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The Abysmal BruteByJack London
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The Abysmal Brute
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:
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.
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
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