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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 17819

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


I didn't exactly faint there, but things got all mixed fur me, and when they was straightened out agin I was in a hospital. It seems I had been considerable stepped on in that fight, and three ribs was broke. I knowed I was hurting, but I was so interested in what was happening to the doctor the hull hurt never come to me till the balloon was way out over the lake.

But now I was in a plaster cast, and before I got out of that I was in a fever. I was some weeks getting out of there.

I tried to get some word of Doctor Kirby, but couldn't. Nothing had been heard of him or the balloon. The newspapers had had stuff about it fur a day or two, and they guessed the body might come to light sometime. But that was all. And I didn't know where to hunt nor how.

The hosses and wagon and tent and things worried me some, too. They wasn't mine, and so I couldn't sell 'em. And they wasn't no good to me without Doctor Kirby. So I tells the man that owns the livery stable to use the team fur its board and keep it till Doctor Kirby calls fur it, and if he never does mebby I will sometime.

I didn't want to stay in that town or I could of got a job in the livery stable. They offered me one, but I hated that town. I wanted to light out. I didn't much care where to.

Them Blanchet Brothers had left a good share of the money we took in at the balloon ascension with the hospital people fur me before they cleared out. But before I left that there town I seen they was one thing I had to do to make myself easy in my mind. So I done her.

That was to hunt up that feller with his eye in the patch. It took me a week to find him. He lived down near some railroad yards. I might of soaked him with a coupling link and felt a hull lot better. But I didn't guess it would do to pet and pamper my feelings too much. So I does it with my fists in a quiet place, and does it very complete, and leaves that town in a cattle car, feeling a hull lot more contented in my mind.

Then they was a hull dern year I didn't stay nowhere very long, nor work at any one job too long, neither. I jest worked from place to place seeing things-big towns and rivers and mountains. Working here and there, and loafing and riding blind baggages and freight trains between jobs, I covered a lot of ground that year, and made some purty big jumps, and got acquainted with some awful queer folks, first and last.

But the worst of that is lots of people gets to thinking I am a hobo. Even one or two judges in police courts I got acquainted with had that there idea of me. I always explains that I am not one, and am jest travelling around to see things, and working when I feels like it, and ain't no bum. But frequent I am not believed. And two, three different times I gets to the place where I couldn't hardly of told myself from a hobo, if I hadn't of knowed I wasn't one.

I got right well acquainted with some of them hobos, too. As fur as I can see, they is as much difference in them as in other humans. Some travels because they likes to see things, and some because they hates to work, and some because they is in the habit and can't stop it. Well, I know myself it's purty hard after while to stop it, fur where would you stop at? What excuse is they to stop one place more'n another? I met all kinds of 'em, and oncet I got in fur a week with a couple of real Johnny Yeggs that is both in the pen now. I hearn a feller say one time there is some good in every man. I went the same way as them two yeggmen a hull dern week to try and find out where the good in 'em was. I guess they must be some mistake somewheres, fur I looked hard and I watched closet and I never found it. They is many kinds of hobos and tramps, perfessional and amachure, and lots of kinds of bums, and lots of young fellers working their way around to see things, like I was, and lots of working men in hard luck going from place to place, and all them kinds is humans. But the real yeggman ain't even a dog.

And oncet I went all the way from Chicago to Baltimore with a serious, dern fool that said he was a soshyologest, whatever them is, and was going to put her all into a book about the criminal classes. He worked hard trying to get at the reason I was a hobo. Which they wasn't no reason, fur I wasn't no hobo. But I didn't want to disappoint that feller and spoil his book fur him. So I tells him things. Things not overly truthful, but very full of crime. About a year afterward I was into one of these here Andrew Carnegie lib'aries with the names of the old-time presidents all chiselled along the top and I seen the hull dern thing in print. He said of me the same thing I have said about them yeggmen. If all he met joshed that feller the same as me, that book must of been what you might call misleading in spots.

One morning I woke up in a good-sized town in Illinoise, not a hundred miles from where I was raised, without no money, and my clothes not much to look at, and no job. I had been with a railroad show fur about two weeks, driving stakes and other rough work, and it had went off and left me sleeping on the ground. Circuses never waits fur nothing nor cares a dern fur no one. I tried all day around town fur to get some kind of a job. But I was looking purty rough and I couldn't land nothing. Along in the afternoon I was awful hungry.

I was feeling purty low down to have to ast fur a meal, but finally I done it.

I dunno how I ever come to pick out such a swell-looking house, but I makes a little talk at the back door and the Irish girl she says, "Come in," and into the kitchen I goes.

"It's Minnesota you're working toward?" asts she, pouring me out a cup of coffee.

She is thinking of the wheat harvest where they is thousands makes fur every fall. But none of 'em fur me. That there country is full of them Scandiluvian Swedes and Norwegians, and they gets into the field before daylight and stays there so long the hired man's got to milk the cows by moonlight.

"I been acrost the river into I'way," I says, "a-working at my trade, and now I'm going back to Chicago to work at it some more."

"What might your trade be?" she asts, sizing me up careful; and I thinks I'll hand her one to chew on she ain't never hearn tell of before.

"I'm a agnostic by trade," I says. I spotted that there word in a religious book one time, and that's the first chancet I ever has to try it on any one. You can't never tell what them reg'lar sockdologers is going to do till you tries them.

"I see," says she. But I seen she didn't see. And I didn't help her none. She would of ruther died than to let on she didn't see. The Irish is like that. Purty soon she says:

"Ain't that the dangerous kind o' work, though!"

"It is," I says. And says nothing further.

She sets down and folds her arms, like she was thinking of it, watching my hands closet all the time I was eating, like she's looking fur scars where something slipped when I done that agnostic work. Purty soon she says:

"Me brother Michael was kilt at it in the old country. He was the most vinturesome lad of thim all!"

"Did it fly up and hit him?" I asts her. I was wondering w'ether she is making fun of me or am I making fun of her. Them Irish is like that, you can never tell which.

"No," says she, "he fell off of it. And I'm thinking you don't know what it is yourself." And the next thing I know I'm eased out o' the back door and she's grinning at me scornful through the crack of it.

So I was walking slow around toward the front of the house thinking how the Irish was a great nation, and what shall I do now, anyhow? And I says to myself: "Danny, you was a fool to let that circus walk off and leave you asleep in this here town with nothing over you but a barbed wire fence this morning. Fur what ARE you going to do next? First thing you know, you WILL be a reg'lar tramp, which some folks can't be made to see you ain't now." And jest when I was thinking that, a feller comes down the front steps of that house on the jump and nabs me by the coat collar.

"Did you come out of this house?" he asts.

"I did," I says, wondering what next.

"Back in you go, then," he says, marching me forward toward them front steps, "they've got smallpox in there."

I like to of jumped loose when he says that.

"Smallpox ain't no inducement to me, mister," I tells him. But he twisted my coat collar tight and dug his thumbs into my neck, all the time helping me onward with his knee from behind, and I seen they wasn't no use pulling back. I could probable of licked that man, but they's no system in mixing up with them well-dressed men in towns where they think you are a tramp. The judge will give you the worst of it.

He rung the door bell and the girl that opened the door she looked kind o' surprised when she seen me, and in we went.

"Tell Professor Booth that Doctor Wilkins wan

ts to see him again," says the man a-holt o' me, not letting loose none. And we says nothing further till the perfessor comes, which he does, slow and absent-minded. When he seen me he took off his glasses so's he could see me better, and he says:

"What is that you have there, Doctor Wilkins?"

"A guest for you," says Doctor Wilkins, grinning all over hisself. "I found him leaving your house. And you being under quarantine, and me being secretary to the board of health, and the city pest-house being crowded too full already, I'll have to ask you to keep him here till we get Miss Margery onto her feet again," he says. Or they was words to that effect, as the lawyers asts you.

"Dear me," says Perfesser Booth, kind o' helpless like. And he comes over closet to me and looks me all over like I was one of them amphimissourian lizards in a free museum. And then he goes to the foot of the stairs and sings out in a voice that was so bleached-out and flat-chested it would of looked jest like him himself if you could of saw it-"Estelle," he sings out, "oh, Estelle!"

Estelle, she come down stairs looking like she was the perfessor's big brother. I found out later she was his old maid sister. She wasn't no spring chicken, Estelle wasn't, and they was a continuous grin on her face. I figgered it must of froze there years and years ago. They was a kid about ten or eleven years old come along down with her, that had hair down to its shoulders and didn't look like it knowed whether it was a girl or a boy. Miss Estelle, she looks me over in a way that makes me shiver, while the doctor and the perfessor jaws about whose fault it is the smallpox sign ain't been hung out. And when she was done listening she says to the perfessor: "You had better go back to your laboratory." And the perfessor he went along out, and the doctor with him.

"What are you going to do with him, Aunt Estelle?" the kid asts her.

"What would YOU suggest, William, Dear?" asts his aunt. I ain't feeling very comfortable, and I was getting all ready jest to natcherally bolt out the front door now the doctor was gone. Then I thinks it mightn't be no bad place to stay in fur a couple o' days, even risking the smallpox. Fur I had riccolected I couldn't ketch it nohow, having been vaccinated a few months before in Terry Hutt by compulsive medical advice, me being fur a while doing some work on the city pavements through a mistake about me in the police court.

William Dear looks at me like it was the day of judgment and his job was to keep the fatted calves separate from the goats and prodigals, and he says:

"If I were you, Aunt Estelle, the first thing would be to get his hair cut and his face washed and then get him some clothes."

"William Dear is my friend," thinks I.

She calls James, which was a butler. James, he buttles me into a bathroom the like o' which I never seen afore, and then he buttles me into a suit o' somebody's clothes and into a room at the top o' the house next to his'n, and then he comes back and buttles a comb and brush at me. James was the most mournful-looking fat man I ever seen, and he says that account of me not being respectable I will have my meals alone in the kitchen after the servants has eat.

The first thing I knowed I been in that house more'n a week. I eat and I slept and I smoked and I kind of enjoyed not worrying about things fur a while. The only oncomfortable thing about being the perfessor's guest was Miss Estelle. Soon's she found out I was a agnostic she took charge o' my intellectuals and what went into 'em, and she makes me read things and asts me about 'em, and she says she is going fur to reform me. And whatever brand o' disgrace them there agnostics really is I ain't found out to this day, having come acrost the word accidental.

Biddy Malone, which was the kitchen mechanic, she says the perfessor's wife's been over to her mother's while this smallpox has been going on, and they is a nurse in the house looking after Miss Margery, the little kid that's sick. And Biddy, she says if she was Mrs. Booth she'd stay there, too. They's been some talk, anyhow, about Mrs. Booth and a musician feller around that there town. But Biddy, she likes Mrs. Booth, and even if it was true, which it ain't Biddy says, who could of blamed her? Fur things ain't joyous around that house the last year, since Miss Estelle's come there to live. The perfessor, he's so full of scientifics he don't know nothing with no sense to it, Biddy says. He's got more money'n you can shake a stick at, and he don't have to do no work, nor never has, and his scientifics gets worse and worse every year. But while scientifics is worrying to the nerves of a fambly, and while his labertory often makes the house smell like a sick drug store has crawled into it and died there, they wouldn't of been no serious row on between the perfessor and his wife, not ALL the time, if it hadn't of been fur Miss Estelle. She has jest natcherally made herself boss of that there house, Biddy says, and she's a she-devil. Between all them scientifics and Miss Estelle things has got where Mrs. Booth can't stand 'em much longer.

I didn't blame her none fur getting sore on her job, neither. You can't expect a woman that's purty, and knows it, and ain't no more'n thirty-two or three, and don't look it, to be serious intrusted in mummies and pickled snakes and chemical perfusions, not ALL the time. Mebby when Mrs. Booth would ast him if he was going to take her to the opery that night the perfessor would look up in an absent-minded sort of way and ast her did she know them Germans had invented a new germ? It wouldn't of been so bad if the perfessor had picked out jest one brand of scientifics and stuck to that reg'lar. Mrs. Booth could of got use to any ONE kind. But mebby this week the perfessor would be took hard with ornithography and he'd go chasing humming-birds all over the front yard, and the next he'd be putting gastronomy into William's breakfast feed.

They was always a row on over them kids, which they hadn't been till Miss Estelle come. Mrs. Booth, she said they could kill their own selves, if they wanted to, him and Miss Estelle, but she had more right than any one else to say what went into William's and Margery's digestive ornaments, and she didn't want 'em brung up scientific nohow, but jest human. But Miss Estelle's got so she runs that hull house now, and the perfessor too, but he don't know it, Biddy says, and her a-saying every now and then it was too bad Frederick couldn't of married a noble woman who would of took a serious intrust in his work. The kids don't hardly dare to kiss their ma in front of Miss Estelle no more, on account of germs and things. And with Miss Estelle taking care of their religious organs and their intellectuals and the things like that, and the perfessor filling them up on new invented feeds, I guess they never was two kids got more education to the square inch, outside and in. It hadn't worked none on Miss Margery yet, her being younger, but William Dear he took it hard and serious, and it made bumps all over his head, and he was kind o' pale and spindly. Every time that kid cut his finger he jest natcherally bled scientifics. One day I says to Miss Estelle, says I:

"It looks to me like William Dear is kind of peaked." She looks worried and she looks mad fur me lipping in, and then she says mebby it is true, but she don't see why, because he is being brung up like he orter be in every way and no expense nor trouble spared.

"Well," says I, "what a kid about that size wants to do is to get out and roll around in the dirt some, and yell and holler."

She sniffs like I wasn't worth taking no notice of. But it kind o' soaked in, too. She and the perfessor must of talked it over. Fur the next day I seen her spreading a oilcloth on the hall floor. And then James comes a buttling in with a lot of sand what the perfessor has baked and made all scientific down in his labertory. James, he pours all that nice, clean dirt onto the oilcloth and then Miss Estelle sends fur William Dear.

"William Dear," she says, "we have decided, your papa and I, that what you need is more romping around and playing along with your studies. You ought to get closer to the soil and to nature, as is more healthy for a youth of your age. So for an hour each day, between your studies, you will romp and play in this sand. You may begin to frolic now, William Dear, and then James will sweep up the dirt again for to-morrow's frolic."

But William didn't frolic none. He jest looked at that dirt in a sad kind o' way, and he says very serious but very decided:

"Aunt Estelle, I shall NOT frolic." And they had to let it go at that, fur he never would frolic none, neither. And all that nice clean dirt was throwed out in the back yard along with the unscientific dirt.

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