Gunsmoke (1955–1975): Season 4, Episode 26 - The Coward - full transcript

A coward gambler, who's too cheap to hire a gunman, wants Matt dead for a beating he got from him years ago, so he starts some talk around Dodge about the big reputation any person could gain, if they simply killed Matt.

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Starring James Arness as Matt Dillon.

Chester? Chester!


Well, Jack Massey,
how are you?

- Fine, how are you, Chester?
- When did you get in town?

Just rode in.

We ain't seen you
in about a month now.

Well, that place of mine out there ain't
too big, but it keeps me busy.

You're gonna be a rich
man someday, Jack.

If drinking branch water
and eating sheep stew for three years

will make a man rich,
well, I'm rich now.

Well, things can't be
as bad as all that.

Well, they ain't no better.

But I didn't stop by
to put down my troubles.

Let's have a cup of coffee.

Well, yeah,
no reason why not.

I just made a fresh pot yesterday.

There you go.

How is it?

You ain't run short of chicory.
That's for sure.

You like it, do you?

It's stout enough for shoe leather,
but it's hot.


Listen, Jack,
you mind watching my prisoner

while I take his supper dishes
back to Delmonico's?

Come back,
we'll have us a little talk.

Fine, I like our little talks.

Say, where's the Marshal?

He went over to Fort Larned.
Been gone about a week now.

I've been expecting him back
all day.

You just make yourself
at home there.

Coffee's on the stove.
I'll be gone but just a minute.

Fine, I'll be here, Chester.

A man don't get to see
his friends too often.


Doc, what can I do?


What do you think, Mr. Dillon?

He doesn't look good.

Is he dead?


Just don't seem fair.

He didn't do nothing
to deserve it at all.

Yeah, that must have been it.


Well, he was dressed enough like me

so that somebody
made a mistake, that's all.

Well, do you have any idea
who it could have been, Mr. Dillon?

I wish I did.

A man like me's
got a lot of enemies.

Yeah, well, one of 'em's out
to get you, for sure,

even if it means
shooting you in the back.

Yeah, pretty high price to pay
for being a friend of mine, isn't it?

All right, looking at you.

Three kings.

You shouldn't have quit so soon.

Your luck might have changed,
like this fellow's.

It ain't changed in 40 years,

and I don't figure
it's gonna start now.

I don't know.

Luck's a funny thing.

Just the same... always bad.

It ain't as bad as poor old Massey's.

I heard about that.

Got shot down right
in the marshal's office.

He was a good boy, Massey was.

The way I heard it, someone was
after the Marshal and got him instead.

Yep, that's the way it was.

Feel sorry for Massey.

Taking a shot in the back
that belonged to the Marshal.

Well, a marshal's job
is a chancy one.

Someone's always after you.

Of course, he knows that
when he takes the job.

Dillon can take care of himself.

Sure, if he lets other people
get shot in his place.

That's pretty hard talk, mister.

I meant no offense.

That is what happened,
though, isn't it?

Well, maybe it is.

Well, I'll tell you this.

The man who finally does kill Dillon

is gonna be mighty big
around these parts.

Yes, sir, a mighty big man.

No, no more for me.

You aren't quitting, are you?

I've had enough.

Well, you can't quit now.

Nobody tells me when I quit, mister.

I wasn't telling you.

Just when a man's winning.

Against a gambler?

I like your money.

- You coming?
- Yeah, sure, let's get something to eat.

Maybe we'll give you
another chance later on,

if we don't spend it all.

Can I buy you a drink, Kitty?

No, thanks, Eby.

Get me a whiskey, Pence.

- Yeah, sure.
- Wait a minute.


Well, how are things going?

lt'll get better.

Well, you've only been here
a couple of days.

I've no complaints.

Gamblers seldom do.
At least they try not to show it.

I guess that's true enough.

- There you are.
- Thanks, Pence.

By the way,

what's this story I hear
you been telling?

What story?

About Marshal Dillon.

The men you heard talking.

Oh, that.

What's this?
What about the Marshal?

Oh, just something
I overheard, Kitty, outside there.

Well, what?

It was the night before last.

I stepped outside to get
a breath of fresh air.

Standing there in the dark
around the corner in the alley.

Heard two men come out.

One told the other
he was gonna shoot the Marshal.

Shoot him any way he could.

Who was he?
What did he look like?

I don't know. Couldn't see them.
They couldn't see me.

Did you tell the Marshal about this?

No business of mine.

See you later.

When did you hear this story, Bill?

Yesterday, I assumed
the Marshal knew about it.

Well, I'm gonna make sure.
I'll be right back.

Okay, Kitty.

I just don't understand why Eby
didn't tell you about this right off

the minute you got back to town.

I'll tell you, Kitty,
I ran across Eby once some time back

over in Tascosa.

He was slapping a woman around,
and I gave him quite a beating for it.

He probably has never forgotten.

He wasn't too big after that,
and he left town a few days later.

I guess he figures he doesn't owe you
any favors now, huh?

Not exactly.

How long did you say he's been
working at the Long Branch?

Just a few days.

Hadn't caused any trouble.
Maybe he's changed.

Men like him don't change, Kitty.

I guess you're right about that.

I'm right about him.

Maybe his whole story's a lie, Matt.

Maybe he's the one
who did the shooting last night.

I doubt it.

I don't think he's got enough guts
even to shoot a man in the back.

Who was it then?

Lot of men would like
to see me dead, Kitty.

Yeah, I know that.

I gotta get on back.

All right, I'll walk back with you.
I'd kinda like to have a talk with him anyway.

No, he left.
He's probably over in his room.

- Dodge House?
- Yeah.

Well, good. I'll stop by there.

Maybe he knows more
about these men than he's saying.

Thank you.

- Marshal Dillon.
- Eby.

What are you doing here?

I'd like to talk to you.

Come in.

I didn't know you were
in Dodge till today.

Is there something wrong
with my being in Dodge?

Not a thing as long
as you stay out of trouble.

I'm just trying
to make a little money.

What can I do for you?

Friend of mine was killed
in my office last night.

I heard about that.

Whoever it was thought
they were shooting at me.

- Heard something about that, too.
- Out back of the Long Branch?

Mm-hmm. Overheard
a couple of men talking.

Yeah, that's what Kitty tells me.

They planned on
ambushing me, huh?

That's right.

Got any idea
who they might be?

No, I didn't recognize their voices,
and I couldn't see them.

Otherwise, I would have come
and told you.

You would?

Marshal, I hated you

for what you did to me in Tascosa.

That was a long time ago.

I'd be a fool to bear a grudge
the rest of my life, wouldn't I?

It's forgotten, over and done with.
I've got other things to think about.

As you know, I hate killing.
That's why I don't even carry a gun.

Of course I'd tell you
who those men were if I knew.

I don't wanna see you killed
or anyone else.

Just asking.

You don't think I'd be afraid
to tell you, do you?

- Afraid of those men?
- I didn't say that.

Wouldn't be any reason for it.

They'd never know it was me
who overheard them.

No, no, they wouldn't.

That's a funny thing.

You're the only gambler I ever
knew who never wore a gun.

Mr. Dillon.

You could have shot me.

I didn't know it was you.

Well, I hope not.

Getting kind of jumpy, I guess.

Mr. Dillon, I could set up
with a shotgun and let you

get some sleep tonight.

No, I tried, Chester.
No need for that.

Well, I ain't so sure.

Get back!

Why don't you get him, Mr. Dillon?

I want him alive.

Come on out, Marshal.

I'm gonna kill you.

He's drunk.

He sure sounds that way.

Hold it! Hold it right there.
Now get your hands up

and drop the gun.

Don't shoot, Marshal.

Who is it, Mr. Dillon?
Have you seen him?

Do you know who he is?

I never saw him before,
but he's sure drunk.

Let's get him off to Doc's
and find out what this is all about.

Come on.

Go on, sit up there.

No more, Doc.

Yeah, you drink that
and you drink every drop of it.

He looks sober enough
to me now, Doc.

Let him drink that
and we'll see how sober he is.

Coffee must taste fierce with everything
else you've shoved down him.

Here, you drink that now,
every drop of it.

I'm drowning in coffee, Doc.

Better than drowning in whiskey.

No more, Doc.
I can't take no more.

No more, huh?

He sounds sober enough now.
Go on and talk to him.

All right, what's your name?

Swan. Nat Swan.

I didn't know
what I was doing, Marshal.

I didn't mean nothing.
Honest, I didn't.

Well, I'll tell you,
you were trying to kill me.

Oh, no, no, I wasn't.

Real coward, aren't you?

Even to shoot a man in the back,
you gotta take on a load of whiskey.

You don't understand, Marshal.
I got nothing against you.

What were you trying
to shoot me for then?

Well, I came into town,

and I heard all that talk

about somebody
was gonna kill you,

and yeah, I figured that
I could make a name

for myself if I did it.

I swear there wasn't
any more to it than that.

No more to it than that, huh?

It was nothing personal.

I should have put strychnine
in your coffee.

I'm sorry, Marshal.

I didn't mean nothing.

- Why, you miserable...
- Never mind, Doc.

I believe him.

- You believe him?
- Yeah.

Chester, put him on a horse
and point him south, will you?

Mr. Dillon, you ain't gonna
turn him loose, are you?

What are you gonna
turn him loose for?

Locking him up is not
gonna keep some other drunken

brainless bum from trying it
for the same reason.

There'll be others.
A lot of them.

Hello, Doc.

- How are you?
- All right.

Matt, seems to me a man who's
worried about being ambushed

would kind of try to make
a smaller target out of himself.

What do you want me to do? Hide?

No, I wouldn't suggest
anything like that to you.

You're too stubborn for that.
You wouldn't do it.

No point in putting it off, Doc.

Well, maybe you're right,
but just the same.

Howdy, Doc.
What are you doing here?

Is there any special reason
why I shouldn't be here?

Well, no.
Now, I didn't mean nothing by it.

You can be anywheres
that you wanna be.

Thank you.
That's very generous of you.

I'll swear, Doc.
You're getting sassier every day.

Well, I can afford to be
around my debtors.

Around your what?

My debtors.

It's Saturday.

Oh, yeah, well, I'll have that
for you the first of the week, Doc.

I can promise you that.

Doc, you didn't loan him
money again, did you?

Yep, fool that I am.

Well, now look here, Doc.
Have I ever failed to pay you back ever once?

- Have I now?
- No, you better not, either.

Besides, I didn't come here
to argue with you.

I just came here to see if anybody
wanted to have dinner with me.

- Dinner?
- Sure.

Oh, well, yeah,
I'm having dinner.

I just thought the way
you're sucking on your teeth there,

you'd already ate.

All right, let's go.

You know, a beer might not
go bad, Mr. Dillon.

I don't know where
you'd put it after that dinner you ate.

You can't get Doc
to pay too often.

Besides, I sure love
them dried apples.

And after two antelope steak.

Well, they don't take up
too much room.

Ain't all swolled up.

Besides, a little dollop on it,
and it'll slide right down.

How about that beer?

Chester, right now, I'm keeping
my horse from going lame.

It's more important to me
than getting a beer.

Now if you can wait just a minute
till I get through talking

to Moss Grimmick,
we'll have one.


Moss, where are you?

Hey, Mr. Dillon, lookie here.

Lookie here, would you?

Good golly, them paps would sure
keep your feet warm in the wintertime.

Wouldn't they, fleece-lined
like they are and all?

- Yeah, it's a little different...
- Look out, Mr. Dillon!

Don't shoot.
Don't shoot again.

Who are you, mister?

- You shot me. You killed me.
- Who hired you?

This bullet's red hot.
I'm burning up.

Now, mister,
I wanna know why you're after me.

Start talking.

Mr. Dillon, I don't think there's
too much talk left in him.

Dillon? You're the marshal?

That's right.
Who'd you think it was?

- Bandits.
- Bandits?

I saw you standing
over my gear.

I thought you were
gonna steal it.

You drew your gun.
I had to shoot.

Good gracious, Mr. Dillon,

he didn't have nothing
to do with this, huh?


That you, Marshal?

What is this?

Moss, you know this man here?

Yeah, just some cowboy who had his
horse stabled in here a couple days.

What did he do?

This is awful.
Just terrible.


Don't bury me

in just a blanket.

Fix me a box.

Promise me you'll fix me a box.


Yeah, it's a promise.

Mr. Dillon, you had to shoot him.

He'd have killed you
for sure if you hadn't.

You didn't have no choice.

If I hadn't have been
so jumpy

and hadn't have drawn so fast.

Nobody can blame you
for being jumpy.

I mean, what with some dirty
little coward trying to shoot you in the back.

Killing an innocent man
like that, that's...

Yeah, and if that Ed Eby
had just tried to find out who it was

that he heard talking
of killing you

instead of just letting it go
the way that he did,

none of this would have happened.
It's just as much his fault as it is anybody's.

You know, I'm beginning to wonder

if he saw or heard anybody at all.

What do you mean?

He could have made
the whole thing up.

That's just the way
a coward like him would act.

- Matt, what happened to you?
- Kitty, I'm all right.

Have you been up
to see Doc?

No, I'm going up there
in a few minutes.

I have a little business
with Mr. Eby first.

I'm all right.

Hello, Eby.

Sit down, Marshal.

Try your luck.

I just killed a man, Eby.

An innocent man.

What are you talking about?

You were too cheap to hire
somebody to do it for you

and too much of a coward
to try it yourself.

I don't particularly like that word,

That story about overhearing
a couple of men talking out back.

You just spread that around,
hoping it'd give some poor fool

the idea of trying it himself.

That's a lie.

But two men did try it.

And it made me so jumpy,
I killed another man

I thought was gonna try it.

Can't prove a word of this, Marshal.

Two innocent men have died
because of your cowardice, Eby.

And if I had my way,
I'd see you hang for it.

Don't call me a coward, Marshal.

You're the worst coward I've ever seen.
You always have been.

Stop saying that.
Do you hear me?

I'll tell everybody who'll listen.

Doing just what you did
in Tascosa, aren't you?

Yeah, and I'd like
to do a whole lot worse.

Believe me, Marshal,
if I had a gun, I'd kill you myself.

- You would, huh?
- Yes, I would.

Any of you men got a gun?

All right, there it is.

Now you gonna use it
or you gonna keep talking?



I'm sorry about all this.

He's lucky you didn't kill him.

Well, I'd rather have it
this way, Kitty.

What do you mean?

He'd rather be dead than have
everybody know what a coward he is.

I want him to live.

Aren't you even gonna lock him up?


He's got his punishment coming
for the rest of his life.

And he's earned it.