The crowd standing round the Try-you-Strength
machine gazed awe-struck at the burly man who
stepped forward. "Just you hand over that toy
hammer, little fellow," the fat man thundered to
the owner of the machine.
The crowd backed
respectfully, except for Samson who had just
caught sight of the lovely Helen. She was
standing with her beautiful eyes cast down, just
behind Irongrip, like a captive rabbit which
does not dare to run away when it is set free.
Irongrip swung the forty-nine-pound hammer
through the air like a feather, and then, arm
muscles bulging, he brought the thing down on
the wooden head. The crash was deafening, the
lead weight shot right up the pole, two bells
rang out over the square, followed a second
later by the third bell, the top one. The
highest point had been reached; a rare occasion.
He tensed his arm muscles into thick steel cords
and displayed them to the cord. "Who's going to
match me now, eh ? Bunch of weaklings !"
The crowd backed further. Samson stayed where
he was. "Dear me," he said, shaking his head. "I
can do better than that."
Irongrip did not seem to have noticed him
until then. "Better ?" he thundered, turning
red, "you skinny weed, would you. I know you !
Aren't you the floor sweeper from the tea house
"Yes," said Samson, "that's right. What a
memory, what a memory ! I would never have
thought it with all those muscles. Generally a
head like yours is full of sawdust."
A suppressed snigger from the crowd, who had
shuffled forward again, sent the angry purple
into the bruiser's cheeks. "Braggart ! I'll fill
your head full of lead" he threatened. He drew
two pistols at once and the crowd pressed back
screaming. Except for Samson. He stayed where he
"Easy," said Samson calmly. "Everyone's going
to admire you for your nifty pistol work: two at
once, at a range of one meter. Dear me !"
Helen who had now seen Samson had turned
deathly pale. From behind Irongrip's broad back,
she looked at him, shaking her head desperately.
But Samson nodded back with a smile, so that
Irongrip dropped his pistols helplessly.
"That's good," said Samson. "Now just you
give me that hammer and we'll see what we shall
see." The crowd shuffled forward again and the
owner of the machine, still trembling with
fright, handed Samson the hammer. Forty-nine
pounds is quite a lot, and Samson staggered
under its weight. Irongrip, looking on, legs set
wide, began to roar scornfully.
"Ha, ha, what a weakling !" Suddenly Irongrip
was having fun. He regarded the stagger as
weakness but Samson was aiming carefully, very
carefully. Not much strength was needed. That
hammer simply had to fall not on the wooden
head, no, in another place. And so it did:
forty-nine pounds of iron landed straight on the
toes of the unsuspecting Irongrip.
There was no bell, let alone three of them;
there was a dull thud, followed by a roar and a
loud wail. Irongrip danced around on one leg
like an inflated stork, clutching his injured
foot in both hands. This time the crowd, instead
of backing, burst into peals of laughter. Except
for Samson. He was not laughing. He had to do
what he came to do. He dropped the hammer, shot
forward, caught Helen by the arm and drew her
away. They had to get away before Irongrip
recovered sufficiently to prevent them from
"Soak it in ice-water !" he called back to
Irongrip. "Put that foot in a bucket of ice-cold
water. It will reduce the swelling."