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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 13167

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


I seen the feller from the telephone exchange run down the street a little ways as the first rush hit the square, and fire his pistol twice. Then he turned and made fur an alleyway, but as he turned they let him have it. He throwed up his arms and made one long stagger, right acrost the bar of light that streamed out of the windows, and he fell into the shadder, out of sight, jest like a scorched moth drops dead into the darkness from a torch.

Out of the middle of that bunch of riders come a big voice, yelling numbers, instead of men's names. Then different crowds lit out in all directions-some on foot, while others held their hosses-fur they seemed to have a plan laid ahead.

And then things began to happen. They happened so quick and with such a whirl it was all unreal to me-shots and shouts, and windows breaking as they blazed away at the store fronts all around the square-and orders and cuss-words ringing out between the noise of shooting-and those electric lights shining on them as they tossed and trampled, and showing up masked faces here and there-and pounding hoofs, and hosses scream-like humans with excitement-and spurts of flame squirted sudden out of the ring of darkness round about the open place-and a bull-dog shut up in a store somewheres howling himself hoarse-and white puffs of powder smoke like ghosts that went a-drifting by the lights-it was all unreal to me, as if I had a fever and was dreaming it. That square was like a great big stage in front of me, and I laid in the darkness on my lumber pile and watched things like a show-not much scared because it WAS so derned unreal.

From way down along the railroad track they come a sort of blunted roar, like blasting big stumps out-and then another and another. Purty soon, down that way, a slim flame licked up the side of a big building there, and crooked its tongue over the top. Then a second big building right beside it ketched afire, and they both showed up in their own light, big and angry and handsome, and the light showed up the men in front of 'em, too-guarding 'em, I guess, fur fear the town would get its nerve and make a fight to put 'em out. They begun to light the whole town up as light as day, and paint a red patch onto the sky, that must of been noticed fur miles around. It was a mighty purty sight to see 'em burn. The smoke was rolling high, too, and the sparks flying and other things in danger of ketching, and after while a lick of smoke come drifting up my way. I smelt her. It was tobacco burning in them warehouses.

But that town had some fight in her, in spite of being took unexpected that-a-way. It wasn't no coward town. The light from the burning buildings made all the shadders around about seem all the darker. And every once in a while, after the surprise of the first rush, they would come thin little streaks of fire out of the darkness somewheres, and the sound of shots. And then a gang of riders would gallop in that direction shooting up all creation. But by the time the warehouses was all lit up so that you could see they was no hope of putting them out the shooting from the darkness had jest about stopped.

It looked like them big tobacco warehouses was the main object of the raid. Fur when they was burning past all chancet of saving, with walls and floors a-tumbling and crashing down and sending up great gouts of fresh flame as they fell, the leader sings out an order, and all that is not on their hosses jumps on, and they rides away from the blaze. They come across the square-not galloping now, but taking it easy, laughing and talking and cussing and joking each other-and passed right by my lumber pile agin and down the street they had come. You bet I laid low on them boards while they was going by, and flattened myself out till I felt like a shingle.

As I hearn their hoof-sounds getting farther off, I lifts up my head agin. But they wasn't all gone, either. Three that must of been up to some pertic'ler deviltry of their own come galloping acrost the square to ketch up with the main bunch. Two was quite a bit ahead of the third one, and he yelled to them to wait. But they only laughed and rode harder.

And then fur some fool reason that last feller pulled up his hoss and stopped. He stopped in the road right in front of me, and wheeled his hoss acrost the road and stood up in his stirrups and took a long look at that blaze. You'd 'a' said he had done it all himself and was mighty proud of it, the way he raised his head and looked back at that town. He was so near that I hearn him draw in a slow, deep breath. He stood still fur most a minute like that, black agin the red sky, and then he turned his hoss's head and jabbed him with his stirrup edge.

Jest as the hoss started they come a shot from somewheres behind me. I s'pose they was some one hid in the lumber piles, where the street crossed the railway, besides myself. The hoss jumped forward at the shot, and the feller swayed sideways and dropped his gun and lost his stirrups and come down heavy on the ground. His hoss galloped off. I heard the noise of some one running off through the dark, and stumbling agin the lumber. It was the feller who had fired the shot running away. I suppose he thought the rest of them riders would come back, when they heard that shot, and hunt him down.

I thought they might myself. But I laid there, and jest waited. If they come, I didn't want to be found running. But they didn't come. The two last ones had caught up with the main gang, I guess, fur purty soon I hearn them all crossing that plank bridge agin, and knowed they was gone.

At first I guessed the feller on the ground must be dead. But he wasn't, fur purty soon I hearn him groan. He had mebby been stunned by his fall, and was coming to enough to feel his pain.

I didn't feel like he orter be left there. So I clumb down and went over to him. He was lying on one side all kind of huddled up. There had been a mask on his face, like the rest of them, with some hair onto the bottom of it to look like a beard. But now it had slipped down till it hung loose around his neck by the string. They was enough light to see he wasn't nothing but a young feller. He raised himself slow as I come near him, leaning on one arm and trying to set up. The other arm hung loose and helpless. Half setting up that-away he made a feel at his belt with his good hand, as I come near. But that good arm was his prop, and when he took it off the ground he fell back. His hand come away empty from his belt.

The big six-shooter he had been

feeling fur wasn't in its holster, anyhow. It had fell out when he tumbled. I picked it up in the road jest a few feet from his shot-gun, and stood there with it in my hand, looking down at him.

"Well," he says, in a drawly kind of voice, slow and feeble, but looking at me steady and trying to raise himself agin, "yo' can finish yo' little job now-yo' shot me from the darkness, and now yo' done got my pistol. I reckon yo' better shoot AGIN."

"I don't want to rub it in none," I says, "with you down and out, but from what I seen around this town to-night I guess you and your own gang got no GREAT objections to shooting from the dark yourselves."

"Why don't yo' shoot then?" he says. "It most suttinly is YO' turn now." And he never batted an eye.

"Bo," I says, "you got nerve. I LIKE you, Bo. I didn't shoot you, and I ain't going to. The feller that did has went. I'm going to get you out of this. Where you hurt?"

"Hip," he says, "but that ain't much. The thing that bothers me is this arm. It's done busted. I fell on it."

I drug him out of the road and back of the lumber pile I had been laying on, and hurt him considerable a-doing it.

"Now," I says, "what can I do fur you?"

"I reckon yo' better leave me," he says, "without yo' want to get yo'self mixed up in all this."

"If I do," I says, "you may bleed to death here: or anyway you would get found in the morning and be run in."

"Yo' mighty good to me," says he, "considering yo' are no kin to this here part of the country at all. I reckon by yo' talk yo' are one of them damn Yankees, ain't yo'?"

In Illinoise a Yankee is some one from the East, but down South he is anybody from north of the Ohio, and though that there war was fought forty years ago some of them fellers down there don't know damn and Yankee is two words yet. But shucks!-they don't mean no harm by it! So I tells him I am a damn Yankee and asts him agin if I can do anything fur him.

"Yes," he says, "yo' can tell a friend of mine Bud Davis has happened to an accident, and get him over here quick with his wagon to tote me home."

I was to go down the railroad track past them burning warehouses till I come to the third street, and then turn to my left. "The third house from the track has got an iron picket fence in front of it," says Bud, "and it's the only house in that part of town which has. Beauregard Peoples lives there. He is kin to me."

"Yes," I says, "and Beauregard is jest as likely as not going to take a shot out of the front window at me, fur luck, afore I can tell him what I want. It seems to be a kind of habit in these here parts to-night-I'm getting homesick fur Illinoise. But I'll take a chancet."

"He won't shoot," says Bud, "if yo' go about it right. Beauregard ain't going to be asleep with all this going on in town to-night. Yo' rattle on the iron gate and he'll holler to know what yo' all want."

"If he don't shoot first," I says.

"When he hollers, yo' cry back at him yo' have found his OLD DEAD HOSS in the road. It won't hurt to holler that loud, and that will make him let you within talking distance."

"His old DEAD HOSS?"

"Yo' don't need to know what that is. HE will." And then Bud told me enough of the signs and words to say, and things to do, to keep Beauregard from shooting-he said he reckoned he had trusted me so much he might as well go the hull hog. Beauregard, he says, belongs to them riders too; they have friends in all the towns that watches the lay of the land fur them, he says.

I made a long half-circle around them burning buildings, keeping in the dark, fur people was coming out in bunches, now that it was all over with, watching them fires burning, and talking excited, and saying the riders should be follered-only not follering.

I found the house Bud meant, and they was a light in the second-story window. I rattled on the gate. A dog barked somewheres near, but I hearn his chain jangle and knowed he was fast, and I rattled on the gate agin.

The light moved away from the window. Then another front window opened quiet, and a voice says:

"Doctor, is that yo' back agin?"

"No," I says, "I ain't a doctor."

"Stay where you are, then. I GOT YOU COVERED."

"I am staying," I says, "don't shoot."

"Who are yo'?"

"A feller," I says, kind of sensing his gun through the darkness as I spoke, "who has found your OLD DEAD HOSS in the road."

He didn't answer fur several minutes. Then he says, using the words DEAD HOSS as Bud had said he would.

"A DEAD HOSS is fitten fo' nothing but to skin."

"Well," I says, using the words fur the third time, as instructed, "it is a DEAD HOSS all right."

I hearn the window shut and purty soon the front door opened.

"Come up here," he says. I come.

"Who rode that hoss yo' been talking about?" he asts.

"One of the SILENT BRIGADE," I tells him, as Bud had told me to say. I give him the grip Bud had showed me with his good hand.

"Come on in," he says.

He shut the door behind us and lighted a lamp agin. And we looked each other over. He was a scrawny little feller, with little gray eyes set near together, and some sandy-complected whiskers on his chin. I told him about Bud, and what his fix was.

"Damn it-oh, damn it all," he says, rubbing the bridge of his nose, "I don't see how on AIRTH I kin do it. My wife's jest had a baby. Do yo' hear that?"

And I did hear a sound like kittens mewing, somewheres up stairs. Beauregard, he grinned and rubbed his nose some more, and looked at me like he thought that mewing noise was the smartest sound that ever was made.

"Boy," he says, grinning, "bo'n five hours ago. I've done named him Burley-after the tobaccer association, yo' know. Yes, SIR, Burley Peoples is his name-and he shore kin squall, the derned little cuss!"

"Yes," I says, "you better stay with Burley. Lend me a rig of some sort and I'll take Bud home."

So we went out to Beauregard's stable with a lantern and hitched up one of his hosses to a light road wagon. He went into the house and come back agin with a mattress fur Bud to lie on, and a part of a bottle of whiskey. And I drove back to that lumber pile. I guess I nearly killed Bud getting him into there. But he wasn't bleeding much from his hip-it was his arm was giving him fits.

We went slow, and the dawn broke with us four miles out of town. It was broad daylight, and early morning noises stirring everywheres, when we drove up in front of an old farmhouse, with big brick chimbleys built on the outside of it, a couple of miles farther on.

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