Marching Men HTML version
Beaut McGregor went home to Pennsylvania to bury his mother and on a
summer afternoon walked again on the streets of his native town. From the
station he went at once to the empty bake-shop, above which he had lived with
his mother but he did not stay there. For a moment he stood bag in hand
listening to the voices of the miners' wives in the room above and then put the
bag behind an empty box and hurried away. The voices of women broke the
stillness of the room in which he stood. Their thin sharpness hurt something
within him and he could not bear the thought of the equally thin sharp silence he
knew would fall upon the women who were attending his mother's body in the
room above when he came into the presence of the dead.
Along Main Street he went to a hardware store and from there went to the mine
office. Then with a pick and shovel on his shoulder he began to climb the hill up
which he had walked with his father when he was a lad. On the train homeward
bound an idea had come to him. "I will her among the bushes on the hillside that
looks down into the fruitful valley," he told himself. The details of a religious
discussion between two labourers that had gone on one day during the noon
hour at the warehouse had come into his mind and as the train ran eastward he
for the first time found himself speculating on the possibility of a life after death.
Then he brushed the thoughts aside. "Anyway if Cracked McGregor does come
back it is there you will find him, sitting on the log on the hillside," he thought.
With the tools on his shoulder McGregor climbed the long hillside road, now deep
with black dust. He was going to dig the grave for the burial of Nance McGregor.
He did not glare at the miners who passed swinging their dinner-pails as they
had done in the old days but looked at the ground and thought of the dead
woman and a little wondered what place a woman would yet come to occupy in
his own life. On the hillside the wind blew sharply and the great boy just
emerging into manhood worked vigorously making the dirt fly. When the hole had
grown deep he stopped and looked to where in the valley below a man who was
hoeing corn shouted to a woman who stood on the porch of a farm house. Two
cows that stood by a fence in a field lifted up their heads and bawled lustily. "It is
the place for the dead to lie," whispered McGregor. "When my own time comes I
shall be brought up here." An idea came to him. "I will have father's body moved,"
he told himself. "When I have made some money I will have that done. Here we
shall all lie in the end, all of us McGregors."
The thought that had come to McGregor pleased him and he was pleased also
with himself for thinking the thought. The male in him made him throw back his
shoulders. "We are two of a feather, father and me," he muttered, "two of a
feather and mother has not understood either of us. Perhaps no woman was ever
intended to understand us."