The confidence with which the dip said that last gave me cold shivers.

“And who will he bet on?” I asked.

“Slade, of course. Ain’t he the pit champion?”

While I was considering this cheering piece of information, Bat Slade yelled at me from the other end of the pit:

“Hey, you blankey dash-dot-blank, ain’t you ready yet?”

He was in his socks, shoes and underpants, and no gloves on his hands.

“Where’s the gloves?” I asked. “Ain’t we goin’ to tape our hands?”

“They ain’t no gloves,” said Slade, with a satisfied grin. “This little riot is goin’ to be a bare-knuckle affair. Don’t you know the rules of the pit?”

“You see, Costigan,” says the oily bird, kinda nervous, “in the fights we put on here, the fighters don’t wear no gloves–regular he-man grudge stuff, see?”

“Aw, get goin’!” the crowd began to bellow, having paid nothing to get in and wanting their money’s worth. “Lessee some action! What do you think this is? Start somethin’!”

“Shut up!” I ordered, cowing them with one menacing look. “What kind of a deal am I getting here, anyhow?”

“Didn’t you agree to fight Slade in the serpent pit?”

“Yes but–”

“Tryin’ to back out,” said Slade nastily, as usual. “That’s like you Sea Girl tramps, you–”

“Blank, exclamation point, and asterisk!” I roared, tearing off my undershirt and bounding into the pit. “Get down in here you blank-blank semicolon, and I’ll make you look like the last rose of summer, you–”

Slade hopped down into the pit at the other end, and the crowd began to fight for places at the edge. It was a cinch that some of them was not going to get to see all of it. The sides of the pit were hard and rough, and the floor was the same way, like you’d expect a pit in a concrete floor to be. Of course they was no stools or anything.

“Now then,” says the oily bird, “this is a finish fight between Steve Costigan of the Sea Girl, weight one-eighty-eight, and Battling Slade, one-seventy-nine, of the Dauntless, bare-knuckle champion of the Philippine Islands, in as far as he’s proved it in this here pit. They will fight three-minute rounds, one minute rest, no limit to the number of rounds. There will be no decision. They will fight till one of ‘em goes out. Referee, me.

“The rules is, nothing barred except hittin’ below the belt–in the way of punches, I mean. Break when I say so, and hit on the breakaway if you wanta. Seconds will kindly refrain from hittin’ the other man with the water bucket. Ready?”

“A hundred I lay you like a rug”, says Slade.

“I see you and raise you a hundred,” I snarl.

The crowd began to yell and curse, the timekeeper hit a piece of iron with a six-shooter stock, and the riot was on.

Now, understand, this was a very different fight from any I ever engaged in… chevronRight icon