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For Brodie's Benefit

By Charles E. Van Loan
Author of "A Job for the Pitcher," "The Crab," Etc.


This joyous tale, filled with the well-known Van Loan brand of rough humor, opens with a spirited scrap between a boxer and the portrait of the next heavyweight champion The aftermath of the unequal contest will get you up on your toes. Van Loan knows the fight game, and—as the POPULAR'S six years' acquaintance with him has demonstrated—he knows how to tell a good story. This is one.


BIG TOM O'CONNOR strolled into Shaughnessy's place about ten minutes after the proprietor finished decorating the west wall of the establishment with his most recently acquired work of art, the same being a full-length, life-size portrait of Robert Emmet Brodie, heavy-weight, done in oils and also to a turn. That the artist had never seen his victim might possibly be regarded in the light of a mitigating circumstance; at any rate, he had drawn Brodie's classic outlines from a half tone in a pink illustrated weekly, and his inspiration from a quart bottle kindly furnished by Shaughnessy. The result of these two drawings caused Tom O'Connor to gasp and pass his hand before his eyes.

"And me off the hard stuff for a week!" said Big Tom. "What have you there, Denny? Is it a fighter or is it a Spanish omelet?"

"Have yer joke, Tom," responded Shaughnessy, with a nervous grin, for Big Tom's jokes were often akin to violence. "Have yer joke, lad. Ye will, annyhow, but I take it hard ye do not recognize Bob Brodie when ye see him on the wall."

"Bob Brodie!" howled O'Connor. "Brodie? And what right has he got to be hangin' on a wall, I'd like to know? Brodie! A great, big four-flushin' piece of cheese like him! Who did he ever lick?"

"He put away a lot of them boys in the East," said Shaughnessy. "Have a drink, Tom?"

O'Connor waved away this friendly invitation.

"Yeh, he put away a lot of dubs," growled Big Tom, eying the work of art truculently. "Dubs, all dubs. Brodie never licked a good man in his life, and you know it. Why, he can't even lick me!"

"Ah, well," said Shaughnessy, wisely avoiding the personal note in the argument, "maybe it ain't so much what he has done as what he's goin' to do."

"You're whistlin'!" remarked O'Connor shortly. "And I'm the lad can tell you what he's goin' to do. He's comin' down off that wall. He's comin' down if I have to pull him down!"

"Now, Tom, don't be gettin' rough," pleaded Shaughnessy, who was a small man, and informed of his weak heart. "Don't be startin' anything in here, there's a good——"

"He's comin' down, I tell you!" repeated O'Connor, in tones which reached the street. "Only a champion of the world has got a right to be in a gold frame, with a brass plate under him. Will you take him down yourself, or——"

Shaughnessy squeaked and made a dash for the street door to summon assistance, but Big Tom executed a surprisingly swift flank movement and cut him off, herding the terrified proprietor to the rear of the saloon, where he took refuge among the empty beer kegs. This little matter attended to, the censor of art turned his attention to the offending portrait. He dragged it from the wall and balanced it against a table.

Plainly O'Connor's first impulse was to kick several holes in the canvas, but as he stood facing the life-size and shrimp-pink prize representation of a fighter, a change came over his mood, and his lip curled in scornful amusement. With mocking deliberation Big Tom copied the painted pose, left hand advanced, right arm drawn back, a thunderbolt in reserve. He feinted and skipped and side—stepped, now creeping up on the portrait, now retreating as from an attack, and his clumsy left jabs grazed Brodie's pink nose. While thus employed, he addressed the portrait, as follows:

"Huh! Think you're a whale of a feller, eh? Think you're a fighter, don't you? Been talkin' about fightin' the heavyweight champ, ain't you, hey? You—make—me—sick! They tell me you're clever with your mitts—but I'm givin' you a tip. Lay off of me, Brodie! Yes, lay off of me, you big bum—because if I ever git you in a barroom, an' nobody to yell 'Foul' or call time, I'll beat you to death! Yes, that's what I said—to death! I'll lick you the same as I used to lick you when we was kids in school. Maybe I couldn't do it in a ring—but in a barroom! Why, listen to me, you ugly man's dog—in a barroom—I'd murder you alive! Think not, hey? Well, smell of this, once!"

Having talked himself into a state of mind demanding more physical expression than may be found in futile left jabs, Big Tom feinted twice in rapid succession, and, stepping in, let fly with the heavy artillery. His right fist shot forward, with two hundred pounds of O'Connor behind it, full into the painted countenance of Robert Emmet Brodie. There followed a dull thump, a splitting, tearing crash, a wail from the wretched Shaughnessy, dodging among the empty beer kegs, and Big Tom O'Connor strode out into the street, blowing upon his knuckles. The canvas had been reënforced with a backing of pine boards.

Shaughnessy's next customer found him mourning over the life-size portrait of a fighter without a face.

"Save us from harm!" ejaculated Mr. Casey, peering at the ruin. "Has the Germans been usin' that thing for a target, or what? An' whose picture was it before the bombardment come off?"

"It was Bob Brodie's," replied Shaughnessy.

Mr. Casey sucked in his breath with a cluckiug noise.

"An' a grand likeness!" said he. "The legs is done fine. You could almost tell 'em annywhere. Who busted him?"

"Tom O'Connor took a punch at it just for meanness," said Shaughnessy bitterly. "He was showin' me how he could lick Brodie—in a barroom."

Mr. Casey brightened visibly.

"Has Tom got a spite agin' Brodie?" he asked.

"Look at what he done to the oil paintin' an' ask me that!"

"But what for?" persisted Casey.

"How should I know? By what I could make out, he used to lick Brodie when they was kids in school."

"Ah, he did that!" chuckled Mr. Casey. "An' like as not, he's sore because he can't lick him now. It makes him mad to be stickin' in the gas house when Brodie's gone up in the world! What you goin' to do about it?"

"I was thinkin' I might have him pinched," said Shaughnessy thoughtfully, as he surveyed the headless gladiator.

"No," said Casey, "don't do that. They would only let him go with a small fine, an' then some night when he's got a skate on he'll come in here an' move the saloon out into the alley. There's a better way."

"Tell it to me."

"Put the picture in the back room, just as it is. Jerry Brodie has had a letter from Bob, an' he's comin' home for a visit. When he gets here, we'll show him the insult that has been done on him. He'll go out——"

"An' knock the face off the big bully!" chirped Shaughnessy. "Oho, but that'll be better than havin' him pinched, an' when they come together—may I be there to see!"

"I'm wonderin'," mused the crafty Casey, "I'm wonderin' if there ain't a way to fix it so's we can all be there."


II.

The prophet, we are told on the very best of authority, has no honor in his own country, and frequently the artist finds that the same rule applies in his case. The actor, returning from metropolitan triumphs, sometimes encounters a black frost in the town which remembers him only as Old Man Jones' boy Willie; the prima donna has trouble in pleasing the critics who sang with her in the old church choir; the author—oh, well, an author gets no credit anywhere and pays cash or goes without—but the home-coming gladiator, ah, here we have one hero who is sure of an admiring populace!

For two days Robert Emmet Brodie did little else but shake warm, kindly hands and listen to words of praise. He was a large, overdressed, bejeweled, lop-eared young man with a deep dent where the bridge of his nose should have been, and he spoke briefly, if at all out of the extreme corner of his mouth. Somewhere on his travels he had acquired the art of listening without visible embarrassment to middle-aged men who wished to tell him how much he reminded them of the great and only John Lawrence Sullivan in his prime. It is only fair to Brodie to state that he usually dissented from this opinion, in manner as follows:

"Listen to me, guy. You're way off there—way off. I seen a picture of John L. when I was a kid, an' he had a mustache. You don't see no mustache on me, do you? And that ain't the only difference, either. From what they tell me, Sullivan was a rough, knock-'em-dead slugger—no science, no fancy stuff, no cleverness, nothin' but the big wallop in the belly or on the jawr, an' good night. I don't see where you git that stuff 'bout me bein' like him. Now, I ain't that kind of a fighter at all. I box 'em, I do; I jab the faces off of 'em, an' then—wham!"

From Robert Emmet's unwillingness to be compared with john L. Sullivan the reader will deduce at least one deduction—at least, we hope so. It will save us the trouble of saying that under no circumstances would Robert Emmet ever become extremely bored with himself. He lorded it over the young men of his home town, and, in conversation with his manager, referred to them as "hicks" and "jaspers." The young men enjoyed his patronizing manner and continued to feed his vanity until Mr. Brodie came near the bursting point.

On the evening of the second day it suited him to favor Denny Shaughnessy's saloon with a visit. Robert Emmet brought his Greek chorus with him, and the silver dollar which he slammed on the bar bounded at least two feet into the air.

"See what everybody'll have to take!" ordered Brodie. "Let 'em all in on it, Denny, an' git in yourself."

Now, one of those who was let in on it was Casey, who edged his way to Brodie's side. "We got something in the back room to show you, Bob," said he, with an ingratiating smile. "An oil painting, ain't we, Denny?"

"We have so," answered the proprietor.

Robert Emmet yawned ostentatiously, openly, as openly as the end of the Hoosac Tunnel.

"I seen a lot of them things when I was East," said he. "Oil paintings is old stuff to me."

"Come over here a minute," said Casey, tugging at Robert Emmet's sleeve. "Come over here an' listen. This ain't the kind of an oil paintin' ye think it is at all." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "It's a paintin' of you, Bob!"

"Eh! What?" exclaimed Brodie, beginning to show signs of interest. "Who done it?"

"Ye mean who painted it?" asked Casey, and Robert Emmet nodded.

"It ain't so much a question of who done it," explained Casey, "as who done something to it. A dirty, black shame an' a disgrace. Come on an' I'll show it to ye. No, never mind callin' the gang, Bob. 'Tis a private exhibition—for reasons we got."

His curiosity roused, Robert Emmet entered a back room, and the language which burst from his lips when he beheld the desecration of art was all that Casey had hoped for—and more.

"Accident?" chirped Shaughnessy, from the doorway. "Ye can bet your sweet life it wasn't an accident! It was done a-purpose. A friend of yours come in here one day, just after I hung it on the wall, an' he put a right swing through it—if ye call that an accident!"

"Who was it?" demanded Brodie. "Tell me his name, an' I'll beat him to a pulp! I'll lick him within an inch of his life!"

"It was Thomas O'Connor—Big Tom," said Casey. "An' what was it he said about Bob when he done it, Shaughnessy?"

"He said ye never licked a good man, an' never will. He said he used to make ye quit when he was a kid an' he could do it anny time. He said ye always had a streak as wide as the Mississippi River, an'——"

"He said enough," interrupted Robert Emmet, from the extreme corner of his mouth. "He said a-plenty. Big Tom, hey? So he done that to me picture? Humph! I ain't seen him yet. Where does he keep himself?"

"Oh, he's round about somewheres," answered Casey.

"Likely stayin' out of yer way," supplemented Shaughnessy.

"But where does he hang out? Where can I find the big bum?"

"Well, this was the way we figured it all out," explained the diplomatic Casey. "Suppose ye ketch him in a saloon an' tear his block off. The bartender will have a treat, but the rest of us'll miss it. Suppose ye pile into him on the street. Only them that happens to be takin' a walk will see the show. Now, what ought to happen to Tom O'Connor is a public lickin'—the more public the better. Now, this is what we was thinkin' of: next Friday night the boys is goin' to pull off a benefit for ye down to Freeman's Hall."

"Yeh," growled Brodie shortly. "I know. Go on."

"We was goin' to have some boxin' on the program," continued Casey, "an' we thought it would be just the ticket to rib O'Connor up to go on an' spar four rounds with ye."

"Make it six!" interrupted Brodie, an eager sparkle in his eye. "Gimme time to cut him up till his own mother wouldn't know him. I'll jab his face to ribbons an' then knock him out!"

"Well, then, six rounds. Ye can act friendly when ye meet him, an' he'll never suspect there's annything doin' in the way of a job. Then, with the whole town lookin' on, ye can play even for this here outrage."

"Yes," said Shaughnessy, "give him a lovely trimmin' an' let him guess why."

"It listens good enough," said Robert Emmet, with deep corrugations on his brow, which, had he the gray material necessary, would have indicated thought. "It sounds all right, but how do you know this big bum will fall for it? Chances are he ain't lookin' for even a friendly bout with a real scrapper."

"Don't be worryin' on that score," said Shaughnessy. "The joke of it is, Bob, O'Connor really thinks he can lick ye."

Brodie laughed uproariously.

"Plenty more of 'em have had the same notion!" said he. "I knocked it out of their fool heads in jig time. Now, here's the frame—up. I'll meet Tom and I won't let on that I'm sore. I'll even let him bluff me a little if he wants to. Then, Casey, you go to him an' tell him you can fix it for him to get on with me at the benefit. Tell him I'm all out of trainin' an' he'll have to promise not to tear into me rough. He'll eat that up, and when I get him into the ring—well, say!" Robert Emmet completed the sentence with a very effective bit of pantomime, consisting of three left jabs and an annihilating right cross which, placed in the right spot, would have jarred the entire O'Connor family for generations.

The next day Casey, the fixer, called at the gas works and found Big Tom O'Connor raking coke out of the furnace.

"Your pal Bob Brodie is back in town," said Casey, after remarking on the state of the weather.

"So I've just heard," said O'Connor gruffly.

"I was wonderin' if I could git ye to do something for him."

Big Tom rose, wiped his grimy hands on his stiff shock of hair, and essayed a bit of shadow boxing, mostly composed of giant swings. When satisfied that his right arm was in working trim, he tried his right leg, and went through the motions of "putting the boots" to a fallen foe.

"Will I do something for him?" he repeated, breathing hard from his exertions. "With all the pleasure in life! Where is the big bum keepin' himself?"

Casey seemed astonished.

"Why, I thought you boys was friends!" said he.

Big Tom tossed his forelock out of his eyes and his lower lip protruded.

"If I'm a friend to that stiff, he better pray never to have an enemy," said he.

"But couldn't you forget that for a while?" asked Casey.

"When I'm down among the daisies, maybe. Not till then."

"Too bad," said Casey, sighing. "We all thought you'd be just the man."

"The man for what?"

"Why, the boys are givin' Brodie a benefit next Friday night at Freeman's Hall——"

"The big bum don't need no benefit," interrupted O'Connor. "He's big enough to work."

"Well, be that as it may, Tom, we want a man to go on an' spar with him. Six rounds."

"Yeh?"

"A man that won't be too rough."

"What's the idea?"

"Well, to tell ye the trut', Bob ain't in trainin' an' he's kind of soft—no wind to speak of. He'd want to go kind o' easy. Now, if ye could forget this ill will, ye'd be doin' Bob a favor, an' the committee a favor, an' everybody a favor."

"I'd rather have it out with him in a barroom," said Tom.

"Man, ye can do that afterward!" cried Casey.

"You're sure he ain't just wantin' to show me up?"

"I tell ye, he don't want to show anybody up! He ain't able."

"That's different again," said Big Tom thoughtfully. "I'll take a chance."

"Remember now," said Casey, as he took his leave, "no rough stuff. It's a benefit."

"Yeh," said Big Tom. But to himself he said: "I'll benefit him, the big bum! I'll benefit him till he hollers for the police!"

And when Robert Emmet Brodie heard that the despoiler of art was willing to crawl through the ropes with him, he smiled a smile which threatened to engulf his lopped ears, and advised all his friends to secure front seats.


III.

The Brodie Benefit, judging by the attendance, promised to be a brilliant success, for Freeman's Hall was crowded long before the opening number on the program, the overture from "William Tell," was executed in cold blood by the local orchestra. Fully half the spectators were women, and the star of the evening grinned as he looked through the peephole in the curtain.

"So much the better," said Brodie to Isaac Marx, his manager.

"Better leave the tea-lead out of the bandages then," advised Isaac. "Women don't like the sight of blood, and when you start cutting him up with that left hand they'll make trouble."

"They got no business here, then," said Brodie. "The tea-lead goes, and I only wish I could slip a horseshoe in the right mitt!"

"You're bloodthirsty to-night," said Isaac.

"This big tramp thinks he can lick me," said Robert Emmet, "an' I'm goin' to change his notions if I have to kill him to do it."

An outsider with knowledge of ring-craft would have been amazed could he have peeped into two dressing rooms and seen the preparations being made for this friendly, six-round sparring bout for points. He might even have thought that mutilation and murder were among the points desired, for in one dressing room Isaac Marx was binding adhesive tape about Brodie's left hand, and putting a strip of tea-lead under each wrapping. Now, a left jab, reënforced by a sufficient amount of tea-lead, will gash the human countenance even through a heavy boxing glove—and it was Brodie's intention to wear the lightest gloves permitted by law. In another dressing room "Red Eddie" O'Day, retired bantamweight boxer and bosom friend of the ponderous O'Connor, was also busy with bandages, but he scorned anything as coarse and brutal as tea-lead—oh, my, yes! He dipped inch-wide strips of cloth into a bowl containing a pasty, white substance, and bound them about O'Connor's hands. The soft, wet covering thus secured looked innocent enough, and would remain innocent until the plaster of Paris had time to harden, when the soft bandage would become a deadly weapon. Needless to say, the only witnesses to these activities have been mentioned.

The gladiators met in the wings shortly before going on the stage. They did not shake hands, probably because of the boxing gloves, but Robert Emmet smiled in a very friendly fashion.

"You're lookin' fit, big feller," said he, his glance taking in the massive details of O'Connor's undraped figure.

"Ah-r-r!" growled Tom, wishing he had a turkey-red bath robe like Brodie's.

"Don't be scared of the crowd," continned Robert Emmet patronizingly. "Don't pay no 'tention to the audience at all."

"Huh!" snorted Big Tom, tossing his heavy forelock.

"And whatever you do, don't get mad an' start roughin' it."

It was at this point that Tom grinned, and five minutes later he was blinking at the footlights and hearing himself mentioned by Casey, the official announcer, as "Big Tom O'Connor, the pride of the gas house." There was-a thin sputter of applause, for Tom was no public idol, and he allowed Red Ed-die to lead him to his corner, where he sat down to wait for Brodie.

Robert Emmet had a fair sense of the fitness of things. He knew that a certain amount of delay whets the public appetite; too much delay leads to impatient demonstrations. He timed his entrance to the exact second and marched upon the stage with a flourish of the tail of his turkey-red bath robe. The house rose at him, and he bowed three times, but refused to respond to the loud yells for a speech. Casey introduced him as the man who needed no introduction—the next heavyweight champion of the world, and Big Tom snorted in his corner.

Brodie tossed off his bath robe and skipped lightly about the ring, pivoting on his toes and shooting tentative left jabs into the air. Big Tom watched this display of agility with a curling lip.

"Pipe the big stiff showin' off!" he whispered to O'Day.

"He ain't showin' off," answered O'Day. "He's testin' the floor."

"He'll test it with his head when I git a smash at his jaw," said Big Tom.

Butch Dillon, the referee, motioned the men to the middle of the ring and delivered his instructions, with a special clause for O'Connor. Butch had not been let in on the secret.

"You wanna box nice now, Tom," said he warningly. "Remember, they's ladies present!"

"Sure!" grunted O'Connor, rolling his eyes toward the footlights. "Sure, Butch!"

Dillon then took the referee's privilege and made the final announcement, dwelling at length upon the friendliness of the bout and mentioning the Marquis of Queensberry in complimentary terms. Big Tom listened to this in his corner, gloves on his hips. Red Eddie whispered in his ear:

"Right off the reel now, big guy! Right off the reel! Beat him to the punch an' you've got him!"

As the gong clanged Big Tom walked slowly to the middle of the ring, his right hand carried carelessly at his side. Now, according to custom, all friendly bouts for points, and many bouts which are not friendly, begin with a handshake, but as Robert Emmet advanced he noted the position of O'Connor's right hand and read violence in his eyes.

"He thinks he can sneak one over, the big stiff!" thought Robert Emmet. "If that's his notion——"

Thus it happened that the friendly bout for points began with two terrific right-hand blows, delivered simultaneously. Robert Emmet's uppercut crashed against O'Connor's chin, but Robert Emmet did not duck his head soon enough to avoid the plaster of Paris entirely, and Big Tom's sturdy haymaker landed full on Brodie's ear. If it had found a spot only two inches lower the entertainment would have been jolted to an abrupt close; as it was, the first five seconds of this friendly bout found both principals on the floor—Brodie on his face near the ropes, and O'Connor on his haunches in the middle of the ring, slightly puzzled as to how he got there.

Butch Dillon did not know how to meet such an emergency or which man to favor with the count, and, in his excitement, he made a serious error. He rushed over to O'Connor and shook his fist at him.

"That ain't boxin' for points!" he yelled. "What you tryin' to do—kill somebody?"

Now, no man should argue with an Irishman named O'Connor who has been knocked down by a trick which he hoped to practice himself. Big Tom rose to his feet and cuffed Dillon soundly with his open glove, knocking him flat. A tremendous uproar came from the audience, and there was no note of commendation in it. Tom started for the ropes with a hazy idea of explaining his position, but on the way he encountered a wild-eyed human thunderbolt, which in sane moments passed for Robert Emmet Brodie. The tea-leaded left caught him fairly on the bridge of his nose, and Big Tom began to fight.

Some who were in the front of the house remember that women fainted and strong men raced up and down the aisles, whooping deliriously. A very few recall that Butch Dillon found his feet and tried to force his way between the infuriated gladiators, and Butch's memories of the evening ended abruptly at that point. None can tell who fathered the cruel stroke which knocked him headfirst through the ropes and out into the orchestra pit, where he put his right shoulder through the bull fiddle. Above the shrill screams of hysterical women and the shouts of excited men, Big Tom heard one voice—that of his second and adviser, Red Eddie O'Day:

"Tear into um, boy! Don't let um get set! On toppa him alla time, Tom! Thassa stuff!"

And in the midst of all this riot and turmoil and clamor Robert Emmet Brodie and Thomas Martin O'Connor devoted themselves each to the other with an increasing devotion. There had been a referee, there had been certain rules of combat, perhaps even ethics, but these they cast into the discard. There was still a gong, which clanged wildly under the trembling hand of Isaac Marx, but they paid not the slightest attention to it. They had forgotten the signal to cease firing.

It is a fact that when fighters lose their heads they forget the left hand and the science its use demands, employing it, if at all, as a flail. Brodie and O'Connor stood toe to toe in the middle of the ring and battered each other with wild swings. Once the plaster of paris connected solidly with the chin and Brodie dropped to the floor, but was up again before O'Connor could kick him in the face. Once Big Tom went reeling to the ropes, but when Robert Emmet rushed after him, he stepped squarely into a pile—driving right swing which had no particular aim, and for that reason caught Brodie in the pit of the stomach and made him very sick for a few seconds.

"Downstairs, Tom! The belly! The belly!" shrieked O'Day, but O'Connor was past advice, past everything but the red desire for slaughter, so, instead of following up an advantage, he plastered Robert Emmet heavily about the head until he ducked his jaws below his shoulders and so weathered the storm.

Big Tom's face suffered terribly, but he fought doggedly on with his left eye closed to a blue slit, and Brodie was unable to find a vulnerable spot, though he found all the others and left his autograph upon them.

Nobody knows how long that first round lasted; upon that subject the official timekeeper is dumb. To Robert Emmet it seemed an eternity; he was used to three minutes of fighting and one minute of rest. Tom O'Connor was hardened to barroom brawls with no call of "Time!" but he found this encounter quite long enough for his liking. Robert Emmet began to give ground; O'Connor crowded him to the ropes and Brodie clinched. O'Connor lowered his head and drove short rights and lefts crashing into unprotected territory below the breastbone. He literally hammered Brodie out of the clinch, and for a second the men stood facing each other, each with the right hand poised. It was the last shot in Robert Emmet's locker, and he knew it. As his eye caught the first movement of O'Connor's fist, he threw every remaining ounce of vitality into an attempt to beat him to the punch. So intent was he on sending his own blow home that he made not the slightest attempt to protect himself in the exchange.

Six seconds later Tom O'Connor awoke from a troubled dream and lifted his battered face from the canvas. As if from a great distance, he heard men yelling and women screaming. Blinking his one undamaged eye, he looked about for Brodie and discovered a human leg tangled with his arms. His first impression was that the leg belonged to him. Slowly he turned his head, and there, beside him on the canvas, a thousand fathoms deep in merciful oblivion, was Robert Emmet Brodie, the next heavyweight champion of the world, for the present unavoidably delayed.

Big Tom O'Connor hoisted himself to his feet and stood erect, swaying unsteadily. He looked at Brodie again, oddly enough without any desire to kick him. For once in his life Tom O'Connor had had all the fighting he wanted—perhaps more than he really needed. His face felt that way, at least. He helped several men to carry the unconscious Brodie to his corner, and then heaved himself through the ropes and disappeared.


While Red Eddie was ministering to his battler the door of the dressing room opened and Isaac Marx looked in.

"I'll make you a business proposition," said he, with commendable brevity. "Let me be your manager, and I'll get you more coin that you ever saw. You can fill the dates I had fixed up for Brodie."

"Let Brodie fill his own dates," mumbled Big Tom through his swollen lips.

"He can't," said Marx. "That last punch you took at him busted his jaw like an eggshell. Maybe he won't never be no good again."

Big Tom O'Connor stared at Marx for several seconds. Then he began to laugh, rocking himself back and forth in his chair.

"Ho, ho!" he chuckled. "I guess I done what I started out to do, at that! Ho, ho!"

"And what did you start out to do?" asked Marx.

"I wanted to fix this big bum so he'd need a benefit, and I guess I done it!"

"Correct as hell!" said Marx. "But how about this proposition I made you?"

"Forget it!" said O'Connor. "I got a steady job down to the gas house!"


 

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1919, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 99 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.