By: Max Brand
February 16, 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.

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It was old Mrs. Daniels who woke first at the sound of scratching and growling. She roused her husband and son, and all three went to the door, Buck in the lead with his six-gun in his hand. At sight of the wolf he started back and raised the gun, but Black Bart fawned about his feet.

“Don’t shoot — it’s a dog, an’ there’s his master!” cried Sam. “By the Lord, they’s a dead man tied on that there hoss!”

Dan lay on Satan, half fallen from the saddle, with his head hanging far down, only sustained by the strength of the rein. The stallion, wholly spent, stood with his legs braced, his head low, and his breath coming in great gasps. The family ran to the rescue. Sam cut the rein and Buck lowered the limp body in his arms.

“Buck, is he dead?” whispered Mrs. Daniels.

“I don’t feel no heart beat,” said Buck. “Help me fetch him into the house, Dad!”

“Look out for the hoss!” cried Sam.

Buck started back with his burden just in time, for Satan, surrendering to his exhaustion, pitched to the ground, and lay with sprawling legs like a spent dog rather than a horse.

“Let the hoss be,” said Buck. “Help me with the man. He’s hurt bad.”

Mrs. Daniels ran ahead and lighted a lamp. They laid the body carefully upon a bed. It made a ghastly sight, the bloodless face with the black hair fallen wildly across the forehead, the mouth loosely open, and the lips black with dust.

“Dad!” said Buck. “I think I’ve seen this feller. God knows if he’s livin’ or dead.”

He dropped to his knees and pressed his ear over Dan’s heart.

“I can’t feel no motion. Ma, get that hand mirror—”

She had it already and now held it close to the lips of the wounded man. When she drew it away their three heads drew close together.

“They’s a mist on it! He’s livin’!” cried Buck.

“It ain’t nothing,” said Sam. “The glass ain’t quite clear, that’s all.”

Mrs. Daniels removed the last doubt by running her finger across the surface of the glass. It left an unmistakable mark.

They wasted no moment then. They brought hot and cold water, washed out his wound, cleansed away the blood; and while Mrs. Daniels and her husband fixed the bandage, Buck pounded and rubbed the limp body to restore the circulation. In a few minutes his efforts were rewarded by a great sigh from Dan.

He shouted in triumph, and then: “By God, it’s Whistlin’ Dan Barry.”

“It is!” said Sam. “Buck, they’s been devils workin’ tonight. It sure took more’n one man to nail him this way.”

They fell to work frantically. There was a perceptible pulse, the breathing was faint but steady, and a touch of colour came in the face.

“His arm will be all right in a few days,” said Mrs. Daniels, “but he may fall into a fever. He’s turnin’ his head from side to side and talkin’. What’s he sayin’, Buck?”

“He’s sayin’: ‘Faster, Satan.'”

“That’s the hoss,” interpreted Sam.

“‘Hold us straight, Bart!’ That’s what he’s sayin’ now.”

“That’s the wolf.”

“‘An’ it’s all for Delilah!’ Who’s Delilah, Dad?”

“Maybe it’s some feller Dan knows.”

“Some feller?” repeated Mrs. Daniels with scorn. “It’s some worthless girl who got Whistlin’ Dan into this trouble.”

Dan’s eyes opened but there was no understanding in them.

“Haines, I hate you worse’n hell!”

“It’s Lee Haines who done this!” cried Sam.

“If it is, I’ll cut out his heart!”

“It can’t be Haines,” broke in Mrs. Daniels. “Old man Perkins, didn’t he tell us that Haines was the man that Whistlin’ Dan Barry had brought down into Elkhead? How could Haines do this shootin’ while he was in jail?”

“Ma,” said Sam, “you watch Whistlin’ Dan. Buck an’ me’ll take care of the hoss — that black stallion. He’s pretty near all gone, but he’s worth savin’. What I don’t see is how he found his way to us. It’s certain Dan didn’t guide him all the way.”

“How does the wind find its way?” said Buck. “It was the wolf that brought Dan here, but standin’ here talkin’ won’t tell us how. Let’s go out an’ fix up Satan.”

It was by no means an easy task. As they approached the horse he heaved himself up, snorting, and stood with legs braced, and pendant head. Even his eyes were glazed with exhaustion, but behind them it was easy to guess the dauntless anger which raged against these intruders. Yet he would have been helpless against them. It was Black Bart who interfered at this point. He stood before them, his hair bristling and his teeth bared.

Sam suggested: “Leave the door of the house open an’ let him hear Whistlin’ Dan’s voice.”

It was done. At once the delirious voice of Dan stole out to them faintly. The wolf turned his head to Satan with a plaintive whine, as if asking why the stallion remained there when that voice was audible. Then he raced for the open door and disappeared into the house.

“Hurry in, Buck!” called Sam. “Maybe the wolf’ll scare Ma!”

They ran inside and found Black Bart on the bed straddling the body of Whistling Dan, and growling at poor Mrs. Daniels, who crouched in a corner of the room. It required patient work before he was convinced that they actually meant no harm to his master.

“What’s the reason of it?” queried Sam helplessly. “The damn wolf let us take Dan off the hoss without makin’ any fuss.”

“Sure he did,” assented Buck, “but he ain’t sure of me yet, an’ every time he comes near me he sends the cold chills up my back.”

Having decided that he might safely trust them to touch Dan’s body, the great wolf went the round and sniffed them carefully, his hair bristling and the forbidding growl lingering in his throat. In the end he apparently decided that they might be tolerated, though he must keep an eye upon their actions. So he sat down beside the bed and followed with an anxious eye every movement of Mrs. Daniels. The men went back to the stallion. He still stood with legs braced far apart, and head hanging low. Another mile of that long race and he would have dropped dead beneath his rider.

Nevertheless at the coming of the strangers he reared up his head a little and tried to run away. Buck caught the dangling reins near the bit. Satan attempted to strike out with his forehoof. It was a movement as clumsy and slow as the blow of a child, and Buck easily avoided it. Realizing his helplessness Satan whinnied a heart-breaking appeal for help to his unfailing friend, Black Bart. The wail of the wolf answered dolefully from the house.

“Good Lord,” groaned Buck. “Now we’ll have that black devil on our hands again.”

“No, we won’t,” chuckled Sam, “the wolf won’t leave Dan. Come on along, old hoss.”

Nevertheless it required hard labour to urge and drag the stallion to the stable. At the end of that time they had the saddle off and a manger full of fodder before him. They went back to the house with the impression of having done a day’s work.

“Which it shows the fool nature of a hoss,” moralized Sam. “That stallion would be willin’ to lay right down and die for the man that’s jest rode him up to the front door of death, but he wishes everlastingly that he had the strength to kick the daylight out of you an’ me that’s been tryin’ to take care of him. You jest write this down inside your brain, Buck: a hoss is like a woman. They jest nacherally ain’t no reason in ’em!”

They found Dan in a heavy sleep, his breath coming irregularly. Mrs. Daniels stated that it was the fever which she had feared and she offered to sit up with the sick man through the rest of that night. Buck lifted her from the chair and took her place beside the bed.

“No one but me is goin’ to take care of Whistlin’ Dan,” he stated.

So the vigil began, with Buck watching Dan, and Black Bart alert, suspicious, ready at the first wrong move to leap at the throat of Buck.


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”.