Marching Men HTML version

Uncle Charlie Wheeler stamped on the steps before Nance McGregor's bake-
shop on the Main Street of the town of Coal Creek Pennsylvania and then went
quickly inside. Something pleased him and as he stood before the counter in the
shop he laughed and whistled softly. With a wink at the Reverend Minot Weeks
who stood by the door leading to the street, he tapped with his knuckles on the
"It has," he said, waving attention to the boy, who was making a mess of the
effort to arrange Uncle Charlie's loaf into a neat package, "a pretty name. They
call it Norman--Norman McGregor." Uncle Charlie laughed heartily and again
stamped upon the floor. Putting his finger to his forehead to suggest deep
thought, he turned to the minister. "I am going to change all that," he said.
"Norman indeed! I shall give him a name that will stick! Norman! Too soft, too soft
and delicate for Coal Creek, eh? It shall be rechristened. You and I will be Adam
and Eve in the garden naming things. We will call it Beaut--Our Beautiful One--
Beaut McGregor."
The Reverend Minot Weeks also laughed. He thrust four ringers of each hand
into the pockets of his trousers, letting the extended thumbs lie along the swelling
waist line. From the front the thumbs looked like two tiny boats on the horizon of
a troubled sea. They bobbed and jumped about on the rolling shaking paunch,
appearing and disappearing as laughter shook him. The Reverend Minot Weeks
went out at the door ahead of Uncle Charlie, still laughing. One fancied that he
would go along the street from store to store telling the tale of the christening and
laughing again. The tall boy could imagine the details of the story.
It was an ill day for births in Coal Creek, even for the birth of one of Uncle
Charlie's inspirations. Snow lay piled along the sidewalks and in the gutters of
Main Street--black snow, sordid with the gathered grime of human endeavour
that went on day and night in the bowels of the hills. Through the soiled snow
walked miners, stumbling along silently and with blackened faces. In their bare
hands they carried dinner pails.
The McGregor boy, tall and awkward, and with a towering nose, great
hippopotamus-like mouth and fiery red hair, followed Uncle Charlie, Republican
politician, postmaster and village wit to the door and looked after him as with the
loaf of bread under his arm he hurried along the street. Behind the politician went
the minister still enjoying the scene in the bakery. He was preening himself on his
nearness to life in the mining town. "Did not Christ himself laugh, eat and drink
with publicans and sinners?" he thought, as he waddled through the snow. The
eyes of the McGregor boy, as they followed the two departing figures, and later,
as he stood in the door of the bake- shop watching the struggling miners,