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Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 14758

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Fur my part, as the train kept getting further and further north, my feelings kept getting more and more mixed. It come to me that I might be steering straight fur a bunch of trouble. The feeling that sadness and melancholy and seriousness was laying ahead of me kept me from really enjoying them dollar-apiece meals on the train. It was Martha that done it. All this past and gone love story I had been hearing about reminded me of Martha. And I was steering straight toward her, and no way out of it. How did I know but what that there girl might be expecting fur to marry me, or something like that? Not but what I was awful in love with her whilst we was together. But it hadn't really set in on me very deep. I hadn't forgot about her right away. But purty soon I had got to forgetting her oftener than I remembered her. And now it wasn't no use talking-I jest wasn't in love with Martha no more, and didn't have no ambition to be. I had went around the country a good bit, and got intrusted in other things, and saw several other girls I liked purty well. Keeping steady in love with jest one girl is mighty hard if you are moving around a good bit.

But I was considerable worried about Martha. She was an awful romanceful kind of girl. And even the most sensible kind is said to be fools about getting their hearts broke and pining away and dying over a feller. I would hate to think Martha had pined herself sick.

I couldn't shut my eyes to the fact we was engaged to each other legal, all right. And if she wanted to act mean about it and take it to a court it would likely be binding on me. Then I says to myself is she is mean enough to do that I'll be derned if I don't go to jail before I marry her, and stay there.

And then my conscience got to working inside of me agin. And a picture of her getting thin and not eating her vittles regular and waiting and waiting fur me to show up, and me never doing it, come to me. And I felt sorry fur poor Martha, and thought mebby I would marry her jest to keep her from dying. Fur you would feel purty tough if a girl was to get so stuck on you it killed her. Not that I ever seen that really happen, either; but first and last there has been considerable talk about it.

It wasn't but what I liked Martha well enough. It was the idea of getting married, and staying married, made me feel so anxious. Being married may work out all right fur some folks. But I knowed it never would work any with me. Or not fur long. Because why should I want to be tied down to one place, or have a steady job? That would be a mean way to live.

Of course, with a person that was the doctor's age it would be different. He had done his running around and would be willing to settle down now, I guessed. That is, if he could get his differences with this here Buckner family patched up satisfactory. I wondered whether he would be able to or not. Him and Colonel Tom were talking constant on the train all the way up. From the little stretches of their talk I couldn't help hearing, I guessed each one was telling the other all that had happened to him in the time that had passed by. Colonel Tom what kind of a life he had lived, and how he had married and his wife had died and left him a widower without any kids. And the doctor-it was always hard fur me to get to calling him anything but Doctor Kirby-how he had happened to start out with a good chancet in life and turn into jest a travelling fakir.

Well, I thinks to myself now that he has got to be that, mebby her and him won't suit so well now, even if they does get their differences patched up. Fur all the forgiving in the world ain't going to change things, or make them no different. But, so long as the doctor appeared to want to find her so derned bad, I was awful glad I had been the means of getting him and Miss Lucy together. He had done a lot fur me, first and last, the doctor had, and I felt like it helped pay him a little. Though if they was to settle down like married folks I would feel like a good old sport was spoiled in the doctor, too.

We had to change cars at Indianapolis to get to that there little town. We was due to reach it about two o'clock in the afternoon. And the nearer we got to the place the nervouser and nervouser all three of us become. And not owning we was. The last hour before we hit the place, I took a drink of water every three minutes, I was so nervous. And when we come into the town I was already standing out onto the platform. I wouldn't of been surprised to find Martha and Miss Lucy down there to the station. But, of course, they wasn't. Fur some reason I felt glad they wasn't.

"Now," I says to them two, as we got off the train, "foller me and I will show you the house."

Everybody rubbers at strangers in a country town, and wonders why they have come, and what they is selling, and if they are mebby going to start a new grain elevator, or buy land, or what. The usual ones around the depot rubbered at us, and I hearn one geezer say to another:

"See that big feller there? He was through here a year or two ago selling patent medicine."

"You don't say so!" says the other one, like it was something important, like a president or a circus had come, and his eyes a-bugging out. And the doctor hearn them, too. Fur some reason or other he flushed up and cut a look out of the corner of his eye at Colonel Tom.

We went right through the main street and out toward the edge of town, by the crick, where Miss Lucy's house was. And, if anything, all of us feeling nervouser yet. And saying nothing and not looking at each other. And Colonel Tom rolling cigarettes and fumbling fur matches and lighting them and slinging them away. Fur how does anybody know how women is going to take even the most ordinary little things?

I knowed the way well enough, and where the house was, but as we went around the turn in the road I run acrost a surprised feeling. I come onto the place where our campfire had been them nights we was there. Looey had drug an old fence post onto the fire one night, and the post had only burned half up. The butt end of it, all charred and flaked, was still laying in the grass and weeds there. It hit me with a queer feeling-like it was only yesterday that fire had been lit there. And yet I knowed it had been a year and a half ago.

Well, it has always been my luck to run into things without the right kind of a lie fixed up ahead of time. They was three or four purty good stories I had been trying over in my head to tell Martha when I seen her. Any one of them stories might of done all right; but I hadn't decided WHICH one to use. And, of course, I run plumb into Martha. She was standing by the gate, which was about twenty yards from the veranda. And all four lies popped into my head at oncet, and got so mixed up with one another there, I seen right off it was useless to try to tell anything that sounded straight. Besides, when you are in the fix I was in, what can you tell a girl anyhow?

So I jest says to her:

"Hullo!"

Martha, she had been fussing around some flower bushes with a pair of shears and gloves on. She looks up when I says that, and she sizes us all up standing by the gate, and her eyes pops open, and so does her mouth, and she is so surprised to see me she drops her shears.

And she looks scared, too.

"Is Miss Buckne

r at home?" asts Colonel Tom, lifting his hat very polite.

"Miss B-B-Buckner?" Martha stutters, very scared-like, and not taking her eyes off of me to answer him.

"Miss Hampton, Martha," I says.

"Y-y-y-es, s-sh-she is," says Martha. I wondered what was the matter with her.

It is always my luck to get left all alone with my troubles. The doctor and the colonel, they walked right past us when she said yes, and up toward the house, and left her and me standing there. I could of went along and butted in, mebby. But I says to myself I will have the derned thing out here and now, and know the worst. And I was so interested in my trouble and Martha that I didn't even notice if Miss Lucy met 'em at the door, and if so, how she acted. When I next looked up they was all in the house.

"Martha-" I begins. But she breaks in.

"Danny," she says, looking like she is going to cry, "don't l-l-look at me l-l-like that. If you knew ALL you wouldn't blame me. You-"

"Wouldn't blame you fur what?" I asts her.

"I know it's wrong of me," she says, begging-like.

"Mebby it is and mebby it ain't," I says. "But what is it?"

"But you never wrote to me," she says.

"You never wrote to me," I says, not wanting her to get the best of me, whatever it was she might be talking about.

"And then HE came to town!-"

"Who?" I asts her.

"Don't you know?" she says. "The man I am going to marry."

When she said that I felt, all of a sudden, like when you are broke and hungry and run acrost a half dollar you had forgot about in your other pants. I was so glad I jumped.

"Great guns!" I says.

I had never really knowed what being glad was before.

"Oh, Danny, Danny," she says, putting her hands in front of her face, "and here you have come to claim me for your bride!"

Which showed me why she had looked so scared. That there girl had went and got engaged to another feller. And had been laying awake nights suffering fur fear I would turn up agin. And now I had. Looey, he always said never to trust a woman!

"Martha," I says, "you ain't acted right with me."

"Oh, Danny, Danny," she says, "I know it! I know it!"

"Some fellers in my place," I says, "would raise a dickens of a row."

"I DID love you once," she says, looking at me from between her fingers.

"Yes," says I, acting real melancholy, "you did. And now you've quit it, they don't seem to me to be nothing left to live fur." Martha, she was an awful romanceful girl. I got the notion that mebby she was enjoying her own remorsefulness a little bit. I fetched a deep sigh and I says:

"Some fellers would kill theirselves on the spot!"

"Oh!-Oh!-Oh!-" says Martha.

"But, Martha," says I, "I ain't that mean. I ain't going to do that."

That dern girl ackshellay give me a disappointed look! If anything, she was jest a bit TOO romanceful, Martha was.

"No," says I, cheering up a little, "I am going to do something they ain't many fellers would do, Martha. I'm going to forgive you. Free and fair and open. And give you back my half of that ring, and-"

Dern it! I had forgot I had lost that half of that there ring! I remembered so quick it stopped me.

"You always kept it, Danny?" she asts me, very soft-spoken, so as not to give pain to one so faithful and so noble as what I was. "Let me see it, Danny."

I made like I was feeling through all my pockets fur it. But that couldn't last forever. I run out of pockets purty soon. And her face begun to show she was smelling a rat. Finally I says:

"These ain't my other clothes-it must be in them."

"Danny," she says, "I believe you LOST it."

"Martha," I says, taking a chancet, "you know you lost YOUR half!"

She owns up she has lost it a long while ago. And when she lost it, she says, she knowed that was fate and that our love was omened in under an evil star. And who was she, she says, to struggle agin fate?

"Martha," I says, "I'll be honest with you. Fate got away with my half too one day when I didn't know they was crooks like her sticking around."

Well, I seen that girl seen through me then. Martha was awful smart sometimes. And each one was so derned tickled the other one wasn't going to do any pining away we like to of fell into love all over agin. But not quite. Fur neither one would ever trust the other one agin. So we felt more comfortable with each other. You ain't never comfortable with a person you know is more honest than you be.

"But," says Martha, after a minute, "if you didn't come back to make me marry you, what does Doctor Kirby want to see Miss Hampton about? And who was that with him?"

I had been nigh to forgetting the main thing we had all come here fur, in my gladness at getting rid of any danger of marrying Martha. But it come to me all to oncet I had been missing a lot that must be taking place inside that house. I had even missed the way they first looked when she met 'em at the door, and I wouldn't of missed that fur a lot. And I seen all to oncet what a big piece of news it will be to Martha.

"Martha," I says, "they ain't no Dr. Hartley L. Kirby. The man known as such is David Armstrong!"

I never seen any one so peetrified as Martha was fur a minute.

"Yes," says I, "and the other one is Miss Lucy's brother. And they are all three in there straightening themselves out and finding where everybody gets off at, and why. One of these here serious times you read about. And you and me are missing it all, like a couple of gumps. How can we hear?"

Martha says she don't know.

"You THINK," I told her. "We've wasted five good minutes already. I've GOT to hear the rest of it. Where would they be?"

Martha guesses they will all be in the sitting room, which has got the best chairs in it.

"What is next to it? A back parlour, or a bedroom, or what?" I was thinking of how I happened to overhear Perfessor Booth and his fambly that-a-way.

Martha says they is nothing like that to be tried.

"Martha," I says, "this is serious. This here story they are thrashing out in there is the only derned sure-enough romanceful story either you or me is ever lible to run up against personal in all our lives. It would of been a good deal nicer if they had ast us in to see the wind-up of it. Fur, if it hadn't of been fur me, they never would of been reunited and rejuvenated the way they be. But some people get stingy streaks with their concerns. You think!"

Martha, she says: "Danny, it wouldn't be honourable to listen."

"Martha," I tells her, "after the way you and me went and jilted each other, what kind of senses of honour have WE got to brag about?"

She remembers that the spare bedroom is right over the sitting room. The house is heated with stoves in the winter time. There is a register right through the floor of the spare bedroom and the ceiling of the sitting room. Not the kind of a register that comes from a twisted-around shaft in a house that uses furnace heat. But jest really a hole in the floor, with a cast-iron grating, to let the heat from the room below into the one above. She says she guesses two people that wasn't so very honourable might sneak into the house the back way, and up the back stairs, and into the spare bedroom, and lay down on their stummicks on the floor, being careful to make no noise, and both see and hear through that register. Which we done it.

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