THE UNTAMED (36)
April 24, 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.
Into the dark he rode. Somewhere in the mountains was Silent, and now alone. In Dan’s mouth the old salt taste of his own blood was unforgotten.
It was a wild chase. He had only the faintest clues to guide him, yet he managed to keep close on the trail of the great outlaw. After several days he rode across a tall red-roan stallion, a mere wreck of a horse with lean sides and pendant head and glazed eye. It was a long moment before Dan recognized Silent’s peerless mount, Red Pete. The outlaw had changed his exhausted horse for a common pony. The end of the long trail must be near.
The whole range followed that chase with breathless interest. It was like the race of Hector and Achilles around the walls of Troy. And when they met there would be a duel of giants. Twice Whistling Dan was sighted. Once Jim Silent fought a running duel with a posse fresh from Elkhead. The man hunters were alert, but it was their secret hope that the two famous outlaws would destroy each other, but how the wild chase would end no one could know. At last Buck Daniels rode to tell Kate Cumberland strange news.
When he stumbled into the ranch house, Kate and her father rose, white-faced. There was an expression of waiting terror in their eyes.
“Buck!” cried Joe.
“Hush! Dad,” said Kate. “It hasn’t come yet! Buck, what has happened?”
“The end of the world has come for Dan,” he said. “That devil Silent—”
“Dan,” cried old Joe, and rushed around the table to Buck.
“Silent has dared Dan to meet him at three o’clock tomorrow afternoon in Tully’s saloon in Elkhead! He’s held up four men in the last twenty-four hours and told them that he’ll be at Tully’s tomorrow and will expect Dan there!”
“It isn’t possible!” cried Kate. “That means that Silent is giving himself up to the law!”
Buck laughed bitterly.
“The law will not put a hand on them if it thinks that they’ll fight it out together,” he said.
“There’ll be a crowd in the saloon, but not a hand will stir to arrest Silent till after the fight.”
“But Dan won’t go to Tully’s,” broke in old Joe. “If Silent is crazy enough to do such a thing, Dan won’t be.”
“He will,” said Kate. “I know!”
“You’ve got to stop him,” urged Buck. “You’ve got to get to Elkhead and turn Dan back.”
“Ay,” said Joe, “for even if he kills Silent, the crowd will tackle him after the fight — a hundred against one.”
She shook her head.
“You won’t go?”
“Not a step.”
“But Kate, don’t you understand—?”
“I couldn’t turn Dan back. There is his chance to meet Silent. Do you dream any one could turn him back?”
The two men were mute.
“You’re right,” said Buck at last. “I hoped for a minute that you could do it, but now I remember the way he was in that dark shanty up the Bald-eagle Creek. You can’t turn a wolf from a trail, and Whistling Dan has never forgotten the taste of his own blood.”
“Kate!” called her father suddenly. “What’s the matter, honey?”
With bowed head and a faltering step she was leaving the room. Buck caught old Joe by the arm and held him back as he would have followed.
“Let her be!” said Buck sharply. “Maybe she’ll want to see you at three o’clock tomorrow afternoon, but until then she’ll want to be alone. There’ll be ghosts enough with her all the time. You c’n lay to that.”
Joe Cumberland wiped his glistening forehead.
“There ain’t nothin’ we c’n do, Buck, but sit an’ wait.”
Buck drew a long breath.
“What devil gave Silent that idea?”
“Jim Silent don’t know what fear is!”
“Any one who’s seen the yaller burn in Dan’s eyes knows what fear is.”
Cumberland went on: “Every night Silent has been seein’ them eyes that glow yaller in the dark. They lie in wait for him in every shadow. Between dark and dawn he dies a hundred deaths. He can’t stand it no more. He’s goin’ to die. Somethin’ tells him that. But he wants to die where they’s humans around him, and when he dies he wants to pull Dan down with him.”
They sat staring at each other for a time.
“If he lives through that fight with Silent,” said Buck sadly, “the crowd will jump in on him. Their numbers’ll make ’em brave.”
“Then maybe he’d like a friend to fight by his side,” said Buck simply. “So long, Joe!”
The old man wrung his hand and then followed him out to the hitching-rack where Buck’s horse stood.
“Ain’t Dan got no friends among the crowd?” asked Cumberland. “Don’t they give him no thanks for catching the rest of Silent’s gang?”
“They give him lots of credit,” said Buck. “An’ Haines has said a lot in favour of Dan, explainin’ how the jail bustin’ took place. Lee is sure provin’ himself a white man. He’s gettin’ well of his wounds and it’s said the Governor will pardon him. You see, Haines went bad because the law done him dirt a long time ago, and the Governor is takin’ that into account.”
“But they’d still want to kill Dan?”
“Half of the boys wouldn’t,” said Buck. “The other half is all wrought up over the killings that’s been happenin’ on the range in the last month. Dan is accused of about an even half of ’em, an’ the friends of dead men don’t waste no time listenin’ to arguments. They say Dan’s an outlawed man an’ that they’re goin’ to treat him like one.”
“Damn them!” groaned Cumberland. “Don’t Morris’s confession make no difference?”
“Morris was lynched before he had a chance to swear to what he said in Dan’s favour. Kilduff an’ Jordan an’ Rhinehart might testify that Dan wasn’t never bought over by Silent, but they know they’re done for themselves, an’ they won’t try to help anybody else, particular the man that put ’em in the hands of the law. Kilduff has swore that Dan was bribed by Silent, that he went after Silent not for revenge, but to get some more money out of him, an’ that the fight in the shanty up at Bald-eagle Creek was because Silent refused to give Dan any more money.”
“Then there ain’t no hope,” muttered Cumberland. “But oh, lad, it breaks my heart to think of Kate! Dan c’n only die once, but every minute is a death to her!”
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.