The Sculptor's Funeral
A group of the townspeople stood on the station siding of alittle Kansas town, awaiting the coming of the night train, whichwas already twenty minutes overdue.The snow had fallen thickover everything; in the pale starlight the line of bluffs acrossthe wide, white meadows south of the town made soft, smoke-colored curves against the clear sky.The men on the sidingstood first on one foot and then on the other, their hands thrustdeep into their trousers pockets, their overcoats open, theirshoulders screwed up with the cold; and they glanced from time totime toward the southeast, where the railroad track wound alongthe river shore.They conversed in low tones and moved aboutrestlessly, seeming uncertain as to what was expected of them. There was but one of the company who looked as though he knewexactly why he was there; and he kept conspicuously apart;walking to the far end of the platform, returning to the stationdoor, then pacing up the track again, his chin sunk in the highcollar of his overcoat, his burly shoulders drooping forward, hisgait heavy and dogged.Presently he was approached by a tall,spare, grizzled man clad in a faded Grand Army suit, who shuffledout from the group and advanced with a certain deference, craninghis neck forward until his back made the angle of a jackknifethree-quarters open.
"I reckon she's agoin' to be pretty late ag'in tonight,Jim," he remarked in a squeaky falsetto."S'pose it's the snow?"
"I don't know," responded the other man with a shade ofannoyance, speaking from out an astonishing cataract of red beardthat grew fiercely and thickly in all directions.
The spare man shifted the quill toothpick he was chewing tothe other side of his mouth."It ain't likely that anybody fromthe East will come with the corpse, I s'pose," he went onreflectively.
"I don't know," responded the other, more curtly than before.
"It's too bad he didn't belong to some lodge or other.Ilike an order funeral myself.They seem more appropriate forpeople of some reputation," the spare man continued, with aningratiating concession in his shrill voice, as he carefullyplaced his toothpick in his vest pocket.He always carried theflag at the G. A. R. funerals in the town.
The heavy man turned on his heel, without replying, and walked upthe siding.The spare man shuffled back to the uneasy group. "Jim's ez full ez a tick, ez ushel," he commented commiseratingly.
Just then a distant whistle sounded, and there was ashuffling of feet on the platform.A number of lanky boys of allages appeared as suddenly and slimily as eels wakened by thecrack of thunder; some came from the waiting room, where they hadbeen warming themselves by the red stove, or half-asleep on theslat benches; others uncoiled themselves from baggage trucks orslid out of express wagons.Two clambered down from the driver'sseat of a hearse that stood backed up against the siding.Theystraightened their stooping shoulders and lifted their heads, anda flash of momentary animation kindled their dull eyes at thatcold, vibrant scream, the world-wide call for men.It stirredthem like the note of a trumpet; just as it had often stirred theman who was coming home tonight, in his boyhood.
The night express shot, red as a rocket, from out the eastwardmarsh lands and wound along the river shore under the long lines ofshivering poplars that sentineled the meadows, the escaping steamhanging in gray masses against the pale sky and blotting out theMilky Way.In a moment the red glare from the headlight streamedup the snow-covered track before the siding and glittered on thewet, black rails.The burly man with the disheveled red beardwalked swiftly up the platform toward the approaching train,uncovering his head as he went.The group of men behind himhesitated, glanced questioningly at one another, and awkwardlyfollowed his example.The train stopped, and the crowd shuffled upto the express car just as the door was thrown open, the spare manin the G. A. B. suit thrusting his head forward with curiosity. The express messenger appeared in the doorway, accompanied by ayoung man in a long ulster and traveling cap.
"Are Mr. Merrick's friends here?" inquired the young man.
The group on the platform swayed and shuffled uneasily. Philip Phelps, the banker, responded with dignity: "We have cometo take charge of the body.Mr. Merrick's father is very feebleand can't be about."
"Send the agent out here," growled the express messenger,"and tell the operator to lend a hand."
The coffin was got out of its rough box and down on thesnowy platform.The townspeople drew back enough to make roomfor it and then formed a close semicircle about it, lookingcuriously at the palm leaf which lay across the black cover.Noone said anything.The baggage man stood by his truck, waitingto get at the trunks.The engine panted heavily, and the firemandodged in and out among the wheels with his yellow torch and longoilcan, snapping the spindle boxes.The young Bostonian, one ofthe dead sculptor's pupils who had come with the body, lookedabout him helplessly.He turned to the banker, the only one ofthat black, uneasy, stoop-shouldered group who seemed enough ofan individual to be addressed.
"None of Mr. Merrick's brothers are here?" he asked uncertainly.
The man with the red heard for the first time stepped up andjoined the group."No, they have not come yet; the family isscattered.The body will be taken directly to the house."Hestooped and took hold of one of the handles of the coffin.
"Take the long hill road up, Thompson——it will be easier onthe horses," called the liveryman as the undertaker snapped thedoor of the hearse and prepared to mount to the driver's seat.
Laird, the red-bearded lawyer, turned again to the stranger:"We didn't know whether there would be anyone with him or not,"he explained."It's a long walk, so you'd better go up in thehack."He pointed to a single, battered conveyance, but the youngman replied stiffly: "Thank you, but I think I will go up withthe hearse.If you don't object," turning to the undertaker,"I'll ride with you."
They clambered up over the wheels and drove off in thestarlight tip the long, white hill toward the town.The lamps inthe still village were shining from under the low, snow-burdenedroofs; and beyond, on every side, the plains reached out intoemptiness, peaceful and wide as the soft sky itself, and wrappedin a tangible, white silence.
When the hearse backed up to a wooden sidewalk before a naked,weatherbeaten frame house, the same composite, ill-defined groupthat had stood upon the station siding was huddled about the gate. The front yard was an icy swamp, and a couple of warped planks,extending from the sidewalk to the door, made a sort of ricketyfootbridge.The gate hung on one hinge and was opened wide withdifficulty.Steavens, the young stranger, noticed that somethingblack was tied to the knob of the front door.
The grating sound made by the casket, as it was drawn from thehearse, was answered by a scream from the house; the front door waswrenched open, and a tall, corpulent woman rushed out bareheadedinto the snow and flung herself upon the coffin, shrieking: "Myboy, my boy!And this is how you've come home to me!"
As Steavens turned away and closed his eyes with a shudderof unutterable repulsion, another woman, also tall, but flat andangular, dressed entirely in black, darted out of the house andcaught Mrs. Merrick by the shoulders, crying sharply: "Come,come, Mother; you mustn't go on like this!"Her tone changed toone of obsequious solemnity as she turned to the banker: "Theparlor is ready, Mr. Phelps."
The bearers carried the coffin along the narrow boards,while the undertaker ran ahead with the coffin-rests.Theybore it into a large, unheated room that smelled of dampness anddisuse and furniture polish, and set it down under a hanging lampornamented with jingling glass prisms and before a "Rogers group"of John Alden and Priscilla, wreathed with smilax.HenrySteavens stared about him with the sickening conviction thatthere had been some horrible mistake, and that he had somehowarrived at the wrong destination.He looked painfully about overthe clover-green Brussels, the fat plush upholstery, among thehand-painted china plaques and panels, and vases, for some markof identification, for something that might once conceivably havebelonged to Harvey Merrick.It was not until he recognized hisfriend in the crayon portrait of a little boy in kilts and curlshanging above the piano that he felt willing to let any of thesepeople approach the coffin.
"Take the lid off, Mr. Thompson; let me see my boy's face,"wailed the elder woman between her sobs.This time Steavenslooked fearfully, almost beseechingly into her face, red andswollen under its masses of strong, black, shiny hair.Heflushed, dropped his eyes, and then, almost incredulously, lookedagain.There was a kind of power about her face——a kind ofbrutal handsomeness, even, but it was scarred and furrowed byviolence, and so colored and coarsened by fiercer passions thatgrief seemed never to have laid a gentle finger there.The longnose was distended and knobbed at the end, and there were deeplines on either side of it; her heavy, black brows almost metacross her forehead; her teeth were large and square and set farapart——teeth that could tear.She filled the room; the men wereobliterated, seemed tossed about like twigs in an angry water,and even Steavens felt himself being drawn into the whirlpool.
The daughter——the tall, rawboned woman in crepe, with amourning comb in her hair which curiously lengthened her longface sat stiffly upon the sofa, her hands, conspicuous for theirlarge knuckles, folded in her lap, her mouth and eyes drawn down,solemnly awaiting the opening of the coffin.Near the door stooda mulatto woman, evidently a servant in the house, with a timidbearing and an emaciated face pitifully sad and gentle.She was weeping silently, the corner of her calico apron liftedto her eyes, occasionally suppressing a long, quivering sob.Steavens walked over and stood beside her.
Feeble steps were heard on the stairs, and an old man, talland frail, odorous of pipe smoke, with shaggy, unkept gray hairand a dingy beard, tobacco stained about the mouth, entereduncertainly.He went slowly up to the coffin and stood, rollinga blue cotton handkerchief between his hands, seeming so painedand embarrassed by his wife's orgy of grief that he had noconsciousness of anything else.
"There, there, Annie, dear, don't take on so," he quaveredtimidly, putting out a shaking hand and awkwardly patting herelbow.She turned with a cry and sank upon his shoulder withsuch violence that he tottered a little.He did not even glancetoward the coffin, but continued to look at her with a dull,frightened, appealing expression, as a spaniel looks at the whip. His sunken cheeks slowly reddened and burned with miserableshame.When his wife rushed from the room her daughter strodeafter her with set lips.The servant stole up to the coffin,bent over it for a moment, and then slipped away to the kitchen,leaving Steavens, the lawyer, and the father to themselves.Theold man stood trembling and looking down at his dead son's face. The sculptor's splendid head seemed even more noble in its rigidstillness than in life.The dark hair had crept down upon thewide forehead; the face seemed strangely long, but in it therewas not that beautiful and chaste repose which we expect to findin the faces of the dead.The brows were so drawn that therewere two deep lines above the beaked nose, and the chin wasthrust forward defiantly.It was as though the strain of lifehad been so sharp and bitter that death could not at once whollyrelax the tension and smooth the countenance into perfect peace——as though he were still guarding something precious and holy,which might even yet be wrested from him.
The old man's lips were working under his stained beard.Heturned to the lawyer with timid deference: "Phelps and the rest arecomin' back to set up with Harve, ain't they?" he asked."Thank'ee, Jim, thank 'ee."He brushed the hair back gently from hisson's forehead."He was a good boy, Jim; always a good boy.Hewas ez gentle ez a child and the kindest of 'em all——only we didn'tnone of us ever onderstand him."The tears trickled slowly downhis beard and dropped upon the sculptor's coat.
"Martin, Martin.Oh, Martin! come here," his wife wailedfrom the top of the stairs.The old man started timorously:"Yes, Annie, I'm coming."He turned away, hesitatedstood for amoment in miserable indecision; then he reached back and pattedthe dead man's hair softly, and stumbled from the room.
"Poor old man, I didn't think he had any tears left.Seemsas if his eyes would have gone dry long ago.At his age nothingcuts very deep," remarked the lawyer.
Something in his tone made Steavens glance up.While themother had been in the room the young man had scarcely seenanyone else; but now, from the moment he first glanced into JimLaird's florid face and bloodshot eyes, he knew that he had foundwhat he had been heartsick at not finding before——the feeling,the understanding, that must exist in someone, even here.
The man was red as his beard, with features swollen andblurred by dissipation, and a hot, blazing blue eye.His facewas strained——that of a man who is controlling himself withdifficulty——and he kept plucking at his beard with a sort offierce resentment.Steavens, sitting by the window, watched himturn down the glaring lamp, still its jangling pendants with anangry gesture, and then stand with his hands locked behind him,staring down into the master's face.He could not help wonderingwhat link there could have been between the porcelain vessel andso sooty a lump of potter's clay.
From the kitchen an uproar was sounding; when the dining-room door opened the import of it was clear.The mother wasabusing the maid for having forgotten to make the dressing forthe chicken salad which had been prepared for the watchers. Steavens had never heard anything in the least like it; it wasinjured, emotional, dramatic abuse, unique and masterlyin its excruciating cruelty, as violent and unrestrained as hadbeen her grief of twenty minutes before.With a shudder ofdisgust the lawyer went into the dining room and closed the doorinto the kitchen.
"Poor Roxy's getting it now," he remarked when he came back. "The Merricks took her out of the poorhouse years ago; and if herloyalty would let her, I guess the poor old thing could telltales that would curdle your blood.She's the mulatto woman whowas standing in here a while ago, with her apron to her eyes. The old woman is a fury; there never was anybody like her fordemonstrative piety and ingenious cruelty.She made Harvey'slife a hell for him when he lived at home; he was so sick ashamedof it. I never could see how he kept himself so sweet."
"He was wonderful," said Steavens slowly, "wonderful; butuntil tonight I have never known how wonderful."
"That is the true and eternal wonder of it, anyway; that itcan come even from such a dung heap as this," the lawyer cried,with a sweeping gesture which seemed to indicate much more thanthe four walls within which they stood.
"I think I'll see whether I can get a little air.The roomis so close I am beginning to feel rather faint," murmuredSteavens, struggling with one of the windows.The sash wasstuck, however, and would not yield, so he sat down dejectedlyand began pulling at his collar.The lawyer came over, loosenedthe sash with one blow of his red fist, and sent the window up afew inches.Steavens thanked him, but the nausea which had beengradually climbing into his throat for the last half-hour lefthim with but one desire——a desperate feeling that he must getaway from this place with what was left of Harvey Merrick.Oh,he comprehended well enough now the quiet bitterness of the smilethat he had seen so often on his master's lips!
He remembered that once, when Merrick returned from a visithome, he brought with him a singularly feeling and suggestivebas-relief of a thin, faded old woman, sitting and sewingsomething pinned to her knee; while a full-lipped, full-bloodedlittle urchin, his trousers held up by a single gallows,stood beside her, impatiently twitching her gown to call herattention to a butterfly he had caught.Steavens, impressed bythe tender and delicate modeling of the thin, tired face, hadasked him if it were his mother.He remembered the dull flushthat had burned up in the sculptor's face.
The lawyer was sitting in a rocking chair beside the coffin,his head thrown back and his eyes closed.Steavens looked at himearnestly, puzzled at the line of the chin, and wondering why aman should conceal a feature of such distinction under thatdisfiguring shock of beard.Suddenly, as though he felt theyoung sculptor's keen glance, he opened his eyes.
"Was he always a good deal of an oyster?" he asked abruptly. "He was terribly shy as a boy."
"Yes, he was an oyster, since you put it so," rejoinedSteavens."Although he could be very fond of people, he alwaysgave one the impression of being detached.He disliked violentemotion; he was reflective, and rather distrustful of himself——except, of course, as regarded his work.He was surefootedenough there.He distrusted men pretty thoroughly and women evenmore, yet somehow without believing ill of them.He wasdetermined, indeed, to believe the best, but he seemed afraid toinvestigate."
"A burnt dog dreads the fire," said the lawyer grimly, andclosed his eyes.
Steavens went on and on, reconstructing that whole miserableboyhood.All this raw, biting ugliness had been the portion ofthe man whose tastes were refined beyond the limits of thereasonable——whose mind was an exhaustless gallery of beautifulimpressions, and so sensitive that the mere shadow of a poplarleaf flickering against a sunny wall would be etched and heldthere forever.Surely, if ever a man had the magic word in hisfingertips, it was Merrick.Whatever he touched, he revealed itsholiest secret; liberated it from enchantment and restored it toits pristine loveliness, like the Arabian prince who fought theenchantress spell for spell.Upon whatever he had come incontact with, he had left a beautiful record of the experience——asort of ethereal signature; a scent, a sound, a color that washis own.
Steavens understood now the real tragedy of his master'slife; neither love nor wine, as many had conjectured, but a blowwhich had fallen earlier and cut deeper than these could havedone——a shame not his, and yet so unescapably his, to bide in hisheart from his very boyhood.And without——the frontier warfare;the yearning of a boy, cast ashore upon a desert of newness andugliness and sordidness, for all that is chastened and old, andnoble with traditions.
At eleven o'clock the tall, flat woman in black crepeentered, announced that the watchers were arriving, and askedthem "to step into the dining room."As Steavens rose the lawyersaid dryly: "You go on——it'll be a good experience for you,doubtless; as for me, I'm not equal to that crowd tonight; I'vehad twenty years of them."
As Steavens closed the door after him be glanced back at thelawyer, sitting by the coffin in the dim light, with his chinresting on his hand.
The same misty group that had stood before the door of theexpress car shuffled into the dining room.In the light of thekerosene lamp they separated and became individuals.Theminister, a pale, feeble-looking man with white hair and blondchin-whiskers, took his seat beside a small side table and placedhis Bible upon it.The Grand Army man sat down behind the stoveand tilted his chair back comfortably against the wall, fishinghis quill toothpick from his waistcoat pocket.The two bankers,Phelps and Elder, sat off in a corner behind the dinner table,where they could finish their discussion of the new usury law andits effect on chattel security loans.The real estate agent, anold man with a smiling, hypocritical face, soon joined them.Thecoal-and-lumber dealer and the cattle shipper sat on oppositesides of the hard coal-burner, their feet on the nickelwork. Steavens took a book from his pocket and began to read.The talkaround him ranged through various topics of local interest whilethe house was quieting down.When it was clear that the membersof the family were in bed the Grand Army man hitched hisshoulders and, untangling his long legs, caught his heels on therounds of his chair.
"S'pose there'll be a will, Phelps?" he queried in his weakfalsetto.
The banker laughed disagreeably and began trimming his nailswith a pearl-handled pocketknife.
"There'll scarcely be any need for one, will there?" hequeried in his turn.
The restless Grand Army man shifted his position again,getting his knees still nearer his chin."Why, the ole man saysHarve's done right well lately," he chirped.
The other banker spoke up."I reckon he means by that Harveain't asked him to mortgage any more farms lately, so as he couldgo on with his education."
"Seems like my mind don't reach back to a time when Harvewasn't bein' edycated," tittered the Grand Army man.
There was a general chuckle.The minister took out hishandkerchief and blew his nose sonorously.Banker Phelps closedhisknife with a snap."It's too bad the old man's sons didn't turn out better," he remarked with reflective authority."Theynever hung together.He spent money enough on Harve to stock adozen cattle farms and he might as well have poured it into SandCreek.If Harve had stayed at home and helped nurse what littlethey had, and gone into stock on the old man's bottom farm, theymight all have been well fixed.But the old man had to trusteverything to tenants and was cheated right and left."
"Harve never could have handled stock none," interposed thecattleman."He hadn't it in him to be sharp.Do you rememberwhen he bought Sander's mules for eight-year-olds, when everybodyin town knew that Sander's father-in-law give 'em to his wife fora wedding present eighteen years before, an' they was full-grownmules then."
Everyone chuckled, and the Grand Army man rubbed his kneeswith a spasm of childish delight.
"Harve never was much account for anything practical, and heshore was never fond of work," began the coal-and-lumber dealer. "I mind the last time he was home; the day he left, when the oldman was out to the barn helpin' his hand hitch up to takeHarve to the train, and Cal Moots was patchin' up the fence, Harve,he come out on the step and sings out, in his ladylike voice: 'CalMoots, Cal Moots! please come cord my trunk.'"
"That's Harve for you," approved the Grand Army mangleefully."I kin hear him howlin' yet when he was a big fellerin long pants and his mother used to whale him with a rawhide inthe barn for lettin' the cows git foundered in the cornfield whenhe was drivin' 'em home from pasture.He killed a cow of minethat-a-way onc't——a pure Jersey and the best milker I had, an'the ole man had to put up for her.Harve, he was watchin' thesun set acros't the marshes when the anamile got away; he arguedthat sunset was oncommon fine."
"Where the old man made his mistake was in sending the boyEast to school," said Phelps, stroking his goatee and speaking ina deliberate, judicial tone."There was where he got his headfull of traipsing to Paris and all such folly.What Harveneeded, of all people, was a course in some first-class KansasCity business college."
The letters were swimming before Steavens's eyes.Was itpossible that these men did not understand, that the palm on thecoffin meant nothing to them?The very name of their town wouldhave remained forever buried in the postal guide had it not beennow and again mentioned in the world in connection with HarveyMerrick's.He remembered what his master had said to him on theday of his death, after the congestion of both lungs had shut offany probability of recovery, and the sculptor had asked his pupilto send his body home."It's not a pleasant place to be lyingwhile the world is moving and doing and bettering," he had saidwith a feeble smile, "but it rather seems as though we ought togo back to the place we came from in the end.The townspeoplewill come in for a look at me; and after they have had their sayI shan't have much to fear from the judgment of God.The wingsof the Victory, in there"——with a weak gesture toward his studio——will not shelter me."
The cattleman took up the comment."Forty's young for aMerrick to cash in; they usually hang on pretty well.Probablyhe helped it along with whisky."
"His mother's people were not long-lived, and Harvey neverhad a robust constitution," said the minister mildly.He wouldhave liked to say more.He had been the boy's Sunday-schoolteacher, and had been fond of him; but he felt that he was not ina position to speak.His own sons had turned out badly, and itwas not a year since one of them had made his last trip home inthe express car, shot in a gambling house in the Black Hills.
"Nevertheless, there is no disputin' that Harve frequentlylooked upon the wine when it was red, also variegated, and itshore made an oncommon fool of him," moralized the cattleman.
Just then the door leading into the parlor rattled loudly,and everyone started involuntarily, looking relieved when onlyJim Laird came out.His red face was convulsed with anger, andthe Grand Army man ducked his head when he saw the spark in hisblue, bloodshot eye.They were all afraid of Jim; he was adrunkard, but he could twist the law to suit his client's needsas no other man in all western Kansas could do; and there weremany who tried.The lawyer closed the door gently behind him,leaned back against it and folded his arms, cocking his head alittle to one side.When he assumed this attitude in thecourtroom, ears were always pricked up, as it usually foretold aflood of withering sarcasm.
"I've been with you gentlemen before," he began in a dry,even tone, "when you've sat by the coffins of boys born andraised in this town; and, if I remember rightly, you were neverany too well satisfied when you checked them up.What's thematter, anyhow?Why is it that reputable young men are as scarceas millionaires in Sand City?It might almost seem to a strangerthat there was some way something the matter with yourprogressive town.Why did Ruben Sayer, the brightest younglawyer you ever turned out, after he had come home from theuniversity as straight as a die, take to drinking and forge acheck and shoot himself?Why did Bill Merrit's son die of theshakes in a saloon in Omaha?Why was Mr. Thomas's son, here,shot in a gambling house?Why did young Adams burn his mill tobeat the insurance companies and go to the pen?"
The lawyer paused and unfolded his arms, laying one clenchedfist quietly on the table."I'll tell you why.Because youdrummed nothing but money and knavery into their ears from thetime they wore knickerbockers; because you carped away at them asyou've been carping here tonight, holding our friends Phelps andElder up to them for their models, as our grandfathers held upGeorge Washington and John Adams.But the boys, worse luck, wereyoung and raw at the business you put them to; and how could theymatch coppers with such artists as Phelps and Elder?You wantedthem to be successful rascals; they were only unsuccessful ones——that's all the difference.There was only one boy ever raised inthis borderland between ruffianism and civilization who didn'tcome to grief, and you hated Harvey Merrick more for winning outthan you hated all the other boys who got under the wheels. Lord, Lord, how you did hate him!Phelps, here, is fond of sayingthat he could buy and sell us all out any time he's a mind to;but he knew Harve wouldn't have given a tinker's damn for hisbank and all his cattle farms put together; and a lack ofappreciation, that way, goes hard with Phelps.
"Old Nimrod, here, thinks Harve drank too much; and thisfrom such as Nimrod and me!"
"Brother Elder says Harve was too free with the old man'smoney——fell short in filial consideration, maybe.Well, we canall remember the very tone in which brother Elder swore his ownfather was a liar, in the county court; and we all know that theold man came out of that partnership with his son as bare as asheared lamb.But maybe I'm getting personal, and I'd better bedriving ahead at what I want to say."
The lawyer paused a moment, squared his heavy shoulders, andwent on: "Harvey Merrick and I went to school together, backEast.We were dead in earnest, and we wanted you all to be proudof us some day.We meant to be great men.Even 1, and I haven'tlost my sense of humor, gentlemen, I meant to be a great man.Icame back here to practice, and I found you didn't in the leastwant me to be a great man.You wanted me to be a shrewd lawyer——oh, yes!Our veteran here wanted me to get him an increase ofpension, because he had dyspepsia; Phelps wanted a new countysurvey that would put the widow Wilson's little bottomfarm inside his south line; Elder wanted to lend money at 5 percent a month and get it collected; old Stark here wanted towheedle old women up in Vermont into investing their annuities inreal estate mortgages that are not worth the paper they arewritten on. Oh, you needed me hardenough, and you'll go onneeding me; and that's why I'm not afraid to plug the truth hometo you this once.
"Well, I came back here and became the damned shyster youwanted me to be.You pretend to have some sort of respect forme; and yet you'll stand up and throw mud at Harvey Merrick,whose soul you couldn't dirty and whose hands you couldn't tie. Oh, you're a discriminating lot of Christians!There have beentimes when the sight of Harvey's name in some Eastern paper hasmade me hang my head like a whipped dog; and, again, times when Iliked to think of him off there in the world, away from all thishog wallow, doing his great work and climbing the big, cleanupgrade he'd set for himself.
"And we?Now that we've fought and lied and sweated andstolen, and hated as only the disappointed strugglers in abitter, dead little Western town know how to do, what have we gotto show for it?Harvey Merrick wouldn't have given one sunsetover your marshes for all you've got put together, and you knowit.It's not for me to say why, in the inscrutable wisdom ofGod, a genius should ever have been called from this place ofhatred and bitter waters; but I want this Boston man to know thatthe drivel he's been hearing here tonight is the only tribute anytruly great man could ever have from such a lot of sick, side-tracked, burnt-dog, land-poor sharks as the here-presentfinanciers of Sand City——upon which town may God have mercy!"
The lawyer thrust out his hand to Steavens as he passed him,caught up his overcoat in the hall, and had left the house beforethe Grand Army man had had time to lift his ducked head and cranehis long neck about at his fellows.
Next day Jim Laird was drunk and unable to attend thefuneral services.Steavens called twice at his office, but wascompelled to start East without seeing him.He had apresentiment that he would hear from him again, and left hisaddress on the lawyer's table; but if Laird found it, he neveracknowledged it.The thing in him that Harvey Merrick had lovedmust have gone underground with Harvey Merrick's coffin; for itnever spoke again, and Jim got the cold he died of driving acrossthe Colorado mountains to defend one of Phelps's sons, who hadgot into trouble out there by cutting government timber.