Danny's Own Story by Don Marquis
HOW I come not to have a last name is a
question that has always had more or less
aggervation mixed up with it. I might
of had one jest as well as not if Old Hank Walters
hadn't been so all-fired, infernal bull-headed about
things in gineral, and his wife Elmira a blame sight
worse, and both of em ready to row at a minute's
notice and stick to it forevermore.
Hank, he was considerable of a lusher. One
Saturday night, when he come home from the village
in his usual fix, he stumbled over a basket that
was setting on his front steps. Then he got up and
drawed back his foot unsteady to kick it plumb
into kingdom come. Jest then he hearn Elmira
opening the door behind him, and he turned his
head sudden. But the kick was already started
into the air, and when he turns he can't stop it.
And so Hank gets twisted and falls down and steps
on himself. That basket lets out a yowl.
"It's kittens," says Hank, still setting down and
staring at that there basket. All of which, you
understand, I am a-telling you from hearsay, as
the lawyers always asts you in court.
Elmira, she sings out:
"Kittens, nothing! It's a baby!"
And she opens the basket and looks in and it was
"Hennerey Walters," she says -- picking me
up, and shaking me at him like I was a crime, "Hennerey
Walters, where did you get this here baby?"
She always calls him Hennerey when she is getting
ready to give him fits.
Hank, he scratches his head, for he's kind o'
confuddled, and thinks mebby he really has brought
this basket with him. He tries to think of all the
places he has been that night. But he can't think of
any place but Bill Nolan's saloon. So he says:
"Elmira, honest, I ain't had but one drink all
day." And then he kind o' rouses up a little bit,
and gets surprised and says:
"That a BABY you got there, Elmira?" And
then he says, dignified: "So fur as that's consarned,
Elmira, where did YOU get that there baby?"
She looks at him, and she sees he don't really know
where I come from. Old Hank mostly was truthful
when lickered up, fur that matter, and she
knowed it, fur he couldn't think up no lies excepting
a gineral denial when intoxicated up to the gills.
Elmira looks into the basket. They was one of
them long rubber tubes stringing out of a bottle
that was in it, and I had been sucking that bottle
when interrupted. And they wasn't nothing else
in that basket but a big thick shawl which had
been wrapped all around me, and Elmira often
wore it to meeting afterward. She goes inside
and she looks at the bottle and me by the light,
and Old Hank, he comes stumbling in afterward
and sets down in a chair and waits to get Hail
Columbia for coming home in that shape, so's he
can row back agin, like they done every Saturday
Blowed in the glass of the bottle was the name:
"Daniel, Dunne and Company." Anybody but
them two old ignoramuses could of told right off
that that didn't have nothing to do with me, but
was jest the company that made them kind of
bottles. But she reads it out loud three or four
times, and then she says:
"His name is Daniel Dunne," she says.
"And Company," says Hank, feeling right
"COMPANY hain't no name," says she.
"WHY hain't it, I'd like to know?" says Hank.
"I knowed a man oncet whose name was Farmer,
and if a farmer's a name why ain't a company a
"His name is Daniel Dunne," says Elmira, quietlike,
but not dodging a row, neither.
"AND COMPANY," says Hank, getting onto his
feet, like he always done when he seen trouble
coming. When Old Hank was full of licker he
knowed jest the ways to aggervate her the worst.
She might of banged him one the same as usual,
and got her own eye blacked also, the same as
usual; but jest then I lets out another big yowl,
and she give me some milk.
I guess the only reason they ever kep' me at
first was so they could quarrel about my name.
They'd lived together a good many years and
quarrelled about everything else under the sun, and
was running out of subjects. A new subject kind
o' briskened things up fur a while.
But finally they went too far with it one time.
I was about two years old then and he was still
calling me Company and her calling me Dunne.
This time he hits her a lick that lays her out and
likes to kill her, and it gets him scared. But she
gets around agin after a while, and they both see
it has went too fur that time, and so they makes up.
"Elmira, I give in," says Hank. "His name is
"No," says she, tender-like, "you was right,
Hank. His name is Company." So they pretty
near got into another row over that. But they
finally made it up between em I didn't have no
last name, and they'd jest call me Danny. Which
they both done faithful ever after, as agreed.
Old Hank, he was a blacksmith, and he used to
lamm me considerable, him and his wife not having
any kids of their own to lick. He lammed me when
he was drunk, and he whaled me when he was sober.
I never helt it up agin him much, neither, not fur
a good many years, because he got me used to it
young, and I hadn't never knowed nothing else.
Hank's wife, Elmira, she used to lick him jest about
as often as he licked her, and boss him jest as much.
So he fell back on me. A man has jest naturally
got to have something to cuss around and boss,
so's to keep himself from finding out he don't
amount to nothing. Leastways, most men is like
that. And Hank, he didn't amount to much; and
he kind o' knowed it, way down deep in his inmost
gizzards, and it were a comfort to him to have me
But they was one thing he never sot no store by,
and I got along now to where I hold that up agin
him more'n all the lickings he ever done. That
was book learning. He never had none himself,
and he was sot agin it, and he never made me get
none, and if I'd ever asted him for any he'd of
whaled me fur that. Hank's wife, Elmira, had
married beneath her, and everybody in our town
had come to see it, and used to sympathize with
her about it when Hank wasn't around. She'd
tell em, yes, it was so. Back in Elmira, New
York, from which her father and mother come to
our part of Illinoise in the early days, her father
had kep' a hotel, and they was stylish kind o'
folks. When she was born her mother was homesick
fur all that style and fur York State ways, and so
she named her Elmira.
But when she married Hank, he had considerable
land. His father had left it to him, but it was all
swamp land, and so Hank's father, he hunted
more'n he farmed, and Hank and his brothers
done the same when he was a boy. But Hank,
he learnt a little blacksmithing when he was growing
up, cause he liked to tinker around and to show how
stout he was. Then, when he married Elmira
Appleton, he had to go to work practising that
perfession reg'lar, because he never learnt nothing
about farming. He'd sell fifteen or twenty acres,
every now and then, and they'd be high times till
he'd spent it up, and mebby Elmira would get
some new clothes.
But when I was found on the door step, the land
was all gone, and Hank was practising reg'lar,
when not busy cussing out the fellers that had bought
the land. Fur some smart fellers had come along,
and bought up all that swamp land and dreened
it, and now it was worth seventy or eighty dollars
an acre. Hank, he figgered some one had cheated
him. Which the Walterses could of dreened theirn
too, only they'd ruther hunt ducks and have fish
frys than to dig ditches. All of which I hearn
Elmira talking over with the neighbours more'n
once when I was growing up, and they all says:
"How sad it is you have came to this, Elmira!"
And then she'd kind o' spunk up and say, thanks to
glory, she'd kep' her pride.
Well, they was worse places to live in than that
there little town, even if they wasn't no railroad
within eight miles, and only three hundred soles
in the hull copperation. Which Hank's shop and
our house set in the edge of the woods jest outside
the copperation line, so's the city marshal didn't
have no authority to arrest him after he
They was one thing in that house I always
admired when I was a kid. And that was a big
cistern. Most people has their cisterns outside
their house, and they is a tin pipe takes all the rain
water off the roof and scoots it into them. Ourn
worked the same, but our cistern was right in under
our kitchen floor, and they was a trap door with
leather hinges opened into it right by the kitchen
stove. But that wasn't why I was so proud of it.
It was because that cistern was jest plumb full of
fish -- bullheads and red horse and sunfish and
Hank's father had built that cistern. And one
time he brung home some live fish in a bucket and
dumped em in there. And they growed. And
they multiplied in there and refurnished the earth.
So that cistern had got to be a fambly custom, which
was kep' up in that fambly for a habit. It was a
great comfort to Hank, fur all them Walterses was
great fish eaters, though it never went to brains.
We fed em now and then, and throwed back in the
little ones till they was growed, and kep' the dead
ones picked out soon's we smelled anything wrong,
and it never hurt the water none; and when I was
a kid I wouldn't of took anything fur living in a
house like that.
Oncet, when I was a kid about six years old,
Hank come home from the bar-room. He got to
chasing Elmira's cat cause he says it was making
faces at him. The cistern door was open, and Hank
fell in. Elmira was over to town, and I was scared.
She had always told me not to fool around there
none when I was a little kid, fur if I fell in there
I'd be a corpse quicker'n scatt.
So when Hank fell in, and I hearn him splash,
being only a little feller, and awful scared because
Elmira had always made it so strong, I hadn't no
sort of unbelief but what Hank was a corpse already.
So I slams the trap door shut over that there cistern
without looking in, fur I hearn Hank flopping around
down in there. I hadn't never hearn a corpse flop
before, and didn't know but what it might be somehow
injurious to me, and I wasn't going to take no
So I went out and played in the front yard, and
waited fur Elmira. But I couldn't seem to get my
mind settled on playing I was a horse, nor nothing.
I kep' thinking mebby Hank's corpse is going to
come flopping out of that cistern and whale me
some unusual way. I hadn't never been licked by
a corpse, and didn't rightly know jest what one is,
anyhow, being young and comparitive innocent.
So I sneaks back in and sets all the flatirons in the
house on top of the cistern lid. I hearn some flopping
and splashing and spluttering, like Hank's
corpse is trying to jump up and is falling back into
the water, and I hearn Hank's voice, and got
scareder yet. And when Elmira come along down
the road, she seen me by the gate a-crying, and she
asts me why.
"Hank is a corpse," says I, blubbering.
"A corpse!" says Elmira, dropping her coffee
which she was carrying home from the gineral
store and post-office. "Danny, what do you
I seen I was to blame somehow, and I wisht then
I hadn't said nothing about Hank being a corpse.
And I made up my mind I wouldn't say nothing
more. So when she grabs holt of me and asts me
agin what did I mean I blubbered harder, jest the
way a kid will, and says nothing else. I wisht I
hadn't set them flatirons on that door, fur it come
to me all at oncet that even if Hank HAS turned
into a corpse I ain't got any right to keep him in
Jest then Old Mis' Rogers, which is one of our
neighbours, comes by, while Elmira is shaking
me and yelling out what did I mean and how did
it happen and had I saw it and where was Hank's
And Mis' Rogers she says, "What's Danny been
doing now, Elmira?" me being always up to something.
Elmira she turned around and seen her, and she
gives a whoop and then hollers out: "Hank is
dead!" and throws her apern over her head and
sets right down in the path and boo-hoos like a
baby. And I bellers louder.
Mis' Rogers, she never waited to ast nothing
more. She seen she had a piece of news, and she's
bound to be the first to spread it, like they is always
a lot of women wants to be in them country towns.
She run right acrost the road to where the Alexanderses
lived. Mis' Alexander, she seen her coming
and unhooked the screen door, and Mis'
Rogers she hollers out before she reached the
"Hank Walters is dead."
And then she went footing it up the street.
They was a black plume on her bunnet which nodded
the same as on a hearse, and she was into and out
of seven front yards in five minutes.
Mis' Alexander, she runs acrost the street to
where we was, and she kneels down and puts her
arm around Elmira, which was still rocking back
and forth in the path, and she says:
"How do you know he's dead, Elmira? I seen
him not more'n an hour ago."
"Danny seen it all," says Elmira.
Mis' Alexander turned to me, and wants to know
what happened and how it happened and where
it happened. But I don't want to say nothing
about that cistern. So I busts out bellering fresher'n
ever, and I says:
"He was drunk, and he come home drunk, and
he done it then, and that's how he cone it," I says.
"And you seen him?" she says. I nodded.
"Where is he?" says she and Elmira, both to
But I was scared to say nothing about that there
cistern, so I jest bawled some more.
"Was it in the blacksmith shop?" says Mis'
Alexander. I nodded my head agin and let it go
"Is he in there now?" asts Mis' Alexander. I
nodded agin. I hadn't meant to give out no untrue
stories. But a kid will always tell a lie, not meaning
to tell one, if you sort of invite him with questions
like that, and get him scared the way you're acting.
Besides, I says to myself, "so long as Hank has
turned into a corpse and that makes him dead,
what's the difference whether he's in the blacksmith
shop or not?" Fur I hadn't had any plain idea,
being such a little kid, that a corpse meant to be dead,
and wasn't sure what being dead was like, neither,
except they had funerals over you then. I knowed
being a corpse must be some sort of a big disadvantage
from the way Elmira always says keep
away from that cistern door or I'll be one. But
if they was going to be a funeral in our house, I'd
feel kind o' important, too. They didn't have em
every day in our town, and we hadn't never had
one of our own.
So Mis' Alexander, she led Elmira into the house,
both a-crying, and Mis' Alexander trying to comfort
her, and me a tagging along behind holding onto
Elmira's skirts and sniffling into them. And in a
few minutes all them women Mis' Rogers has told
come filing into that room, one at a time, looking
sad. Only Old Mis' Primrose, she was awful late
getting there because she stopped to put on her
bunnet she always wore to funerals with the black
Paris lace on it her cousin Arminty White had sent
her from Chicago.
When they found out Hank had come home with
licker in him and done it himself, they was all
excited, and they all crowds around and asts me
how, except two as is holding onto Elmira's hands
which sets moaning in a chair. And they all asts
me questions as to what I seen him do, which if
they hadn't I wouldn't have told em the lies I did.
But they egged me on to it.
Says one woman: "Danny, you seen him do it
in the blacksmith shop?"
"But how did he get in?" sings out another
woman. "The door was locked on the outside with
a padlock jest now when I come by. He couldn't
of killed himself in there and locked the door on
I didn't see how he could of done that myself,
so I begun to bawl agin and said nothing at all.
"He must of crawled through that little side
window," says another one. "It was open when I
come by, if the door WAS locked. Did you see him
crawl through the little side window, Danny?"
I nodded. They wasn't nothing else fur me to
"But YOU hain't tall enough to look through that
there window," says another one to me. "How
could you see into that shop, Danny?"
I didn't know, so I didn't say nothing at all; I
"They is a store box right in under that window,"
says another one. "Danny must have clumb onto
that store box and looked in after he seen Hank
come down the road and crawl through the window.
Did you scramble onto the store box and look in,
I jest nodded agin.
"And what was it you seen him do? How did
he kill himself?" they all asts to oncet.
_I_ didn't know. So I jest bellers and boo-hoos
some more. Things was getting past anything I
could see the way out of.
"He might of hung himself to one of the iron
rings in the jists above the forge," says another
woman. "He clumb onto the forge to tie the rope
to one of them rings, and he tied the other end
around his neck, and then he stepped off'n the forge.
Was that how he done it, Danny?"
I nodded. And then I bellered louder than ever.
I knowed Hank was down in that there cistern, a
corpse and a mighty wet corpse, all this time; but
they kind o' got me to thinking mebby he was hanging
out in the shop by the forge, too. And I guessed
I'd better stick to the shop story, not wanting to
say nothing about that cistern no sooner'n I could
Pretty soon one woman says, kind o' shivery:
"I don't want to have the job of opening the door
of that blacksmith shop the first one!"
And they all kind o' shivered then, and looked at
Elmira. They says to let some of the men open
it. And Mis' Alexander, she says she'll run home
and tell her husband right off.
And all the time Elmira is moaning in that chair.
One woman says Elmira orter have a cup o' tea,
which she'll lay off her bunnet and go to the kitchen
and make it fur her. But Elmira says no, she can't
a-bear to think of tea, with poor Hennerey a-hanging
out there in the shop. But she was kind o'
enjoying all that fuss being made over her, too.
And all the other women says:
"Poor thing!" But all the same they was mad
she said she didn't want any tea, for they all wanted
some and didn't feel free without she took it too.
Which she said she would after they'd coaxed a
while and made her see her duty.
So they all goes out to the kitchen, bringing along
some of the best room chairs, Elmira coming too,
and me tagging along behind. And the first thing
they noticed was them flatirons on top of the cistern
door. Mis' Primrose, she says that looks funny.
But another woman speaks up and says Danny must
of been playing with them while Elmira was over
town. She says, "Was you playing they was
I was feeling considerable like a liar by this time,
but I says I was playing horses with them, fur I
couldn't see no use in hurrying things up. I was
bound to get a lamming purty soon anyhow. When
I was a kid I could always bet on that. So they
picks up the flatirons, and as they picks em up they
come a splashing noise in the cistern. I thinks to
myself, Hank's corpse'll be out of there in a minute.
One woman, she says:
"Goodness gracious sakes alive! What's that,
Elmira says that cistern is mighty full of fish,
and they is some great big ones in there, and it must
be some of them a-flopping around. Which if
they hadn't of been all worked up and talking
all to oncet and all thinking of Hank's body hanging
out there in the blacksmith shop they might of
suspicioned something. For that flopping kep' up
steady, and a lot of splashing too. I mebby orter
mentioned sooner it had been a dry summer and
they was only three or four feet of water in our
cistern, and Hank wasn't in scarcely up to his big
hairy chest. So when Elmira says the cistern
is full of fish, that woman opens the trap door and
looks in. Hank thinks it's Elmira come to get him
out. He allows he'll keep quiet in there and make
believe he is drowned and give her a good scare
and make her sorry fur him. But when the cistern
door is opened, he hears a lot of clacking tongues
all of a sudden like they was a hen convention on.
He allows she has told some of the neighbours,
and he'll scare them too. So Hank, he laid low.
And the woman as looks in sees nothing, for it's
as dark down there as the insides of the whale
what swallered Noah. But she leaves the door
open and goes on a-making tea, and they ain't
skeercly a sound from that cistern, only little,
ripply noises like it might have been fish.
Pretty soon a woman says:
"It has drawed, Elmira; won't you have a cup?"
Elmira she kicked some more, but she took hern.
And each woman took hern. And one woman,
a-sipping of hern, she says:
"The departed had his good pints, Elmira."
Which was the best thing had been said of Hank
in that town fur years and years.
Old Mis' Primrose, she always prided herself
on being honest, no matter what come, and she ups
"I don't believe in no hippercritics at a time like
this, no more'n no other time. The departed
wasn't no good, and the hull town knowed it; and
Elmira orter feel like it's good riddance of bad
rubbish and them is my sentiments and the sentiments
All the other women sings out:
"W'y, MIS' PRIMROSE! I never!" And they
seemed awful shocked. But down in underneath
more of em agreed than let on. Elmira she wiped
her eyes and she said:
"Hennerey and me has had our troubles. They
ain't any use in denying that, Mis' Primrose. It
has often been give and take between us and betwixt
us. And the hull town knows he has lifted his hand
agin me more'n oncet. But I always stood up to
Hennerey, and I fit him back, free and fair and open.
I give him as good as he sent on this here earth,
and I ain't the one to carry no annermosities beyond
the grave. I forgive Hank all the orneriness
he done me, and they was a lot of it, as is becoming
unto a church member, which he never was."
And all the women but Mis' Primrose, they says:
"Elmira Appleton, you HAVE got a Christian
sperrit!" Which done her a heap of good, and she
cried considerable harder, leaking out tears as fast
as she poured tea in. Each one on em tries to
find out something good to say about Hank, only
they wasn't much they could say. And Hank in
that there cistern a-listening to every word of it.
Mis' Rogers, she says:
"Afore he took to drinking like a fish, Hank
Walters was as likely looking a young feller as I
Mis' White, she says:
"Well, Hank he never was a stingy man, nohow.
Often and often White has told me about seeing
Hank, after he'd sold a piece of land, treating the
hull town down in Nolan's bar-room jest as comeeasy,
go-easy as if it wasn't money he orter paid
his honest debts with."
They set there that-a-way telling of what good
pints they could think of fur ten minutes, and Hank
a-hearing it and getting madder and madder all the
time. The gineral opinion was that Hank wasn't
no good and was better done fur, and no matter
what they said them feelings kep' sticking out
through the words.
By and by Tom Alexander come busting into the
house, and his wife, Mis' Alexander, was with him.
"What's the matter with all you folks," he says.
"They ain't nobody hanging in that there blacksmith
shop. I broke the door down and went in,
and it was empty."
Then they was a pretty howdy-do, and they all
"Where's the corpse?"
And some thinks mebby some one has cut it down
and took it away, and all gabbles to oncet. But
for a minute no one thinks mebby little Danny has
been egged on to tell lies. Little Danny ain't
saying a word. But Elmira she grabs me and shakes
me and she says:
"You little liar, you, what do you mean by that
tale you told?"
I thinks that lamming is about due now. But
whilst all eyes is turned on me and Elmira, they
comes a voice from that cistern. It is Hank's
voice, and he sings out:
"Tom Alexander, is that you?"
Some of the women scream, for some thinks it
is Hank's ghost. But one woman says what would
a ghost be doing in a cistern?
Tom Alexander, he laughs and he says:
"What in blazes you want to jump in there fur,
"You dern ijut!" says Hank, "you quit mocking
me and get a ladder, and when I get out'n here I'll
learn you to ast what did I want to jump in here
"You never seen the day you could do it," says
Tom Alexander, meaning the day he could lick
him. "And if you feel that way about it you can
stay there fur all of me. I guess a little water
won't hurt you none." And he left the house.
"Elmira," sings out Hank, mad and bossy, "you
go get me a ladder!"
But Elmira, her temper riz up too, all of
"Don't you dare order me around like I was the
dirt under your feet, Hennerey Walters," she says.
At that Hank fairly roared, he was so mad. He
"Elmira, when I get out'n here I'll give you what
you won't fergit in a hurry. I hearn you a-forgiving
me and a-weeping over me, and I won't be forgive
nor weeped over by no one! You go and get that
But Elmira only answers:
"You wasn't sober when you fell into there,
Hennerey Walters. And now you can jest stay in
there till you get a better temper on you!" And all
the women says: "That's right, Elmira; spunk
up to him!"
They was considerable splashing around in the
water fur a couple of minutes. And then, all of a
sudden, a live fish come a-whirling out of that hole,
which he had ketched it with his hands. It was
a big bullhead, and its whiskers around its mouth
was stiffened into spikes, and it lands kerplump into
Mis' Rogers's lap, a-wiggling, and it kind o' horns
her on the hands, and she is that surprised she faints.
Mis' Primrose, she gets up and pushes that fish
back into the cistern with her foot from the floor
where it had fell, and she says right decided:
"Elmira Walters, that was Elmira Appleton,
if you let Hank out'n that cistern before he has
signed the pledge and promised to jine the church
you're a bigger fool 'n I take you to be. A woman
has got to make a stand!" With that she marches
out'n our house.
Then all the women sings out:
"Send fur Brother Cartwright! Send fur Brother
And they sent me scooting acrost town to get him
quick. Which he was the preacher of the Baptist
church and lived next to it. And I hadn't got no
I never stopped to tell but two, three folks
on the way to Brother Cartwright's, but
they must of spread it quick. 'Cause when
I got back home with him it seemed like the hull
town was there. It was along about dusk by this
time, and it was a prayer-meeting night at the
church. Mr. Cartwright told his wife to tell the
folks what come to the prayer-meeting he'd be
back before long, and to wait fur him. Which she
really told them where he had went, and what fur.
Mr. Cartwright marches right into the kitchen.
All the chairs in our house was into the kitchen,
and the women was a-talking and a-laughing, and
they had sent over to Alexanderses for their chairs
and to Rogerses for theirn. Every oncet in a while
they would be a awful bust of language come up
from that hole where that unreginerate old sinner
was cooped up in.
I have travelled around considerable since them
days, and I have mixed up along of many kinds
of people in many different places, and some of 'em
was cussers to admire. But I never hearn such
cussing before or since as old Hank done that night.
He busted his own records and riz higher'n his own
water marks for previous times. I wasn't nothing
but a little kid then, and skeercly fitten fur to admire
the full beauty of it. They was deep down
cusses, that come from the heart. Looking back
at it after all these years, I can believe what Brother
Cartwright said himself that night, that it wasn't
natcheral cussing and some higher power, like a
demon or a evil sperrit, must of entered into Hank's
human carkis and give that turrible eloquence to
his remarks. It busted out every few minutes,
and the women would put their fingers into their
ears till a spell was over. And it was personal, too.
Hank, he would listen until he hearn a woman's
voice that he knowed, and then he would let loose
on her fambly, going backwards to her grandfathers
and downwards to her children's children. If her
father had once stolen a hog, or her husband done
any disgrace that got found out on him, Hank would
put it all into his gineral remarks, with trimmings
Brother Cartwright, he steps up to the hole in
the floor when he first comes in and he says, gentlelike
and soothing, like a undertaker when he tells
you where to set at a home funeral:
"Brother!" Hank yells out, "don't ye brother
me, you sniffling, psalm-singing, yaller-faced,
pigeon-toed hippercrit, you! Get me a ladder,
gol dern you, and I'll come out'n here and learn
you to brother me, I will." Only that wasn't
nothing to what Hank really said to that preacher;
no more like it than a little yaller, fluffy canary is
like a buzzard.
"Brother Walters," says the preacher, ca'am but
firm, "we have all decided that you ain't going to
come out of that cistern till you sign the pledge."
And Hank tells him what he thinks of pledges and
him and church doings, and it wasn't purty. And
he says if he was as deep in eternal fire as what he
now is in rain-water, and every fish that nibbles
at his toes was a preacher with a red-hot pitchfork
a-jabbing at him, they could jab till the hull hereafter
turned into snow afore he'd ever sign nothing a
man like Mr. Cartwright give him to sign. Hank
was stubborner than any mule he ever nailed shoes
onto, and proud of being that stubborn. That
town was a awful religious town, and Hank he
knowed he was called the most onreligious man in it,
and he was proud of that too; and if any one called
him a heathen it jest plumb tickled him all over.
"Brother Walters," says that preacher, "we are
going to pray for you."
And they done it. They brought all them chairs
close up around that cistern, in a ring, and they
all kneeled down there, with their heads on 'em,
and they prayed fur Hank's salvation. They done
it up in style, too, one at a time, and the others
singing out, "Amen!" every now and then, and they
shed tears down onto Hank. The front yard was
crowded with men, all a-laughing and a-talking
and chawing and spitting tobacco and betting how
long Hank would hold out. Old Si Emery, that
was the city marshal, and always wore a big nickelplated
star, was out there with 'em. Si was in a
sweat, 'cause Bill Nolan, that run the bar-room,
and some more of Hank's friends, or as near friends
as he had, was out in the road. They says to Si
he must arrest that preacher, fur Hank is being
gradual murdered in that there water, and he'll
die if he's helt there too long, and it will be a crime.
Only they didn't come into the yard to say it
amongst us religious folks. But Si, he says he
dassent arrest no one because it is outside the town
copperation; but he's considerable worried too
about what his duty orter be.
Pretty soon the gang that Mrs. Cartwright has
rounded up at the prayer-meeting comes stringing
along in. They had all brung their hymn books
with them, and they sung. The hull town was
there then, and they all sung, and they sung revival
hymns over Hank. And Hank he would jest
cuss and cuss. Every time he busted out into
another cussing spell they would start another
hymn. Finally the men out in the front yard got
warmed up too, and begun to sing, all but Bill
Nolan's crowd, and they give Hank up for lost and
went away disgusted.
The first thing you knowed they was a reg'lar
revival meeting there, and that preacher was
preaching a reg'lar revival sermon. I been to
more'n one camp meeting, but fur jest natcherally
taking holt of the hull human race by the slack
of its pants and dangling of it over hell-fire, I never
hearn nothing could come up to that there sermon.
Two or three old backsliders in the crowd come right
up and repented all over agin on the spot. The
hull kit and biling of 'em got the power good and
hard, like they does at camp meetings and revivals.
But Hank, he only cussed. He was obstinate,
Hank was, and his pride and dander had riz up.
Finally he says:
"You're taking a ornery, low-down advantage
o' me, you are. Let me out'n this here cistern and
I'll show you who'll stick it out longest on dry
land, dern your religious hides!"
Some of the folks there hadn't had no suppers,
so after all the other sinners but Hank had either
got converted or else sneaked away, some of the
women says why not make a kind of love feast out
of it, and bring some vittles, like they does to
church sociables. Because it seems likely Satan
is going to wrastle all night long, like he done with
the angel Jacob, and they ought to be prepared.
So they done it. They went and they come back
with vittles and they made up hot coffee and they
feasted that preacher and theirselves and Elmira
and me, all right in Hank's hearing.
And Hank was getting hungry himself. And he
was cold in that water. And the fish was nibbling
at him. And he was getting cussed out and weak
and soaked full of despair. And they wasn't no
way fur him to set down and rest. And he was
scared of getting a cramp in his legs, and sinking
down with his head under water and being drownded.
He said afterward he'd of done the last with pleasure
if they was any way of suing that crowd fur murder.
So along about ten o'clock he sings out:
"I give in, gosh dern ye! I give in. Let me
out and I'll sign your pesky pledge!"
Brother Cartwright was fur getting a ladder and
letting him climb out right away. But Elmira, she
"Don't you do it, Brother Cartwright; don't
you do it. You don't know Hank Walters like I
does. If he oncet gets out o' there before he's
signed that pledge, he won't never sign it."
So they fixed it up that Brother Cartwright was
to write out a pledge on the inside leaf of the Bible,
and tie the Bible onto a string, and a lead pencil
onto another string, and let the strings down to
Hank, and he was to make his mark, fur he couldn't
write, and they was to be pulled up agin. Hank,
he says all right, and they done it. But jest as
Hank was making his mark on the leaf of the book,
that preacher done what I has always thought was
a mean trick. He was lying on the floor with his
head and shoulders into that hole as fur as he could,
holding a lantern way down into it, so as Hank could
see. And jest as Hank made that mark he spoke
some words over him, and then he says:
"Now, Henry Walters, I have baptized you, and
you are a member of the church."
You'd a thought Hank would of broke out cussing
agin at being took unexpected that-a-way, fur he
hadn't really agreed to nothing but signing the
pledge. But nary a cuss. He jest says: "Now,
you get that ladder."
They got it, and he clumb up into the kitchen,
dripping and shivering.
"You went and baptized me in that water?"
he asts the preacher. The preacher says he has.
"Then," says Hank, "you done a low-down trick
on me. You knowed I has made my brags I never
jined no church nor never would jine. You knowed
I was proud of that. You knowed that it was my
glory to tell of it, and that I set a heap of store by
it in every way. And now you've went and took
it away from me! You never fought it out fair
and square, neither, man playing to outlast man,
like you done with this here pledge, but you sneaked
it in on me when I wasn't looking."
They was a lot of men in that crowd that thought
the preacher had went too far, and sympathized
with Hank. The way he done about that hurt
Brother Cartwright in our town, and they was a
split in the church, because some said it wasn't
reg'lar and wasn't binding. He lost his job after
a while and become an evangelist. Which it don't
make no difference what one of them does, nohow.
But Hank, he always thought he had been baptized
reg'lar. And he never was the same afterward.
He had made his life-long brags, and his
pride was broke in that there one pertic'ler spot.
And he sorrered and grieved over it a good 'eal,
and got grouchier and grouchier and meaner and
meaner, and lickered oftener, if anything. Signing
the pledge couldn't hold Hank. He was worse in
every way after that night in the cistern, and took
to lamming me harder and harder.
Well, all the lammings Hank laid on never
done me any good. It seemed like I was
jest natcherally cut out to have no success
in life, and no amount of whaling could change
it, though Hank, he was faithful. Before I was
twelve years old the hull town had seen it, and they
wasn't nothing else expected of me except not to
be any good.
That had its handy sides to it, too. They was
lots of kids there that had to go to school, but Hank,
he never would of let me done that if I had ast
him, and I never asted. And they was lots of
kids considerably bothered all the time with their
parents and relations. They made 'em go to
Sunday School, and wash up reg'lar all over on
Saturday nights, and put on shoes and stockings
part of the time, even in the summer, and some of
'em had to ast to go in swimming, and the hull thing
was a continuous trouble and privation to 'em.
But they wasn't nothing perdicted of me, and I
done like it was perdicted. Everybody 'lowed
from the start that Hank would of made trash
out'n me, even if I hadn't showed all the signs of
being trash anyhow. And if they was devilment
anywhere about that town they all says, "Danny,
he done it." And like as not I has. So I gets to
be what you might call an outcast. All the kids
whose folks ain't trash, their mothers tells 'em not
to run with me no more. Which they done it all
the more fur that reason, on the sly, and it makes
me more important with them.
But when I gets a little bigger, all that makes me
feel kind o' bad sometimes. It ain't so handy
then. Fur folks gets to saying, when I would come
"Danny, what do YOU want?"
And if I says, "Nothing," they would say:
"Well, then, you get out o' here!"
Which they needn't of been suspicioning nothing
like they pertended they did, fur I never stole
nothing more'n worter millions and mush millions
and such truck, and mebby now and then a chicken
us kids use to roast in the woods on Sundays, and
jest as like as not it was one of Hank's hens then,
which I figgered I'd earnt it.
Fur Hank, he had streaks when he'd work me
considerable hard. He never give me any money
fur it. He loafed a lot too, and when he'd loaf
I'd loaf. But I did pick up right smart of handiness
with tools around that there shop of his'n, and if
he'd ever of used me right I might of turned into a
purty fair blacksmith. But it wasn't no use trying
to work fur Hank. When I was about fifteen,
times is right bad around the house fur a spell,
and Elmira is working purty hard, and I thinks to
"Well, these folks has kind o' brung you up, and
you ain't never done more'n Hank made you
do. Mebby you orter stick to work a little more
when they's a job in the shop, even if Hank
Which I tried it fur about two or three years,
doing as much work around the shop as Hank done
and mebby more. But it wasn't no use. One
day when I'm about eighteen, I seen awful plain
I'll have to light out from there. They was a
circus come to town that day. I says to Hank:
"Hank, they is a circus this afternoon and agin
"So I has hearn," says Hank.
"Are you going to it?" says I.
"I mout," says Hank, "and then agin I moutn't.
I don't see as it's no consarns of yourn, nohow."
I knowed he was going, though. Hank, he never
missed a circus.
"Well," I says, "they wasn't no harm to ast,
"Well, you've asted, ain't you?" says Hank.
"Well, then," says I, "I'd like to go to that there
"They ain't no use in me saying fur you not to
go," says Hank, "fur you would go anyhow. You
always does go off when you is needed."
"But I ain't got no money," I says, "and I was
going to ast you could you spare me half a dollar?"
"Great Jehosephat!" says Hank, "but ain't
you getting stuck up! What's the matter of you
crawling in under the tent like you always done?
First thing I know you'll be wanting a pair of these
here yaller shoes and a stove-pipe hat."
"No," says I, "I ain't no dude, Hank, and you
know it. But they is always things about a circus
to spend money on besides jest the circus herself.
They is the side show, fur instance, and they is the
grand concert afterward. I calkelated I'd take
'em all in this year--the hull dern thing, jest fur
Hank, he looks at me like I'd asted fur a house 'n'
lot, or a million dollars, or something like that. But
he don't say nothing. He jest snorts.
"Hank," I says, "I been doing right smart work
around the shop fur two, three years now. If
you wasn't loafing so much you'd a noticed it more.
And I ain't never ast fur a cent of pay fur it,
"You ain't wuth no pay," says Hank. "You
ain't wuth nothing but to eat vittles and wear out
"Well," I says, "I figger I earn my vittles and a
good 'eal more. And as fur as clothes goes, I never
had none but what Elmira made out'n yourn."
"Who brung you up?" asts Hank.
"You done it," says I, "and by your own say-so
you done a dern poor job at it."
"You go to that there circus," says Hank, a-flaring
up, "and I'll lambaste you up to a inch of your life.
So fur as handing out money fur you to sling it to
the dogs, I ain't no bank, and if I was I ain't no
ijut. But you jest let me hear of you even going
nigh that circus lot and all the lammings you has
ever got, rolled into one, won't be a measly little
sarcumstance to what you WILL get. They ain't
no leather-faced young upstart with weepin'-willow
hail going to throw up to me how I brung him up.
That's gratitood fur you, that is!" says Hank. "If
it hadn't of been fur me giving you a home when I
found you first, where would you of been now?"
"Well," I says, "I might of been a good 'eal
better off. If you hadn't of took me in the Alexanderses
would of, and then I wouldn't of been kep' out
of school and growed up a ignoramus like you is."
"I never had no trouble keeping you away from
school, I notice," says Hank, with a snort. "This
is the first I ever hearn of you wanting to go there."
Which was true in one way, and a lie in another.
I hadn't never wanted to go till lately, but he'd
of lammed me if I had of wanted to. He always
said he would. And now I was too big and
Well, Hank, he never give me no money, so I
watches my chancet that afternoon and slips in
under the tent the same as always. And I lays
low under them green benches and wiggled through
when I seen a good chancet. The first person I
seen was Hank. Of course he seen me, and he
shook his fist at me in a promising kind of way,
and they wasn't no trouble figgering out what he
meant. Fur a while I didn't enjoy that circus to
no extent. Fur I was thinking that if Hank tries
to lick me fur it I'll fight him back this time, which
I hadn't never fit him back much yet fur fear
he'd pick up something iron around the shop and
jest natcherally lay me cold with it.
I got home before Hank did. It was nigh sundown,
and I was waiting in the door of the shop fur
Elmira to holler vittles is ready, and Hank come
along. He didn't waste no time. He steps inside
the shop and he takes down a strap and he
"You come here and take off your shirt."
But I jest moves away. Hank, he runs in on me,
and he swings his strap. I throwed up my arm,
and it cut me acrost the knuckles. I run in on him,
and he dropped the strap and fetched me an openhanded
smack plumb on the mouth that jarred my
head back and like to of busted it loose. Then I
got right mad, and I run in on him agin, and this
time I got to him, and wrastled with him.
Well, sir, I never was so surprised in all my life
before. Fur I hadn't had holt on him more'n
a minute before I seen I'm stronger than Hank is.
I throwed him, and he hit the ground with considerable
of a jar, and then I put my knee in the
pit of his stomach and churned it a couple. And
I thinks to myself what a fool I must of been fur
better'n a year, because I might of done this any
time. I got him by the ears and I slammed his
head into the gravel a few times, him a-reaching
fur my throat, and a-pounding me with his fists,
but me a-taking the licks and keeping holt. And
I had a mighty contented time fur a few minutes
there on top of Hank, chuckling to myself, and
batting him one every now and then fur luck, and
trying to make him holler it's enough. But Hank
is stubborn and he won't holler. And purty soon
I thinks, what am I going to do? Fur Hank will
be so mad when I let him up he'll jest natcherally
kill me, without I kill him. And I was scared,
because I don't want neither one of them things to
happen. Whilst I was thinking it over, and getting
scareder and scareder, and banging Hank's head
harder and harder, some one grabs me from behind.
They was two of them, and one gets my collar
and one gets the seat of my pants, and they drug
me off'n him. Hank, he gets up, and then he sets
down sudden on a horse block and wipes his face
on his sleeve, which they was considerable blood
come onto the sleeve.
I looks around to see who has had holt of me, and
it is two men. One of them looks about seven feet
tall, on account of a big plug hat and a long white
linen duster, and has a beautiful red beard. In the
road they is a big stout road wagon, with a canopy
top over it, pulled by two hosses, and on the wagon
box they is a strip of canvas. Which I couldn't
read then what was wrote on the canvas, but I
learnt later it said, in big print:
SIWASH INDIAN SAGRAW.
NATURE'S UNIVERSAL MEDICINAL SPECIFIC.
DISCOVERED BY DR. HARTLEY L. KIRBY
AMONG THE ABORIGINES OF OREGON.
On account of being so busy, neither Hank nor
me had hearn the wagon come along the road and
stop. The big man in the plug hat, he says, or
they was words to that effect, jest as serious:
"Why are you mauling the aged gent?"
"Well," says I, "he needed it considerable."
"But," says he, still more solemn, "the good book
says to honour thy father and thy mother."
"Well," I says, "mebby it does and mebby it
don't. But HE ain't my father, nohow. And he
ain't been getting no more'n his come-uppings."
"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord," the big
man remarks, very serious. Hank, he riz up then,
and he says:
"Mister, be you a preacher? 'Cause if you be,
the sooner you have druv on, the better fur ye.
I got a grudge agin all preachers."
That feller, he jest looks Hank over ca'am and
easy and slow before he answers, and he wrinkles
up his face like he never seen anything like Hank
before. Then he fetches a kind o' aggervating smile,
and he says:
"Beneath a shady chestnut tree
The village blacksmith stands.
The smith, a pleasant soul is he
With warts upon his hands--"
He stares at Hank hard and solemn and serious
while he is saying that poetry at him. Hank
fidgets and turns his eyes away. But the feller
touches him on the breast with his finger, and makes
him look at him.
"My honest friend," says the feller, "I am NOT
a preacher. Not right now, anyhow. No! My
mission is spreading the glad tidings of good health.
Look at me," and he swells his chest up, and keeps
a-holt of Hank's eyes with his'n. "You behold
before you the discoverer, manufacturer, and
proprietor of Siwash Indian Sagraw, nature's own
remedy for Bright's Disease, rheumatism, liver and
kidney trouble, catarrh, consumption, bronchitis,
ring-worm, erysipelas, lung fever, typhoid, croup,
dandruff, stomach trouble, dyspepsia--" And
they was a lot more of 'em.
"Well," says Hank, sort o' backing up as the big
man come nearer and nearer to him, jest natcherally
bully-ragging him with them eyes, "I got none of
them there complaints."
The doctor he kind o' snarls, and he brings his
hand down hard on Hank's shoulder, and he
"There are more things betwixt Dan and Beersheba
than was ever dreamt of in thy sagacity,
Romeo!" Or they was words to that effect, fur
that doctor was jest plumb full of Scripter quotations.
And he sings out sudden, giving Hank a
shove that nearly pushes him over: "Man alive!"
he yells, "you DON'T KNOW what disease you may have!
Many's the strong man I've seen rejoicing in his
strength at the dawn of day cut down like the grass
in the field before sunset," he says.
Hank, he's trying to look the other way, but that
doctor won't let his eyes wiggle away from his'n.
He says very sharp:
"Stick out your tongue!"
Hank, he sticks her out.
The doctor, he takes some glasses out'n his pocket
and puts 'em on, and he fetches a long look at her.
Then he opens his mouth like he was going to say
something, and shuts it agin like his feelings won't
let him. He puts his arm across Hank's shoulder
affectionate and sad, and then he turns his head
away like they was some one dead in the fambly.
Finally, he says:
"I thought so. I saw it. I saw it in your eyes
when I first drove up. I hope," he says, very
mournful, "I haven't come too late!"
Hank, he turns pale. I was getting sorry fur
Hank myself. I seen now why I licked him so
easy. Any one could of told from that doctor's
actions Hank was as good as a dead man already.
But Hank, he makes a big effort, and he
"Shucks! I'm sixty-eight years old, doctor, and
I hain't never had a sick day in my life." But
he was awful uneasy too.
The doctor, he says to the feller with him:
"Looey, bring me one of the sample size."
Looey brung it, the doctor never taking his eyes
off'n Hank. He handed it to Hank, and he says:
"A whiskey glass full three times a day, my
friend, and there is a good chance for even you.
I give it to you, without money and without price."
"But what have I got?" asts Hank.
"You have spinal meningitis," says the doctor,
never batting an eye.
"Will this here cure me?" says Hank.
"It'll cure ANYTHING," says the doctor.
Hank he says, "Shucks," agin, but he took the
bottle and pulled the cork out and smelt it, right
thoughtful. And what them fellers had stopped
at our place fur was to have the shoe of the nigh
hoss's off hind foot nailed on, which it was most
ready to drop off. Hank, he done it fur a regulation,
dollar-size bottle and they druv on into the
Right after supper I goes down town. They
was in front of Smith's Palace Hotel. They was
jest starting up when I got there. Well, sir, that
doctor was a sight. He didn't have his duster
onto him, but his stove-pipe hat was, and one of
them long Prince Alferd coats nearly to his knees,
and shiny shoes, but his vest was cut out holler fur
to show his biled shirt, and it was the pinkest shirt
I ever see, and in the middle of that they was a diamond
as big as Uncle Pat Hickey's wen, what was
one of the town sights. No, sir; they never was a
man with more genuine fashionableness sticking
out all over him than Doctor Kirby. He jest
fairly wallered in it.
I hadn't paid no pertic'ler attention to the other
feller with him when they stopped at our place,
excepting to notice he was kind of slim and blackhaired
and funny complected. But I seen now I
orter of looked closeter. Fur I'll be dad-binged
if he weren't an Injun! There he set, under that
there gasoline lamp the wagon was all lit up with,
with moccasins on, and beads and shells all over
him, and the gaudiest turkey tail of feathers rainbowing
down from his head you ever see, and a
blanket around him that was gaudier than the
feathers. And he shined and rattled every time
That wagon was a hull opry house to itself. It
was rolled out in front of Smith's Palace Hotel
without the hosses. The front part was filled with
bottles of medicine. The doctor, he begun business
by taking out a long brass horn and tooting on it.
They was about a dozen come, but they was mostly
boys. Then him and the Injun picked up some
banjoes and sung a comic song out loud and clear.
And they was another dozen or so come. And
they sung another song, and Pop Wilkins, he closed
up the post-office and come over and the other
two veterans of the Grand Army of the Republicans
that always plays checkers in there nights come
along with him. But it wasn't much of a crowd,
and the doctor he looked sort o' worried. I had
a good place, right near the hind wheel of the wagon
where he rested his foot occasional, and I seen what
he was thinking. So I says to him:
"Doctor Kirby, I guess the crowd is all gone to
the circus agin to-night." And all them fellers
there seen I knowed him.
"I guess so, Rube," he says to me. And they
all laughed 'cause he called me Rube, and I felt
kind of took down.
Then he lit in to tell about that Injun medicine.
First off he told how he come to find out about
it. It was the father of the Injun what was with
him had showed him, he said. And it was in the
days of his youthfulness, when he was wild, and a
cowboy on the plains of Oregon. Well, one night
he says, they was an awful fight on the plains of
Oregon, wherever them is, and he got plugged full
of bullet holes. And his hoss run away with him
and he was carried off, and the hoss was going at a
dead run, and the blood was running down onto
the ground. And the wolves smelt the blood and
took out after him, yipping and yowling something
frightful to hear, and the hoss he kicked out behind
and killed the head wolf and the others stopped
to eat him up, and while they was eating him the
hoss gained a quarter of a mile. But they et him
up and they was gaining agin, fur the smell of human
blood was on the plains of Oregon, he says, and the
sight of his mother's face when she ast him never
to be a cowboy come to him in the moonlight,
and he knowed that somehow all would yet be well,
and then he must of fainted and he knowed no more
till he woke up in a tent on the plains of Oregon.
And they was an old Injun bending over him and
a beautiful Injun maiden was feeling of his pulse,
and they says to him:
"Pale face, take hope, fur we will doctor you with
Siwash Injun Sagraw, which is nature's own cure
fur all diseases."
They done it. And he got well. It had been a
secret among them there Injuns fur thousands and
thousands of years. Any Injun that give away the
secret was killed and rubbed off the rolls of the
tribe and buried in disgrace upon the plains of
Oregon. And the doctor was made a blood brother
of the chief, and learnt the secret of that medicine.
Finally he got the chief to see as it wasn't Christian
to hold back that there medicine from the world
no longer, and the chief, his heart was softened,
and he says to go.
"Go, my brother," he says, "and give to the pale
faces the medicine that has been kept secret fur
thousands and thousands of years among the Siwash
Injuns on the plains of Oregon."
And he went. It wasn't that he wanted to make
no money out of that there medicine. He could
of made all the money he wanted being a doctor
in the reg'lar way. But what he wanted was to
spread the glad tidings of good health all over this
fair land of ourn, he says.
Well, sir, he was a talker, that there doctor was,
and he knowed more religious sayings and poetry
along with it, than any feller I ever hearn. He
goes on and he tells how awful sick people can
manage to get and never know it, and no one else
never suspicion it, and live along fur years and years
that-a-way, and all the time in danger of death.
He says it makes him weep when he sees them poor
diluted fools going around and thinking they is
well men, talking and laughing and marrying and
giving in to marriage right on the edge of the grave.
He sees dozens of 'em in every town he comes to.
But they can't fool him, he says. He can tell at a
glance who's got Bright's Disease in their kidneys
and who ain't. His own father, he says, was deathly
sick fur years and years and never knowed it, and
the knowledge come on him sudden like, and he
died. That was before Siwash Injun Sagraw was
ever found out about. Doctor Kirby broke down
and cried right there in the wagon when he thought
of how his father might of been saved if he was
only alive now that that medicine was put up into
bottle form, six fur a five-dollar bill so long as he was
in town, and after that two dollars fur each bottle
at the drug store.
He unrolled a big chart and the Injun helt it
by that there gasoline lamp, so all could see, turning
the pages now and then. It was a map of a man's
inside organs and digestive ornaments and things.
They was red and blue, like each organ's own
disease had turned it, and some of 'em was yaller.
And they was a long string of diseases printed in
black hanging down from each organ's picture. I
never knowed before they was so many diseases
nor yet so many things to have 'em in.
Well, I was feeling purty good when that show
started. But the doc, he kep' looking right at me
every now and then when he talked, and I couldn't
keep my eyes off'n him.
"Does your heart beat fast when you exercise?"
he asts the crowd. "Is your tongue coated after
meals? Do your eyes leak when your nose is stopped
up? Do you perspire under your arm pits? Do you
ever have a ringing in your ears? Does your
stomach hurt you after meals? Does your back
ever ache? Do you ever have pains in your legs?
Do your eyes blur when you look at the sun? Are
your teeth coated? Does your hair come out when
you comb it? Is your breath short when you walk
up stairs? Do your feet swell in warm weather?
Are there white spots on your finger nails? Do
you draw your breath part of the time through one
nostril and part of the time through the other?
Do you ever have nightmare? Did your nose
bleed easily when you were growing up? Does
your skin fester when scratched? Are your eyes
gummy in the mornings? Then," he says, "if
you have any or all of these symptoms, your blood
is bad, and your liver is wasting away."
Well, sir, I seen I was in a bad way, fur at one
time or another I had had most of them there signs
and warnings, and hadn't heeded 'em, and I had
some of 'em yet. I begun to feel kind o' sick, and
looking at them organs and diseases didn't help
me none, either. The doctor, he lit out on another
string of symptoms, and I had them, too. Seems
to me I had purty nigh everything but fits. Kidney
complaint and consumption both had a holt on me.
It was about a even bet which would get me first.
I kind o' got to wondering which. I figgered from
what he said that I'd had consumption the LONGEST
while, but my kind of kidney trouble was an awful
SLY kind, and it was lible to jump in without no
warning a-tall and jest natcherally wipe me out
QUICK. So I sort o' bet on the kidney trouble.
But I seen I was a goner, and I forgive Hank all
his orneriness, fur a feller don't want to die holding
Taking it the hull way through, that was about
the best medicine show I ever seen. But they
didn't sell much. All the people what had any
money was to the circus agin that night. So they
sung some more songs and closed early and went into
Well, the next morning I'm feeling considerable
better, and think mebby I'm going
to live after all. I got up earlier'n
Hank did, and slipped out without him seeing me, and
didn't go nigh the shop a-tall. Fur now I've licked
Hank oncet I figger he won't rest till he has wiped
that disgrace out, and he won't care a dern what
he picks up to do it with, nuther.
They was a crick about a hundred yards from our
house, in the woods, and I went over there and laid
down and watched it run by. I laid awful still,
thinking I wisht I was away from that town. Purty
soon a squirrel comes down and sets on a log and
watches me. I throwed an acorn at him, and he
scooted up a tree quicker'n scatt. And then I
wisht I hadn't scared him away, fur it looked like
he knowed I was in trouble. Purty soon I takes a
swim, and comes out and lays there some more,
spitting into the water and thinking what shall
I do now, and watching birds and things moving
around, and ants working harder'n ever I
would agin unless I got better pray fur it, and these
here tumble bugs kicking their loads along hind
After a while it is getting along toward noon, and
I'm feeling hungry. But I don't want to have no
more trouble with Hank, and I jest lays there. I
hearn two men coming through the underbrush.
I riz up on my elbow to look, and one of them was
Doctor Kirby and the other was Looey, only Looey
wasn't an Injun this morning.
They sets down on the roots of a big tree a little
ways off, with their backs toward me, and they
ain't seen me. So nacherally I listened to what
they was jawing about. They was both kind o'
mad at the hull world, and at our town in pertic'ler,
and some at each other, too. The doctor, he says:
"I haven't had such rotten luck since I played
the bloodhound in a Tom Show--Were you ever
an 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' artist, Looey?--and a
justice of the peace over in Iowa fined me five
dollars for being on the street without a muzzle.
Said it was a city ordinance. Talk about the
gentle Rube being an easy mark! If these country
towns don't get the wandering minstrel's money
one way they will another!"
"It's your own fault," says Looey, kind o' sour.
"I can't see it," says Doctor Kirby. "How did
I know that all these apple-knockers had been filled
up with Sykes's Magic Remedy only two weeks
ago? I may have been a spiritualistic medium in
my time now and then," he says, "and a mind
reader, too, but I'm no prophet."
"I ain't talking about the business, Doc, and you
know it," says Looey. "We'd be all right and have
our horses and wagon now if you'd only stuck to
business and not got us into that poker game.
Talk about suckers! Doc, for a man that has
skinned as many of 'em as you have, you're the
worst sucker yourself I ever saw."
The doctor, he cusses the poker game and country
towns and medicine shows and the hull creation
and says he is so disgusted with life he guesses he'll
go and be a preacher or a bearded lady in a sideshow.
But Looey, he don't cheer up none. He says:
"All right, Doc, but it's no use talking. You
can TALK all right. We all know that. The question
is how are we going to get our horses and wagon
away from these Rubes?"
I listens some more, and I seen them fellers was
really into bad trouble. Doctor Kirby, he had got
into a poker game at Smith's Palace Hotel the night
before, right after the show. He had won from
Jake Smith, which run it, and from the others.
But shucks! it never made no difference what you
won in that crowd. They had done Doctor Kirby
and Looey like they always done a drummer or a
stranger that come along to that town and was
fool enough to play poker with them. They wasn't
a chancet fur an outsider. If the drummer lost,
they would take his money and that would be all
they was to it. But if the drummer got to winning
good, some one would slip out'n the hotel and tell
Si Emery, which was the city marshal. And Si
would get Ralph Scott, that worked fur Jake Smith
in his livery stable, and pin a star onto Ralph, too.
And they would be arrested fur gambling, only them
that lived in our town would get away. Which Si
and Ralph was always scared every time they done
it. Then the drummer, or whoever it was, would
be took to the calaboose, and spend all night
In the morning they would be took before Squire
Matthews, that was justice of the peace. They
would be fined a big fine, and he would get all the
drummer had won and all he had brung to town with
him besides. Squire Matthews and Jake Smith
and Windy Goodell and Mart Watson, which the
two last was lawyers, was always playing that there
game on drummers that was fool enough to play
poker. Hank, he says he bet they divided it up
afterward, though it was supposed them fines went
to the town. Well, they played a purty closte
game of poker in our little town. It was jest like
the doctor says to Looey:
"By George," he says, "it is a well-nigh perfect
thing. If you lose you lose, and if you win you
Well, the doctor, he had started out winning the
night before. And Si Emery and Ralph Scott had
arrested them. And that morning, while I had
been laying by the crick and the rest of the town was
seeing the fun, they had been took afore Squire
Matthews and fined one hundred and twenty-five
dollars apiece. The doctor, he tells Squire Matthews
it is an outrage, and it ain't legal if tried
in a bigger court, and they ain't that much money
in the world so fur as he knows, and he won't pay
it. But, the squire, he says the time has come to
teach them travelling fakirs as is always running
around the country with shows and electric belts
and things that they got to stop dreening that
town of hard-earned money, and he has decided
to make an example of 'em. The only two
lawyers in town is Windy and Mart, which has
been in the poker game theirselves, the same as
always. The doctor says the hull thing is a put-up
job, and he can't get the money, and he wouldn't
if he could, and he'll lay in that town calaboose and
rot the rest of his life and eat the town poor before
he'll stand it. And the squire says he'll jest take
their hosses and wagon fur c'latteral till they make
up the rest of the two hundred and fifty dollars.
And the hosses and wagon was now in the livery
stable next to Smith's Palace Hotel, which Jake run
Well, I thinks to myself, it IS a dern shame, and
I felt sorry fur them two fellers. Fur our town was
jest as good as stealing that property. And I
felt kind o' shamed of belonging to such a town, too.
And I thinks to myself, I'd like to help 'em out of
that scrape. And then I seen how I could do it,
and not get took up fur it, neither. So, without
thinking, all of a sudden I jumps up and says:
"Say, Doctor Kirby, I got a scheme!"
They jumps up too, and they looks at me startled.
Then the doctor kind o' laughs and says:
"Why, it's the young blacksmith!"
Looey, he says, looking at me hard and suspicious:
"What kind of a scheme are you talking about?"
"Why," says I, "to get that outfit of yourn."
"You've been listening to us," says Looey.
Looey was one of them quiet-looking fellers that
never laughed much nor talked much. Looey,
he never made fun of nobody, which the doctor was
always doing, and I wouldn't of cared to make fun
of Looey much, either.
"Yes," I says, "I been laying here fur quite a
spell, and quite natcheral I listened to you, as any
one else would of done. And mebby I can get that
team and wagon of yourn without it costing you
Well, they didn't know what to say. They asts
me how, but I says to leave it all to me. "Walk
right along down this here crick," I says, "till you
get to where it comes out'n the woods and runs
acrost the road in under an iron bridge. That's
about a half a mile east. Jest after the road crosses
the bridge it forks. Take the right fork and walk
another half a mile and you'll see a little yallerpainted
schoolhouse setting lonesome on a sand
hill. They ain't no school in it now. You wait
there fur me," I says, "fur a couple of hours. After
that if I ain't there you'll know I can't make it.
But I think I'll make it."
They looks at each other and they looks at me,
and then they go off a little piece and talk low, and
then the doctor says to me:
"Rube," he says, "I don't know how you can
work anything on us that hasn't been worked
already. We've got nothing more we can lose.
You go to it, Rube." And they started off.
So I went over town. Jake Smith was setting
on the piazza in front of his hotel, chawing and
spitting tobacco, with his feet agin the railing like
he always done, and one of his eyes squinched up
and his hat over the other one.
"Jake," I says, "where's that there doctor?"
Jake, he spit careful afore he answered, and he
pulled his long, scraggly moustache careful, and he
squinched his eyes at me. Jake was a careful man
in everything he done.
"I dunno, Danny," he says. "Why?"
"Well," I says, "Hank sent me over to get that
wagon and them hosses of theirn and finish that
"That there wagon," says Jake, "is in my barn,
with Si Emery watching her, and she has got to
stay there till the law lets her loose." I figgered
to myself Jake could use that team and wagon in
his business, and was going to buy her cheap offn
the town, what share of her he didn't figger he owned
"Why, Jake," I says, "I hope they ain't been no
trouble of no kind that has drug the law into your
"Well, Danny," he says, "they HAS been a little
trouble. But it's about over, now, I guess. And
that there outfit belongs to the town now."
"You don't say so!" says I, surprised-like.
"When I seen them men last night it looked to me
like they was too fine dressed to be honest."
"I don't think they be, Danny," says Jake,
confidential. "In my opinion they is mighty bad
customers. But they has got on the wrong side
of the law now, and I guess they won't stay around
here much longer."
"Well," says I, "Hank will be glad."
"Fur what?" asts Jake.
"Well," says I, "because he got his pay in advance
fur that job and now he don't have to finish it.
They come along to our place about sundown
yesterday, and we nailed a shoe on one hoss. They
was a couple of other hoofs needed fixing, and the
tire on one of the hind wheels was beginning to
I had noticed that loose tire when I was standing
by the hind wheel the night before, and it come in
handy now. So I goes on:
"Hank, he allowed he'd fix the hull thing fur
six bottles of that Injun medicine. Elmira has been
ailing lately, and he wanted it fur her. So they
handed Hank out six bottles then and there."
"Huh!" says Jake. "So the job is all paid
fur, is it?"
"Yes," says I, "and I was expecting to do it
myself. But now I guess I'll go fishing instead.
They ain't no other job in the shop."
"I'll be dinged if you've got time to fish," says
Jake. "I'm expecting mebby to buy that rig off
the town myself when the law lets loose of it. So
if the fixing is paid fur, I want everything fixed."
"Jake," says I, kind of worried like, "I don't
want to do it without that doctor says to go ahead."
"They ain't his'n no longer," says Jake.
"I dunno," says I, "as you got any right to make
me do it, Jake. It don't look to me like it's no
harm to beat a couple of fellers like them out of
their medicine. And I DID want to go fishing this
But Jake was that careful and stingy he'd try
to skin a hoss twicet if it died. He's bound to
get that job done, now.
"Danny," he says, "you gotto do that work.
It ain't HONEST not to. What a young feller like
you jest starting out into life wants to remember
is to always be honest. Then," says Jake, squinching
up his eyes, "people trusts you and you get a
good chancet to make money. Look at this here
hotel and livery stable, Danny. Twenty years
ago I didn't have no more'n you've got, Danny.
But I always went by them mottoes--hard work
and being honest. You GOTTO nail them shoes on,
Danny, and fix that wheel."
"Well, all right, Jake," says I, "if you feel that
way about it. Jest give me a chaw of tobacco and
come around and help me hitch 'em up."
Si Emery was there asleep on a pile of straw
guarding that property. But Ralph Scott wasn't
around. Si didn't wake up till we had hitched 'em
up. He says he will ride around to the shop with
me. But Jake says:
"It's all right, Si. I'll go over myself and fetch
'em back purty soon." Which Si was wore out
with being up so late the night before, and goes
back to sleep agin right off.
Well, sir, they wasn't nothing went wrong. I
drove slow through the village and past our shop.
Hank come to the door of it as I went past. But
I hit them hosses a lick, and they broke into a right
smart trot. Elmira, she come onto the porch and
I waved my hand at her. She put her hand up to
her forehead to shut out the sun and jest stared.
She didn't know I was waving her farewell. Hank,
he yelled something at me, but I never hearn what.
I licked them hosses into a gallop and went around
the turn of the road. And that's the last I ever
seen or hearn of Hank or Elmira or that there little
I slowed down when I got to the schoolhouse,
and both them fellers piled in.
"I guess I better turn north fur about
a mile and then turn west, Doctor Kirby," I says,
"so as to make a kind of a circle around that town."
"Why, so, Rube?" he asts me.
"Well," I says, "we left it going east, and they'll
foller us east; so don't we want to be going west
while they're follering east?"
Looey, he agreed with me. But he said it
wouldn't be much use, fur we would likely be
ketched up with and took back and hung or something,
anyhow. Looey could get the lowest in his
sperrits sometimes of any man I ever seen.
"Don't be afraid of that," says the doctor.
"They are not going to follow us. THEY know they
didn't get this property by due process of law.
THEY aren't going to take the case into a county
court where it will all come out about the way they
robbed a couple of travelling men with a fake
"I guess you know more about the law'n I do,"
I says. "I kind o' thought mebby we stole them
"Well," he says, "we got 'em, anyhow. And
if they try to arrest us without a warrant there'll
be the deuce to pay. But they aren't going to
make any more trouble. I know these country
crooks. They've got no stomach for trouble outside
their own township."
Which made me feel considerable better, fur I
never been of the opinion that going agin the law
done any one no good.
They looks around in that wagon, and all their
stuff was there--Jake Smith and the squire having
kep' it all together careful to make things seem
more legal, I suppose--and the doctor was plumb
tickled, and Looey felt as cheerful as he ever felt
about anything. So the doctor says they has everything
they needs but some ready money, and he'll
get that sure, fur he never seen the time he couldn't.
"But, Looey," he says, "I'm done with country
hotels from now on. They've got the last cent
they ever will from me--at least in the summer
"How you going to work it?" Looey asts him,
like he hasn't no hopes it will work right.
"Camp out," says the doctor. "I've been thinking
it all over." Then he turns to me. "Rube,"
he says, "where are you going?"
"Well," I says, "I ain't pinted nowhere in pertic'
ler except away from that town we just left.
Which my name ain't Rube, Doctor Kirby, but
"Danny what?" asts he.
"Nothing," says I, "jest Danny."
"Well, then, Danny," says he, "how would you
like to be an Indian?"
"Medical?" asts I, "or real?"
"Like Looey," says he.
I tells him being a medical Injun and mixed up
with a show like his'n would suit me down to the
ground, and asts him what is the main duties of
one besides the blankets and the feathers.
"Well," he says, "this camping-out scheme of
mine will take a couple of Indians. Instead of paying
hotel and feed bills we'll pitch our tent," he
says, "at the edge of town in each sweet Auburn of
the plains. We'll save money and we'll be near the
throbbing heart of nature. And an Indian camp
in each place will be a good advertisement for the
Sagraw. You can look after the horses and learn
to do the cooking and that kind o' thing. And
maybe after while," he says, kind o' working himself
up to where he thought it was going to be real
nice, "maybe after while I will give you some insight
into the hidden mysteries of selling Siwash
"Well," says I, "I'd like to learn that."
"Would you?" says he, kind o' laughing at himself
and me too, and yet kind o' enthusiastic, "well,
then, the first thing you have to do is learn how to
sell corn salve. Any one that can sell corn salve
can sell anything. There's a farmhouse right over
there, and I'll give you your first lesson right now.
Rummage around in that satchel there under the
seat and get me a tin box and some corn salve
I found a lot of labels, and some boxes too. The
labels was all different sizes, but barring that they
all looked about the same to me. Whilst I was
sizing them up he asts me agin was they any corn
salve ones in there.
"What colour label is it, Doctor Kirby?" I
asts him. Fur they was blue labels and white labels
and pink labels.
He looks at me right queer. "Can't you read
the labels?" he says, right sharp.
"Well," I says, "I never been much of a reader
when it comes to different kind of medicines."
"Corn salve is spelled only one way," says he.
"That's right," I says, "and you'd think I orter
be able to pick out a common, ordinary thing like
corn salve right off, wouldn't you?"
"Danny," he says, "you don't mean to tell me
you can't read anything at all?"
"I never told you nothing of the kind."
He picks out a label.
"If you can read so fast, what's that?" he asts.
She is a pink one. I thinks to myself; she either
is corn salve or else she ain't corn salve. And it
ain't natcheral he will pick corn salve, fur he would
think I would say that first off. So I'm betting it
ain't. I takes a chancet on it.
"That," says I, "is mighty easy reading. That is
Siwash Injun Sagraw." I lost.
"It's corn salve," he says. "And Great Scott!
They call this the twentieth century!"
"I never called it that," says I, sort o' mad-like.
Fur I was feeling bad Doctor Kirby had found out
I was such a ignoramus.
"Where ignorance is bliss," says he, "it is folly
to be wise. But all the same, I'm going to take
your education in hand and make you drink of
life's Peruvian springs." Or some spring like that it
And the doctor, he done it. Looey said it
wouldn't be no use learning to read. He'd done a
lot of reading, he said, and it never helped him none.
All he ever read showed him this feller Hamlet was
right, he said, when he wrote Shakespeare's works,
and they wasn't much use in anything, without you
had a lot o' money. And they wasn't no chancet
to get that with all these here trusts around gobbling
up everything and stomping the poor man into the
dirt, and they was lots of times he wisht he was a
Injun sure enough, and not jest a medical one, fur
then he'd be a free man and the bosses and the
trusts and the railroads and the robber tariff
couldn't touch him. And then he shut up, and
didn't say nothing fur a hull hour, except oncet he
Fur Doctor Kirby, he says, winking at me:
"Looey, here, is a nihilist."
"Is he," says I, what's that?" And the doctor
tells me about how they blow up dukes and czars
and them foreign high-mucky-mucks with dynamite.
Which is when Looey laughed.
Well, we jogged along at a pretty good gait fur
several hours, and we stayed that night at a Swede's
place, which the doctor paid him fur everything in
medicine, only it took a long time to make the bargain,
fur them Swedes is always careful not to
get cheated, and hasn't many diseases. And the
next night we showed in a little town, and done
right well, and took in considerable money. We
stayed there three days and bought a tent and a
sheet-iron stove and some skillets and things and
some provisions, and a suit of duds for me.
Well, we went on, and we kept going on, and they
was bully times. We'd ease up careful toward a
town, and pick us out a place on the edge, where
the hosses could graze along the side of the road;
and most ginerally by a piece of woods not fur from
that town, and nigh a crick, if we could. Then
we'd set up our tent. After we had everything
fixed, I'd put on my Injun clothes and Looey his'n,
and we'd drive through the main store street of
the town at a purty good lick, me a-holt of the
reins, and the doctor all togged out in his best clothes,
and Looey doing a Injun dance in the midst of the
wagon. I'd pull up the hosses sudden in front of
the post-office or the depot platform or the hotel,
and the people would come crowding around, and
the doctor he'd make a little talk from the wagon,
and tell everybody they would be a free show that
night on that corner, and fur everybody to come to
it. And then we'd drive back to camp, lickitysplit.
Purty soon every boy in town would be out there,
kind o' hanging around, to see what a Injun camp
was like. And the farmers that went into and out
of town always stopped and passed the time of
day, and the Injun camp got the hull town all
worked up as a usual thing; and the doctor, he
done well, fur when night come every one would
be on hand. Looey and me, every time we went
into town, had on our Injun suits, and the doctor,
he wondered why he hadn't never thought up that
scheme before. Sometimes, when they was lots
of people ailing in a town, and they hadn't been
no show fur quite a while, we'd stay five or six
days, and make a good clean-up. The doctor,
he sent to Chicago several times fur alcohol in
barrels, 'cause he was selling it so fast he had to
make new Sagraw. And he had to get more and
more bottles, and a hull satchel full of new Sagraw
And all the time the doctor was learning me education.
And shucks! they wasn't nothing so hard
about it oncet you'd got started in to reading things.
I jest natcherally took to print like a duck to water,
and inside of a month I was reading nigh everything
that has ever been wrote. He had lots of
books with him and every time a new sockdologer
of a word come along and I learnt how to spell
her and where she orter fit in to make sense it kind
o' tickled me all over. And many's the time
afterward, when me and the doctor had lost track
of each other, and they was quite a spell people
got to thinking I was a tramp, I've went into these
here Andrew Carnegie libraries in different towns
jest as much to see if they had anything fitten to
read as fur to keep warm.
Well, we went easing over toward the Indiany
line, and we was having a purty good time. They
wasn't no work to do you could call really hard,
and they was plenty of vittles. Afternoons we'd
lazy around the camp and swap stories and make
medicine if we needed a batch, and josh back and
forth with the people that hung around, and loaf and
doze and smoke; or mebby do a little fishing if we
was nigh a crick.
And nights after the show was over it was fun,
too. We always had a fire, even if it was a hot
night, fur to cook by in the first place, and fur to
keep mosquitoes off, and to make things seem more
cheerful. They ain't nothing so good as hanging
round a campfire. And they ain't nothing any
better than sleeping outdoors, neither. You roll
up in your blanket with your feet to the fire and you
get to wondering things about things afore you go
to sleep. The silentness jest natcherally swamps
everything after a while, and then all them queer
little noises you never hear in the daytime comes
popping and poking through the silentness, or kind
o' scratching their way through it sometimes, and
makes it kind o' feel more silent than ever. And
if you are nigh a crick, purty soon it will sort of
get to talking to you, only you can't make out what
it's trying to say, and you get to wondering about
that, too. And if you are in a tent and it rains
and the tent don't leak, that rain is a kind of a
nice thing to listen to itself. But if you can see
the stars you get to wondering more'n ever. They
come out and they is so many of them and they
are so fur away, and yet they are so kind o' friendlylike,
too, if you happen to be feeling purty good.
But if you ain't feeling purty good, jest lay there and
look at them stars long enough; and then mebby
you'll see it don't make no difference whether
you're feeling good or not, fur they got a way o'
making your private troubles look mighty small.
And you get to wondering why that is, too, fur they
ain't human; and it don't stand to reason you orter
pay no attention to them, one way nor the other.
They is jest there, like trees and cricks and hills.
But I have often noticed that the things that is
jest there has got a way of seeming more friendly
than the things that has been built and put there.
You can look at a big iron bridge or a grain elevator
or a canal all day long, and if you're feeling blue it
don't help you none. It was jest put there. Or
a hay stack is the same way. But you go and lazy
around in the grass when you're down on your luck
and kind o' make remarks to a crick or a big, old
walnut tree, and before long it gets you to feeling
like it didn't make no difference how you felt,
anyhow; fur you don't amount to nothing by the
side of something that was always there. You
get to thinking how the hull world itself was always
here, and you sort o' see they ain't nothing important
enough about yourself to worry about,
and presently you will go to sleep and forget
it. The doctor says to me one time them stars
ain't any different from this world, and this is
one of them. Which is a fool idea, as any one
can see. He had a lot of queer ideas like that,
Doctor Kirby had. But they ain't nothing like
sleeping out of doors nights to make you wonder
the kind of wonderings you never will get any
Well, I never cared so much fur houses after them
days. They was bully times, them was. And I
was kind of proud of being with a show, too.
Many's the time I have went down the street in
that there Injun suit, and seen how the young
fellers would of give all they owned to be me. And
every now and then you would hear one say when
you went past:
"Huh, I know him! That's one of them show
One afternoon we pitches our tent right on the
edge of a little town called Athens. We was nigh
the bank of a crick, and they was a grove there.
We was camped jest outside of a wood-lot fence,
and back in through the trees from us they was a
house with a hedge fence all around it. They was
apple trees and all kind of flower bushes and things
inside of the hedge. The second day we was there
I takes a walk back through the wood-lot, and
along past the house, and they was one of these
here early harvest apple trees spilling apples through
a gap in the fence. Them is a mighty sweet and
juicy kind of apple, and I picks one up and bites
"I think you might have asked for it," says
I looks up, and that was how I got acquainted
with Martha. She was eating
one herself, setting up in the tree like a boy.
In her lap was a book she had been reading. She
was leaning back into the fork two limbs made so
as not to tumble.
"Well," I says, "can I have one?"
"You've eaten it already," she says, "so there
isn't any use begging for it now."
I seen she was a tease, that girl, and I would of
give anything to of been able to tease her right
back agin. But I couldn't think of nothing to
say, so I jest stands there kind o' dumb like, thinking
what a dern purty girl she was, and thinking how
dumb I must look, and I felt my face getting red.
Doctor Kirby would of thought of something to say
right off. And after I got back to camp I would
think of something myself. But I couldn't think
of nothing bright, so I says:
"Well, then, you give me another one!"
She gives the core of the one she has been eating
a toss at me. But I ketched it, and made like I
was going to throw it back at her real hard. She
slung up her arm, and dodged back, and she dropped
I thinks to myself I'll learn that girl to get sassy
and make me feel like a dumb-head, even if she is
purty. So I don't say a word. I jest picks up
that book and sticks it under my arm and walks
away slow with it to where they was a stump a
little ways off, not fur from the crick, and sets down
with my back to her and opens it. And I was
trying all the time to think of something smart to
say to her. But I couldn't of done it if I was to
be shot. Still, I thinks to myself, no girl can sass me
and not get sassed back, neither.
I hearn a scramble behind me which I knowed
was her getting out of that tree. And in a minute
she was in front of me, mad.
"Give me my book," she says.
But I only reads the name of the book out loud,
fur to aggervate her. I had on purty good duds,
but I kind of wisht I had on my Injun rig then.
You take the girls that always comes down to see
the passenger train come into the depot in them
country towns and that Injun rig of mine and
Looey's always made 'em turn around and look at
us agin. I never wisht I had on them Injun duds
so hard before in my life. But I couldn't think of
nothing bright to say, so I jest reads the name of
that book over to myself agin, kind o' grinning
like I got a good joke I ain't going to tell any one.
"You give me my book," she says agin, red as
one of them harvest apples, "or I'll tell Miss Hampton
you stole it and she'll have you and your show
I reads the name agin. It was "The Lost Heir."
I seen I had her good and teased now, so I says:
"It must be one of these here love stories by the
way you take on over it."
"It's not," she says, getting ready to cry. "And
what right have you got in our wood-lot, anyhow?"
"Well," I says, "I was jest about to move on and
climb out of it when you hollered to me from that
"I didn't!" she says. But she was mad because
she knowed she HAD spoke to me first, and she was
awful sorry she had.
"I thought I hearn you holler," I says, "but
I guess it must of been a squirrel." I said it kind
o' sarcastic like, fur I was still mad with myself
fur being so dumb when we first seen each other.
I hadn't no idea it would hurt her feelings as hard
as it did. But all of a sudden she begins to wink,
and her chin trembled, and she turned around short,
and started to walk off slow. She was mad with
herself fur being ketched in a lie, and she was
wondering what I would think of her fur being
so bold as to of spoke first to a feller she didn't
I got up and follered her a little piece. And it
come to me all to oncet I had teased her too hard,
and I was down on myself fur it.
"Say," I says, kind of tagging along beside of
her, "here's your old book."
But she didn't make no move to take it, and her
hands was over her face, and she wouldn't pull
'em down to even look at it.
So I tried agin.
"Well," I says, feeling real mean, "I wisht you
wouldn't cry. I didn't go to make you do that."
She drops her hands and whirls around on me,
mad as a wet hen right off.
"I'm not! I'm not!" she sings out, and stamps
her feet. "I'm not crying!" But jest then she
loses her holt on herself and busts out and jest
natcherally bellers. "I hate you!" she says, like
she could of killed me.
That made me kind of dumb agin. Fur it come
to me all to oncet I liked that girl awful well. And
here I'd up and made her hate me. I held the book
out to her agin and says:
"Well, I'm mighty sorry fur that, fur I don't feel
that-a-way about you a-tall. Here's your book."
Well, sir, she snatches that book and she gives
it a sling. I thought it was going kersplash into
the crick. But it didn't. It hit right into the fork
of a limb that hung down over the crick, and it all
spread out when it lit, and stuck in that crotch
somehow. She couldn't of slung it that way on
purpose in a million years. We both stands and
looks at it a minute.
"Oh, oh!" she says, "what have I done? It's
out of the town library and I'll have to pay for it."
"I'll get it fur you," I says. But it wasn't no
easy job. If I shook that limb it would tumble
into the crick. But I clumb the tree and eased out
on that limb as fur as I dast to. And, of course,
jest as I got holt of the book, that limb broke
and I fell into the crick. But I had the book.
It was some soaked, but I reckoned it could still
I clumb out and she was jest splitting herself
laughing at me. The wet on her face where she
had cried wasn't dried up yet, and she was laughing
right through it, kind o' like the sun does to one
of these here May rainstorms sometimes, and she
was the purtiest girl I ever seen. Gosh!--how I
was getting to like that girl! And she told me I
looked like a drowned rat.
Well, that was how Martha and me was interduced.
She wasn't more'n sixteen, and when she
found out I was a orphan she was glad, fur she was
one herself. Which Miss Hampton that lived in
that house had took her to raise. And when I
tells her how I been travelling around the country
all summer she claps her hands and she says:
"Oh, you are on a quest! How romantic!"
I asts her what is a quest. And she tells me.
She knowed all about them, fur Martha was considerable
of a reader. Some of them was longer
and some of them was shorter, them quests, but
mostly, Martha says, they was fur a twelvemonth
and a day. And then you are released from your
vow and one of these here queens gives you a whack
over the shoulder with a sword and says: "Arise,
Sir Marmeluke, I dub you a night." And then it
is legal fur you to go out and rescue people and
reform them and spear them if they don't see
things your way, and come between husband and
wife when they row, and do a heap of good in the
world. Well, they was other kind of quests too, but
mostly you married somebody, or was dubbed
a night, or found the party you was looking fur,
in the end. And Martha had it all fixed up in her
own mind I was in a quest to find my father. Fur,
says she, he is purty certain to be a powerful rich
man and more'n likely a earl.
The way I was found, Martha says, kind o'
pints to the idea they was a earl mixed up in it
somewhere. She had read a lot about earls, and
knew their ways. Mebby my mother was a earl's
daughter. Earl's daughters is the worst fur leaving
you out in baskets, going by what Martha said.
It is a kind of a habit with them, fur they is awful
proud people. But it was a lucky way to start
life, from all she said, that basket way. There
was Moses was left out that way, and when he
growed up he was made a kind of a president of
the hull human race, the same as Ruzevelt, and
figgered out the twelve commandments. Martha
would of give anything if she could of only been
found in a basket like me, I could see that. But
she wasn't. She had jest been left a orphan when
her folks died. They wasn't even no hopes she
had been changed at birth fur another one. But
I seen down in under everything Martha kind o'
thought mebby one of them nights might come
a-prancing along and wed her in spite of herself,
or she would be carried off, or something. She was
a very romanceful kind of girl.
When I seen she had it figgered out I was in a
quest fur some high-mucky-muck fur a dad, I
didn't tell her no different. I didn't take much
stock in them earls and nights myself. So fur as
I could see they was all furriners of one kind or
another. But that thing of being into a quest
kind of interested me, too.
"How would I know him if I was to run acrost
him?" I asts her.
"You would feel an Intangible Something," she
says, "drawing you toward him."
I asts her what kind of a something. I make out
from what she says it is some like these fellers that
can find water with a piece of witch hazel switch.
You take a switch of it between your thumbs and
point it up. Then you shut your eyes and walk
backwards. When you get over where the water
is the witch hazel stick twists around and points
to the ground. You dig there and you get a good
well. Nobody knows jest why that stick is drawed
to the ground. It is like one of these little whirlygig
compasses is drawed to the north. It is the
same, Martha says, if you is on a quest fur a
father or a mother, only you have got to be
worthy of that there quest, she says. The
first time you meet the right one you are
drawed jest like the witch hazel. That is the
Intangible Something working on you, she says.
Martha had learnt a lot about that. The book
that had fell in the crick was like that. She lent
it to me.
Well, that all sounded kind of reasonable to me.
I seen that witch hazel work myself. Old Blindy
Wolfe, whose eyes had been dead fur so many
years they had turned plumb white, had that gift,
and picked out all the places fur wells that was dug
in our neighbourhood at home. And I makes up
my mind I will watch out fur that feeling of being
drawed wherever I goes after this. You can't tell
what will come of them kind of things. So purty soon
Martha has to milk the cow, and I goes along back
to camp thinking about that quest and about what
a purty girl she is, which we had set there talking
so long it was nigh sundown and my clothes had
dried onto me.
When I got over to camp I seen they must be
something wrong. Looey was setting in the grass
under the wagon looking kind of sour and kind of
worried and watching the doctor. The doctor
was jest inside the tent, and he was looking queer
too, and not cheerful, which he was usually.
The doctor looks at me like he don't skeercly
know me. Which he don't. He has one of them
quiet kind of drunks on. Which Looey explains
is bound to come every so often. He don't do
nothing mean, but jest gets low-sperrited and
won't talk to no one. Then all of a sudden he will
go down town and walk up and down the main
streets, orderly, but looking hard into people's
faces, mostly women's faces. Oncet, Looey says,
they was big trouble over it. They was in a store
in a good-sized town, and he took hold of a woman's
chin, and tilted her face back, and looked at her
hard, and most scared her to death, and they was
nearly being a riot there. And he was jailed and
had to pay a big fine. Since then Looey always
follers him around when he is that-a-way.
Well, that night Doctor Kirby is too fur gone
fur us to have our show. He jest sets and stares
and stares at the fire, and his eyes looks like they
is another fire inside of his head, and he is hurting
outside and in. Looey and me watches him from
the shadders fur a long time before we turns in,
and the last thing I seen before I went to sleep was
him setting there with his face in his hands, staring,
and his lips moving now and then like he was talking
The next day he is asleep all morning. But that
day he don't drink any more, and Looey says mebby
it ain't going to be one of the reg'lar pifflicated
kind. I seen Martha agin that day, too--twicet
I has talks with her. I told her about the doctor.
"Is he into a quest, do you think?" I asts her.
She says she thinks it is remorse fur some crime
he has done. But I couldn't figger Doctor Kirby
would of done none. So that night after the show
I says to him, innocent-like:
"Doctor Kirby, what is a quest?" He looks at
me kind of queer.
"Wherefore," says he, "this sudden thirst for
"I jest run acrost the word accidental-like," I
He looks at me awful hard, his eyes jest natcherally
digging into me. I felt like he knowed I had set
out to pump him. I wisht I hadn't tried it. Then
he tells me a quest is a hunt. And I'm glad
that's over with. But it ain't. Fur purty soon
"Danny, did you ever hear of Lady Clara Vere
"No," I says, "who is she?"
"A lady friend of Lord Tennyson's," he says,
"whose manners were above reproach."
"Well," I says, "she sounds kind of like a medicine
"Lady Clara," he says, "and all the other Vere
de Veres, were people with manners we should
try to imitate. If Lady Clara had been here last
night when I was talking to myself, Danny, her
manners wouldn't have let her listen to what I
was talking about."
"I didn't listen!" I says. Fur I seen what he
was driving at now with them Vere de Veres. He
thought I had ast him what a quest was because he
was on one. I was certain of that, now. He
wasn't quite sure what he had been talking about,
and he wanted to see how much I had hearn. I
thinks to myself it must be a awful funny kind of
hunt he is on, if he only hunts when he is in that
fix. But I acted real innocent and like my feelings
was hurt, and he believed me. Purty soon he says,
"There was a girl talking to you to-day, Danny."
"Mebby they was," I says, "and mebby they
wasn't." But I felt my face getting red all the
same, and was mad because it did. He grinned
kind of aggervating at me and says some poetry
at me about in the spring a young man's frenzy
likely turns to thoughts of love.
"Well," I says, kind of sheepish-like, "this is
summer-time, and purty nigh autumn." Then I
seen I'd jest as good as owned up I liked Martha,
and was kind of mad at myself fur that. But I
told him some more about her, too. Somehow
I jest couldn't help it. He laughs at me and goes
on into the tent.
I laid there and looked at the fire fur quite a
spell, outside the tent. I was thinking, if all them
tales wasn't jest dern foolishness, how I wisht I
would really find a dad that was a high-muckymuck
and could come back in an automobile and
take her away. I laid there fur a long, long time;
it must of been fur a couple of hours. I supposed
the doctor had went to sleep.
But all of a sudden I looks up, and he is in the
door of the tent staring at me. I seen he had been
in there at it hard agin, and thinking, quiet-like,
all this time. He stood there in the doorway of
the tent, with the firelight onto his face and his
red beard, and his arms stretched out, holding to
the canvas and looking at me strange and wild.
Then he moved his hand up and down at me, and
"If she's fool enough to love you, treat her well--
treat her well. For if you don't, you can never
run away from the hell you'll carry in your own
And he kind of doubled up and pitched forward
when he said that, and if I hadn't ketched him
he would of fell right acrost the fire. He was
Martha wouldn't of took anything fur
being around Miss Hampton, she said.
Miss Hampton was kind of quiet and
sweet and pale looking, and nobody ever thought
of talking loud or raising any fuss when she was
around. She had enough money of her own to
run herself on, and she kep' to herself a good deal.
She had come to that town from no one knowed
where, years ago, and bought that place. Fur all
of her being so gentle and easy and talking with
one of them soft, drawly kind of voices, Martha
says, no one had ever dared to ast her about herself,
though they was a lot of women in that town that
was wishful to.
But Martha said she knowed what Miss Hampton'
s secret was, and she hadn't told no one, neither.
Which she told me, and all the promising I done
about not telling would of made the cold chills
run up your back, it was so solemn. Miss Hampton
had been jilted years ago, Martha said, and the
name of the jilter was David Armstrong. Well,
he must of been a low down sort of man. Martha
said if things was only fixed in this country like they
ought to be, she would of sent a night to find that
David Armstrong. And that would of ended up in a
mortal combat, and the night would have cleaved him.
"Yes," says I, "and then you would of married
that there night, I suppose."
She says she would of.
"Well," says I, "mebby you would of and mebby
you wouldn't of. If he cleaved David Armstrong,
that night would likely be arrested fur it."
Martha says if he was she would wait outside
his dungeon keep fur years and years, till she was
a old woman with gray in her hair, and every day
they would give lingering looks at each other through
the window bars. And they would be happy thata
-way. And she would get her a white dove and
train it so it would fly up to that window and take in
notes to him, and he would send notes back that-away,
and they would both be awful sad and romanceful
and contented doing that-a-way fur ever
Well, I never took no stock in them mournful
ways of being happy. I couldn't of riz up to being
a night fur Martha. She expected too much of one.
I thought it over fur a little spell without saying
anything, and I tried to make myself believe I would
of liked all that dove business. But it wasn't no
use pertending. I knowed I would get tired of it.
"Martha," I says, "mebby these here nights is
all right, and mebby they ain't. I never seen
one, and I don't know. And, mind you, I ain't
saying a word agin their way of acting. I can't
say how I would of been myself, if I had been brung
up like them. But it looks to me, from some of
the things you've said about 'em, they must have
a dern fool streak in 'em somewheres."
I was kind of jealous of them nights, I guess, or
I wouldn't of run 'em down that-a-way behind
their backs. But the way she was always taking
on over them was calkelated to make me see I
wasn't knee-high to a duck in Martha's mind
when one of them nights popped into her head.
When I run 'em down that-a-way, she says to the
blind all things is blind, and if I had any chivalry
into me myself I'd of seen they wasn't jest dern
fools, but noble, and seen it easy. And she sighed,
like she'd looked fur better things from me. When
I hearn her do that I felt sorry I hadn't come up
to her expectances. So I says:
"Martha, it's no use pertending I could stay in
one of them jails and keep happy at it. I got to
be outdoors. But I tell you what I can do, if it
will make you feel any better. If I ever happen to
run acrost this here David Armstrong, and he is
anywheres near my size, I'll lick him fur you.
And if he's too hefty fur me to lick him fair," I
says, "and I get a good chancet I will hit him with
a piece of railroad iron fur you."
Of course, I knowed I would never find him. But
what I said seemed to brighten her up a little.
"But," says I, "if I went too fur with it, and was
hung fur it, how would you feel then, Martha?"
Well, sir, that didn't jar Martha none. She
looked kind of dreamy and said mebby she would
go and jine a convent and be a nun. And when
she got to be the head nun she would build a chapel
over the tomb where I was buried in. And every
year, on the day of the month I was hung on, she
would lead all the other nuns into that chapel, and
the organ would play mournful, and each nun as
passed would lay down a bunch of white roses onto
my tomb. I reckon that orter made me feel good,
but somehow it didn't.
So I changed the subject, and asts her why I ain't
seen Miss Hampton around the place none. Martha
says she has a bad sick headache and ain't been
outside the house fur four or five days. I asts
her why she don't wait on her. But she don't
want her to, Martha says. She's been staying in
the house ever since we been in town, and jest
wants to be let alone. I thinks all that is kind of
funny. And then I seen from the way Martha is
answering my questions that she is holding back
something she would like to tell, but don't think
she orter tell. I leaves her alone and purty soon
"Do you believe in ghosts?"
I tell her sometimes I think I don't believe in 'em,
and sometimes I think I do, but anyhow I would
hate to see one. I asts her why does she ast.
"Because," she says, "because--but I hadn't
ought to tell you."
"It's daylight," I says; "it's no use being scared
to tell now."
"It ain't that," she says, "but it's a secret."
When she said it was a secret, I knowed she would
tell. Martha liked having her friends help her to
keep a secret.
"I think Miss Hampton has seen one," she says,
finally, "and that her staying indoors has something
to do with that."
Then she tells me. The night of the day after
we camped there, her and Miss Hampton was out
fur a walk. We didn't have any show that night.
They passed right by our camp, and they seen us
there by the fire, all three of us. But they was in
the road in the dark, and we was all in the light, so
none of the three of us seen them. Miss Hampton
was kind of scared of us, first glance, fur she gasped
and grabbed holt of Martha's arm all of a sudden
so tight she pinched it. Which it was very natcheral
that she would be startled, coming across three
strange men all of a sudden at night around a turn
in the road. They went along home, and Martha
went inside and lighted a lamp, but Miss Hampton
lingered on the porch fur a minute. Jest as she
lit the lamp Martha hearn another little gasp, or
kind of sigh, from Miss Hampton out there on the
porch. Then they was the sound of her falling
down. Martha ran out with the lamp, and she was
laying there. She had fainted and keeled over.
Martha said jest in the minute she had left her
alone on the porch was when Miss Hampton must
of seen the ghost. Martha brung her to, and she
was looking puzzled and wild-like both to oncet.
Martha asts her what is the matter.
"Nothing," she says, rubbing her fingers over her
forehead in a helpless kind of way, "nothing."
"You look like you had seen a ghost," Martha
Miss Hampton looks at Martha awful funny,
and then she says mebby she HAS seen a ghost, and
goes along upstairs to bed. And since then she
ain't been out of the house. She tells Martha it is
a sick headache, but Martha says she knows it
ain't. She thinks she is scared of something.
"Scared?" I says. "She wouldn't see no more
ghosts in the daytime."
Martha says how do I know she wouldn't? She
knows a lot about ghosts of all kinds, Martha does.
Horses and dogs can see them easier than humans,
even in the daytime, and it makes their hair stand
up when they do. But some humans that have
the gift can see them in the daytime like an animal.
And Martha asts me how can I tell but Miss Hampton
is like that?
"Well, then," I says, "she must be a witch.
And if she is a witch why is she scared of them
But Martha says if you have second sight you
don't need to be a witch to see them in the daytime.
Well, you can never tell about them ghosts.
Some says one thing and some says another. Old
Mis' Primrose, in our town, she always believed in
'em firm till her husband died. When he was dying
they fixed it up he was to come back and visit her.
She told him he had to, and he promised. And she
left the front door open fur him night after night
fur nigh a year, in all kinds of weather; but Primrose
never come. Mis' Primrose says he never
lied to her, and he always done jest as she told
him, and if he could of come she knowed he would;
and when he didn't she quit believing in ghosts.
But they was others in our town said it didn't
prove nothing at all. They said Primrose had
really been lying to her all his life, because she
was so bossy he had to lie to keep peace in the
fambly, and she never ketched on. Well, if I was
a ghost and had of been Mis' Primrose's husband
when I was a human, I wouldn't of come back
neither, even if she had of bully-ragged me into one
of them death-bed promises. I guess Primrose
figgered he had earnt a rest.
If they is ghosts, what comfort they can get out
of coming back where they ain't wanted and scaring
folks is more'n I can see. It's kind of low down,
I think, and foolish too. Them kind of ghosts is
like these here overgrown smart alecs that scares
kids. They think they are mighty cute, but they
ain't. They are jest foolish. A human, or a ghost
either, that does things like that is jest simply
got no principle to him. I hearn a lot of talk
about 'em, first and last, and I ain't ready to say
they ain't no ghosts, nor yet ready to say they
is any. To say they is any is to say something
that is too plumb unlikely. And too many people
has saw them fur me to say they ain't any. But
if they is, or they ain't, so fur as I can see, it don't
make much difference. Fur they never do nothing,
besides scaring you, except to rap on tables and
tell fortunes, and such fool things. Which a human
can do it all better and save the expense of paying
money to one of these here sperrit mediums that
travels around and makes 'em perform. But all
the same they has been nights I has felt different
about 'em myself, and less hasty to run 'em down.
Well, it don't do no good to speak harsh of no one,
not even a ghost or a ordinary dead man, and if I
was to see a ghost, mebby I would be all the scareder
fur what I have jest wrote.
Well, with all the talking back and forth we done
about them ghosts we couldn't agree. That afternoon
it seemed like we couldn't agree about anything.
I knowed we would be going away from
there before long, and I says to myself before I
go I'm going to have that girl fur my girl, or else
know the reason why. No matter what I was
talking about, that idea was in the back of my
head, and somehow it kind of made me want to
pick fusses with her, too. We was setting on a
log, purty deep into the woods, and there come a
time when neither of us had said nothing fur quite
a spell. But after a while I says:
"Martha, we'll be going away from here in two,
three days now."
She never said nothing.
"Will you be sorry?" I asts her.
She says she will be sorry.
"Well," I says, "WHY will you be sorry?"
I thought she would say because _I_ was going.
And then I would be finding out whether she liked
me a lot. But she says the reason she will be sorry
is because there will be no one new to talk to about
things both has read. I was considerable took
down when she said that.
"Martha," I says, "it's more'n likely I won't
never see you agin after I go away."
She says that kind of parting comes between the
best of friends.
I seen I wasn't getting along very fast, nor
saying what I wanted to say. I reckon one of them
Sir Marmeluke fellers would of knowed what to
say. Or Doctor Kirby would. Or mebby even
Looey would of said it better than I could. So I
was kind of mad with myself, and I says, mean-like:
"If you don't care, of course, I don't care, neither."
She never answered that, so I gets up and makes
like I am starting off.
"I was going to give you some of them there Injun
feathers of mine to remember me by," I tells her,
"but if you don't want 'em, there's plenty of others
would be glad to take 'em."
But she says she would like to have them.
"Well," I says, "I will bring them to you tomorrow
She says, "Thank you."
Finally I couldn't stand it no longer. I got
brave all of a sudden, and busted out: "Martha,
But I got to stuttering, and my braveness stuttered
itself away. And I finishes up by saying:
"I like you a hull lot, Martha." Which wasn't
jest exactly what I had planned fur to say.
Martha, she says she kind of likes me, too.
"Martha," I says, "I like you more'n any girl
I ever run acrost before."
She says, "Thank you," agin. The way she
said it riled me up. She said it like she didn't
know what I meant, nor what I was trying to get
out of me. But she did know all the time. I
knowed she did. She knowed I knowed it, too.
Gosh-dern it, I says to myself, here I am wasting
all this time jest TALKING to her. The right thing
to do come to me all of a sudden, and like to took
my breath away. But I done it. I grabbed her
and I kissed her.
Twice. And then agin. Because the first was
on the chin on account of her jerking her head
back. And the second one she didn't help me none.
But the third time she helped me a little. And
the ones after that she helped me considerable.
Well, they ain't no use trying to talk about the
rest of that afternoon. I couldn't rightly describe
it if I wanted to. And I reckon it's none of anybody'
Well, it makes you feel kind of funny. You
want to go out and pick on somebody about four
sizes bigger'n you are and knock the socks off'n
him. It stands to reason others has felt that-a-way,
but you don't believe it. You want to tell people
about it one minute. The next minute you have
got chills and ague fur fear some one will guess it.
And you think the way you are about her is going
to last fur always.
That evening, when I was cooking supper, I
laughed every time I was spoke to. When Looey
and I was hitching up to drive down town to give
the show, one of the hosses stepped on his foot and
I laughed at that, and there was purty nigh a fight.
And I was handling some bottles and broke one
and cut my hand on a piece of glass. I held it
out fur a minute dumb-like, with the blood and
medicine dripping off of it, and all of a sudden I
busted out laughing agin. The doctor asts if I am
crazy. And Looey says he has thought I was from
the very first, and some night him and the doctor
will be killed whilst asleep. One of the things we
have every night in the show is an Injun dance,
and Looey and I sings what the doctor calls the
Siwash war chant, whirling round and round each
other, and making licks at each other with our
tommyhawks, and letting out sudden wild yips
in the midst of that chant. That night I like to
of killed Looey with that tommyhawk, I was feeling
so good. If it had been a real one, instead of painted-up
wood, I would of killed Looey, the lick I give him.
The worst part of that was that, after the show,
when we got back to camp and the hosses was
picketed out fur the night, I had to tell Looey all
about how I felt fur an explanation of why I hit
Which it made Looey right low in his sperrits,
and he shakes his head and says no good will come
"Did you ever hear of Romeo and Joliet?" he
"Mebby," I says, "but what it was I hearn I
can't remember. What about them?"
"Well," he says, "they carried on the same as
you. And now where are they?"
"Well," I says, "where are they?"
"In the tomb," says Looey, very sad, like they
was closte personal friends of his'n. And he told
me all about them and how Young Cobalt had done
fur them. But from what I could make out it all
happened away back in the early days. And
shucks!--I didn't care a dern, anyhow. I told
"Well," he says, "It's been the history of the
world that it brings trouble." And he says to
look at Damon and Pythias, and Othello and the
Merchant of Venus. And he named about a
hundred prominent couples like that out of Shakespeare'
"But it ends happy sometimes," I says.
"Not when it is true love it don't," says Looey.
"Look at Anthony and Cleopatra."
"Yes," I says, sarcastic like, "I suppose they
are in the tomb, too?"
"They are," says Looey, awful solemn.
"Yes," I says, "and so is Adam and Eve and Dan
and Burrsheba and all the rest of them old-timers.
But I bet they had a good time while they lasted."
Looey shakes his head solemn and sighs and
goes to sleep very mournful, like he has to give me
up fur lost. But I can't sleep none myself. So
purty soon I gets up and puts on my shoes and
sneaks through the wood-lot and through the gap
in the fence by the apple tree and into Miss Hampton'
It was a beauty of a moonlight night, that white
and clear and clean you could almost see to read
by it, like all of everything had been scoured as
bright as the bottom of a tin pan. And the
shadders was soft and thick and velvety and laid
kind of brownish-greeney on the grass. I flopped
down in the shadder of some lilac bushes and wondered
which was Martha's window. I knowed she
would be in bed long ago, but-- Well, I was jest
plumb foolish that night, and I couldn't of kept
away fur any money. That moonlight had got
into my head, it seemed like, and made me drunk.
But I would rather be looney that-a-way than to
have as much sense as King Solomon and all his
adverbs. I was that looney that if I had knowed
any poetry I would of said it out loud, right up
toward that window. I never knowed why poetry
was made up before that night. But the only
poetry I could think of was about there was a man
named Furgeson that lived on Market Street, and
he had a one-eyed Thomas cat that couldn't well
be beat. Which it didn't seem to fit the case, so
I didn't say her.
The porch of that house was part covered with
vines, but they was kind of gaped apart at one
corner. As I laid there in the shadder of the bushes
I hearn a fluttering movement, light and gentle,
on that porch. Then, all of a sudden, I seen some
one standing on the edge of the porch where the
vines was gaped apart, and the moonlight was
falling onto them. They must of come there awful
soft and still. Whoever it was couldn't see into
the shadder where I laid, that is, if it was a human
and not a ghost. Fur my first thought was it might
be one of them ghosts I had been running down so
that very day, and mebby the same one Miss Hampton
seen on that very same porch. I thought I
was in fur it then, mebby, and I felt like some one
had whispered to the back of my neck it ought
to be scared. And I WAS scared clean up into my
hair. I stared hard, fur I couldn't take my eyes
away. Then purty soon I seen if it was a ghost it
must be a woman ghost. Fur it was dressed in
light-coloured clothes that moved jest a little in
the breeze, and the clothes was so near the colour
of the moonlight they seemed to kind of silver
into it. You would of said it had jest floated
there, and was waiting fur to float away agin when
the breeze blowed a little stronger, or the moon
It didn't move fur ever so long. Then it leaned
forward through the gap in the vines, and I seen
the face real plain. It wasn't no ghost, it was a
lady. Then I knowed it must be Miss Hampton
standing there. Away off through the trees our
camp fire sent up jest a dull kind of a glow. She
was standing there looking at that. I wondered
The next day we broke camp and was gone
from that place, and I took away with
me the half of a ring me and Martha had
chopped in two. We kept on going, and by the
time punkins and county fairs was getting ripe
we was into the upper left-hand corner of Ohio.
And there Looey left us.
One day Doctor Kirby and me was walking
along the main street of a little town and we seen
a bang-up funeral percession coming. It must
of been one of the Grand Army of the Republicans,
fur they was some of the old soldiers in buggies
riding along behind, and a big string of people
follering in more buggies and some on foot. Everybody
was looking mighty sollum. But they was
one man setting beside the undertaker on the seat
of the hearse that was looking sollumer than them
all. It was Looey, and I'll bet the corpse himself
would of felt proud and happy and contented if
he could of knowed the style Looey was giving
It wasn't nothing Looey done, fur he didn't
do nothing but jest set there with his arms folded
onto his bosom and look sad. But he done THAT
better than any one else. He done it so well that
you forgot the corpse was the chief party to that
funeral. Looey took all the glory from him. He
had jest natcherally stole that funeral away from
its rightful owner with his enjoyment of it. He
seen the doctor and me as the hearse went by our
corner, but he never let on. A couple of hours
later Looey comes into camp and says he is going
The doctor asts him if he has inherited money.
"No," says Looey, "but my aunt has given me
a chancet to go into business."
Looey says he was born nigh there, and was
prowling around town the day before and run
acrost an old aunt of his'n he had forgot all about.
She is awful respectable and religious and ashamed
of him being into a travelling show. And she has
offered to lend him enough to buy a half-share in a
"Well," says the doctor, "I hope it will be something
you are fitted for and will enjoy. But I've
noticed that after a man gets the habit of roaming
around this terrestial ball it's mighty hard to settle
down and watch his vine and fig tree grow."
Looey smiles in a sad sort of a way, which he
seldom smiled fur anything, and says he guesses
he'll like the business. He says they ain't many
businesses he could take to. Most of them makes
you forget this world is but a fleeting show. But
he has found a business which keeps you reminded
all the time that dust is dust and ash to ashes shalt
return. When he first went into the medicine
business, he said, he was drawed to it by the diseases
and the sudden dyings-off it always kept him in
mind of. He thought they wasn't no other business
could lay over it fur that kind of comfort. But
he has found out his mistake.
"What kind of business are you going into?"
asts the doctor.
"I am going to be an undertaker," says Looey.
"My aunt says this town needs the right kind of
an undertaker bad."
Mr. Wilcox, the undertaker that town has, is
getting purty old and shaky, Looey says, and
young Mr. Wilcox, his son, is too light-minded and
goes at things too brisk and airy to give it the
right kind of a send-off. People don't want him
joking around their corpses and he is a fat young
man and can't help making puns even in the presence
of the departed. Old Mr. Wilcox's eyesight is
getting so poor he made a scandal in that town only
the week before. He was composing a departed's
face into a last smile, but he went too fur with it,
and give the departed one of them awful mean,
devilish kind of grins, like he had died with a bad
temper on. By the time the departed's fambly
had found it out, things had went too fur, and the
face had set that-a-way, so it wasn't safe to try
to change it any.
Old Mr. Wilcox had several brands of last looks.
One was called: Bear Up, for We Will Meet Again."
The one that had went wrong was his favourite
look, named: O Death, Where is Thy Victory?"
Looey's aunt says she will buy him a partnership
if she is satisfied he can fill the town's needs. They
have a talk with the Wilcoxes, and he rides on the
hearse that day fur a try-out. His aunt peeks out
behind her bedroom curtains as the percession goes
by her house, and when she sees the style Looey is
giving to that funeral, and how easy it comes to
him, that settles it with her on the spot. And it
seems the hull dern town liked it, too, including
the departed's fambly.
Looey says they is a lot of chancet fur improvements
in the undertaking game by one whose heart
is in his work, and he is going into that business
to make a success of it, and try and get all the funeral
trade fur miles around. He reads us an advertisement
of the new firm he has been figgering out fur
that town's weekly paper. I cut a copy out when
it was printed, and it is about the genteelest thing
like that I even seen, as follers:
WILCOX AND SIMMS
Invite Your Patronage
This earth is but a fleeting show, and the blank-winged angels
wait for all. It is always a satisfaction to remember that
all possible has been done for the deceased.
See Our New Line of Coffins
Lined Caskets a Specialty
Lodge Work Solicited
Time and tide wait for no man, and his days are few and full
of troubles. The paths of glory lead but to the grave, and
none can tell when mortal feet may stumble.
When in Town Drop in and Inspect
Our New Embalming Outfit. It
is a Pleasure to Show Goods
and Tools Even if Your
Family Needs no Work
Done Just Yet
Outfits for mourners who have been bereaved on short notice a
specialty. We take orders for tombstones. Look at our
line of shrouds, robes, and black suits for either sex and
any age. Give us just one call, and you will entrust future
embalmings and obsequies in your family to no other firm.
WILCOX AND SIMMS
Main Street, Near Depot
The doctor, he reads it over careful and says she
orter drum up trade, all right. Looey tells us that
mebby, if he can get that town educated up to it,
he will put in a creamatory, where he will burn
them, too, but will go slow, fur that there sollum
and beautiful way of returning ash to ashes might
make some prejudice in such a religious town.
The last we seen of Looey was a couple of days
later when we told him good-bye in his shop. Old
Mr. Wilcox was explaining to him the science of
them last looks he was so famous at when he was
a younger man. Young Mr. Wilcox was laying on
a table fur Looey to practise on, and Looey was
learning fast. But he nearly broke down when
he said good-bye, fur he liked the doctor.
"Doc," he says, "you've been a good friend,
and I won't never forget you. They ain't much I
can do, and in this deceitful world words is less than
actions. But if you ever was to die within a hundred
miles of me, I'd go," he says, "and no other
hands but mine should lay you out. And it wouldn't
cost you a cent, either. Nor you neither, Danny."
We thanked him kindly fur the offer, and
The next town we come to there was a county
fair, and the doctor run acrost an old pal of his'n
who had a show on the grounds and wanted to hire
him fur what he called a ballyhoo man. Which
was the first I ever hearn them called that, but I
got better acquainted with them since. They are
the fellers that stands out in front and gets you
all excited about the Siamese twins or the bearded
lady or the snake-charmer or the Circassian beauties
or whatever it is inside the tent, as represented
upon the canvas. The doctor says he will do it
fur a week, jest fur fun, and mebby pick up another
feller to take Looey's place out there.
This feller's name is Watty Sanders, and his
wife is a fat lady in his own show and very goodnatured
when not intoxicated nor mad at Watty.
She was billed on the curtains outside fur five hundred
and fifty pounds, and Watty says she really
does weigh nigh on to four hundred. But being
a fat lady's husband ain't no bed of rosy
ease at that, Watty tells the doctor. It's like
every other trade--it has its own pertic'ler
responsibilities and troubles. She is a turrible
expense to Watty on account of eating so much.
The tales that feller told of how hard he has to
hustle showing her off in order to support her
appetite would of drawed tears from a pawnbroker'
s sign, as Doctor Kirby says. Which he
found it cheaper fur his hull show to board and
sleep in the tent, and we done likewise.
Well, I got a job with that show myself. Watty
had a wild man canvas but no wild man, so he
made me an offer and I took him up. I was from
Borneo, where they're all supposed to be captured.
Jest as Doctor Kirby would get to his talk about
how the wild man had been ketched after great
struggle and expense, with four men killed and
another crippled, there would be an awful rumpus on
the inside of the tent, with wild howlings and the
sound of revolvers shot off and a woman screaming.
Then I would come busting out all blacked up from
head to heel with no more clothes on than the law
pervided fur, yipping loud and shaking a big spear
and rolling my eyes, and Watty would come rushing
after me firing his revolver. I would make fur
the doctor and draw my spear back to jab it clean
through him, and Watty would grab my arm.
And the doctor would whirl round and they would
wrastle me to the ground and I would be handcuffed
and dragged back into the tent, still howling
and struggling to break loose. On the inside my
part of the show was to be wild in a cage. I would
be chained to the floor, and every now and then
I would get wilder and rattle my chains and
shake the bars and make jumps at the crowd
and carry on, and make believe I was too mad
to eat the pieces of raw meat Watty throwed into
Watty had a snake-charmer woman, with an
awful long, bony kind of neck, working fur him,
and another feller that was her husband and eat
glass. The show opened up with them two doing
what they said was a comic turn. Then the fat
lady come on. Whilst everybody was admiring
her size, and looking at the number of pounds on
them big cheat scales Watty weighed her on, the
long-necked one would be changing to her snake
clothes. Which she only had one snake, and he
had been in the business so long, and was so kind
of worn out and tired with being charmed so much,
it always seemed like a pity to me the way she
would take and twist him around. I guess they
never was a snake was worked harder fur the little
bit he got to eat, nor got no sicker of a woman's
society than poor old Reginald did. After Reginald
had been charmed a while, it would be the
glass eater's turn. Which he really eat it, and the
doctor says that kind always dies before they is
fifty. I never knowed his right name, but what
he went by was The Human Ostrich.
Watty's wife was awful jealous of Mrs. Ostrich,
fur she got the idea she was carrying on with Watty.
One night I hearn an argument from the fencedoff
part of the tent Watty and his wife slept in.
She was setting on Watty's chest and he was gasping
"You know it ain't true," says Watty, kind of
"It is," says she, "you own up it is!" And she
give him a jounce.
"No, darling," he gets out of him, "you know I
never could bear them thin, scrawny kind of women."
And he begins to call her pet names of all kinds and
beg her please, if she won't get off complete, to set
somewheres else a minute, fur his chest he can
feel giving way, and his ribs caving in. He called
her his plump little woman three or four times and
she must of softened up some, fur she moved and
his voice come stronger, but not less meek and
lowly. And he follers it up:
"Dolly, darling," he says, "I bet I know something
my little woman don't know."
"What is it?" the fat lady asts him.
"You don't know what a cruel, weak stomach
your hubby has got," Watty says, awful coaxing
like, "or you wouldn't bear down quite so hard
onto it--please, Dolly!"
She begins to blubber and say he is making fun
of her big size, and if he is mean to her any more
or ever looks at another woman agin she will take
anti-fat and fade away to nothing and ruin his show,
and it is awful hard to be made a joke of all her life
and not have no steady home nor nothing like
other women does.
"You know I worship every pound of you,"
little woman," says Watty, still coaxing. "Why
can't you trust me? You know, Dolly, darling,
I wouldn't take your weight in gold for you."
And he tells her they never was but once in all his
life he has so much as turned his head to look at
another woman, and that was by way of a plutonic
admiration, and no flirting intended, he says.
And even then it was before he had met his own
little woman. And that other woman, he says,
was plump too, fur he wouldn't never look at none
but a plump woman.
"What did she weigh?" asts Watty's wife. He
tells her a measly little three hundred pound.
"But she wasn't refined like my little woman,"
says Watty, "and when I seen that I passed her
up." And inch by inch Watty coaxed her clean
off of him.
But the next day she hearn him and Mrs. Ostrich
giggling about something, and she has a reg'lar
tantrum, and jest fur meanness goes out and falls
down on the race track, pertending she has fainted,
and they can't move her no ways, not even roll
her. But finally they rousted her out of that by
one of these here sprinkling carts backing up agin
her and turning loose.
But aside from them occasional mean streaks
Dolly was real nice, and I kind of got to liking her.
She tells me that because she is so fat no one won't
take her serious like a human being, and she wisht
she was like other women and had a fambly. That
woman wanted a baby, too, and I bet she would
of been good to it, fur she was awful good to animals.
She had been big from a little girl, and never got
no sympathy when sick, nor nothing, and even
whilst she played with dolls as a kid she knowed
she looked ridiculous, and was laughed at. And
by jings!--they was the funniest thing come to
light before we left that crowd. That poor, derned,
old, fat fool HAD a doll yet, all hid away, and when
she was alone she used to take it out and cuddle it.
Well, Dolly never had many friends, and you
couldn't blame her much if she did drink a little
too much now and then, or get mad at Watty fur
his goings-on and kneel down on him whilst he was
asleep. Them was her only faults and I liked the
old girl. Yet I could see Watty had his troubles
That show busted up before the fair closed. Fur
one day Watty's wife gets mad at Mrs. Ostrich
and tries to set on her. And then Mrs. Ostrich
gets mad too, and sicks Reginald onto her. Watty's
wife is awful scared of Reginald, who don't really
have ambition enough to bite no one, let alone a lady
built so round everywhere he couldn't of got a
grip on her. And as fur as wrapping himself
around her and squashing her to death, Reginald
never seen the day he could reach that fur. Reginald'
s feelings is plumb friendly toward Dolly
when he is turned loose, but she don't know that,
and she has some hysterics and faints in earnest
this time. Well, they was an awful hullaballo
when she come to, and fur the sake of peace in the
fambly Watty has to fire Mr. and Mrs. Ostrich
and poor old Reginald out of their jobs, and the
show is busted. So Doctor Kirby and me lit out
fur other parts agin.
We was jogging along one afternoon not fur
from a good-sized town at the top of Ohio,
right on the lake, when we run acrost
some remainders of a busted circus riding in a stake
and chain wagon. They was two fellers--both
jugglers, acrobats, and tumblers--and a balloon.
The circus had busted without paying them nothing
but promises fur months and months, and they had
took the team and wagon and balloon by attachment,
they said. They was carting her from the
little burg the show busted in to that good-sized
town on the lake. They would sell the team and
wagon there and get money enough to put an
advertisement in the Billboard, which is like a Bible
to them showmen, that they had a balloon to sell
and was at liberty.
One of them was the slimmest, lightest-footed,
quickest feller you ever seen, with a big nose and
dark complected, and his name was Tobias. The
other was heavier and blonde complected. His
name was Dobbs, he said, and they was the Blanchet
Brothers. Doctor Kirby and them got real well
acquainted in about three minutes. We drove
on ahead and got into the town first.
The doctor says that balloon is jest wasted on them
fellers. They can't go up in her, not knowing that
trade, but still they ought to be some way fur them
to make a little stake out of it before it was sold.
The next evening we run acrost them fellers on the
street, and they was feeling purty blue. They
hadn't been able to sell that team and wagon,
which it was eating its meals reg'lar in a livery
stable, and they had been doing stunts in the street
that day and passing around the hat, but not
getting enough fur to pay expenses.
"Where's the balloon?" asts the doctor. And
I seen he was sicking his intellects onto the job of
making her pay.
"In the livery stable with the wagon," they tells
He says he is going to figger out a way to help
them boys. They is like all circus performers, he
says--they jest knows their own acts, and talks
about 'em all the time, and studies up ways to make
'em better, and has got no more idea of business
outside of that than a rabbit. We all went to the
livery stable and overhauled that balloon. It
was an awful job, too. But they wasn't a rip in
her, and the parachute was jest as good as new.
"There's no reason why we can't give a show of
our own," says Doctor Kirby, "with you boys and
Danny and me and that balloon. What we want is a
lot with a high board fence around it, like a baseball
grounds, and the chance to tap a gas main." He
says he'll be willing to take a chancet on it, even
paying the gas company real money to fill her up.
What the Doctor didn't know about starting
shows wasn't worth knowing. He had even went in
for the real drama in his younger days now and then.
"One of my theatrical productions came very near
succeeding, too," he says.
It was a play he says, in which the hero falls in
love with a pair of Siamese twins and commits suicide
because he can't make a choice between them.
"We played it as comedy in the big towns and
tragedy in the little ones," he says. "But like a fool
I booked it for two weeks of middle-sized towns and
it broke us."
The next day he finds a lot that will do jest fine.
It has been used fur a school playgrounds, but the
school has been moved and the old building is to
be tore down. He hired the place cheap. And
he goes and talks the gas company into giving him
credit to fill that balloon. Which I kept wondering
what was the use of filling her, fur none of the four
of us had ever went up in one. And when I seen
the handbills he had had printed I wondered all
the more. They read as follers:
Kirby's Komedy Kompany
and Open Air Circus
Presenting a Peerless Personnel
of Artistic Attractions
Greatest in the Galaxy of Gaiety, is
Hartley L. Kirby
Monologuist and minstrel, dancer and vaudevillian
in his terpsichorean travesties, buoyant burlesques,
inimitable imitations, screaming impersonations, refined
comedy sketches and popular song hits of the day.
The Blanchet Brothers
Daring, Dazzling, Danger-Loving, Death-Defying Demons
Joyous jugglers, acrobatic artists, constrictorial contortionists,
exquisite equilibrists, in their marvellous, mysterious,
The Patagonian Chieftain
The lowest type of human intellect
This formerly ferocious fiend has so far succumbed
to the softer wiles of civilization that he is no longer
a cannibal, and it is now safe to put him on exhibition.
But to prevent accidents he is heavily manacled, and the public
is warned not to come too near.
Balloon! Balloon!! Balloon!!!
The management also presents the balloon of
Prof. Alonzo Ackerman
The Famous Aeronaut
in which he has made his
Wonderful Ascension and Parachute Drop
many times, reaching remarkable altitudes
Balloon! Balloon!! Balloon!!!
Saturday, 3 P. M.
Old Vandegrift School Lot
Admission 50 Cents
Well, fur a writer he certainly laid over Looey,
Doctor Kirby did--more cheerful-like, you might
say. I seen right off I was to be the Patagonian
Chieftain. I was getting more and more of an
actor right along--first an Injun, then a wild
Borneo, and now a Patagonian.
"But who is this Alonzo Ackerman?" I asts him.
"Celebrated balloonist," says he, "and the man
that invented parachutes. They eat out of his hand."
"Where is he?" asts I.
"How should I know?" he says.
"How is he going up, then?" I asts.
The doctor chuckles and says it is a good bill,
a better bill than he thought; that it is getting in
its work already. He says to me to read it careful
and see if it says Alonzo Ackerman is going up.
Well, it don't. But any one would of thought so
the first look. I reckon that bill was some of a
liar herself, not lying outright, but jest hinting a
lie. They is a lot of mean, stingy-souled kind of
people wouldn't never lie to help a friend, but
Doctor Kirby wasn't one of 'em.
"But," I says, "when that crowd finds out
Alonzo ain't going up they will be purty mad."
"Oh," says he, "I don't think so. The American
public are a good-natured set of chuckle-heads,
mostly. If they get sore I'll talk 'em out of it."
If he had any faults at all--and mind you, I
ain't saying Doctor Kirby had any--the one he
had hardest was the belief he could talk any crowd
into any notion, or out of it, either. And he loved
to do it jest fur the fun of it. He'd rather have
the feeling he was doing that than the money any
day. He was powerful vain about that gab of
his'n, Doctor Kirby was.
The four of us took around about five thousand
bills. The doctor says they is nothing like giving
yourself a chancet. And Saturday morning we
got the balloon filled up so she showed handsome,
tugging away there at her ropes. But we had a
dern mean time with that balloon, too.
The doctor says if we have good luck there may
be as many as three, four hundred people.
But Jerusalem! They was two, three times that
many. By the time the show started I reckon they
was nigh a thousand there. The doctor and the
Blanchet Brothers was tickled. When they quit
coming fast the doctor left the gate and made a
little speech, telling all about the wonderful show,
and the great expense it was to get it together, and
They was a rope stretched between the crowd
and us. Back of that was the Blanchet Brothers'
wagon and our wagon, and our little tent. I was
jest inside the tent with chains on. Back of everything
else was the balloon.
Well, the doctor he done a lot of songs and things
as advertised. Then the Blanchet Brothers done
some of their acts. They was really fine acts, too.
Then come some more of Doctor Kirby's refined
comedy, as advertised. Next, more Blanchet.
Then a lecture about me by the doctor. All in all
it takes up about an hour and a half. Then the
doctor makes a mighty nice little talk, and wishes
them all good afternoon, thanking them fur their
kind intentions and liberal patronage, one and all.
"But when will the balloon go up?" asts half
a dozen at oncet.
"The balloon?" asts Doctor Kirby, surprised.
"Balloon! Balloon!" yells a kid. And the hull
crowd took it up and yelled: "Balloon! Balloon!
Balloon!" And they crowded up closte to that
Doctor Kirby has been getting off the wagon,
but he gets back on her, and stretches his arms
wide, and motions of 'em all to come close.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he says, "please to
gather near--up here, good people--and listen!
Listen to what I have to say--harken to the utterings
of my voice! There has been a misunderstanding
here! There has been a misconstruction!
There has been, ladies and gentlemen, a woeful
lack of comprehension here!"
It looked to me like they was beginning to understand
more than he meant them to. I was wondering
how it would all come out, but he never lost
"Listen," he says, very earnest, "listen to me.
Somehow the idea seems to have gone forth that
there would be a balloon ascension here this afternoon.
How, I do not know, for what we advertised,
ladies and gentlemen, was that the balloon used by
Prof. Alonzo Ackerman, the illustrious aeronaut,
would be UPON EXHIBITION. And there she is, ladies
and gentlemen, there she is, for every eye to see
and gladden with the sight of--right before you,
ladies and gentlemen--the balloon of Alonzo
Ackerman, the wonderful voyager of the air,
exactly as represented. During their long career
Kirby and Company have never deceived the public.
Others may, but Kirby and Company are
like Caesar's wife--Kirby and Company are above
suspicion. It is the province of Kirby's Komedy
Kompany, ladies and gentlemen, to spread the
glad tidings of innocent amusement throughout
the length and breadth of this fair land of ours.
And there she is before you, the balloon as advertised,
the gallant ship of the air in which the illustrious
Ackerman made so many voyages before
he sailed at last into the Great Beyond! You can
see her, ladies and gentlemen, straining at her cords,
anxious to mount into the heavens and be gone!
It is an education in itself, ladies and gentlemen,
a moral education, and well worth coming miles
to see. Think of it--think of it--the Ackerman
balloon--and then think that the illustrious
Ackerman himself--he was my personal friend,
ladies and gentlemen, and a true friend sticketh
closer than a brother--the illustrious Ackerman
is dead. The balloon, ladies and gentlemen, is
there, but Ackerman is gone to his reward. Look
at that balloon, ladies and gentlemen, and tell me
if you can, why should the spirit of mortals be
proud? For the man that rode her like a master
and tamed her like she was a dove lies cold and
dead in a western graveyard, ladies and gentlemen,
and she is here, a useless and an idle vanity without
the mind that made her go!"
Well, he went on and he told a funny story about
Alonzo, which I don't believe they ever was no
Alonzo Ackerman, and a lot of 'em laughed; and
he told a pitiful story, and they got sollum agin,
and then another funny story. Well, he had 'em
listening, and purty soon most of the crowd is
feeling in a good humour toward him, and one
feller yells out:
"Go it--you're a hull show yourself!" And
some joshes him, but they don't seem to be no trouble
in the air. When they all look to be in a good
humour he holds up a bill and asts how many has
them. Many has. He says that is well, and then
he starts to telling another story. But in the
middle of the story that hull dern crowd is took
with a fit of laughing. They has looked at the
bill closet, and seen they is sold, and is taking it
good-natured. And still shouting and laughing
most of them begins to start along off. And I
thought all chancet of trouble was over with.
But it wasn't.
Fur they is always a natcheral born kicker
everywhere, and they was one here, too.
He was a lean feller with a sticking out jaw, and
one of his eyes was in a kind of a black pocket, and
he was jest natcherally laying it off to about a
dozen fellers that was in a little knot around him.
The doctor sees the main part of the crowd
going and climbs down off'n the wagon. As he
does so that hull bunch of about a dozen moves
in under the rope, and some more that was going
out seen it, and stopped and come back.
"Perfessor," says the man with the patch over
his eye to Doctor Kirby, "you say this man Ackerman
"Yes," says the doctor, eying him over, "he's
"How did he die?" asts the feller.
"He died hard, I understand," says the doctor,
"Fell out of his balloon?"
"This aeronaut trade is a dangerous trade,
I hear," says the feller with the patch on his
"They say so," says Doctor Kirby, easy-like.
"Was you ever an aeronaut yourself?" asts the
"No," says the doctor.
"Never been up in a balloon?"
"Well, you're going up in one this afternoon!"
"What do you mean?" asts Doctor Kirby.
"We've come out to see a balloon ascension--
and we're going to see it, too."
And with that the hull crowd made a rush at
Well, I been in fights before that, and I been in
fights since then. But I never been in no harder
one. The doctor and the two Blanchet brothers
and me managed to get backed up agin the fence
in a row when the rush come. I guess I done my
share, and I guess the Blanchet brothers done theirn,
too. But they was too many of 'em for us--too
dern many. It wouldn't of ended as quick as it
did if Doctor Kirby hadn't gone clean crazy.
His back was to the fence, and he cleaned out
everything in front of him, and then he give a wild
roar jest like a bull and rushed that hull gang--
twenty men, they was--with his head down.
He caught two fellers, one in each hand, and he
cracked their heads together, and he caught two
more, and done the same. But he orter never
took his back away from that fence. The hull
gang closed in on him, and down he went at the
bottom of a pile. I was awful busy myself, but
I seen that pile moving and churning. Then I
made a big mistake myself. I kicked a feller in
the stomach, and another feller caught my leg,
and down I went. Fur a half a minute I never
knowed nothing. And when I come to I was all
mashed about the face, and two fellers was sitting
The crowd was tying Doctor Kirby to that
parachute. They straddled legs over the parachute
bar, and tied his feet below it. He was still fighting,
but they was too many fur him. They left
his arms untied, but they held 'em, and then--
Then they cut her loose. She went up like she
was shot from a gun, and as she did Doctor Kirby
took a grip on a feller's arm that hadn't let loose
quick enough and lifted him plumb off'n the ground.
He slewed around on the trapeze bar with the
feller's weight, and slipped head downward. And
as he slipped he give that feller a swing and let
loose of him, and then ketched himself by the
crook of one knee. The feller turned over twicet
in the air and landed in a little crumpled-up pile
on the ground, and never made a sound.
The fellers that had holt of me forgot me and
stood up, and I stood up too, and looked. The
balloon was rising fast. Doctor Kirby was trying
to pull himself up to the trapeze bar, twisting and
squirming and having a hard time of it, and shooting
higher every second. I reckoned he couldn't
fall complete, fur where his feet was tied would
likely hold even if his knee come straight--but
he would die mebby with his head filling up with
blood. But finally he made a squirm and raised
himself a lot and grabbed the rope at one side of
the bar. And then he reached and got the rope
on the other side, and set straddle of her. And
jest as he done that the wind ketched the balloon
good and hard, and she turned out toward Lake
Erie. It was too late fur him to pull the rope
that sets the parachute loose then, and drop onto
I rushed out of that schoolhouse yard and down
the street toward the lake front, and run, stumbling
along and looking up. She was getting smaller
every minute. And with my head in the air looking
up I was running plumb to the edge of the
water before I knowed it.
She was away out over the lake now, and awful
high, and going fast before the wind, and the doctor
was only a speck. And as I stared at that speck
away up in the sky I thought this was a mean world
to live in. Fur there was the only real friend I
ever had, and no way fur me to help him. He had
learnt me to read, and bought me good clothes,
and made me know they was things in the world
worth travelling around to see, and made me feel
like I was something more than jest Old Hank
Walters's dog. And I guessed he would be drownded
and I would never see him agin now. And all of
a sudden something busted loose inside of me,
and I sunk down there at the edge of the water,
sick at my stomach, and weak and shivering.
I didn't exactly faint there, but things got
all mixed fur me, and when they was
straightened out agin I was in a hospital.
It seems I had been considerable stepped on in
that fight, and three ribs was broke. I knowed
I was hurting, but I was so interested in what was
happening to the doctor the hull hurt never come
to me till the balloon was way out over the lake.
But now I was in a plaster cast, and before I
got out of that I was in a fever. I was some weeks
getting out of there.
I tried to get some word of Doctor Kirby, but
couldn't. Nothing had been heard of him or the
balloon. The newspapers had had stuff about it
fur a day or two, and they guessed the body might
come to light sometime. But that was all. And
I didn't know where to hunt nor how.
The hosses and wagon and tent and things worried
me some, too. They wasn't mine, and so I couldn't
sell 'em. And they wasn't no good to me without
Doctor Kirby. So I tells the man that owns the
livery stable to use the team fur its board and keep
it till Doctor Kirby calls fur it, and if he never does
mebby I will sometime.
I didn't want to stay in that town or I could of
got a job in the livery stable. They offered me
one, but I hated that town. I wanted to light out.
I didn't much care where to.
Them Blanchet Brothers had left a good share of
the money we took in at the balloon ascension with
the hospital people fur me before they cleared out.
But before I left that there town I seen they was
one thing I had to do to make myself easy in my
mind. So I done her.
That was to hunt up that feller with his eye in
the patch. It took me a week to find him. He
lived down near some railroad yards. I might of
soaked him with a coupling link and felt a hull lot
better. But I didn't guess it would do to pet and
pamper my feelings too much. So I does it with
my fists in a quiet place, and does it very complete,
and leaves that town in a cattle car, feeling a hull
lot more contented in my mind.
Then they was a hull dern year I didn't stay
nowhere very long, nor work at any one job too
long, neither. I jest worked from place to place
seeing things--big towns and rivers and mountains.
Working here and there, and loafing and
riding blind baggages and freight trains between
jobs, I covered a lot of ground that year, and made
some purty big jumps, and got acquainted with
some awful queer folks, first and last.
But the worst of that is lots of people gets to
thinking I am a hobo. Even one or two judges
in police courts I got acquainted with had that
there idea of me. I always explains that I am not
one, and am jest travelling around to see things,
and working when I feels like it, and ain't no bum.
But frequent I am not believed. And two, three
different times I gets to the place where I couldn't
hardly of told myself from a hobo, if I hadn't of
knowed I wasn't one.
I got right well acquainted with some of them
hobos, too. As fur as I can see, they is as much
difference in them as in other humans. Some
travels because they likes to see things, and some
because they hates to work, and some because
they is in the habit and can't stop it. Well, I
know myself it's purty hard after while to stop it,
fur where would you stop at? What excuse is
they to stop one place more'n another? I met all
kinds of 'em, and oncet I got in fur a week with a
couple of real Johnny Yeggs that is both in the
pen now. I hearn a feller say one time there is
some good in every man. I went the same way as
them two yeggmen a hull dern week to try and
find out where the good in 'em was. I guess they
must be some mistake somewheres, fur I looked
hard and I watched closet and I never found it.
They is many kinds of hobos and tramps, perfessional
and amachure, and lots of kinds of bums,
and lots of young fellers working their way around
to see things, like I was, and lots of working men in
hard luck going from place to place, and all them
kinds is humans. But the real yeggman ain't
even a dog.
And oncet I went all the way from Chicago to
Baltimore with a serious, dern fool that said he was
a soshyologest, whatever them is, and was going
to put her all into a book about the criminal classes.
He worked hard trying to get at the reason I was
a hobo. Which they wasn't no reason, fur I wasn't
no hobo. But I didn't want to disappoint that
feller and spoil his book fur him. So I tells him
things. Things not overly truthful, but very
full of crime. About a year afterward I was into
one of these here Andrew Carnegie lib'aries with
the names of the old-time presidents all chiselled
along the top and I seen the hull dern thing in print.
He said of me the same thing I have said about
them yeggmen. If all he met joshed that feller
the same as me, that book must of been what you
might call misleading in spots.
One morning I woke up in a good-sized town in
Illinoise, not a hundred miles from where I was
raised, without no money, and my clothes not much
to look at, and no job. I had been with a railroad
show fur about two weeks, driving stakes and other
rough work, and it had went off and left me sleeping
on the ground. circuses never waits fur nothing
nor cares a dern fur no one. I tried all day
around town fur to get some kind of a job.
But I was looking purty rough and I couldn't
land nothing. Along in the afternoon I was awful
I was feeling purty low down to have to ast fur
a meal, but finally I done it.
I dunno how I ever come to pick out such a swelllooking
house, but I makes a little talk at the back
door and the Irish girl she says, "Come in," and
into the kitchen I goes.
"It's Minnesota you're working toward?" asts
she, pouring me out a cup of coffee.
She is thinking of the wheat harvest where they
is thousands makes fur every fall. But none of
'em fur me. That there country is full of them
Scandiluvian Swedes and Norwegians, and they
gets into the field before daylight and stays there
so long the hired man's got to milk the cows by
"I been acrost the river into I'way," I says,
"a-working at my trade, and now I'm going back
to Chicago to work at it some more."
"What might your trade be?" she asts, sizing
me up careful; and I thinks I'll hand her one to
chew on she ain't never hearn tell of before.
"I'm a agnostic by trade," I says. I spotted
that there word in a religious book one time, and
that's the first chancet I ever has to try it on any one.
You can't never tell what them reg'lar sockdologers
is going to do till you tries them.
"I see," says she. But I seen she didn't see.
And I didn't help her none. She would of ruther
died than to let on she didn't see. The Irish is
like that. Purty soon she says:
"Ain't that the dangerous kind o' work, though!"
"It is," I says. And says nothing further.
She sets down and folds her arms, like she was
thinking of it, watching my hands closet all the
time I was eating, like she's looking fur scars where
something slipped when I done that agnostic work.
Purty soon she says:
"Me brother Michael was kilt at it in the old
country. He was the most vinturesome lad of
"Did it fly up and hit him?" I asts her. I
was wondering w'ether she is making fun of me or
am I making fun of her. Them Irish is like that,
you can never tell which.
"No," says she, "he fell off of it. And I'm thinking
you don't know what it is yourself." And the
next thing I know I'm eased out o' the back door
and she's grinning at me scornful through the
crack of it.
So I was walking slow around toward the front
of the house thinking how the Irish was a great
nation, and what shall I do now, anyhow? And
I says to myself: "Danny, you was a fool to let
that circus walk off and leave you asleep in this
here town with nothing over you but a barbed wire
fence this morning. Fur what ARE you going to do
next? First thing you know, you WILL be a reg'lar
tramp, which some folks can't be made to see you
ain't now." And jest when I was thinking that, a
feller comes down the front steps of that house on
the jump and nabs me by the coat collar.
"Did you come out of this house?" he
"I did," I says, wondering what next.
"Back in you go, then," he says, marching me
forward toward them front steps, "they've got
smallpox in there."
I like to of jumped loose when he says that.
"Smallpox ain't no inducement to me, mister,"
I tells him. But he twisted my coat collar tight
and dug his thumbs into my neck, all the time
helping me onward with his knee from behind,
and I seen they wasn't no use pulling back. I
could probable of licked that man, but they's
no system in mixing up with them well-dressed men
in towns where they think you are a tramp. The
judge will give you the worst of it.
He rung the door bell and the girl that opened
the door she looked kind o' surprised when she
seen me, and in we went.
"Tell Professor Booth that Doctor Wilkins
wants to see him again," says the man a-holt o'
me, not letting loose none. And we says nothing
further till the perfessor comes, which he does,
slow and absent-minded. When he seen me he
took off his glasses so's he could see me better, and
"What is that you have there, Doctor
"A guest for you," says Doctor Wilkins, grinning
all over hisself. "I found him leaving your house.
And you being under quarantine, and me being
secretary to the board of health, and the city
pest-house being crowded too full already, I'll
have to ask you to keep him here till we get Miss
Margery onto her feet again," he says. Or they
was words to that effect, as the lawyers asts you.
"Dear me," says Perfesser Booth, kind o' helpless
like. And he comes over closet to me and looks
me all over like I was one of them amphimissourian
lizards in a free museum. And then he goes to
the foot of the stairs and sings out in a voice that
was so bleached-out and flat-chested it would of
looked jest like him himself if you could of saw it--
"Estelle," he sings out, "oh, Estelle!"
Estelle, she come down stairs looking like she was
the perfessor's big brother. I found out later she
was his old maid sister. She wasn't no spring
chicken, Estelle wasn't, and they was a continuous
grin on her face. I figgered it must of froze there
years and years ago. They was a kid about ten
or eleven years old come along down with her,
that had hair down to its shoulders and didn't
look like it knowed whether it was a girl or a boy.
Miss Estelle, she looks me over in a way that makes
me shiver, while the doctor and the perfessor jaws
about whose fault it is the smallpox sign ain't been
hung out. And when she was done listening she
says to the perfessor: "You had better go back
to your laboratory." And the perfessor he went
along out, and the doctor with him.
"What are you going to do with him, Aunt
Estelle?" the kid asts her.
"What would YOU suggest, William, Dear?" asts
his aunt. I ain't feeling very comfortable, and I
was getting all ready jest to natcherally bolt out
the front door now the doctor was gone. Then I
thinks it mightn't be no bad place to stay in fur a
couple o' days, even risking the smallpox. Fur
I had riccolected I couldn't ketch it nohow, having
been vaccinated a few months before in Terry
Hutt by compulsive medical advice, me being fur
a while doing some work on the city pavements
through a mistake about me in the police court.
William Dear looks at me like it was the day of
judgment and his job was to keep the fatted calves
separate from the goats and prodigals, and he says:
"If I were you, Aunt Estelle, the first thing would
be to get his hair cut and his face washed and then
get him some clothes."
"William Dear is my friend," thinks I.
She calls James, which was a butler. James,
he buttles me into a bathroom the like o' which
I never seen afore, and then he buttles me into a
suit o' somebody's clothes and into a room at the
top o' the house next to his'n, and then he comes
back and buttles a comb and brush at me. James
was the most mournful-looking fat man I ever
seen, and he says that account of me not being
respectable I will have my meals alone in the kitchen
after the servants has eat.
The first thing I knowed I been in that house
more'n a week. I eat and I slept and I smoked
and I kind of enjoyed not worrying about things
fur a while. The only oncomfortable thing about
being the perfessor's guest was Miss Estelle. Soon's
she found out I was a agnostic she took charge o'
my intellectuals and what went into 'em, and she
makes me read things and asts me about 'em, and
she says she is going fur to reform me. And whatever
brand o' disgrace them there agnostics really
is I ain't found out to this day, having come acrost
the word accidental.
Biddy Malone, which was the kitchen mechanic,
she says the perfessor's wife's been over to her
mother's while this smallpox has been going on,
and they is a nurse in the house looking after Miss
Margery, the little kid that's sick. And Biddy,
she says if she was Mrs. Booth she'd stay there,
too. They's been some talk, anyhow, about Mrs.
Booth and a musician feller around that there
town. But Biddy, she likes Mrs. Booth, and even
if it was true, which it ain't Biddy says, who could
of blamed her? Fur things ain't joyous around
that house the last year, since Miss Estelle's come
there to live. The perfessor, he's so full of scientifics
he don't know nothing with no sense to it,
Biddy says. He's got more money'n you can shake
a stick at, and he don't have to do no work, nor
never has, and his scientifics gets worse and worse
every year. But while scientifics is worrying to
the nerves of a fambly, and while his labertory
often makes the house smell like a sick drug store
has crawled into it and died there, they wouldn't
of been no serious row on between the perfessor
and his wife, not ALL the time, if it hadn't of been
fur Miss Estelle. She has jest natcherally made
herself boss of that there house, Biddy says, and
she's a she-devil. Between all them scientifics
and Miss Estelle things has got where Mrs. Booth
can't stand 'em much longer.
I didn't blame her none fur getting sore on her
job, neither. You can't expect a woman that's
purty, and knows it, and ain't no more'n thirty-two
or three, and don't look it, to be serious intrusted
in mummies and pickled snakes and chemical
perfusions, not ALL the time. Mebby when Mrs.
Booth would ast him if he was going to take her
to the opery that night the perfessor would look
up in an absent-minded sort of way and ast her
did she know them Germans had invented a new
germ? It wouldn't of been so bad if the perfessor
had picked out jest one brand of scientifics and
stuck to that reg'lar. Mrs. Booth could of got
use to any ONE kind. But mebby this week the
perfessor would be took hard with ornithography
and he'd go chasing humming-birds all over the
front yard, and the next he'd be putting gastronomy
into William's breakfast feed.
They was always a row on over them kids, which
they hadn't been till Miss Estelle come. Mrs.
Booth, she said they could kill their own selves,
if they wanted to, him and Miss Estelle, but she
had more right than any one else to say what went
into William's and Margery's digestive ornaments,
and she didn't want 'em brung up scientific nohow,
but jest human. But Miss Estelle's got so she
runs that hull house now, and the perfessor too,
but he don't know it, Biddy says, and her a-saying
every now and then it was too bad Frederick couldn't
of married a noble woman who would of took a
serious intrust in his work. The kids don't hardly
dare to kiss their ma in front of Miss Estelle no
more, on account of germs and things. And with
Miss Estelle taking care of their religious organs and
their intellectuals and the things like that, and the
perfessor filling them up on new invented feeds, I
guess they never was two kids got more education
to the square inch, outside and in. It hadn't
worked none on Miss Margery yet, her being
younger, but William Dear he took it hard and
serious, and it made bumps all over his head, and
he was kind o' pale and spindly. Every time
that kid cut his finger he jest natcherally bled
scientifics. One day I says to Miss Estelle,
"It looks to me like William Dear is kind of
peaked." She looks worried and she looks mad
fur me lipping in, and then she says mebby it is
true, but she don't see why, because he is being
brung up like he orter be in every way and no expense
nor trouble spared.
"Well," says I, "what a kid about that size
wants to do is to get out and roll around in the dirt
some, and yell and holler."
She sniffs like I wasn't worth taking no notice
of. But it kind o' soaked in, too. She and the
perfessor must of talked it over. Fur the next
day I seen her spreading a oilcloth on the hall
floor. And then James comes a buttling in with
a lot of sand what the perfessor has baked and
made all scientific down in his labertory. James,
he pours all that nice, clean dirt onto the oilcloth
and then Miss Estelle sends fur William Dear.
"William Dear," she says, "we have decided,
your papa and I, that what you need is more romping
around and playing along with your studies.
You ought to get closer to the soil and to nature,
as is more healthy for a youth of your age. So for
an hour each day, between your studies, you will
romp and play in this sand. You may begin to
frolic now, William Dear, and then James will
sweep up the dirt again for to-morrow's frolic."
But William didn't frolic none. He jest looked
at that dirt in a sad kind o' way, and he says very
serious but very decided:
"Aunt Estelle, I shall NOT frolic." And they had
to let it go at that, fur he never would frolic none,
neither. And all that nice clean dirt was throwed
out in the back yard along with the unscientific
One night when I've been there more'n a
week, and am getting kind o' tired staying
in one place so long, I don't want to go to
bed after I eats, and I gets a-holt of some of the
perfessor's cigars and goes into the lib'ary to see
if he's got anything fit to read. Setting there
thinking of the awful remarkable people they is
in this world I must of went to sleep. Purty soon,
in my sleep, I hearn two voices. Then I waked
up sudden, and still hearn 'em, low and quicklike,
in the room that opens right off of the lib'ary
with a couple of them sliding doors like is onto a
box car. One voice was a woman's voice, and it
wasn't Miss Estelle's.
"But I MUST see them before we go, Henry,"
And the other was a man's voice and it wasn't
no one around our house.
"But, my God," he says, "suppose you get it
I set up straight then, fur Jane was the perfessor's
wife's first name.
"You mean suppose YOU get it," she says. I
like to of seen the look she must of give him to
fit in with the way she says that YOU. He didn't
say nothing, the man didn't; and then her voice
softens down some, and she says, low and slow:
"Henry, wouldn't you love me if I DID get it?
Suppose it marked and pitted me all up?"
"Oh, of course," he says, "of course I would.
Nothing can change the way I feel. YOU know
that." He said it quick enough, all right, jest the
way they does in a show, but it sounded TOO MUCH
like it does on the stage to of suited me if _I_'D been
her. I seen folks overdo them little talks before
I listens some more, and then I sees how it is.
This is that musician feller Biddy Malone's been
talking about. Jane's going to run off with him
all right, but she's got to kiss the kids first. Women
is like that. They may hate the kids' pa all
right, but they's dad-burned few of 'em don't like
the kids. I thinks to myself: "It must be late.
I bet they was already started, or ready to start,
and she made him bring her here first so's she could
sneak in and see the kids. She jest simply couldn't
get by. But she's taking a fool risk, too. Fur
how's she going to see Margery with that nurse
coming and going and hanging around all night?
And even if she tries jest to see William Dear it's
a ten to one shot he'll wake up and she'll be ketched
And then I thinks, suppose she IS ketched at it?
What of it? Ain't a woman got a right to come into
her own house with her own door key, even if they
is a quarantine onto it, and see her kids? And
if she is ketched seeing them, how would any one
know she was going to run off? And ain't she got
a right to have a friend of hern and her husband's
bring her over from her mother's house, even if it
is a little late?
Then I seen she wasn't taking no great risks
neither, and I thinks mebby I better go and tell
that perfessor what is going on, fur he has treated
me purty white. And then I thinks: "I'll be
gosh-derned if I meddle. So fur as I can see that
there perfessor ain't getting fur from what's coming
to him, nohow. And as fur HER, you got to let
some people find out what they want fur theirselves.
Anyhow, where do _I_ come in at?"
But I want to get a look at her and Henry,
anyhow. So I eases off my shoes, careful-like, and
I eases acrost the floor to them sliding doors, and
I puts my eye down to the little crack. The talk
is going backward and forward between them two,
him wanting her to come away quick, and her
undecided whether to risk seeing the kids. And
all the time she's kind o' hoping mebby she will
be ketched if she tries to see the kids, and she's
begging off fur more time ginerally.
Well, sir, I didn't blame that musician feller none
when I seen her. She was a peach.
And I couldn't blame her so much, neither, when
I thought of Miss Estelle and all them scientifics of
the perfessor's strung out fur years and years world
Yet, when I seen the man, I sort o' wished she
wouldn't. I seen right off that Henry wouldn't
do. It takes a man with a lot of gumption to keep
a woman feeling good and not sorry fur doing it
when he's married to her. But it takes a man
with twicet as much to make her feel right when
they ain't married. This feller wears one of them
little, brown, pointed beards fur to hide where
his chin ain't. And his eyes is too much like a
woman's. Which is the kind that gets the biggest
piece of pie at the lunch counter and fergits to
thank the girl as cuts it big. She was setting in
front of a table, twisting her fingers together, and
he was walking up and down. I seen he was mad
and trying not to show it, and I seen he was scared
of the smallpox and trying not to show that, too.
And jest about that time something happened that
kind o' jolted me.
They was one of them big chairs in the room
where they was that has got a high back and spins
around on itself. It was right acrost from me, on
the other side of the room, and it was facing the
front window, which was a bow window. And
that there chair begins to turn, slow and easy.
First I thought she wasn't turning. Then I seen
she was. But Jane and Henry didn't. They was
all took up with each other in the middle of the
room, with their backs to it.
Henry is a-begging of Jane, and she turns a little
more, that chair does. Will she squeak, I
"Don't you be a fool, Jane," says the Henry
Around she comes three hull inches, that there
chair, and nary a squeak.
"A fool?" asts Jane, and laughs. "And I'm
not a fool to think of going with you at
That chair, she moved six inches more and I
seen the calf of a leg and part of a crumpled-up
"But I AM going with you, Henry," says Jane.
And she gets up jest like she is going to put her
arms around him.
But Jane don't. Fur that chair swings clear
around and there sets the perfessor. He's all
hunched up and caved in and he's rubbing his
eyes like he's jest woke up recent, and he's got a
grin onto his face that makes him look like his
sister Estelle looks all the time.
"Excuse me," says the perfessor.
They both swings around and faces him. I can
hear my heart bumping. Jane never says a word.
The man with the brown beard never says a word.
But if they felt like me they both felt like laying
right down there and having a fit. They looks at
him and he jest sets there and grins at them.
But after a while Jane, she says:
"Well, now you KNOW! What are you going to
do about it?"
Henry, he starts to say something too. But--
"Don't start anything," says the perfessor to
him. "YOU aren't going to do anything." Or
they was words to that effect.
"Professor Booth," he says, seeing he has got
to say something or else Jane will think the worse
of him, "I am--"
"Keep still," says the perfessor, real quiet. "I'll
tend to you in a minute or two. YOU don't count
for much. This thing is mostly between me and
When he talks so decided I thinks mebby that
perfessor has got something into him besides
science after all. Jane, she looks kind o' surprised
herself. But she says nothing, except:
"What are you going to do, Frederick?" And
she laughs one of them mean kind of laughs, and
looks at Henry like she wanted him to spunk up a
little more, and says: "What CAN you do, Frederick
Frederick, he says, not excited a bit:
"There's quite a number of things I COULD do
that would look bad when they got into the newspapers.
But it's none of them, unless one of you
forces me to it." Then he says:
"You DID want to see the children, Jane?"
"Jane," he says, "can't you see I'm the better
The perfessor, he was woke up after all them
years of scientifics, and he didn't want to see her
go. "Look at him," he says, pointing to the feller
with the brown beard, "he's scared stiff right now."
Which I would of been scared myself if I'd a-been
ketched that-a-way like Henry was, and the perfessor'
s voice sounding like you was chopping
ice every time he spoke. I seen the perfessor
didn't want to have no blood on the carpet without
he had to have it, but I seen he was making up his
mind about something, too. Jane, she says:
"YOU a better man? YOU? You think you've
been a model husband just because you've never
beaten me, don't you?"
"No," says the perfessor, "I've been a blamed
fool all right. I've been a worse fool, maybe,
than if I HAD beaten you." Then he turns to
Henry and he says:
"Duels are out of fashion, aren't they? And a
plain killing looks bad in the papers, doesn't it?
Well, you just wait for me." With which he gets
up and trots out, and I hearn him running down
stairs to his labertory.
Henry, he'd ruther go now. He don't want to
wait. But with Jane a-looking at him he's shamed
not to wait. It's his place to make some kind of a
strong action now to show Jane he is a great man.
But he don't do it. And Jane is too much of a
thoroughbred to show him she expects it. And me,
I'm getting the fidgets and wondering to myself,
"What is that there perfessor up to now? Whatever
it is, it ain't like no one else. He is looney,
that perfessor is. And she is kind o' looney, too.
I wonder if they is any one that ain't looney sometimes
?" I been around the country a good 'eal,
too, and seen and hearn of some awful remarkable
things, and I never seen no one that wasn't more or
less looney when the SEARCH US THE FEMM comes into
the case. Which is a Dago word I got out'n a
newspaper and it means: "Who was the dead
gent's lady friend?" And we all set and sweat
and got the fidgets waiting fur that perfessor to
Which he done with that Sister Estelle grin onto
his face and a pill box in his hand. They
was two pills in the box. He says, placid and
"Yes, sir, duels are out of fashion. This is the
age of science. All the same, the one that gets
her has got to fight for her. If she isn't worth
fighting for, she isn't worth having. Here are
two pills. I made 'em myself. One has enough
poison in it to kill a regiment when it gets to working
well--which it does fifteen minutes after it is
taken. The other one has got nothing harmful
in it. If you get the poison one, I keep her. If I
get it, you can have her. Only I hope you will
wait long enough after I'm dead so there won't
be any scandal around town."
Henry, he never said a word. He opened his
mouth, but nothing come of it. When he done
that I thought I hearn his tongue scrape agin his
cheek on the inside like a piece of sand-paper.
He was scared, Henry was.
"But YOU know which is which," Jane sings out.
"The thing's not fair!"
"That is the reason my dear Jane is going to
shuffle these pills around each other herself," says
the perfessor, "and then pick out one for him and
one for me. YOU don't know which is which,
Jane. And as he is the favourite, he is going to
get the first chance. If he gets the one I want
him to get, he will have just fifteen minutes to live
after taking it. In that fifteen minutes he will
please to walk so far from my house that he won't
die near it and make a scandal. I won't have a
scandal without I have to. Everything is going
to be nice and quiet and respectable. The effect
of the poison is similar to heart failure. No one
can tell the difference on the corpse. There's
going to be no blood anywhere. I will be found
dead in my house in the morning with heart failure,
or else he will be picked up dead in the street, far
enough away so as to make no talk." Or they was
words to that effect.
He is rubbing it in considerable, I thinks, that
perfessor is. I wonder if I better jump in and stop
the hull thing. Then I thinks: "No, it's between
them three." Besides, I want to see which one is
going to get that there loaded pill. I always been
intrusted in games of chancet of all kinds, and
when I seen the perfessor was such a sport, I'm
sorry I been misjudging him all this time.
Jane, she looks at the box, and she breathes hard
"I won't touch 'em," she says. "I refuse to be
a party to any murder of that kind."
"Huh? You do?" says the perfessor. "But
the time when you might have refused has gone by.
You have made yourself a party to it already.
You're really the MAIN party to it.
"But do as you like," he goes on. "I'm giving
him more chance than I ought to with those pills.
I might shoot him, and I would, and then face the
music, if it wasn't for mixing the children up in
the scandal, Jane. If you want to see him get a
fair chance, Jane, you've got to hand out these
pills, one to him and then one to me. YOU must
kill one or the other of us, or else _I_'LL kill HIM the
other way. And YOU had better pick one out for
him, because _I_ know which is which. Or else let
him pick one out for himself," he says.
Henry, he wasn't saying nothing. I thought
he had fainted. But he hadn't. I seen him licking
his lips. I bet Henry's mouth was all dry inside.
Jane, she took the box and she went round in
front of Henry and she looked at him hard. She
looked at him like she was thinking: "Fur God's
sake, spunk up some, and take one if it DOES kill
you!" Then she says out loud: "Henry, if you
die I will die, too!"
And Henry, he took one. His hand shook, but
he took it out'n the box. If she had of looked like
that at me mebby I would of took one myself.
Fur Jane, she was a peach, she was. But I don't
know whether I would of or not. When she makes
that brag about dying, I looked at the perfessor.
What she said never fazed him. And I thinks agin:
"Mebby I better jump in now and stop this thing."
And then I thinks agin: "No, it is between them
three and Providence." Besides, I'm anxious to
see who is going to get that pill with the science
in it. I gets to feeling jest like Providence hisself
was in that there room picking out them pills with
his own hands. And I was anxious to see what
Providence's ideas of right and wrong was like.
So fur as I could see they was all three in the wrong,
but if I had of been in there running them pills in
Providence's place I would of let them all off kind
Henry, he ain't eat his pill yet. He is jest looking
at it and shaking. The perfessor pulls out his
watch and lays it on the table.
"It is a quarter past eleven," he says. "Mr.
Murray, are you going to make me shoot you,
after all? I didn't want a scandal," he says.
"It's for you to say whether you want to eat that
pill and get your even chance, or whether you want
to get shot. The shooting method is sure, but it
causes talk. These pills won't. WHICH?"
And he pulls a revolver. Which I suppose he
had got that too when he went down after them
Henry, he looks at the gun.
Then he looks at the pill.
Then he swallers the pill.
The perfessor puts his gun back into his pocket,
and then he puts his pill into his mouth. He don't
swaller it. He looks at the watch, and he looks at
"Sixteen minutes past eleven," he says. "AT
EXACTLY TWENTY-NINE MINUTES TO TWELVE MR. MURRAY
WILL BE DEAD. I got the harmless one. I can tell
by the taste."
And he put the pieces out into his hand, to show
that he has chewed his'n up, not being willing to
wait fifteen minutes fur a verdict from his digestive
ornaments. Then he put them pieces back into
his mouth and chewed 'em up and swallered 'em
down like he was eating cough drops.
Henry has got sweat breaking out all over his
face, and he tries to make fur the door, but he falls
down onto a sofa.
"This is murder," he says, weak-like. And he
tries to get up again, but this time he falls to the floor
in a dead faint.
"It's a dern short fifteen minutes," I thinks to
myself. "That perfessor must of put more science
into Henry's pill than he thought he did fur it to
of knocked him out this quick. It ain't skeercly
When Henry falls the woman staggers and tries
to throw herself on top of him. The corners of
her mouth was all drawed down, and her eyes was
turned up. But she don't yell none. She can't.
She tries, but she jest gurgles in her throat. The
perfessor won't let her fall acrost Henry. He
ketches her. "Sit up, Jane," he says, with that
Estelle look onto his face, "and let us have a talk."
She looks at him with no more sense in her face
than a piece of putty has got. But she can't look
away from him.
And I'm kind o' paralyzed, too. If that feller
laying on the floor had only jest kicked oncet, or
grunted, or done something, I could of loosened
up and yelled, and I would of. I jest NEEDED to
fetch a yell. But Henry ain't more'n dropped down
there till I'm feeling jest like he'd ALWAYS been
there, and I'd ALWAYS been staring into that room,
and the last word any one spoke was said hundreds
and hundreds of years ago.
"You're a murderer," says Jane in a whisper,
looking at the perfessor in that stare-eyed way.
"You're a MURDERER," she says, saying it like she
was trying to make herself feel sure he really was
"Murder!" says the perfessor. "Did you think
I was going to run any chances for a pup like him?
He's scared, that's all. He's just fainted through
fright. He's a coward. Those pills were both
just bread and sugar. He'll be all right in a minute
or two. I've just been showing you that the fellow
hasn't got nerve enough nor brains enough for
a fine woman like you, Jane," he says.
Then Jane begins to sob and laugh, both to oncet,
kind o' wild like, her voice clucking like a hen
does, and she says:
"It's worse then, it's worse! It's worse for me
than if it were a murder! Some farces can be more
tragic than any tragedy ever was," she says. Or
they was words to that effect.
And if Henry had of been really dead she couldn't
of took it no harder than she begun to take it now
when she saw he was alive, but jest wasn't no good.
But I seen she was taking on fur herself now more'n
fur Henry. Doctor Kirby always use to say women
is made unlike most other animals in many ways.
When they is foolish about a man they can stand
to have that man killed a good 'eal better than to
have him showed up ridiculous right in front of
them. They will still be crazy about the man that
is dead, even if he was crooked. But they don't
never forgive the fellow that lets himself be made a
fool and lets them look foolish, too. And when
the perfessor kicks Henry in the ribs, and Henry
comes to and sneaks out, Jane, she never even turns
her head and looks at him.
"Jane," says the perfessor, when she quiets
down some, "you have a lot o' things to forgive
me. But do you suppose I have learned enough
so that we can make a go of it if we start all over
But Jane she never said nothing.
"Jane," he says, "Estelle is going back to New
England, as soon as Margery gets well, and she will
stay there for good."
Jane, she begins to take a little intrust then.
"Did Estelle tell you so?" she asts.
"No," says the perfessor. "Estelle doesn't know
it yet. I'm going to break the news to her in the
But Jane still hates him. She's making herself
hate him hard. She wouldn't of been a human
woman if she had let herself be coaxed up all to
oncet. Purty soon she says: "I'm tired." And
she went out looking like the perfessor was a perfect
stranger. She was a peace, Jane was.
After she left, the perfessor set there quite a spell
and smoked. And he was looking tired out, too.
They wasn't no mistake about me. I was jest
dead all through my legs.
I was down in the perfessor's labertory one day,
and that was a queer place. They was every
kind of scientifics that has ever been discovered
in it. Some was pickled in bottles and some
was stuffed and some was pinned to the walls with
their wings spread out. If you took hold of anything,
it was likely to be a skull and give you the shivers or
some electric contraption and shock you; and if you
tipped over a jar and it broke, enough germs might
get loose to slaughter a hull town. I was helping the
perfessor to unpack a lot of stuff some friends had sent
him, and I noticed a bottle that had onto it, blowed
in the glass:
DANIEL, DUNNE AND COMPANY
"That's funny," says I, out loud.
"What is?" asts the perfessor.
I showed him the bottle and told him how I was
named after the company that made 'em. He
says to look around me. They is all kinds of glassware
in that room--bottles and jars and queershaped
things with crooked tails and noses--and
nigh every piece of glass the perfessor owns is made
by that company.
"Why," says the perfessor, "their factory is in
this very town."
And nothing would do fur me but I must go and
see that factory. I couldn't till the quarantine was
pried loose from our house. But when it was, I
went down town and hunted up the place and looked
It was a big factory, and I was kind of proud of
that. I was glad she wasn't no measly, little, oldfashioned,
run-down concern. Of course, I wasn't
really no relation to it and it wasn't none to me.
But I was named fur it, too, and it come about as
near to being a fambly as anything I had ever had
or was likely to find. So I was proud it seemed to
be doing so well.
I thinks as I looks at her of the thousands and
thousands of bottles that has been coming
out of there fur years and years, and will be fur
years and years to come. And one bottle not so
much different from another one. And all that was
really knowed about me was jest the name on one
out of all them millions and millions of bottles. It
made me feel kind of queer, when I thought of that,
as if I didn't have no separate place in the world any
more than one of them millions of bottles. If any
one will shut his eyes and say his own name over
and over agin fur quite a spell, he will get kind of
wonderized and mesmerized a-doing it--he will
begin to wonder who the dickens he is, anyhow, and
what he is, and what the difference between him
and the next feller is. He will wonder why he
happens to be himself and the next feller HIMSELF.
He wonders where himself leaves off and the rest
of the world begins. I been that way myself--all
wonderized, so that I felt jest like I was a melting
piece of the hull creation, and it was all shifting and
drifting and changing and flowing, and not solid
anywhere, and I could hardly keep myself from
flowing into it. It makes a person feel awful queer,
like seeing a ghost would. It makes him feel like
HE wasn't no solider than a ghost himself. Well,
if you ever done that and got that feeling, you KNOW
what I mean. All of a sudden, when I am trying
to take in all them millions and millions of bottles,
it rushed onto me, that feeling, strong. Thinking
of them bottles had somehow brung it on. The
bigness of the hull creation, and the smallness of
me, and the gait at which everything was racing
and rushing ahead, made me want to grab hold of
something solid and hang on.
I reached out my hand, and it hit something
solid all right. It was a feller who was wheeling out
a hand truck loaded with boxes from the shipping
department. I had been standing by the shipping
department door, and I reached right agin him.
He wants to know if I am drunk or a blanked
fool. So after some talk of that kind I borrows a
chew of tobacco of him and we gets right well
I helped him finish loading his wagon and rode
over to the freight depot with him and helped him
unload her. Lifting one of them boxes down from
the wagon I got such a shock I like to of dropped her.
Fur she was marked so many dozen, glass, handle
with care, and she was addressed to Dr. Hartley
L. Kirby, Atlanta, Ga.
I managed to get that box onto the platform without
busting her, and then I sets down on top of her
"What's the matter?" asts the feller I was with.
"Nothing," says I.
"You look sick," he says. And I WAS feeling
"Mebby I do," says I, "and it's enough to shake
a feller up to find a dead man come to life sudden
"Great snakes, no!" says he, looking all around,
But I didn't stop to chew the rag none. I left
him right there, with his mouth wide open, staring
after me like I was crazy. Half a block away I
looked back and I seen him double over and slap his
knee and laugh loud, like he had hearn a big joke,
but what he was laughing at I never knew.
I was tickled. Tickled? Jest so tickled I was
plumb foolish with it. The doctor was alive after
all--I kept saying it over and over to myself--he
hadn't drownded nor blowed away. And I was going
to hunt him up.
I had a little money. The perfessor had paid it
to me. He had give me a job helping take care of
his hosses and things like that, and wanted me to
stay, and I had been thinking mebby I would fur
a while. But not now!
I calkelated I could grab a ride that very night
that would put me into Evansville the next morning.
I figgered if I ketched a through freight from there
on the next night I might get where he was almost
as quick as them bottles did.
I didn't think it was no use writing out my
resignation fur the perfessor. But I got quite a bit
of grub from Biddy Malone to make a start on, fur
I didn't figger on spending no more money than I
had to on grub. She asts me a lot of questions, and
I had to lie to her a good deal, but I got the grub.
And at ten that night I was in an empty bumping
along south, along with a cross-eyed feller named
Looney Hogan who happened to be travelling the
Riding on trains without paying fare ain't always
the easy thing it sounds. It is like a trade that has
got to be learned. They is different ways of doing
it. I have done every way frequent, except one.
That I give up after trying her two, three times.
That is riding the rods down underneath the cars,
with a piece of board put acrost 'em to lay yourself on.
I never want to go ANYWHERES agin bad enough to
ride the rods.
Because sometimes you arrive where you are going
to partly smeared over the trucks and in no condition
fur to be made welcome to our city, as Doctor
Kirby would say. Sometimes you don't arrive.
Every oncet in a while you read a little piece in a
newspaper about a man being found alongside the
tracks, considerable cut up, or laying right acrost
them, mebby. He is held in the morgue a while and
no one knows who he is, and none of the train crew
knows they has run over a man, and the engineer
says they wasn't none on the track. More'n likely
that feller has been riding the rods, along about the
middle of the train. Mebby he let himself go to
sleep and jest rolled off. Mebby his piece of board
slipped and he fell when the train jolted. Or mebby
he jest natcherally made up his mind he rather let
loose and get squashed then get any more cinders
into his eyes. Riding the blind baggage or the
bumpers gives me all the excitement I wants, or all
the gambling chancet either; others can have the
rods fur all of me. And they IS some people ackshally
says they likes 'em best.
A good place, if it is winter time, is the feed rack
over a cattle car, fur the heat and steam from all
them steers in there will keep you warm. But don't
crawl in no lumber car that is only loaded about
half full, and short lengths and bundles of laths and
shingles in her; fur they is likely to get to shifting
and bumping. Baled hay is purty good sometimes.
Myself, not being like these bums that is too proud
to work, I have often helped the fireman shovel
coal and paid fur my ride that-a-way. But an
empty, fur gineral purposes, will do about as well as
This feller Looney Hogan that was with me was a
kind of a harmless critter, and he didn't know jest
where he was going, nor why. He was mostly
scared of things, and if you spoke to him quick he
shivered first and then grinned idiotic so you wouldn't
kick him, and when he talked he had a silly little
giggle. He had been made that-a-way in a reform
school where they took him young and tried to
work the cussedness out'n him by batting him
around. They worked it out, and purty nigh everything
else along with it, I guess. Looney had had
a pardner whose name was Slim, he said; but a
couple of years before Slim had fell overboard off'n
a barge up to Duluth and never come up agin.
Looney knowed Slim was drownded all right, but
he was always travelling around looking at tanks
and freight depots and switch shanties, fur Slim's
mark to be fresh cut with a knife somewheres, so he
would know where to foller and ketch up with him
agin. He knowed he would never find Slim's mark,
he said, but he kept a-looking, and he guessed that
was the way he got the name of Looney.
Looney left me at Evansville. He said he was
going east from there, he guessed. And I went
along south. But I was hindered considerable,
being put off of trains three or four times, and having
to grab these here slow local freights between
towns all the way down through Kentuckey. Anywheres
south of the Ohio River and east of the
Mississippi River trainmen is grouchier to them they
thinks is bums than north of it, anyhow. And in
some parts of it, if a real bum gets pinched, heaven
help 'im, fur nothing else won't.
One night, between twelve and one o'clock, I was
put off of a freight train fur the second time in a
place in the northern part of Tennessee, right near
the Kentuckey line. I set down in a lumber yard
near the railroad track, and when she started up
agin I grabbed onto the iron ladder and swung myself
aboard. But the brakeman was watching fur
me, and clumb down the ladder and stamped on my
fingers. So I dropped off, with one finger considerable
mashed, and set down in that lumber yard
wondering what next.
It was a dark night, and so fur as I could see they
wasn't much moving in that town. Only a few
places was lit up. One was way acrost the town
square from me, and it was the telephone exchange,
with a man operator reading a book in there. The
other was the telegraph room in the depot about a
hundred yards from me, and they was only two
fellers in it, both smoking. The main business part
of the town was built up around the square, like lots
of old-fashioned towns is, and they was jest enough
brightness from four, five electric lights to show the
shape of the square and be reflected from the
windows of the closed-up stores.
I knowed they was likely a watchman somewheres
about, too. I guessed I wouldn't wander around
none and run no chances of getting took up by him.
So I was getting ready to lay down on top of a level
pile of boards and go to sleep when I hearn a curious
kind of noise a way off, like it must be at the edge
It sounded like quite a bunch of cattle might
shuffling along a dusty road. The night was so
quiet you could hear things plain from a long ways
off. It growed a little louder and a little nearer.
And then it struck a plank bridge somewheres,
and come acrost it with a clatter. Then I knowed
it wasn't cattle. Cows and steers don't make that
cantering kind of noise as a rule; they trot. It was
hosses crossing that bridge. And they was quite a
lot of 'em.
As they struck the dirt road agin, I hearn a shot.
And then another and another. Then a dozen all
to oncet, and away off through the night a woman
I seen the man in the telephone place fling down
his book and grab a pistol from I don't know where.
He stepped out into the street and fired three shots
into the air as fast as he could pull the trigger. And
as he done so they was a light flashed out in a building
way down the railroad track, and shots come
answering from there. Men's voices began to yell
out; they was the noise of people running along
plank sidewalks, and windows opening in the dark.
Then with a rush the galloping noise come nearer,
come closet; raced by the place where I was hiding,
and nigh a hundred men with guns swept right
into the middle of that square and pulled their
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 screamlike
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
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
"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
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.
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
"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
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
"Miss Lucy, dear, it would 'a' done yo' heart
good to see the way them trust warehouses blazed
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
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
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
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
folks. 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
"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
"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
"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,
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
I made purty good time, and in a couple of
days I was in Atlanta. I knowed the doctor
must of gone back into some branch of the
medicine game--the bottles told me that. I
knowed it must be something that he needed some
special kind of bottles fur, too, or he wouldn't
of had them shipped all that distance, but would of
bought them nearer. I seen I was a dern fool fur
rushing off and not inquiring what kind of bottles,
so I could trace what he was into easier.
It's hard work looking fur a man in a good-sized
town. I hung around hotel lobbies and places till
I was tired of it, thinking he might come in. And
I looked through all the office buildings and read
all the advertisements in the papers. Then the
second day I was there the state fair started up
and I went out to it.
I run acrost a couple I knowed out there the
first thing--it was Watty and the snake-charmer
woman. Only she wasn't charming them now.
Her and Watty had a Parisian Models' show. I
ast Watty where Dolly was. He says he don't
know, that Dolly has quit him. By which I guess
he means he has quit her. I ast where Reginald is,
and the Human Ostrich. But from the way they
answered my questions I seen I wasn't welcome
none around there. I suppose that Mrs. Ostrich
and Watty had met up agin somewheres, and had
jest natcherally run off with each other and left
their famblies. Like as not she had left poor old
Reginald with that idiotic ostrich feller to sell to
strangers that didn't know his disposition. Or
mebby by now Reginald was turned loose in the
open country to shift fur himself, among wild
snakes that never had no human education nor
experience; and what chancet would a friendly
snake like Reginald have in a gang like that? Some
women has jest simply got no conscience at all
about their husbands and famblies, and that there
Mrs. Ostrich was one of 'em.
Well, a feller can be a derned fool sometimes.
Fur all my looking around I wasted a lot of time
before I thought of going to the one natcheral
place--the freight depot of the road them bottles
had been shipped by. I had lost a week coming
down. But freight often loses more time than that.
And it was at the freight depot that I found him.
Tickled? Well, yes! Both of us.
"Well, by George," says he, "you're good for
Before he told me how he happened not to of
drownded or blowed away or anything he says
we better fix up a bit. Which he meant I better.
So he buys me duds from head to heel, and we goes
to a Turkish bath place and I puts 'em on. And
then we goes and eats. Hearty.
"Now," he says, "Fido Cut-up, how did you find
I told him about the bottles.
"A dead loss, those bottles," he says. "I wanted
some non-refillable ones for a little scheme I had
in mind, and I had to get them at a certain place
--and now the scheme's up in the air and I can't
The doctor had changed some in looks in the year
or more that had passed since I saw him floating
away in that balloon. And not fur the better.
He told me how he had blowed clean acrost Lake
Erie in that there balloon. And then when he got
over land agin and went to pull the cord that lets
the parachute loose it wouldn't work at first. He
jest natcherally drifted on into the midst of nowhere,
he said--miles and miles into Canada. When
he lit the balloon had lost so much gas and was
flying so low that the parachute didn't open out
quick enough to do much floating. So he lit hard,
and come near being knocked out fur good. But
*AUTHOR'S NOTE--Can it be that Danny struggles vaguely
to report some reference to FIDUS ACHATES?
that wasn't the worst of it, fur the exposure had
crawled into his lungs by the time he found a house,
and he got newmonia into them also, and like to
of died. Whilst I was laying sick he had been sick
also, only his'n lasted much longer.
But he tells me he has jest struck an idea fur a
big scheme. No little schemes go fur him any
more, he says. He wants money. Real money.
"How you going to get it?" I asts him.
"Come along and I'll tell you," he says. "We'll
take a walk, and I'll show you how I got my idea."
We left the restaurant and went along the brag
street of that town, which it is awful proud of,
past where the stores stops and the houses begins.
We come to a fine-looking house on a corner--a
swell place it was, with lots of palms and ferns
and plants setting on the verandah and showing
through the windows. And stables back of it;
and back of the stables a big yard with noises coming
from it like they was circus animals there. Which
I found out later they really was, kept fur pets.
You could tell the people that lived there had money.
"This," says Doctor Kirby, as we walked by,
"is the house that Jackson built. Dr. Julius Jackson
--OLD Doctor Jackson, the man with an idea!
The idea made all the money you smell around here."
"The idea--the glorious humanitarian and
philanthropic idea--of taking the kinks and curls
out of the hair of the Afro-American brother,"
says Doctor Kirby, "at so much per kink."
This Doctor Jackson, he says, sells what he
calls Anti-Curl to the niggers. It is to straighten
out their hair so it will look like white people's
hair. They is millions and millions of niggers,
and every nigger has millions and millions of kinks,
and so Doctor Jackson has got rich at it. So rich
he can afford to keep that there personal circus
menagerie in his back yard, for his little boy to
play with, and many other interesting things. He
must be worth two, three million dollars, Doctor
Kirby says, and still a-making it, with more niggers
growing up all the time fur to have their hair unkinked.
Especially mulattoes and yaller niggers.
Doctor Kirby says thinking what a great idea that
Anti-Curl was give him his own great idea. They
is a gold mine there, he says, and Dr. Julius Jackson
has only scratched a little off the top of it, but HE
is going to dig deeper.
"Why is it that the Afro-American brother buys
Anti-Curl?" he asts.
"Why?" I asts.
"Because," he says, "he wants to be as much
like a white man as he possibly can. He strives
to burst his birth's invidious bar, Danny. They
talk about progress and education for the AfroAmerican
brother, and uplift and advancement
and industrial education and manual training and
all that sort of thing. Especially we Northerners.
But what the Afro-American brother thinks about
and dreams about and longs for and prays
to be--when he thinks at all--is to be white.
Education, to his mind, is learning to talk like a
white man. Progress means aping the white man.
Religion is dying and going to heaven and being a
WHITE angel--listen to his prayers and sermons
and you'll find that out. He'll do anything he can,
or give anything he can get his Ethiopian grubhooks
on, for something that he thinks is going to
make him more like a white man. Poor devil!
Therefore the millions of Doctor Jackson AntiCurl.
"All this Doctor Jackson Anti-Curl has discovered
and thought out and acted upon. If he
had gone just one step farther the Afro-American
brother would have hailed him as a greater man
than Abraham Lincoln, or either of the Washingtons,
George or Booker. It remains for me,
Danny--for US--to carry the torch ahead--to
take up the work where the imagination of Doctor
Jackson Anti-Curl has laid it down."
"How?" asts I.
"WE'LL PUT UP AND SELL A PREPARATION TO TURN THE
THAT was his great idea. He was more excited
over it than I ever seen him before about anything.
It sounded like so easy a way to get rich it made
me wonder why no one had ever done it before,
if it could really be worked. I didn't believe much
it could be worked.
But Doctor Kirby, he says he has begun his
experiments already, with arsenic. Arsenic, he
says, will bleach anything. Only he is kind of
afraid of arsenic, too. If he could only get hold of
something that didn't cost much, and that would
whiten them up fur a little while, he says, it wouldn't
make no difference if they did get black agin.
This here Anti-Curl stuff works like that--it
takes the kinks out fur a little while, and they come
back agin. But that don't seem to hurt the sale
none. It only calls fur MORE of Doctor Jackson's
The doctor takes me around to the place he boards
at, and shows me a nigger waiter he has been experimenting
on. He had paid the nigger's fine in a
police court fur slashing another nigger some with
a knife, and kept him from going into the chaingang.
So the nigger agreed he could use his hide
to try different kinds of medicines on. He was a
velvety-looking, chocolate-coloured kind of nigger
to start with, and the best Doctor Kirby had been
able to do so fur was to make a few little livercoloured
spots come onto him. But it was making
the nigger sick, and the doctor was afraid to go
too fur with it, fur Sam might die and we would
be at the expense of another nigger. Peroxide of
hidergin hadn't even phased him. Nor a lot of
other things we tried onto him.
You never seen a nigger with his colour running
into him so deep as Sam's did. Sam, he was always
apologizing about it, too. You could see it made
him feel real bad to think his colour was so stubborn.
He felt like it wasn't being polite to the doctor and
me, Sam did, fur his skin to act that-a-way. He
was a willing nigger, Sam was. The doctor, he
says he will find out the right stuff if he has to start
at the letter A and work Sam through every drug
in the hull blame alphabet down to Z.
Which he finally struck it. I don't exactly know
what she had in her, but she was a mixture of some
kind. The only trouble with her was she didn't
work equal and even--left Sam's face looking
peeled and spotty in places. But still, in them
spots, Sam was six shades lighter. The doctor
says that is jest what he wants, that there passingon
as he calls it. The chocolate brown and the
lighter spots side by side, he says, made a regular
Before and After out of Sam's face, and was the
best advertisement you could have.
Then we goes and has a talk with Doctor Jackson
himself. Doctor Kirby has the idea mebby he
will put some money into it. Doctor Jackson was
setting on his front veranda with his chair tilted
back, and his feet, with red carpet slippers on 'em,
was on the railing, and he was smoking one of these
long black cigars that comes each one in a little
glass tube all by itself. He looks Sam over very
thoughtful, and he says:
"Yes, it will do the work well enough. I can see
that. But will it sell?"
Doctor Kirby makes him quite a speech. I never
hearn him make a better one. Doctor Jackson he
listens very calm, with his thumbs in the armholes
of his vest, and moving his eyebrows up and down
like he enjoyed it. But he don't get excited none.
Finally Doctor Kirby says he will undertake to
show that it will sell--me and him will take a trip
down into the black country ourselves and show
what can be done with it, and take Sam along fur
an object lesson.
Well, they was a lot of rag-chewing. Doctor
Jackson don't warm up none, and he asts a million
questions. Like how much it costs a bottle to
make it, and what was our idea how much it orter
sell fur. He says finally if we can sell a certain
number of bottles in so long a time he will put some
money into it. Only, he says, they will be a stock
company, and he will have to have fifty-one per
cent. of the stock, or he won't put no money into
it. He says if things go well he will let Doctor
Kirby be manager of that company, and let him
have some stock in it too, and he will be president
and treasurer of it himself.
Doctor Kirby, he didn't like that, and said so.
Said HE was going to organize that stock company,
and control it himself. But Doctor Jackson said
he never put money into nothing he couldn't run.
So it was settled we would give the stuff a try-out
and report to him. Before we went away from
there it looked to me like Doctor Kirby and me was
going to work fur this here Doctor Jackson, instead
of making all them there millions fur ourselves.
Which I didn't take much to that Anti-Curl man
myself; he was so cold-blooded like.
I didn't like the scheme itself any too well,
neither. Not any way you could look at it. In
the first place it seemed like a mean trick on the
niggers. Then I didn't much believe we could get
away with it.
The more I looked him over the more I seen
Doctor Kirby had changed considerable. When
I first knowed him he liked to hear himself talking
and he liked to live free and easy and he liked to
be running around the country and all them things,
more'n he liked to be making money. Of course,
he wanted it; but that wasn't the ONLY thing he
was into the Sagraw game fur. If he had money,
he was free with it and would help most any one
out of a hole. But he wasn't thinking it and talking
it all the time then.
But now he was thinking money and dreaming
money and talking of nothing but how
to get it. And planning to make it out of
skinning them niggers. He didn't care a dern
how he worked on their feelings to get it. He
didn't even seem to care whether he killed Sam
trying them drugs onto him. He wanted MONEY,
and he wanted it so bad he was ready and
willing to take up with most any wild scheme
to make it.
They was something about him now that didn't
fit in much with the Doctor Kirby I had knowed.
It seemed like he had spells when he saw himself
how he had changed. He wasn't gay and joking
all the time like he had been before, neither. I
guess the doctor was getting along toward fifty
years old. I suppose he thought if he was ever
going to get anything out of his gift of the gab he
better settle down to something, and quit fooling
around, and do it right away. But it looked to
me like he might never turn the trick. Fur he was
drinking right smart all the time. Drinking made
him think a lot, and thinking was making him look
old. He was more'n one year older than he had
been a year ago.
He kept a quart bottle in his room now. The
night after we had took Sam to see Doctor Jackson
we was setting in his room, and he was hitting it
"Danny," he says to me, after a while, like he
was talking out loud to himself too, "what did you
think of Doctor Jackson?"
"I don't like him much," I says.
"Nor I," he says, frowning, and takes a drink.
Then he says, after quite a few minutes of frowning
and thinking, under his breath like: "He's a blame
sight more decent than I am, for all of that."
"Why?" I asts him.
"Because Doctor Jackson," he says, "hasn't
the least idea that he ISN'T decent, and getting his
money in a decent way. While at one time I
He breaks off and don't say what he was. I
asts him. "I was going to say a gentleman,"
he says, "but on reflection, I doubt if I was ever
anything but a cheap imitation. I never heard
a man say that he was a gentleman at one time,
that I didn't doubt him. Also," he goes on, working
himself into a better humour again with the
sound of his own voice, "if I HAD ever been a gentleman
at any time, enough of it would surely have
stuck to me to keep me out of partnership with a
man who cheats niggers."
He takes another drink and says even twenty
years of running around the country couldn't of
took all the gentleman out of him like this, if he
had ever been one, fur you can break, you can scatter
the vase if you will, but the smell of the roses will
stick round it still.
I seen now the kind of conversations he is always
having with himself when he gets jest so drunk
and is thinking hard. Only this time it happens
to be out loud.
"What is a gentleman?" I asts him, thinking
if he wasn't one it might take his mind off himself a
little to tell me. "What MAKES one?"
"Authorities differ," says Doctor Kirby, slouching
down in his chair, and grinning like he knowed a
joke he wasn't going to tell no one. "I heard
Doctor Jackson describe himself that way the other
Well, speaking personal, I never had smelled
none of roses. I wasn't nothing but trash myself,
so being a gentleman didn't bother me one way or
the other. The only reason I didn't want to see
them niggers bunked so very bad was only jest
because it was such a low-down, ornery kind of
"It ain't too late," I says, "to pull out of this
nigger scheme yet and get into something more
"I don't know," he says thoughtful. "I think
perhaps it IS too late." And he sets there looking
like a man that is going over a good many years
of life in his mind. Purty soon he says:
"As far as honesty goes--it isn't that so much,
O Daniel-come-to-judgment! It's about as honest
as most medicine games. It's--" He stopped
and frowned agin.
"What is it?"
"It's their being NIGGERS," he says.
That made the difference fur me, too. I dunno
how, nor why.
"I've tried nearly everything but blackmail,"
he says, "and I'll probably be trying that by this
time next year, if this scheme fails. But there's
something about their being niggers that makes
me sick of this thing already--just as the time
has come to make the start. And I don't know
WHY it should, either." He slipped another big
slug of whiskey into him, and purty soon he asts me:
"Do you know what's the matter with me?"
I asts him what.
"I'm too decent to be a crook," he says, "and
too crooked to be decent. You've got to be one
thing or the other steady to make it pay."
Then he says:
"Did you ever hear of the descent to Avernus,
"I might," I tells him, "and then agin I mightn't,
but if I ever did, I don't remember what she is.
What is she?"
"It's the chute to the infernal regions," he says.
"They say it's greased. But it isn't. It's really
no easier sliding down than it is climbing
Well, I seen this nigger scheme of our'n wasn't
the only thing that was troubling Doctor Kirby
that night. It was thinking of all the schemes
like it in the years past he had went into, and how
he had went into 'em light-hearted and more'n
half fur fun when he was a young man, and now he
wasn't fitten fur nothing else but them kind of
schemes, and he knowed it. He was seeing himself
how he had been changing, like another person
could of seen it. That's the main trouble with
drinking to fergit yourself. You fergit the wrong
part of yourself.
I left him purty soon, and went along to bed.
My room was next to his'n, and they was a door
between, so the two could be rented together if
wanted, I suppose. I went to sleep and woke up
agin with a start out of a dream that had in it
millions and millions and millions of niggers, every
way you looked, and their mouths was all open red
and their eyes walled white, fit to scare you out
of your shoes.
I hearn Doctor Kirby moving around in his
room. But purty soon he sets down and begins
to talk to himself. Everything else was quiet.
I was kind of worried about him, he had taken so
much, and hoped he wouldn't get a notion to go
downtown that time o' night. So I thinks I will
see how he is acting, and steps over to the door between
The key happened to be on my side, and I unlocked
it. But she only opens a little ways, fur
his wash stand was near to the hinge end of the door.
I looked through. He is setting by the table,
looking at a woman's picture that is propped up on
it, and talking to himself. He has never hearn
me open the door, he is so interested. But somehow,
he don't look drunk. He looks like he had fought
his way up out of it, somehow--his forehead was
sweaty, and they was one intoxicated lock of hair
sticking to it; but that was the only un-soberlooking
thing about him. I guess his legs would
of been unsteady if he had of tried to walk, but his
intellects was uncomfortable and sober.
He is still keeping up that same old argument
with himself, or with the picture.
"It isn't any use," I hearn him say, looking at
Then he listened like he hearn it answering him.
"Yes, you always say just that--just that,"
he says. "And I don't know why I keep on listening
The way he talked, and harkened fur an answer,
when they was nothing there to answer, give me
"You don't help me," he goes on, "you don't
help me at all. You only make it harder. Yes,
this thing is worse than the others. I know that.
But I want money--and fool things like this HAVE
sometimes made it. No, I won't give it up. No,
there's no use making any more promises now.
I know myself now. And you ought to know me
by this time, too. Why can't you let me alone
altogether? I should think, when you see what I
am, you'd let me be.
"God help you! if you'd only stay away it
wouldn't be so hard to go to hell!"
There's a lot of counties in Georgia where
the blacks are equal in number to the
whites, and two or three counties where
the blacks number over the whites by two to one.
It was fur a little town in one of the latter that we
pinted ourselves, Doctor Kirby and me and Sam--
right into the blackest part of the black belt.
That country is full of big-sized plantations,
where they raise cotton, cotton, cotton, and then
MORE cotton. Some of 'em raises fruit, too, and
other things, of course; but cotton is the main
stand-by, and it looks like it always will be.
Some places there shows that things can't be
so awful much changed since slavery days, and
most of the niggers are sure enough country niggers
yet. Some rents their land right out from the
owners, and some of 'em crops it on the shares,
and very many of 'em jest works as hands. A lot of
'em don't do nigh so well now as they did when their
bosses was their masters, they tell me; and then
agin, some has done right well on their own hook.
They intrusted me, because I never had been use
to looking at so many niggers. Every way you
turn there they is niggers and then more niggers.
Them that thinks they is awful easy to handle
out of a natcheral respect fur white folks has got
another guess coming. They ain't so bad to get
along with if you keep it most pintedly shoved
into their heads they IS niggers. You got to do
that especial in the black belt, jest because they
IS so many of 'em. They is children all their lives,
mebby, till some one minute of craziness may
strike one of them, and then he is a devil temporary.
Mebby, when the crazy fit has passed, some white
woman is worse off than if she was dead, or mebby
she IS dead, or mebby a loonatic fur life, and that
nigger is a candidate fur a lynching bee and ginerally
elected by an anonymous majority.
Not that ALL niggers is that-a-way, nor HALF of
'em, nor very MANY of 'em, even--but you can
never tell WHICH nigger is going to be. So in the
black belt the white folks is mighty pertic'ler who
comes along fooling with their niggers. Fur you
can never tell what turn a nigger's thoughts will
take, once anything at all stirs 'em up.
We didn't know them things then, Doctor Kirby
and me didn't. We didn't know we was moving
light-hearted right into the middle of the biggest
question that has ever been ast. Which I disremember
exactly how that nigger question is worded,
but they is always asting it in the South, and answering
of it different ways. We hadn't no idea
how suspicious the white people in them awful
black spots on the map can get over any one that
comes along talking to their niggers. We didn't
know anything about niggers much, being both
from the North, except what Doctor Kirby had
counted on when he made his medicine, and THAT
he knowed second-handed from other people. We
didn't take 'em very serious, nor all the talk we
hearn about 'em down South.
But even at that we mightn't of got into any
trouble if it hadn't of been fur old Bishop Warren.
But that is getting ahead of the story.
We got into that little town--I might jest as
well call it Cottonville--jest about supper time.
Cottonville is a little place of not more'n six hundred
people. I guess four hundred of 'em must be niggers.
After supper we got acquainted with purty
nigh all the prominent citizens in town. They was
friendly with us, and we was friendly with them.
Georgia had jest went fur prohibition a few months
before that, and they hadn't opened up these here
near-beer bar-rooms in the little towns yet, like
they had in Atlanta and the big towns. Georgia
had went prohibition so the niggers couldn't get
whiskey, some said; but others said they didn't
know WHAT its excuse was. Them prominent
citizens was loafing around the hotel and every
now and then inviting each other very mysterious
into a back room that use to be a pool parlour.
They had been several jugs come to town by express
that day. We went back several times ourselves,
and soon began to get along purty well with them
Talking about this and that they finally edges
around to the one thing everybody is sure to get
to talking about sooner or later in the South--
niggers. And then they gets to telling us about
this here Bishop Warren I has mentioned.
He was a nigger bishop, Bishop Warren was,
and had a good deal of white blood into him, they
say. An ashy-coloured nigger, with bumps on
his face, fat as a possum, and as cunning as a fox.
He had plenty of brains into his head, too; but his
brains had turned sour in his head the last few
years, and the bishop had crazy streaks running
through his sense now, like fat and lean mixed in a
slab of bacon. He used to be friends with a lot of
big white folks, and the whites depended on him at
one time to preach orderliness and obedience and
agriculture and being in their place to the niggers.
Fur years they thought he preached that-a-way.
He always DID preach that-a-way when any whites
was around, and he set on platforms sometimes
with white preachers, and he got good donations
fur schemes of different kinds. But gradual the
suspicion got around that when he was alone with
a lot of niggers his nigger blood would get the best
of him, and what he preached wasn't white supremacy
at all, but hopefulness of being equal.
So the whites had fell away from him, and then
his graft was gone, and then his brains turned sour
in his head and got to working and fermenting in it
like cider getting hard, and he made a few bad
breaks by not being careful what he said before
white people. But the niggers liked him all the
better fur that.
They always had been more or less hell in the
bishop's heart. He had brains and he knowed it,
and the white folks had let him see THEY knowed
it, too. And he was part white, and his white
forefathers had been big men in their day, and yet,
in spite of all of that, he had to herd with niggers
and to pertend he liked it. He was both white and
black in his feelings about things, so some of his
feelings counterdicted others, and one of these
here race riots went on all the time in his own
insides. But gradual he got to the place where
they was spells he hated both whites and niggers,
but he hated the whites the worst. And now, in
the last two or three years, since his crazy streaks
had growed as big as his sensible streaks, or bigger,
they was no telling what he would preach to them
niggers. But whatever he preached most of them
would believe. It might be something crazy and
harmless, or it might be crazy and harmful.
He had been holding some revival meetings in
nigger churches right there in that very county,
and was at it not fur away from there right then.
The idea had got around he was preaching some
most unusual foolishness to the blacks. Fur the
niggers was all acting like they knowed something
too good to mention to the white folks, all about
there. But some white men had gone to one of
the meetings, and the bishop had preached one of
his old-time sermons whilst they was there, telling
the niggers to be orderly and agriculturous--he
was considerable of a fox yet. But he and the rest
of the niggers was so DERNED anxious to be thought
agriculturous and servitudinous that the whites
smelt a rat, and wished he would go, fur they didn't
want to chase him without they had to.
Jest when we was getting along fine one of them
prominent citizens asts the doctor was we there
figgering on buying some land?
"No," says the doctor, "we wasn't."
They was silence fur quite a little spell. Each
prominent citizen had mebby had his hopes of
unloading some. They all looks a little sad, and
then another prominent citizen asts us into the back
When we returns to the front room another prominent
citizen makes a little speech that was quite
beautiful to hear, and says mebby we represents
some new concern that ain't never been in them
parts and is figgering on buying cotton.
"No," the doctor says, "we ain't cotton buyers."
Another prominent citizen has the idea mebby
we is figgering on one of these here inter-Reuben
trolley lines, so the Rubes in one village can ride
over and visit the Rubes in the next. And another
one thinks mebby we is figgering on a telephone
line. And each one makes a very eloquent little
speech about them things, and rings in something
about our fair Southland. And when both of them
misses their guess it is time fur another visit to
the back room.
Was we selling something?
Was we selling fruit trees?
Finally, after every one has a chew of natcheral
leaf tobaccer all around, one prominent citizen
makes so bold as to ast us very courteous if he might
enquire what it was we was selling.
The doctor says medicine.
Then they was a slow grin went around that there
crowd of prominent citizens. And once agin we
has to make a trip to that back room. Fur they
are all sure we must be taking orders fur something
to beat that there prohibition game. When they
misses that guess they all gets kind of thoughtful
and sad. A couple of 'em don't take no more
interest in us, but goes along home sighing-like,
as if it wasn't no difference WHAT we sold as long as
it wasn't what they was looking fur.
But purty soon one of them asts:
"What KIND of medicine?"
The doctor, he tells about it.
When he finishes you never seen such a change
as had come onto the faces of that bunch. I
never seen such disgusted prominent citizens in
my hull life. They looked at each other embarrassed,
like they had been ketched at something ornery.
And they went out one at a time, saying good night
to the hotel-keeper and in the most pinted way
taking no notice of us at all. It certainly was a
chill. We sees something is wrong, and we begins
to have a notion of what it is.
The hotel-keeper, he spits out his chew, and goes
behind his little counter and takes a five-cent cigar
out of his little show case and bites the end off
careful. Then he leans his elbows onto his counter
and reads our names to himself out of the register
book, and looks at us, and from us to the names,
and from the names to us, like he is trying to figger
out how he come to let us write 'em there. Then
he wants to know where we come from before we
come to Atlanta, where we had registered from.
We tells him we is from the North. He lights
his cigar like he didn't think much of that cigar
and sticks it in his mouth and looks at us so long
in an absent-minded kind of way it goes out.
Then he says we orter go back North.
"Why?" asts the doctor.
He chewed his cigar purty nigh up to the middle
of it before he answered, and when he spoke it was
a soft kind of a drawl--not mad or loud--but
like they was sorrowful thoughts working in him.
"Yo' all done struck the wo'st paht o' the South
to peddle yo' niggah medicine in, sah. I reckon
yo' must love 'em a heap to be that concehned
over the colour of their skins."
And he turned his back on us and went into the
back room all by himself.
We seen we was in wrong in that town. The
doctor says it will be no use trying to interduce
our stuff there, and we might as well leave there
in the morning and go over to Bairdstown, which
was a little place about ten miles off the railroad,
and make our start there.
So we got a rig the next morning and drove
acrost the country. No one bid us good-bye,
neither, and Doctor Kirby says it's a wonder they
rented us the rig.
But before we started that morning we noticed
a funny thing. We hadn't so much as spoke to
any nigger, except our own nigger Sam, and he
couldn't of told ALL the niggers in that town about
the stuff to turn niggers white, even if he had set
up all night to do it. But every last nigger we
saw looked like he knowed something about us.
Even after we left town our nigger driver hailed
two or three niggers in the road that acted that-away.
It seemed like they was all awful polite to
us. And yet they was different in their politeness
than they was to them Georgia folks, which is their
natcheral-born bosses--acted more familiar, somehow,
as if they knowed we must be thinking about
the same thing they was thinking about.
About half-way to Bairdstown we stopped at a
place to get a drink of water. Seemingly the white
folks was away fur the day, and an old nigger come
up and talked to our driver while Sam and us was
at the well.
I seen them cutting their eyes at us, whilst they
was unchecking the hosses to let them drink too,
and then I hearn the one that belonged there say:
"Is yo' SUAH dat hit air dem?"
"SUAH!" says the driver.
"How-come yo' so all-powerful SUAH about hit?"
The driver pertended the harness needed some
fixing, and they went around to the other side of the
team and tinkered with one of the traces, a-talking
to each other. I hearn the old nigger say, kind of
"Is dey a-gwine dar NOW?"
Sam, he was pulling a bucket of water up out of
the well fur us with a windlass. The doctor says
"Sam, what does all this mean?"
Sam, he pertends he don't know what the doctor
is talking about. But Doctor Kirby he finally
pins him down. Sam hemmed and hawed considerable,
making up his mind whether he better lie to
us or not. Then, all of a sudden, he busted out into
an awful fit of laughing, and like to of fell in the
well. Seemingly he decided fur to tell us the truth.
From what Sam says that there bishop has been
holding revival meetings in Big Bethel, which is a
nigger church right on the edge of Bairdstown,
and niggers fur miles around has been coming night
after night, and some of them whooping her up
daytimes too. And the bishop has worked himself
up the last three or four nights to where he has
been perdicting and prophesying, fur the spirit
has hit the meeting hard.
What he has been prophesying, Sam says, is
the coming of a Messiah fur the nigger race--a
new Elishyah, he says, as will lead them from
out'n their inequality and bring 'em up to white
standards right on the spot. The whites has had
their Messiah, the bishop says, but the niggers
ain't never had none of their SPECIAL OWN yet.
And they needs one bad, and one is sure a-coming.
It seems the whites don't know yet jest what the
bishop's been a-preaching. But every nigger fur
miles on every side of Big Bethel is a-listening and
a-looking fur signs and omens, and has been fur
two, three days now. This here half-crazy bishop
has got 'em worked up to where they is ready
to believe anything, or do anything.
So the night before when the word got out in
Cottonville that we had some scheme to make the
niggers white, the niggers there took up with the
idea that the doctor was mebby the feller the
bishop had been prophesying about, and for a sign
and a omen and a miracle of his grace and powers
was going out to Big Bethel to turn 'em white.
Poor devils, they didn't see but what being turned
white orter be a part of what they was to get from
the coming of that there Messiah.
News spreads among niggers quicker than among
whites. No one knows how they do it. But I've
hearn tales about how when war times was there,
they would frequent have the news of a big fight
before the white folks' papers would. Soldiers
has told me that in them there Philippine Islands
we conquered from Spain, where they is so much
nigger blood mixed up with other kinds in the
islanders, this mysterious spreading around of
news is jest the same. And jest since nine o'clock
the night before, the news had spread fur miles
around that Bishop Warren's Messiah was on his
way, and was going fur to turn the bishop white
to show his power and grace, and he had with him
one he had turned part white, and that was Sam,
and one he had turned clear white, and that was me.
And they was to be signs and wonders to behold
at Big Bethel, with pillars of cloud and sounds of
trumpets and fire squirting down from heaven,
like it always use to be in them old Bible days, and
them there niggers to be led singing and shouting
and rejoicing into a land of milk and honey, forevermore,
That's what Sam says they are looking fur,
dozens and scores and hundreds of them niggers
round about. Sam, he had lived in town five or
six years, and he looked down on all these here
ignoramus country niggers. So he busts out laughing
at first, and he pertends like he don't take no
stock in any of it. Besides, he knowed well enough
he wasn't spotted up by no Messiah, but it was the
dope in the bottles done it. But as he told about
them goings-on Sam got more and more interested
and warmed up to it, and his voice went into a kind
of a sing-song like he was prophesying himself.
And the other two niggers quit pertending to
fool around the team and edged a little closeter,
and a little closeter yet, with their mouths open
and their heads a-nodding and the whites of their
Fur my part, I never hearn such a lot of dern
foolishness in all my life. But the doctor, he says
nothing at all. He listens to Sam ranting and rolling
out big words and raving, and only frowns. He
climbs back into the buggy agin silent, and all the
rest of the way to Bairdstown he set there with
that scowl on his face. I guesses he was thinking
now, the way things had shaped up, he wouldn't
sell none of his stuff at all without he fell right in
with the reception chance had planned fur him.
But if he did fall in with it, and pertend like he was
a Messiah to them niggers, he could get all they
had. He was mebby thinking how much ornerier
that would make the hull scheme.
We got to Bairdstown early enough, but
we didn't go to work there. We wasted
all that day. They was something working
in the doctor's head he wasn't talking about.
I supposed he was getting cold feet on the hull
proposition. Anyhow, he jest set around the little
tavern in that place and done nothing all afternoon.
The weather was fine, and we set out in front.
We hadn't set there more'n an hour till I could
tell we was being noticed by the blacks, not
out open and above board. But every now and
then one or two or three would pass along down
the street, and lazy about and take a look at us.
They pertended they wasn't noticing, but they was.
The word had got around, and they was a feeling
in the air I didn't like at all. Too much caged-up
excitement among the niggers. The doctor felt
it too, I could see that. But neither one of us said
anything about it to the other.
Along toward dusk we takes a walk. They was
a good-sized crick at the edge of that little place,
and on it an old-fashioned worter mill. Above
the mill a little piece was a bridge. We crossed it
and walked along a road that follered the crick
bank closte fur quite a spell.
It wasn't much of a town--something betwixt a
village and a settlement--although they was going
to run a branch of the railroad over to it before very
long. It had had a chancet to get a railroad once,
years before that. But it had said then it didn't
want no railroad. So until lately every branch
built through that part of the country grinned
very sarcastic and give it the go-by.
They was considerable woods standing along the
crick, and around a turn in the road we come onto
Sam, all of a sudden, talking with another nigger.
Sam was jest a-laying it off to that nigger, but he
kind of hushed as we come nearer. Down the
road quite a little piece was a good-sized wooden
building that never had been painted and looked
like it was a big barn. Without knowing it the
doctor and me had been pinting ourselves right
toward Big Bethel.
The nigger with Sam he yells out, when he sees
"Glory be! HYAH dey comes! Hyah dey comes
And he throwed up his arms, and started on a
lope up the road toward the church, singing out
every ten or fifteen yards. A little knot of niggers
come out in front of the church when they hearn
Sam, he stood his ground, and waited fur us to
come up to him, kind of apologetic and sneakinglooking
about something or other.
"What kind of lies have you been telling these
niggers, Sam?" says the doctor, very sharp and short
Sam, he digs a stone out'n the road with the toe
of his shoe, and kind of grins to himself, still looking
sheepish. But he says he opinionates he been telling
them nothing at all.
"I dunno how-come dey get all dem nigger notions
in dey fool haid," Sam says, "but dey all waitin'
dar inside de chu'ch do'--some of de mos' faiful
an' de mos' pra'rful ones o' de Big Bethel cong'gation
been dar fo' de las' houah a-waitin' an' a-watchin',
spite o' de fac' dat reg'lah meetin' ain't gwine ter
be called twell arter supper. De bishop, he dar
too. Dey got some dese hyah coal-ile lamps dar
des inside de chu'ch do' an' dey been keepin' on
'em lighted, daytimes an' night times, fo' two days
now, kaze dey say dey ain't gwine fo' ter be cotched
napping when de bridegroom COMeth. Yass, SAH!--
dey's ten o' dese hyah vergims dar, five of 'em
sleepin' an' five of 'em watchin', an' a-takin' tuhns
at hit, an' mebby dat how-come free or fouah dey
bes' young colo'hed mens been projickin' aroun'
dar all arternoon, a-helpin' dem dat's a-waitin'
twell de bridegroom COM eth!"
We seen a little knot of them, down the road there
in front of the church, gathering around the nigger
that had been with Sam. They all starts toward
us. But one man steps out in front of them all,
and turns toward them and holds his hands up, and
waves them back. They all stops in their tracks.
Then he turns his face toward us, and comes slow
and sollum down the road in our direction, walking
with a cane, and moving very dignified. He was
a couple of hundred yards away.
But as he come closeter we gradually seen him
plainer and plainer. He was a big man, and stout,
and dressed very neat in the same kind of rig as
white bishops wear, with one of these white collars
that buttons in the back. I suppose he was coming
on to meet us alone, because no one was fitten fur
to give us the first welcome but himself.
Well, it was all dern foolishness, and it was hard
to believe it could all happen, and they ain't so
many places in this here country it COULD happen.
But fur all of it being foolishness, when he come
down the road toward us so dignified and sollum
and slow I ketched myself fur a minute feeling like
we really had been elected to something and was
going to take office soon. And Sam, as the bishop
come closeter and closeter, got to jerking and
twitching with the excitement that he had been
keeping in--and yet all the time Sam knowed it
was dope and works and not faith that had made
him spotted that-a-way.
He stops, the bishop does, about ten yards from
us and looks us over.
"Ah yo' de gennleman known ter dis hyah sinful
genehation by de style an' de entitlemint o' Docto'
Hahtley Kirby?" he asts the doctor very ceremonious
The doctor give him a look that wasn't very
encouraging, but he nodded to him.
"Will yo' dismiss yo' sehvant in ordeh dat we
kin hol' convehse an' communion in de midst er
The doctor, he nods to Sam, and Sam moseys
along toward the church.
"Now, then," says the doctor, sudden and sharp,
"take off your hat and tell me what you want."
The bishop's hand goes up to his head with a jerk
before he thought. Then it stops there, while him
and the doctor looks at each other. The bishop's
mouth opens like he was wondering, but he slowly
pulls his hat off and stands there bare-headed in the
road. But he wasn't really humble, that bishop.
"Now," says the doctor, "tell me in as straight
talk as you've got what all this damned foolishness
among you niggers means."
A queer kind of look passed over the bishop's
face. He hadn't expected to be met jest that way,
mebby. Whether he himself had really believed
in the coming of that there new Messiah he had been
perdicting, I never could settle in my mind. Mebby
he had been getting ready to pass HIMSELF off fur
one before we come along and the niggers all got
the fool idea Doctor Kirby was it. Before the
bishop spoke agin you could see his craziness and
his cunningness both working in his face. But
when he did speak he didn't quit being ceremonious
"De wohd has gone fo'th among de faiful an'
de puah in heaht," he says, "dat er man has come
accredited wi' signs an' wi' mahvels an' de poweh
o' de sperrit fo' to lay his han' on de sons o' Ham
an' ter make 'em des de same in colluh as de yuther
sons of ea'th."
"Then that word is a lie," says the doctor. "I
DID come here to try out some stuff to change the
colour of negro skins. That's all. And I find
your idiotic followers are all stirred up and waiting
for some kind of a miracle monger. What you have
been preaching to them, you know best. Is that
all you want to know?"
The bishop hems and haws and fiddles with his
stick, and then he says:
"Suh, will dish yeah prepa'shun SHO'LY do de
wohk?" Doctor Kirby tells him it will do the
work all right.
And then the bishop, after beating around the
bush some more, comes out with his idea. Whether
he expected there would be any Messiah come or
not, of course he knowed the doctor wasn't him.
But he is willing to boost the doctor's game as long
as it boosts HIS game. He wants to be in on the
deal. He wants part of the graft. He wants to
get together with the doctor on a plan before the
doctor sees the niggers. And if the doctor don't
want to keep on with the miracle end of it, the bishop
shows him how he could do him good with no
miracle attachment. Fur he has an awful holt
on them niggers, and his say-so will sell thousands
and thousands of bottles. What he is looking fur
jest now is his little take-out.
That was his craftiness and his cunningness
working in him. But all of a sudden one of his
crazy streaks come bulging to the surface. It come
with a wild, eager look in his eyes.
"Suh," he cries out, all of a sudden, "ef yo' kin
make me white, fo' Gawd sakes, do hit! Do hit!
Ef yo' does, I gwine ter bless yo' all yo' days!
"Yo' don' know--no one kin guess or comperhen'
--what des bein' white would mean ter me!
Lawd! Lawd!" he says, his voice soft-spoken,
but more eager than ever as he went on, and pleading
something pitiful to hear, "des think of all de
Caucasian blood in me! Gawd knows de nights
er my youth I'se laid awake twell de dawn come
red in de Eas' a-cryin' out ter Him only fo' ter be
white! DES TER BE WHITE! Don' min' dem black,
black niggers dar--don' think er DEM--dey ain't
wuth nothin' nor fitten fo' no fate but what dey
got-- But me! What's done kep' me from gwine
ter de top but dat one thing: _I_ WASN'T WHITE! Hit
air too late now--too late fo' dem ambitions I
done trifle with an' shove behin' me--hit's too
late fo' dat! But ef I was des ter git one li'l
year o' hit--ONE LI'L YEAR O' BEIN' WHITE!--befo'
And he went on like that, shaking and stuttering
there in the road, like a fit had struck him, crazy
as a loon. But he got hold of himself enough to
quit talking, in a minute, and his cunning come
back to him before he was through trembling.
Then the doctor says slow and even, but not severe:
"You go back to your people now, bishop, and
tell them they've made a mistake about me. And
if you can, undo the harm you've done with this
Messiah business. As far as this stuff of mine is
concerned, there's none of it for you nor for any
other negro. You tell them that. There's none
of it been sold yet--and there never will be."
Then we turned away and left him standing there
in the road, still with his hat off and his face
Walking back toward the little tavern the doctor
"Danny, this is the end of this game. These
people down here and that half-cracked, halfcrooked
old bishop have made me see a few things
about the Afro-American brother. It wasn't a
good scheme in the first place. And this wasn't the
place to start it going, anyhow--I should have
tried the niggers in the big towns. But I'm out of
it now, and I'm glad of it. What we want to do is to
get away from here to-morrow--go back to Atlanta
and fix up a scheme to rob some widows and orphans,
or something half-way respectable like that."
Well, I drew a long breath. I was with Doctor
Kirby in everything he done, fur he was my friend,
and I didn't intend to quit him. But I was glad
we was out of this, and hadn't sold none of that
dope. We both felt better because we hadn't.
All them millions we was going to make--shucks!
We didn't neither one of us give a dern about them
getting away from us. All we wanted was jest to
get away from there and not get mixed up with
no nigger problems any more. We eat supper,
and we set around a while, and we went to bed
purty middling early, so as to get a good start
in the morning.
We got up early, but early as it was the devil had
been up earlier in that neighbourhood. About
four o'clock that morning a white woman about
a half a mile from the village had been attacked
by a nigger. They was doubt as to whether she
would live, but if she lived they wasn't no doubts
she would always be more or less crazy. Fur
besides everything else, he had beat her insensible.
And he had choked her nearly to death. The
country-side was up, with guns and pistols looking
fur that nigger. It wasn't no trouble guessing
what would happen to him when they ketched
"And," says Doctor Kirby, when we hearn of
it, "I hope to high heaven they DO catch him!"
They wasn't much doubt they would, either.
They was already beating up the woods and bushes
and gangs was riding up and down the roads, and
every nigger's house fur miles around was being
searched and watched.
We soon seen we would have trouble getting
hosses and a rig in the village to take us to the
railroad. Many of the hosses was being ridden in
the man-hunt. And most of the men who might
have done the driving was busy at that too. The
hotel-keeper himself had left his place standing
wide open and went out. We didn't get any breakfast
"Danny," says the doctor, "we'll just put enough
money to pay the bill in an envelope on the register
here, and strike out on shank's ponies. It's only
nine or ten miles to the railroad--we'll walk."
"But how about our stuff?" I asts him. We
had two big cases full of sample bottles of that dope,
besides our suit cases.
"Hang the dope!" says the doctor, "I don't
ever want to see it or hear of it again! We'll leave
it here. Put the things out of your suit case into
mine, and leave that here too. Sam can carry
mine. I want to be on the move."
So we left, with Sam carrying the one suit case.
It wasn't nine in the morning yet, and we was
starting out purty empty fur a long walk.
"Sam," says the doctor, as we was passing that
there Big Bethel church--and it showed up there
silent and shabby in the morning, like a old coloured
man that knows a heap more'n he's going to tell--
"Sam, were you at the meeting here last night?"
"I suppose it was a pretty tame affair after they
found out their Elisha wasn't coming after all?"
Sam, he walled his eyes, and then he kind of
"Well, suh," he says, "I 'spicions de mos' on 'em
don' know dat YIT!"
The doctor asts him what he means.
It seems the bishop must of done some thinking
after we left him in the road or on his way back to
that church. They had all begun to believe that
there Elishyah was on the way to 'em, and the
bishop's credit was more or less wrapped up with
our being it. It was true he hadn't started that
belief; but it was believed, and he didn't dare to
stop it now. Fur, if he stopped it, they would all
think he had fell down on his prophetics, even
although he hadn't prophesied jest exactly us.
He was in a tight place, that bishop, but I bet you
could always depend on him to get out of it with his
flock. So what he told them niggers at the meeting
last night was that he brung 'em a message from
Elishyah, Sam says, the Elishyah that was to come.
And the message was that the time was not ripe
fur him to reveal himself as Elishyah unto the eyes
of all men, fur they had been too much sinfulness
and wickedness and walking into the ways of evil,
right amongst that very congregation, and disobedience
of the bishop, which was their guide. And
he had sent 'em word, Elishyah had, that the bishop
was his trusted servant, and into the keeping of the
bishop was give the power to deal with his people
and prepare them fur the great day to come. And
the bishop would give the word of his coming. He
was a box, that bishop was, in spite of his crazy
streaks; and he had found a way to make himself
stronger than ever with his bunch out of the very
kind of thing that would have spoiled most people's
graft. They had had a big meeting till nearly
morning, and the power had hit 'em strong. Sam
told us all about it.
But the thing that seemed to interest the doctor,
and made him frown, was the idea that all them
niggers round about there still had the idea he was
the feller that had been prophesied to come. All
except Sam, mebby. Sam had spells when he was
real sensible, and other spells when he was as bad
as the believingest of them all.
It was a fine day, and really joyous to be a-walking.
It would of been a good deal joyouser if we had had
some breakfast, but we figgered we would stop
somewheres at noon and lay in a good, square,
That wasn't such a very thick settled country.
But everybody seemed to know about the manhunt
that was going on, here, there, and everywhere.
People would come down to the road side as we
passed, and gaze after us. Or mebby ast us if
we knowed whether he had been ketched yet.
Women and kids mostly, or old men, but now
and then a younger man too. We noticed they
wasn't no niggers to speak of that wasn't
busier'n all get out, working at something or
other, that day.
They is considerable woods in that country yet,
though lots has been cut off. But they was sometimes
right long stretches where they would be
woods on both sides of the road, more or less thick,
with underbrush between the trees. We tramped
along, each busy thinking his own thoughts, and
having a purty good time jest doing that without
there being no use of talking. I was thinking that
I liked the doctor better fur turning his back on all
this game, jest when he might of made some sort
of a deal with the bishop and really made some
money out of it in the end. He never was so good
a business man as he thought he was, Doctor
Kirby wasn't. He always could make himself
think he was. But when it come right down
to brass tacks he wasn't. You give him a scheme
that would TALK well, the kind of a josh talk he liked
to get off fur his own enjoyment, and he would take
up with it every time instead of one that had more
promise of money to it if it was worked harder.
He was thinking of the TALK more'n he was of the
money, mostly; and he was always saying something
about art fur art's sake, which was plumb
foolishness, fur he never painted no pictures. Well,
he never got over being more or less of a puzzle
to me. But fur some reason or other this morning
he seemed to be in a better humour with himself,
after we had walked a while, than I had seen him
in fur a long time.
We come to the top of one long hill, which it had
made us sweat to climb, and without saying nothing
to each other we both stopped and took off our
hats and wiped our foreheads, and drawed long
breaths, content to stand there fur jest a minute
or two and look around us. The road run straight
ahead, and dipped down, and then clumb up
another hill about an eighth of a mile in front of
us. It made a little valley. Jest about the middle,
between the two hills, a crick meandered through
the bottom land. Woods growed along the crick,
and along both sides of the road we was travelling.
Right nigh the crick they was another road come
out of the woods to the left-hand side, and switched
into the road we was travelling, and used the same
bridge to cross the crick by. They was three or
four houses here and there, with chimbleys built
up on the outside of them, and blue smoke coming
out. We stood and looked at the sight before us
and forgot all the troubles we had left behind, fur
a couple of minutes--it all looked so peaceful
and quiet and homeyfied and nice.
"Well," says the doctor, after we had stood
there a piece, "I guess we better be moving on again,
But jest as Sam, who was follering along behind
with that suit case, picks it up and puts it on his head
agin, they come a sound, from away off in the distance
somewheres, that made him set it down quick. And
we all stops in our tracks and looks at each other.
It was the voice of a hound dog--not so awful
loud, but clear and mellow and tuneful, and carried
to us on the wind. And then in a minute it come
agin, sharper and quicker. They yells like that
when they have struck a scent.
As we stood and looked at each other they come
a crackle in the underbrush, jest to the left of us.
We turned our heads that-a-way, jest as a nigger
man give a leap to the top of a rail fence that
separated the road from the woods. He was going
so fast that instead of climbing that fence and balancing
on the top and jumping off he jest simply
seemed to hit the top rail and bounce on over, like
he had been throwed out of the heart of the woods,
and he fell sprawling over and over in the road,
right before our feet.
He was onto his feet in a second, and fur a minute
he stood up straight and looked at us--an ashescoloured
nigger, ragged and bleeding from the underbrush,
red-eyed, and with slavers trickling from his
red lips, and sobbing and gasping and panting fur
breath. Under his brown skin, where his shirt
was torn open acrost his chest, you could see that
nigger's heart a-beating.
But as he looked at us they come a sudden change
acrost his face--he must of seen the doctor before,
and with a sob he throwed himself on his knees in
the road and clasped his hands and held 'em out
toward Doctor Kirby.
"ELISHyah! ELISHyah!" he sings out, rocking
of his body in a kind of tune, "reveal yo'se'f, reveal
yo'se'f an' he'p me NOW! Lawd Gawd ELISHyah,
beckon fo' a CHA'iot, yo' cha'iot of FIAH! Lif' me,
lif' me--lif' me away f'um hyah in er cha'iot o' FIAH!"
The doctor, he turned his head away, and I
knowed the thought working in him was the thought
of that white woman that would always be an
idiot for life, if she lived. But his lips was dumb,
and his one hand stretched itself out toward that
nigger in the road and made a wiping motion, like
he was trying fur to wipe the picture of him, and
the thought of him, off'n a slate forevermore.
Jest then, nearer and louder and sharper, and
with an eager sound, like they knowed they almost
had him now, them hounds' voices come ringing
through the woods, and with them come the mixedup
shouts of men.
"RUN!" yells Sam, waving of that suit case round
his head, fur one nigger will always try to help
another no matter what he's done. "Run fo' de
branch--git yo' foots in de worter an' fling 'em
off de scent!"
He bounded down the hill, that red-eyed nigger,
and left us standing there. But before he reached
the crick the whole man-hunt come busting through
the woods, the dogs a-straining at their straps.
The men was all on foot, with guns and pistols in
their hands. They seen the nigger, and they all
let out a yell, and was after him. They ketched
him at the crick, and took him off along that road
that turned off to the left. I hearn later he was a
member of Bishop Warren's congregation, so they
hung him right in front of Big Bethel church.
We stood there on top of the hill and saw the
chase and capture. Doctor Kirby's face was
sweating worse than when we first clumb the hill.
He was thinking about that nigger that had pleaded
with him. He was thinking also of the woman.
He was glad it hadn't been up to him personal
right then and there to butt in and stop a lynching.
He was glad, fur with them two pictures in front
of him he didn't know what he would of done.
"Thank heaven!" I hearn him say to himself.
"Thank heaven that it wasn't REALLY in my power
Well, we had pork and greens fur dinner
that day, with the best corn-bread I ever
eat anywheres, and buttermilk, and sweet
potato pie. We got 'em at the house of a feller
named Withers--Old Daddy Withers. Which if
they was ever a nicer old man than him, or a nicer
old woman than his wife, I never run acrost 'em yet.
They lived all alone, them Witherses, with only
a couple of niggers to help them run their farm.
After we eats our dinner and Sam gets his'n out to the
kitchen, we sets out in front of the house and gets
to talking with them, and gets real well acquainted.
Which we soon found out the secret of old Daddy
Withers's life--that there innocent-looking old
jigger was a poet. He was kind of proud of it and
kind of shamed of it both to oncet. The way
it come out was when the doctor says one of them
quotations he is always getting off, and the old man
he looks pleased and says the rest of the piece it
dropped out of straight through.
Then they had a great time quoting it at each
other, them two, and I seen the doctor is good to
loaf around there the rest of the day, like as not.
Purty soon the old lady begins to get mighty proudlooking
over something or other, and she leans over
and whispers to the old man:
"Shall I bring it out, Lemuel?"
The old man, he shakes his head, no. But she
slips into the house anyhow, and fetches out a
little book with a pale green cover to it, and hands
it to the doctor.
"Bless my soul," says Doctor Kirby, looking at
the old man, "you don't mean to say you write
The old man, he gets red all over his face, and up
into the roots of his white hair, and down into his
white beard, and makes believe he is a little mad at
the old lady fur showing him off that-a-way.
"Mother," he says, "yo' shouldn't have done
that!" They had had a boy years before, and he
had died, but he always called her mother the same
as if the boy was living. He goes into the house
and gets his pipe, and brings it out and lights it,
acting like that book of poetry was a mighty small
matter to him. But he looks at Doctor Kirby out
of the corner of his eyes, and can't keep from getting
sort of eager and trembly with his pipe; and I could
see he was really anxious over what the doctor was
thinking of them poems he wrote. The doctor
reads some of 'em out loud.
Well, it was kind of home-made poetry, Old Daddy
Withers's was. It wasn't like no other poetry I ever
struck. And I could tell the doctor was thinking
the same about it. It sounded somehow like it
hadn't been jointed together right. You would
keep listening fur it to rhyme, and get all worked up
watching and waiting fur it to, and make bets with
yourself whether it would rhyme or it wouldn't.
And then it ginerally wouldn't. I never hearn
such poetry to get a person's expectances all worked
up, and then go back on 'em. But if you could
of told what it was all about, you wouldn't of minded
that so much. Not that you can tell what most
poetry is about, but you don't care so long as
it keeps hopping along lively. What you want in
poetry to make her sound good, according to my
way of thinking, is to make her jump lively, and
then stop with a bang on the rhymes. But Daddy
Withers was so independent-like he would jest
natcherally try to force two words to rhyme whether
the Lord made 'em fur mates or not--like as if
you would try to make a couple of kids kiss and
make up by bumping their heads together. They
jest simply won't do it. But Doctor Kirby, he
let on like he thought it was fine poetry, and he
read them pieces over and over agin, out loud, and
the old man and the old woman was both mighty
tickled with the way he done it. He wouldn't
of had 'em know fur anything he didn't believe it
was the finest poetry ever wrote, Doctor Kirby
They was four little books of it altogether. Slim
books that looked as if they hadn't had enough to
eat, like a stray cat whose ribs is rubbing together.
It had cost Daddy Withers five hundred dollars
apiece to get 'em published. A feller in Boston
charged him that much, he said. It seems he would
go along fur years, raking and scraping of his money
together, so as to get enough ahead to get out another
book. Each time he had his hopes the big newspapers
would mebby pay some attention to it, and
he would get recognized.
"But they never did," said the old man, kind of
sad, "it always fell flat."
"Why, FATHER!"--the old lady begins, and finishes
by running back into the house agin. She is out
in a minute with a clipping from a newspaper and
hands it over to Doctor Kirby, as proud as a kid
with copper-toed boots. The doctor reads it all
the way through, and then he hands it back without
saying a word. The old lady goes away to fiddle
around about the housework purty soon and the
old man looks at the doctor and says:
"Well, you see, don't you?"
"Yes," says the doctor, very gentle.
"I wouldn't have HER know for the world," says
Daddy Withers. "_I_ know and YOU know that newspaper
piece is just simply poking fun at my poetry,
and making a fool of me, the whole way through.
As soon as I read it over careful I saw it wasn't
really praise, though there was a minute or two I
thought my recognition had come. But SHE don't
know it ain't serious from start to finish. SHE was
all-mighty pleased when that piece come out in
print. And I don't intend she ever shall know it
ain't real praise."
His wife was so proud when that piece come out
in that New York paper, he said, she cried over it.
She said now she was glad they had been doing
without things fur years and years so they could
get them little books printed, one after the other,
fur now fame was coming. But sometimes, Daddy
Withers says, he suspicions she really knows he has
been made a fool of, and is pertending not to see it,
fur his sake, the same as he is pertending fur HER
sake. Well, they was a mighty nice old couple,
and the doctor done a heap of pertending fur both
their sakes--they wasn't nothing else to do.
"How'd you come to get started at it?" he asts.
Daddy Withers says he don't rightly know.
Mebby, he says, it was living there all his life and
watching things growing--watching the cotton
grow, and the corn and getting acquainted with
birds and animals and trees and things. Helping
of things to grow, he says, is a good way to understand
how God must feel about humans. For
what you plant and help to grow, he says, you are
sure to get to caring a heap about. You can't
help it. And that is the reason, he says, God can
be depended on to pull the human race through in
the end, even if appearances do look to be agin His
doing it sometimes, fur He started it to growing
in the first place and that-a-way He got interested
personal in it. And that is the main idea, he says,
he has all the time been trying to get into that there
poetry of his'n. But he reckons he ain't got her in.
Leastways, he says, no one has never seen her there
but the doctor and the old lady and himself. Well,
for my part, I never would of seen it there myself,
but when he said it out plain like that any one could
of told what he meant.
You hadn't orter lay things up agin folks if the
folks can't help 'em. And I will say Daddy Withers
was a fine old boy in spite of his poetry. Which
it never really done any harm, except being expensive
to him, and lots will drink that much up and never
figger it an expense, but one of the necessities of
life. We went all over his place with him, and we
noticed around his house a lot of tin cans tacked
up to posts and trees. They was fur the birds to
drink out of, and all the birds around there had
found out about it, and about Daddy Withers, and
wasn't scared of him at all. He could get acquainted
with animals, too, so that after a long spell sometimes
they would even let him handle them. But not if
any one was around. They was a crow he had made
a pet of, used to hop around in front of him, and try
fur to talk to him. If he went to sleep in the front
yard whilst he was reading, that crow had a favourite
trick of stealing his spectacles off'n his nose and
flying up to the ridgepole of the house, and cawing
at him. Once he had been setting out a row of
tomato plants very careful, and he got to the end
of the row and turned around, and that there crow
had been hopping along behind very sollum, pulling
up each plant as he set it out. It acted like it had
done something mighty smart, and knowed it,
that crow. So after that the old man named him
Satan, fur he said it was Satan's trick to keep things
from growing. They was some blue and white
pigeons wasn't scared to come and set on his shoulders;
but you could see the old man really liked
that crow Satan better'n any of them.
Well, we hung around all afternoon listening to
the old man talk, and liking him better and better.
First thing we knowed it was getting along toward
supper time. And nothing would do but we must
stay to supper, too. We was pinted toward a
place on the railroad called Smithtown, but when
we found we couldn't get a train from there till ten
o'clock that night anyhow, and it was only three
miles away, we said we'd stay.
After supper we calculated we'd better move.
But the old man wouldn't hear of us walking that
three miles. So about eight o'clock he hitched up
a mule to a one-hoss wagon, and we jogged along.
They was a yaller moon sneaking up over the
edge of the world when we started. It was so low
down in the sky yet that it threw long shadders
on the road, and they was thick and black ones, too.
Because they was a lot of trees alongside the road,
and the road was narrow, we went ahead mostly
through the darkness, with here and there patches
of moonlight splashed onto the ground. Doctor
Kirby and Old Man Withers was setting on the
seat, still gassing away about books and things,
and I was setting on the suit case in the wagon box
right behind 'em. Sam, he was sometimes in the
back of the wagon. He had been more'n half
asleep all afternoon, but now it was night he was
waked up, the way niggers and cats will do, and
every once in a while he would get out behind and
cut a few capers in a moonlight patch, jest fur
the enjoyment of it, and then run and ketch up
with the wagon and crawl in agin, fur it was going
The ground was sandy in spots, and I guess we
made a purty good load fur Beck, the old mule.
She stopped, going up a little slope, after we had
went about a mile from the Witherses'. Sam says
he'll get out and walk, fur the wheels was in purty
deep, and it was hard going.
"Giddap, Beck!" says the old man.
But Beck, she won't. She don't stand like she
is stuck, neither, but like she senses danger somewheres
about. A hoss might go ahead into danger,
but a mule is more careful of itself and never goes
butting in unless it feels sure they is a way out.
"Giddap," says the old man agin.
But jest then the shadders on both sides of the
road comes to life. They wakes up, and moves all
about us. It was done so sudden and quiet it was
half a minute before I seen it wasn't shadders but
about thirty men had gathered all about us on
every side. They had guns.
"Who are you? What d'ye want?" asts the old
man, startled, as three or four took care of the
mule's head very quick and quiet.
"Don't be skeered, Daddy Withers," says a drawly
voice out of the dark; "we ain't goin' to hurt YOU.
We got a little matter o' business to tend to with
them two fellers yo' totin' to town."
Thirty</i> men with guns would be considerable
of a proposition to buck against, so we
didn't try it. They took us out of the
wagon, and they pinted us down the road, steering
us fur a country schoolhouse which was, I judged
from their talk, about a quarter of a mile away.
They took us silent, fur after we found they didn't
answer no questions we quit asking any. We
jest walked along, and guessed what we was up
against, and why. Daddy Withers, he trailed along
behind. They had tried to send him along home,
but he wouldn't go. So they let him foller and
paid no more heed to him.
Sam, he kept a-talking and a-begging, and
several men a-telling of him to shut up. And him
not a-doing it. Till finally one feller says very
"Boys, I'm going to turn this nigger loose."
"We'll want his evidence," says another one.
"Evidence!" says the first one. "What's the
evidence of a scared nigger worth?"
"I reckon that one this afternoon was considerable
scared, when he give us that evidence against
himself--that is, if you call it evidence."
"A nigger can give evidence against a nigger,
and it's all right," says another voice--which it
come from a feller that had a-holt of my wrist on
the left-hand side of me--"but these are white
men we are going to try to-night. The case is too
serious to take nigger evidence. Besides, I reckon
we got all the evidence any one could need. This
nigger ain't charged with any crime himself, and
my idea is that he ain't to be allowed to figure one
way or the other in this thing."
So they turned Sam loose. I never seen nor
hearn tell of Sam since then. They fired a couple
of guns into the air as he started down the road,
jest fur fun, and mebby he is running yet.
The feller had been talking like he was a lawyer,
so I asts him what crime we was charged with. But
he didn't answer me. And jest then we gets in
sight of that schoolhouse.
It set on top of a little hill, partially in the moonlight,
with a few sad-looking pine trees scattered
around it, and the fence in front broke down.
Even after night you could see it was a shabbylooking
Old Daddy Withers tied his mule to the broken
down fence. Somebody busted the front door
down. Somebody else lighted matches. The first
thing I knowed, we was all inside, and four or five
dirty little coal oil lamps, with tin reflectors to 'em,
which I s'pose was used ordinary fur school exhibitions,
was being lighted.
We was waltzed up onto the teacher's platform,
Doctor Kirby and me, and set down in chairs there,
with two men to each of us, and then a tall, rawboned
feller stalks up to the teacher's desk, and
raps on it with the butt end of a pistol, and says:
"Gentlemen, this meeting will come to order."
Which they was orderly enough before that,
but they all took off their hats when he rapped,
like in a court room or a church, and most of 'em
They set down in the school kids' seats, or on top
of the desks, and their legs stuck out into the aisles,
and they looked uncomfortable and awkward. But
they looked earnest and they looked sollum, too,
and they wasn't no joking nor skylarking going
on, nor no kind of rowdyness, neither. These
here men wasn't toughs, by any manner of means,
but the most part of 'em respectable farmers. They
had a look of meaning business.
"Gentlemen," says the feller who had rapped,
"who will you have for your chairman?"
"I reckon you'll do, Will," says another feller
to the raw-boned man, which seemed to satisfy
him. But he made 'em vote on it before he took
"Now then," says Will, "the accused must have
"Will," says another feller, very hasty, "what's
the use of all this fuss an' feathers? You know as
well as I do there's nothing legal about this. It's
only necessary. For my part--"
"Buck Hightower," says Will, pounding on the
desk, "you will please come to order." Which
Buck done it.
"Now," says the chairman, turning toward
Doctor Kirby, who had been setting there looking
thoughtful from one man to another, like he was
sizing each one up, "now I must explain to the
chief defendant that we don't intend to lynch him."
He stopped a second on that word LYNCH as if
to let it soak in. The doctor, he bowed toward
him very cool and ceremonious, and says, mocking
"You reassure me, Mister--Mister--What is
your name?" He said it in a way that would of
made a saint mad.
"My name ain't any difference," says Will, trying
not to show he was nettled.
"You are quite right," says the doctor, looking
Will up and down from head to foot, very slow and
insulting, "it's of no consequence in the world."
Will, he flushed up, but he makes himself steady
and cool, and he goes on with his little speech:
"There is to be no lynching here to-night. There
is to be a trial, and, if necessary, an execution."
"Would it be asking too much," says the
doctor very polite, "if I were to inquire who is
to be tried, and before what court, and upon what
There was a clearing of throats and a shuffling of
feet fur a minute. One old deaf feller, with a red
nose, who had his hand behind his ear and was
leaning forward so as not to miss a breath of what
any one said, ast his neighbour in a loud whisper,
"How?" Then an undersized little feller, who
wasn't a farmer by his clothes, got up and moved
toward the platform. He had a bulging-out forehead,
and thin lips, and a quick, nervous way
"You are to be tried," he says to the doctor,
speaking in a kind of shrill sing-song that cut your
nerves in that room full of bottled-up excitement
like a locust on a hot day. "You are to be tried before
this self-constituted court of Caucasian citizens--
Anglo-Saxons, sir, every man of them, whose forbears
were at Runnymede! The charge against
you is stirring up the negroes of this community
to the point of revolt. You are accused, sir, of
representing yourself to them as some kind of a
Moses. You are arraigned here for endangering
the peace of the county and the supremacy of the
Caucasian race by inspiring in the negroes the hope
Old Daddy Withers had been setting back by
the door. I seen him get up and slip out. It didn't
look to me to be any place fur a gentle old poet.
While that little feller was making that charge
you could feel the air getting tingly, like it does
before a rain storm.
Some fellers started to clap their hands like at a
political rally and to say, "Go it, Billy!" "That's
right, Harden!" Which I found out later Billy
Harden was in the state legislature, and quite a
speaker, and knowed it. Will, the chairman, he
pounded down the applause, and then he says to
the doctor, pointing to Billy Harden:
"No man shall say of us that we did not give you
a fair trial and a square deal. I'm goin' to appoint
this gentleman as your counsel, and I'm goin' to
give you a reasonable time to talk with him in private
and prepare your case. He is the ablest
lawyer in southwest Georgia and the brightest son
of Watson County."
The doctor looks kind of lazy and Bill Harden,
and back agin at Will, the chairman, and smiles
out of the corner of his mouth. Then he says,
sort of taking in the rest of the crowd with his
remark, like them two standing there paying
each other compliments wasn't nothing but
"I hope neither of you will take it too much to
heart if I'm not impressed by your sense of justice
--or your friend's ability."
"Then," said Will, "I take it that you intend to
act as your own counsel?"
"You may take it," says the doctor, rousing of
himself up, "you may take it--from me--that
I refuse to recognize you and your crowd as a court
of any kind; that I know nothing of the silly accusations
against me; that I find no reason at all why I
should take the trouble of making a defence before
an armed mob that can only mean one of two things."
"One of two things?" says Will.
"Yes," says the doctor, very quiet, but raising
his voice a little and looking him hard in the eyes.
"You and your gang can mean only one of two
things. Either a bad joke, or else--"
And he stopped a second, leaning forward in his
chair, with the look of half raising out of it, so as
to bring out the word very decided--
The way he done it left that there word hanging
in the room, so you could almost see it and almost
feel it there, like it was a thing that had to be faced
and looked at and took into account. They all
felt it that-a-way, too; fur they wasn't a sound fur
a minute. Then Will says:
"We don't plan murder, and you'll find this
ain't a joke. And since you refuse to accept
Jest then Buck Hightower interrupts him by yelling
out, "I make a motion Billy Harden be prosecuting
attorney, then. Let's hurry this thing along!"
And several started to applaud, and call fur Billy
Harden to prosecute. But Will, he pounded down
the applause agin, and says:
"I was about to suggest that Mr. Harden might
be prevailed upon to accept that task."
"Yes," says the doctor, very gentle and easy.
"Quite so! I fancied myself that Mr. Harden came
along with the idea of making a speech either for
or against." And he grinned at Billy Harden in a
way that seemed to make him wild, though he tried
not to show it. Somehow the doctor seemed to be
all keyed up, instead of scared, like a feller that's
had jest enough to drink to give him a fighting edge.
"Mr. Chairman," says Billy Harden, flushing
up and stuttering jest a little, "I b-beg leave to
"What," says the doctor, sort of playing with
Billy with his eyes and grin, and turning like to
let the whole crowd in on the joke, "DECLINE? The
eminent gentleman declines! And he is going to
sit down, too, with all that speech bottled up in
him! O Demosthenes!" he says, "you have lost
your pebble in front of all Greece."
Several grinned at Billy Harden as he set down,
and three or four laughed outright. I guess about
half of them there knowed him fur a wind bag, and
some wasn't sorry to see him joshed. But I seen
what the doctor was trying to do. He knowed he
was in an awful tight place, and he was feeling that
crowd's pulse, so to speak. He had been talking
to crowds fur twenty years, and he knowed the
kind of sudden turns they will take, and how to
take advantage of 'em. He was planning and
figgering in his mind all the time jest what side to
ketch 'em on, and how to split up the one, solid
crowd-mind into different minds. But the little
bit of a laugh he turned against Billy Harden was
only on the surface, like a straw floating on a whirlpool.
These men was here fur business.
Buck Hightower jumps up and says:
"Will, I'm getting tired of this court foolishness.
The question is, Does this man come into this
county and do what he has done and get out again?
We know all about him. He sneaked in here and
gave out he was here to turn the niggers white--
that he was some kind of a new-fangled Jesus sent
especially to niggers, which is blasphemy in itself--
and he's got 'em stirred up. They're boilin' and
festerin' with notions of equality till we're lucky
if we don't have to lynch a dozen of 'em, like they
did in Atlanta last summer, to get 'em back into
their places again. Do we save ourselves more
trouble by stringing him up as a warning to the
negroes? Or do we invite trouble by turning him
loose? Which? All it needs is a vote."
And he set down agin. You could see he had
made a hit with the boys. They was a kind of a
growl rolled around the room. The feelings in
that place was getting stronger and stronger. I
was scared, but trying not to show it. My fingers
kept feeling around in my pocket fur something
that wasn't there. But my brain couldn't remember
what my fingers was feeling fur. Then it come on
me sudden it was a buckeye I picked up in the woods
in Indiany one day, and I had lost it. I ain't superstitious
about buckeyes or horse-shoes, but remembering
I had lost it somehow made me feel worse.
But Doctor Kirby had a good holt on himself; his
face was a bit redder'n usual, and his eyes was sparkling,
and he was both eager and watchful. When
Buck Hightower sets down the chairman clears his
throat like he is going to speak. But--
"Just a moment," says Doctor Kirby, getting
on his feet, and taking a step toward the chairman.
And the way he stopped and stood made everybody
look at him. Then he went on:
"Once more," he says, "I call the attention of
every man present to the fact that what the last
speaker proposes is--"
And then he let 'em have that word agin, full in
their faces, to think about--
"MURDER! Merely murder."
He was bound they shouldn't get away from that
word and what it stood fur. And every man there
DID think, too, fur they was another little pause.
And not one of 'em looked at another one fur a
minute. Doctor Kirby leaned forward from the
platform, running his eyes over the crowd, and jest
natcherally shoved that word into the room so hard
with his mind that every mind there had to take it in.
But as he held 'em to it they come a bang from
one of the windows. It broke the charm. Fur
everybody jumped. I jumped myself. When the
end of the world comes and the earth busts in the
middle, it won't sound no louder than that bang
did. It was a wooden shutter. The wind was rising
outside, and it flew open and whacked agin'
Then a big, heavy-set man that hadn't spoke
before riz up from one of the hind seats, like he had
heard a dare to fight, and walked slowly down
toward the front. He had a red face, which was
considerable pock-marked, and very deep-set eyes,
and a deep voice.
"Since when," he says, taking up his stand a
dozen feet or so in front of the doctor, "since when
has any civilization refused to commit murder when
murder was necessary for its protection?"
One of the top glasses of that window was out,
and with the shutter open they come a breeze through
that fluttered some strips of dirty-coloured papers,
fly-specked and dusty and spider-webbed, that
hung on strings acrost the room, jest below the
ceiling. I guess they had been left over from some
"My friend," said the pock-marked man to the
doctor--and the funny thing about it was he didn't
talk unfriendly when he said it--"the word you
insist on is just a WORD, like any other word."
They was a spider rousted out of his web by that
disturbance among the strings and papers. He
started down from above on jest one string of web,
seemingly spinning part of it out of himself as he
come, the way they do. I couldn't keep my eyes
"Murder," says the doctor, "is a thing."
"It is a WORD," says the other man, "FOR a thing.
For a thing which sometimes seems necessary.
Lynching, war, execution, murder--they are all
words for different ways of wiping out human life.
Killing sometimes seems wrong, and sometimes
right. But right or wrong, and with one word or
another tacked to it, it is DONE when a community
wants to get rid of something dangerous to it."
That there spider was a squat, ugly-looking devil,
hunched up on his string amongst all his crooked
legs. The wind would come in little puffs, and
swing him a little way toward the doctor's head,
and then toward the pock-marked man's head,
back and forth and back and forth, between them
two as they spoke. It looked to me like he was
listening to what they said and waiting fur
"Murder," says the doctor, "is murder--illegal
killing--and you can't make anything else out of
it, or talk anything else into it."
It come to me all to oncet that that ugly spider
was swinging back and forth like the pendulum on
a clock, and marking time. I wondered how much
time they was left in the world.
"It would be none the less a murder," said the
pock-marked man, "if you were to be hanged after
a trial in some county court. Society had been
obliged to deny the privilege of committing murder
to the individual and reserve it for the community.
If our communal sense says you should die, the
thing is neither better nor worse than if a sheriff
"I am not to be hanged by a sheriff," says the
doctor, very cool and steady, "because I have committed
no crime. I am not to be killed by you
because you dare not, in spite of all you say, outrage
the law to that extent."
And they looked each other in the eyes so long
and hard that every one else in the schoolhouse
held their breath.
"DARE not?" says the pock-marked man. And
he reached forward slow and took that spider in
his hand, and crushed it there, and wiped his hand
along his pants leg. "Dare not? YES, BUT WE DARE.
The only question for us men here is whether we
dare to let you go free."
"Your defence of lynching," says Doctor Kirby,
"shows that you, at least, are a man who can think.
Tell me what I am accused of?"
And then the trial begun in earnest.
The doctor acted as his own lawyer, and
the pock-marked man, whose name was
Grimes, as the lawyer agin us. You could
see that crowd had made up its mind before-hand,
and was only giving us what they called a trial to
satisfy their own conscience. But the fight was betwixt
Grimes and Doctor Kirby the hull way through.
One witness was a feller that had been in the hotel
at Cottonville the night we struck that place. We
had drunk some of his licker.
"This man admitted himself that he was here to
turn the niggers white," said the witness.
Doctor Kirby had told 'em what kind of medicine
he was selling. We both remembered it. We both
had to admit it.
The next witness was the feller that run the
tavern at Bairdstown. He had with him, fur proof,
a bottle of the stuff we had brought with us. He
told how we had went away and left it there that
Another witness told of seeing the doctor talking
in the road to that there nigger bishop. Which any
one could of seen it easy enough, fur they wasn't
nothing secret about it. We had met him by accident.
But you could see it made agin us.
Another witness says he lives not fur from that
Big Bethel church. He says he has noticed the
niggers was worked up about something fur several
days. They are keeping the cause of it secret. He
went over to Big Bethel church the night before, he
said, and he listened outside one of the windows to
find out what kind of doctrine that crazy bishop was
preaching to them. They was all so worked up,
and the power was with 'em so strong, and they was
so excited they wouldn't of hearn an army marching
by. He had hearn the bishop deliver a message
to his flock from the Messiah. He had seen him go
wild, afterward, and preach an equality sermon.
That was the lying message the old bishop had took
to 'em, and that Sam had told us about. But how
was this feller to know it was a lie? He believed in
it, and he told it in a straight-ahead way that would
make any one see he was telling the truth as he
thought it to be.
Then they was six other witnesses. All had been
in the gang that lynched the nigger that day. That
nigger had confessed his crime before he was lynched.
He had told how the niggers had been expecting of a
Messiah fur several days, and how the doctor was
him. He had died a-preaching and a-prophesying
and thinking to the last minute maybe he was going
to get took up in a chariot of fire.
Things kept looking worse and worse fur us.
They had the story as the niggers thought it to be.
They thought the doctor had deliberately represented
himself as such, instead of which the doctor
had refused to be represented as that there
Messiah. More than that, he had never sold a
bottle of that medicine. He had flung the idea of
selling it way behind him jest as soon as he seen
what the situation really was in the black counties.
He had even despised himself fur going into
it. But the looks of things was all the other
Then the doctor give his own testimony.
"Gentlemen," he says, "it is true that I came
down here to try out that stuff in the bottle there,
and see if a market could be worked up for it. It is
also true that, after I came here and discovered
what conditions were, I decided not to sell the stuff.
I didn't sell any. About this Messiah business I
know very little more than you do. The situation
was created, and I blundered into it. I sent the
negroes word that I was not the person they expected.
The bishop lied to them. That is my
But they didn't believe him. Fur it was jest
what he would of said if he had been guilty, as
they thought him. And then Grimes gets up and
"Gentlemen, I demand for this prisoner the
penalty of death.
"He has lent himself to a situation calculated to
disturb in this county the peaceful domination of the
black race by the white.
"He is a Northern man. But that is not against
him. If this were a case where leniency were possible,
it should count for him, as indicating an ignorance
of the gravity of conditions which confront
us here, every day and all the time. If he were my
own brother, I would still demand his death.
"Lest he should think my attitude dictated by
any lingering sectional prejudice, I may tell him what
you all know--you people among whom I have lived
for thirty years--that I am a Northern man myself.
"The negro who was lynched to-day might never
have committed the crime he did had not the wild,
disturbing dream of equality been stirring in his
brain. Every speech, every look, every action
which encourages that idea is a crime. In this
county, where the blacks outnumber us, we must
either rule as masters or be submerged.
"This man is still believed by the negroes to
possess some miraculous power. He is therefore
doubly dangerous. As a sharp warning to them he
must die. His death will do more toward ending
the trouble he has prepared than the death of a
"And as God is my witness, I speak and act
not through passion, but from the dictates of
He meant it, Grimes did. And when he set down
they was a hush. And then Will, the chairman,
begun to call the roll.
I never been much of a person to have bad dreams
or nightmares or things like that. But ever since
that night in that schoolhouse, if I do have a nightmare,
it takes the shape of that roll being called.
Every word was like a spade grating and gritting
in damp gravel when a grave is dug. It sounded
so to me.
"Samuel Palmour, how do you vote?" that chairman
Samuel Palmour, or whoever it was, would hist
himself to his feet, and he would say something
He wouldn't say it joyous. He wouldn't say it
mad. He would be pale when he said it, mebby--
and mebby trembling. But he would say it like it
was a duty he had to do, that couldn't be got out
of. That there trial had lasted so long they wasn't
hot blood left in nobody jest then--only cold blood,
and determination and duty and principle.
"Buck Hightower," says the chairman, "how
do you vote?"
"Death," says Buck; "death for the man. But
say, can't we jest LICK the kid and turn him
And so it went, up one side the room and down
the other. Grimes had showed 'em all their duty.
Not but what they had intended to do it before
Grimes spoke. But he had put it in such a way they
seen it was something with even MORE principle to
it than they had thought it was before.
"Billy Harden," says the chairman, "how do you
vote?" Billy was the last of the bunch. And most
had voted fur death. Billy, he opened his mouth
and he squared himself away to orate some. But
jest as he done so, the door opened and Old Daddy
Withers stepped in. He had been gone so long I
had plumb forgot him. Right behind him was a
tall, spare feller, with black eyes and straight
"I vote," says Billy Harden, beginning of his
speech, "I vote for death. The reason upon which
But Doctor Kirby riz up and interrupted him.
"You are going to kill me," he said. He was pale
but he was quiet, and he spoke as calm and steady
as he ever done in his life. "You are going to kill
me like the crowd of sneaking cowards that you are.
And you ARE such cowards that you've talked two
hours about it, instead of doing it. And I'll tell
you why you've talked so much: because no ONE
of you alone would dare to do it, and every man of
you in the end wants to go away thinking that the
other fellow had the biggest share in it. And no
ONE of you will fire the gun or pull the rope--you'll
do it ALL TOGETHER, in a crowd, because each one will
want to tell himself he only touched the rope, or
that HIS GUN missed.
"I know you, by God!" he shouted, flushing up
into a passion--and it brought blood into their
faces, too--"I know you right down to your roots,
better than you know yourselves."
He was losing hold of himself, and roaring like a
bull and flinging out taunts that made 'em squirm.
If he wanted the thing over quick, he was taking
jest the way to warm 'em up to it. But I don't
think he was figgering on anything then, or had any
plan up his sleeve. He had made up his mind he
was going to die, and he was so mad because he
couldn't get in one good lick first that he was nigh
crazy. I looked to see him lose all sense in a minute,
and rush amongst them guns and end it in a
But jest as I figgered he was on his tiptoes fur
that, and was getting up my own sand, he throwed
a look my way. And something sobered him. He
stood there digging his finger nails into the palms
of his hands fur a minute, to get himself back. And
when he spoke he was sort of husky.
"That boy there," he says. And then he stops
and kind of chokes up. And in a minute he was
begging fur me. He tells 'em I wasn't mixed up
in nothing. He wouldn't of done it fur himself,
but he begged fur me. Nobody had paid much
attention to me from the first, except Buck Hightower
had put in a good word fur me. But somehow
the doctor had got the crowd listening to him
agin, and they all looked at me. It got next to me.
I seen by the way they was looking, and I felt it in
the air, that they was going to let me off.
But Doctor Kirby, he had always been my friend.
It made me sore fur to see him thinking I wasn't
with him. So I says:
"You better can that line of talk. They don't
get you without they get me, too. You orter know
I ain't a quitter. You give me a pain."
And the doctor and me stood and looked at each
other fur a minute. He grinned at me, and all of a
sudden we was neither one of us much giving a
whoop, fur it had come to us both at oncet what
awful good friends we was with each other.
But jest then they come a slow, easy-going
sort of a voice from the back part of the room.
That feller that had come in along with Old
Daddy Withers come sauntering down the middle
aisle, fumbling in his coat pocket, and speaking
as he come.
"I've been hearing a great deal of talk about
killing people in the last few minutes," he says.
Everybody rubbered at him.
There was something sort of careless in his
voice, like he had jest dropped in to see a
show, and it had come to him sudden that
he would enjoy himself fur a minute or two taking
part in it. But he wasn't going to get TOO worked
up about it, either, fur the show might end by making
him tired, after all.
As he come down the aisle fumbling in his coat,
he stopped and begun to slap all his pockets. Then
his face cleared, and he dived into a vest pocket.
Everybody looked like they thought he was going
to pull something important out of it. But he
didn't. All he pulled out was jest one of these here
little ordinary red books of cigarette papers. Then
he dived fur some loose tobacco, and begun to roll
one. I noticed his fingers was long and white and
slim and quick. But not excited fingers; only the
kind that seems to say as much as talking says.
He licked his cigarette, and then he sauntered
ahead, looking up. As he looked up the light fell
full on his face fur the first time. He had high
cheek bones and iron-gray hair which he wore
rather long, and very black eyes. As he lifted his
head and looked close at Doctor Kirby, a change
went over both their faces. Doctor Kirby's mouth
opened like he was going to speak. So did the other
feller's. One side of his mouth twitched into
something that was too surprised to be a grin, and
one of his black eyebrows lifted itself up at the same
time. But neither him nor Doctor Kirby spoke.
He stuck his cigarette into his mouth and turned
sideways from Doctor Kirby, like he hadn't noticed
him pertic'ler. And he turns to the chairman.
"Will," he says. And everybody listens. You
could see they all knowed him, and that they
all respected him too, by the way they was waiting
to hear what he would say to Will. But they was
all impatient and eager, too, and they wouldn't
wait very long, although now they was hushing each
other and leaning forward.
"Will," he says, very polite and quiet, "can I
trouble you for a match?"
And everybody let go their breath. Some with a
snort, like they knowed they was being trifled with,
and it made 'em sore. His eyebrows goes up agin,
like it was awful impolite in folks to snort that-away,
and he is surprised to hear it. And Will, he
digs fur a match and finds her and passes her over.
He lights his cigarette, and he draws a good
inhale, and he blows the smoke out like it done him
a heap of good. He sees something so interesting
in that little cloud of smoke that everybody else
looks at it, too.
"Do I understand," he says, "that some one is
going to lynch some one, or something of that sort?"
"That's about the size of it, colonel," says Will.
"Um!" he says, "What for?"
Then everybody starts to talk all at once, half of
them jumping to their feet, and making a perfect
hullabaloo of explanations you couldn't get no sense
out of. In the midst of which the colonel takes a
chair and sets down and crosses one leg over the
other, swinging the loose foot and smiling very
patient. Which Will remembers he is chairman of
that meeting and pounds fur order.
"Thank you, Will," says the colonel, like getting
order was a personal favour to him. Then Billy
Harden gets the floor, and squares away fur a longwinded
speech telling why. But Buck Hightower
jumps up impatient and says:
"We've been through all that, Billy. That man
there has been tried and found guilty, colonel, and
there's only one thing to do--string him up."
"Buck, _I_ wouldn't," says the colonel, very mild.
But that there man Grimes gets up very sober
and steady and says:
"Colonel, you don't understand." And he tells
him the hull thing as he believed it to be--why
they has voted the doctor must die, the room warming
up agin as he talks, and the colonel listening
very interested. But you could see by the looks of
him that colonel wouldn't never be interested so
much in anything but himself, and his own way of
doing things. In a way he was like a feller that
enjoys having one part of himself stand aside and
watch the play-actor game another part of himself
is acting out.
"Grimes," he says, when the pock-marked man
finishes, "I wouldn't. I really wouldn't."
"Colonel," says Grimes, showing his knowledge
that they are all standing solid behind him, "WE
"Ah," says the colonel, his eyebrows going up,
and his face lighting up like he is really beginning
to enjoy himself and is glad he come, "indeed!"
"Yes," says Grimes, "WE WILL!"
"But not," says the colonel, "before we have
talked the thing over a bit, I hope?"
"There's been too much talk here now," yells
Buck Hightower, "talk, talk, till, by God, I'm sick
of it! Where's that ROPE?"
"But, listen to him--listen to the colonel!" some
one else sings out. And then they was another
hullabaloo, some yelling "no!" And the colonel, very
patient, rolls himself another smoke and lights it
from the butt of the first one. But finally they
quiets down enough so Will can put it to a vote.
Which vote goes fur the colonel to speak.
"Boys," he begins very quiet, "I wouldn't lynch
this man. In the first place it will look bad in
the newspapers, and--"
"The newspapers be d---d!" says some one.
"And in the second place," goes on the colonel,
"it would be against the law, and--"
"The law be d----d!" says Buck Hightower.
"There's a higher law!" says Grimes.
"Against the law," says the colonel, rising up
and throwing away his cigarette, and getting interested.
"I know how you feel about all this negro business.
And I feel the same way. We all know that
we must be the negros' masters. Grimes there
found that out when he came South, and the
idea pleased him so he hasn't been able to talk
about anything else since. Grimes has turned into
what the Northern newspapers think a typical
"Boys, this thing of lynching gets to be a habit.
There's been a negro lynched to-day. He's the
third in this county in five years. They all needed
killing. If the thing stopped there I wouldn't care
so much. But the habit of illegal killing grows
when it gets started.
"It's grown on you. You're fixing to lynch your
first white man now. If you do, you'll lynch another
easier. You'll lynch one for murder and the
next for stealing hogs and the next because he's
unpopular and the next because he happens to
dun you for a debt. And in five years life will be
as cheap in Watson County as it is in a New York
slum where they feed immigrants to the factories.
You'll all be toting guns and grudges and trying to
lynch each other.
"The place to stop the thing is where it starts.
You can't have it both ways--you've got to stand
pat on the law, or else see the law spit on right
and left, in the end, and NOBODY safe. It's
either law or--"
"But," says Grimes, "there's a higher law than
that on the statute books. There's--"
"There's a lot of flub-dub," says the colonel,
"about higher laws and unwritten laws. But we've
got high enough law written if we live up to it.
"Colonel Tom Buckner," says Buck Hightower,
"what kind of law was it when you shot Ed Howard
fifteen years ago? What--"
"You're out of order," says the chairman,
"Colonel Buckner has the floor. And I'll remind
you, Buck Hightower, that, on the occasion you drag
in, Colonel Buckner didn't do any talking about
higher laws or unwritten laws. He sent word to the
sheriff to come and get him if he dared."
"Boys," says the colonel, "I'm preaching you
higher doctrine than I've lived by, and I've made
no claim to be better or more moral than any of
you. I'm not. I'm in the same boat with all of
you, and I tell you it's up to ALL of us to stop lynchings
in this county--to set our faces against it.
I tell you--"
"Is that all you've got to say to us, colonel?"
The question come out of a group that had drawed
nearer together whilst the colonel was talking.
They was tired of listening to talk and arguments,
and showed it.
The colonel stopped speaking short when they
flung that question at him. His face changed.
He turned serious all over. And he let loose jest
Not very loud, but with a ring in it that sounded
like danger. And he got 'em waiting agin, and
hanging on his words.
"No!" he repeats, louder, "not all. I have this
to say to you--"
And he paused agin, pointing one long white
finger at the crowd--
"IF YOU LYNCH THIS MAN YOU MUST KILL ME FIRST!"
I couldn't get away from thinking, as he stood
there making them take that in, that they was something
like a play-actor about him. But he was in
earnest, and he would play it to the end, fur he
liked the feelings it made circulate through his
frame. And they saw he was in earnest.
"You'll lynch him, will you?" he says, a kind of
passion getting into his voice fur the first time,
and his eyes glittering. "You think you will?
Well, you WON'T!
"You won't because _I_ say NOT. Do you hear?
I came here to-night to save him.
"You might string HIM up and not be called to
account for it. But how about ME?"
He took a step forward, and, looking from face to
face with a dare in his eyes, he went on:
"Is there a man among you fool enough to think
you could kill Tom Buckner and not pay for it?"
He let 'em all think of that for jest another
minute before he spoke agin. His face was as white
as a piece of paper, and his nostrils was working, but
everything else about him was quiet. He looked
the master of them all as he stood there, Colonel
Tom Buckner did--straight and splendid and
keen. And they felt the danger in him, and they
felt jest how fur he would go, now he was started.
"You didn't want to listen to me a bit ago," he
said. "Now you must. Listen and choose. You
can't kill that man unless you kill me too.
"TRY IT, IF YOU THINK YOU CAN!"
He reached over and took from the teacher's
desk the sheet of paper Will had used to check off
the name of each man and how he voted. He held
it up in front of him and every man looked at it.
"You know me," he says. "You know I do not
break my word. And I promise you that unless you
do kill me here tonight--yes, as God is my witness,
I THREATEN you--I will spend every dollar I own and
every atom of influence I possess to bring each one
of you to justice for that man's murder."
They knowed, that crowd did, that killing a man
like Colonel Buckner--a leader and a big man in
that part of the state--was a different proposition
from killing a stranger like Doctor Kirby. The
sense of what it would mean to kill Colonel Buckner
was sinking into 'em, and showing on their faces.
And no one could look at him standing there, with
his determination blazing out of him, and not understand
that unless they did kill him as well as Doctor
Kirby he'd do jest what he said.
"I told you," he said, not raising his voice, but
dropping it, and making it somehow come creeping
nearer to every one by doing that, "I told you the
first white man you lynched would lead to other
lynchings. Let me show you what you're up
"Kill the man and the boy here, and you must
kill me. Kill me, and you must kill Old Man
Every one turned toward the door as he mentioned
Old Man Withers. He had never been very
far into the room.
"Oh, he's gone," said Colonel Tom, as they
turned toward the door, and then looked at each
other. "Gone home. Gone home with the name
of every man present. Don't you see you'd have
to kill Old Man Withers too, if you killed me? And
then, HIS WIFE! And then--how many more?
"Do you see it widen--that pool of blood? Do
you see it spread and spread?"
He looked down at the floor, like he really seen
it there. He had 'em going now. They showed it.
"If you shed one drop," he went on, "you must
shed more. Can't you see it--widening and deepening,
widening and deepening, till you're wading
knee deep in it--till it climbs to your waists--till
it climbs to your throats and chokes you?"
It was a horrible idea, the way he played that
there pool of blood and he shuddered like he felt it
climbing up himself. And they felt it. A few men
can't kill a hull, dern county and get away with it.
The way he put it that's what they was up against.
"Now," says Colonel Tom, "what man among
you wants to start it?"
Nobody moved. He waited a minute. Still
nobody moved. They all looked at him. It was
awful plain jest where they would have to begin.
It was awful plain jest what it would all end up in.
And I guess when they looked at him standing there,
so fine and straight and splendid, it jest seemed
plumb unpossible to make a move. There was a
spirit in him that couldn't be killed. Doctor Kirby
said afterward that was what come of being real
"quality," which was what Colonel Tom was--
it was that in him that licked 'em. It was the best
part of their own selves, and the best part of their
own country, speaking out of him to them, that done
it. Mebby so. Anyhow, after a minute more of
that strain, a feller by the door picks up his gun out
of the corner with a scrape, and hists it to his
shoulder and walks out. And then Colonel Tom
says to Will, with his eyebrow going up, and that
one-sided grin coming onto his face agin:
"Will, perhaps a motion to adjourn would be in
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
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
"Has it occurred to you that I may have saved
it because I 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
"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.
HE WAS THAT THERE DAVID ARMSTRONG!
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"But I don't exactly understand," says the
doctor. "You say he had the idea of shooting
"I don't understand everything myself," says
Colonel Tom. "But I do understand that Prent
McMakin must have played some sort of a twofaced
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
"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
"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
"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,
"I HAVE seen her since," says Colonel Tom, "and
that is one thing that makes me say your story needs
"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
"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
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.
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,
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:
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 Buckner 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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
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
Martha says they is nothing like that to be
"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.
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.
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
"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
"'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
"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
"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
"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
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:
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
"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 wildeyed
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
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
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
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
"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,
"Yes, yes!" she says, excited, "and what then?"
"Perhaps I did a very foolish thing," says Colonel
"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:
"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
"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."