Introduction to Tyrant of Red Gulch
As the third silent film reconstruction project in the Tom Tyler series, “Tyrant of Red Gulch” (1928) seems timely enough given the present situation in eastern Europe. Originally titled “The Valley of Superstition”, the story was written by Oliver Drake. Unlike many silent film westerns of the late 1920’s, this one bears a Russian element, where men from the fatherland are pitted against each other in a foreign land. From a historical viewpoint, this situation is hardly uncommon, especially when one realizes that one of the actors in this silent film happens to be a refugee from Russia and former soldier of the White Army under Alexander Vasilyevich Kolchak.
Sergei Vassily “Serge” Temoff was born on November 11, 1901 in Harbin, China, a city with a considerable Russian population dating back to the nineteenth century. Many of these Russians were hired to work on the Chinese Eastern Railway. Surprisingly enough, Serge Temoff did not start out as a silent film actor; instead, his background was in ballet, having established ballet companies in Harbin and Japan before coming to the United States in 1925. His first silent film appearance was in “The Devil Dancer” which starred Gilda Gray. Like “Tyrant of Red Gulch, “The Devil Dancer” is also a lost film which is unfortunate because it showcases Serge’s ballet talent. In “Tyrant of Red Gulch”, he portrays Boris Kosloff, and with his sister Mitza who is played by Josephine Borio, born in Turin, Italy, team up with Tom Tyler in a thrilling adventure to discover why so many men, primarily gold seekers, went missing in the Valley of Superstition.
It is worth mentioning that “Tyrant of Red Gulch” is one Tom Tyler silent film which has its own exciting timeline for me, since my interest in Tom Tyler’s films back in late 2014. In 2018 I communicated with Argentinian film historian and writer Dario Lavia, owner of Cinefania.com regarding "Tyrant of Red Gulch". Basically he asked me if this silent film was extant. Sadly this silent film is not extant; what does survive is an edition of Biblioteca Films titled "El Valle del Misterio" in addition to a handful of stills within from this Tom Tyler silent film. What was even more fascinating to me, was our brief discussion of film titles from English to Spanish - and how the title of one American made film might have one translation in Spain, may have an entirely different title in Spanish in a nation like Argentina.
Then in May 2019, Mr. Lavia sent me a message stating he was editing the third edition of "Weird Western", to be published in Buenos Aires. He mentioned the inclusion of "Tyrant of Red Gulch" in this film reference book, listing the link to my Aventuras de Tom Tyler blog. In this silent film listing Mr. Lavia also mentioned the article I wrote regarding this silent film and how it was translated to "The Sorcerer" in the United Kingdom when it was released over there sometime between 1928/1929. Not knowing anything of the actual story in “Tyrant of Red Gulch” outside of a synopsis would normally lead most silent film aficionados to wonder why such an unusual title was chosen, or even why the film title was changed at all to appeal to a British audience, but it happens more often than one might think. All said, I was elated to see my blog site article mentioned in a film reference book, and as luck would have it, I was happy to acquire a copy of this book for my personal Tom Tyler collection.
The filming of “Tyrant of Red Gulch” also proved to be fun for the cast members and crew behind the scenes. In the January 7, 1928 issue of Exhibitor's Herald and Moving Picture World, a still from “Tyrant of Red Gulch” appeared in this Hollywood trade publication. It depicts Harry Woods dressed up as story character Ivan Petrovitch in disguise as an old man, but wearing a Santa Claus style beard, and handing out presents to the cast and crew members. What is noticeable about the photo’s caption is that it mentions the original title “The Valley of Superstition”. It is unknown why this Tom Tyler silent film was released as “The Tyrant of Red Gulch”; it could have been a last-minute decision from FBO, the production company, to give it a more marketable title to its target audience of youngsters, versus its working title.
Many thanks to Filmoteca de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain for the digitized version of Biblioteca Films "El Valle del Misterio" which includes film stills, Lantern Media History for synopses and reviews, and Newspapers.com for promotional materials on this Tom Tyler silent film. Lobby cards and hi-res stills reproduced here are from my own physical Tom Tyler collection.
This translation of "El Valle del Misterio" is copyright Aventuras de Tom Tyler, 2022. No part of this translation, nor the Introduction, may be reproduced anywhere in any format. If you would like to link to this translation from your website, please contact me first at Aventurasdetomtyler_at_triggertom.com. Thank you! -Mary
Tyrant of Red Gulch
Chapter 1: The Gold Mine
Deep in the Sierra Madre mountains, one gold mine proved evasive to miners decided to seek it out. The men who were lucky enough to find it never returned home. In the Valley of Superstition located in the western town of Red Gulch, this gold mine was surrounded by large black rocks, a landmark that attracted miners hoping to seek their fortune in this mountain range. Unknown to outsiders, however, a small band of Russian immigrants have imposed gun law upon anyone who dared to enter the valley.
Almost all of the gold seekers who were lucky enough to find the entrance to the mine in the valley perished at the hands of one particular Russian who controlled the mine. The Valley of Superstition held a secret, one of illusion in the manner of a stage magician which gold miners traveling through could never figure out, until it was too late.
Five adventurers who thought they could find the gold mine and stake their claim, wound up being held hostage by the head Russian and were little more than unhappy slaves as part of the mining operations, often met with whips and punches as they were forced to work as miners for the one man who actually controlled the mine. Slaving over the extreme work conditions, these unfortunate men longed for death yet even that evaded them as their physical strength diminished as they worked hard mining for gold.
In a cave near the entrance of the valley and not far from the gold mine, an old man with a long white beard sat on a small mound by the entrance of the cave. A local legend told of how this man is a sorcerer who played a role in the disappearance of men who traveled through the valley seeking gold.
This old man with a heavily lined face and sullen countenance was accompanied by another man named Abel who was equally sullen, often keeping company at only certain times of the day before disappearing into the caves to keep an eye on the five hostages who continued to labor with their mining implements. Right now, however, the old man was by himself seated on that mound, no one else in sight except for a young man approaching the valley, ready to do battle with any unseen forces to arrive his way.
A young man with a smiling countenance and manly demeanor appeared on the road, riding a thoroughbred Arabian horse, and at his side was a boy with tousled hair, also mounted on a pony, ambling in the direction of the Valley of Superstition. The young man’s name was Tom Masters, whose brother was among one of the disappeared miners, and the boy who accompanied him was called Tip, son of the disappeared man, and therefore Tom's nephew.
The two travelers arrived by the entrance of the valley and briefly stopped while remaining on horseback. Tom spoke to Tip while gesturing with a nod of his head:
“It seems to me that this must be the entrance to the valley, Tip.” Tip replied encouragingly:
"I think so too, Uncle."
Dismounting their horses, Tom and Tip tied them to a bush near the valley entrance and they approached the entrance of the cave in silence. With some caution, Tom peered into the cave. He saw the old man and once he had given him the visual once over, Tom said to his nephew:
"Perhaps that elderly gentleman can provide us with some information."
Determined to find out something about the gold mine, Tom asked the old man seated on the mound:
"Friend, do you know anything about a gold mine located in this valley?"
The elderly man shrugged his shoulders, as if he did not understand or did not hear what they were saying.
Tom repeated his question, but like before, did not receive a reply. The old man played dumb. Giving up, Tom spoke to Tip:
“I’m afraid he doesn’t know what we are talking about, Tip. Let’s go!” Tom turned on his heels and headed back to his horse. Tip responded:
“The sooner we leave the better, I feel uneasy being next to that man.”
They waved goodbye to the man with the white beard, who responded with a slow and inexpressive movement in a similar manner.
Tom and Tip mounted their horses. Tip’s instinct was that of the young boy he was, eleven years old, but sharp enough to know when something seemed off. It was this instinct that compelled fear in Tip and he spoke about it to Tom as they decided to return to town where they could stay the night. Tom reassured Tip there was nothing to fear in the old man they just saw.
The two of them continued on horseback for an hour but dusk quickly approached. The main road went deep into a thick forest of rocks which could only be traversed best during daylight in order to avoid any rock slides.
Tom looked around and finally dismounted. "We'll camp around here, Tip, and tomorrow we'll see if we can find a ranch where we can ask about that mine."
In the Valley of Mystery there was only one ranch that belonged to two teen Russian siblings and, because their father had died a year ago, they were under the guardianship of Ivan Petrovitch, a friend of the deceased, who was head of the ranch.
The siblings were Boris and Mitza Kosloff, both young and amiable, unlike Ivan, who was a bad-tempered, tall, stocky guy who had the idea of marrying Mitza and taking possession of her fortune, which included the gold mine, not caring too much about what happened to her brother.
Mitza, however, did not have the slightest intention of reciprocating Ivan’s love for her, and because of that, he mistreated her on several occasions. In return, Boris protested the treatment of his sister, but being young and sometimes obstinate, was in no position to put Ivan in his place.
Right now, Boris was speaking to Ivan about his sister. “Mitza told me that you mistreated her again because she does not want to be your wife.”
Ivan did not rise from his seat at the table but looked at Boris before replying: "She must understand, and you too, that I want to do the right thing for her.”
"You won't get it by force." Boris held his own against Ivan. Ivan only chuckled in return.
"I'll make her my wife, you have no say in the matter.”
Boris vehemently spoke: "Well, I can't tolerate that! I may be weak but will find a way to prevent you from doing so!”
Ivan briefly hesitated before saying: “Boris, you seem to take this seriously.” Not backing down in the slightest, the young Russian man replied:
"I am so serious about this that if you mistreat Mitza again, I swear I'll kill you." For once in his life Boris felt braver than ever before in dealing with Ivan. Yet in reality, Ivan made it clear to Boris who was in charge of the ranch house. Ivan swiftly rose from his chair.
"I thought I had already told you I am in charge around here, Boris, but I see that you need another lesson!"
Boris further became exasperated in his attempt to defend his sister once and for all and he was ready to risk everything he had, raising his hand to Ivan. Ivan was much stronger and took the younger Russian man’s wrist in a vice-like grip, twisting his arm around which forced Boris down to the ground.
“Do not push me, Boris, for if you do, you will lose everything you own, including your life.”
The fight between the two men prompted Mitza to enter the room from another part of the house. Upon seeing her brother in a defeated position on the floor, she took one look at Ivan and spoke:
"You are a wretch, you are a coward!"
Ivan could not help but fall in love with her angelic face, despite her fury like a gryphon, words that clawed at his heart. How could such a sweet, young Russian lady act this way towards him, after he gave her all he had? He shrugged his shoulders in response, since it was not convenient for him to argue with Mitza since he wanted to earn her love even though he knew it would be difficult for him to do so.
"You forget that you are our guardian and not our master," continued Mitza, seeing that Ivan was silent in response.
"That's what I told you," observed Boris “but, apparently, he does not want to understand us and only wants to do what he wants.”
Ivan finally spoke. “What you must understand is that I am the boss here. Well, your father, my great friend, gave me very strict orders and I only wish you happiness.”
The end of this conversation was heard by Tom and Tip, who by chance passed by the ranch house, as they were looking for someone to give them directions to the gold mine.
Tip said to Tom: "Looks like they're too busy right now to come help answer our question."
"Soon we will know," replied Tom, who despite always taking into account the observations that his nephew made, wanted on that particular occasion to clear up any doubts.
After greeting Ivan, Boris and Mitza at the door to their home, Tom asked respectfully:
“Good afternoon. We are looking for some information about the Valley of Superstition. Could you provide them to us?”
The three Russians stared at him, because, apparently, although they were surprised, they did not consider it very important.
Ivan replied: “I have heard a story concerning a certain lost gold mine.” His words were carefully chosen.
This comment did not completely satisfy Tom, who repeated his question, asking with great interest and indicated that even if there was not much Ivan could say about this matter, he would appreciate any information available to him.
Considering Tom’s insistence, Ivan looked at him more closely and after thinking about it for a while and as if responding to an orchestrated plan, he told him, with poorly concealed kindness, that caught the attention of Boris and Mitza, since they already knew him very well, a detail that went unnoticed by Tom.
"Have lunch with us," Ivan invited Tom and Tip. While we eat I will tell you what little I know about the mine.”
Tom gladly accepted this invitation and followed by Tip, they entered the ranch house, accompanied by Boris, Mitza and Ivan.
Soon Mitza had the table ready set with lunch served and everyone sat down to eat. Ivan described the Valley of Superstition and its famous gold mine to Tom and Tip. Emphasizing his words and waiting for Tom to digest everything he heard, Ivan said to him:
"I suppose you are aware that many men lost their lives looking for that mine." Boris and Mitza did not convey any expression upon Ivan’s words, but rather, continued eating lunch. Tom, however, understood what Ivan was driving at, and replied:
“I understand what you mean, but I am concerned why so many miners have disappeared in this valley.”
Young Tip followed the conversation with great interest, until, with his usual naturalness and self-assurance, he also decided to contribute to the conversation, saying:
“What I want to know is something about the old man in the cave we met earlier. I don't know why but I think that eccentric is something to look out for.”
Boris, feeling comfortable in the presence of Tom and Tip, who had been extremely nice to him, also spoke up and said what he believed to be the truth about the old man. Looking kindly at Tip, Boris said:
"He thinks he is a sorcerer. They say he casts his spell on all who enter the valley.”
His sister Mitza, who finally managed to overcome the incident with Ivan earlier that morning, also chimed in, finding herself amiable to Tom’s charming smile. She blushed before speaking to Tom:
“This may sound like a folk tale, but the truth is no one has ever left the Valley of Superstition alive.”
Tom managed to keep the conversation going with his Russian hosts, until he felt he had the information he was seeking, despite the fact no real information about what happened to the men who went missing in the valley. In a determined voice he said:
"People will say what they want about the Valley of Superstition, we'll get out of here alive and in perfect health." Tom leaned back in his chair, smiling, confident in what he said, and felt there was no reason why he and Tip should not make it back home safely.
"I hope so for your sake, Tom," answered Mitza, as a warm feeling came over her as she spoke to him. Her expression did not go unnoticed by Ivan. In return, Ivan already sized up Tom, and thought to himself, ‘If my plans could be disrupted by anyone, it is this man.’
“Do you, Mitza?” Tom’s eyes scrunched a little bit as he smiled broadly at her.
Lunch was over and Ivan rose from his chair before saying: "You'll excuse me, but I have some work to do. You are welcome to stay for as long as you need to.” He picked up his wide-brimmed hat, placed it on his head, and with a slight smile from under his thin black mustache, bid them all goodbye and left.
As soon as they were alone, Mitza and Boris practically hugged Tom, and with great conviction, they said:
"Don't look for that mine, Tom. Believe us. For if you do, you may never come back.” Mitza stood close next to Tom, not wanting to see him leave. Tom sensed Mitza’s feelings for him, and in a reassuring tone, replied:
“I thank you very much for your concern, but I am not afraid.” Toms eyes held those of Mitza, not thinking of what may lay ahead for him and his pal Tip. Mitza, however, remained worried for the young man she just met.
“You don't know how dangerous these men are and you could be defeated in the end.” Mitza tried not to let her feelings for Tom be visible to him. Right now, Tip spoke words of encouragement to Tom:
“We've never been beaten, have we, Tom?” Tip asked.
"Not yet, my friend. I hope that this time we will also succeed.”
Tom’s words were spoken with naturally. Both Mitza and Boris were tired of the secluded life that their guardian forced them to follow, since they knew there was no other option but to leave their house in order to live somewhat normal lives. Boris especially did not want to see his sister at the constant peril of Ivan’s unscrupulous advances in an attempt to get her to marry him. Almost as if reading her brother’s mind, Mitza replied:
"If you are absolutely sure you want to go through with this, take us with you."
The effect Mitza’s words had on Tom could not be described; for after she tried to dissuade him from going in search of the gold mine, all of a sudden, the young Russian siblings both wanted to accompany him.
Surprised at Mitza, Tom inquired of her: "But why do you want to go?"
"You must know that my father found the mine, registered it, in his name, and told us about it. But then he returned to the Valley of Superstition and we never saw him again.”
This simple explanation given to Tom was enough to give him an idea as to why the miners have disappeared in the valley, but it struck Tom that he not discovered why before. "It's too dangerous an adventure," Tom said to convince them. “It would be better if you stayed here.”
Boris persisted in having Tom let them go with him in order to discover the truth about the mine, and solve the mystery plaguing it. Facing Tom, he spoke convincingly:
"The real danger is on this ranch, Tom. We have to run away from Ivan Petrovitch. He is our executioner!”
“But it is possible?” Tom wondered.
"This very morning he mistreated me because I refused to marry him." Mitza had no regrets in giving Tom this news, knowing he was in a position to protect her. This was the final point to aid Tom’s decision in letting them accompany him through the Valley of Superstition. Even Tip felt that having their new friends help them in their mission was the right thing to do.
"Then it is settled,” Tom said with a resolute tone. “We will all go together to look for the mine.”
And right there they began to draw up a plan in the search for the gold mine. They also agreed that in no way should Ivan Petrovitch find out about their intentions, for if he did, Mitza would be his first victim. As they discussed their plan, suddenly they heard a noise from outside. They stopped talking and in a file with Tom leading them, peeked out the front door. Seeing no one about, they went back inside and resumed their conversation.
The noise they heard was not an illusion.
When Ivan said that he was leaving, he stayed behind the door to hear what they said and that's how he found out about their plan. He clenched his fists with rage, because he saw that his control over the mine was vanishing.
But determined to get his way at all costs, Ivan was intent on making Tom’s plan fail. Turning around, he finally left out the back door of the house and mounted his horse, headed in the direction of the mine.
Chapter 2: The Alibi
Tom, Tip, Boris and Mitza proceeded to undertake their plan and at the same time free themselves from Ivan’s pursuit. Late that night and an hour before dawn, the four set out on their way to the Valley of Superstition.
Taking all kinds of precautions, they took a shortcut, traveling the same path as the day before, until they arrived at the entrance to the cave where the old man sat on his mound. Tom again asked him the same questions he did the day before. Receiving no satisfactory answer, Tom turned his attention to Boris and Mitza, saying:
"This is the sorcerer Petrovitch told us about. There is indeed something strange about him, but we cannot waste time to find out.” They mounted their horses and went in search of the trail that Mitza and Boris already knew, in order to reach the Valley of Superstition as soon as possible. They stopped for lunch and stayed there for about an hour to rest their horses. Out of nowhere, a man on horseback appeared within sight. It was Ivan Petrovitch. He arrived at a crossroads, and there he met two men on horses. Upon giving them an order, Ivan returned to embark upon a new task. The two men found some bushes to hide behind, as if to wait for someone to pass by them.
Meanwhile, the old man was still by the cave entrance but this time, another man called Abel stood at his right side. He wore an old dark felt hat which had a feather protruding from it. Abel began to run towards the valley and once he was there he built a small bonfire, which he lit then proceeded to do a traditional Russian dance around it. The flames began to take grow in size.
The two men who followed Ivan's instructions had remained hidden in the bushes, observed the smoke from the fire that Abel had lit, said:
"That is the signal! Ivan’s men are coming.”
As soon as the Tom and his pals finished lunch, he took the initiative to tell his companions:
"I think there's nothing to fear, but just in case, I'm going to survey the area. Then I will meet with you.” Tom stood up from where the group sat on the ground for their hour-long break.
Suddenly Tip spoke up. "Don't go too far. I have a feeling they're spying on us.” Tom’s determination was briefly stopped by his friend’s words. With a furtive glance at Tip, Tom continued to exit their secluded picnic spot, knowing that there was no turning back. Tip was not satisfied with his uncle's departure and even though it was difficult for him to convince Boris and Mitza that he should accompany Tom, he had them wait awhile before seeking out his uncle. Finally catching up with Tom, Tip said: "I will go with you!"
Looking down at the boy full of spunk, Tom was at first disappointed in Tip’s disobeying a command. Without hesitation, Tom sternly said: “Tip, I trusted you to watch over Mitza. Either you go back to her or I go back.”
The tone with which Tom spoke did the trick, and while Tip was willing to do so, he had no choice but to obey. With his face down to the ground, Tip returned to where Boris and Mitza stayed, safe from the sight of Ivan and his men. When Tip returned to the spot, however, he was surprised to discover the siblings were gone. “Oh no, what now? Tom is going to be upset with me!” Just thinking about what might happen to himself brought tears to his eyes. Of course, he could not have prevented what happened to Boris and Mitza, but he had the idea that he was braver than his uncle.
What really happened to the two young Russians was this:
As soon as Tip left to join Tom in surveying the immediate area, the two men who took instruction from Ivan earlier before going into hiding came out into the open, each one restraining Boris, and Mitza, who they held at gunpoint, before forcing them to follow on their way to the Valley of Superstition. All four of them walked through the rocky trail for a long time and Mitza was lost her strength at one point.
In vain Boris and Mitza searched with eager eyes for Tom, listening intently for the sound of his galloping horse, but the most sepulchral silence reigned everywhere. Resignedly, they saw that they were abandoned to their sad fate, because they had no doubt that their arrest was the work of Ivan and it would be difficult for Tom to find them, since he did not know every part of the valley and its gold mine.
After walking for more than an hour, they finally reached the entrance to a kind of grotto and stopped there.
Chapter 3: The Valley of Superstition
As soon as Boris and Mitza were escorted into the Valley of Superstition by Ivan’s men, they knew where they were, and while they tried to prepare themselves to face any fear that arose, the one thing they could not overcome was the fear of facing Ivan. Surrounded by high rocks and bushes, two large blocks of stone appeared, creating a narrow passage into that cavern, where the gold mine was located. The land was barren, with little vegetation growing in random spots, an ominous sign that only the toughest of men could survive under such conditions.
It has been three years since the father of Mitza and Boris acquired the property where the gold mine was, but due to the red tape involved, plus the presence of Ivan, made actual ownership of the land an impossibility for the young Russian siblings. Consequently, all men who thought they could locate this mine and cash in on their share of the gold, wound up paying with their lives. Only a handful of them remained hostage, forced to work in the mine under the control of Ivan Petrovitch. The only reason they survived was due to their willing compliance at their boss’s bidding. As for the other men who crossed Ivan, they were murdered. And one of these men was Tom’s unfortunate brother.
Tom’s mission, of course, was to avenge his brother’s death. He considered traveling to the Sierra Madre mountains earlier, in an attempt to save his brother’s life, but what he did not know was that doing so would not have helped his brother, for by then, he was already a victim of Ivan’s operations.
Ivan’s two henchmen guided Boris and Mitza to their present spot. Helpless, the siblings were brutally shoved towards a guard in the valley. The guard spoke to the henchmen: “It’s a good thing they arrived on time, I can use him,” as he pointed to Boris, “he can replace Masters, who left the job yesterday.” Mitza and Boris exchanged glances then figured it all out themselves: Masters was Tom’s brother!
Boris was instructed by the guard of the work that he was to perform in the mine, given a pick and a shovel, warned to concentrate on his task in the mine or otherwise be scourged. He watched helplessly as his sister Mitza was dragged off to a nearby cave and locked up by one of the Ivan’s henchmen.
In the meantime, Tom Masters traversed the trail that ran from where Boris and Mitza were last seen, to the cave where the old man sat. He was surprised to find them gone. Tom’s first instinct was to return to where the old man was and try to discover if he had seen the Russian siblings. Still seated upon his horse, Tom galloped to his destination at full speed. Before he approached the cave, however, he stayed with his horse behind some rocks so as not to be found out. He waited for what seemed the longest time, hoping for someone to come along – someone he could force to take him to Boris and Mitza.
Out of nowhere, to Tom’s great surprise, Ivan Petrovitch arrived at the cave entrance, wearing his wide-brimmed hat. Ivan entered and surveyed the mining operations. Tom half expected him to come back out, but when Ivan was nowhere in sight, Tom decided to go after him. With his loaded pistol in hand, Tom was determined to play the last card at once, he went inside the cave without pausing.
As usual, Tom found the old man sitting by the fire and Abel standing by his side. Tom approached the old man and shouting as loud as he could, he said:
“I saw Ivan Petrovitch come in here. Where is he?”
The old man did not flinch, because despite Tom' shouts he did not hear what he was saying. In fact, Tom was hesitant about drilling the bearded man about Petrovitch, considering the last few times he asked this mysterious person about the Valley of Superstition, no answer could be sought from him. That was assuming this old man would even know anything about Ivan Petrovitch to begin with. Tom started to consider what was taking place. Was this man who was called a sorcerer by locals someone being used by Ivan?
Abel sat upon a rock next to the old man and said nothing, playing dumb. As the minutes ticked by, Tom finally came up with an idea. He looked at a rickety table positioned next to the old man, and with a blow of his fist, knocked the large vase upon it to the floor, which shattered into many pieces. The noise made the old man turn his face in the direction of the unexpected sound, thereby providing Tom Masters the clue he needed. Not wasting a minute, Tom swiftly drew his revolver and pointed it at the reputed sorcerer.
"I thought you couldn't hear," Tom told him, adding: “We'll see now if you can talk!”
The old man seemed to remain suspended and did not move. But Tom prodded:
"I'll give you one minute to tell me where Ivan Petrovitch is!"
A long time passed and the old man refrained from speaking. He made a move against Tom which completely surprised the latter: the old man jumped upon the young man, even before Tom could fire his gun, and the two men rolled upon the ground engaging in a fistfight. Surprisingly, the old man acted as if he was anything but old and infirm, his punches on a par with Tom’s, energy and strength. While Tom was flat on his back on the ground with the old man blocking his ability to get up, he tried to understand who he was fighting. Perhaps it was because Tom was long-undefeated as a fighter against outlaws, he soon discovered he has met his match.
Catching his second wind, Tom caught his opponent off guard when he grabbed him by the neck, but when the old man made an attempt to remove the big, strong hands that gripped him, his wig and a beard fell off, all false, revealing the terrible face by Ivan Petrovitch. Full of astonishment, Tom exclaimed:
"In the flesh," Petrovitch replied.
Exhausted from fighting, Tom didn't want to know more, upon experiencing defeat by the man who owned the ranch property that Boris and Mitza lived on. At this point, Tom was determined to avenge Petrovitch and finish him off once and for all. With an expression that meant business, Tom once again took on Petrovitch in another fighting match, this one even more rough that the first one, as they rolled on the ground, exchanging punches. Abel stood out of the way, but finally deciding to help his boss Ivan, picked up a wooden club cut from a tree, and brought it down over Tom’s head, knocking him out.
Spread out upon the ground, Ivan leaped to his feet then grabbed a chunk of rope that hung from the top of the rocks. With the rope he tied up Tom by his wrists, then yanked the ends of the rope so that Tom was strung up against the rocks, his powerful arms straight above his head. Tom finally came to and looked around him. Being restrained in such a manner prevented him from being able to fight Ivan, or anyone else on his side.
Ivan sneered at Tom, before speaking to him. “This cave is full of dynamite. Even the smallest tug on that rope will cause the rocks to tumble. When your arms get tired, you will die.”
Tom felt defeated and while he was not so much worried about himself, he was concerned about the fate in store for Boris, Olga and Tip. Now he was face to face with Ivan and being under restraint meant he could fistfight him. Ivan mocked Tom:
"Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to take care of little Mitza and her weak-minded brother."
Ivan swiftly turned around on his heel and left. Now Tom was all by himself, and his friends had no idea he was there in the cave.
Tip, who spent a considerable amount of time wandering through those mountains in search of his uncle Tom, finally arrived at the cave where the scene between Ivan and Tom just took place.
Glancing inside the cave, Tip saw Tom in a predicament but then realized he was powerless to help him. Tip also saw Abel guarding Tom, and to make him leave the cave, ducked behind some bushes and threw a stone into the cave. The sound drew Abel’s attention, and as soon as he saw Tip, gave chase to the boy through the rocky valley.
Making a sudden detour behind some rocks, Tip managed to lose Abel, who continued onward in hopes of catching him. As soon as Tip felt it was safe, he headed back to the cave where Tom was being detained. Tip ran up to Tom, who was delighted to see him. With a nod of his head, Tom instructed Tip to remove his hunting knife from his pocket.
“Cut the rope, Tip. But don't hang on my arms!”
As Tip could not reach the rope, he climbed on the table nearby and from there, with the hunting knife, cut the ropes that held Tom. Finally freed, Tom rubbed his wrists, then said:
“Let’s go, Mitza and her brother have been captured.”
They went running in search of their companions.
Meanwhile, Ivan was with Mitza when she demanded in all seriousness:
"What have you done with my brother?"
Ivan laughed at her. "I hate to tell you this but you are my prisoner." He felt like forcing himself upon her but refrained from doing so. Mitza persisted in her request.
"Take me to him, I beg you. Set Boris free! You have no right to keep him in this cave.”
"I will do anything to fulfill your wishes," Ivan answered sarcastically. “Aren't you both anxious to find the mine? Well, you're already in it. If you had been reasonable and married me, this would not have been necessary.”
"What are you planning to do with us, kill us?" A feeling of dread overcame Mitza.
Ivan spoke to her indifferently. "I don't care if you die. I am still willing to marry you, if you give me your father's mine.”
"That I will never do!" replied Mitza energetically.
Suddenly a noise caught Ivan's attention, and they peeked through a gap in the cave how Tom, Boris and three of the prisoners he had in the mine, threatened Ivan and his men with their pistols. Ivan knew he was defeated and decided to escape taking Mitza with him. Against her will he mounted her on his horse and took off in a gallop.
By now it was clear to Tom, in all his courage, found the gold mine by surprise, and with Boris next to him, was equally surprised by the mine. The three prisoners, who were originally seeking this special mine, felt truly free at that moment. Not being fully caught up in the moment, they all mounted their horses and went after Ivan in hopes of freeing Mitza.
In another part of the cave nearby, Ivan hid with Mitza, firmly embracing her in one hand, while holding a rope with his other hand – the rope which would lead to a terrible explosion and the demise of them all. Tom, Boris and the freed prisoners arrived and were ready to move in on Ivan. Ivan burst out:
"I play a decisive card! One move and we all die!”
Believing Ivan to be in danger, Abel made the explosion impossible by cutting the rope that made contact with the bomb.
At the moment when Tom was about to throw himself on top of Ivan, the latter pulled the rope with all his strength, surprised that the mine did not explode.
Both Tom and Boris held Ivan securely, leaving him well tied up, and saying to the men who had helped him in the Valley of Superstition:
"Deliver Ivan Petrovitch and his two men to the nearest sheriff. My brother is already avenged. Boris and Mitza, you have already recovered your father's mine. Let’s go, Tip.”
Mitza approached Tom and, with great affection, told him:
"Why don't you stay with us? The mine could be ours together.”
Tip winked at Tom and he winked back. Since Mitza was so sweet, Tom felt the exchange was mutual, and consented to stay.
This translation of "El Valle del Misterio" is copyright Aventuras de Tom Tyler, 2022. No part of this translation, nor Introduction, may be reproduced anywhere in any format.
2022 Aventuras de Tom Tyler