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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 23534

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

So many different kinds of feeling had been chasing around inside of me that I had numb spots in my emotional ornaments and intellectual organs. The room cleared out of everybody but Doctor Kirby and Colonel Tom and me. But the sound of the crowd going into the road, and their footsteps dying away, and then after that their voices quitting, all made but very little sense to me. I could scarcely realize that the danger was over.

I hadn't been paying much attention to Doctor Kirby while the colonel was making that grandstand play of his'n, and getting away with it. Doctor Kirby was setting in his chair with his head sort of sunk on his chest. I guess he was having a hard time himself to realize that all the danger was past. But mebby it wasn't that-he looked like he might really of forgot where he was fur a minute, and might be thinking of something that had happened a long time ago.

The colonel was leaning up agin the teacher's desk, smoking and looking at Doctor Kirby. Doctor Kirby turns around toward the colonel.

"You have saved my life," he says, getting up out of his chair, like he had a notion to step over and thank him fur it, but was somehow not quite sure how that would be took.

The colonel looks at him silent fur a second, and then he says, without smiling:

"Do you flatter yourself it was because I think it worth anything?"

The doctor don't answer, and then the colonel says:

"Has it occurred to you that I may have saved it because I want it?"

"WANT it?"

"Do you know of any one who has a better right to TAKE it than I have? Perhaps I saved it because it BELONGS to me-do you suppose I want any one else to kill what I have the best right to kill?"

"Tom," says Doctor Kirby, really puzzled, to judge from his actions, "I don't understand what makes you say you have the right to take my life."

"Dave, where is my sister buried?" asts Colonel Tom.

"Buried?" says Doctor Kirby. "My God, Tom, is she DEAD?"

"I ask you," says Colonel Tom.

"And I ask you," says Doctor Kirby.

And they looked at each other, both wonderized, and trying to understand. And it busted on me all at oncet who them two men really was.

I orter knowed it sooner. When the colonel was first called Colonel Tom Buckner it struck me I knowed the name, and knowed something about it. But things which was my own consarns was attracting my attention so hard I couldn't remember what it was I orter know about that name. Then I seen him and Doctor Kirby knowed each other when they got that first square look. That orter of put me on the track, that and a lot of other things that had happened before. But I didn't piece things together like I orter done.

It wasn't until Colonel Tom Buckner called him "Dave" and ast him about his sister that I seen who Doctor Kirby must really be.


And the brother of the girl he had run off with had jest saved his life. By the way he was talking, he had saved it simply because he thought he had the first call on what to do with it.

"Where is she?" asts Colonel Tom.

"I ask you," says Doctor Kirby-or David Armstrong-agin.

Well, I thinks to myself, here is where Daniel puts one acrost the plate. And I breaks in:

"You both got another guess coming," I says. "She ain't buried anywheres. She ain't even dead. She's living in a little town in Indiany called Athens-or she was about eighteen months ago."

They both looks at me like they thinks I am crazy.

"What do you know about it?" says Doctor Kirby.

"Are you David Armstrong?" says I.

"Yes," says he.

"Well," I says, "you spent four or five days within a stone's throw of her a year ago last summer, and she knowed it was you and hid herself away from you."

Then I tells them about how I first happened to hear of David Armstrong, and all I had hearn from Martha. And how I had stayed at the Davises in Tennessee and got some more of the same story from George, the old nigger there.

"But, Danny," says the doctor, "why didn't you tell me all this?"

I was jest going to say that not knowing he was that there David Armstrong I didn't think it any of his business, when Colonel Tom, he says to Doctor Kirby-I mean to David Armstrong:

"Why should you be concerned as to her whereabouts? You ruined her life and then deserted her."

Doctor Kirby-I mean David Armstrong-stands there with the blood going up his face into his forehead slow and red.

"Tom," he says, "you and I seem to be working at cross purposes. Maybe it would help some if you would tell me just how badly you think I treated Lucy."

"You ruined her life, and then deserted her," says Colonel Tom agin, looking at him hard.

"I DIDN'T desert her," said Doctor Kirby. "She got disgusted and left ME. Left me without a chance to explain myself. As far as ruining her life is concerned, I suppose that when I married her-"

"Married her!" cries out the colonel. And David Armstrong stares at him with his mouth open.

"My God! Tom," he says, "did you think-?"

And they both come to another standstill. And then they talked some more and only got more mixed up than ever. Fur the doctor thinks she has left him, and Colonel Tom thinks he has left her.

"Tom," says the doctor, "suppose you let me tell my story, and you'll see why Lucy left me."

Him and Colonel Tom had been chums together when they went through Princeton, it seems-I picked that up from the talk and some of his story I learned afterward. He had come from Ohio in the beginning, and his dad had had considerable money. Which he had enjoyed spending of it, and when he was a young feller never liked to work at nothing else. It suited him. Colonel Tom, he was considerable like him in that way. So they was good pals when they was to that school together. They both quit about the same time. A couple of years after that, when they was both about twenty-five or six years old, they run acrost each other accidental in New York one autumn.

The doctor, he was there figgering on going to work at something or other, but they was so many things to do he was finding it hard to make a choice. His father was dead by that time, and looking fur a job in New York, the way he had been doing it, was awful expensive, and he was running short of money. His father had let him spend so much whilst he was alive he was very disappointed to find out he couldn't keep on forever looking fur work that-a-way.

So Colonel Tom says why not come down home into Tennessee with him fur a while, and they will both try and figger out what he orter go to work at. It was the fall of the year, and they was purty good hunting around there where Colonel Tom lived, and Dave hadn't never been South any, and so he goes. He figgers he better take a good, long vacation, anyhow. Fur if he goes to work that winter or the next spring, and ties up with some job that keeps him in an office, there may be months and months pass by before he has another chance at a vacation. That is the worst part of a job-I found that out myself-you never can tell when you are going to get shut of it, once you are fool enough to start in.

In Tennessee he had met Miss Lucy. Which her wedding to Prent McMakin was billed fur to come off about the first of November, jest a month away.

"I don't know whether I ever told you or not," says the doctor, "but I was engaged to be married myself, Tom, when I went down to your place. That was what started all the trouble.

"You know engagements are like vaccination-sometimes they take, and sometimes they don't. Of course, I had thought at one time I was in love with this girl I was engaged to. When I found out I wasn't, I should have told her so right away. But I didn't. I thought that she would get tired of me after a while and turn me loose. I gave her plenty of chances to turn me loose. I wanted her to break the engagement instead of me. But she wouldn't take the hints. She hung on like an Ohio Grand Army veteran to a country post-office. About half the time I didn't read her letters, and about nineteen twentieths of the time I didn't answer them. They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But it isn't so-it makes them all the fonder of you. I got into the habit of thinking that while Emma might be engaged to me, I wasn't engaged to Emma. Not but what Emma was a nice girl, you know, but-

"Well, I met Lucy. We fell in love with each other. It just happened. I kept intending to write to the other girl and tell her plainly that everything was off. But I kept postponing it. It seemed like a deuce of a hard job to tackle.

"But, finally, I did write her. That was the very day Lucy promised to throw Prent McMakin over and marry me. You know how determined all your people were that Lucy should marry McMakin, Tom. They had brought her up with the idea that she was going to, and, of course, she was bored with him for that reason.

"We decided the best plan would be to slip away quietly and get married. We knew it would raise a row. But there was bound to be a row anyhow when they found she intended to marry me instead of McMakin. So we figured we might just as well be away from there.

"We left your place early on the morning of October 31, 1888-do you remember the date, Tom? We took the train for Clarksville, Tennessee, and got there about two o'clock that afternoon. I suppose you have been in that interesting centre of the tobacco industry. If you have you may remember that the courthouse of Montgomery County is right across the street from the best hotel. I got a license and a preacher without any trouble, and we were married in the hotel parlour that afternoon. One of the hotel clerks and the county clerk himself were the witnesses.

"We went to Cincinnati and from there to Chicago. There we got rooms out on the South Side-Hyde Park, they called it. And I got me a job. I had some money left, but not enough to buy kohinoors and race-horses with. Beside, I really wanted to get to work-wanted it for the first time in my life. You remember young Clayton in our class? He and some other enterprising citizens had a building and loan association. Such things are no doubt immoral, but I went to work for him.

"We had been in Chicago a week when Lucy wrote home what she had done, and begged forgiveness for being so abrupt about it. At least, I suppose that is what she wrote. It was-"

"I remember exactly what she wrote," says Colonel Tom.

"I never knew exactly," says the doctor. "The same mail that brought word from you that your grandfather had had some sort of a stroke, as a consequence of our elopement, brought also two letters from Emma. They had been forwarded from New York to Tennessee, and you had forwarded them to Chicago.

"Those letters began the trouble. You see, I hadn't told Emma when I wrote breaking off the engagement that I was going to get married the next day. And Emma hadn't received my letter, or else had made up her mind to ignore it. Anyhow, those letters were regular love-letters.

"I hadn't really read one of Emma's letters for months. But somehow I couldn't help reading these. I had forgotten what a gift for the expression of sentiment Emma had. She fairly revelled in it, Tom. Those letters were simply writhing with clinging female adjectives. They SQUIRMED with affection.

"You may remember that Lucy was a rather jealous sort of a person. Right in the midst of her alarm and grief and self-reproach over her grandfather, and in the midst of my efforts to comfort her, she spied the feminine handwriting on those two letters. I had glanced through them hurriedly, and laid them on the table.

"Tom, I was in bad. The dates on them, you know, were so RECENT. I didn't

want Lucy to read them. But I didn't dare to ACT as if I didn't want her to. So I handed them over.

"I suppose-to a bride who had only been married a little more than a week-and who had hurt her grandfather nearly to death in the marrying, those letters must have sounded rather odd. I tried to explain. But all my explanations only seemed to make the case worse for me. Lucy was furiously jealous. We really had a devil of a row before we were through with it. I tried to tell her that I loved no one but her. She pointed out that I must have said much the same sort of thing to Emma. She said she was almost as sorry for Emma as she was for herself. When Lucy got through with me, Tom, I looked like thirty cents and felt like twenty-five of that was plugged.

"I didn't have sense enough to know that it was most of it grief over her grandfather, and nerves and hysteria, and the fact that she was only eighteen years old and lonely, and that being a bride had a certain amount to do with it. She had told me that I was a beast, and made me feel like one; and I took the whole thing hard and believed her. I made a fine, five-act tragedy out of a jealous fit I might have softened into comedy if I had had the wit.

"I wasn't so very old myself, and I hadn't ever been married before. I should have kept my mouth shut until it was all over, and then when she began to cry I should have coaxed her up and made her feel like I was the only solid thing to hang on to in the whole world.

"But the bottom had dropped out of the universe for me. She had said she hated me. I was fool enough to believe her. I went downtown and began to drink. I come home late that night. The poor girl had been waiting up for me-waiting for hours, and becoming more and more frightened when I didn't show up. She was over her jealous fit, I suppose. If I had come home in good shape, or in anything like it, we would have made up then and there. But my condition stopped all that. I wasn't so drunk but that I saw her face change when she let me in. She was disgusted.

"In the morning I was sick and feverish. I was more than disgusted with myself. I was in despair. If she had hated me before-and she had said she did-what must she do now? It seemed to me that I had sunk so far beneath her that it would take years to get back. It didn't seem worth while making any plea for myself. You see, I was young and had serious streaks all through me. So when she told me that she had written home again, and was going back-was going to leave me, I didn't see that it was only a bluff. I didn't see that she was really only waiting to forgive me, if I gave her a chance. I started downtown to the building and loan office, wondering when she would leave, and if there was anything I could do to make her change her mind. I must repeat again that I was a fool-that I needed only to speak one word, had I but known it.

"If I had gone straight to work, everything might have come around all right even then. But I didn't. I had that what's-the-use feeling. And I stopped in at the Palmer House bar to get something to sort of pull me together.

"While I was there, who should come up to the bar and order a drink but Prent McMakin."

"Yes!" says Colonel Tom, as near excited as he ever got.

"Yes," says Armstrong, "nobody else. We saw each other in the mirror behind the bar. I don't know whether you ever noticed it or not, Tom, but McMakin's eyes had a way of looking almost like cross-eyes when he was startled or excited. They were a good deal too near together at any time. He gave me such a look when our eyes met in the mirror that, for an instant, I thought that he intended to do me some mischief-shoot me, you know, for taking his bride-to-be away from him, or some fool thing like that. But as we turned toward each other I saw he had no intention of that sort."

"Hadn't he?" says Colonel Tom, mighty interested.

"No," says the doctor, looking at Colonel Tom very puzzled, "did you think he had?"

"Yes, I did," says the colonel, right thoughtful.

"On the contrary," says Armstrong, "we had a drink together. And he congratulated me. Made me quite a little speech, in fact; one of the flowery kind, you know, Tom, and said that he bore me no rancour, and all that."

"The deuce he did!" says Colonel Tom, very low, like he was talking to himself. "And then what?"

"Then," says the doctor, "then-let me see-it's all a long time ago, you know, and McMakin's part in the whole thing isn't really important."

"I'm not so sure it isn't important," says the colonel, "but go on."

"Then," says Armstrong, "we had another drink together. In fact, a lot of them. We got awfully friendly. And like a fool I told him of my quarrel with Lucy."

"LIKE a fool," says Colonel Tom, nodding his head. "Go on."

"There isn't much more to tell," says the doctor, "except that I made a worse idiot of myself yet, and left McMakin about two o'clock in the afternoon, as near as I can recollect. Somewhere about ten o'clock that night I went home. Lucy was gone. I haven't seen her since."

"Dave," says Colonel Tom, "did McMakin happen to mention to you, that day, just why he was in Chicago?"

"I suppose so," says the doctor. "I don't know. Maybe not. That was twenty years ago. Why?"

"Because," says Colonel Tom, very grim and quiet, "because your first thought as to his intention when he met you in the bar was MY idea also. I thought he went to Chicago to settle with you. You see, I got to Chicago that same afternoon."

"The same day?"

"Yes. We were to have come together. But I missed the train, and he got there a day ahead of me. He was waiting at the hotel for me to join him, and then we were going to look you up together. He found you first and I never did find you."

"But I don't exactly understand," says the doctor. "You say he had the idea of shooting me."

"I don't understand everything myself," says Colonel Tom. "But I do understand that Prent McMakin must have played some sort of a two-faced game. He never said a word to me about having seen you.

"Listen," he goes on. "When you and Lucy ran away it nearly killed our grandfather. In fact, it finally did kill him. When we got Lucy's letter that told you were in Chicago I went up to bring her back home. We didn't know what we were going to do, McMakin and I, but we were both agreed that you needed killing. And he swore that he would marry Lucy anyhow, even-"

"MARRY HER!" sings out the doctor, "but we WERE married."

"Dave," Colonel Tom says very slow and steady, "you keep SAYING you were married. But it's strange-it's right STRANGE about that marriage."

And he looked at the doctor hard and close, like he would drag the truth out of him, and the doctor met his look free and open. You would of thought Colonel Tom was saying with his look: "You MUST tell me the truth." And the doctor with his was answering: "I HAVE told you the truth."

"But, Tom," says the doctor, "that letter she wrote you from Chicago must-"

"Do you know what Lucy wrote?" interrupts Colonel Tom. "I remember exactly. It was simply: 'FORGIVE ME. I LOVED HIM SO. I AM HAPPY. I KNOW IT IS WRONG, BUT I LOVE HIM SO YOU MUST FORGIVE ME.'"

"But couldn't you tell from THAT we were married?" cries out the doctor.

"She didn't mention it," says Colonel Tom.

"She supposed that her own family had enough faith in her to take it for granted," says the doctor, very scornful, his face getting red.

"But wait, Dave," says Colonel Tom, quiet and cool. "Don't bluster with me. There are still a lot of things to be explained. And that marriage is one of them.

"To go back a bit. You say you got to the house somewhere around ten o'clock that evening and found Lucy gone. Do you remember the day of the month?"

"It was November 14, 1888."

"Exactly," says Colonel Tom. "I got to Chicago at six o'clock of that very day. And I went at once to the address in Lucy's letter. I got there between seven and eight o'clock. She was gone. My thought was that you must have got wind of my coming and persuaded her to leave with you in order to avoid me-although I didn't see how you could know when I would get there, either, when I thought it over."

"And you have never seen her since," says Armstrong, pondering.

"I HAVE seen her since," says Colonel Tom, "and that is one thing that makes me say your story needs further explanation."

"But where-when-did you see her?" asts the doctor, mighty excited.

"I am coming to that. I went back home again. And in July of the next year I heard from her."

"Heard from her?"

"By letter. She was in Galesburg, Illinois, if you know where that is. She was living there alone. And she was almost destitute. I wrote her to come home. She would not. But she had to live. I got rid of some of our property in Tennessee, and took enough cash up there with me to fix her, in a decent sort of way, for the rest of her life, and put it in the bank. I was with her there for ten days; then I went back home to get Aunt Lucy Davis to help me in another effort to persuade her to return. But when I got back North with Aunt Lucy she had gone."


"Yes, and when we returned without her to Tennessee there was a letter telling us not to try to find her. We thought-I thought-that she might have taken up with you once again."

"But, my God! Tom," the doctor busts out, "you were with her ten days there in Galesburg! Didn't she tell you then-couldn't you tell from the way she acted-that she had married me?"

"That's the odd thing, Dave," says the colonel, very slow and thoughtful. "That's what is so very strange about it all. I merely assumed by my attitude that you were not married, and she let me assume it without a protest."

"But did you ask her?"

"Ask her? No. Can't you see that there was no reason why I should ask her? I was sure. And being sure of it, naturally I didn't talk about it to her. You can understand that I wouldn't, can't you? In fact, I never mentioned you to her. She never mentioned you to me."

"You must have mistaken her, Tom."

"I don't think it's possible, Dave," said the colonel. "You can mistake words and explanations a good deal easier than you can mistake an atmosphere. No, Dave, I tell you that there's something odd about it-married or not, Lucy didn't BELIEVE herself married the last time I saw her."

"But she MUST have known," says the doctor, as much to himself as to the colonel. "She MUST have known." Any one could of told by the way he said it that he wasn't lying. I could see that Colonel Tom believed in him, too. They was both sicking their intellects onto the job of figgering out how it was Lucy didn't know. Finally the doctor says very thoughtful:

"Whatever became of Prentiss McMakin, Tom?"

"Dead," says Colonel Tom, "quite a while ago."

"H-m," says the doctor, still thinking hard. And then looks at Colonel Tom like they was an idea in his head. Which he don't speak her out. But Colonel Tom seems to understand.

"Yes," he says, nodding his head. "I think you are on the right track now. Yes-I shouldn't wonder."

Well, they puts this and that together, and they agrees that whatever happened to make things hard to explain must of happened on that day that Prentiss McMakin met the doctor in the bar-room, and didn't shoot him, as he had made his brags he would. Must of happened between the time that afternoon when Prentiss McMakin left the doctor and the time Colonel Tom went out to see his sister and found she had went. Must of happened somehow through Prent McMakin.

We goes home with Colonel Tom that night. And the next day all three of us is on our way to Athens, Indiany, where I had seen Miss Lucy at.

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