THE UNTAMED (24)
February 3, 2023
HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Max Brand’s 1919 western novel The Untamed for HILOBROW’s readers. The original spaghetti western (complete with a Morricone-style whistling score), this yarn features a protagonist with uncanny violent abilities… leading one to wonder whether it’s a Sarah Canary-esque work of Radium Age proto-sf about a mutant or possibly an alien? (Note that in 1919, Brand also serialized the superman novel Children of Night.) We’ll let you decide.
The throng gave back from Dan, as if from the vicinity of a panther. Dan faced the circle of scowling faces, smiling gently upon them.
“Look here, Barry,” called a voice from the rear of the crowd, “why do you want to take Haines away? Throw in your cards with us. We need you.”
“If it’s fightin’ you want,” cried a joker, “maybe Lewis an’ Patterson will give us all enough of it at the jail.”
“I ain’t never huntin’ for trouble,” said Dan.
“Make your play quick,” said another. “We got no time to waste even on Dan Barry. Speak out, Dan. Here’s a lot of good fellers aimin’ to take out Haines an’ give him what’s due him — no more. Are you with us?”
“Is that final?”
“All right. Tie him up, boys. There ain’t no other way!”
“Look out!” shouted a score of voices, for a gun flashed in Dan’s hand.
He aimed at no human target. The bullet shattered the glass lamp into a thousand shivering and tinkling splinters. Thick darkness blotted the room. Instantly thereafter a blow, a groan, and the fall of a body; then a confused clamour.
“Give up that gun, damn you!”
“You got the wrong man!”
“I’m Bill Flynn!”
“Guard the door!”
“Lights, for God’s sake!”
A slender figure leaped up against the window and was dimly outlined by the starlight outside. There was a crash of falling glass, and as two or three guns exploded the figure leaped down outside the house.
“Who was that?”
“Get a light! Who’s got a match?”
Half the men rushed out of the room to pursue that fleeing figure. The other half remained to see what had happened. It seemed impossible that Whistling Dan had escaped from their midst. Half a dozen sulphur matches spurted little jets of blue flame and discovered four men lying prone on the floor, most of them with the wind trampled from their bodies, but otherwise unhurt. One of them was the sheriff.
He lay with his shoulders propped against the wall. His mouth was a mass of blood.
“Who got you, Rogers?”
“The jail, the jail!” groaned Rogers. “Barry has gone for the jail!”
Revolvers rattled outside.
“He’s gone for Haines,” screamed the deputy. “Go get him, boys!”
“How can he get Haines? He ain’t got the keys.”
“He has, you fools! When he shot the lights out he jumped for me and knocked me off the chair. Then he went through my pockets and got the keys. Get on your way! Quick!”
The lynchers, yelling with rage, were already stamping from the room.
With the jangling bunch of keys in one hand and his revolver in the other, Dan started full speed for the jail as soon as he leaped down from the window. By the time he had covered half the intervening distance the first pursuers burst out of Rogers’s house and opened fire after the shadowy fugitive. He whirled and fired three shots high in the air. No matter how impetuous, those warning shots would make the mob approach the jail with some caution.
On the door of the jail he beat furiously with the bunch of keys.
“What’s up? Who’s there?” cried a voice within.
“Message from Rogers. Hell’s started! He’s sent me with the keys!”
The door jerked open and a tall man, with a rifle slung across one arm, blocked the entrance.
“What’s the message?” he asked.
“This!” said Dan, and drove his fist squarely into the other’s face.
He fell without a cry and floundered on the floor, gasping. Dan picked him up and shoved him through the door, bolting it behind him. A narrow hall opened before him and ran the length of the small building. He glanced into the room on one side. It was the kitchen and eating-room in one. He rushed into the one on the other side. Two men were there. One was Haines, sitting with his hands manacled. The other was the second guard, who ran for Dan, whipping his rifle to his shoulder. As flame spurted from the mouth of the gun, Dan dived at the man’s knees and brought him to the floor with a crash. He rose quickly and leaned over the fallen man, who lay without moving, his arms spread wide. He had struck on his forehead when he dropped. He was stunned for the moment, but not seriously hurt. Dan ran to Haines, who stood with his hands high above his head. Far away was the shout of the coming crowd.
“Shoot and be damned!” said Haines sullenly.
For answer Dan jerked down the hands of the lone rider and commenced to try the keys on the handcuffs. There were four keys. The fourth turned the lock. Haines shouted as his hands fell free.
“After me!” cried Dan, and raced for the stable.
As they swung into their saddles outside the shed, the lynchers raced their horses around the jail.
“Straightaway!” called Dan. “Through the cottonwoods and down the lane. After me, Satan!”
The stallion leaped into a full gallop, heading straight for a tall group of cottonwoods beyond which was a lane fenced in with barbed wire. Half a dozen of the pursuers were in a position to cut them off, and now rushed for the cottonwoods, yelling to their comrades to join them. A score of lights flashed like giant fireflies as the lynchers opened fire.
“They’ve blocked the way!” groaned Haines.
Three men had brought their horses to a sliding stop in front of the cottonwoods and their revolvers cracked straight in the faces of Dan and Haines. There was no other way for escape. Dan raised his revolver and fired twice, aiming low. Two of the horses reared and pitched to the ground. The third rider had a rifle at his shoulder. He was holding his fire until he had drawn a careful bead. Now his gun spurted and Dan bowed far over his saddle as if he had been struck from behind.
Before the rifleman could fire again Black Bart leaped high in the air. His teeth closed on the shoulder of the lyncher and the man catapulted from his saddle to the ground. With his yell in their ears, Dan and Haines galloped through the cottonwoods, and swept down the lane.
SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable |
Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire” | Francis Stevens’s “Friend Island” | George C. Wallis’s “The Last Days of Earth” | Frank L. Pollock’s “Finis” | A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool | E. Nesbit’s “The Third Drug” | George Allan England’s “The Thing from — ‘Outside'” | Booth Tarkington’s “The Veiled Feminists of Atlantis” | H.G. Wells’s “The Land Ironclads” | J.D. Beresford’s The Hampdenshire Wonder | Valery Bryusov’s “The Republic of the Southern Cross” | Algernon Blackwood’s “A Victim of Higher Space” | A. Merritt’s “The People of the Pit” | Max Brand’s The Untamed | Julian Huxley’s “The Tissue-Culture King” | Clare Winger Harris’s “A Runaway World” | Francis Stevens’s “Thomas Dunbar” | George Gurdjieff’s “Beelzebub’s Tales” | Robert W. Chambers’s “The Harbor-Master” | Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s “The Hall Bedroom” | Clare Winger Harris’s “The Fifth Dimension” | Francis Stevens’s “Behind the Curtain” | more to come.