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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 13972

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


As I drove into the yard, a bare-headed old nigger with a game leg throwed down an armful of wood he was gathering and went limping up to the veranda as fast as he could. He opened the door and bawled out, pointing to us, before he had it fairly open:

"O Marse WILLyum! O Miss LUCY! Dey've brung him home! DAR he!"

A little, bright, black-eyed old lady like a wren comes running out of the house, and chirps:

"O Bud-O my honey boy! Is he dead?"

"I reckon not, Miss Lucy," says Bud raising himself up on the mattress as she runs up to the wagon, and trying to act like everything was all a joke. She was jest high enough to kiss him over the edge of the wagon box. A worried-looking old gentleman come out the door, seen Bud and his mother kissing each other, and then says to the old nigger man:

"George, yo' old fool, what do yo' mean by shouting out like that?"

"Marse Willyum-" begins George, explaining.

"Shut up," says the old gentleman, very quiet. "Take the bay mare and go for Doctor Po'ter." Then he comes to the wagon and says:

"So they got yo', Bud? Yo' WOULD go nightriding like a rowdy and a thug! Are yo' much hurt?"

He said it easy and gentle, more than mad. But Bud, he flushed up, pale as he was, and didn't answer his dad direct. He turned to his mother and said:

"Miss Lucy, dear, it would 'a' done yo' heart good to see the way them trust warehouses blazed up!"

And the old lady, smiling and crying both to oncet, says, "God bless her brave boy." But the old gentleman looked mighty serious, and his worry settled into a frown between his eyes, and he turns to me and says:

"Yo' must pardon us, sir, fo' neglecting to thank yo' sooner." I told him that would be all right, fur him not to worry none. And him and me and Mandy, which was the nigger cook, got Bud into the house and into his bed. And his mother gets that busy ordering Mandy and the old gentleman around, to get things and fix things, and make Bud as easy as she could, that you could see she was one of them kind of woman that gets a lot of satisfaction out of having some one sick to fuss over. And after quite a while George gets back with Doctor Porter.

He sets Bud's arm, and he locates the bullet in him, and he says he guesses he'll do in a few weeks if nothing like blood poisoning nor gangrene nor inflammation sets in.

Only the doctor says he "reckons" instead of he "guesses," which they all do down there. And they all had them easy-going, wait-a-bit kind of voices, and didn't see no pertic'ler importance in their "r's." It wasn't that you could spell it no different when they talked, but it sounded different.

I eat my breakfast with the old gentleman, and then I took a sleep until time fur dinner. They wouldn't hear of me leaving that night. I fully intended to go on the next day, but before I knowed it I been there a couple of days, and have got very well acquainted with that fambly.

Well, that was a house divided agin itself. Miss Lucy, she is awful favourable to all this nightrider business. She spunks up and her eyes sparkles whenever she thinks about that there tobaccer trust.

She would of like to been a night-rider herself. But the old man, he says law and order is the main pint. What the country needs, he says, ain't burning down tobaccer warehouses, and shooting your neighbours, and licking them with switches, fur no wrong done never righted another wrong.

"But you were in the Ku Klux Klan yo'self," says Miss Lucy.

The old man says the Ku Kluxes was working fur a principle-the principle of keeping the white supremacy on top of the nigger race. Fur if you let 'em quit work and go around balloting and voting it won't do. It makes 'em biggity. And a biggity nigger is laying up trouble fur himself. Because sooner or later he will get to thinking he is as good as one of these here Angle-Saxtons you are always hearing so much talk about down South. And if the Angle-Saxtons was to stand fur that, purty soon they would be sociable equality. And next the hull dern country would be niggerized. Them there Angle-Saxtons, that come over from Ireland and Scotland and France and the Great British Islands and settled up the South jest simply couldn't afford to let that happen, he says, and so they Ku Kluxed the niggers to make 'em quit voting. It was THEIR job to MAKE law and order, he says, which they couldn't be with niggers getting the idea they had a right to govern. So they Ku Kluxed 'em like gentlemen. But these here night-riders, he says, is AGIN law and order-they can shoot up more law and order in one night than can be manufactured agin in ten years. He was a very quiet, peaceable old man, Mr. Davis was, and Bud says he was so dern foolish about law and order he had to up and shoot a man, about fifteen years ago, who hearn him talking that-a-way and said he reminded him of a Boston school teacher.

But Miss Lucy and Bud, they tells me what all them night-ridings is fur. It seems this here tobaccer trust is jest as mean and low-down and unprincipled as all the rest of them trusts. The farmers around there raised considerable tobaccer-more'n they did of anything else. The trust had shoved the price so low they couldn't hardly make a living. So they organized and said they would all hold their tobaccer fur a fair price. But some of the farmers wouldn't organize-said they had a right to do what they pleased with their own tobaccer. So the night-riders was formed to burn their barns and ruin their crops and whip 'em and shoot 'em and make 'em jine. And also to burn a few trust warehouses now and then, and show 'em this free American people, composed mainly out of the Angle-Saxton races, wasn't going to take no sass from anybody.

An old feller by the name of Rufe Daniels who wouldn't jine the night-riders had been shot to death on his own door step, jest about a mile away, only a week or so before. The night-riders mostly used these here automatic shot-guns, but they didn't bother with birdshot. They mostly loaded their shells with buckshot. A few bicycle ball bearings dropped out of old Rufe when they gathered him up and got him into shape to plant. They is always some low-down cuss in every crowd that carries things to the point where they get brutal, Bud says; and he feels like them bicycle bearings was going a little too fur, though he wouldn't let on to his dad that he felt that-a-way.

So fur as I could see they hadn't hurt the trust none to speak of, them night-riders. But they had done considerable damage to their own county, fur folks was moving away, and the price of land had fell. Still, I guess they must of got considerable satisfaction out of raising the deuce nights that-away; and sometimes that is worth a hull lot to a feller. As fur as I could make out both the trust and the night-riders was in the wrong. But, you take 'em one at a time, personal-like, and not into a gang, and most of them night-riders is good-dispositioned fo

lks. I never knowed any trusts personal, but mebby if you could ketch 'em the same way they would be similar.

I asts George one day what he thought about it. George, he got mighty serious right off, like he felt his answer was going to be used to decide the hull thing by. He was carrying a lot of scraps on a plate to a hound dog that had a kennel out near George's cabin, and he walled his eyes right thoughtful, and scratched his head with the fork he had been scraping the plate with, but fur a while nothing come of it. Finally George says:

"I'se 'spec' mah jedgment des about de same as Marse WILLyum's an' Miss LUCY's. I'se notice hit mos' ingin'lly am de same."

"That can't be, George," says I, "fur they think different ways."

"Den if DAT am de case," says George, "dey ain't NO ONE kin settle hit twell hit settles hitse'f.

"I'se mos' ingin'lly notice a thing DO settle hitse'f arter a while. Yass, SAH, I'se notice dat! Long time ago dey was consid'ble gwines-on in dis hyah county, Marse Daniel. I dunno ef yo' evah heah 'bout dat o' not, Marse Daniel, but dey was a wah fit right hyah in dis hyah county. Such gwines-on as nevah was-dem dar Yankees a-ridin' aroun' an' eatin' up de face o' de yearth, like de plagues o' Pha'aoah, Marse Daniel, and rippin' and rarin' an' racin' an' stealin' evehything dey could lay dey han's on, Marse Daniel. An' ouah folks a-ridin' and a racin' and projickin' aroun' in de same onsettled way.

"Marse Willyum, he 'low HE gwine settle dat dar wah he-se'f-yass, SAH!

An' he got on he hoss, and he ride away an' jine Marse Jeb Stuart. But

dey don' settle hit. Marse Ab'ham Linkum, he 'low HE gwine settle hit,

an' sen' millyums an' millyums mo' o' dem Yankees down hyah, Marse

Daniel. But dey des ONsettle hit wuss'n evah! But arter a while it des

settle HITse'f.

"An' den freedom broke out among de niggers,

and dey was mo' gwines-ON, an' talkin', an' some on 'em 'lowed dey was

gwine ter be no mo' wohk, Marse Daniel. But arter a while dat settle

HITse'f, and dey all went back to wohk agin. Den some on de niggers

gits de notion, Marse Daniel, dey gwine foh to VOTE. An' dey was mo'

gwines-on, an' de Ku Kluxes come a projickin' aroun' nights, like de

grave-yahds done been resu'rected, Marse Daniel, an' den arter a while

dat trouble settle HITse'f.

"Den arter de Ku Kluxes dey was de time Miss Lucy Buckner gwine ter mahy Marse Prent McMakin. An' she don' want to ma'hy him, if dey give her her druthers about hit. But Ol' Marse Kunnel Hampton, her gram-pa, and her aunt, MY Miss Lucy hyah, dey ain't gwine give her no druthers. And dey was mo' gwines-ON. But dat settle HITse'f, too."

George, he begins to chuckle, and I ast him how.

"Yass, SAH, dat settle HITse'f. But I 'spec' Miss Lucy Buckner done he'p some in de settleMENT. Foh de day befoh de weddin' was gwine ter be, she ups an' she runs off wid a Yankee frien' of her brother, Kunnel Tom Buckner. An' I'se 'spec' Kunnel Tom an' Marse Prent McMakin would o' settle' HIM ef dey evah had o' cotched him-dat dar David Ahmstrong!"

"Who?" says I.

"David Ahmstrong was his entitlement," says George, "an' he been gwine to de same college as Marse Tom Buckner, up no'th somewhah. Dat's how-come he been visitin' Marse Tom des befoh de weddin' trouble done settle HIT se'f dat-away."

Well, it give me quite a turn to run onto the mention of that there David Armstrong agin in this part of the country. Here he had been jilting Miss Hampton way up in Indiany, and running away with another girl down here in Tennessee. Then it struck me mebby it is jest different parts of the same story I been hearing of, and Martha had got her part a little wrong.

"George," I says, "what did you say Miss Lucy Buckner's gran-dad's name was?"

"Kunnel Hampton-des de same as MY Miss Lucy befo' SHE done ma'hied Marse Willyum."

That made me sure of it. It was the same woman. She had run away with David Armstrong from this here same neighbourhood. Then after he got her up North he had left her-or her left him. And then she wasn't Miss Buckner no longer. And she was mad and wouldn't call herself Mrs. Armstrong. So she moved away from where any one was lible to trace her to, and took her mother's maiden name, which was Hampton.

"Well," I says, "what ever become of 'em after they run off, George?"

But George has told about all he knows. They went North, according to what everybody thinks, he says. Prent McMakin, he follered and hunted. And Col. Tom Buckner, he done the same. Fur about a year Colonel Tom, he was always making trips away from there to the North. But whether he ever got any track of his sister and that David Armstrong nobody knowed. Nobody never asked him. Old Colonel Hampton, he grieved and he grieved, and not long after the runaway he up and died. And Tom Buckner, he finally sold all he owned in that part of the country and moved further south. George said he didn't rightly know whether it was Alabama or Florida. Or it might of been Georgia.

I thinks to myself that mebby Mrs. Davis would like to know where her niece is, and that I better tell her about Miss Hampton being in that there little Indiany town, and where it is. And then I thinks to myself I better not butt in. Fur Miss Hampton has likely got her own reasons fur keeping away from her folks, or else she wouldn't do it. Anyhow, it's none of MY affair to bring the subject up to 'em. It looks to me like one of them things George has been gassing about-one of them things that has settled itself, and it ain't fur me to meddle and unsettle it.

It set me to thinking about Martha, too. Not that I hadn't thought of her lots of times. I had often thought I would write her. But I kept putting it off, and purty soon I kind of forgot Martha. I had seen a lot of different girls of all kinds since I had seen Martha. Yet, whenever I happened to think of Martha, I had always liked her best. Only moving around the country so much makes it kind of hard to keep thinking steady of the same girl. Besides, I had lost that there half of a ring, too.

But knowing what I did now about Miss Hampton being Miss Buckner-or Mrs. Armstrong-and related to these Davises made me want to get away from there. Fur that secret made me feel kind of sneaking, like I wasn't being frank and open with them. Yet if I had of told 'em I would of felt sneakinger yet fur giving Miss Hampton away. I never got into a mix up that-a-way betwixt my conscience and my duty but what it made me feel awful uncomfortable. So I guessed I would light out from there. They wasn't never no kinder, better people than them Davises, either. They was so pleased with my bringing Bud home the night he was shot they would of jest natcherally give me half their farm if I had of ast them fur it. They wanted me to stay there-they didn't say fur how long, and I guess they didn't give a dern. But I was in a sweat to ketch up with Doctor Kirby agin.

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