The Sculptor's Funeral by Willa Cather
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 three-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 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 reflectively.
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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 investigate."
"A burnt dog dreads the fire," said the lawyer grimly, and closed his
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 his own.
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 falsetto.
The banker laughed disagreeably and began trimming his nails with a
"There'll scarcely be any need for one, will there?" he queried in his
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
"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 mules then."
Everyone chuckled, and the Grand Army man rubbed his knees with a spasm of
"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
"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 I, 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
"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
"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
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.