Old Man. "But the

fool kid Roche had sent for us loafed on the way--"



"--and we hadda lay some Frenchies before we could get in," said

Hansen.



"So we saw only the last three rounds," continued the Old Man.

"But, boy, they was worth the money--he had you outclassed every way

except guts--you was licked to a frazzle, but he couldn't make you

realize it--and I laid a bet or two--"



And blow me, if the Old Man didn't stuff a wad of bills in my sore

hand.



"Halfa what I won," he beamed. "And furthermore, the _Sea Girl_

ain't sailin' till you're plumb able and fit."



"But what about Mike?" My head was swimming by this time.



"A bloomin' bow-legged angel," said the Old Man, pinching Mike's

ear lovingly. "The both of you kin have my upper teeth! I owe you a

lot, Steve. You've done a lot for me, but I never felt so in debt to

you as I do now. When I see that big French ham, the one man in the

world I would of give my right arm to see licked--"



"Hey!" I suddenly seen the light, and I went weak and limp. "You

mean that was--"



"You whipped Tiger Valois, heavyweight champion of the French

fleet, Steve," said Tom. "You ought to have known how he wears dude

clothes and struts amongst the swells when on shore leave. He wouldn't

tell you who he was for fear you wouldn't fight him; and I was afraid

I'd discourage you if I told you at first and later you wouldn't give

me a chance."



"I might as well tell you," I said to the Old Man, "that I didn't

know this bird was the fellow that beat you up in Manila. I fought him

because he kicked Mike."



"Blow the reason!" said the Old Man, raring back and beaming like

a jubilant crocodile. "You licked him--that's enough. Now we'll have a

bottle opened and drink to Yankee ships and Yankee sailors--especially

Steve Costigan."



"Before you do," I said, "drink to the boy who stands for

everything them aforesaid ships and sailors stands for--Mike of

Dublin, an honest gentleman and born mascot of all fightin' men!"







THE END