MoboReader > Literature > Danny's Own Story

   Chapter 24 24

Danny's Own Story By Don Marquis Characters: 20019

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

I could hear well enough, but at first I couldn't see any of them. But I gathered that Miss Lucy was standing up whilst she was talking, and moving around a bit now and then. I seen one of her sleeves, and then a wisp of her hair. Which was aggervating, fur I wanted to know what she was like. But her voice was so soft and quiet that you kind of knowed before you seen her how she orter look.

"Prentiss McMakin came to me that day," she was saying, "with an appeal-I hardly know how to tell you." She broke off.

"Go ahead, Lucy," says Colonel Tom's voice.

"He was insulting," she said. "He had been drinking. He wanted me to-to-he appealed to me to run off with him.

"I was furious-NATURALLY." Her voice changed as she said it enough so you could feel how furious Miss Lucy could get. She was like her brother Tom in some ways.

"I ordered him out of the house. His answer to that was an offer to marry me. You can imagine that I was surprised as well as angry-I was perplexed.

"'But I AM married!' I cried. The idea that any of my own people, or any one whom I had known at home, would think I wasn't married was too much for me to take in all at once.

"'You THINK you are,' said Prentiss McMakin, with a smile.

"In spite of myself my breath stopped. It was as if a chilly hand had taken hold of my heart. I mean, physically, I felt like that.

"'I AM married,' I repeated, simply.

"I suppose that McMakin had got the story of our wedding from YOU." She stopped a minute. The doctor's voice answered:

"I suppose so," like he was a very tired man.

"Anyhow," she went on, "he knew that we went first to Clarksville. He said:

"'You think you are married, Lucy, but you are not.'

"I wish you to understand that Prentiss McMakin did it all very, very well. That is my excuse. He acted well. There was something about him-I scarcely know how to put it. It sounds odd, but the truth is that Prentiss McMakin was always a more convincing sort of a person when he had been drinking a little than when he was sober. He lacked warmth-he lacked temperament. I suppose just the right amount put it into him. It put the devil into him, too, I reckon.

"He told me that you and he, Tom, had been to Clarksville, and had made investigations, and that the wedding was a fraud. And he told it with a wealth of convincing detail. In the midst of it he broke off to ask to see my wedding certificate. As he talked, he laughed at it, and tore it up, saying that the thing was not worth the paper it was on, and he threw the pieces of paper into the grate. I listened, and I let him do it-not that the paper itself mattered particularly. But the very fact that I let him tear it showed me, myself, that I was believing him.

"He ended with an impassioned appeal to me to go with him.

"I showed him the door. I pretended to the last that I thought he was lying to me. But I did not think so. I believed him. He had done it all very cleverly. You can understand how I might-in view of what had happened?"

I wanted to see Miss Lucy-how she looked when she said different things, so I could make up my mind whether she was forgiving the doctor or not. Not that I had much doubt but what they would get their personal troubles fixed up in the end. The iron grating in the floor was held down by four good-sized screws, one at each corner. They wasn't no filling at all betwixt it and the iron grating that was in the ceiling of the room below. The space was hollow. I got an idea and took out my jack-knife.

"What are you going to do?" whispers Martha.

"S-sh-sh," I says, "shut up, and you'll see."

One of the screws was loose, and I picked her out easy enough. The second one I broke the point off of my knife blade on. Like you nearly always do on a screw. When it snapped Colonel Tom he says:

"What's that?" He was powerful quick of hearing, Colonel Tom was. I laid low till they went on talking agin. Then Martha slides out on tiptoe and comes back in three seconds with one of these here little screw-drivers they use around sewing-machines and the little oil can that goes with it. I oils them screws and has them out in a holy minute, and lifts the grating from the floor careful and lays it careful on the rug.

By doing all of which I could get my head and shoulders down into that there hole. And by twisting my neck a good deal, see a little ways to each side into the room, instead of jest underneath the grating. The doctor I couldn't see yet, and only a little of Colonel Tom, but Miss Lucy quite plain.

"You mean thing," Martha whispers, "you are blocking it up so I can't hear."

"Keep still," I whispers, pulling my head out of the hole so the sound wouldn't float downward into the room below. "You are jest like all other women-you got too much curiosity."

"How about yourself?" says she.

"Who was it thought of taking the grating off?" I whispers back to her. Which settles her temporary, but she says if I don't give her a chancet at it purty soon she will tickle my ribs.

When I listens agin they are burying that there Prent McMakin. But without any flowers.

Miss Lucy, she was half setting on, half leaning against, the arm of a chair. Which her head was jest a bit bowed down so that I couldn't see her eyes. But they was the beginnings of a smile onto her face. It was both soft and sad.

"Well," says Colonel Tom, "you two have wasted almost twenty years of life."

"There is one good thing," says the doctor. "It is a good thing that there was no child to suffer by our mistakes."

She raised her face when he said that, Miss Lucy did, and looked in his direction.

"You call that a good thing?" she says, in a kind of wonder. And after a minute she sighs. "Perhaps," she says, "you are right. Heaven only knows. Perhaps it WAS better that he died."

"DIED!" sings out the doctor.

And I hearn his chair scrape back, like he had riz to his feet sudden. I nearly busted my neck trying fur to see him, but I couldn't. I was all twisted up, head down, and the blood getting into my head from it so I had to pull it out every little while.

"Yes," she says, with her eyes wide, "didn't you know he died?" And then she turns quick toward Colonel Tom. "Didn't you tell him-" she begins. But the doctor cuts in.

"Lucy," he says, his voice shaking and croaking in his throat, "I never knew there was a child!"

I hears Colonel Tom hawk in HIS throat like a man who is either going to spit or else say something. But he don't do either one. No one says anything fur a minute. And then Miss Lucy says agin:

"Yes-he died."

And then she fell into a kind of a muse. I have been myself in the fix she looked to be in then-so you forget fur a while where you are, or who is there, whilst you think about something that has been in the back part of your mind fur a long, long time.

What she was musing about was that child that hadn't lived. I could tell that by her face. I could tell how she must have thought of it, often and often, fur years and years, and longed fur it, so that it seemed to her at times she could almost touch it. And how good a mother she would of been to it. Some women has jest natcherally GOT to mother something or other. Miss Lucy was one of that kind. I knowed all in a flash, whilst I looked at her there, why she had adopted Martha fur her child.

It was a wonderful look that was onto her face. And it was a wonderful face that look was onto. I felt like I had knowed her forever when I seen her there. Like the thoughts of her the doctor had been carrying around with him fur years and years, and that I had caught him thinking oncet or twicet, had been my thoughts too, all my life.

Miss Lucy, she was one of the kind there's no use trying to describe. The feller that could see her that-a-way and not feel made good by it orter have a whaling. Not the kind of sticky, good feeling that makes you uncomfortable, like being pestered by your conscience to jine a church or quit cussing. But the kind of good that makes you forget they is anything on earth but jest braveness of heart and being willing to bear things you can't help. You knowed the world had hurt her a lot when you seen her standing there; but you didn't have the nerve to pity her none, either. Fur you could see she had got over pitying herself. Even when she was in that muse, longing with all her soul fur that child she had never knowed, you didn't have the nerve to pity her none.

"He died," she says agin, purty soon, with that gentle kind of smile.

Colonel Tom, he clears his throat agin. Like when you are awful dry.

"The truth is-" he begins.

And then he breaks off agin. Miss Lucy turns toward him when he speaks. By the strange look that come onto her face there must of been something right curious in HIS manner too. I was jest simply laying onto my forehead mashing one of my dern eyeballs through a little hole in the grating. But I couldn't, even that way, see fur enough to one side to see how HE looked.

"The truth is," says Colonel Tom, trying it agin, "that I-well, Lucy, the child may be dead, but he didn't die when you thought he did."

There was a flash of hope flared into her face that I hated to see come there. Because when it died out in a minute, as I expected it would have to, it looked to me like it might take all her life out with it. Her lips parted like she was going to say something with them. But she didn't. She jest looked it.

"Why did you never tell me this-that there was a child?" says the doctor, very eager.

"Wait," says Colonel Tom, "let me tell the story in my own way."

Which he done it. It seems when he had went to Galesburg this here child had only been born a few days. And Miss Lucy was still sick. And the kid itself was sick, and liable to die any minute, by the looks of things.

Which Colonel Tom wishes that it would die, in his heart. He thinks that it is an illegitimate child, and he hates the idea of it and he hates

the sight of it. The second night he is there he is setting in his sister's room, and the woman that has been nursing the kid and Miss Lucy too is in the next room with the kid.

She comes to the door and beckons to him, the nurse does. He tiptoes toward her, and she says to him, very low-voiced, that "it is all over." Meaning the kid has quit struggling fur to live, and jest natcherally floated away. The nurse had thought Miss Lucy asleep, but as both her and Colonel Tom turn quick toward her bed they see that she has heard and seen, and she turns her face toward the wall. Which he tries fur to comfort her, Colonel Tom does, telling her as how it is an illegitimate child, and fur its own sake it was better it was dead before it ever lived any. Which she don't answer of him back, but only stares in a wild-eyed way at him, and lays there and looks desperate, and says nothing.

In his heart Colonel Tom is awful glad that it is dead. He can't help feeling that way. And he quits trying to talk to his sister, fur he suspicions that she will ketch onto the fact that he is glad that it is dead. He goes on into the next room.

He finds the nurse looking awful funny, and bending over the dead kid. She is putting a looking-glass to its lips. He asts her why.

She says she thought she might be mistaken after all. She couldn't say jest WHEN it died. It was alive and feeble, and then purty soon it showed no signs of life. It was like it hadn't had enough strength to stay and had jest went. I didn't show any pulse, and it didn't appear to be breathing. And she had watched it and done everything before she beckoned to Colonel Tom and told him that it was dead. But as she come back into the room where it was she thought she noticed something that was too light to be called a real flutter move its eyelids, which she had closed down over its eyes. It was the ghost of a move, like it had tried to raise the lids, or they had tried to raise theirselves, and had been too weak. So she has got busy and wrapped a hot cloth around it, and got a drop of brandy or two between its lips, and was fighting to bring it back to life. And thought she was doing it. Thought she had felt a little flutter in its chest, and was trying if it had breath at all.

Colonel Tom thinks of what big folks the Buckner fambly has always been at home. And how high they had always held their heads. And how none of the women has ever been like this before. Nor no disgrace of any kind. And that there kid, if it is alive, is a sign of disgrace. And he hoped to God, he said, it wasn't alive.

But he don't say so. He stands there and watches that nurse fight fur to hold onto the little mist of life she thinks now is still into it. She unbuttons her dress and lays the kid against the heat of her own breast. And wills fur it to live, and fights fur it to, and determines that it must, and jest natcherally tries fur to bullyrag death into going away. And Colonel Tom watching, and wishing that it wouldn't. But he gets interested in that there fight, and so purty soon he is hoping both ways by spells. And the fight all going on without a word spoken.

But finally the nurse begins fur to cry. Not because she is sure it is dead. But because she is sure it is coming back. Which it does, slow.

"'But I have told HER that it is dead,'" says Colonel Tom, jerking his head toward the other room where Miss Lucy is lying. He speaks in a low voice and closes the door when he speaks. Fur it looks now like it was getting strong enough so it might even squall a little.

"I don't know what kind of a look there was on my face," says Colonel Tom, telling of the story to his sister and the doctor, "but she must have seen that I was-and heaven help me, but I WAS!-sorry that the baby was alive. It would have been such an easy way out of it had it been really dead!

"'She mustn't know that it is living,' I said to the nurse, finally," says Colonel Tom, going on with his story. I had been watching Miss Lucy's face as Colonel Tom talked and she was so worked up by that fight fur the kid's life she was breathless. But her eyes was cast down, I guess so her brother couldn't see them. Colonel Tom goes on with his story:

"'You don't mean-' said the nurse, startled.

"'No! No!' I said, 'of course-not that! But-why should she ever know that it didn't die?'"

"'It is illegitimate?' asked the nurse.

"'Yes,' I said." The long and short of it was, Colonel Tom went on to tell, that the nurse went out and got her mother. Which the two of them lived alone, only around the corner. And give the child into the keeping of her mother, who took it away then and there.

Colonel Tom had made up his mind there wasn't going to be no bastards in the Buckner fambly. And now that Miss Lucy thought it was dead he would let her keep on thinking so. And that would be settled for good and all. He figgered that it wouldn't ever hurt her none if she never knowed it.

The nurse's mother kept it all that week, and it throve. Colonel Tom was coaxing of his sister to go back to Tennessee. But she wouldn't go. So he had made up his mind to go back and get his Aunt Lucy Davis to come and help him coax. He was only waiting fur his sister to get well enough so he could leave her. She got better, and she never ast fur the kid, nor said nothing about it. Which was probable because she seen he hated it so. He had made up his mind, before he went back after their Aunt Lucy Davis, to take the baby himself and put it into some kind of an institution.

"I thought," he says to Miss Lucy, telling of the story, "that you yourself were almost reconciled to the thought that it hadn't lived."

Miss Lucy interrupted him with a little sound. She was breathing hard, and shaking from head to foot. No one would have thought to look at her then she was reconciled to the idea that it hadn't lived. It was cruel hard on her to tear her to pieces with the news that it really had lived, but had lived away from her all these years she had been longing fur it. And no chancet fur her ever to mother it. And no way to tell what had ever become of it. I felt awful sorry fur Miss Lucy then.

"But when I got ready to leave Galesburg," Colonel Tom goes on, "it suddenly occurred to me that there would be difficulties in the way of putting it in a home of any sort. I didn't know what to do with it-"

"What DID you? What DID you? WHAT DID YOU?" cries out Miss Lucy, pressing her hand to her chest, like she was smothering.

"The first thing I did," says Colonel Tom, "was to get you to another house-you remember, Lucy?"

"Yes, yes!" she says, excited, "and what then?"

"Perhaps I did a very foolish thing," says Colonel Tom.

"After I had seen you installed in the new place and had bidden you good-bye, I got a carriage and drove by the place where the nurse and her mother lived. I told the woman that I had changed my mind-that you were going to raise the baby-that I was going to permit it. I don't think she quite believed me, but she gave me the baby. What else could she do? Besides, I had paid her well, when I discharged her, to say nothing to you, and to keep the baby until I should come for it. They needed money; they were poor.

"I was determined that it should never be heard of again. It was about noon when I left Galesburg. I drove all that afternoon, with the baby in a basket on the seat of the carriage beside me. Everybody has read in books, since books were first written-and seen in newspapers, too-about children being left on door steps. Given an infant to dispose of, that is perhaps the first thing that occurs to a person. There was a thick plaid shawl wrapped about the child. In the basket, beside the baby, was a nursing bottle. About dusk I had it refilled with warm milk at a farmhouse near-"

My head was beginning fur to swim. I pulled my head out of that there hole, and rammed my foot into it. It banged against that grating and loosened it. It busted loose some plaster, which showered down into the room underneath. Miss Lucy, she screamed. And the doctor and Colonel Tom both yelled out to oncet:

"Who's that?"

"It's me," I yells, banging that grating agin. "Watch out below there!" And the third lick I give her she broke loose and clattered down right onto a centre table and spilled over some photographs and a vase full of flowers, and bounced off onto the floor.

"Look out below," I yells, "I'm coming down!"

I let my legs through first, and swung them so I would land to one side of the table, and held by my hands, and dropped. But struck the table a sideways swipe and turned it over, and fell onto the floor. The doctor, he grabbed me by the collar and straightened me up, and give me a shake and stood me onto my feet.

"What do you mean-" he begins. But I breaks in.

"Now then," I says to Colonel Tom, "did you leave that there child sucking that there bottle on the doorstep of a blacksmith's house next to his shop at the edge of a little country town about twenty miles northeast of Galesburg wrapped up in that there plaid shawl?"

"I did," says Colonel Tom.

"Then," says I, turning to Miss Lucy, "I can understand why I have been feeling drawed to YOU fur quite a spell. I'm him."

* * *

Transcribers Note: The following changes made:



17 28 Primose, Primrose,

41 12 jests looks jest looks

83 14 to, too,

84 4 jests sets jest sets

89 28 it it.

99 13 our fur out fur

121 4 Chieftan. Chieftain.

121 16 i it if it

160 8 them. then.

183 18 sir fo' sir, fo'

189 16 shedon' she don'

207 22 purty seen purty soon

210 5 They way The way

212 6 pintetdly pintedly

251 2 Witherses.' Witherses'.

251 22 toe hurt to hurt

269 3 "Gentleman, "Gentlemen,

276 19 'Will," "Will,"

282 9 won't!" won't

288 16 real y really

292 10 t ouble. trouble.

308 1 al right all right

316 4 I says," they I says, "they

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top