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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 16838

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


We was jogging along one afternoon not fur from a good-sized town at the top of Ohio, right on the lake, when we run acrost some remainders of a busted circus riding in a stake and chain wagon. They was two fellers-both jugglers, acrobats, and tumblers-and a balloon. The circus had busted without paying them nothing but promises fur months and months, and they had took the team and wagon and balloon by attachment, they said. They was carting her from the little burg the show busted in to that good-sized town on the lake. They would sell the team and wagon there and get money enough to put an advertisement in the Billboard, which is like a Bible to them showmen, that they had a balloon to sell and was at liberty.

One of them was the slimmest, lightest-footed, quickest feller you ever seen, with a big nose and dark complected, and his name was Tobias. The other was heavier and blonde complected. His name was Dobbs, he said, and they was the Blanchet Brothers. Doctor Kirby and them got real well acquainted in about three minutes. We drove on ahead and got into the town first.

The doctor says that balloon is jest wasted on them fellers. They can't go up in her, not knowing that trade, but still they ought to be some way fur them to make a little stake out of it before it was sold.

The next evening we run acrost them fellers on the street, and they was feeling purty blue. They hadn't been able to sell that team and wagon, which it was eating its meals reg'lar in a livery stable, and they had been doing stunts in the street that day and passing around the hat, but not getting enough fur to pay expenses.

"Where's the balloon?" asts the doctor. And I seen he was sicking his intellects onto the job of making her pay.

"In the livery stable with the wagon," they tells him.

He says he is going to figger out a way to help them boys. They is like all circus performers, he says-they jest knows their own acts, and talks about 'em all the time, and studies up ways to make 'em better, and has got no more idea of business outside of that than a rabbit. We all went to the livery stable and overhauled that balloon. It was an awful job, too. But they wasn't a rip in her, and the parachute was jest as good as new.

"There's no reason why we can't give a show of our own," says Doctor Kirby, "with you boys and Danny and me and that balloon. What we want is a lot with a high board fence around it, like a baseball grounds, and the chance to tap a gas main." He says he'll be willing to take a chancet on it, even paying the gas company real money to fill her up.

What the Doctor didn't know about starting shows wasn't worth knowing. He had even went in for the real drama in his younger days now and then.

"One of my theatrical productions came very near succeeding, too," he says.

It was a play he says, in which the hero falls in love with a pair of Siamese twins and commits suicide because he can't make a choice between them.

"We played it as comedy in the big towns and tragedy in the little ones," he says. "But like a fool I booked it for two weeks of middle-sized towns and it broke us."

The next day he finds a lot that will do jest fine. It has been used fur a school playgrounds, but the school has been moved and the old building is to be tore down. He hired the place cheap. And he goes and talks the gas company into giving him credit to fill that balloon. Which I kept wondering what was the use of filling her, fur none of the four of us had ever went up in one. And when I seen the handbills he had had printed I wondered all the more. They read as follers:

Kirby's Komedy Kompany and Open Air Circus

Presenting a Peerless Personnel of Artistic Attractions

Greatest in the Galaxy of Gaiety, is

Hartley L. Kirby

Monologuist and minstrel, dancer and vaudevillian in his terpsichorean travesties, buoyant burlesques, inimitable imitations, screaming impersonations, refined comedy sketches and popular song hits of the day.

The Blanchet Brothers

Daring, Dazzling, Danger-Loving, Death-Defying Demons

Joyous jugglers, acrobatic artists, constrictorial contortionists, exquisite equilibrists, in their marvellous, mysterious, unparalleled performances.

Umslopogus The Patagonian Chieftain

The lowest type of human intellect

This formerly ferocious fiend has so far succumbed to the softer wiles of civilization that he is no longer a cannibal, and it is now safe to put him on exhibition. But to prevent accidents he is heavily manacled, and the public is warned not to come too near.

Balloon! Balloon!! Balloon!!!

The management also presents the balloon of

Prof. Alonzo Ackerman The Famous Aeronaut

in which he has made his

Wonderful Ascension and Parachute Drop

many times, reaching remarkable altitudes

Balloon! Balloon!! Balloon!!!

Saturday, 3 P. M. Old Vandegrift School Lot

Admission 50 Cents

Well, fur a writer he certainly laid over Looey, Doctor Kirby did-more cheerful-like, you might say. I seen right off I was to be the Patagonian Chieftain. I was getting more and more of an actor right along-first an Injun, then a wild Borneo, and now a Patagonian.

"But who is this Alonzo Ackerman?" I asts him.

"Celebrated balloonist," says he, "and the man that invented parachutes. They eat out of his hand."

"Where is he?" asts I.

"How should I know?" he says.

"How is he going up, then?" I asts.

The doctor chuckles and says it is a good bill, a better bill than he thought; that it is getting in its work already. He says to me to read it careful and see if it says Alonzo Ackerman is going up. Well, it don't. But any one would of thought so the first look. I reckon that bill was some of a liar herself, not lying outright, but jest hinting a lie. They is a lot of mean, stingy-souled kind of people wouldn't never lie to help a friend, but Doctor Kirby wasn't one of 'em.

"But," I says, "when that crowd finds out Alonzo ain't going up they will be purty mad."

"Oh," says he, "I don't think so. The American public are a good-natured set of chuckle-heads, mostly. If they get sore I'll talk 'em out of it."

If he had any faults at all-and mind you, I ain't saying Doctor Kirby had any-the one he had hardest was the belief he could talk any crowd into any notion, or out of it, either. And he loved to do it jest fur the fun of it. He'd rather have the feeling he was doing that than the money any day. He was powerful vain about that gab of his'n, Doctor Kirby was.

The four of us took around about five thousand bills. The doctor says they is nothing like giving yourself a chancet. And Saturday morning we got the balloon filled up so she showed handsome, tugging away there at her ropes. But we had a dern mean time with that balloon, too.

The doctor says if we have good luck there may be as many as three, four hundred people.

But Jerusalem! They was two, three times that many. By the time the show started I reckon they was nigh a thousand there. The doctor and the Blanchet Brothers was tickled. When they quit coming fast the doctor left the gate and made a little speech, telling all about the wonderful show, and the great expense it was to get it together, and all that.

They was a rope stretched between the crowd and us. Back of that was the Blanchet Brothers' wagon and our wagon, and our little tent. I was jest inside the tent with chains on. Back of everything else was the balloon.

Well, the doctor he done a lot of songs and things as advertised. Then the Blanchet Brothers done some of their acts. They was really fine acts, too. Then come some more of Doctor Kirby's refined comedy, as advertised. Next, more Blanchet. Then a lecture about me by the doctor. All in all it takes up about an hour and a half. Then the doctor makes a mighty nice little talk, and wishes them all good afternoon, thanking them fur their kind intentions and liberal patronage, one and all.

"But when will the balloon go up?" asts half a dozen at oncet.

"The balloon?" asts Doctor Kirby, surprised.

"Balloon! Balloon!" yells a kid. And the hull crowd took it up and yelled: "Balloon! Balloon! Balloon!" And they crowded up closte to that rope.

Doctor Kirby has been getting off the wagon, but he gets back on her, and stretches his arms wide, and motions of 'em all to come close.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he says, "please t

o gather near-up here, good people-and listen! Listen to what I have to say-harken to the utterings of my voice! There has been a misunderstanding here! There has been a misconstruction! There has been, ladies and gentlemen, a woeful lack of comprehension here!"

It looked to me like they was beginning to understand more than he meant them to. I was wondering how it would all come out, but he never lost his nerve.

"Listen," he says, very earnest, "listen to me. Somehow the idea seems to have gone forth that there would be a balloon ascension here this afternoon. How, I do not know, for what we advertised, ladies and gentlemen, was that the balloon used by Prof. Alonzo Ackerman, the illustrious aeronaut, would be UPON EXHIBITION. And there she is, ladies and gentlemen, there she is, for every eye to see and gladden with the sight of-right before you, ladies and gentlemen-the balloon of Alonzo Ackerman, the wonderful voyager of the air, exactly as represented. During their long career Kirby and Company have never deceived the public. Others may, but Kirby and Company are like Caesar's wife-Kirby and Company are above suspicion. It is the province of Kirby's Komedy Kompany, ladies and gentlemen, to spread the glad tidings of innocent amusement throughout the length and breadth of this fair land of ours. And there she is before you, the balloon as advertised, the gallant ship of the air in which the illustrious Ackerman made so many voyages before he sailed at last into the Great Beyond! You can see her, ladies and gentlemen, straining at her cords, anxious to mount into the heavens and be gone! It is an education in itself, ladies and gentlemen, a moral education, and well worth coming miles to see. Think of it-think of it-the Ackerman balloon-and then think that the illustrious Ackerman himself-he was my personal friend, ladies and gentlemen, and a true friend sticketh closer than a brother-the illustrious Ackerman is dead. The balloon, ladies and gentlemen, is there, but Ackerman is gone to his reward. Look at that balloon, ladies and gentlemen, and tell me if you can, why should the spirit of mortals be proud? For the man that rode her like a master and tamed her like she was a dove lies cold and dead in a western graveyard, ladies and gentlemen, and she is here, a useless and an idle vanity without the mind that made her go!"

Well, he went on and he told a funny story about Alonzo, which I don't believe they ever was no Alonzo Ackerman, and a lot of 'em laughed; and he told a pitiful story, and they got sollum agin, and then another funny story. Well, he had 'em listening, and purty soon most of the crowd is feeling in a good humour toward him, and one feller yells out:

"Go it-you're a hull show yourself!" And some joshes him, but they don't seem to be no trouble in the air. When they all look to be in a good humour he holds up a bill and asts how many has them. Many has. He says that is well, and then he starts to telling another story. But in the middle of the story that hull dern crowd is took with a fit of laughing. They has looked at the bill closet, and seen they is sold, and is taking it good-natured. And still shouting and laughing most of them begins to start along off. And I thought all chancet of trouble was over with. But it wasn't.

Fur they is always a natcheral born kicker everywhere, and they was one here, too.

He was a lean feller with a sticking out jaw, and one of his eyes was in a kind of a black pocket, and he was jest natcherally laying it off to about a dozen fellers that was in a little knot around him.

The doctor sees the main part of the crowd going and climbs down off'n the wagon. As he does so that hull bunch of about a dozen moves in under the rope, and some more that was going out seen it, and stopped and come back.

"Perfessor," says the man with the patch over his eye to Doctor Kirby, "you say this man Ackerman is dead?"

"Yes," says the doctor, eying him over, "he's dead."

"How did he die?" asts the feller.

"He died hard, I understand," says the doctor, careless-like.

"Fell out of his balloon?"

"Yes."

"This aeronaut trade is a dangerous trade, I hear," says the feller with the patch on his eye.

"They say so," says Doctor Kirby, easy-like.

"Was you ever an aeronaut yourself?" asts the feller.

"No," says the doctor.

"Never been up in a balloon?"

"No."

"Well, you're going up in one this afternoon!"

"What do you mean?" asts Doctor Kirby.

"We've come out to see a balloon ascension-and we're going to see it, too."

And with that the hull crowd made a rush at the doctor.

Well, I been in fights before that, and I been in fights since then. But I never been in no harder one. The doctor and the two Blanchet brothers and me managed to get backed up agin the fence in a row when the rush come. I guess I done my share, and I guess the Blanchet brothers done theirn, too. But they was too many of 'em for us-too dern many. It wouldn't of ended as quick as it did if Doctor Kirby hadn't gone clean crazy. His back was to the fence, and he cleaned out everything in front of him, and then he give a wild roar jest like a bull and rushed that hull gang-twenty men, they was-with his head down. He caught two fellers, one in each hand, and he cracked their heads together, and he caught two more, and done the same. But he orter never took his back away from that fence. The hull gang closed in on him, and down he went at the bottom of a pile. I was awful busy myself, but I seen that pile moving and churning. Then I made a big mistake myself. I kicked a feller in the stomach, and another feller caught my leg, and down I went. Fur a half a minute I never knowed nothing. And when I come to I was all mashed about the face, and two fellers was sitting on me.

The crowd was tying Doctor Kirby to that parachute. They straddled legs over the parachute bar, and tied his feet below it. He was still fighting, but they was too many fur him. They left his arms untied, but they held 'em, and then-

Then they cut her loose. She went up like she was shot from a gun, and as she did Doctor Kirby took a grip on a feller's arm that hadn't let loose quick enough and lifted him plumb off'n the ground. He slewed around on the trapeze bar with the feller's weight, and slipped head downward. And as he slipped he give that feller a swing and let loose of him, and then ketched himself by the crook of one knee. The feller turned over twicet in the air and landed in a little crumpled-up pile on the ground, and never made a sound.

The fellers that had holt of me forgot me and stood up, and I stood up too, and looked. The balloon was rising fast. Doctor Kirby was trying to pull himself up to the trapeze bar, twisting and squirming and having a hard time of it, and shooting higher every second. I reckoned he couldn't fall complete, fur where his feet was tied would likely hold even if his knee come straight-but he would die mebby with his head filling up with blood. But finally he made a squirm and raised himself a lot and grabbed the rope at one side of the bar. And then he reached and got the rope on the other side, and set straddle of her. And jest as he done that the wind ketched the balloon good and hard, and she turned out toward Lake Erie. It was too late fur him to pull the rope that sets the parachute loose then, and drop onto the land.

I rushed out of that schoolhouse yard and down the street toward the lake front, and run, stumbling along and looking up. She was getting smaller every minute. And with my head in the air looking up I was running plumb to the edge of the water before I knowed it.

She was away out over the lake now, and awful high, and going fast before the wind, and the doctor was only a speck. And as I stared at that speck away up in the sky I thought this was a mean world to live in. Fur there was the only real friend I ever had, and no way fur me to help him. He had learnt me to read, and bought me good clothes, and made me know they was things in the world worth travelling around to see, and made me feel like I was something more than jest Old Hank Walters's dog. And I guessed he would be drownded and I would never see him agin now. And all of a sudden something busted loose inside of me, and I sunk down there at the edge of the water, sick at my stomach, and weak and shivering.

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