Marching Men HTML version
In the year following the beginning of his acquaintanceship with Edith Carson
McGregor continued to work hard and steadily in the warehouse and with his
books at night. He was promoted to be foreman, replacing the German, and he
thought he had made progress with his studies. When he did not go to the night
school he went to Edith Carson's place and sat reading a book and smoking his
pipe by a little table in the back room.
About the room and in and out of her shop moved Edith, going softly and quietly.
A light began to come into her eyes and colour into her cheeks. She did not talk
but new and daring thoughts visited her mind and a thrill of reawakened life ran
through her body. With gentle insistence she did not let her dreams express
themselves in words and almost hoped that she might be able to go on forever
thus, having this strong man come into her presence and sit absorbed in his own
affairs within the walls of her house. Sometimes she wanted him to talk and
wished that she had the power to lead him into the telling of little facts of his life.
She wanted to be told of his mother and father, of his boyhood in the
Pennsylvania town, of his dreams and his desires but for the most part she was
content to wait and only hoped that nothing would happen to bring an end to her
McGregor began to read books of history and became absorbed in the figures of
certain men, all soldiers and leaders of soldiers who stalked across the pages
wherein was written the story of man's life. The figures of Sherman, Grant, Lee,
Jackson, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, and Wellington seemed to him to stand
starkly up among the other figures in the books and going to the Public Library at
the noon hour he got books concerning these men and for a time lost interest in
the study of law and devoted himself to contemplation of the breakers of laws.
There was something beautiful about McGregor in those days. He was as virginal
and pure as a chunk of the hard black coal out of the hills of his own state and
like the coal ready to burn himself out into power. Nature had been kind to him.
He had the gift of silence and of isolation. All about him were other men, perhaps
as strong physically as himself and with better trained minds who were being
destroyed and he was not being destroyed. For the others life let itself run out in
the endless doing of little tasks, the thinking of little thoughts and the saying of
groups of words over and over endlessly like parrots that sit in cages and earn
their bread by screaming two or three sentences to passers by.
It is a terrible thing to speculate on how man has been defeated by his ability to
say words. The brown bear in the forest has no such power and the lack of it has
enabled him to retain a kind of nobility of bearing sadly lacking in us. On and on
through life we go, socialists, dreamers, makers of laws, sellers of goods and