The Fight

: The Range Boss

At about the time that Chavis and Kester had discovered Ruth's pony and

had clambered up the slope in search of the girl, the two figures on the

timber-fringed level near the break in the canyon wall were making

grotesque shadows as they danced about in the dying sunlight.

Masten's science had served him well. He had been able, so far, to evade

many of Randerson's heavy blows, but some of them had landed. They had
hurt, too, and had taken some of the vigor out of their target, though

Masten was still elusive as he circled, with feet that dragged a little,

feinting and probing for openings through which he might drive his fists.

A great many of his blows had reached their mark also. Randerson's face

was covered with livid lumps and welts. But he seemed not to mind them,

to be unconscious of them, for on his lips was still the dogged smile

that had reached them soon after the fight had started, and in his eyes

was the same look of cold deliberation and unrelenting purpose.

He had spoken no word since the fight began; he had taken Masten's

heaviest punches without sign or sound to indicate that they had landed,

always crowding forward, carrying the battle to his adversary, refusing

to yield a step when to yield meant to evade punishment. Passion, deep

and gripping, had made him for the moment an insensate automaton; he was

devoid of any feeling except a consuming desire to punish the despoiler

of his "kid."

But he was holding this passion in check; he was its master--it had not

mastered him; he had made it a vassal to his deliberation. To have

unleashed it all at once would have made him too eager, would have

weakened him. He had chosen this punishment for Masten, and he would see

that it was sufficient.

But, as Randerson had well known, Masten was no mean opponent. He stepped

in and out rapidly, his blows lacking something in force through his

inability to set himself. But he landed more often than Randerson; he

blocked and covered cleverly; he ducked blows that would have ended the

fight had they struck him with their full force.

Masten had been full of confidence when the fight started. Some of that

confidence had gone now. He was beginning to realize that he could not

beat Randerson with jabs and stinging counters that hurt without

deadening the flesh where they struck; nor could he hope to wear the

Westerner down and finally finish him. And with this realization came a

pulse of fear. He began to take more risks, to set himself more firmly on

his feet in order to give his blows greater force when they landed. For

he felt his own strength waning, and he knew what the end would be,

should he no longer be able to hold Randerson off.

He went in now with a left jab, and instead of dancing back to avoid

Randerson's counter, he covered with the left, swiftly drawn back from

the jab, and hooked his right to Randerson's face. The blow landed

heavily on Randerson's jaw, shaking him from head to foot. But he shook

his head as though to dissipate the effect of it, and came after Masten

grimly. Again Masten tried the maneuver, and the jab went home

accurately, with force. But when he essayed to drive in the right, it was

blocked, and Randerson's right, crooked, rigid, sent with the force of a

battering ram, landed fairly on Masten's mouth, with deadening, crushing


It staggered Masten, sent him back several feet, and his legs shook under

him, sagging limply. His lips, where the blow had landed, were smashed,

gaping hideously, red-stained. Randerson was after him relentlessly.

Masten dared not clinch, for no rules of boxing governed this fight, and

he knew that if he accepted rough and tumble tactics he would be beaten

quickly. So he trusted to his agility, which, though waning, answered

well until he recovered from the effects of the blow.

And then, with the realization that he was weakening, that the last blow

had hurt him badly, came to Masten the sickening knowledge that Randerson

was fighting harder than ever. He paid no attention to Masten's blows,

not even attempting to fend them off, but bored in, swinging viciously.

His blows were landing now; they left deadened flesh and paralyzed

muscles as marks of their force.

Masten began to give way. Half a dozen times he broke ground, or slipped

to one side or the other. It was unavailing. Blows were coming at him now

from all angles, ripping, tearing, crashing blows that seemed to increase

in force as the fight went on. One of them caught Masten just below the

ear on the right side. He reeled and went to his haunches, and dizzy,

nauseated, he sat for an instant, trying to fix the world correctly in

his vision, for it was all awry--trees, the plains, himself--all were

dancing. Dimly he sensed the form of Randerson looming over him. He still

was able to grasp the danger that menaced him, and reeling, he threw

himself headlong, to escape Randerson, landing on his side on the ground,

and with an inarticulate shriek of fury, he pulled the small caliber

pistol from his hip pocket, aimed it at the shadowy form of his adversary

and pressed the trigger.

And then it seemed that an avalanche had struck him; that he was whirled

along by it, then buried under it.

Evidently he had been buried for a long time, for when he opened his eyes

the dense blackness of the Western night had descended. He felt a dull,

heavy pain in his right wrist, and he raised it--it seemed to have been

crushed. He laid the hand down again, with a groan, and then he heard a

voice. Looking up, he saw the shadowy figure of his conqueror standing

over him.

"I reckon I've handed it to you pretty bad," said Randerson. "But you had

it comin' to you. If you hadn't tried to play the skunk at the last

minute, you'd have got off easier. I reckon your hand ain't so active as

it's been--I had to pretty near stamp it off of you--you would keep

pullin' the trigger of that pop-gun. Do you reckon you c'n get up now,

an' get on your horse?"

Masten felt himself lifted; he did not resist. Then he felt the saddle

under him; he made an effort and steadied himself. Then, still only half

conscious he rode, reeling in the saddle, toward a light that he saw in

the distance, which, he dimly felt, must come from the Flying W