Danny’s Own Story, by Don Marquis

DANNY’S OWN STORY BY DON MARQUIS TO MY WIFE CHAPTER I HOW I come not to have a last name is a question that has always had more or less aggervation mixed up with it. I might of had one jest as well as not if Old Hank Walters hadn’t been so all-fired, infernal bull-headed
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  • 1912
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HOW I come not to have a last name is a question that has always had more or less aggervation mixed up with it. I might
of had one jest as well as not if Old Hank Walters hadn’t been so all-fired, infernal bull-headed about things in gineral, and his wife Elmira a blame sight worse, and both of em ready to row at a minute’s notice and stick to it forevermore.

Hank, he was considerable of a lusher. One Saturday night, when he come home from the vil- lage in his usual fix, he stumbled over a basket that was setting on his front steps. Then he got up and drawed back his foot unsteady to kick it plumb into kingdom come. Jest then he hearn Elmira opening the door behind him, and he turned his head sudden. But the kick was already started into the air, and when he turns he can’t stop it. And so Hank gets twisted and falls down and steps on himself. That basket lets out a yowl.

“It’s kittens,” says Hank, still setting down and staring at that there basket. All of which, you understand, I am a-telling you from hearsay, as the lawyers always asts you in court.

Elmira, she sings out:

“Kittens, nothing! It’s a baby!”

And she opens the basket and looks in and it was me.

“Hennerey Walters,” she says — picking me up, and shaking me at him like I was a crime, “Hen- nerey Walters, where did you get this here baby?” She always calls him Hennerey when she is getting ready to give him fits.

Hank, he scratches his head, for he’s kind o’ confuddled, and thinks mebby he really has brought this basket with him. He tries to think of all the places he has been that night. But he can’t think of any place but Bill Nolan’s saloon. So he says:

“Elmira, honest, I ain’t had but one drink all day.” And then he kind o’ rouses up a little bit, and gets surprised and says:

“That a BABY you got there, Elmira?” And then he says, dignified: “So fur as that’s consarned, Elmira, where did YOU get that there baby?”

She looks at him, and she sees he don’t really know where I come from. Old Hank mostly was truth- ful when lickered up, fur that matter, and she knowed it, fur he couldn’t think up no lies excepting a gineral denial when intoxicated up to the gills.

Elmira looks into the basket. They was one of them long rubber tubes stringing out of a bottle that was in it, and I had been sucking that bottle when interrupted. And they wasn’t nothing else in that basket but a big thick shawl which had been wrapped all around me, and Elmira often wore it to meeting afterward. She goes inside and she looks at the bottle and me by the light, and Old Hank, he comes stumbling in afterward and sets down in a chair and waits to get Hail Columbia for coming home in that shape, so’s he can row back agin, like they done every Saturday night.

Blowed in the glass of the bottle was the name: “Daniel, Dunne and Company.” Anybody but them two old ignoramuses could of told right off that that didn’t have nothing to do with me, but was jest the company that made them kind of bottles. But she reads it out loud three or four times, and then she says:

“His name is Daniel Dunne,” she says.

“And Company,” says Hank, feeling right quarrelsome.

“COMPANY hain’t no name,” says she.

“WHY hain’t it, I’d like to know?” says Hank. “I knowed a man oncet whose name was Farmer, and if a farmer’s a name why ain’t a company a name too?”

“His name is Daniel Dunne,” says Elmira, quiet- like, but not dodging a row, neither.

“AND COMPANY,” says Hank, getting onto his feet, like he always done when he seen trouble coming. When Old Hank was full of licker he knowed jest the ways to aggervate her the worst.

She might of banged him one the same as usual, and got her own eye blacked also, the same as usual; but jest then I lets out another big yowl, and she give me some milk.

I guess the only reason they ever kep’ me at first was so they could quarrel about my name. They’d lived together a good many years and quarrelled about everything else under the sun, and was running out of subjects. A new subject kind o’ briskened things up fur a while.

But finally they went too far with it one time. I was about two years old then and he was still calling me Company and her calling me Dunne. This time he hits her a lick that lays her out and likes to kill her, and it gets him scared. But she gets around agin after a while, and they both see it has went too fur that time, and so they makes up.

“Elmira, I give in,” says Hank. “His name is Dunne.”

“No,” says she, tender-like, “you was right, Hank. His name is Company.” So they pretty near got into another row over that. But they finally made it up between em I didn’t have no last name, and they’d jest call me Danny. Which they both done faithful ever after, as agreed.

Old Hank, he was a blacksmith, and he used to lamm me considerable, him and his wife not having any kids of their own to lick. He lammed me when he was drunk, and he whaled me when he was sober. I never helt it up agin him much, neither, not fur a good many years, because he got me used to it young, and I hadn’t never knowed nothing else. Hank’s wife, Elmira, she used to lick him jest about as often as he licked her, and boss him jest as much. So he fell back on me. A man has jest naturally got to have something to cuss around and boss, so’s to keep himself from finding out he don’t amount to nothing. Leastways, most men is like that. And Hank, he didn’t amount to much; and he kind o’ knowed it, way down deep in his inmost gizzards, and it were a comfort to him to have me around.

But they was one thing he never sot no store by, and I got along now to where I hold that up agin him more’n all the lickings he ever done. That was book learning. He never had none himself, and he was sot agin it, and he never made me get none, and if I’d ever asted him for any he’d of whaled me fur that. Hank’s wife, Elmira, had married beneath her, and everybody in our town had come to see it, and used to sympathize with her about it when Hank wasn’t around. She’d tell em, yes, it was so. Back in Elmira, New York, from which her father and mother come to our part of Illinoise in the early days, her father had kep’ a hotel, and they was stylish kind o’ folks. When she was born her mother was homesick fur all that style and fur York State ways, and so she named her Elmira.

But when she married Hank, he had considerable land. His father had left it to him, but it was all swamp land, and so Hank’s father, he hunted more’n he farmed, and Hank and his brothers done the same when he was a boy. But Hank, he learnt a little blacksmithing when he was growing up, cause he liked to tinker around and to show how stout he was. Then, when he married Elmira Appleton, he had to go to work practising that perfession reg’lar, because he never learnt nothing about farming. He’d sell fifteen or twenty acres, every now and then, and they’d be high times till he’d spent it up, and mebby Elmira would get some new clothes.

But when I was found on the door step, the land was all gone, and Hank was practising reg’lar, when not busy cussing out the fellers that had bought the land. Fur some smart fellers had come along, and bought up all that swamp land and dreened it, and now it was worth seventy or eighty dollars an acre. Hank, he figgered some one had cheated him. Which the Walterses could of dreened theirn too, only they’d ruther hunt ducks and have fish frys than to dig ditches. All of which I hearn Elmira talking over with the neighbours more’n once when I was growing up, and they all says: “How sad it is you have came to this, Elmira!” And then she’d kind o’ spunk up and say, thanks to glory, she’d kep’ her pride.

Well, they was worse places to live in than that there little town, even if they wasn’t no railroad within eight miles, and only three hundred soles in the hull copperation. Which Hank’s shop and our house set in the edge of the woods jest outside the copperation line, so’s the city marshal didn’t have no authority to arrest him after he crossed it.

They was one thing in that house I always admired when I was a kid. And that was a big cistern. Most people has their cisterns outside their house, and they is a tin pipe takes all the rain water off the roof and scoots it into them. Ourn worked the same, but our cistern was right in under our kitchen floor, and they was a trap door with leather hinges opened into it right by the kitchen stove. But that wasn’t why I was so proud of it. It was because that cistern was jest plumb full of fish — bullheads and red horse and sunfish and other kinds.

Hank’s father had built that cistern. And one time he brung home some live fish in a bucket and dumped em in there. And they growed. And they multiplied in there and refurnished the earth. So that cistern had got to be a fambly custom, which was kep’ up in that fambly for a habit. It was a great comfort to Hank, fur all them Walterses was great fish eaters, though it never went to brains. We fed em now and then, and throwed back in the little ones till they was growed, and kep’ the dead ones picked out soon’s we smelled anything wrong, and it never hurt the water none; and when I was a kid I wouldn’t of took anything fur living in a house like that.

Oncet, when I was a kid about six years old, Hank come home from the bar-room. He got to chasing Elmira’s cat cause he says it was making faces at him. The cistern door was open, and Hank fell in. Elmira was over to town, and I was scared. She had always told me not to fool around there none when I was a little kid, fur if I fell in there I’d be a corpse quicker’n scatt.

So when Hank fell in, and I hearn him splash, being only a little feller, and awful scared because Elmira had always made it so strong, I hadn’t no sort of unbelief but what Hank was a corpse already. So I slams the trap door shut over that there cistern without looking in, fur I hearn Hank flopping around down in there. I hadn’t never hearn a corpse flop before, and didn’t know but what it might be some- how injurious to me, and I wasn’t going to take no chances.

So I went out and played in the front yard, and waited fur Elmira. But I couldn’t seem to get my mind settled on playing I was a horse, nor nothing. I kep’ thinking mebby Hank’s corpse is going to come flopping out of that cistern and whale me some unusual way. I hadn’t never been licked by a corpse, and didn’t rightly know jest what one is, anyhow, being young and comparitive innocent. So I sneaks back in and sets all the flatirons in the house on top of the cistern lid. I hearn some flop- ping and splashing and spluttering, like Hank’s corpse is trying to jump up and is falling back into the water, and I hearn Hank’s voice, and got scareder yet. And when Elmira come along down the road, she seen me by the gate a-crying, and she asts me why.

“Hank is a corpse,” says I, blubbering.

“A corpse!” says Elmira, dropping her coffee which she was carrying home from the gineral store and post-office. “Danny, what do you mean?”

I seen I was to blame somehow, and I wisht then I hadn’t said nothing about Hank being a corpse. And I made up my mind I wouldn’t say nothing more. So when she grabs holt of me and asts me agin what did I mean I blubbered harder, jest the way a kid will, and says nothing else. I wisht I hadn’t set them flatirons on that door, fur it come to me all at oncet that even if Hank HAS turned into a corpse I ain’t got any right to keep him in that cistern.

Jest then Old Mis’ Rogers, which is one of our neighbours, comes by, while Elmira is shaking me and yelling out what did I mean and how did it happen and had I saw it and where was Hank’s corpse?

And Mis’ Rogers she says, “What’s Danny been doing now, Elmira?” me being always up to some- thing.

Elmira she turned around and seen her, and she gives a whoop and then hollers out: “Hank is dead!” and throws her apern over her head and sets right down in the path and boo-hoos like a baby. And I bellers louder.

Mis’ Rogers, she never waited to ast nothing more. She seen she had a piece of news, and she’s bound to be the first to spread it, like they is always a lot of women wants to be in them country towns. She run right acrost the road to where the Alexan- derses lived. Mis’ Alexander, she seen her coming and unhooked the screen door, and Mis’
Rogers she hollers out before she reached the porch:

“Hank Walters is dead.”

And then she went footing it up the street. They was a black plume on her bunnet which nodded the same as on a hearse, and she was into and out of seven front yards in five minutes.

Mis’ Alexander, she runs acrost the street to where we was, and she kneels down and puts her arm around Elmira, which was still rocking back and forth in the path, and she says:

“How do you know he’s dead, Elmira? I seen him not more’n an hour ago.”

“Danny seen it all,” says Elmira.

Mis’ Alexander turned to me, and wants to know what happened and how it happened and where it happened. But I don’t want to say nothing about that cistern. So I busts out bellering fresher’n ever, and I says:

“He was drunk, and he come home drunk, and he done it then, and that’s how he cone it,” I says.

“And you seen him?” she says. I nodded.

“Where is he?” says she and Elmira, both to oncet.

But I was scared to say nothing about that there cistern, so I jest bawled some more.

“Was it in the blacksmith shop?” says Mis’ Alexander. I nodded my head agin and let it go at that.

“Is he in there now?” asts Mis’ Alexander. I nodded agin. I hadn’t meant to give out no untrue stories. But a kid will always tell a lie, not meaning to tell one, if you sort of invite him with questions like that, and get him scared the way you’re acting. Besides, I says to myself, “so long as Hank has turned into a corpse and that makes him dead, what’s the difference whether he’s in the black- smith shop or not?” Fur I hadn’t had any plain idea, being such a little kid, that a corpse meant to be dead, and wasn’t sure what being dead was like, neither, except they had funerals over you then. I knowed being a corpse must be some sort of a big disad- vantage from the way Elmira always says keep away from that cistern door or I’ll be one. But if they was going to be a funeral in our house, I’d feel kind o’ important, too. They didn’t have em every day in our town, and we hadn’t never had one of our own.

So Mis’ Alexander, she led Elmira into the house, both a-crying, and Mis’ Alexander trying to comfort her, and me a tagging along behind holding onto Elmira’s skirts and sniffling into them. And in a few minutes all them women Mis’ Rogers has told come filing into that room, one at a time, looking sad. Only Old Mis’ Primrose, she was awful late getting there because she stopped to put on her bunnet she always wore to funerals with the black Paris lace on it her cousin Arminty White had sent her from Chicago.

When they found out Hank had come home with licker in him and done it himself, they was all excited, and they all crowds around and asts me how, except two as is holding onto Elmira’s hands which sets moaning in a chair. And they all asts me questions as to what I seen him do, which if they hadn’t I wouldn’t have told em the lies I did. But they egged me on to it.

Says one woman: “Danny, you seen him do it in the blacksmith shop?”

I nodded.

“But how did he get in?” sings out another woman. “The door was locked on the outside with a padlock jest now when I come by. He couldn’t of killed himself in there and locked the door on the outside.”

I didn’t see how he could of done that myself, so I begun to bawl agin and said nothing at all.

“He must of crawled through that little side window,” says another one. “It was open when I come by, if the door WAS locked. Did you see him crawl through the little side window, Danny?”

I nodded. They wasn’t nothing else fur me to do.

“But YOU hain’t tall enough to look through that there window,” says another one to me. “How could you see into that shop, Danny?”

I didn’t know, so I didn’t say nothing at all; I jest sniffled.

“They is a store box right in under that window,” says another one. “Danny must have clumb onto that store box and looked in after he seen Hank come down the road and crawl through the window. Did you scramble onto the store box and look in, Danny?”

I jest nodded agin.

“And what was it you seen him do? How did he kill himself?” they all asts to oncet.

_I_ didn’t know. So I jest bellers and boo-hoos some more. Things was getting past anything I could see the way out of.

“He might of hung himself to one of the iron rings in the jists above the forge,” says another woman. “He clumb onto the forge to tie the rope to one of them rings, and he tied the other end around his neck, and then he stepped off’n the forge. Was that how he done it, Danny?”

I nodded. And then I bellered louder than ever. I knowed Hank was down in that there cistern, a corpse and a mighty wet corpse, all this time; but they kind o’ got me to thinking mebby he was hang- ing out in the shop by the forge, too. And I guessed

I’d better stick to the shop story, not wanting to say nothing about that cistern no sooner’n I could help it.

Pretty soon one woman says, kind o’ shivery:

“I don’t want to have the job of opening the door of that blacksmith shop the first one!”

And they all kind o’ shivered then, and looked at Elmira. They says to let some of the men open it. And Mis’ Alexander, she says she’ll run home and tell her husband right off.

And all the time Elmira is moaning in that chair. One woman says Elmira orter have a cup o’ tea, which she’ll lay off her bunnet and go to the kitchen and make it fur her. But Elmira says no, she can’t a-bear to think of tea, with poor Hennerey a-hang- ing out there in the shop. But she was kind o’ enjoying all that fuss being made over her, too. And all the other women says:

“Poor thing!” But all the same they was mad she said she didn’t want any tea, for they all wanted some and didn’t feel free without she took it too. Which she said she would after they’d coaxed a while and made her see her duty.

So they all goes out to the kitchen, bringing along some of the best room chairs, Elmira coming too, and me tagging along behind. And the first thing they noticed was them flatirons on top of the cistern door. Mis’ Primrose, she says that looks funny. But another woman speaks up and says Danny must of been playing with them while Elmira was over town. She says, “Was you playing they was horses, Danny?”

I was feeling considerable like a liar by this time, but I says I was playing horses with them, fur I couldn’t see no use in hurrying things up. I was bound to get a lamming purty soon anyhow. When I was a kid I could always bet on that. So they picks up the flatirons, and as they picks em up they come a splashing noise in the cistern. I thinks to myself, Hank’s corpse’ll be out of there in a minute. One woman, she says:

“Goodness gracious sakes alive! What’s that, Elmira?”

Elmira says that cistern is mighty full of fish, and they is some great big ones in there, and it must be some of them a-flopping around. Which if they hadn’t of been all worked up and talking all to oncet and all thinking of Hank’s body hanging out there in the blacksmith shop they might of suspicioned something. For that flopping kep’ up steady, and a lot of splashing too. I mebby orter mentioned sooner it had been a dry summer and they was only three or four feet of water in our cistern, and Hank wasn’t in scarcely up to his big hairy chest. So when Elmira says the cistern is full of fish, that woman opens the trap door and looks in. Hank thinks it’s Elmira come to get him out. He allows he’ll keep quiet in there and make believe he is drowned and give her a good scare and make her sorry fur him. But when the cistern door is opened, he hears a lot of clacking tongues all of a sudden like they was a hen convention on. He allows she has told some of the neighbours, and he’ll scare them too. So Hank, he laid low. And the woman as looks in sees nothing, for it’s as dark down there as the insides of the whale what swallered Noah. But she leaves the door open and goes on a-making tea, and they ain’t skeercly a sound from that cistern, only little, ripply noises like it might have been fish.

Pretty soon a woman says:

“It has drawed, Elmira; won’t you have a cup?” Elmira she kicked some more, but she took hern. And each woman took hern. And one woman, a-sipping of hern, she says:

“The departed had his good pints, Elmira.”

Which was the best thing had been said of Hank in that town fur years and years.

Old Mis’ Primrose, she always prided herself on being honest, no matter what come, and she ups and says:

“I don’t believe in no hippercritics at a time like this, no more’n no other time. The departed wasn’t no good, and the hull town knowed it; and Elmira orter feel like it’s good riddance of bad rubbish and them is my sentiments and the senti- ments of rightfulness.”

All the other women sings out:

“W’y, MIS’ PRIMROSE! I never!” And they seemed awful shocked. But down in underneath more of em agreed than let on. Elmira she wiped her eyes and she said:

“Hennerey and me has had our troubles. They ain’t any use in denying that, Mis’ Primrose. It has often been give and take between us and betwixt us. And the hull town knows he has lifted his hand agin me more’n oncet. But I always stood up to Hennerey, and I fit him back, free and fair and open. I give him as good as he sent on this here earth, and I ain’t the one to carry no annermosities be- yond the grave. I forgive Hank all the orneriness he done me, and they was a lot of it, as is becoming unto a church member, which he never was.”

And all the women but Mis’ Primrose, they says:

“Elmira Appleton, you HAVE got a Christian sperrit!” Which done her a heap of good, and she cried considerable harder, leaking out tears as fast as she poured tea in. Each one on em tries to find out something good to say about Hank, only they wasn’t much they could say. And Hank in that there cistern a-listening to every word of it.

Mis’ Rogers, she says:

“Afore he took to drinking like a fish, Hank Walters was as likely looking a young feller as I ever see.”

Mis’ White, she says:

“Well, Hank he never was a stingy man, nohow. Often and often White has told me about seeing Hank, after he’d sold a piece of land, treating the hull town down in Nolan’s bar-room jest as come- easy, go-easy as if it wasn’t money he orter paid his honest debts with.”

They set there that-a-way telling of what good pints they could think of fur ten minutes, and Hank a-hearing it and getting madder and madder all the time. The gineral opinion was that Hank wasn’t no good and was better done fur, and no matter what they said them feelings kep’ sticking out through the words.

By and by Tom Alexander come busting into the house, and his wife, Mis’ Alexander, was with him.

“What’s the matter with all you folks,” he says. “They ain’t nobody hanging in that there black- smith shop. I broke the door down and went in, and it was empty.”

Then they was a pretty howdy-do, and they all sings out:

“Where’s the corpse?”

And some thinks mebby some one has cut it down and took it away, and all gabbles to oncet. But for a minute no one thinks mebby little Danny has been egged on to tell lies. Little Danny ain’t saying a word. But Elmira she grabs me and shakes me and she says:

“You little liar, you, what do you mean by that tale you told?”

I thinks that lamming is about due now. But whilst all eyes is turned on me and Elmira, they comes a voice from that cistern. It is Hank’s voice, and he sings out:

“Tom Alexander, is that you?”

Some of the women scream, for some thinks it is Hank’s ghost. But one woman says what would a ghost be doing in a cistern?

Tom Alexander, he laughs and he says:

“What in blazes you want to jump in there fur, Hank?”

“You dern ijut!” says Hank, “you quit mocking me and get a ladder, and when I get out’n here I’ll learn you to ast what did I want to jump in here fur!”

“You never seen the day you could do it,” says Tom Alexander, meaning the day he could lick him. “And if you feel that way about it you can stay there fur all of me. I guess a little water won’t hurt you none.” And he left the house.

“Elmira,” sings out Hank, mad and bossy, “you go get me a ladder!”

But Elmira, her temper riz up too, all of a sudden.

“Don’t you dare order me around like I was the dirt under your feet, Hennerey Walters,” she says.

At that Hank fairly roared, he was so mad. He says:

“Elmira, when I get out’n here I’ll give you what you won’t fergit in a hurry. I hearn you a-forgiving me and a-weeping over me, and I won’t be forgive nor weeped over by no one! You go and get that ladder.”

But Elmira only answers:

“You wasn’t sober when you fell into there, Hennerey Walters. And now you can jest stay in there till you get a better temper on you!” And all the women says: “That’s right, Elmira; spunk up to him!”

They was considerable splashing around in the water fur a couple of minutes. And then, all of a sudden, a live fish come a-whirling out of that hole, which he had ketched it with his hands. It was a big bullhead, and its whiskers around its mouth was stiffened into spikes, and it lands kerplump into Mis’ Rogers’s lap, a-wiggling, and it kind o’ horns her on the hands, and she is that surprised she faints. Mis’ Primrose, she gets up and pushes that fish back into the cistern with her foot from the floor where it had fell, and she says right decided:

“Elmira Walters, that was Elmira Appleton, if you let Hank out’n that cistern before he has signed the pledge and promised to jine the church you’re a bigger fool ‘n I take you to be. A woman has got to make a stand!” With that she marches out’n our house.

Then all the women sings out:

“Send fur Brother Cartwright! Send fur Brother Cartwright!”

And they sent me scooting acrost town to get him quick. Which he was the preacher of the Baptist church and lived next to it. And I hadn’t got no lamming yet!


I never stopped to tell but two, three folks on the way to Brother Cartwright’s, but
they must of spread it quick. ‘Cause when I got back home with him it seemed like the hull town was there. It was along about dusk by this time, and it was a prayer-meeting night at the church. Mr. Cartwright told his wife to tell the folks what come to the prayer-meeting he’d be back before long, and to wait fur him. Which she really told them where he had went, and what fur. Mr. Cartwright marches right into the kitchen. All the chairs in our house was into the kitchen, and the women was a-talking and a-laughing, and they had sent over to Alexanderses for their chairs and to Rogerses for theirn. Every oncet in a while they would be a awful bust of language come up from that hole where that unreginerate old sinner was cooped up in.

I have travelled around considerable since them days, and I have mixed up along of many kinds of people in many different places, and some of ’em was cussers to admire. But I never hearn such cussing before or since as old Hank done that night. He busted his own records and riz higher’n his own water marks for previous times. I wasn’t nothing but a little kid then, and skeercly fitten fur to ad- mire the full beauty of it. They was deep down cusses, that come from the heart. Looking back at it after all these years, I can believe what Brother Cartwright said himself that night, that it wasn’t natcheral cussing and some higher power, like a demon or a evil sperrit, must of entered into Hank’s human carkis and give that turrible eloquence to his remarks. It busted out every few minutes, and the women would put their fingers into their ears till a spell was over. And it was personal, too. Hank, he would listen until he hearn a woman’s voice that he knowed, and then he would let loose on her fambly, going backwards to her grandfathers and downwards to her children’s children. If her father had once stolen a hog, or her husband done any disgrace that got found out on him, Hank would put it all into his gineral remarks, with trimmings onto it.

Brother Cartwright, he steps up to the hole in the floor when he first comes in and he says, gentle- like and soothing, like a undertaker when he tells you where to set at a home funeral:

“Brother Walters.”

“Brother!” Hank yells out, “don’t ye brother me, you sniffling, psalm-singing, yaller-faced, pigeon-toed hippercrit, you! Get me a ladder, gol dern you, and I’ll come out’n here and learn you to brother me, I will.” Only that wasn’t nothing to what Hank really said to that preacher; no more like it than a little yaller, fluffy canary is like a buzzard.

“Brother Walters,” says the preacher, ca’am but firm, “we have all decided that you ain’t going to come out of that cistern till you sign the pledge.”

And Hank tells him what he thinks of pledges and him and church doings, and it wasn’t purty. And he says if he was as deep in eternal fire as what he now is in rain-water, and every fish that nibbles at his toes was a preacher with a red-hot pitchfork a-jabbing at him, they could jab till the hull here- after turned into snow afore he’d ever sign nothing a man like Mr. Cartwright give him to sign. Hank was stubborner than any mule he ever nailed shoes onto, and proud of being that stubborn. That town was a awful religious town, and Hank he knowed he was called the most onreligious man in it, and he was proud of that too; and if any one called him a heathen it jest plumb tickled him all over.

“Brother Walters,” says that preacher, “we are going to pray for you.”

And they done it. They brought all them chairs close up around that cistern, in a ring, and they all kneeled down there, with their heads on ’em, and they prayed fur Hank’s salvation. They done it up in style, too, one at a time, and the others singing out, “Amen!” every now and then, and they shed tears down onto Hank. The front yard was crowded with men, all a-laughing and a-talking and chawing and spitting tobacco and betting how long Hank would hold out. Old Si Emery, that was the city marshal, and always wore a big nickel- plated star, was out there with ’em. Si was in a sweat, ’cause Bill Nolan, that run the bar-room, and some more of Hank’s friends, or as near friends as he had, was out in the road. They says to Si he must arrest that preacher, fur Hank is being gradual murdered in that there water, and he’ll die if he’s helt there too long, and it will be a crime. Only they didn’t come into the yard to say it amongst us religious folks. But Si, he says he dassent arrest no one because it is outside the town copperation; but he’s considerable worried too about what his duty orter be.

Pretty soon the gang that Mrs. Cartwright has rounded up at the prayer-meeting comes stringing along in. They had all brung their hymn books with them, and they sung. The hull town was there then, and they all sung, and they sung re- vival hymns over Hank. And Hank he would jest cuss and cuss. Every time he busted out into another cussing spell they would start another hymn. Finally the men out in the front yard got warmed up too, and begun to sing, all but Bill Nolan’s crowd, and they give Hank up for lost and went away disgusted.

The first thing you knowed they was a reg’lar revival meeting there, and that preacher was preaching a reg’lar revival sermon. I been to more’n one camp meeting, but fur jest natcherally taking holt of the hull human race by the slack of its pants and dangling of it over hell-fire, I never hearn nothing could come up to that there sermon. Two or three old backsliders in the crowd come right up and repented all over agin on the spot. The hull kit and biling of ’em got the power good and hard, like they does at camp meetings and revivals. But Hank, he only cussed. He was obstinate, Hank was, and his pride and dander had riz up. Finally he says:

“You’re taking a ornery, low-down advantage o’ me, you are. Let me out’n this here cistern and I’ll show you who’ll stick it out longest on dry land, dern your religious hides!”

Some of the folks there hadn’t had no suppers, so after all the other sinners but Hank had either got converted or else sneaked away, some of the women says why not make a kind of love feast out of it, and bring some vittles, like they does to church sociables. Because it seems likely Satan is going to wrastle all night long, like he done with the angel Jacob, and they ought to be prepared. So they done it. They went and they come back with vittles and they made up hot coffee and they feasted that preacher and theirselves and Elmira and me, all right in Hank’s hearing.

And Hank was getting hungry himself. And he was cold in that water. And the fish was nibbling at him. And he was getting cussed out and weak and soaked full of despair. And they wasn’t no way fur him to set down and rest. And he was scared of getting a cramp in his legs, and sinking down with his head under water and being drownded. He said afterward he’d of done the last with pleasure if they was any way of suing that crowd fur murder. So along about ten o’clock he sings out:

“I give in, gosh dern ye! I give in. Let me out and I’ll sign your pesky pledge!”

Brother Cartwright was fur getting a ladder and letting him climb out right away. But Elmira, she says:

“Don’t you do it, Brother Cartwright; don’t you do it. You don’t know Hank Walters like I does. If he oncet gets out o’ there before he’s signed that pledge, he won’t never sign it.”

So they fixed it up that Brother Cartwright was to write out a pledge on the inside leaf of the Bible, and tie the Bible onto a string, and a lead pencil onto another string, and let the strings down to Hank, and he was to make his mark, fur he couldn’t write, and they was to be pulled up agin. Hank, he says all right, and they done it. But jest as Hank was making his mark on the leaf of the book, that preacher done what I has always thought was a mean trick. He was lying on the floor with his head and shoulders into that hole as fur as he could, holding a lantern way down into it, so as Hank could see. And jest as Hank made that mark he spoke some words over him, and then he says:

“Now, Henry Walters, I have baptized you, and you are a member of the church.”

You’d a thought Hank would of broke out cussing agin at being took unexpected that-a-way, fur he hadn’t really agreed to nothing but signing the pledge. But nary a cuss. He jest says: “Now, you get that ladder.”

They got it, and he clumb up into the kitchen, dripping and shivering.

“You went and baptized me in that water?” he asts the preacher. The preacher says he has.

“Then,” says Hank, “you done a low-down trick on me. You knowed I has made my brags I never jined no church nor never would jine. You knowed I was proud of that. You knowed that it was my glory to tell of it, and that I set a heap of store by it in every way. And now you’ve went and took it away from me! You never fought it out fair and square, neither, man playing to outlast man, like you done with this here pledge, but you sneaked it in on me when I wasn’t looking.”

They was a lot of men in that crowd that thought the preacher had went too far, and sympathized with Hank. The way he done about that hurt Brother Cartwright in our town, and they was a split in the church, because some said it wasn’t reg’lar and wasn’t binding. He lost his job after a while and become an evangelist. Which it don’t make no difference what one of them does, nohow.

But Hank, he always thought he had been bap- tized reg’lar. And he never was the same after- ward. He had made his life-long brags, and his pride was broke in that there one pertic’ler spot. And he sorrered and grieved over it a good ‘eal, and got grouchier and grouchier and meaner and meaner, and lickered oftener, if anything. Signing the pledge couldn’t hold Hank. He was worse in every way after that night in the cistern, and took to lamming me harder and harder.


Well, all the lammings Hank laid on never done me any good. It seemed like I was
jest natcherally cut out to have no success in life, and no amount of whaling could change it, though Hank, he was faithful. Before I was twelve years old the hull town had seen it, and they wasn’t nothing else expected of me except not to be any good.

That had its handy sides to it, too. They was lots of kids there that had to go to school, but Hank, he never would of let me done that if I had ast him, and I never asted. And they was lots of kids considerably bothered all the time with their parents and relations. They made ’em go to Sunday School, and wash up reg’lar all over on Saturday nights, and put on shoes and stockings part of the time, even in the summer, and some of ’em had to ast to go in swimming, and the hull thing was a continuous trouble and privation to ’em. But they wasn’t nothing perdicted of me, and I done like it was perdicted. Everybody ‘lowed from the start that Hank would of made trash out’n me, even if I hadn’t showed all the signs of being trash anyhow. And if they was devilment anywhere about that town they all says, “Danny, he done it.” And like as not I has. So I gets to be what you might call an outcast. All the kids whose folks ain’t trash, their mothers tells ’em not to run with me no more. Which they done it all the more fur that reason, on the sly, and it makes me more important with them.

But when I gets a little bigger, all that makes me feel kind o’ bad sometimes. It ain’t so handy then. Fur folks gets to saying, when I would come around:

“Danny, what do YOU want?”

And if I says, “Nothing,” they would say:

“Well, then, you get out o’ here!”

Which they needn’t of been suspicioning nothing like they pertended they did, fur I never stole nothing more’n worter millions and mush millions and such truck, and mebby now and then a chicken us kids use to roast in the woods on Sundays, and jest as like as not it was one of Hank’s hens then, which I figgered I’d earnt it.

Fur Hank, he had streaks when he’d work me considerable hard. He never give me any money fur it. He loafed a lot too, and when he’d loaf I’d loaf. But I did pick up right smart of handiness with tools around that there shop of his’n, and if he’d ever of used me right I might of turned into a purty fair blacksmith. But it wasn’t no use trying to work fur Hank. When I was about fifteen, times is right bad around the house fur a spell, and Elmira is working purty hard, and I thinks to myself:

“Well, these folks has kind o’ brung you up, and you ain’t never done more’n Hank made you do. Mebby you orter stick to work a little more when they’s a job in the shop, even if Hank don’t.”

Which I tried it fur about two or three years, doing as much work around the shop as Hank done and mebby more. But it wasn’t no use. One day when I’m about eighteen, I seen awful plain I’ll have to light out from there. They was a circus come to town that day. I says to Hank:

“Hank, they is a circus this afternoon and agin to-night.”

“So I has hearn,” says Hank.

“Are you going to it?” says I.

“I mout,” says Hank, “and then agin I moutn’t. I don’t see as it’s no consarns of yourn, nohow.” I knowed he was going, though. Hank, he never missed a circus.

“Well,” I says, “they wasn’t no harm to ast, was they?”

“Well, you’ve asted, ain’t you?” says Hank.

“Well, then,” says I, “I’d like to go to that there circus myself.”

“They ain’t no use in me saying fur you not to go,” says Hank, “fur you would go anyhow. You always does go off when you is needed.”

“But I ain’t got no money,” I says, “and I was going to ast you could you spare me half a dollar?”

“Great Jehosephat!” says Hank, “but ain’t you getting stuck up! What’s the matter of you crawling in under the tent like you always done? First thing I know you’ll be wanting a pair of these here yaller shoes and a stove-pipe hat.”

“No,” says I, “I ain’t no dude, Hank, and you know it. But they is always things about a circus to spend money on besides jest the circus herself. They is the side show, fur instance, and they is the grand concert afterward. I calkelated I’d take ’em all in this year–the hull dern thing, jest fur oncet.”

Hank, he looks at me like I’d asted fur a house ‘n’ lot, or a million dollars, or something like that. But he don’t say nothing. He jest snorts.

“Hank,” I says, “I been doing right smart work around the shop fur two, three years now. If you wasn’t loafing so much you’d a noticed it more. And I ain’t never ast fur a cent of pay fur it, nor–“

“You ain’t wuth no pay,” says Hank. “You ain’t wuth nothing but to eat vittles and wear out clothes.”

“Well,” I says, “I figger I earn my vittles and a good ‘eal more. And as fur as clothes goes, I never had none but what Elmira made out’n yourn.”

“Who brung you up?” asts Hank.

“You done it,” says I, “and by your own say-so you done a dern poor job at it.”

“You go to that there circus,” says Hank, a-flaring up, “and I’ll lambaste you up to a inch of your life. So fur as handing out money fur you to sling it to the dogs, I ain’t no bank, and if I was I ain’t no ijut. But you jest let me hear of you even going nigh that circus lot and all the lammings you has ever got, rolled into one, won’t be a measly little sarcumstance to what you WILL get. They ain’t no leather-faced young upstart with weepin’-willow hail going to throw up to me how I brung him up. That’s gratitood fur you, that is!” says Hank. “If it hadn’t of been fur me giving you a home when I found you first, where would you of been now?”

“Well,” I says, “I might of been a good ‘eal better off. If you hadn’t of took me in the Alexan- derses would of, and then I wouldn’t of been kep’ out of school and growed up a ignoramus like you is.”

“I never had no trouble keeping you away from school, I notice,” says Hank, with a snort. “This is the first I ever hearn of you wanting to go there.”

Which was true in one way, and a lie in another. I hadn’t never wanted to go till lately, but he’d of lammed me if I had of wanted to. He always said he would. And now I was too big and knowed it.

Well, Hank, he never give me no money, so I watches my chancet that afternoon and slips in under the tent the same as always. And I lays low under them green benches and wiggled through when I seen a good chancet. The first person I seen was Hank. Of course he seen me, and he shook his fist at me in a promising kind of way, and they wasn’t no trouble figgering out what he meant. Fur a while I didn’t enjoy that circus to no extent. Fur I was thinking that if Hank tries to lick me fur it I’ll fight him back this time, which I hadn’t never fit him back much yet fur fear he’d pick up something iron around the shop and jest natcherally lay me cold with it.

I got home before Hank did. It was nigh sun- down, and I was waiting in the door of the shop fur Elmira to holler vittles is ready, and Hank come along. He didn’t waste no time. He steps inside the shop and he takes down a strap and he says:

“You come here and take off your shirt.”

But I jest moves away. Hank, he runs in on me, and he swings his strap. I throwed up my arm, and it cut me acrost the knuckles. I run in on him, and he dropped the strap and fetched me an open- handed smack plumb on the mouth that jarred my head back and like to of busted it loose. Then I got right mad, and I run in on him agin, and this time I got to him, and wrastled with him.

Well, sir, I never was so surprised in all my life before. Fur I hadn’t had holt on him more’n a minute before I seen I’m stronger than Hank is. I throwed him, and he hit the ground with con- siderable of a jar, and then I put my knee in the pit of his stomach and churned it a couple. And I thinks to myself what a fool I must of been fur better’n a year, because I might of done this any time. I got him by the ears and I slammed his head into the gravel a few times, him a-reaching fur my throat, and a-pounding me with his fists, but me a-taking the licks and keeping holt. And I had a mighty contented time fur a few minutes there on top of Hank, chuckling to myself, and batting him one every now and then fur luck, and trying to make him holler it’s enough. But Hank is stubborn and he won’t holler. And purty soon I thinks, what am I going to do? Fur Hank will be so mad when I let him up he’ll jest natcherally kill me, without I kill him. And I was scared, because I don’t want neither one of them things to happen. Whilst I was thinking it over, and getting scareder and scareder, and banging Hank’s head harder and harder, some one grabs me from behind.

They was two of them, and one gets my collar and one gets the seat of my pants, and they drug me off’n him. Hank, he gets up, and then he sets down sudden on a horse block and wipes his face on his sleeve, which they was considerable blood come onto the sleeve.

I looks around to see who has had holt of me, and it is two men. One of them looks about seven feet tall, on account of a big plug hat and a long white linen duster, and has a beautiful red beard. In the road they is a big stout road wagon, with a canopy top over it, pulled by two hosses, and on the wagon box they is a strip of canvas. Which I couldn’t read then what was wrote on the canvas, but I learnt later it said, in big print:


On account of being so busy, neither Hank nor me had hearn the wagon come along the road and stop. The big man in the plug hat, he says, or they was words to that effect, jest as serious:

“Why are you mauling the aged gent?”

“Well,” says I, “he needed it considerable.”

“But,” says he, still more solemn, “the good book says to honour thy father and thy mother.”

“Well,” I says, “mebby it does and mebby it don’t. But HE ain’t my father, nohow. And he ain’t been getting no more’n his come-uppings.”

“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord,” the big man remarks, very serious. Hank, he riz up then, and he says:

“Mister, be you a preacher? ‘Cause if you be, the sooner you have druv on, the better fur ye. I got a grudge agin all preachers.”

That feller, he jest looks Hank over ca’am and easy and slow before he answers, and he wrinkles up his face like he never seen anything like Hank before. Then he fetches a kind o’ aggervating smile, and he says:

“Beneath a shady chestnut tree
The village blacksmith stands.
The smith, a pleasant soul is he
With warts upon his hands–“

He stares at Hank hard and solemn and serious while he is saying that poetry at him. Hank fidgets and turns his eyes away. But the feller touches him on the breast with his finger, and makes him look at him.

“My honest friend,” says the feller, “I am NOT a preacher. Not right now, anyhow. No! My mission is spreading the glad tidings of good health. Look at me,” and he swells his chest up, and keeps a-holt of Hank’s eyes with his’n. “You behold before you the discoverer, manufacturer, and proprietor of Siwash Indian Sagraw, nature’s own remedy for Bright’s Disease, rheumatism, liver and kidney trouble, catarrh, consumption, bronchitis, ring-worm, erysipelas, lung fever, typhoid, croup, dandruff, stomach trouble, dyspepsia–” And they was a lot more of ’em.

“Well,” says Hank, sort o’ backing up as the big man come nearer and nearer to him, jest natcherally bully-ragging him with them eyes, “I got none of them there complaints.”

The doctor he kind o’ snarls, and he brings his hand down hard on Hank’s shoulder, and he says:

“There are more things betwixt Dan and Beer- sheba than was ever dreamt of in thy sagacity, Romeo!” Or they was words to that effect, fur that doctor was jest plumb full of Scripter quota- tions. And he sings out sudden, giving Hank a shove that nearly pushes him over: “Man alive!” he yells, “you DON’T KNOW what disease you may have! Many’s the strong man I’ve seen rejoicing in his strength at the dawn of day cut down like the grass in the field before sunset,” he says.

Hank, he’s trying to look the other way, but that doctor won’t let his eyes wiggle away from his’n. He says very sharp:

“Stick out your tongue!”

Hank, he sticks her out.

The doctor, he takes some glasses out’n his pocket and puts ’em on, and he fetches a long look at her. Then he opens his mouth like he was going to say something, and shuts it agin like his feelings won’t let him. He puts his arm across Hank’s shoulder affectionate and sad, and then he turns his head away like they was some one dead in the fambly. Finally, he says:

“I thought so. I saw it. I saw it in your eyes when I first drove up. I hope,” he says, very mournful, “I haven’t come too late!”

Hank, he turns pale. I was getting sorry fur Hank myself. I seen now why I licked him so easy. Any one could of told from that doctor’s actions Hank was as good as a dead man already. But Hank, he makes a big effort, and he

“Shucks! I’m sixty-eight years old, doctor, and I hain’t never had a sick day in my life.” But he was awful uneasy too.

The doctor, he says to the feller with him: “Looey, bring me one of the sample size.”

Looey brung it, the doctor never taking his eyes off’n Hank. He handed it to Hank, and he says:

“A whiskey glass full three times a day, my friend, and there is a good chance for even you. I give it to you, without money and without price.”

“But what have I got?” asts Hank.

“You have spinal meningitis,” says the doctor, never batting an eye.

“Will this here cure me?” says Hank.

“It’ll cure ANYTHING,” says the doctor.

Hank he says, “Shucks,” agin, but he took the bottle and pulled the cork out and smelt it, right thoughtful. And what them fellers had stopped at our place fur was to have the shoe of the nigh hoss’s off hind foot nailed on, which it was most ready to drop off. Hank, he done it fur a regula- tion, dollar-size bottle and they druv on into the village.

Right after supper I goes down town. They was in front of Smith’s Palace Hotel. They was jest starting up when I got there. Well, sir, that doctor was a sight. He didn’t have his duster onto him, but his stove-pipe hat was, and one of them long Prince Alferd coats nearly to his knees, and shiny shoes, but his vest was cut out holler fur to show his biled shirt, and it was the pinkest shirt I ever see, and in the middle of that they was a dia- mond as big as Uncle Pat Hickey’s wen, what was one of the town sights. No, sir; they never was a man with more genuine fashionableness sticking out all over him than Doctor Kirby. He jest fairly wallered in it.

I hadn’t paid no pertic’ler attention to the other feller with him when they stopped at our place, excepting to notice he was kind of slim and black- haired and funny complected. But I seen now I orter of looked closeter. Fur I’ll be dad-binged if he weren’t an Injun! There he set, under that there gasoline lamp the wagon was all lit up with, with moccasins on, and beads and shells all over him, and the gaudiest turkey tail of feathers rain- bowing down from his head you ever see, and a blanket around him that was gaudier than the feathers. And he shined and rattled every time he moved.

That wagon was a hull opry house to itself. It was rolled out in front of Smith’s Palace Hotel without the hosses. The front part was filled with bottles of medicine. The doctor, he begun business by taking out a long brass horn and tooting on it. They was about a dozen come, but they was mostly boys. Then him and the Injun picked up some banjoes and sung a comic song out loud and clear. And they was another dozen or so come. And they sung another song, and Pop Wilkins, he closed up the post-office and come over and the other two veterans of the Grand Army of the Republicans that always plays checkers in there nights come along with him. But it wasn’t much of a crowd, and the doctor he looked sort o’ worried. I had a good place, right near the hind wheel of the wagon where he rested his foot occasional, and I seen what he was thinking. So I says to him:

“Doctor Kirby, I guess the crowd is all gone to the circus agin to-night.” And all them fellers there seen I knowed him.

“I guess so, Rube,” he says to me. And they all laughed ’cause he called me Rube, and I felt kind of took down.

Then he lit in to tell about that Injun medicine. First off he told how he come to find out about it. It was the father of the Injun what was with him had showed him, he said. And it was in the days of his youthfulness, when he was wild, and a cowboy on the plains of Oregon. Well, one night he says, they was an awful fight on the plains of Oregon, wherever them is, and he got plugged full of bullet holes. And his hoss run away with him and he was carried off, and the hoss was going at a dead run, and the blood was running down onto the ground. And the wolves smelt the blood and took out after him, yipping and yowling something frightful to hear, and the hoss he kicked out be- hind and killed the head wolf and the others stopped to eat him up, and while they was eating him the hoss gained a quarter of a mile. But they et him up and they was gaining agin, fur the smell of human blood was on the plains of Oregon, he says, and the sight of his mother’s face when she ast him never to be a cowboy come to him in the moonlight, and he knowed that somehow all would yet be well, and then he must of fainted and he knowed no more till he woke up in a tent on the plains of Oregon. And they was an old Injun bending over him and a beautiful Injun maiden was feeling of his pulse, and they says to him:

“Pale face, take hope, fur we will doctor you with Siwash Injun Sagraw, which is nature’s own cure fur all diseases.”

They done it. And he got well. It had been a secret among them there Injuns fur thousands and thousands of years. Any Injun that give away the secret was killed and rubbed off the rolls of the tribe and buried in disgrace upon the plains of Oregon. And the doctor was made a blood brother of the chief, and learnt the secret of that medicine. Finally he got the chief to see as it wasn’t Christian to hold back that there medicine from the world no longer, and the chief, his heart was softened, and he says to go.

“Go, my brother,” he says, “and give to the pale faces the medicine that has been kept secret fur thousands and thousands of years among the Siwash Injuns on the plains of Oregon.”

And he went. It wasn’t that he wanted to make no money out of that there medicine. He could of made all the money he wanted being a doctor in the reg’lar way. But what he wanted was to spread the glad tidings of good health all over this fair land of ourn, he says.

Well, sir, he was a talker, that there doctor was, and he knowed more religious sayings and poetry along with it, than any feller I ever hearn. He goes on and he tells how awful sick people can manage to get and never know it, and no one else never suspicion it, and live along fur years and years that-a-way, and all the time in danger of death. He says it makes him weep when he sees them poor diluted fools going around and thinking they is well men, talking and laughing and marrying and giving in to marriage right on the edge of the grave. He sees dozens of ’em in every town he comes to. But they can’t fool him, he says. He can tell at a glance who’s got Bright’s Disease in their kidneys and who ain’t. His own father, he says, was deathly sick fur years and years and never knowed it, and the knowledge come on him sudden like, and he died. That was before Siwash Injun Sagraw was ever found out about. Doctor Kirby broke down and cried right there in the wagon when he thought of how his father might of been saved if he was only alive now that that medicine was put up into bottle form, six fur a five-dollar bill so long as he was in town, and after that two dollars fur each bottle at the drug store.

He unrolled a big chart and the Injun helt it by that there gasoline lamp, so all could see, turning the pages now and then. It was a map of a man’s inside organs and digestive ornaments and things. They was red and blue, like each organ’s own disease had turned it, and some of ’em was yaller. And they was a long string of diseases printed in black hanging down from each organ’s picture. I never knowed before they was so many diseases nor yet so many things to have ’em in.

Well, I was feeling purty good when that show started. But the doc, he kep’ looking right at me every now and then when he talked, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off’n him.

“Does your heart beat fast when you exercise?” he asts the crowd. “Is your tongue coated after meals? Do your eyes leak when your nose is stopped up? Do you perspire under your arm pits? Do you ever have a ringing in your ears? Does your stomach hurt you after meals? Does your back ever ache? Do you ever have pains in your legs? Do your eyes blur when you look at the sun? Are your teeth coated? Does your hair come out when you comb it? Is your breath short when you walk up stairs? Do your feet swell in warm weather? Are there white spots on your finger nails? Do you draw your breath part of the time through one nostril and part of the time through the other? Do you ever have nightmare? Did your nose bleed easily when you were growing up? Does your skin fester when scratched? Are your eyes gummy in the mornings? Then,” he says, “if you have any or all of these symptoms, your blood is bad, and your liver is wasting away.”

Well, sir, I seen I was in a bad way, fur at one time or another I had had most of them there signs and warnings, and hadn’t heeded ’em, and I had some of ’em yet. I begun to feel kind o’ sick, and looking at them organs and diseases didn’t help me none, either. The doctor, he lit out on another string of symptoms, and I had them, too. Seems to me I had purty nigh everything but fits. Kidney complaint and consumption both had a holt on me. It was about a even bet which would get me first. I kind o’ got to wondering which. I figgered from what he said that I’d had consumption the LONGEST while, but my kind of kidney trouble was an awful SLY kind, and it was lible to jump in without no warning a-tall and jest natcherally wipe me out QUICK. So I sort o’ bet on the kidney trouble. But I seen I was a goner, and I forgive Hank all his orneriness, fur a feller don’t want to die holding grudges.

Taking it the hull way through, that was about the best medicine show I ever seen. But they didn’t sell much. All the people what had any money was to the circus agin that night. So they sung some more songs and closed early and went into the hotel.


Well, the next morning I’m feeling con- siderable better, and think mebby I’m go- ing to live after all. I got up earlier’n Hank did, and slipped out without him seeing me, and didn’t go nigh the shop a-tall. Fur now I’ve licked Hank oncet I figger he won’t rest till he has wiped that disgrace out, and he won’t care a dern what he picks up to do it with, nuther.

They was a crick about a hundred yards from our house, in the woods, and I went over there and laid down and watched it run by. I laid awful still, thinking I wisht I was away from that town. Purty soon a squirrel comes down and sets on a log and watches me. I throwed an acorn at him, and he scooted up a tree quicker’n scatt. And then I wisht I hadn’t scared him away, fur it looked like he knowed I was in trouble. Purty soon I takes a swim, and comes out and lays there some more, spitting into the water and thinking what shall I do now, and watching birds and things mov- ing around, and ants working harder’n ever I would agin unless I got better pray fur it, and these here tumble bugs kicking their loads along hind end to.

After a while it is getting along toward noon, and I’m feeling hungry. But I don’t want to have no more trouble with Hank, and I jest lays there. I hearn two men coming through the underbrush. I riz up on my elbow to look, and one of them was Doctor Kirby and the other was Looey, only Looey wasn’t an Injun this morning.

They sets down on the roots of a big tree a little ways off, with their backs toward me, and they ain’t seen me. So nacherally I listened to what they was jawing about. They was both kind o’ mad at the hull world, and at our town in pertic’ler, and some at each other, too. The doctor, he says:

“I haven’t had such rotten luck since I played the bloodhound in a Tom Show–Were you ever an ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ artist, Looey?–and a justice of the peace over in Iowa fined me five dollars for being on the street without a muzzle. Said it was a city ordinance. Talk about the gentle Rube being an easy mark! If these country towns don’t get the wandering minstrel’s money one way they will another!”

“It’s your own fault,” says Looey, kind o’ sour.

“I can’t see it,” says Doctor Kirby. “How did I know that all these apple-knockers had been filled up with Sykes’s Magic Remedy only two weeks ago? I may have been a spiritualistic medium in my time now and then,” he says, “and a mind reader, too, but I’m no prophet.”

“I ain’t talking about the business, Doc, and you know it,” says Looey. “We’d be all right and have our horses and wagon now if you’d only stuck to business and not got us into that poker game. Talk about suckers! Doc, for a man that has skinned as many of ’em as you have, you’re the worst sucker yourself I ever saw.”

The doctor, he cusses the poker game and country towns and medicine shows and the hull creation and says he is so disgusted with life he guesses he’ll go and be a preacher or a bearded lady in a side- show. But Looey, he don’t cheer up none. He says:

“All right, Doc, but it’s no use talking. You can TALK all right. We all know that. The ques- tion is how are we going to get our horses and wagon away from these Rubes?”

I listens some more, and I seen them fellers was really into bad trouble. Doctor Kirby, he had got into a poker game at Smith’s Palace Hotel the night before, right after the show. He had won from Jake Smith, which run it, and from the others. But shucks! it never made no difference what you won in that crowd. They had done Doctor Kirby and Looey like they always done a drummer or a stranger that come along to that town and was fool enough to play poker with them. They wasn’t a chancet fur an outsider. If the drummer lost, they would take his money and that would be all they was to it. But if the drummer got to winning good, some one would slip out’n the hotel and tell Si Emery, which was the city marshal. And Si would get Ralph Scott, that worked fur Jake Smith in his livery stable, and pin a star onto Ralph, too. And they would be arrested fur gambling, only them that lived in our town would get away. Which Si and Ralph was always scared every time they done it. Then the drummer, or whoever it was, would be took to the calaboose, and spend all night there.

In the morning they would be took before Squire Matthews, that was justice of the peace. They would be fined a big fine, and he would get all the drummer had won and all he had brung to town with him besides. Squire Matthews and Jake Smith and Windy Goodell and Mart Watson, which the two last was lawyers, was always playing that there game on drummers that was fool enough to play poker. Hank, he says he bet they divided it up afterward, though it was supposed them fines went to the town. Well, they played a purty closte game of poker in our little town. It was jest like the doctor says to Looey:

“By George,” he says, “it is a well-nigh perfect thing. If you lose you lose, and if you win you lose.”

Well, the doctor, he had started out winning the night before. And Si Emery and Ralph Scott had arrested them. And that morning, while I had been laying by the crick and the rest of the town was seeing the fun, they had been took afore Squire Matthews and fined one hundred and twenty-five dollars apiece. The doctor, he tells Squire Mat- thews it is an outrage, and it ain’t legal if tried in a bigger court, and they ain’t that much money in the world so fur as he knows, and he won’t pay it. But, the squire, he says the time has come to teach them travelling fakirs as is always running around the country with shows and electric belts and things that they got to stop dreening that town of hard-earned money, and he has decided to make an example of ’em. The only two
lawyers in town is Windy and Mart, which has been in the poker game theirselves, the same as always. The doctor says the hull thing is a put-up job, and he can’t get the money, and he wouldn’t if he could, and he’ll lay in that town calaboose and rot the rest of his life and eat the town poor before he’ll stand it. And the squire says he’ll jest take their hosses and wagon fur c’latteral till they make up the rest of the two hundred and fifty dollars. And the hosses and wagon was now in the livery stable next to Smith’s Palace Hotel, which Jake run that too.

Well, I thinks to myself, it IS a dern shame, and I felt sorry fur them two fellers. Fur our town was jest as good as stealing that property. And I felt kind o’ shamed of belonging to such a town, too. And I thinks to myself, I’d like to help ’em out of that scrape. And then I seen how I could do it, and not get took up fur it, neither. So, without thinking, all of a sudden I jumps up and says:

“Say, Doctor Kirby, I got a scheme!”

They jumps up too, and they looks at me startled. Then the doctor kind o’ laughs and says:

“Why, it’s the young blacksmith!”

Looey, he says, looking at me hard and suspicious:

“What kind of a scheme are you talking about?”

“Why,” says I, “to get that outfit of yourn.”

“You’ve been listening to us,” says Looey. Looey was one of them quiet-looking fellers that never laughed much nor talked much. Looey, he never made fun of nobody, which the doctor was always doing, and I wouldn’t of cared to make fun of Looey much, either.

“Yes,” I says, “I been laying here fur quite a spell, and quite natcheral I listened to you, as any one else would of done. And mebby I can get that team and wagon of yourn without it costing you a cent.”

Well, they didn’t know what to say. They asts me how, but I says to leave it all to me. “Walk right along down this here crick,” I says, “till you get to where it comes out’n the woods and runs acrost the road in under an iron bridge. That’s about a half a mile east. Jest after the road crosses the bridge it forks. Take the right fork and walk another half a mile and you’ll see a little yaller- painted schoolhouse setting lonesome on a sand hill. They ain’t no school in it now. You wait there fur me,” I says, “fur a couple of hours. After that if I ain’t there you’ll know I can’t make it. But I think I’ll make it.”

They looks at each other and they looks at me, and then they go off a little piece and talk low, and then the doctor says to me:

“Rube,” he says, “I don’t know how you can work anything on us that hasn’t been worked already. We’ve got nothing more we can lose. You go to it, Rube.” And they started off.

So I went over town. Jake Smith was setting on the piazza in front of his hotel, chawing and spitting tobacco, with his feet agin the railing like he always done, and one of his eyes squinched up and his hat over the other one.

“Jake,” I says, “where’s that there doctor?”

Jake, he spit careful afore he answered, and he pulled his long, scraggly moustache careful, and he squinched his eyes at me. Jake was a careful man in everything he done.

“I dunno, Danny,” he says. “Why?”

“Well,” I says, “Hank sent me over to get that wagon and them hosses of theirn and finish that job.”

“That there wagon,” says Jake, “is in my barn, with Si Emery watching her, and she has got to stay there till the law lets her loose.” I figgered to myself Jake could use that team and wagon in his business, and was going to buy her cheap offn the town, what share of her he didn’t figger he owned already.

“Why, Jake,” I says, “I hope they ain’t been no trouble of no kind that has drug the law into your barn!”

“Well, Danny,” he says, “they HAS been a little trouble. But it’s about over, now, I guess. And that there outfit belongs to the town now.”

“You don’t say so!” says I, surprised-like. “When I seen them men last night it looked to me like they was too fine dressed to be honest.”

“I don’t think they be, Danny,” says Jake, confidential. “In my opinion they is mighty bad customers. But they has got on the wrong side of the law now, and I guess they won’t stay around here much longer.”

“Well,” says I, “Hank will be glad.”

“Fur what?” asts Jake.

“Well,” says I, “because he got his pay in advance fur that job and now he don’t have to finish it. They come along to our place about sundown yesterday, and we nailed a shoe on one hoss. They was a couple of other hoofs needed fixing, and the tire on one of the hind wheels was beginning to rattle loose.”

I had noticed that loose tire when I was standing by the hind wheel the night before, and it come in handy now. So I goes on:

“Hank, he allowed he’d fix the hull thing fur six bottles of that Injun medicine. Elmira has been ailing lately, and he wanted it fur her. So they handed Hank out six bottles then and there.”

“Huh!” says Jake. “So the job is all paid fur, is it?”

“Yes,” says I, “and I was expecting to do it myself. But now I guess I’ll go fishing instead. They ain’t no other job in the shop.”

“I’ll be dinged if you’ve got time to fish,” says Jake. “I’m expecting mebby to buy that rig off the town myself when the law lets loose of it. So if the fixing is paid fur, I want everything fixed.”

“Jake,” says I, kind of worried like, “I don’t want to do it without that doctor says to go ahead.”

“They ain’t his’n no longer,” says Jake.

“I dunno,” says I, “as you got any right to make me do it, Jake. It don’t look to me like it’s no harm to beat a couple of fellers like them out of their medicine. And I DID want to go fishing this afternoon.”

But Jake was that careful and stingy he’d try to skin a hoss twicet if it died. He’s bound to get that job done, now.

“Danny,” he says, “you gotto do that work. It ain’t HONEST not to. What a young feller like you jest starting out into life wants to remember is to always be honest. Then,” says Jake, squinch- ing up his eyes, “people trusts you and you get a good chancet to make money. Look at this here hotel and livery stable, Danny. Twenty years ago I didn’t have no more’n you’ve got, Danny. But I always went by them mottoes–hard work and being honest. You GOTTO nail them shoes on, Danny, and fix that wheel.”

“Well, all right, Jake,” says I, “if you feel that way about it. Jest give me a chaw of tobacco and come around and help me hitch ’em up.”

Si Emery was there asleep on a pile of straw guarding that property. But Ralph Scott wasn’t around. Si didn’t wake up till we had hitched ’em up. He says he will ride around to the shop with me. But Jake says:

“It’s all right, Si. I’ll go over myself and fetch ’em back purty soon.” Which Si was wore out with being up so late the night before, and goes back to sleep agin right off.

Well, sir, they wasn’t nothing went wrong. I drove slow through the village and past our shop. Hank come to the door of it as I went past. But I hit them hosses a lick, and they broke into a right smart trot. Elmira, she come onto the porch and I waved my hand at her. She put her hand up to her forehead to shut out the sun and jest stared. She didn’t know I was waving her farewell. Hank, he yelled something at me, but I never hearn what. I licked them hosses into a gallop and went around the turn of the road. And that’s the last I ever seen or hearn of Hank or Elmira or that there little town.


I slowed down when I got to the school- house, and both them fellers piled in.

“I guess I better turn north fur about a mile and then turn west, Doctor Kirby,” I says, “so as to make a kind of a circle around that town.”

“Why, so, Rube?” he asts me.

“Well,” I says, “we left it going east, and they’ll foller us east; so don’t we want to be going west while they’re follering east?”

Looey, he agreed with me. But he said it wouldn’t be much use, fur we would likely be ketched up with and took back and hung or some- thing, anyhow. Looey could get the lowest in his sperrits sometimes of any man I ever seen.

“Don’t be afraid of that,” says the doctor. “They are not going to follow us. THEY know they didn’t get this property by due process of law. THEY aren’t going to take the case into a county court where it will all come out about the way they robbed a couple of travelling men with a fake trial.”

“I guess you know more about the law’n I do,” I says. “I kind o’ thought mebby we stole them hosses.”

“Well,” he says, “we got ’em, anyhow. And if they try to arrest us without a warrant there’ll be the deuce to pay. But they aren’t going to make any more trouble. I know these country crooks. They’ve got no stomach for trouble out- side their own township.”

Which made me feel considerable better, fur I never been of the opinion that going agin the law done any one no good.

They looks around in that wagon, and all their stuff was there–Jake Smith and the squire hav- ing kep’ it all together careful to make things seem more legal, I suppose–and the doctor was plumb tickled, and Looey felt as cheerful as he ever felt about anything. So the doctor says they has every- thing they needs but some ready money, and he’ll get that sure, fur he never seen the time he couldn’t.

“But, Looey,” he says, “I’m done with country hotels from now on. They’ve got the last cent they ever will from me–at least in the summer time.”

“How you going to work it?” Looey asts him, like he hasn’t no hopes it will work right.

“Camp out,” says the doctor. “I’ve been think- ing it all over.” Then he turns to me. “Rube,” he says, “where are you going?”

“Well,” I says, “I ain’t pinted nowhere in per- tic’ler except away from that town we just left. Which my name ain’t Rube, Doctor Kirby, but Danny.”