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The Night-Born by Jack London*

Part 4 out of 4

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in the little printery, or scribbling endless hasty, nervous
lines on the much-cluttered desk. And he could see the strange
evenings, when workmen, coming secretly in the dark like men
who did ill deeds, met with his father and talked long hours
where he, the muchacho, lay not always asleep in the corner.

As from a remote distance he could hear Spider Hagerty saying
to him: "No layin' down at the start. Them's instructions. Take
a beatin' and earn your dough."

Ten minutes had passed, and he still sat in his comer. There
were no signs of Danny, who was evidently playing the trick to
the limit.

But more visions burned before the eye of Rivera's memory. The
strike, or, rather, the lockout, because the workers of Rio
Blanco had helped their striking brothers of Puebla. The
hunger, the expeditions in the hills for berries, the roots and
herbs that all ate and that twisted and pained the stomachs of
all of them. And then, the nightmare; the waste of ground
before the company's store; the thousands of starving workers;
General Rosalio Martinez and the soldiers of Porfirio Diaz, and
the death-spitting rifles that seemed never to cease spitting,
while the workers' wrongs were washed and washed again in their
own blood. And that night! He saw the flat cars, piled high
with the bodies of the slain, consigned to Vera Cruz, food for
the sharks of the bay. Again he crawled over the grisly heaps,
seeking and finding, stripped and mangled, his father and his
mother. His mother he especially remembered--only her face
projecting, her body burdened by the weight of dozens of
bodies. Again the rifles of the soldiers of Porfirio Diaz
cracked, and again he dropped to the ground and slunk away like
some hunted coyote of the hills.

To his ears came a great roar, as of the sea, and he saw Danny
Ward, leading his retinue of trainers and seconds, coming down
the center aisle. The house was in wild uproar for the popular
hero who was bound to win. Everybody proclaimed him. Everybody
was for him. Even Rivera's own seconds warmed to something akin
to cheerfulness when Danny ducked jauntily through the ropes
and entered the ring. His face continually spread to an
unending succession of smiles, and when Danny smiled he smiled
in every feature, even to the laughter-wrinkles of the corners
of the eyes and into the depths of the eyes themselves. Never
was there so genial a fighter. His face was a running
advertisement of good feeling, of good fellowship. He knew
everybody. He joked, and laughed, and greeted his friends
through the ropes. Those farther away, unable to suppress their
admiration, cried loudly: "Oh, you Danny!" It was a joyous
ovation of affection that lasted a full five minutes.

Rivera was disregarded. For all that the audience noticed, he
did not exist. Spider Lagerty's bloated face bent down close to

"No gettin' scared," the Spider warned.

"An' remember instructions. You gotta last. No layin' down. If
you lay down, we got instructions to beat you up in the
dressing rooms. Savve? You just gotta fight."

The house began to applaud. Danny was crossing the ring to him.
Danny bent over, caught Rivera's right hand in both his own and
shook it with impulsive heartiness. Danny's smile-wreathed face
was close to his. The audience yelled its appreciation of
Danny's display of sporting spirit. He was greeting his
opponent with the fondness of a brother. Danny's lips moved,
and the audience, interpreting the unheard words to be those of
a kindly-natured sport, yelled again. Only Rivera heard the low

"You little Mexican rat," hissed from between Danny's gaily
smiling lips, "I'll fetch the yellow outa you."

Rivera made no move. He did not rise. He merely hated with his

"Get up, you dog!" some man yelled through the ropes from

The crowd began to hiss and boo him for his unsportsmanlike
conduct, but he sat unmoved. Another great outburst of applause
was Danny's as he walked back across the ring.

When Danny stripped, there was ohs! and ahs! of delight. His
body was perfect, alive with easy suppleness and health and
strength. The skin was white as a woman's, and as smooth. All
grace, and resilience, and power resided therein. He had proved
it in scores of battles. His photographs were in all the
physical culture magazines.

A groan went up as Spider Hagerty peeled Rivera's sweater over
his head. His body seemed leaner, because of the swarthiness of
the skin. He had muscles, but they made no display like his
opponent's. What the audience neglected to see was the deep
chest. Nor could it guess the toughness of the fiber of the
flesh, the instantaneousness of the cell explosions of the
muscles, the fineness of the nerves that wired every part of
him into a spendid fighting mechanism. All the audience saw was
a brown-skinned boy of eighteen with what seemed the body of a
boy. With Danny it was different. Danny was a man of
twenty-four, and his body was a man's body. The contrast was
still more striking as they stood together in the center of the
ring receiving the referee's last instructions.

Rivera noticed Roberts sitting directly behind the newspaper
men. He was drunker than usual, and his speech was
correspondingly slower.

"Take it easy, Rivera," Roberts drawled.

"He can't kill you, remember that. He'll rush you at the
go-off, but don't get rattled. You just and stall, and clinch.
He can't hurt cover up, much. Just make believe to yourself
that he's choppin' out on you at the trainin' quarters."

Rivera made no sign that he had heard.

"Sullen little devil," Roberts muttered to the man next to him.
"He always was that way."

But Rivera forgot to look his usual hatred. A vision of
countless rifles blinded his eyes. Every face in the aidience,
far as he could see, to the high dollar-seats, was transformed
into a rifle. And he saw the long Mexican border arid and
sun-washed and aching, and along it he saw the ragged bands
that delayed only for the guns.

Back in his corner he waited, standing up. His seconds had
crawled out through the ropes, taking the canvas stool with
them. Diagonally across the squared ring, Danny faced him. The
gong struck, and the battle was on. The audience howled its
delight. Never had it seen a battle open more convincingly. The
papers were right. It was a grudge fight. Three-quarters of the
distance Danny covered in the rush to get together, his
intention to eat up the Mexican lad plainly advertised. He
assailed with not one blow, nor two, nor a dozen. He was a
gyroscope of blows, a whirlwind of destruction. Rivera was
nowhere. He was overwhelmed, buried beneath avalanches of
punches delivered from every angle and position by a past
master in the art. He was overborne, swept back against the
ropes, separated by the referee, and swept back against the
ropes again.

It was not a fight. It was a slaughter, a massacre. Any
audience, save a prize fighting one, would have exhausted its
emotions in that first minute. Danny was certainly showing what
he could do--a splendid exhibition. Such was the certainty of
the audience, as well as its excitement and favoritism, that it
failed to take notice that the Mexican still stayed on his
feet. It forgot Rivera. It rarely saw him, so closely was he
enveloped in Danny's man-eating attack. A minute of this went
by, and two minutes. Then, in a separation, it caught a clear
glimpse of the Mexican. His lip was cut, his nose was bleeding.
As he turned and staggered into a clinch, the welts of oozing
blood, from his contacts with the ropes, showed in red bars.
across his back. But what the audience did not notice was that
his chest was not heaving and that his eyes were coldly burning
as ever. Too many aspiring champions, in the cruel welter of
the training camps, had practiced this man-eating attack on
him. He had learned to live through for a compensation of from
half a dollar a go up to fifteen dollars a week--a hard school,
and he was schooled hard.

Then happened the amazing thing. The whirling, blurring mix-up
ceased suddenly. Rivera stood alone. Danny, the redoubtable
Danny, lay on his back. His body quivered as consciousness
strove to return to it. He had not staggered and sunk down, nor
had he gone over in a long slumping fall. The right hook of
Rivera had dropped him in midair with the abruptness of death.
The referee shoved Rivera back with one hand, and stood over
the fallen gladiator counting the seconds. It is the custom of
prize-fighting audiences to cheer a clean knock-down blow. But
this audience did not cheer. The thing had been too unexpected.
It watched the toll of the seconds in tense silence, and
through this silence the voice of Roberts rose exultantly:

"I told you he was a two-handed fighter!"

By the fifth second, Danny was rolling over on his face, and
when seven was counted, he rested on one knee, ready to rise
after the count of nine and before the count of ten. If his
knee still touched the floor at "ten," he was considered
"down," and also "out." The instant his knee left the floor, he
was considered "up," and in that instant it was Rivera's right
to try and put him down again. Rivera took no chances. The
moment that knee left the floor he would strike again. He
circled around, but the referee circled in between, and Rivera
knew that the seconds he counted were very slow. All Gringos
were against him, even the referee.

At "nine" the referee gave Rivera a sharp thrust back. It was
unfair, but it enabled Danny to rise, the smile back on his
lips. Doubled partly over, with arms wrapped about face and
abdomen, he cleverly stumbled into a clinch. By all the rules
of the game the referee should have broken it, but he did not,
and Danny clung on like a surf-battered barnacle and moment by
moment recuperated. The last minute of the round was going
fast. If he could live to the end, he would have a full minute
in his corner to revive. And live to the end he did, smiling
through all desperateness and extremity.

"The smile that won't come off!" somebody yelled, and the
audience laughed loudly in its relief.

"The kick that Greaser's got is something God-awful," Danny
gasped in his corner to his adviser while his handlers worked
frantically over him.

The second and third rounds were tame. Danny, a tricky and
consummate ring general, stalled and blocked and held on,
devoting himself to recovering from that dazing first-round
blow. In the fourth round he was himself again. Jarred and
shaken, nevertheless his good condition had enabled him to
regain his vigor. But he tried no man-eating tactics. The
Mexican had proved a tartar. Instead, he brought to bear his
best fighting powers. In tricks and skill and experience he was
the master, and though he could land nothing vital, he
proceeded scientifically to chop and wear down his opponent. He
landed three blows to Rivera's one, but they were punishing
blows only, and not deadly. It was the sum of many of them that
constituted deadliness. He was respectful of this two-handed
dub with the amazing short-arm kicks in both his fists.

In defense, Rivera developed a disconcerting straight-left.
Again and again, attack after attack he straight-lefted away
from him with accumulated damage to Danny's mouth and nose. But
Danny was protean. That was why he was the coming champion. He
could change from style to style of fighting at will. He now
devoted himself to infighting. In this he was particularly
wicked, and it enabled him to avoid the other's straight-left.
Here he set the house wild repeatedly, capping it with a
marvelous lockbreak and lift of an inside upper-cut that raised
the Mexican in the air and dropped him to the mat. Rivera
rested on one knee, making the most of the count, and in the
soul of him he knew the referee was counting short seconds on him.

Again, in the seventh, Danny achieved the diabolical inside
uppercut. He succeeded only in staggering Rivera, but, in the
ensuing moment of defenseless helplessness, he smashed him with
another blow through the ropes. Rivera's body bounced on the
heads of the newspaper men below, and they boosted him back to
the edge of the platform outside the ropes. Here he rested on
one knee, while the referee raced off the seconds. Inside the
ropes, through which he must duck to enter the ring, Danny
waited for him. Nor did the referee intervene or thrust Danny

The house was beside itself with delight.

"Kill'm, Danny, kill'm!" was the cry.

Scores of voices took it up until it was like a war-chant of

Danny did his best, but Rivera, at the count of eight, instead
of nine, came unexpectedly through the ropes and safely into a
clinch. Now the referee worked, tearing him away so that he
could be hit, giving Danny every advantage that an unfair
referee can give.

But Rivera lived, and the daze cleared from his brain. It was
all of a piece. They were the hated Gringos and they were all
unfair. And in the worst of it visions continued to flash and
sparkle in his brain--long lines of railroad track that
simmered across the desert; rurales and American constables,
prisons and calabooses; tramps at water tanks--all the squalid
and painful panorama of his odyssey after Rio Blanca and the
strike. And, resplendent and glorious, he saw the great, red
Revolution sweeping across his land. The guns were there before
him. Every hated face was a gun. It was for the guns he fought.
He was the guns. He was the Revolution. He fought for all

The audience began to grow incensed with Rivera. Why didn't he
take the licking that was appointed him? Of course he was going
to be licked, but why should he be so obstinate about it? Very
few were interested in him, and they were the certain, definite
percentage of a gambling crowd that plays long shots. Believing
Danny to be the winner, nevertheless the y had put their money
on the Mexican at four to ten and one to three. More than a
trifle was up on the point of how many rounds Rivera could
last. Wild money had appeared at the ringside proclaiming that
he could not last seven rounds, or even six. The winners of
this, now that their cash risk was happily settled, had joined
in cheering on the favorite.

Rivera refused to be licked. Through the eighth round his
opponent strove vainly to repeat the uppercut. In the ninth,
Rivera stunned the house again. In the midst of a clinch he
broke the lock with a quick, lithe movement, and in the narrow
space between their bodies his right lifted from the waist.
Danny went to the floor and took the safety of the count. The
crowd was appalled. He was being bested at his own game. His
famous right-uppercut had been worked back on him. Rivera made
no attempt to catch him as he arose at "nine." The referee was
openly blocking that play, though he stood clear when the
situation was reversed and it was Rivera who desired to rise.

Twice in the tenth, Rivera put through the right-uppercut,
lifted from waist to opponent's chin. Danny grew desperate. The
smile never left his face, but he went back to his man-eating
rushes. Whirlwind as he would, be could not damage Rivera,
while Rivera through the blur and whirl, dropped him to the mat
three times in succession. Danny did not recuperate so quickly
now, and by the eleventh round he was in a serious way. But
from then till the fourteenth he put up the gamest exhibition
of his career. He stalled and blocked, fought parsimoniously,
and strove to gather strength. Also, he fought as foully as a
successful fighter knows how. Every trick and device he
employed, butting in the clinches with the seeming of accident,
pinioning Rivera's glove between arm and body, heeling his
glove on Rivera's mouth to clog his breathing. Often, in the
clinches, through his cut and smiling lips he snarled insults
unspeakable and vile in Rivera's ear. Everybody, from the
referee to the house, was with Danny and was helping Danny. And
they knew what he had in mind. Bested by this surprise-box of
an unknown, he was pinning all on a single punch. He offered
himself for punishment, fished, and feinted, and drew, for that
one opening that would enable him to whip a blow through with
all his strength and turn the tide. As another and greater
fighter had done before him, he might do a right and left, to
solar plexus and across the jaw. He could do it, for he was
noted for the strength of punch that remained in his arms as
long as he could keep his feet.

Rivera's seconds were not half-caring for him in the intervals
between rounds. Their towels made a showing, but drove little
air into his panting lungs. Spider Hagerty talked advice to
him, but Rivera knew it was wrong advice. Everybody was against
him. He was surrounded by treachery. In the fourteenth round he
put Danny down again, and himself stood resting, hands dropped
at side, while the referee counted. In the other corner Rivera
had been noting suspicious whisperings. He saw Michael Kelly
make his way to Roberts and bend and whisper. Rivera's ears
were a cat's, desert-trained, and he caught snatches of what
was said. He wanted to hear more, and when his opponent arose
he maneuvered the fight into a clinch over against the ropes.

"Got to," he could hear Michael, while Roberts nodded. "Danny's
got to win--I stand to lose a mint--I've got a ton of money
covered--my own. If he lasts the fifteenth I'm bust--the boy'll
mind you. Put something across."

And thereafter Rivera saw no more visions. They were trying to
job him. Once again he dropped Danny and stood resting, his
hands at his slide. Roberts stood up.

"That settled him," he said.

"Go to your corner."

He spoke with authority, as he had often spoken to Rivera at
the training quarters. But Rivera looked hatred at him and
waited for Danny to rise. Back in his corner in the minute
interval, Kelly, the promoter, came and talked to Rivera.

"Throw it, damn you," he rasped in, a harsh low voice. "You
gotta lay down, Rivera. Stick with me and I'll make your
future. I'll let you lick Danny next time. But here's where you
lay down."

Rivera showed with his eyes that he heard, but he made neither
sign of assent nor dissent.

"Why don't you speak?" Kelly demanded angrily.

"You lose, anyway," Spider Hagerty supplemented. "The
referee'll take it away from you. Listen to Kelly, and lay

"Lay down, kid," Kelly pleaded, "and I'll help you to the

Rivera did not answer.

"I will, so help me, kid."

At the strike of the gong Rivera sensed something impending.
The house did not. Whatever it was it was there inside the ring
with him and very close. Danny's earlier surety seemed returned
to him. The confidence of his advance frightened Rivera. Some
trick was about to be worked. Danny rushed, but Rivera refused
the encounter. He side-stepped away into safety. What the other
wanted was a clinch. It was in some way necessary to the trick.
Rivera backed and circled away, yet he knew, sooner or later,
the clinch and the trick would come. Desperately he resolved to
draw it. He made as if to effect the clinch with Danny's next
rush. Instead, at the last instant, just as their bodies should
have come together, Rivera darted nimbly back. And in the same
instant Danny's corner raised a cry of foul. Rivera had fooled
them. The referee paused irresolutely. The decision that
trembled on his lips was never uttered, for a shrill, boy's
voice from the gallery piped, "Raw work!"

Danny cursed Rivera openly, and forced him, while Rivera danced
away. Also, Rivera made up his mind to strike no more blows at
the body. In this he threw away half his chance of winning, but
he knew if he was to win at all it was with the outfighting
that remained to him. Given the least opportunity, they would
lie a foul on him. Danny threw all caution to the winds. For
two rounds he tore after and into the boy who dared not meet
him at close quarters. Rivera was struck again and again; he
took blows by the dozens to avoid the perilous clinch. During
this supreme final rally of Danny's the audience rose to its
feet and went mad. It did not understand. All it could see was
that its favorite was winning, after all.

"Why don't you fight?" it demanded wrathfully of Rivera.

"You're yellow! You're yellow!" "Open up, you cur! Open up!"
"Kill'm, Danny! Kill 'm!" "You sure got 'm! Kill 'm!"

In all the house, bar none, Rivera was the only cold man. By
temperament and blood he was the hottest-passioned there; but
he had gone through such vastly greater heats that this
collective passion of ten thousand throats, rising surge on
surge, was to his brain no more than the velvet cool of a
summer twilight.

Into the seventeenth round Danny carried his rally. Rivera,
under a heavy blow, drooped and sagged. His hands dropped
helplessly as he reeled backward. Danny thought it was his
chance. The boy was at, his mercy. Thus Rivera, feigning,
caught him off his guard, lashing out a clean drive to the
mouth. Danny went down. When he arose, Rivera felled him with a
down-chop of the right on neck and jaw. Three times he repeated
this. It was impossible for any referee to call these blows

"Oh, Bill! Bill!" Kelly pleaded to the referee.

"I can't," that official lamented back. "He won't give me a

Danny, battered and heroic, still kept coming up. Kelly and
others near to the ring began to cry out to the police to stop
it, though Danny's corner refused to throw in the towel. Rivera
saw the fat police captain starting awkwardly to climb through
the ropes, and was not sure what it meant. There were so many
ways of cheating in this game of the Gringos. Danny, on his
feet, tottered groggily and helplessly before him. The referee
and the captain were both reaching for Rivera when he struck
the last blow. There was no need to stop the fight, for Danny
did not rise.

"Count!" Rivera cried hoarsely to the referee.

And when the count was finished, Danny's seconds gathered him
up and carried him to his corner.

"Who wins?" Rivera demanded.

Reluctantly, the referee caught his gloved hand and held it

There were no congratulations for Rivera. He walked to his
corner unattended, where his seconds had not yet placed his
stool. He leaned backward on the ropes and looked his hatred at
them, swept it on and about him till the whole ten thousand
Gringos were included. His knees trembled under him, and he was
sobbing from exhaustion. Before his eyes the hated faces swayed
back and forth in the giddiness of nausea. Then he remembered
they were the guns. The guns were his. The Revolution could go

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