And with that she turned back and walked away. At the same time, up came an oily-looking fellow, rubbing his hands together. I mistrust a bird what goes around rubbing his hands together like he was in a state of perpetual self-satisfaction.

“Now, now, boys,” said this bezark, “le’s do this right! You boys wanta fight. Tut! Tut! Too bad, too bad! But if you gotta fight, le’s do it right, that’s what I say! Let fellers live together in peace and enmity if they can, but if they gotta fight, let it be did right!”

“Gi’ me leeway–and I’ll do this blankety-blank right,” says I, fairly shaking with rage. It always irritates me to be hit on the nose without a return and in front of ladies.

“Oh, will you?” said Bat, putting up his mitts. “Let’s see you get goin’, you–”

“Now, now, boys,” said the oily bird, “le’s do this right! Costigan, will you and Slade fight for me in my club?”

“Anywheres!” I roar. “Bare-knuckles, gloves, or marlin-spikes!”

“Fine,” says the oily bird, rubbing his hands worse than ever. “Ah, fine! Ah–um–ah, Costigan, will you fight Slade in the pit of the serpent?”

Now, I should have noticed that he didn’t ask Slade if he’d fight, and I saw Slade grin quietly, but I was too crazy with rage to think straight.

“I’ll fight him in the pit of Hades with the devil for a referee!” I roared. “Bring on your fight club–ring, deck, or whatever! Let’s get goin’.”

“That’s the way to talk!” says the oily bird. “Come on.”

He turned around and started for the exit, and me and Slade and a few more followed him. Had I of thought, I would have seen right off that this was all working too smooth to have happened impromptu, as it were. But I was still seething with rage and in no shape to think properly.

Howthesomever, I did give a few thoughts as to the chances I had against Slade. As for size, I had the advantage. I’m six feet, and Slade is two inches shorter; I am also a few pounds heavier but not enough to make much difference, us being heavyweights that way. But Slade, I knew, was the shiftiest, trickiest leather-slinger in the whole merchant marine. I had never met him for the simple reason that no match-maker in any port would stage a bout between a Sea Girl man and a Dauntless tramp, since that night in Singapore when the bout between Slade and One-Round Grannigan started a free-for-all that plumb wrecked the Wharfside A. C. Slade knocked Grannigan out that night, and Grannigan was then champion slugger aboard the Sea Girl. Later, I beat Grannigan.

As for dope, you couldn’t tell much, as usual. I’d won a decision over Boatswain Hagney, the champion of the British Asiatic naval fleet, who’d knocked Slade out in Hong Kong, but on the other hand, Slade had knocked out Mike Leary of the Blue Whale, who’d given me a terrible beating at Bombay.

These cogitations was interrupted at that minute by the oily bird. We had come out of the joint and was standing on the curb. Several autos was parked there, and the crowd piled into them. The oily bird motioned me to get in one, and I done so.

Next, we was speeding through the streets, where the lights was beginning to glow, and I asked no questions, even when we left the business section behind and then went right on through the suburbs and out on a road which didn’t appear to be used very much. I said nothing, however.

At last we stopped at a large building some distance outside the city… chevronRight icon