The Night HorsemanMax Brand
Produced by Suzanne Shell and PG Distributed Proofreaders
By Max Brand
The Untamed Trailin'The Night Horseman
THE NIGHT HORSEMAN
II.--WORDS AND BULLETS
III.--THE DOCTOR RIDES
VI.--THE MISSION STARTS
XIV.--MUSIC FOR OLD NICK
XV.--OLD GARY PETERS
XVI.--THE COMING OF NIGHT
XVII.--BUCK MAKES HIS GET-AWAY
XVIII.--DOCTOR BYRNE ANALYSES
XXI.--MAC STRANN DECIDES TO KEEP THE LAW
XXIII.--HOW MAC STRANN KEPT THE LAW
XXIV.--DOCTOR BYRNE LOOKS INTO THE PAST
XXX.--THE VOICE OF BLACK BART
XXXIII.--DOCTOR BYRNE SHOWS THE TRUTH
XXXIV.--THE ACID TEST
XXXVI.--THE DISCOVERY OF LIFE
XLI.--THE FALLING OF NIGHT
XLII.--THE JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
THE NIGHT HORSEMAN
At the age of six Randall Byrne could name and bound every state in theUnion and give the date of its admission; at nine he was conversant withHomeric Greek and Caesar; at twelve he read Aristophanes with perfectunderstanding of the allusions of the day and divided his leisurebetween Ovid and Horace; at fifteen, wearied by the simplicity of OldEnglish and Thirteenth Century Italian, he dipped into the history ofPhilosophy and passed from that, naturally, into calculus and the highermathematics; at eighteen he took an A.B. from Harvard and while idlingaway a pleasant summer with Hebrew and Sanscrit he delved lightly intobiology and its kindred sciences, having reached the conclusion thatTruth is greater than Goodness or Beauty, because it comprises both, andthe whole is greater than any of its parts; at twenty-one he pocketedhis Ph.D. and was touched with the fever of his first practicalenthusiasm--surgery. At twenty-four he was an M.D. and a distinguisheddiagnostician, though he preferred work in his laboratory in hisendeavor to resolve the elements into simpler forms; also he publishedat this time a work on anthropology whose circulation was limited to twohundred copies, and he received in return two hundred letters ofcongratulation from great men who had tried to read his book; attwenty-seven he collapsed one fine spring day on the floor of hislaboratory. That afternoon he was carried into the presence of a greatphysician who was also a very vulgar man. The great physician felt hispulse and looked into his dim eyes.
"You have a hundred and twenty horsepower brain and a runabout body,"said the great physician.
"I have come," answered Randall Byrne faintly, "for the solution of aproblem, not for the statement thereof."
"I'm not through," said the great physician. "Among other things you area damned fool."
Randall Byrne here rubbed his eyes.
"What steps do you suggest that I consider?" he queried.
The great physician spat noisily.
"Marry a farmer's daughter," he said brutally.
"But," said Randall Byrne vaguely.
"I am a busy man and you've wasted ten minutes of my time," said thegreat physician, turning back to his plate glass window. "My secretarywill send you a bill for one thousand dollars. Good-day."
And therefore, ten days later, Randall Byrne sat in his room in thehotel at Elkhead.
He had just written (to his friend Swinnerton Loughburne, M.A., Ph.D.,L.L.D.): "Incontrovertibly the introduction of the personal equationleads to lamentable inversions, and the perceptive faculties whencontemplating phenomena through the lens of ego too often conceive anaccidental connotation or manifest distortion to be actuality, for thephysical (or personal) too often beclouds that power of inner visionwhich so unerringly penetrates to the inherent truths of incorporeityand the extramundane. Yet this problem, to your eyes, I fear, notessentially novel or peculiarly involute, holds for my contemplativefaculties an extraordinary fascination, to wit: wherein does the mind,in itself a muscle, escape from the laws of the physical, and whereinand wherefore do the laws of the physical exercise so inexorable ajurisdiction over the processes of the mind, so that a disorder of thevisual nerve actually distorts the asomatous and veils thepneumatoscopic?
"Your pardon, dear Loughburne, for these lapses from the general to theparticular, but in a lighter moment of idleness, I pray you give somecareless thought to a problem now painfully my own, though rootedinevitably so deeply in the dirt of the commonplace.
"But you have asked me in letter of recent date for the particularphysical aspects of my present environment, and though (as you so wellknow) it is my conviction that the physical fact is not and only theimmaterial is, yet I shall gladly look about me--a thing I have not yetseen occasion to do--and describe to you the details of my presentcondition."
Accordingly, at this point Randall Byrne removed from his nose his thickglasses and holding them poised he stared through the window at the viewwithout. He had quite changed his appearance by removing the spectacles,for the owlish touch was gone and he seemed at a stroke ten yearsyounger. It was such a face as one is glad to examine in detail, lean,pale, the transparent skin stretched tightly over cheekbones, nose, andchin. That chin was built on good fighting lines, though somewhatover-delicate in substance and the mouth quite colourless, but oddlyenough the upper lip had that habitual appearance of stiff compressionwhich is characteristic of highly strung temperaments; it is anoticeable feature of nearly every great actor, for instance. The nosewas straight and very thin and in a strong sidelight a tracery of thered blood showed through at the nostrils. The eyes were deeply buriedand the lower lids bruised with purple--weak eyes that blinked at achange of light or a sudden thought--distant eyes which missed thedesign of wall paper and saw the trees growing on the mountains. Theforehead was Byrne's most noticeable feature, pyramidal, swellinglargely towards the top and divided in the centre into two distinctlobes by a single marked furrow which gave his expression a hint of thewistful. Looking at that forehead one was strangely conscious of thebrain beneath. There seemed no bony structure; the mind, undefended,was growing and pushing the confining walls further out.
And the fragility which the head suggested the body confirmed, for hewas not framed to labor. The burden of the noble head had bowed theslender throat and crooked the shoulders, and when he moved his arm itseemed the arm of a skeleton too loosely clad. There was a differingconnotation in the hands, to be sure. They were thin--bones and sinewschiefly, with the violet of the veins showing along the backs; but theywere active hands without tremor--hands ideal for the accurate scalpel,where a fractional error means death to the helpless.
After a moment of staring through the window the scholar wrote again:"The major portion of Elkhead lies within plain sight of my window. Isee a general merchandise store, twenty-seven buildings of acomparatively major and eleven of a minor significance, and fivesaloons. The streets--"
The streets, however, were no
t described at that sitting, for at thisjuncture a heavy hand knocked and the door of Randall Byrne's room wasflung open by Hank Dwight, proprietor of Elkhead's saloon--a versatileman, expert behind the bar or in a blacksmith shop.
"Doc," said Hank Dwight, "you're wanted." Randall Byrne placed hisspectacles more firmly on his nose to consider his host.
"What--" he began, but Hank Dwight had already turned on his heel.
"Her name is Kate Cumberland. A little speed, doc. She's in a hurry."
"If no other physician is available," protested Byrne, following slowlydown the stairs, "I suppose I must see her."
"If they was another within ten miles, d'you s'pose I'd call on you?"asked Hank Dwight.
So saying, he led the way out onto the veranda, where the doctor wasaware of a girl in a short riding skirt who stood with one gloved handon her hip while the other slapped a quirt idly against her ridingboots.