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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 19535

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Martha wouldn't of took anything fur being around Miss Hampton, she said. Miss Hampton was kind of quiet and sweet and pale looking, and nobody ever thought of talking loud or raising any fuss when she was around. She had enough money of her own to run herself on, and she kep' to herself a good deal. She had come to that town from no one knowed where, years ago, and bought that place. Fur all of her being so gentle and easy and talking with one of them soft, drawly kind of voices, Martha says, no one had ever dared to ast her about herself, though they was a lot of women in that town that was wishful to.

But Martha said she knowed what Miss Hampton's secret was, and she hadn't told no one, neither. Which she told me, and all the promising I done about not telling would of made the cold chills run up your back, it was so solemn. Miss Hampton had been jilted years ago, Martha said, and the name of the jilter was David Armstrong. Well, he must of been a low down sort of man. Martha said if things was only fixed in this country like they ought to be, she would of sent a night to find that David Armstrong. And that would of ended up in a mortal combat, and the night would have cleaved him.

"Yes," says I, "and then you would of married that there night, I suppose."

She says she would of.

"Well," says I, "mebby you would of and mebby you wouldn't of. If he cleaved David Armstrong, that night would likely be arrested fur it."

Martha says if he was she would wait outside his dungeon keep fur years and years, till she was a old woman with gray in her hair, and every day they would give lingering looks at each other through the window bars. And they would be happy thata-way. And she would get her a white dove and train it so it would fly up to that window and take in notes to him, and he would send notes back that-away, and they would both be awful sad and romanceful and contented doing that-a-way fur ever and ever.

Well, I never took no stock in them mournful ways of being happy. I couldn't of riz up to being a night fur Martha. She expected too much of one. I thought it over fur a little spell without saying anything, and I tried to make myself believe I would of liked all that dove business. But it wasn't no use pertending. I knowed I would get tired of it.

"Martha," I says, "mebby these here nights is all right, and mebby they ain't. I never seen one, and I don't know. And, mind you, I ain't saying a word agin their way of acting. I can't say how I would of been myself, if I had been brung up like them. But it looks to me, from some of the things you've said about 'em, they must have a dern fool streak in 'em somewheres."

I was kind of jealous of them nights, I guess, or I wouldn't of run 'em down that-a-way behind their backs. But the way she was always taking on over them was calkelated to make me see I wasn't knee-high to a duck in Martha's mind when one of them nights popped into her head. When I run 'em down that-a-way, she says to the blind all things is blind, and if I had any chivalry into me myself I'd of seen they wasn't jest dern fools, but noble, and seen it easy. And she sighed, like she'd looked fur better things from me. When I hearn her do that I felt sorry I hadn't come up to her expectances. So I says:

"Martha, it's no use pertending I could stay in one of them jails and keep happy at it. I got to be outdoors. But I tell you what I can do, if it will make you feel any better. If I ever happen to run acrost this here David Armstrong, and he is anywheres near my size, I'll lick him fur you. And if he's too hefty fur me to lick him fair," I says, "and I get a good chancet I will hit him with a piece of railroad iron fur you."

Of course, I knowed I would never find him. But what I said seemed to brighten her up a little.

"But," says I, "if I went too fur with it, and was hung fur it, how would you feel then, Martha?"

Well, sir, that didn't jar Martha none. She looked kind of dreamy and said mebby she would go and jine a convent and be a nun. And when she got to be the head nun she would build a chapel over the tomb where I was buried in. And every year, on the day of the month I was hung on, she would lead all the other nuns into that chapel, and the organ would play mournful, and each nun as passed would lay down a bunch of white roses onto my tomb. I reckon that orter made me feel good, but somehow it didn't.

So I changed the subject, and asts her why I ain't seen Miss Hampton around the place none. Martha says she has a bad sick headache and ain't been outside the house fur four or five days. I asts her why she don't wait on her. But she don't want her to, Martha says. She's been staying in the house ever since we been in town, and jest wants to be let alone. I thinks all that is kind of funny. And then I seen from the way Martha is answering my questions that she is holding back something she would like to tell, but don't think she orter tell. I leaves her alone and purty soon she says:

"Do you believe in ghosts?"

I tell her sometimes I think I don't believe in 'em, and sometimes I think I do, but anyhow I would hate to see one. I asts her why does she ast.

"Because," she says, "because-but I hadn't ought to tell you."

"It's daylight," I says; "it's no use being scared to tell now."

"It ain't that," she says, "but it's a secret."

When she said it was a secret, I knowed she would tell. Martha liked having her friends help her to keep a secret.

"I think Miss Hampton has seen one," she says, finally, "and that her staying indoors has something to do with that."

Then she tells me. The night of the day after we camped there, her and Miss Hampton was out fur a walk. We didn't have any show that night. They passed right by our camp, and they seen us there by the fire, all three of us. But they was in the road in the dark, and we was all in the light, so none of the three of us seen them. Miss Hampton was kind of scared of us, first glance, fur she gasped and grabbed holt of Martha's arm all of a sudden so tight she pinched it. Which it was very natcheral that she would be startled, coming across three strange men all of a sudden at night around a turn in the road. They went along home, and Martha went inside and lighted a lamp, but Miss Hampton lingered on the porch fur a minute. Jest as she lit the lamp Martha hearn another little gasp, or kind of sigh, from Miss Hampton out there on the porch. Then they was the sound of her falling down. Martha ran out with the lamp, and she was laying there. She had fainted and keeled over. Martha said jest in the minute she had left her alone on the porch was when Miss Hampton must of seen the ghost. Martha brung her to, and she was looking puzzled and wild-like both to oncet. Martha asts her what is the matter.

"Nothing," she says, rubbing her fingers over her forehead in a helpless kind of way, "nothing."

"You look like you had seen a ghost," Martha tells her.

Miss Hampton looks at Martha awful funny, and then she says mebby she HAS seen a ghost, and goes along upstairs to bed. And since then she ain't been out of the house. She tells Martha it is a sick headache, but Martha says she knows it ain't. She thinks she is scared of something.

"Scared?" I says. "She wouldn't see no more ghosts in the daytime."

Martha says how do I know she wouldn't? She knows a lot about ghosts of all kinds, Martha does.

Horses and dogs can see them easier than humans, even in the daytime, and it makes their hair stand up when they do. But some humans that have the gift can see them in the daytime like an animal. And Martha asts me how can I tell but Miss Hampton is like that?

"Well, then," I says, "she must be a witch. And if she is a witch why is she scared of them a-tall?"

But Martha says if you have second sight you don't need to be a witch to see them in the daytime.

Well, you can never tell about them ghosts. Some says one thing and some says another. Old Mis' Primrose, in our town, she always believed in 'em firm till her husband died. When he was dying they fixed it up he was to come back and visit her. She told him he had to, and he promised. And she left the front door open fur him night after night fur nigh a year, in all kinds of weather; but Primrose never come. Mis' Primrose says he never lied to her, and he always done jest as she told him, and if he could of come she knowed he would; and when he didn't she quit believing in ghosts. But they was others in our town said it didn't prove nothing at all. They said Primrose had really been lying to her all his life, because she was so bossy he had to lie to keep peace in the fambly, and she never ketched on. Well, if I was a ghost and had of been Mis' Primrose's husband when I was a human, I wouldn't of come back neither, even if she had of bully-ragged me into one of them death-bed promises. I guess Primrose figgered he had earnt a rest.

If they is ghosts, what comfort they can get out of coming back where they ain't wanted and scaring folks is more'n I can see. It's kind of low down, I think, and foolish too. Them kind of ghosts is like these here overgrown smart alecs that scares kids. They think they are mighty cute, but they ain't. They are jest foolish. A human, or a ghost either, that does things like that is jest simply got no principle to him. I hearn a lot of talk about 'em, first and last, and I ain't ready to say they ain't no ghosts, nor yet ready to say they is any. To say they is any is to say something that is too plumb unlikely. And too many people has saw them fur me to say they ain't any. But if they is, or they ain't, so fur as I can see, it don't make much difference. Fur they never do not

hing, besides scaring you, except to rap on tables and tell fortunes, and such fool things. Which a human can do it all better and save the expense of paying money to one of these here sperrit mediums that travels around and makes 'em perform. But all the same they has been nights I has felt different about 'em myself, and less hasty to run 'em down. Well, it don't do no good to speak harsh of no one, not even a ghost or a ordinary dead man, and if I was to see a ghost, mebby I would be all the scareder fur what I have jest wrote.

Well, with all the talking back and forth we done about them ghosts we couldn't agree. That afternoon it seemed like we couldn't agree about anything. I knowed we would be going away from there before long, and I says to myself before I go I'm going to have that girl fur my girl, or else know the reason why. No matter what I was talking about, that idea was in the back of my head, and somehow it kind of made me want to pick fusses with her, too. We was setting on a log, purty deep into the woods, and there come a time when neither of us had said nothing fur quite a spell. But after a while I says:

"Martha, we'll be going away from here in two, three days now."

She never said nothing.

"Will you be sorry?" I asts her.

She says she will be sorry.

"Well," I says, "WHY will you be sorry?"

I thought she would say because I was going. And then I would be finding out whether she liked me a lot. But she says the reason she will be sorry is because there will be no one new to talk to about things both has read. I was considerable took down when she said that.

"Martha," I says, "it's more'n likely I won't never see you agin after I go away."

She says that kind of parting comes between the best of friends.

I seen I wasn't getting along very fast, nor saying what I wanted to say. I reckon one of them Sir Marmeluke fellers would of knowed what to say. Or Doctor Kirby would. Or mebby even Looey would of said it better than I could. So I was kind of mad with myself, and I says, mean-like:

"If you don't care, of course, I don't care, neither."

She never answered that, so I gets up and makes like I am starting off.

"I was going to give you some of them there Injun feathers of mine to remember me by," I tells her, "but if you don't want 'em, there's plenty of others would be glad to take 'em."

But she says she would like to have them.

"Well," I says, "I will bring them to you tomorrow afternoon."

She says, "Thank you."

Finally I couldn't stand it no longer. I got brave all of a sudden, and busted out: "Martha, I-I-I-"

But I got to stuttering, and my braveness stuttered itself away. And I finishes up by saying:

"I like you a hull lot, Martha." Which wasn't jest exactly what I had planned fur to say.

Martha, she says she kind of likes me, too.

"Martha," I says, "I like you more'n any girl I ever run acrost before."

She says, "Thank you," agin. The way she said it riled me up. She said it like she didn't know what I meant, nor what I was trying to get out of me. But she did know all the time. I knowed she did. She knowed I knowed it, too. Gosh-dern it, I says to myself, here I am wasting all this time jest TALKING to her. The right thing to do come to me all of a sudden, and like to took my breath away. But I done it. I grabbed her and I kissed her.

Twice. And then agin. Because the first was on the chin on account of her jerking her head back. And the second one she didn't help me none. But the third time she helped me a little. And the ones after that she helped me considerable.

Well, they ain't no use trying to talk about the rest of that afternoon. I couldn't rightly describe it if I wanted to. And I reckon it's none of anybody's business.

Well, it makes you feel kind of funny. You want to go out and pick on somebody about four sizes bigger'n you are and knock the socks off'n him. It stands to reason others has felt that-a-way, but you don't believe it. You want to tell people about it one minute. The next minute you have got chills and ague fur fear some one will guess it. And you think the way you are about her is going to last fur always.

That evening, when I was cooking supper, I laughed every time I was spoke to. When Looey and I was hitching up to drive down town to give the show, one of the hosses stepped on his foot and I laughed at that, and there was purty nigh a fight. And I was handling some bottles and broke one and cut my hand on a piece of glass. I held it out fur a minute dumb-like, with the blood and medicine dripping off of it, and all of a sudden I busted out laughing agin. The doctor asts if I am crazy. And Looey says he has thought I was from the very first, and some night him and the doctor will be killed whilst asleep. One of the things we have every night in the show is an Injun dance, and Looey and I sings what the doctor calls the Siwash war chant, whirling round and round each other, and making licks at each other with our tommyhawks, and letting out sudden wild yips in the midst of that chant. That night I like to of killed Looey with that tommyhawk, I was feeling so good. If it had been a real one, instead of painted-up wood, I would of killed Looey, the lick I give him. The worst part of that was that, after the show, when we got back to camp and the hosses was picketed out fur the night, I had to tell Looey all about how I felt fur an explanation of why I hit him.

Which it made Looey right low in his sperrits, and he shakes his head and says no good will come of it.

"Did you ever hear of Romeo and Joliet?" he says:

"Mebby," I says, "but what it was I hearn I can't remember. What about them?"

"Well," he says, "they carried on the same as you. And now where are they?"

"Well," I says, "where are they?"

"In the tomb," says Looey, very sad, like they was closte personal friends of his'n. And he told me all about them and how Young Cobalt had done fur them. But from what I could make out it all happened away back in the early days. And shucks!-I didn't care a dern, anyhow. I told him so.

"Well," he says, "It's been the history of the world that it brings trouble." And he says to look at Damon and Pythias, and Othello and the Merchant of Venus. And he named about a hundred prominent couples like that out of Shakespeare's works.

"But it ends happy sometimes," I says.

"Not when it is true love it don't," says Looey. "Look at Anthony and Cleopatra."

"Yes," I says, sarcastic like, "I suppose they are in the tomb, too?"

"They are," says Looey, awful solemn.

"Yes," I says, "and so is Adam and Eve and Dan and Burrsheba and all the rest of them old-timers. But I bet they had a good time while they lasted."

Looey shakes his head solemn and sighs and goes to sleep very mournful, like he has to give me up fur lost. But I can't sleep none myself. So purty soon I gets up and puts on my shoes and sneaks through the wood-lot and through the gap in the fence by the apple tree and into Miss Hampton's yard.

It was a beauty of a moonlight night, that white and clear and clean you could almost see to read by it, like all of everything had been scoured as bright as the bottom of a tin pan. And the shadders was soft and thick and velvety and laid kind of brownish-greeney on the grass. I flopped down in the shadder of some lilac bushes and wondered which was Martha's window. I knowed she would be in bed long ago, but-- Well, I was jest plumb foolish that night, and I couldn't of kept away fur any money. That moonlight had got into my head, it seemed like, and made me drunk. But I would rather be looney that-a-way than to have as much sense as King Solomon and all his adverbs. I was that looney that if I had knowed any poetry I would of said it out loud, right up toward that window. I never knowed why poetry was made up before that night. But the only poetry I could think of was about there was a man named Furgeson that lived on Market Street, and he had a one-eyed Thomas cat that couldn't well be beat. Which it didn't seem to fit the case, so I didn't say her.

The porch of that house was part covered with vines, but they was kind of gaped apart at one corner. As I laid there in the shadder of the bushes I hearn a fluttering movement, light and gentle, on that porch. Then, all of a sudden, I seen some one standing on the edge of the porch where the vines was gaped apart, and the moonlight was falling onto them. They must of come there awful soft and still. Whoever it was couldn't see into the shadder where I laid, that is, if it was a human and not a ghost. Fur my first thought was it might be one of them ghosts I had been running down so that very day, and mebby the same one Miss Hampton seen on that very same porch. I thought I was in fur it then, mebby, and I felt like some one had whispered to the back of my neck it ought to be scared. And I WAS scared clean up into my hair. I stared hard, fur I couldn't take my eyes away. Then purty soon I seen if it was a ghost it must be a woman ghost. Fur it was dressed in light-coloured clothes that moved jest a little in the breeze, and the clothes was so near the colour of the moonlight they seemed to kind of silver into it. You would of said it had jest floated there, and was waiting fur to float away agin when the breeze blowed a little stronger, or the moon drawed it.

It didn't move fur ever so long. Then it leaned forward through the gap in the vines, and I seen the face real plain. It wasn't no ghost, it was a lady. Then I knowed it must be Miss Hampton standing there. Away off through the trees our camp fire sent up jest a dull kind of a glow. She was standing there looking at that. I wondered why.

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