Windy McPherson's Son
The funeral of Jane McPherson was a trying affair for her son. He thought that his sister
Kate, with the babe in her arms, had become coarsened--she looked frumpish and, while
they were in the house, had an air of having quarrelled with her husband when they came
out of their bedroom in the morning. During the funeral service Sam sat in the parlour,
astonished and irritated by the endless number of women that crowded into the house.
They were everywhere, in the kitchen, the sleeping room back of the parlour; and in the
parlour, where the dead woman lay in her coffin, they were massed. When the thin-lipped
minister, holding a book in his hand, held forth upon the virtues of the dead woman, they
wept. Sam looked at the floor and thought that thus they would have wept over the body
of the dead Windy, had his fingers but tightened a trifle. He wondered if the minister
would have talked in the same way--blatantly and without knowledge--of the virtues of
the dead. In a chair at the side of the coffin the bereaved husband, in new black clothes,
wept audibly. The baldheaded, officious undertaker kept moving nervously about, intent
upon the ritual of his trade.
During the service, a man sitting behind him dropped a note on the floor at Sam's feet.
Sam picked it up and read it, glad of something to distract his attention from the voice of
the minister, and the faces of the weeping women, none of whom had before been in the
house and all of whom he thought strikingly lacking in a sense of the sacredness of
privacy. The note was from John Telfer.
"I will not come to your mother's funeral," he wrote. "I respected your mother while she
lived and I will leave you alone with her now that she is dead. In her memory I will hold
a ceremony in my heart. If I am in Wildman's, I may ask the man to quit selling soap and
tobacco for the moment and to close and lock the door. If I am at Valmore's shop, I will
go up into his loft and listen to him pounding on the anvil below. If he or Freedom Smith
go to your house, I warn them I will cut their friendship. When I see the carriages going
through the street and know that the thing is right well done and over, I will buy flowers
and take them to Mary Underwood as an appreciation of the living in the name of the
The note cheered and comforted Sam. It gave him back a grip of something that had
slipped from him.
"It is good sense, after all," he thought, and realised that even in the days when he was
being made to suffer horrors, and in the face of the fact that Jane McPherson's long, hard
role was just being played out to the end, the farmer in the field was sowing his corn,
Valmore was beating upon his anvil, and John Telfer was writing notes with a flourish.
He arose, interrupting the minister's discourse. Mary Underwood had come in just as the
minister began talking and had dropped into an obscure corner near the door leading into
the street. Sam crowded past the women who stared and the minister who frowned and
the baldheaded undertaker who wrung his hands and, dropping the note into her lap, said,