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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 14009

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


I slowed down when I got to the schoolhouse, 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 something, 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 outside 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 having 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 everything 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 thinking it all over." Then he turns to me. "Rube," he says, "where are you going?"

"Well," I says, "I ain't pinted nowhere in pertic'ler except away from that town we just left. Which my name ain't Rube, Doctor Kirby, but Danny."

"Danny what?" asts he.

"Nothing," says I, "jest Danny."

"Well, then, Danny," says he, "how would you like to be an Indian?"

"Medical?" asts I, "or real?"

"Like Looey," says he.

I tells him being a medical Injun and mixed up with a show like his'n would suit me down to the ground, and asts him what is the main duties of one besides the blankets and the feathers.

"Well," he says, "this camping-out scheme of mine will take a couple of Indians. Instead of paying hotel and feed bills we'll pitch our tent," he says, "at the edge of town in each sweet Auburn of the plains. We'll save money and we'll be near the throbbing heart of nature. And an Indian camp in each place will be a good advertisement for the Sagraw. You can look after the horses and learn to do the cooking and that kind o' thing. And maybe after while," he says, kind o' working himself up to where he thought it was going to be real nice, "maybe after while I will give you some insight into the hidden mysteries of selling Siwash Indian Sagraw."

"Well," says I, "I'd like to learn that."

"Would you?" says he, kind o' laughing at himself and me too, and yet kind o' enthusiastic, "well, then, the first thing you have to do is learn how to sell corn salve. Any one that can sell corn salve can sell anything. There's a farmhouse right over there, and I'll give you your first lesson right now. Rummage around in that satchel there under the seat and get me a tin box and some corn salve labels."

I found a lot of labels, and some boxes too. The labels was all different sizes, but barring that they all looked about the same to me. Whilst I was sizing them up he asts me agin was they any corn salve ones in there.

"What colour label is it, Doctor Kirby?" I asts him. Fur they was blue labels and white labels and pink labels.

He looks at me right queer. "Can't you read the labels?" he says, right sharp.

"Well," I says, "I never been much of a reader when it comes to different kind of medicines."

"Corn salve is spelled only one way," says he.

"That's right," I says, "and you'd think I orter be able to pick out a common, ordinary thing like corn salve right off, wouldn't you?"

"Danny," he says, "you don't mean to tell me you can't read anything at all?"

"I never told you nothing of the kind."

He picks out a label.

"If you can read so fast, what's that?" he asts.

She is a pink one. I thinks to myself; she either is corn salve or else she ain't corn salve. And it ain't natcheral he will pick corn salve, fur he would think I would say that first off. So I'm betting it ain't. I takes a chancet on it.

"That," says I, "is mighty easy reading. That is Siwash Injun Sagraw." I lost.

"It's corn salve," he says. "And Great Scott! They call this the twentieth century!"

"I never called it that," says I, sort o' mad-like. Fur I was feeling bad Doctor Kirby had found out I was such a ignoramus.

"Where ignorance is bliss," says he, "it is folly to be wise. But all the same, I'm going to take your education in hand and make you drink of life's Peruvian springs." Or some spring like that it was.

And the doctor, he done it. Looey said it wouldn't be no use learning to read. He'd done a lot of reading, he said, and it never helped him none. All he ever read showed him this feller Hamlet was right, he said, when he wrote Shakespeare's works, and they wasn't much use in anything, without you had a lot o' money. And they wasn't no chancet to get that with all these here trusts around gobbling up everything and stomping the poor man into the dirt, and they was lots of times he wisht he was a Injun sure enough, and not jest a medical one, fur then he'd be a free man and the bosses and the trusts and the railroads and the robber tariff couldn't touch him. And then he shut up, and didn't say nothing fur a hull hour, except oncet he laughed.

Fur Doctor Kirby, he says, winking at me: "Looey, here, is a nihilist."

"Is he," says I, "what's that?" And the doctor tells me about how they blow up dukes and czars and them foreign high-mucky-mucks with dynamite. Which is when Looey laughed.

Well, we jogged along at a pretty good gait fur several hours, and we stayed that night at a Swede's place, which the doctor paid him fur everything in medicine, only it took a long time to make the bargain, fur them Swedes is always careful not to get cheated, and hasn't many diseases. And the next night we showed in a little town, and done right well, and took in considerable money. We stayed there three days and bought a tent and a sheet-iron stove and some skillets and things and some provisions, and a suit of duds for me.

Well, we went on, and we kept going on, and they was bully times. We'd ease up careful toward a town, and pick us out a place on the edge, where the hosses could graze along the side of the road; and most ginerally by a piece of woods not fur from that town, and nigh a crick, if we could. Then we'd set up our tent. After we had everything fixed, I'd put on my Injun clothes and Looey his'n, and we'd drive through the main store street of the town at a purty good lick, me a-holt of the reins, and the doctor all togged out in his best clothes, and Looey doing a Injun dance in the midst of the wagon. I'd pull up the hosses sudden in front of the post-office or the depot platform or the hotel, and the people would come crowding around, and the doctor he'd make a little talk from the wagon, and tell everybody they would be a free show that night on that corner, and fur everybody to come to it. And then we'd drive back to camp, lickitysplit.

Purty soon every boy in town would be out there, kind o' hanging around, to see what a Injun camp was like. And the farmers that went into and out of town always stopped and passed the time of day, and the Injun camp got the hull town all worked up as a usual thing; and the doctor, he done well, fur when night come every one would be on hand. Looey and me, every time we went into town, had on our Injun suits, and the doctor, he wondered why he hadn't never thought up that scheme before. Sometimes, when they was lots of people ailing in a town, and they hadn't been no show fur quite a while, we'd stay five or six days, and make a good clean-up. The doctor, he sent to Chicago several times fur alcohol in barrels, 'cause he was selling it so fast he had to make new Sagraw. And he had to get more and more bottles, and a hull satchel full of new Sagraw labels printed.

And all the time the doctor was learning me education. And shucks! they wasn't nothing so hard about it oncet you'd got started in to reading things. I jest natcherally took to print like a duck to water, and inside of a month I was reading nigh everything that has ever been wrote. He had lots of books with him and every time a new sockdologer of a word come along and I learnt how to spell her and where she orter fit in to make sense it kind o' tickled me all over. And many's the time afterward, when me and the doctor had lost track of each other, and they was quite a spell people got to thinking I was a tramp, I've went into these here Andrew Carnegie libraries in different towns jest as much to see if they had anything fitten to read as fur to keep warm.

Well, we went easing over toward the Indiany line, and we was having a purty good time. They wasn't no work to do you could call really hard, and they was plenty of vittles. Afternoons we'd lazy around the camp and swap stories and make medicine if we needed a batch, and josh back and forth with the people that hung around, and loaf and doze and smoke; or mebby do a little fishing if we was nigh a crick.

And nights after the show was over it was fun, too. We always had a fire, even if it was a hot night, fur to cook by in the first place, and fur to keep mosquitoes off, and to make things seem more cheerful. They ain't nothing so good as hanging round a campfire. And they ain't nothing any better than sleeping outdoors, neither. You roll up in your blanket with your feet to the fire and you get to wondering things about things afore you go to sleep. The silentness jest natcherally swamps everything after a while, and then all them queer little noises you never hear in the daytime comes popping and poking through the silentness, or kind o' scratching their way through it sometimes, and makes it kind o' feel more silent than ever. And if you are nigh a crick, purty soon it will sort of get to talking to you, only you can't make out what it's trying to say, and you get to wondering about that, too. And if you are in a tent and it rains and the tent don't leak, that rain is a kind of a nice thing to listen to itself. But if you can see the stars you get to wondering more'n ever. They come out and they is so many of them and they are so fur away, and yet they are so kind o' friendly-like, too, if you happen to be feeling purty good. But if you ain't feeling purty good, jest lay there and look at them stars long enough; and then mebby you'll see it don't make no difference whether you're feeling good or not, fur they got a way o' making your private troubles look mighty small. And you get to wondering why that is, too, fur they ain't human; and it don't stand to reason you orter pay no attention to them, one way nor the other. They is jest there, like trees and cricks and hills. But I have often noticed that the things that is jest there has got a way of seeming more friendly than the things that has been built and put there. You can look at a big iron bridge or a grain elevator or a canal all day long, and if you're feeling blue it don't help you none. It was jest put there. Or a hay stack is the same way. But you go and lazy around in the grass when you're down on your luck and kind o' make remarks to a crick or a big, old walnut tree, and before long it gets you to feeling like it didn't make no difference how you felt, anyhow; fur you don't amount to nothing by the side of something that was always there. You get to thinking how the hull world itself was always here, and you sort o' see they ain't nothing important enough about yourself to worry about, and presently you will go to sleep and forget it. The doctor says to me one time them stars ain't any different from this world, and this is one of them. Which is a fool idea, as any one can see. He had a lot of queer ideas like that, Doctor Kirby had. But they ain't nothing like sleeping out of doors nights to make you wonder the kind of wonderings you never will get any answer to.

Well, I never cared so much fur houses after them days. They was bully times, them was. And I was kind of proud of being with a show, too. Many's the time I have went down the street in that there Injun suit, and seen how the young fellers would of give all they owned to be me. And every now and then you would hear one say when you went past:

"Huh, I know him! That's one of them show fellers!"

One afternoon we pitches our tent right on the edge of a little town called Athens. We was nigh the bank of a crick, and they was a grove there. We was camped jest outside of a wood-lot fence, and back in through the trees from us they was a house with a hedge fence all around it. They was apple trees and all kind of flower bushes and things inside of the hedge. The second day we was there I takes a walk back through the wood-lot, and along past the house, and they was one of these here early harvest apple trees spilling apples through a gap in the fence. Them is a mighty sweet and juicy kind of apple, and I picks one up and bites into it.

"I think you might have asked for it," says some one.

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