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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 10001

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


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 admire 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 hereafter 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 revival hymns over Hank. And Hank he would jest cuss and cuss. Every t

ime 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 baptized reg'lar. And he never was the same afterward. 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.

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