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The Bandit of Hell's Bend

Summarized by
David Bruce Bozarth

The Bandit of Hell's Bend



Elias Henders

Hal Colby

Gum Smith

Diana Henders


Jim Weller

Mary Donovan

Mack Harber

Wildcat Bob

Black Coyote

Wainwright (father)

Jefferson Wainright (son)

John Manill

Texas Pete

Maurice B. Corson

Bill Gatlin

Lillian Manill

Gimlet (horse)

Wong (cook)






The Bandit of Hell's Bend is one of four westerns written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. First published in Argosy All-Story Weekly, September-October 1924, Burroughs had two working titles for it "The Black Coyote" and "Diana of the Bar Y." The first edition was published by A. C. McClurg & Co., June 1925 with Gosset & Dunlap publishing the first reprint in 1926. BANDIT is a combination western and mystery and is written in a breezy, relaxed style that makes use of a poetry framing device to hold the story together. Of special note: The Bandit of Hell's Bend is one of a very few novels that ERB wrote in which the heroine is physically beaten by the bad guy.


Bull, foreman of Elias Henders' ranch, falls off the wagon when Hal Colby gets him drunk. Feeling his oats, Bull goes to town and makes a fool of himself. Henders fires Bull. Afterwards, Bull is nearly murdered by Gum Smith, the evil sheriff.


Bull stays on as a ranch hand. Colby is the new foreman. Colby, riding alone with Diana Henders, the young daughter, professes his love. Bull, on the worst assignments, is 20 miles away from ranch. He hears gunfire and rescues Gregorio the Mexican bandit from attacking Apaches. Later, Jim Weller riding range sees Gregorio leave Cottonwood Canyon, followed by Bull. Meanwhile, the stage is robbed.


Mary Donovan takes care of Mack, who was shot during the robbery. Wildcat Bob has a shooting disagreement in the saloon. Gum Smith puts together a posse and heads out half-heartedly, he has yet to get close to the Black Coyote. Diana visits Mary Donovan, who remarks that both Bull and Colby are in love with her. Riding back to the ranch, Diana and Colby talk about the Black Coyote. Colby intimates he knows the bandit's identity but won't say until he's sure. They meet Bull on the way back. Bull is wounded and his horse hard ridden. Bull rides ahead. Diana and Colby note Bull's black silk handkerchief the Black Coyote's masked signature. Meanwhile, conversation at Donovan's boarding house has eyewitness accounts putting Bull and Gregorio together shortly before the stage holdup. At the Bar Y ranch then hands are silently divided, some stick with Bull the old foreman, the others curry favor with Colby.


Diana Henders is troubled Bull's demotion made her unhappy, nor does she believe gossip suggesting Bull is the Black Coyote. Sunday morning, days later, she choses Bull to ride with her over Colby's objections. They ride into town, speaking of Mack's actions during the robbery. Bull thought Mack was stupid to fight. Diana is disturbed by the comments. Mack is better, but none of the guests at Donovan's house will speak to Bull. Diana realizes Bull is unaware of the suspicions regarding him. Bull abruptly states he loves he, but does not expect her love in return. At the ranch they see the Wainright buckboard. Bull takes the horses. Elias introduces Diana to Wainright and his son Jefferson. Wainwright has offered to buy Henders out, Elias declines to sell. Diana invites the Wainrights to lunch, intrigued by the son who is from the east, college-educated and well-polished.


A week passes. Wainright makes another offer by letter. Elias reveals the ranch's real value, but do discuss the possibility of going east to see Elias' partner John Manill after the round up. Over the next few days hands gather for the roundup. Each rider is given eight horses, many half-broke, to use. Colby sneaks four bad ones into Jefferson Wainright's string. Diana asks Bull to top the horse the jealous Colby has saddled for Wainright. Diana is disappointed Wainright let Bull break the horse. The next morning Elias has a discussion with Colby and selects new horses for Jefferson. During roundup Jefferson and Hal are with Diana every moment possible. Bull avoids the campfires working every dirty job Colby assigns him. Wainright gets Diana alone and proposes marriage. She does not say yes or no.


Next morning, Colby, Wainright, Elias and Diana ride together. Later, driving cattle back, Diana and Elias are well-separated from Colby and Wainright when Indians attack. Wainright runs for the camp, Colby charges the Indians, Diana will not leave her father, whose horse was shot from under him. Colby reappears from behind a ridge, riding hard. He kills his horse next to Elias', then kills Diana's, making a fortification of flesh. The Indians attack. All three defenders are deadly shots. Elias is struck by a bullet. As the remaining Indians prepare to attack, Bull and Texas Pete arrive. The Indians withdraw. Colby comforts Diana over her father's body. Bull, his heart breaking not only for the old man but for any hopes he had with Diana. He sends the girl back with Colby on one horse while he and Texas Pete bring Elias Henders back on the other.


Some ten days after Henders' funeral the Wainrights visit Diana. Jefferson attempts to explain his cowardice but Diana is unmoved, she will never marry him. Compared to Colby and Texas Pete and Bull most of all Jefferson is a poor excuse for a man. Bull was the most solicitous, but after the funeral Colby sent Bull back to the roundup. The elder Wainright enters and tells Diana that a deal had been struck with her father for the ranch. Diana states she will not sell. Angered, Wainright leaves, saying he will get the property. Bull, just returned, runs the Wainrights off. He then tells Diana he is quitting before Colby lets him go. Stunned, a lump in her throat, Diana begs him to stay. Meanwhile, Colby meets the Wainrights on the trail. They accuse Bull of rude behavior and being drunk and making love to Diana Henders. Colby gallops to the ranch. Seeing Bull, he fires him. Bull nods and tells Colby to get his pay and he'll go. Colby asks Diana for a check then learns she made Bull promise to stay. Colby backs off and later tells Bull he's still employed.


Diana receives a telegram from Manill's attorney Maurice B. Corson stating that her Uncle John is dead. Corson and Manill's daughter are coming to the ranch. Grief stricken to lose her father and uncle so recently the girl takes a ride. Colby insists on accompanying her. She relates the news and her feelings. Colby says she is not alone, and proposes marriage. Diana considers the idea. A week later, at Mary Donovan's, Mack Harber is still recovering. The stage arrives late, driver Bill Gatlin reports another roberry by the Black Coyote. Mack suggests a hanging, saying Bull is the bandit. Wildcat Bob is not convinced. At the Bar Y it is noticed that Bull is absent when news of the holdup arrives. Later, when Bull returns, Colby all but accuses him of robbing the bullion from the Henders' mine which is transported by the stage. Later Colby speaks to Diana and tells her his suspicions regarding Bull and suggests a way to find out. Diana does not believe it. Bull plays poker in the bunkhouse and backs a hand with gold dust which interests Colby considerably.


Diana makes Bull a mine guard (the challenge/test suggested by Colby). Weeks pass without any robberies. Corson and Lillian Manill arrive. Lillian and Colby become instant friends. Diana instantly resents Corson's proprietary manner. Diana listens to the visitors chat: Corson is cowardly as regards the Indian presence and Lillian seems too interested in men Hal and Bull. Corson speaks of Wainright's offer and urges Diana to accept, claiming a failure in the cattle market and the failing gold mine. Elsewhere, at Mary Donovan's, a meal attended by Bull, Wildcat Bob, Mack Harber, Jim Weller, the Wainrights, and Gum Smith does not go well. After Bull leaves Mack repeats his suspicions regarding Bull. Wainright reveals he's buying the Henders' ranch through Corson, regardless of Diana's desires.


Bull reads the newspaper at the saloon. A drunk gets fresh but a friend saves him before Bull responds. Leaving, Bull hears voices discussing Wildcat Bob between the saloon and Gum's Place. A moment later Bull is forced to kill a man about to ambush the old man. Dying, the man calls Bull the Black Coyote. Gum Smith attempts to arrest Bull for murder, but backs down. Bull and Wildcat Bob return to Mary Donovan's. Bull goes to bed. Wildcat Bob courts Mary Donovan, in silence.


Early the next morning Lillian Manill introduces herself to Texas Pete, who has a little verbal fun with the girl unfamiliar with western ways. They separate at the breakfast bell. Diana greets her guests at the table. Corson indicates a sleepless night. Diana tells him the wailing woman he heard was only a coyote. Lillian and Corson want to go riding. Corson, imperiously assuming instant obedience from the men, is ignored. Colby, irritated, speaks with Diana, who cautions restraint. She tells Corson that the men are accustomed to taking orders from her and in the future to make his needs known to her and she'll pass them on to the men. Lillian is saddled a gentle horse, but Corson is given Gimlet, without a demur from Diana. Corson has several terrifying moments as the horse wheels, races, then throws him.


Two weeks later Bull is relieved as the mine guard and returns to the Bar Y. During the time he was on guard duty there were no robberies and Gregorio, the Black Coyote's suspected partner, had not been seen. Bull learns Lillian is pursuing Colby. Colby, meanwhile, can't decide between Diana and Lillian. Bull goes to the office to report, but finds Diana instead of Colby. She reveals the pressure on her to sell, or their recent demand she buy Lillian out. Diana does not have the cash and they will not accept her note. Bull urges her to delay, that the cattle market is good and the second vein of gold is very rich. He states he has seen the mine superintendent thick with the Wainrights. Colby enters, chewing Bull out for not reporting to him. Bull replies he reported to the boss. Diana intervenes. Colby sends Bull to the West Ranch. Later, Corson asks Colby if Diana changed her mind. Colby reports he overheard Bull talk her out of it. Corson plots with Colby. Meanwhile, Texas Pete is puzzled why Bull stays where he's overworked and gossiped about and it appears Diana will marry Colby. Elsewhere, Lillian and Colby talk, and speak of love. At dinner Corson plays his trump card saying Manill's will was clear, everything now belongs to Lillian since Elias' will left all to John Manill. Diana, feeling railroaded, leaves. Corson and Lillian speak, revealing their true colors. At the bunkhouse Colby changes Bull's assignment to ride up Belter and check the water.


After leaving Corson and Lillian, Diana stops the loyal Chinese cook, Wong, from poisoning them. Diana tells Colby she is going to Kansas City to see a lawyer. Diana orders a horse then goes to pack. Upon her return she finds no horse saddled and all the hands gone, apparently to a dance a Johnson's ranch. She has Willie, the stable boy, saddle a horse, still perplexed by Colby's forgetfulness. Willie rides with her to town where they find a lynch mob forming. Mack Harber was killed in an afternoon holdup. Diana, worried, races to the West Ranch to warn Bull. He is not there. Diana sees the mob coming in the darkness and rides northeast. She listens to the ground, hearing a long horse at some distance. Meanwhile, Colby and the posse lie in wait at the cabin. Elsewhere, Wildcat Bob arrives at the Bar Y and asks the cook Bull's whereabouts. Wildcat Bob kills his horse riding to warn Bull, then walks to Mary Donovan's, who thanks him for trying. In the night Diana finds Bull, who is touched by her brave concern. She urges him to leave. He won't, but does ride with her to the edge of Hendersville.


Bull is elated, Diana's ride has revealed her heart to him. Mary Donovan brings Diana inside; Corson, Lillian, and the Wainrights are there. Jefferson Wainright approaches Diana with another offer of marriage and a promise she could remain on the ranch, if only she'd sell to his father. She rebuffs him coldly. Wainright threatens and insults Diana. Wildcat Bob, overhearing this, goes for his gun. Jefferson cowers behind Diana's skirt. The others enter. Diana begs Bob to put his gun away and dismisses the others. Later in the day Diana leaves on the stage. Corson and Lillian return to the ranch. Colby is confronted by Bull's friends, Texas Pete, Shorty, and Idaho. They give their time, but will stay until Diana returns to pay them. Several nights later bull hides outside the ranch office and listens to Corson talk with the Wainrights. He learns new papers are coming from New York papers Corson did not wish found. Later that night Bull sees Colby outside Lillian Manill's room. The girl comes out, actively kisses Colby, then takes him inside.

XV. "NOW, GO!"

The following Wednesday Diana returns by stage with Bill Gatlin driving. The Kansas City lawyer was not hopeful. Bull, wearing a black silk handkerchief over his face, waits with Gregorio. They hold up the stage, asking for the mail bag. Minutes later they are allowed to leave. Diana has recognized Bull and she is very distressed, and denies it is Bull when Gatlin asks. Later, in town, the cut open mail bag is found in the coach, and the Bar Y man Corson sent to get the mail returns empty handed. Diana seeks comfort from Mary Donovan then, drying her eyes, suggests Mary and Wildcat Bob should wed. Diana rides back to the ranch alone, meeting Colby on the trail. He suggests she not go to the ranch, the Wainrights are there. During the conversation Diana says she will never marry Hal, which makes Colby want her all the more. Near the ranch they encounter Texas Pete. Diana asks that he, Shorty and Idaho come to the house. In her office Diana confronts Corson, Lillian and the Wainrights. She is wearing a .45 on her hip as she orders them to leave the ranch.


Corson and the others argue. Corson threatens to have Diana jailed just as Texas Pete, Shorty, and Idaho enter. Shorty is ordered to escort the Wainrights off the ranch in five minutes. Corson and Lillian are given an hour to get their things together and leave. Colby sees Shorty send the Wainrights packing and learns it was at Diana's orders. Colby locates Diana and his angry rebuke falls on deaf ears. She fires him and makes Texas Pete temporary foreman. Willie drives Corson and Lillian to town. Later the plotters gather at Gum Smith's, urging the sheriff to back their claim. Gum refuses. Corson states he's set a trap for the Black Coyote a large gold shipment and suggests Smith put a posse together and settle things once and for all. Hal squashes the plan, saying he'll take care of things personally. Corson also offers $1,000 each for Texas Pete, Shorty, and Idaho dead. Meanwhile, Diana falls asleep in a chair then awakes at the song of a meadowlark, repeated twice. She nervously steps into the night, expecting Bull, but finds Gregorio instead. The Mexican delivers an envelope from Bull. It is addressed to Corson. After struggling with her conscience she reads the contents; a cover letter, John Manill's will, and an attachment that reveals Lillian is a step-daughter, not blood kin. Everything was to be left to Diana. Despite knowing Bull is the Black Coyote, she knows this was done for her. The girl cries herself to sleep, determined not to love him.


The next morning Diana prepares a document and asks Texas Pete to take it to Adela; Pete returns the next day. Gum Smith delivers an eviction notice. Diana sends a note back to Corson via Smith, who curses upon receipt. That afternoon Diana rides with Idaho. The Bar Y is nearly deserted. Smith and a dozen men, with the Wainrights, Corson and Lillian, enter the ranch and ransack Diana's office. Corson finds and pockets some papers. This is witnessed by Wong from a hidden area. Texas Pete arrives an hour later, noticing strangers who tell him Diana wants to see him, Shorty and Idaho. Texas Pete and Shorty enter the office, and are waylaid by six men with guns who disarm them. Corson says Diana has sold the ranch, they are fired. If they ever return they will be shot. The men are escorted to Hendersville. Meanwhile, the stage from Adela carries a lawyer imported by Corson. The stage picks up the gold shipment from the Henders' mine. The Black Coyote and Gregorio hold up the stage. Gregorio puts a gun in the bandit's back and unmasks Hal Colby. "Gregorio" is Bull. The stage continues, Bull takes Colby in. Gregorio meets and exchanges clothes and horses with Bull. Gregorio's revenge on Colby for ditching him is complete. Bull turns Colby over to Thompson. Texas Pete and Shorty, just arrived, ask about Diana and Idaho. They report to Bull the events at the ranch. The three race to the ranch, finding Idaho gunshot on the way. Diana was taken by a dozen masked men. Idaho rides with them, though weak from blood loss. The trail splits; Bull recognizes a hoofprint belonging to Diana's horse. They grimly ride south. Near midnight they leave Idaho behind, too weak to continue.


Thompson guards Colby in the Chicago Saloon. Gum Smith returns from the Bar Y and insists Colby be turned over to him. Smith comes back later with a half-dozen drunks just deputized, only to face Wildcat Bob before the locked door. Gum splits his forces, three breaking through the window where Thompson sits with Colby. At the sound of gunfire Wildcat Bob turns to the door and is shot in the back by Gum Smith. Breaking the door down, Colby is gone and Thompson lies dead. Meanwhile, Diana is surrounded by masked kidnapers riding hard. At midnight they stop at a cabin for food and sleep. At three in the morning Hal Colby enters. Diana resists, but Colby ties her to the saddle and they leave knowing that three men are trailing them. Bull and his friends find the cabin and resume the trail. Ahead, Colby has Diana change horses and sends the others back to Hendersville. Once out of earshot, Colby reveals Diana's fate she is his and Lillian is his money. In the distance they hear gunfire. Bull, Texas Pete, and Shorty chase the six men, killing all but one, who tells Bull that Colby has Diana and is riding for the Mexican border. Bull heads south.


At ten in the morning Bull finds the trail. The trio rides, noting rainfall to the south. Colby and Diana cross the flat, rapidly filling with water. A mile later they find a deserted adobe house. Diana remains tied up as Colby sleeps. Bull pulls up at the raging flood. He attempts to cross using a hand line. Meanwhile, Colby wakes and presses his attentions on Diana. When she resists, he beats her with a quirt. Bull, nearly drowned, makes the opposite shore but knows he can't get the horse across. He continues on foot in the storm, eventually coming to an adobe house. He hears a woman's scream. Bull kills Colby. Diana avows her love, ready to give everything up and not caring that he is the Black Coyote. She is overjoyed to learn Bull is not the bandit, nor surprised to learn the robber was Colby. The rain stops. Mounting up, they ride for a bridge down stream; Texas Pete and Shorty follow on the opposite shore. When they are together they pick up Idaho and ride for the ranch. Two days later they arrive at the Bar Y. Willie reports Corson and the others are in town to close the deal. Bull and his companions ride, dismounting at Donovan's house. Bull exposes Corson and Lillian as swindlers of Wainright's payment and Gum Smith as being in cahoots with Colby. Bull knows where the stolen gold is buried and then runs the lot out of town. Diana announces she and Bull will run the ranch and Mary Donovan is happy for the girl, having herself married the recovering Wildcat Bob two days earlier.