Caleb Brent’s funeral was the apotheosis of simplicity. Perhaps a score of the old sailor’s friends and neighbors attended, and there were, perhaps, half a dozen women—motherly old souls who had known Nan intimately in the days when she associated with their daughters and who felt in the presence of death a curious unbending of a curious and indefinable hostility. Sam Carew, arrayed in the conventional habiliments of his profession, stood against the wall and closed his eyes piously when Hector McKaye, standing beside old Caleb, spoke briefly and kindly of the departed and with a rough eloquence that stirred none present—not even Nan, who, up to that moment, entirely ignorant of The Laird’s intention, could only gaze at him, amazed and incredulous—more than it stirred The Laird himself. The sonorous and beautiful lines of the burial service took on an added beauty and dignity as he read them, for The Laird believed! And when he had finished reading the service, he looked up, and his kind gaze lay gently on Nan Brent as he said:
“My friends, we will say a wee bit prayer for Caleb wi’ all the earnestness of our hearts. O Lorrd, now that yon sailor has towed out on his last long cruise, we pray thee to gie him a guid pilot—aye, an archangel, for he was ever an honest man and brave—to guide him to thy mansion. Forgie him his trespasses and in thy great mercy grant comfort to this poor bairn he leaves behind. And thine shall be the honor and the glory, forever and ever. Amen!”
None present, except Donald, realized the earnestness of that prayer, for, as always under the stress of deep emotion, The Laird had grown Scotchy. Mrs. Tingley, a kindly little soul who had felt it her Christian duty to be present, moved over to the little organ, and Nan, conspicuous in a four-year-old tailored suit and a black sailor-hat, rose calmly from her seat and stood beside the minister’s wife. For a moment, her glance strayed over the little audience. Then she sang—not a hymn, but just a little song her father had always liked—the haunting, dignified melody that has been set to Stevenson’s “Requiem.”
Under the wide and starry
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave
Here he lies where he longed to be.
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter, home from the hill.
The Laird, watching her narrowly, realized the effort it was costing her; yet her glorious voice did not break or quiver once. “You wonderful, wonderful woman!” he thought, moved to a high pitch of admiration for her independence and her flagrant flaunting of tradition, “What a wife for my boy—what a mother for my grandson—if you hadn’t spoiled it all!”