he kicked his heels for an hour before the one saloon

Sam Stubener ran through his mail carelessly and rapidly. As became a
manager of prize-fighters, he was accustomed to a various and bizarre
correspondence. Every crank, sport, near sport, and reformer seemed
to have ideas to impart to him. From dire threats against his life
to milder threats, such as pushing in the front of his face, from
rabbit-foot fetishes to lucky horse-shoes, from dinky jerkwater bids
to the quarter-of-a-million-dollar offers of irresponsible nobodies,
he knew the whole run of the surprise portion of his mail. In his time
having received a razor-strop made from the skin of a lynched negro,
and a finger, withered and sun-dried, cut from the body of a white
man found in Death Valley, he was of the opinion that never again
would the postman bring him anything that could startle him. But this
morning he opened a letter that he read a second time, put away in
his pocket, and took out for a third reading. It was postmarked from
some unheard-of post-office in Siskiyou County, and it ran:

Dear Sam:

You don’t know me, except my reputation. You come after my time,
and I’ve been out of the game a long time. But take it from
me I ain’t been asleep. I’ve followed the whole game, and I’ve
followed you, from the time Kal Aufman knocked you out to your
last handling of Nat Belson, and I take it you’re the niftiest
thing in the line of managers that ever came down the pike.

I got a proposition for you. I got the greatest unknown that ever
happened. This ain’t con. It’s the straight goods. What do you
think of a husky that tips the scales at two hundred and twenty
pounds fighting weight, is twenty-two years old, and can hit a
kick twice as hard as my best ever? That’s him, my boy, Young
Pat Glendon, that’s the name he’ll fight under. I’ve planned it
all out. Now the best thing you can do is hit the first train
and come up here.

I bred him and I trained him. All that I ever had in my head I’ve
hammered into his. And maybe you won’t believe it, but he’s added
to it. He’s a born fighter. He’s a wonder at time and distance. He
just knows to the second and the inch, and he don’t have to think
about it at all. His six-inch jolt is more the real sleep medicine
than the full-arm swing of most geezers.

Talk about the hope of the white race. This is him. Come and
take a peep. When you was managing Jeffries you was crazy about
hunting. Come along and I’ll give you some real hunting and
fishing that will make your moving picture winnings look like
thirty cents. I’ll send Young Pat out with you. I ain’t able to
get around. That’s why I’m sending for you. I was going to manage
him myself. But it ain’t no use. I’m all in and likely to pass out
any time. So get a move on. I want you to manage him. There’s a
fortune in it for both of you, but I want to draw up the contract.

Yours truly,

PAT GLENDON.

Stubener was puzzled. It seemed, on the face of it, a joke–the men
in the fighting game were notorious jokers–and he tried to discern
the fine hand of Corbett or the big friendly paw of Fitzsimmons in
the screed before him. But if it were genuine, he knew it was worth
looking into. Pat Glendon was before his time, though, as a cub, he
had once seen Old Pat spar at the benefit for Jack Dempsey. Even then
he was called “Old” Pat, and had been out of the ring for years. He
had antedated Sullivan, in the old London Prize Ring Rules, though
his last fading battles had been put up under the incoming Marquis
of Queensbury Rules.

What ring-follower did not know of Pat Glendon?–though few were
alive who had seen him in his prime, and there were not many more
who had seen him at all. Yet his name had come down in the history
of the ring, and no sporting writer’s lexicon was complete without
it. His fame was paradoxical. No man was honored higher, and yet
he had never attained championship honors. He had been unfortunate,
and had been known as the unlucky fighter.

Four times he all but won the heavyweight championship, and each
time he had deserved to win it. There was the time on the barge, in
San Francisco Bay, when, at the moment he had the champion going,
he snapped his own forearm; and on the island in the Thames,
sloshing about in six inches of rising tide, he broke a leg at
a similar stage in a winning fight; in Texas, too, there was the
never-to-be-forgotten day when the police broke in just as he had
his man going in all certainty. And finally, there was the fight in
the Mechanics’ Pavilion in San Francisco, when he was secretly jobbed
from the first by a gun-fighting bad man of a referee backed by a small
syndicate of bettors. Pat Glendon had had no accidents in that fight,
but when he had knocked his man cold with a right to the jaw and a
left to the solar plexus, the referee calmly disqualified him for
fouling. Every ringside witness, every sporting expert, and the whole
sporting world, knew there had been no foul. Yet, like all fighters,
Pat Glendon had agreed to abide by the decision of the referee. Pat
abided, and accepted it as in keeping with the rest of his bad luck.

This was Pat Glendon. What bothered Stubener was whether or not Pat
had written the letter. He carried it down town with him. What’s
become of Pat Glendon? Such was his greeting to all sports that
morning. Nobody seemed to know. Some thought he must be dead, but none
knew positively. The fight editor of a morning daily looked up the
records and was able to state that his death had not been noted. It
was from Tim Donovan, that he got a clue.

“Sure an’ he ain’t dead,” said Donovan. “How could that be?–a man of
his make that never boozed or blew himself? He made money, and what’s
more, he saved it and invested it. Didn’t he have three saloons at the
one time? An’ wasn’t he makin’ slathers of money with them when he
sold out? Now that I’m thinkin’, that was the last time I laid eyes
on him–when he sold them out. ‘Twas all of twenty years and more
ago. His wife had just died. I met him headin’ for the Ferry. ‘Where
away, old sport?’ says I. ‘It’s me for the woods,’ says he. ‘I’ve
quit. Good-by, Tim, me boy.’ And I’ve never seen him from that day
to this. Of course he ain’t dead.”

“You say when his wife died–did he have any children?” Stubener
queried.

“One, a little baby. He was luggin’ it in his arms that very day.”

“Was it a boy?”

“How should I be knowin’?”

It was then that Sam Stubener reached a decision, and that night found
him in a Pullman speeding toward the wilds of Northern California.

Stubener was dropped off the overland at Deer Lick in the early
morning, and he kicked his heels for an hour before the one saloon
opened its doors. No, the saloonkeeper didn’t know anything about Pat
Glendon, had never heard of him, and if he was in that part of the
country he must be out beyond somewhere. Neither had the one hanger-on
ever heard of Pat Glendon. At the hotel the same ignorance obtained,
and it was not until the storekeeper and postmaster opened up that
Stubener struck the trail. Oh, yes, Pat Glendon lived out beyond. You
took the stage at Alpine, which was forty miles and which was a
logging camp. From Alpine, on horseback, you rode up Antelope Valley
and crossed the divide to Bear Creek. Pat Glendon lived somewhere
beyond that. The people of Alpine would know. Yes, there was a young
Pat. The storekeeper had seen him. He had been in to Deer Lick two
years back. Old Pat had not put in an appearance for five years. He
bought his supplies at the store, and always paid by check, and he was
a white-haired, strange old man. That was all the storekeeper knew,
but the folks at Alpine could give him final directions.

It looked good to Stubener. Beyond doubt there was a young Pat Glendon,
as well as an old one, living out beyond. That night the manager spent
at the logging camp of Alpine, and early the following morning he rode
a mountain cayuse up Antelope Valley. He rode over the divide and down
Bear Creek. He rode all day, through the wildest, roughest country
he had ever seen, and at sunset turned up Pinto Valley on a trail so
stiff and narrow that more than once he elected to get off and walk.

It was eleven o’clock when he dismounted before a log cabin and was
greeted by the baying of two huge deer-hounds. Then Pat Glendon opened
the door, fell on his neck, and took him in.

“I knew ye’d come, Sam, me boy,” said Pat, the while he limped about,
building a fire, boiling coffee, and frying a big bear-steak. “The
young un ain’t home the night. We was gettin’ short of meat, and he
went out about sundown to pick up a deer. But I’ll say no more. Wait
till ye see him. He’ll be home in the morn, and then you can try him
out. There’s the gloves. But wait till ye see him.

“As for me, I’m finished. Eighty-one come next January, an’ pretty good
for an ex-bruiser. But I never wasted meself, Sam, nor kept late hours
an’ burned the candle at all ends. I had a damned good candle, an’ made
the most of it, as you’ll grant at lookin’ at me. And I’ve taught the
same to the young un. What do you think of a lad of twenty-two that’s
never had a drink in his life nor tasted tobacco? That’s him. He’s
a giant, and he’s lived natural all his days. Wait till he takes you
out after deer. He’ll break your heart travelin’ light, him a carryin’
the outfit and a big buck deer belike. He’s a child of the open air,
an’ winter nor summer has he slept under a roof. The open for him,
as I taught him. The one thing that worries me is how he’ll take
to sleepin’ in houses, an’ how he’ll stand the tobacco smoke in the
ring. ‘Tis a terrible thing, that smoke, when you’re fighting hard an’
gaspin’ for air. But no more, Sam, me boy. You’re tired an’ sure should
be sleepin’. Wait till you see him, that’s all. Wait till you see him.”

But the garrulousness of age was on old Pat, and it was long before
he permitted Stubener’s eyes to close.

“He can run a deer down with his own legs, that young un,” he broke out
again. “‘Tis the dandy trainin’ for the lungs, the hunter’s life. He
don’t know much of else, though, he’s read a few books at times an’
poetry stuff. He’s just plain pure natural, as you’ll see when you
clap eyes on him. He’s got the old Irish strong in him. Sometimes, the
way he moons about, it’s thinkin’ strong I am that he believes in the
fairies and such-like. He’s a nature lover if ever there was one, an’
he’s afeard of cities. He’s read about them, but the biggest he was
ever in was Deer Lick. He misliked the many people, and his report
was that they’d stand weedin’ out. That was two years agone–the
first and the last time he’s seen a locomotive and a train of cars.

“Sometimes it’s wrong I’m thinkin’ I am, bringin’ him up a
natural. It’s given him wind and stamina and the strength o’ wild
bulls. No city-grown man can have a look-in against him. I’m willin’ to
grant that Jeffries at his best could ‘a’ worried the young un a bit,
but only a bit. The young un could ‘a’ broke him like a straw. An’
he don’t look it. That’s the everlasting wonder of it. He’s only a
fine-seeming young husky; but it’s the quality of his muscle that’s
different. But wait till ye see him, that’s all.

“A strange liking the boy has for posies, an’ little meadows, a bit of
pine with the moon beyond, windy sunsets, or the sun o’ morns from the
top of old Baldy. An’ he has a hankerin’ for the drawin’ o’ pitchers
of things, an’ of spouting about ‘Lucifer or night’ from the poetry
books he got from the red-headed school teacher. But ’tis only his
youngness. He’ll settle down to the game once we get him started, but
watch out for grouches when it first comes to livin’ in a city for him.

“A good thing; he’s woman-shy. They’ll not bother him for years. He
can’t bring himself to understand the creatures, an’ damn few of
them has he seen at that. ‘Twas the school teacher over at Samson’s
Flat that put the poetry stuff in his head. She was clean daffy
over the young un, an’ he never a-knowin’. A warm-haired girl she
was–not a mountain girl, but from down in the flat-lands–an’ as
time went by she was fair desperate, an’ the way she went after him
was shameless. An’ what d’ye think the boy did when he tumbled to
it? He was scared as a jackrabbit. He took blankets an’ ammunition
an’ hiked for tall timber. Not for a month did I lay eyes on him, an’
then he sneaked in after dark and was gone in the morn. Nor would he
as much as peep at her letters. ‘Burn ’em,’ he said. An’ burn ’em I
did. Twice she rode over on a cayuse all the way from Samson’s Flat,
an’ I was sorry for the young creature. She was fair hungry for the
boy, and she looked it in her face. An’ at the end of three months
she gave up school an’ went back to her own country, an’ then it was
that the boy came home to the shack to live again.

“Women ha’ ben the ruination of many a good fighter, but they won’t
be of him. He blushes like a girl if anything young in skirts looks
at him a second time or too long the first one. An’ they all look at
him. But when he fights, when he fights!–God! it’s the old savage
Irish that flares in him, an’ drives the fists of him. Not that he
goes off his base. Don’t walk away with that. At my best I was never
as cool as he. I misdoubt ’twas the wrath of me that brought the
accidents. But he’s an iceberg. He’s hot an’ cold at the one time,
a live wire in an ice-chest.”

Stubener was dozing, when the old man’s mumble aroused him. He
listened drowsily.

“I made a man o’ him, by God! I made a man o’ him, with the two fists
of him, an’ the upstanding legs of him, an’ the straight-seein’
eyes. And I know the game in my head, an’ I’ve kept up with the
times and the modern changes. The crouch? Sure, he knows all the
styles an’ economies. He never moves two inches when an inch and a
half will do the turn. And when he wants he can spring like a buck
kangaroo. In-fightin’? Wait till you see. Better than his out-fightin’,
and he could sure ‘a’ sparred with Peter Jackson an’ outfooted Corbett
in his best. I tell you, I’ve taught’m it all, to the last trick, and
he’s improved on the teachin’. He’s a fair genius at the game. An’
he’s had plenty of husky mountain men to try out on. I gave him the
fancy work and they gave him the sloggin’. Nothing shy or delicate
about them. Roarin’ bulls an’ big grizzly bears, that’s what they are,
when it comes to huggin’ in a clinch or swingin’ rough-like in the
rushes. An’ he plays with ’em. Man, d’ye hear me?–he plays with them,
like you an’ me would play with little puppy-dogs.”

Another time Stubener awoke, to hear the old man mumbling:

“‘Tis the funny think he don’t take fightin’ seriously. It’s that
easy to him he thinks it play. But wait till he’s tapped a swift
one. That’s all, wait. An’ you’ll see’m throw on the juice in that
cold storage plant of his an’ turn loose the prettiest scientific
wallopin’ that ever you laid eyes on.”

In the shivery gray of mountain dawn, Stubener was routed from his
blankets by old Pat.

“He’s comin’ up the trail now,” was the hoarse whisper. “Out with
ye an’ take your first peep at the biggest fightin’ man the ring has
ever seen, or will ever see in a thousand years again.”

The manager peered through the open door, rubbing the sleep from his
heavy eyes, and saw a young giant walk into the clearing. In one hand
was a rifle, across his shoulders a heavy deer under which he moved
as if it were weightless. He was dressed roughly in blue overalls
and woolen shirt open at the throat. Coat he had none, and on his
feet, instead of brogans, were moccasins. Stubener noted that his
walk was smooth and catlike, without suggestion of his two hundred
and twenty pounds of weight to which that of the deer was added. The
fight manager was impressed from the first glimpse. Formidable the
young fellow certainly was, but the manager sensed the strangeness
and unusualness of him. He was a new type, something different
from the run of fighters. He seemed a creature of the wild, more a
night-roaming figure from some old fairy story or folk tale than a
twentieth-century youth.

A thing Stubener quickly discovered was that young Pat was not much
of a talker. He acknowledged old Pat’s introduction with a grip of
the hand but without speech, and silently set to work at building
the fire and getting breakfast. To his father’s direct questions he
answered in monosyllables, as, for instance, when asked where he had
picked up the deer.

“South Fork,” was all he vouchsafed.

“Eleven miles across the mountains,” the old man exposited pridefully
to Stubener, “an’ a trail that’d break your heart.”

Breakfast consisted of black coffee, sourdough bread, and an immense
quantity of bear-meat broiled over the coals. Of this the young
fellow ate ravenously, and Stubener divined that both the Glendons
were accustomed to an almost straight meat diet. Old Pat did all the
talking, though it was not till the meal was ended that he broached
the subject he had at heart.

“Pat, boy,” he began, “you know who the gentleman is?”

Young Pat nodded, and cast a quick, comprehensive glance at the
manager.

“Well, he’ll be takin’ you away with him and down to San Francisco.”

“I’d sooner stay here, dad,” was the answer.

Stubener felt a prick of disappointment. It was a wild goose chase
after all. This was no fighter, eager and fretting to be at it. His
huge brawn counted for nothing. It was nothing new. It was the big
fellows that usually had the streak of fat.

But old Pat’s Celtic wrath flared up, and his voice was harsh with
command.

“You’ll go down to the cities an’ fight, me boy. That’s what I’ve
trained you for, an’ you’ll do it.”

“All right,” was the unexpected response, rumbled apathetically from
the deep chest.

“And fight like hell,” the old man added.

Again Stubener felt disappointment at the absence of flash and fire
in the young man’s eyes as he answered:

“All right. When do we start?”

“Oh, Sam, here, he’ll be wantin’ a little huntin’ and to fish a bit,
as well as to try you out with the gloves.” He looked at Sam, who
nodded. “Suppose you strip and give’m a taste of your quality.”

An hour later, Sam Stubener had his eyes opened. An ex-fighter himself,
a heavyweight at that, he was even a better judge of fighters, and
never had he seen one strip to like advantage.

“See the softness of him,” old Pat chanted. “‘Tis the true stuff. Look
at the slope of the shoulders, an’ the lungs of him. Clean, all clean,
to the last drop an’ ounce of him. You’re lookin’ at a man, Sam, the
like of which was never seen before. Not a muscle of him bound. No
weight-lifter or Sandow exercise artist there. See the fat snakes
of muscles a-crawlin’ soft an’ lazy-like. Wait till you see them
flashin’ like a strikin’ rattler. He’s good for forty rounds this
blessed instant, or a hundred. Go to it! Time!”

They went to it, for three-minute rounds with a minute rests, and
Sam Stubener was immediately undeceived. Here was no streak of fat,
no apathy, only a lazy, good-natured play of gloves and tricks, with
a brusk stiffness and harsh sharpness in the contacts that he knew
belonged only to the trained and instinctive fighting man.

“Easy, now, easy,” old Pat warned. “Sam’s not the man he used to be.”

This nettled Sam, as it was intended to do, and he played his most
famous trick and favorite punch–a feint for a clinch and a right
rip to the stomach. But, quickly as it was delivered, young Pat saw
it, and, though it landed, his body was going away. The next time,
his body did not go away. As the rip started, he moved forward and
twisted his left hip to meet it. It was only a matter of several
inches, yet it blocked the blow. And thereafter, try as he would,
Stubener’s glove got no farther than that hip.

Stubener had roughed it with big men in his time, and, in exhibition
bouts, had creditably held his own. But there was no holding his own
here. Young Pat played with him, and in the clinches made him feel
as powerful as a baby, landing on him seemingly at will, locking
and blocking with masterful accuracy, and scarcely noticing or
acknowledging his existence. Half the time young Pat seemed to spend
in gazing off and out at the landscape in a dreamy sort of way. And
right here Stubener made another mistake. He took it for a trick of
old Pat’s training, tried to sneak in a short-arm jolt, found his
arm in a lightning lock, and had both his ears cuffed for his pains.

“The instinct for a blow,” the old man chortled. “‘Tis not put on,
I’m tellin’ you. He is a wiz. He knows a blow without the lookin’,
when it starts an’ where, the speed, an’ space, an’ niceness of it. An’
’tis nothing I ever showed him. ‘Tis inspiration. He was so born.”

Once, in a clinch, the fight manager heeled his glove on young Pat’s
mouth, and there was just a hint of viciousness in the manner of doing
it. A moment later, in the next clinch, Sam received the heel of the
other’s glove on his own mouth. There was nothing snappy about it,
but the pressure, stolidly lazy as it was, put his head back till the
joints cracked and for the moment he thought his neck was broken. He
slacked his body and dropped his arms in token that the bout was over,
felt the instant release, and staggered clear.

“He’ll–he’ll do,” he gasped, looking the admiration he lacked the
breath to utter.

Old Pat’s eyes were brightly moist with pride and triumph.

“An’ what will you be thinkin’ to happen when some of the gay an’
ugly ones tries to rough it on him?” he asked.

“He’ll kill them, sure,” was Stubener’s verdict.

“No; he’s too cool for that. But he’ll just hurt them some for their
dirtiness.”

“Let’s draw up the contract,” said the manager.

“Wait till you know the whole worth of him!” Old Pat answered. “‘Tis
strong terms I’ll be makin’ you come to. Go for a deer-hunt with
the boy over the hills an’ learn the lungs and the legs of him. Then
we’ll sign up iron-clad and regular.”

Stubener was gone two days on that hunt, and he learned all and
more than old Pat had promised, and came back a very weary and
very humble man. The young fellow’s innocence of the world had
been startling to the case-hardened manager, but he had found him
nobody’s fool. Virgin though his mind was, untouched by all save a
narrow mountain experience, nevertheless he had proved possession
of a natural keenness and shrewdness far beyond the average. In a
way he was a mystery to Sam, who could not understand his terrible
equanimity of temper. Nothing ruffled him or worried him, and his
patience was of an enduring primitiveness. He never swore, not even
the futile and emasculated cuss-words of sissy-boys.

“I’d swear all right if I wanted to,” he had explained, when challenged
by his companion. “But I guess I’ve never come to needing it. When
I do, I’ll swear, I suppose.”

Old Pat, resolutely adhering to his decision, said good-by at the
cabin.

“It won’t be long, Pat, boy, when I’ll be readin’ about you in the
papers. I’d like to go along, but I’m afeard it’s me for the mountains
till the end.”

And then, drawing the manager aside, the old man turned loose on him
almost savagely.

“Remember what I’ve ben tellin’ ye over an’ over. The boy’s clean an’
he’s honest. He knows nothing of the rottenness of the game. I kept it
all away from him, I tell you. He don’t know the meanin’ of fake. He
knows only the bravery, an’ romance an’ glory of fightin’, and I’ve
filled him up with tales of the old ring heroes, though little enough,
God knows, it’s set him afire. Man, man, I’m tellin’ you that I clipped
the fight columns from the newspapers to keep it ‘way from him–him
a-thinkin’ I was wantin’ them for me scrap book. He don’t know a man
ever lay down or threw a fight. So don’t you get him in anything that
ain’t straight. Don’t turn the boy’s stomach. That’s why I put in the
null and void clause. The first rottenness and the contract’s broke of
itself. No snide division of stake-money; no secret arrangements with
the movin’ pitcher men for guaranteed distance. There’s slathers o’
money for the both of you. But play it square or you lose. Understand?

“And whatever you’ll be doin’ watch out for the women,” was old Pat’s
parting admonishment, young Pat astride his horse and reining in
dutifully to hear. “Women is death an’ damnation, remember that. But
when you do find the one, the only one, hang on to her. She’ll be
worth more than glory an’ money. But first be sure, an’ when you’re
sure, don’t let her slip through your fingers. Grab her with the two
hands of you and hang on. Hang on if all the world goes to smash an’
smithereens. Pat, boy, a good woman is … a good woman. ‘Tis the
first word and the last.”