The Near Shooting of Lady Lou
(Based on the Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert Service)
As usual, men were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
Young Tom, our house pianist, was playing a rag-time tune;
While in back, playing a crooked game, sat my darling Dan McGrew,
And watching him cheat the unwary was me, the lady that's known as Lou.
When out of the dark, which was fifty below, and into the smoke and the blare,
There stumbled a wretch, filthy from the road, with a five hundred mile stare.
He looked like death rising from the grave with the black beady eyes of a vole,
Yet he tossed a pouch of gold on the bar, and he called for drinks for us all.
I thought I could place the stranger's face, and searched memories for a clue;
As we drank his health, I saw the last to drink was my lover Dan McGrew.
There's folks that somehow just haunt your heart, and hold it fast in a fist;
And such was he, and he seemed to me like a man who’d aimed and missed;
With raven black hair, and the dreary stare of a man who lost his soul,
As he watered the vile stuff in his jar, the drops each rang a toll.
Then I recalled just who he was, and marveled he’d made it through,
And Dan turned his head to watch me watch him watch the lady that's known as Lou.
Those eyes went soul searching round the bar, and he seemed to look for days,
Until young Tom’s piano fell in the way of his crazed blundering gaze.
Sweet Tom was taking a break; and there was no one else near the stool,
So my dark past tumbled across the room, and dove into a song like a pool.
In his buckskin shirt all crusted with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
I nearly ran from him right then, but he steadied, and then, my old life did he play.
If you know what it means to be truly Alone, when your fate was awful clear,
And your family burdened you with trivialities that you simply could not bear;
With only the prospect of drudgery, and your desires left out in the cold,
To be half-dead thing in a cold, mean world, and needing a chance to be bold;
While over your head, your family traditions, hung like Damacles sword! —
Then you've a hunch what that music recalled. . . freedom from standard rewards.
The freedom to go, to live as you please, whatever your spirit can take,
Away from desperate men who seek women to have, to hold and to break ;
Oh for a land, far from the rules, such as four walls and a hell below;
And there to seek my fate of choice, and live free with room to grow—
A woman to roam the world at large – to freely love the many or just a few—
(But what of the man who would possess the lady that's known as Lou.)
Then suddenly the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
And he played of the love who had run from the ring he pressed on her in fear;
And when he learned just where she’d run, he heard the inner demons say ;
GO! Followed her into the north, - and he darkly vowed to make her pay.
His was the fierce cry of a thwarted despair, and it chilled me through and through —
"I guess I'll make it a spread misere", said my lover Dan McGrew.
The music almost died away ... then it burst like a pent-up flood;
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay," and his eyes were blind with blood.
The thought came back of my ancient life and it stung like a frozen lash,
And his lust awoke to kill, to kill ... then the music stopped with a crash,
And he turned to me, and his eyes they burned in a most horrific way;
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm,
And "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn;
But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true,
That woman there is a bitch from hell. . .the one you call Lady Lou."
Then Dan ran in front, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark,
And Young Tommy screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark.
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was my darling Dan McGrew,
While the man from my past tried to claim me at last, the Lady known as Lou.
These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.
They say I gave him a last (and only) kiss, I'm not denying it's so.
While I held his gun (away from my heart) ‘til finally he bled through —
And I took the gold, if the truth be told, to bury dear Dan McGrew.