A group of the townspeople stood on the station siding of a
little Kansas town, awaiting the coming of the night train, which
was already twenty minutes overdue. The snow had fallen thick
over everything; in the pale starlight the line of bluffs across
the wide, white meadows south of the town made soft, smoke-
colored curves against the clear sky. The men on the siding
stood first on one foot and then on the other, their hands thrust
deep into their trousers pockets, their overcoats open, their
shoulders screwed up with the cold; and they glanced from time to
time toward the southeast, where the railroad track wound along
the river shore. They conversed in low tones and moved about
restlessly, seeming uncertain as to what was expected of them.
There was but one of the company who looked as though he knew
exactly why he was there; and he kept conspicuously apart;
walking to the far end of the platform, returning to the station
door, then pacing up the track again, his chin sunk in the high
collar of his overcoat, his burly shoulders drooping forward, his
gait heavy and dogged. Presently he was approached by a tall,
spare, grizzled man clad in a faded Grand Army suit, who shuffled
out from the group and advanced with a certain deference, craning
his neck forward until his back made the angle of a jackknife
"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 of
annoyance, speaking from out an astonishing cataract of red beard
that grew fiercely and thickly in all directions.
The spare man shifted the quill toothpick he was chewing to
the other side of his mouth. "It ain't likely that anybody from
the East will come with the corpse, I s'pose," he went on
"I don't know," responded the other, more curtly than before.
"It's too bad he didn't belong to some lodge or other. I
like an order funeral myself. They seem more appropriate for
people of some reputation," the spare man continued, with an
ingratiating concession in his shrill voice, as he carefully
placed his toothpick in his vest pocket. He always carried the
flag at the G. A. R. funerals in the town.
The heavy man turned on his heel, without replying, and walked up
the 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 a
shuffling of feet on the platform. A number of lanky boys of all
ages appeared as suddenly and slimily as eels wakened by the
crack of thunder; some came from the waiting room, where they had
been warming themselves by the red stove, or half-asleep on the
slat benches; others uncoiled themselves from baggage trucks or
slid out of express wagons. Two clambered down from the driver's
seat of a hearse that stood backed up against the siding. They
straightened their stooping shoulders and lifted their heads, and
a flash of momentary animation kindled their dull eyes at that
cold, vibrant scream, the world-wide call for men. It stirred
them like the note of a trumpet; just as it had often stirred the
man who was coming home tonight, in his boyhood.
The night express shot, red as a rocket, from out the eastward
marsh lands and wound along the river shore under the long lines of
shivering poplars that sentineled the meadows, the escaping steam
hanging in gray masses against the pale sky and blotting out the
Milky Way. In a moment the red glare from the headlight streamed
up the snow-covered track before the siding and glittered on the
wet, black rails. The burly man with the disheveled red beard
walked swiftly up the platform toward the approaching train,
uncovering his head as he went. The group of men behind him
hesitated, glanced questioningly at one another, and awkwardly
followed his example. The train stopped, and the crowd shuffled up
to the express car just as the door was thrown open, the spare man
in the G. A. B. suit thrusting his head forward with curiosity.
The express messenger appeared in the doorway, accompanied by a
young 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 come
to take charge of the body. Mr. Merrick's father is very feeble
and 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 the
snowy platform. The townspeople drew back enough to make room
for it and then formed a close semicircle about it, looking
curiously at the palm leaf which lay across the black cover. No
one said anything. The baggage man stood by his truck, waiting
to get at the trunks. The engine panted heavily, and the fireman
dodged in and out among the wheels with his yellow torch and long
oilcan, snapping the spindle boxes. The young Bostonian, one of
the dead sculptor's pupils who had come with the body, looked
about him helplessly. He turned to the banker, the only one of
that black, uneasy, stoop-shouldered group who seemed enough of
an 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 and
joined the group. "No, they have not come yet; the family is
scattered. The body will be taken directly to the house." He
stooped and took hold of one of the handles of the coffin.
"Take the long hill road up, Thompson--it will be easier on
the horses," called the liveryman as the undertaker snapped the
door 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 the
hack." He pointed to a single, battered conveyance, but the young
man replied stiffly: "Thank you, but I think I will go up with
the 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 the
starlight tip the long, white hill toward the town. The lamps in
the still village were shining from under the low, snow-burdened
roofs; and beyond, on every side, the plains reached out into
emptiness, peaceful and wide as the soft sky itself, and wrapped
in a tangible, white silence.
When the hearse backed up to a wooden sidewalk before a naked,
weatherbeaten frame house, the same composite, ill-defined group
that 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 rickety
footbridge. The gate hung on one hinge and was opened wide with
difficulty. Steavens, the young stranger, noticed that something
black was tied to the knob of the front door.
The grating sound made by the casket, as it was drawn from the
hearse, was answered by a scream from the house; the front door was
wrenched open, and a tall, corpulent woman rushed out bareheaded
into the snow and flung herself upon the coffin, shrieking: "My
boy, my boy! And this is how you've come home to me!"
As Steavens turned away and closed his eyes with a shudder
of unutterable repulsion, another woman, also tall, but flat and
angular, dressed entirely in black, darted out of the house and
caught Mrs. Merrick by the shoulders, crying sharply: "Come,
come, Mother; you mustn't go on like this!" Her tone changed to
one of obsequious solemnity as she turned to the banker: "The
parlor is ready, Mr. Phelps."
The bearers carried the coffin along the narrow boards,
while the undertaker ran ahead with the coffin-rests. They
bore it into a large, unheated room that smelled of dampness and
disuse and furniture polish, and set it down under a hanging lamp
ornamented with jingling glass prisms and before a "Rogers group"
of John Alden and Priscilla, wreathed with smilax. Henry
Steavens stared about him with the sickening conviction that
there had been some horrible mistake, and that he had somehow
arrived at the wrong destination. He looked painfully about over
the clover-green Brussels, the fat plush upholstery, among the
hand-painted china plaques and panels, and vases, for some mark
of identification, for something that might once conceivably have
belonged to Harvey Merrick. It was not until he recognized his
friend in the crayon portrait of a little boy in kilts and curls
hanging above the piano that he felt willing to let any of these
people 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 Steavens
looked fearfully, almost beseechingly into her face, red and
swollen under its masses of strong, black, shiny hair. He
flushed, dropped his eyes, and then, almost incredulously, looked
again. There was a kind of power about her face--a kind of
brutal handsomeness, even, but it was scarred and furrowed by
violence, and so colored and coarsened by fiercer passions that
grief seemed never to have laid a gentle finger there. The long
nose was distended and knobbed at the end, and there were deep
lines on either side of it; her heavy, black brows almost met
across her forehead; her teeth were large and square and set far
apart--teeth that could tear. She filled the room; the men were
obliterated, 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 a
mourning comb in her hair which curiously lengthened her long
face sat stiffly upon the sofa, her hands, conspicuous for their
large knuckles, folded in her lap, her mouth and eyes drawn down,
solemnly awaiting the opening of the coffin. Near the door stood
a mulatto woman, evidently a servant in the house, with a timid
bearing and an emaciated face pitifully sad and gentle.
She was weeping silently, the corner of her calico apron lifted
to 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, tall
and frail, odorous of pipe smoke, with shaggy, unkept gray hair
and a dingy beard, tobacco stained about the mouth, entered
uncertainly. He went slowly up to the coffin and stood, rolling
a blue cotton handkerchief between his hands, seeming so pained
and embarrassed by his wife's orgy of grief that he had no
consciousness of anything else.
"There, there, Annie, dear, don't take on so," he quavered
timidly, putting out a shaking hand and awkwardly patting her
elbow. She turned with a cry and sank upon his shoulder with
such violence that he tottered a little. He did not even glance
toward 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 miserable
shame. When his wife rushed from the room her daughter strode
after 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. The
old man stood trembling and looking down at his dead son's face.
The sculptor's splendid head seemed even more noble in its rigid
stillness than in life. The dark hair had crept down upon the
wide forehead; the face seemed strangely long, but in it there
was not that beautiful and chaste repose which we expect to find
in the faces of the dead. The brows were so drawn that there
were two deep lines above the beaked nose, and the chin was
thrust forward defiantly. It was as though the strain of life
had been so sharp and bitter that death could not at once wholly
relax 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. He
turned to the lawyer with timid deference: "Phelps and the rest are
comin' back to set up with Harve, ain't they?" he asked. "Thank
'ee, Jim, thank 'ee." He brushed the hair back gently from his
son's forehead. "He was a good boy, Jim; always a good boy. He
was ez gentle ez a child and the kindest of 'em all--only we didn't
none of us ever onderstand him." The tears trickled slowly down
his beard and dropped upon the sculptor's coat.
"Martin, Martin. Oh, Martin! come here," his wife wailed
from the top of the stairs. The old man started timorously:
"Yes, Annie, I'm coming." He turned away, hesitated stood for a
moment in miserable indecision; then he reached back and patted
the dead man's hair softly, and stumbled from the room.
"Poor old man, I didn't think he had any tears left. Seems
as if his eyes would have gone dry long ago. At his age nothing
cuts very deep," remarked the lawyer.
Something in his tone made Steavens glance up. While the
mother had been in the room the young man had scarcely seen
anyone else; but now, from the moment he first glanced into Jim
Laird's florid face and bloodshot eyes, he knew that he had found
what 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 and
blurred by dissipation, and a hot, blazing blue eye. His face
was strained--that of a man who is controlling himself with
difficulty--and he kept plucking at his beard with a sort of
fierce resentment. Steavens, sitting by the window, watched him
turn down the glaring lamp, still its jangling pendants with an
angry gesture, and then stand with his hands locked behind him,
staring down into the master's face. He could not help wondering
what link there could have been between the porcelain vessel and
so 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 was
abusing the maid for having forgotten to make the dressing for
the chicken salad which had been prepared for the watchers.
Steavens had never heard anything in the least like it; it was
injured, emotional, dramatic abuse, unique and masterly
in its excruciating cruelty, as violent and unrestrained as had
been her grief of twenty minutes before. With a shudder of
disgust the lawyer went into the dining room and closed the door
into 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 her
loyalty would let her, I guess the poor old thing could tell
tales that would curdle your blood. She's the mulatto woman who
was standing in here a while ago, with her apron to her eyes.
The old woman is a fury; there never was anybody like her for
demonstrative piety and ingenious cruelty. She made Harvey's
life a hell for him when he lived at home; he was so sick ashamed
of it. I never could see how he kept himself so sweet."
"He was wonderful," said Steavens slowly, "wonderful; but
until tonight I have never known how wonderful."
"That is the true and eternal wonder of it, anyway; that it
can come even from such a dung heap as this," the lawyer cried,
with a sweeping gesture which seemed to indicate much more than
the four walls within which they stood.
"I think I'll see whether I can get a little air. The room
is so close I am beginning to feel rather faint," murmured
Steavens, struggling with one of the windows. The sash was
stuck, however, and would not yield, so he sat down dejectedly
and began pulling at his collar. The lawyer came over, loosened
the sash with one blow of his red fist, and sent the window up a
few inches. Steavens thanked him, but the nausea which had been
gradually climbing into his throat for the last half-hour left
him with but one desire--a desperate feeling that he must get
away from this place with what was left of Harvey Merrick. Oh,
he comprehended well enough now the quiet bitterness of the smile
that he had seen so often on his master's lips!
He remembered that once, when Merrick returned from a visit
home, he brought with him a singularly feeling and suggestive
bas-relief of a thin, faded old woman, sitting and sewing
something pinned to her knee; while a full-lipped, full-blooded
little urchin, his trousers held up by a single gallows,
stood beside her, impatiently twitching her gown to call her
attention to a butterfly he had caught. Steavens, impressed by
the tender and delicate modeling of the thin, tired face, had
asked him if it were his mother. He remembered the dull flush
that 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 him
earnestly, puzzled at the line of the chin, and wondering why a
man should conceal a feature of such distinction under that
disfiguring shock of beard. Suddenly, as though he felt the
young 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," rejoined
Steavens. "Although he could be very fond of people, he always
gave one the impression of being detached. He disliked violent
emotion; he was reflective, and rather distrustful of himself--
except, of course, as regarded his work. He was surefooted
enough there. He distrusted men pretty thoroughly and women even
more, yet somehow without believing ill of them. He was
determined, indeed, to believe the best, but he seemed afraid to
"A burnt dog dreads the fire," said the lawyer grimly, and
closed his eyes.
Steavens went on and on, reconstructing that whole miserable
boyhood. All this raw, biting ugliness had been the portion of
the man whose tastes were refined beyond the limits of the
reasonable--whose mind was an exhaustless gallery of beautiful
impressions, and so sensitive that the mere shadow of a poplar
leaf flickering against a sunny wall would be etched and held
there forever. Surely, if ever a man had the magic word in his
fingertips, it was Merrick. Whatever he touched, he revealed its
holiest secret; liberated it from enchantment and restored it to
its pristine loveliness, like the Arabian prince who fought the
enchantress spell for spell. Upon whatever he had come in
contact with, he had left a beautiful record of the experience--a
sort of ethereal signature; a scent, a sound, a color that was
Steavens understood now the real tragedy of his master's
life; neither love nor wine, as many had conjectured, but a blow
which had fallen earlier and cut deeper than these could have
done--a shame not his, and yet so unescapably his, to bide in his
heart from his very boyhood. And without--the frontier warfare;
the yearning of a boy, cast ashore upon a desert of newness and
ugliness and sordidness, for all that is chastened and old, and
noble with traditions.
At eleven o'clock the tall, flat woman in black crepe
entered, announced that the watchers were arriving, and asked
them "to step into the dining room." As Steavens rose the lawyer
said 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've
had twenty years of them."
As Steavens closed the door after him be glanced back at the
lawyer, sitting by the coffin in the dim light, with his chin
resting on his hand.
The same misty group that had stood before the door of the
express car shuffled into the dining room. In the light of the
kerosene lamp they separated and became individuals. The
minister, a pale, feeble-looking man with white hair and blond
chin-whiskers, took his seat beside a small side table and placed
his Bible upon it. The Grand Army man sat down behind the stove
and tilted his chair back comfortably against the wall, fishing
his 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 and
its effect on chattel security loans. The real estate agent, an
old man with a smiling, hypocritical face, soon joined them. The
coal-and-lumber dealer and the cattle shipper sat on opposite
sides of the hard coal-burner, their feet on the nickelwork.
Steavens took a book from his pocket and began to read. The talk
around him ranged through various topics of local interest while
the house was quieting down. When it was clear that the members
of the family were in bed the Grand Army man hitched his
shoulders and, untangling his long legs, caught his heels on the
rounds of his chair.
"S'pose there'll be a will, Phelps?" he queried in his weak
The banker laughed disagreeably and began trimming his nails
with a pearl-handled pocketknife.
"There'll scarcely be any need for one, will there?" he
queried in his turn.
The restless Grand Army man shifted his position again,
getting his knees still nearer his chin. "Why, the ole man says
Harve's done right well lately," he chirped.
The other banker spoke up. "I reckon he means by that Harve
ain't asked him to mortgage any more farms lately, so as he could
go on with his education."
"Seems like my mind don't reach back to a time when Harve
wasn't bein' edycated," tittered the Grand Army man.
There was a general chuckle. The minister took out his
handkerchief and blew his nose sonorously. Banker Phelps closed
his knife with a snap. "It's too bad the old man's sons didn't
turn out better," he remarked with reflective authority. "They
never hung together. He spent money enough on Harve to stock a
dozen cattle farms and he might as well have poured it into Sand
Creek. If Harve had stayed at home and helped nurse what little
they had, and gone into stock on the old man's bottom farm, they
might all have been well fixed. But the old man had to trust
everything to tenants and was cheated right and left."
"Harve never could have handled stock none," interposed the
cattleman. "He hadn't it in him to be sharp. Do you remember
when he bought Sander's mules for eight-year-olds, when everybody
in town knew that Sander's father-in-law give 'em to his wife for
a wedding present eighteen years before, an' they was full-grown
Everyone chuckled, and the Grand Army man rubbed his knees
with a spasm of childish delight.
"Harve never was much account for anything practical, and he
shore 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 old
man was out to the barn helpin' his hand hitch up to take
Harve 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: 'Cal
Moots, Cal Moots! please come cord my trunk.'"
"That's Harve for you," approved the Grand Army man
gleefully. "I kin hear him howlin' yet when he was a big feller
in long pants and his mother used to whale him with a rawhide in
the barn for lettin' the cows git foundered in the cornfield when
he was drivin' 'em home from pasture. He killed a cow of mine
that-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' the
sun set acros't the marshes when the anamile got away; he argued
that sunset was oncommon fine."
"Where the old man made his mistake was in sending the boy
East to school," said Phelps, stroking his goatee and speaking in
a deliberate, judicial tone. "There was where he got his head
full of traipsing to Paris and all such folly. What Harve
needed, of all people, was a course in some first-class Kansas
City business college."
The letters were swimming before Steavens's eyes. Was it
possible that these men did not understand, that the palm on the
coffin meant nothing to them? The very name of their town would
have remained forever buried in the postal guide had it not been
now and again mentioned in the world in connection with Harvey
Merrick's. He remembered what his master had said to him on the
day of his death, after the congestion of both lungs had shut off
any probability of recovery, and the sculptor had asked his pupil
to send his body home. "It's not a pleasant place to be lying
while the world is moving and doing and bettering," he had said
with a feeble smile, "but it rather seems as though we ought to
go back to the place we came from in the end. The townspeople
will come in for a look at me; and after they have had their say
I shan't have much to fear from the judgment of God. The wings
of 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 a
Merrick to cash in; they usually hang on pretty well. Probably
he helped it along with whisky."
"His mother's people were not long-lived, and Harvey never
had a robust constitution," said the minister mildly. He would
have liked to say more. He had been the boy's Sunday-school
teacher, and had been fond of him; but he felt that he was not in
a position to speak. His own sons had turned out badly, and it
was not a year since one of them had made his last trip home in
the express car, shot in a gambling house in the Black Hills.
"Nevertheless, there is no disputin' that Harve frequently
looked upon the wine when it was red, also variegated, and it
shore 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 only
Jim Laird came out. His red face was convulsed with anger, and
the Grand Army man ducked his head when he saw the spark in his
blue, bloodshot eye. They were all afraid of Jim; he was a
drunkard, but he could twist the law to suit his client's needs
as no other man in all western Kansas could do; and there were
many who tried. The lawyer closed the door gently behind him,
leaned back against it and folded his arms, cocking his head a
little to one side. When he assumed this attitude in the
courtroom, ears were always pricked up, as it usually foretold a
flood 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 and
raised in this town; and, if I remember rightly, you were never
any too well satisfied when you checked them up. What's the
matter, anyhow? Why is it that reputable young men are as scarce
as millionaires in Sand City? It might almost seem to a stranger
that there was some way something the matter with your
progressive town. Why did Ruben Sayer, the brightest young
lawyer you ever turned out, after he had come home from the
university as straight as a die, take to drinking and forge a
check and shoot himself? Why did Bill Merrit's son die of the
shakes in a saloon in Omaha? Why was Mr. Thomas's son, here,
shot in a gambling house? Why did young Adams burn his mill to
beat the insurance companies and go to the pen?"
The lawyer paused and unfolded his arms, laying one clenched
fist quietly on the table. "I'll tell you why. Because you
drummed nothing but money and knavery into their ears from the
time they wore knickerbockers; because you carped away at them as
you've been carping here tonight, holding our friends Phelps and
Elder up to them for their models, as our grandfathers held up
George Washington and John Adams. But the boys, worse luck, were
young and raw at the business you put them to; and how could they
match coppers with such artists as Phelps and Elder? You wanted
them to be successful rascals; they were only unsuccessful ones--
that's all the difference. There was only one boy ever raised in
this borderland between ruffianism and civilization who didn't
come to grief, and you hated Harvey Merrick more for winning out
than you hated all the other boys who got under the wheels.
Lord, Lord, how you did hate him! Phelps, here, is fond of saying
that 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 his
bank and all his cattle farms put together; and a lack of
appreciation, that way, goes hard with Phelps.
"Old Nimrod, here, thinks Harve drank too much; and this
from such as Nimrod and me!"
"Brother Elder says Harve was too free with the old man's
money--fell short in filial consideration, maybe. Well, we can
all remember the very tone in which brother Elder swore his own
father was a liar, in the county court; and we all know that the
old man came out of that partnership with his son as bare as a
sheared lamb. But maybe I'm getting personal, and I'd better be
driving ahead at what I want to say."
The lawyer paused a moment, squared his heavy shoulders, and
went on: "Harvey Merrick and I went to school together, back
East. We were dead in earnest, and we wanted you all to be proud
of us some day. We meant to be great men. Even 1, and I haven't
lost my sense of humor, gentlemen, I meant to be a great man. I
came back here to practice, and I found you didn't in the least
want 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 of
pension, because he had dyspepsia; Phelps wanted a new county
survey that would put the widow Wilson's little bottom
farm inside his south line; Elder wanted to lend money at 5 per
cent a month and get it collected; old Stark here wanted to
wheedle old women up in Vermont into investing their annuities in
real estate mortgages that are not worth the paper they are
written on. Oh, you needed me hard enough, and you'll go on
needing me; and that's why I'm not afraid to plug the truth home
to you this once.
"Well, I came back here and became the damned shyster you
wanted me to be. You pretend to have some sort of respect for
me; 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 been
times when the sight of Harvey's name in some Eastern paper has
made me hang my head like a whipped dog; and, again, times when I
liked to think of him off there in the world, away from all this
hog wallow, doing his great work and climbing the big, clean
upgrade he'd set for himself.
"And we? Now that we've fought and lied and sweated and
stolen, and hated as only the disappointed strugglers in a
bitter, dead little Western town know how to do, what have we got
to show for it? Harvey Merrick wouldn't have given one sunset
over your marshes for all you've got put together, and you know
it. It's not for me to say why, in the inscrutable wisdom of
God, a genius should ever have been called from this place of
hatred and bitter waters; but I want this Boston man to know that
the drivel he's been hearing here tonight is the only tribute any
truly great man could ever have from such a lot of sick, side-
tracked, burnt-dog, land-poor sharks as the here-present
financiers 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 before
the Grand Army man had had time to lift his ducked head and crane
his long neck about at his fellows.
Next day Jim Laird was drunk and unable to attend the
funeral services. Steavens called twice at his office, but was
compelled to start East without seeing him. He had a
presentiment that he would hear from him again, and left his
address on the lawyer's table; but if Laird found it, he never
acknowledged it. The thing in him that Harvey Merrick had loved
must have gone underground with Harvey Merrick's coffin; for it
never spoke again, and Jim got the cold he died of driving across
the Colorado mountains to defend one of Phelps's sons, who had
got into trouble out there by cutting government timber.