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Beating A Good Man








From: 'firebrand' Trevison

Trevison had not moved. He had watched the movements of the other closely,
noting his huge bulk, his lithe motions, the play of his muscles as he
backed across the room to dispose of the pistol. At Corrigan's words
though, Trevison's eyes glowed with a sudden fire, his teeth gleamed, his
straight lips parting in a derisive smile. The other's manner toward him
had twanged the chord of animosity that had been between them since the
first exchange of glances, and he was as eager as Corrigan for the clash
that must now come. He had known that the first conflict had been an
unfinished thing. He laughed in sheer delight, though that delight was
tempered with savage determination.

"Save your boasts," he taunted.

Corrigan sneered. "You won't look so damned attractive when you leave this
room." He took off his hat and tossed it into a corner, then turned to
Trevison with an ugly grin.

"Ready?" he said.

"Quite." Trevison had not accepted Corrigan's suggestion about taking off
his "damned foolish trappings," and he still wore them--cartridge belt,
leather chaps, spurs. But now he followed Corrigan's lead and threw his
hat from him. Then he crouched and faced Corrigan.

They circled cautiously, Trevison's spurs jingling musically. Then
Trevison went in swiftly, jabbing with his left, throwing off Corrigan's
vicious counter with the elbow, and ripping his right upward. The fist met
Corrigan's arm as the latter blocked, and the shock forced both men back a
step. Corrigan grinned with malicious interest and crowded forward.

"That's good," he said; "you're not a novice. I hope you're not a quitter.
I've quite a bit to hand you for riding me down."

Trevison grinned derisively, but made no answer. He knew he must save his
wind for this man. Corrigan was strong, clever; his forearm, which had
blocked Trevison's uppercut, had seemed like a bar of steel.

Trevison went in again with the grim purpose of discovering just how
strong his antagonist was. Corrigan evaded a stiff left jab intended for
his chin, and his own right cross missed as Trevison ducked into a clinch.
With arms locked they strained, legs braced, their lungs heaving as they
wrestled, doggedly.

Corrigan stood like a post, not giving an inch. Vainly Trevison writhed,
seeking a position which would betray a weakened muscle, but though he
exerted every ounce of his own mighty strength Corrigan held him even.
They broke at last, mutually, and Corrigan must have felt the leathery
quality of Trevison's muscles, for his face was set in serious lines. His
eyes glittered malignantly as he caught a confident smile on Trevison's
lips, and he bored in silently, swinging both hands.

Trevison had been the cool boxer, carefully trying out his opponent. He
had felt little emotion save that of self-protection. At the beginning of
the fight he would have apologized to Corrigan--with reservations. Now he
was stirred with the lust of battle. Corrigan's malignance had struck a
responsive passion in him, and the sodden impact of fist on flesh, the
matching of strength against strength, the strain of iron muscles, the
contact of their bodies, the sting and burn of blows, had aroused the
latent savage in him. He was still cool, however, but it was the crafty
coolness of the trained fighter, and as Corrigan crowded him he whipped in
ripping blows that sent the big man's head back. Corrigan paid little heed
to the blows; he shook them off, grunting. Blood was trickling thinly from
his lips; he spat bestially over Trevison's shoulder in a clinch, and
tried to sweep the latter from his feet.

The agility of the cow-puncher saved him, and he went dancing out of
harm's way, his spurs jingling. Corrigan was after him with a rush. A
heavy blow caught Trevison on the right side of the neck just below the
ear and sent him, tottering, against the wall of the building, from which
he rebounded like a rubber ball, smothering Corrigan with an avalanche of
deadening straight-arm punches that brought a glassy stare into Corrigan's
eyes. The big man's head wabbled, and Trevison crowded in, intent on
ending the fight quickly, but Corrigan covered instinctively, and when
Trevison in his eagerness missed a blow, the big man clinched with him and
hung on doggedly until his befoggled brain could clear. For a few minutes
they rocked around the room, their heels thudding on the bare boards of
the floor, creating sounds that filtered through the enclosing walls and
smote the silence of the outside world with resonant rumblings.
Mercilessly, Trevison hammered at the heavy head that sought a haven on
his shoulder. Corrigan had been stunned and wanted no more long range
work. He tried to lock his big arms around the other's waist in an attempt
to wrestle, realizing that in that sort of a contest lay his only hope of
victory, but Trevison, agile, alert to his danger, slipped elusively from
the grasping hands and thudded uppercuts to the other's mouth and jaws
that landed with sickening force. But none of the blows landed on a vital
spot, and Corrigan hung grimly on.

At last, lashing viciously, wriggling, squirming, swinging around in a
wide circle to get out of Corrigan's clutches, Trevison broke the clinch
and stood off, breathing heavily, summoning his reserve strength for a
finishing blow. Corrigan had been fearfully punished during the last few
minutes, but he was gradually recovering from his dizziness, and he
grinned hideously at Trevison through his smashed lips. He surged forward,
reminding Trevison of a wounded bear, but Trevison retreated warily as he
measured the distance from which he would drive the blow that would end
it

He was still retreating, describing a wide circle. He swung around toward
the door through which Braman had gone--his back was toward it. He did not
see the door open slightly as he passed; he had not seen Braman's face in
the slight crevice that had been between door and jamb all along. Nor did
he see the banker jab at his legs with the handle of a broom. But he felt
the handle hit his legs. It tripped him, forcing him to lose his balance.
As he fell he saw Corrigan's eyes brighten, and he twisted sideways to
escape a heavy blow that Corrigan aimed at him. He only partially evaded
it--it struck him glancingly, a little to the left of the chin, stunning
him, and he fell awkwardly, his left arm doubling under him. The agonizing
pain that shot through the arm as he crumpled to the floor told him that
it had been broken at the wrist. A queer stupor came upon him, during
which he neither felt nor saw. Dimly, he sensed that Corrigan was striking
at him; with a sort of vague half-consciousness he felt that the blows
were landing. But they did not hurt, and he laughed at Corrigan's futile
efforts. The only feeling he had was a blind rage against Braman, for he
was certain that it had been the banker who had tripped him. Then he saw
the broom on the floor and the crevice in the doorway. He got to his feet
some way, Corrigan hanging to him, raining blows upon him, and he laughed
aloud as, his vision clearing a little, he saw Corrigan's mouth, weak,
open, drooling blood, and remembered that when Braman had tripped him
Corrigan had hardly been in shape to do much effective hitting. He
tottered away from Corrigan, taunting him, though afterwards he could not
remember what his words were. Also, he heard Corrigan cursing him, though
he could never remember his words, either. He tried to swing his left
arm as Corrigan came within range of it, but found he could not lift it,
and so ducked the savage blow that Corrigan aimed at him and slipped
sideways, bringing his right into play. Several times as they circled he
uppercut Corrigan with the right, he retreating, side-stepping; Corrigan
following him doggedly, slashing venomously at him, hitting him
occasionally. Corrigan could not hurt him, and he could not resist
laughing at Corrigan's face--it was so hideously repulsive.

A man came out of the front door of Hanrahan's saloon across the street
from the bank building, and stood in the street for a moment, looking
about him. Had Miss Benham seen the man she would have recognized him as
the one who had previously come out of the saloon to greet the rider with:
"Well, if it ain't ol' 'Brand'!" He saw the black horse standing in front
of the bank building, but Trevison was nowhere in sight. The man mumbled:
"I don't want him to git away without me seein' him," and crossed the
street to the bank window and peered inside. He saw Braman peering through
a half-open door at the rear of the banking room, and he heard
sounds--queer, jarring sounds that made the glass window in front of him
rattle and quiver.

He dove around to the side of the building and looked in a window. He
stood for a moment, watching with bulging eyes, half drew a pistol,
thought better of the notion and replaced it, and then darted back to the
saloon from which he had emerged, croaking hoarsely: "Fight! fight!"

* * * * *

Trevison had not had the agility to evade one of Corrigan's heavy blows.
It had caught him as he had tried to duck, striking fairly on the point of
the jaw, and he was badly dazed. But he still grinned mockingly at his
enemy as the latter followed him, tensed, eager, snarling. He evaded other
blows that would have finished him--through instinct, it seemed to
Corrigan; and though there was little strength left in him he kept working
his right fist through Corrigan's guard and into his face, pecking away at
it until it seemed to be cut to ribbons.

Voices came from somewhere in the banking room, voices raised in
altercation. Neither of the two men, raging around the rear room, heard
them--they had become insensate savages oblivious of their surroundings,
drunken with passion, with the blood-mania gripping their brains.

Trevison had brought the last ounce of his remaining strength into play
and had landed a crushing blow on Corrigan's chin. The big man was
wabbling crazily about in the general direction of Trevison, swinging
his arms wildly, Trevison evading him, snapping home blows that landed
smackingly without doing much damage. They served merely to keep
Corrigan in the semi-comatose state in which Trevison's last hard blow
had left him. And that last blow had sapped Trevison's strength; his
spirit alone had survived the drunken orgy of rage and hatred. As the
tumult around him increased--the tramp of many feet, scuffling; harsh,
discordant voices, curses, yells of protest, threats--not a sound of which
he heard, so intent was he with his work of battering his adversary, he
ceased to retreat from Corrigan, and as the latter shuffled toward him
he stiffened and drove his right fist into the big man's face. Corrigan
cursed and grunted, but lunged forward again. They swung at the same
instant--Trevison's right just grazing Corrigan's jaw; Corrigan's blow,
full and sweeping, thudding against Trevison's left ear. Trevison's
head rolled, his chin sagged to his chest, and his knees doubled like
hinges. Corrigan smirked malevolently and drove forward again. But he
was too eager, and his blows missed the reeling target that, with arms
hanging wearily at his sides, still instinctively kept to his feet,
the taunting smile, now becoming bitterly contemptuous, still on his
face. It meant that though exhausted, his arm broken, he felt only
scorn for Corrigan's prowess as a fighter.

Fighting off the weariness he lunged forward again, swinging the now
deadened right arm at the blur Corrigan made in front of him. Something
collided with him--a human form--and thinking it was Corrigan, clinching
with him, he grasped it. The momentum of the object, and his own weakness,
carried him back and down, and with the object in his grasp he fell,
underneath, to the floor. He saw a face close to his--Braman's--and
remembering that the banker had tripped him, he began to work his right
fist into the other's face.

He would have finished Braman. He did not know that the man who had
greeted him as "ol' 'Brand'" had smashed the banker in the forehead with
the butt of a pistol when the banker had tried to bar his progress at the
doorway; he was not aware that the force of the blow had hurled Braman
against him, and that the latter, half unconscious, was not defending
himself. He would not have cared had he known these things, for he was
fighting blindly, doggedly, recklessly--fighting two men, he thought. And
though he sensed that there could be but one end to such a struggle, he
hammered away with ferocious malignance, and in the abandon of his passion
in this extremity he was recklessly swinging his broken left arm, driving
it at Braman, groaning each time the fist landed.

He felt hands grasping him, and he fought them off, smashing weakly at
faces that appeared around him as he was dragged to his feet. He heard a
voice say: "His arm's bruk," and the voice seemed to clear the atmosphere.
He paused, holding back a blow, and the dancing blur of faces assumed a
proper aspect and he saw the man who had hit the banker.

"Hello Mullarky!" he grinned, reeling drunkenly in the arms of his
friends. "Come to see the picnic? Where's my--"

He saw Corrigan leaning against a wall of the room and lurched toward him.
A dozen hands held him back--the room was full of men; and as his brain
cleared he recognized some of them. He heard threats, mutterings, against
Corrigan, and he laughed, bidding the men to hold their peace, that it was
a "fair fight." Corrigan was unmoved by the threats--as he was unmoved by
Trevison's words. He leaned against the wall, weak, his arms hanging at
his sides, his face macerated, grinning contemptuously. And then, despite
his objections, Trevison was dragged away by Mullarky and the others,
leaving Braman stretched out on the floor, and Corrigan, his knees
sagging, his chin almost on his chest, standing near the wall. Trevison
turned as he was forced out of the door, and grinned tauntingly at his
tired enemy. Corrigan spat at him.

Half an hour later, his damaged arm bandaged, and some marks of the battle
removed, Trevison was in the banking room. He had forbidden any of his
friends to accompany him, but Mullarky and several others stood outside
the door and watched him.

A bandage around his head, Braman leaned on the counter behind the wire
netting, pale, shaking. In a chair at the desk sat Corrigan, glowering at
Trevison. The big man's face had been attended to, but it was swollen
frightfully, and his smashed lips were in a horrible pout. Trevison
grinned at him, but it was to the banker that he spoke.

"I want my gun, Braman," he said, shortly.

The banker took it out of a drawer and silently shoved it across the
counter and through a little opening in the wire netting. The banker
watched, fearingly, as Trevison shoved the weapon into its holster.
Corrigan stolidly followed his movements.

The gun in its holster, Trevison leaned toward the banker.

"I always knew you weren't straight, Braman. But we won't quarrel about
that now. I just want you to know that when this arm of mine is right
again, we'll try to square things between us. Broom handles will be barred
that day."

Braman was silent and uneasy as he watched Trevison reach into a pocket
and withdraw a leather bill-book. From this he took a paper and tossed it
in through the opening of the wire netting.

"Cash it," he directed. "It's about the matter we were discussing when we
were interrupted by our bloodthirsty friend, there."

He looked at Corrigan while Braman examined the paper, his eyes alight
with the mocking, unfearing gleam that had been in them during the fight.
Corrigan scowled and Trevison grinned at him--the indomitable, mirthless
grin of the reckless fighting man; and Corrigan filled his lungs slowly,
watching him with half-closed eyes. It was as though both knew that a
distant day would bring another clash between them.

Braman fingered the paper uncertainly, and looked at Corrigan.

"I suppose this is all regular?" he said. "You ought to know something
about it--it's a check from the railroad company for the right-of-way
through Mr. Trevison's land."

Corrigan's eyes brightened as he examined the check. They filled with a
hard, sinister light.

"No," he said; "it isn't regular." He took the check from Braman and
deliberately tore it into small pieces, scattering them on the floor at
his feet. He smiled vindictively, settling back into his chair. "'Brand'
Trevison, eh?" he said. "Well, Mr. Trevison, the railroad company isn't
ready to close with you."

Trevison had watched the destruction of the check without the quiver of an
eyelash. A faint, ironic smile curved the corners of his mouth as Corrigan
concluded.

"I see," he said quietly. "You were not man enough to beat me a little
while ago--even with the help of Braman's broom. You're going to take it
out on me through the railroad; you're going to sneak and scheme. Well,
you're in good company--anything that you don't know about skinning people
Braman will tell you. But I'm letting you know this: The railroad
company's option on my land expired last night, and it won't be renewed.
If it's fight you're looking for, I'll do my best to accommodate you."

Corrigan grunted, and idly drummed with the fingers of one hand on the top
of the desk, watching Trevison steadily. The latter opened his lips to
speak, changed his mind, grinned and went out. Corrigan and Braman watched
him as he stopped for a moment outside to talk with his friends, and their
gaze followed him until he mounted Nigger and rode out of town. Then the
banker looked at Corrigan, his brows wrinkling.

"You know your business, Jeff," he said; "but you've picked a tough man in
Trevison."

Corrigan did not answer. He was glowering at the pieces of the check that
lay on the floor at his feet.





Next: The Long Arm Of Power

Previous: In Which Hatred Is Born



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