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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 15321

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


The next day we broke camp and was gone from that place, and I took away with me the half of a ring me and Martha had chopped in two. We kept on going, and by the time punkins and county fairs was getting ripe we was into the upper left-hand corner of Ohio. And there Looey left us.

One day Doctor Kirby and me was walking along the main street of a little town and we seen a bang-up funeral percession coming. It must of been one of the Grand Army of the Republicans, fur they was some of the old soldiers in buggies riding along behind, and a big string of people follering in more buggies and some on foot. Everybody was looking mighty sollum. But they was one man setting beside the undertaker on the seat of the hearse that was looking sollumer than them all. It was Looey, and I'll bet the corpse himself would of felt proud and happy and contented if he could of knowed the style Looey was giving that funeral.

It wasn't nothing Looey done, fur he didn't do nothing but jest set there with his arms folded onto his bosom and look sad. But he done THAT better than any one else. He done it so well that you forgot the corpse was the chief party to that funeral. Looey took all the glory from him. He had jest natcherally stole that funeral away from its rightful owner with his enjoyment of it. He seen the doctor and me as the hearse went by our corner, but he never let on. A couple of hours later Looey comes into camp and says he is going to quit.

The doctor asts him if he has inherited money.

"No," says Looey, "but my aunt has given me a chancet to go into business."

Looey says he was born nigh there, and was prowling around town the day before and run acrost an old aunt of his'n he had forgot all about. She is awful respectable and religious and ashamed of him being into a travelling show. And she has offered to lend him enough to buy a half-share in a business.

"Well," says the doctor, "I hope it will be something you are fitted for and will enjoy. But I've noticed that after a man gets the habit of roaming around this terrestial ball it's mighty hard to settle down and watch his vine and fig tree grow."

Looey smiles in a sad sort of a way, which he seldom smiled fur anything, and says he guesses he'll like the business. He says they ain't many businesses he could take to. Most of them makes you forget this world is but a fleeting show. But he has found a business which keeps you reminded all the time that dust is dust and ash to ashes shalt return. When he first went into the medicine business, he said, he was drawed to it by the diseases and the sudden dyings-off it always kept him in mind of. He thought they wasn't no other business could lay over it fur that kind of comfort. But he has found out his mistake.

"What kind of business are you going into?" asts the doctor.

"I am going to be an undertaker," says Looey. "My aunt says this town needs the right kind of an undertaker bad."

Mr. Wilcox, the undertaker that town has, is getting purty old and shaky, Looey says, and young Mr. Wilcox, his son, is too light-minded and goes at things too brisk and airy to give it the right kind of a send-off. People don't want him joking around their corpses and he is a fat young man and can't help making puns even in the presence of the departed. Old Mr. Wilcox's eyesight is getting so poor he made a scandal in that town only the week before. He was composing a departed's face into a last smile, but he went too fur with it, and give the departed one of them awful mean, devilish kind of grins, like he had died with a bad temper on. By the time the departed's fambly had found it out, things had went too fur, and the face had set that-a-way, so it wasn't safe to try to change it any.

Old Mr. Wilcox had several brands of last looks. One was called: "Bear Up, for We Will Meet Again." The one that had went wrong was his favourite look, named: "O Death, Where is Thy Victory?"

Looey's aunt says she will buy him a partnership if she is satisfied he can fill the town's needs. They have a talk with the Wilcoxes, and he rides on the hearse that day fur a try-out. His aunt peeks out behind her bedroom curtains as the percession goes by her house, and when she sees the style Looey is giving to that funeral, and how easy it comes to him, that settles it with her on the spot. And it seems the hull dern town liked it, too, including the departed's fambly.

Looey says they is a lot of chancet fur improvements in the undertaking game by one whose heart is in his work, and he is going into that business to make a success of it, and try and get all the funeral trade fur miles around. He reads us an advertisement of the new firm he has been figgering out fur that town's weekly paper. I cut a copy out when it was printed, and it is about the genteelest thing like that I even seen, as follers:

WILCOX AND SIMMS Invite Your Patronage

This earth is but a fleeting show, and the blank-winged angels wait for

all. It is always a satisfaction to remember that all possible has been

done for the deceased.

See Our New Line of Coffins

Lined Caskets a Specialty

Lodge Work Solicited

Time and tide wait for no man, and his days are few and full of troubles. The paths of glory lead but to the grave, and none can tell when mortal feet may stumble.

When in Town Drop in and Inspect Our New Embalming Outfit. It is a Pleasure to Show Goods and Tools Even if Your Family Needs no Work Done Just Yet

Outfits for mourners who have been bereaved on short notice a specialty. We take orders for tombstones. Look at our line of shrouds, robes, and black suits for either sex and any age. Give us just one call, and you will entrust future embalmings and obsequies in your family to no other firm.

WILCOX AND SIMMS Main Street, Near Depot

The doctor, he reads it over careful and says she orter drum up trade, all right. Looey tells us that mebby, if he can get that town educated up to it, he will put in a creamatory, where he will burn them, too, but will go slow, fur that there sollum and beautiful way of returning ash to ashes might make some prejudice in such a religious town.

The last we seen of Looey was a couple of days later when we told him good-bye in his shop. Old Mr. Wilcox was explaining to him the science of them last looks he was so famous at when he was a younger man. Young Mr. Wilcox was laying on a table fur Looey to practise on, and Looey was learning fast. But he nearly broke down when he said good-bye, fur he liked the doctor.

"Doc," he says, "you've been a good friend, and I won't never forget you. They ain't much I can do, and in this deceitful world words is less than actions. But if you ever was to die within a hundred miles of me, I'd go," he says, "and no other hands but mine should lay you out. And it wouldn't cost you a cent, either. Nor you neither, Danny."

We thanked him kindly fur the offer, and went.

The next town we come to there was a county fair, and the doctor run acrost an old pal of his'n who had a show on the grounds and wanted to hire him fur what he called a ballyhoo man. Which was the first I ever hearn them called that, but I got better acquainted with them since. They are the fellers that stands out in front and gets you all excited about the Siamese twins or the bearded lady or the snake-charmer or the Circassian beauties or whatever it is inside the tent, as represented upon the canvas. The doctor says he will do it fur a week, jest fur fun, and mebby pick up another feller to take Looey's place out there.

This feller's name is Watty Sanders, and his wife is a fat la

dy in his own show and very good-natured when not intoxicated nor mad at Watty. She was billed on the curtains outside fur five hundred and fifty pounds, and Watty says she really does weigh nigh on to four hundred. But being a fat lady's husband ain't no bed of rosy ease at that, Watty tells the doctor. It's like every other trade-it has its own pertic'ler responsibilities and troubles. She is a turrible expense to Watty on account of eating so much. The tales that feller told of how hard he has to hustle showing her off in order to support her appetite would of drawed tears from a pawnbroker's sign, as Doctor Kirby says. Which he found it cheaper fur his hull show to board and sleep in the tent, and we done likewise.

Well, I got a job with that show myself. Watty had a wild man canvas but no wild man, so he made me an offer and I took him up. I was from Borneo, where they're all supposed to be captured. Jest as Doctor Kirby would get to his talk about how the wild man had been ketched after great struggle and expense, with four men killed and another crippled, there would be an awful rumpus on the inside of the tent, with wild howlings and the sound of revolvers shot off and a woman screaming. Then I would come busting out all blacked up from head to heel with no more clothes on than the law pervided fur, yipping loud and shaking a big spear and rolling my eyes, and Watty would come rushing after me firing his revolver. I would make fur the doctor and draw my spear back to jab it clean through him, and Watty would grab my arm. And the doctor would whirl round and they would wrastle me to the ground and I would be handcuffed and dragged back into the tent, still howling and struggling to break loose. On the inside my part of the show was to be wild in a cage. I would be chained to the floor, and every now and then I would get wilder and rattle my chains and shake the bars and make jumps at the crowd and carry on, and make believe I was too mad to eat the pieces of raw meat Watty throwed into the cage.

Watty had a snake-charmer woman, with an awful long, bony kind of neck, working fur him, and another feller that was her husband and eat glass. The show opened up with them two doing what they said was a comic turn. Then the fat lady come on. Whilst everybody was admiring her size, and looking at the number of pounds on them big cheat scales Watty weighed her on, the long-necked one would be changing to her snake clothes. Which she only had one snake, and he had been in the business so long, and was so kind of worn out and tired with being charmed so much, it always seemed like a pity to me the way she would take and twist him around. I guess they never was a snake was worked harder fur the little bit he got to eat, nor got no sicker of a woman's society than poor old Reginald did. After Reginald had been charmed a while, it would be the glass eater's turn. Which he really eat it, and the doctor says that kind always dies before they is fifty. I never knowed his right name, but what he went by was The Human Ostrich.

Watty's wife was awful jealous of Mrs. Ostrich, fur she got the idea she was carrying on with Watty. One night I hearn an argument from the fenced-off part of the tent Watty and his wife slept in. She was setting on Watty's chest and he was gasping fur mercy.

"You know it ain't true," says Watty, kind of smothered-like.

"It is," says she, "you own up it is!" And she give him a jounce.

"No, darling," he gets out of him, "you know I never could bear them thin, scrawny kind of women." And he begins to call her pet names of all kinds and beg her please, if she won't get off complete, to set somewheres else a minute, fur his chest he can feel giving way, and his ribs caving in. He called her his plump little woman three or four times and she must of softened up some, fur she moved and his voice come stronger, but not less meek and lowly. And he follers it up:

"Dolly, darling," he says, "I bet I know something my little woman don't know."

"What is it?" the fat lady asts him.

"You don't know what a cruel, weak stomach your hubby has got," Watty says, awful coaxing like, "or you wouldn't bear down quite so hard onto it-please, Dolly!"

She begins to blubber and say he is making fun of her big size, and if he is mean to her any more or ever looks at another woman agin she will take anti-fat and fade away to nothing and ruin his show, and it is awful hard to be made a joke of all her life and not have no steady home nor nothing like other women does.

"You know I worship every pound of you, little woman," says Watty, still coaxing. "Why can't you trust me? You know, Dolly, darling, I wouldn't take your weight in gold for you." And he tells her they never was but once in all his life he has so much as turned his head to look at another woman, and that was by way of a plutonic admiration, and no flirting intended, he says. And even then it was before he had met his own little woman. And that other woman, he says, was plump too, fur he wouldn't never look at none but a plump woman.

"What did she weigh?" asts Watty's wife. He tells her a measly little three hundred pound.

"But she wasn't refined like my little woman," says Watty, "and when I seen that I passed her up." And inch by inch Watty coaxed her clean off of him.

But the next day she hearn him and Mrs. Ostrich giggling about something, and she has a reg'lar tantrum, and jest fur meanness goes out and falls down on the race track, pertending she has fainted, and they can't move her no ways, not even roll her. But finally they rousted her out of that by one of these here sprinkling carts backing up agin her and turning loose.

But aside from them occasional mean streaks Dolly was real nice, and I kind of got to liking her. She tells me that because she is so fat no one won't take her serious like a human being, and she wisht she was like other women and had a fambly. That woman wanted a baby, too, and I bet she would of been good to it, fur she was awful good to animals. She had been big from a little girl, and never got no sympathy when sick, nor nothing, and even whilst she played with dolls as a kid she knowed she looked ridiculous, and was laughed at. And by jings!-they was the funniest thing come to light before we left that crowd. That poor, derned, old, fat fool HAD a doll yet, all hid away, and when she was alone she used to take it out and cuddle it. Well, Dolly never had many friends, and you couldn't blame her much if she did drink a little too much now and then, or get mad at Watty fur his goings-on and kneel down on him whilst he was asleep. Them was her only faults and I liked the old girl. Yet I could see Watty had his troubles too.

That show busted up before the fair closed. Fur one day Watty's wife gets mad at Mrs. Ostrich and tries to set on her. And then Mrs. Ostrich gets mad too, and sicks Reginald onto her. Watty's wife is awful scared of Reginald, who don't really have ambition enough to bite no one, let alone a lady built so round everywhere he couldn't of got a grip on her. And as fur as wrapping himself around her and squashing her to death, Reginald never seen the day he could reach that fur. Reginald's feelings is plumb friendly toward Dolly when he is turned loose, but she don't know that, and she has some hysterics and faints in earnest this time. Well, they was an awful hullaballo when she come to, and fur the sake of peace in the fambly Watty has to fire Mr. and Mrs. Ostrich and poor old Reginald out of their jobs, and the show is busted. So Doctor Kirby and me lit out fur other parts agin.

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