THE UNTAMED (32)
March 26, 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.
THOSE WHO SEE IN THE DARK
It was still early morning when Kate swung from her horse before the house of Buck Daniels. Instinct seemed to lead her to the sick-room, and when she reached it she paid not the slightest attention to the old man and his wife, who sat nodding beside the bed. They started up when they heard the challenging growl of Black Bart, which relapsed into an eager whine of welcome as he recognized Kate.
She saw nothing but the drawn white face of Dan and his blue pencilled eyelids. She ran to him. Old Sam, hardly awake, reached out to stop her. His wife held him back.
“It’s Delilah!” she whispered. “I seen her face!”
Kate was murmuring soft, formless sounds which made the old man and his wife look to each other with awe. They retreated towards the door as if they had been found intruding where they had no right.
They saw the fever-bright eyes of Dan open. They heard him murmur petulantly, his glance wandering. Her hand passed across his forehead, and then her touch lingered on the bandage which surrounded his left shoulder. She cried out at that, and Dan’s glance checked in its wandering and fixed upon the face which leaned above him. They saw his eyes brighten, widen, and a frown gradually contract his forehead. Then his hand went up slowly and found hers.
He whispered something.
“What did he say?” murmured Sam.
“I dunno,” she answered. “I think it was ‘Delilah!’ See her shrink!”
“Shut up!” cautioned Sam. “Ma, he’s comin’ to his senses!”
There was no doubt of it now, for a meaning had come into his eyes.
“Shall I take her away?” queried Sam in a hasty whisper. “He may do the girl harm. Look at the yaller in his eyes!”
“No,” said his wife softly, “it’s time for us to leave ’em alone.”
“But look at him now!” he muttered. “He’s makin’ a sound back in his throat like the growl of a wolf! I’m afeard for the gal, ma!”
“Sam, you’re an old fool!”
He followed her reluctantly from the room.
“Now,” said his wife, “we c’n leave the door a little open—jest a crack—an’ you c’n look through and tell when she’s in any reel danger.”
“Dan ain’t sayin’ a word,” he said. “He’s jest glarin’ at her.”
“An’ what’s she doin’?” asked Mrs. Daniels.
“She’s got her arm around his shoulders. I never knew they could be such a pile of music in a gal’s voice, ma!”
“Sam, you was always a fool!”
“He’s pushin’ her away to the length of his arm.”
“An’ she? An’ she?” whispered Mrs. Daniels.
“She’s talkin’ quick. The big wolf is standin’ close to them an’ turnin’ his head from one face to the other like he was wonderin’ which was right in the argyment.”
“The ways of lovers is as queer as the ways of the Lord, Sam!”
“Dan has caught an arm up before his face, an’ he’s sayin’ one word over an’ over. She’s dropped on her knees beside the bed. She’s talkin’. Why does she talk so low, ma?”
“She don’t dare speak loud for fear her silly heart would bust. Oh, I know, I know! What fools all men be! What fools! She’s askin’ him to forgive her.”
“An’ he’s tryin’ all his might not to,” whispered Mrs. Daniels in an awe-stricken voice.
“Black Bart has put his head on the lap of the gal. You c’n hear him whine! Dan looks at the wolf an’ then at the girl. He seems sort of dumbfoundered. She’s got her one hand on the head of Bart. She’s got the other hand to her face, and she’s weepin’ into that hand. Martha, she’s give up tryin’ to persuade him.”
There was a moment of silence.
“He’s reachin’ out his hand for Black Bart. His fingers is on those of the girl. They’s both starin’.”
“Ay, ay!” she said. “An’ what now?”
But Sam closed the door and set his back to it, facing his wife.
“I reckon the rest of it’s jest like the endin’ of a book, ma,” he said.
“Men is all fools!” whispered Mrs. Daniels, but there were tears in her eyes.
Sam went out to put up Kate’s horse in the stable. Mrs. Daniels sat in the dining-room, her hands clasped in her lap while she watched the grey dawn come up the east. When Sam entered and spoke to her, she returned no answer. He shook his head as if her mood completely baffled him, and then, worn out by the long watching, he went to bed.
For a long time Mrs. Daniels sat without moving, with the same strange smile transfiguring her. Then she heard a soft step pause at the entrance to the room, and turning saw Kate. There was something in their faces which made them strangely alike. A marvellous grace and dignity came to Mrs. Daniels as she rose.
“My dear!” she said.
“I’m so happy!” whispered Kate.
“Yes, dear! And Dan?”
“He’s sleeping like a child! Will you look at him? I think the fever’s gone!”
They went hand in hand—like two girls, and they leaned above the bed where Whistling Dan lay smiling as he slept. On the floor Black Bart growled faintly, opened one eye on them, and then relapsed into slumber. There was no longer anything to guard against in that house.
* * * * *
It was several days later that Hal Purvis, returning from his scouting expedition, met no less a person that Sheriff Gus Morris at the mouth of the canyon leading to the old Salton place.
“Lucky I met you, Hal,” said the genial sheriff. “I’ve saved you from a wild-goose chase.”
“Silent has jest moved.”
“He’s taken the trail up the canyon an’ cut across over the hills to that old shanty on Bald-eagle Creek. It stands—”
“I know where it is,” said Purvis. “Why’d he move?”
“Things was gettin’ too hot. I rode over to tell him that the boys was talkin’ of huntin’ up the canyon to see if they could get any clue of him. They knowed from Joe Cumberland that the gang was once here.”
“Cumberland went to you when he got out of the valley?” queried Purvis with a grin.
“And then where did Cumberland go?”
“I s’pose he went home an’ joined his gal.”
“He didn’t,” said Purvis drily.
“Then where is he? An’ who the hell cares where he is?”
“They’re both at Buck Daniels’s house.”
“Look here, Purvis, ain’t Buck one of your own men? Why, I seen him up at the camp jest a while ago!”
“Maybe you did, but the next time you call around he’s apt to be missin’.”
“He’s double crossed us. I not only seen the girl an’ her father at Buck’s house, but I also seen a big dog hangin’ around the house. Gus, it was Black Bart, an’ where that wolf is you c’n lay to it that Whistlin’ Dan ain’t far away!”
The sheriff stared at him in dumb amazement, his mouth open.
“They’s a price of ten thousand on the head of Whistlin’ Dan,” suggested Purvis.
The sheriff still seemed too astonished to understand.
“I s’pose,” said Purvis, “that you wouldn’t care special for an easy lump sum of ten thousand, what?”
“In Buck Daniels’s house!” burst out the sheriff.
“Yep,” nodded Purvis, “that’s where the money is if you c’n get enough men together to gather in Whistlin’ Dan Barry.”
“D’you really think I’d get some boys together to round up Whistlin’ Dan? Why, Hal, you know there ain’t no real reason for that price on his head!”
“D’you always wait for ‘real reasons’ before you set your fat hands on a wad of money?”
The sheriff moistened his lips.
“Ten thousand dollars!”
“Ten thousand dollars!” echoed Purvis.
“By God, I’ll do it! If I got him, the boys would forget all about Silent. They’re afraid of Jim, but jest the thought of Barry paralyzes them! I’ll start roundin’ up the boys I need today. Tonight we’ll do our plannin’. Tomorrer mornin’ bright an’ early we’ll hit the trail.”
“Why not go after him tonight?”
“Because he’d have an edge on us. I got a hunch that devil c’n see in the dark.”
He grinned apologetically for this strange idea, but Purvis nodded with perfect sympathy, and then turned his horse up the canyon. The sheriff rode home whistling. On ten thousand dollars more he would be able to retire from this strenuous life.
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”.