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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Dryfoos Didn't Fulkerson tell you that Lindau was very sick


March

hesitated. "I'm afraid, Mr. Dryfoos--Didn't Fulkerson tell you that Lindau was very sick?"

"Yes, of course. But he's all right, he said."

Now it had to come, though the fact had been latterly playing fast and loose with March's consciousness. Something almost made him smile; the willingness he had once felt to give this old man pain; then he consoled himself by thinking that at least he was not obliged to meet Dryfoos's wish to make atonement with the fact that Lindau had renounced him, and would on no terms work for such a man as he, or suffer any kindness from him. In this light Lindau seemed the harder of the two, and March had the momentary force to say--

"Mr. Dryfoos--it can't be. Lindau--I have just come from him--is dead."

XI.

"How did he take it? How could he bear it? Oh, Basil! I wonder you could have the heart to say it to him. It was cruel!"

"Yes, cruel enough, my dear," March owned to his wife, when they talked the matter over on his return home. He could not wait till the children were out of the way, and afterward neither he nor his wife was sorry that he had spoken of it before them. The girl cried plentifully for her old friend who was dead, and said she hated Mr. Dryfoos, and then was sorry for him, too; and the boy listened

to all, and spoke with a serious sense that pleased his father. "But as to how he took it," March went on to answer his wife's question about Dryfoos--"how do any of us take a thing that hurts? Some of us cry out, and some of us don't. Dryfoos drew a kind of long, quivering breath, as a child does when it grieves--there's something curiously simple and primitive about him--and didn't say anything. After a while he asked me how he could see the people at the hospital about the remains; I gave him my card to the young doctor there that had charge of Lindau. I suppose he was still carrying forward his plan of reparation in his mind--to the dead for the dead. But how useless! If he could have taken the living Lindau home with him, and cared for him all his days, what would it have profited the gentle creature whose life his worldly ambition vexed and thwarted here? He might as well offer a sacrifice at Conrad's grave. Children," said March, turning to them, "death is an exile that no remorse and no love can reach. Remember that, and be good to every one here on earth, for your longing to retrieve any harshness or unkindness to the dead will be the very ecstasy of anguish to you. I wonder," he mused, "if one of the reasons why we're shut up to our ignorance of what is to be hereafter isn't because if we were sure of another world we might be still more brutal to one another here, in the hope of making reparation somewhere else. Perhaps, if we ever come to obey the law of love on earth, the mystery of death will be taken away."

"Well"--the ancestral Puritanism spoke in Mrs. March--"these two old men have been terribly punished. They have both been violent and wilful, and they have both been punished. No one need ever tell me there is not a moral government of the universe!"

March always disliked to hear her talk in this way, which did both her head and heart injustice. "And Conrad," he said, "what was he punished for?"

"He?"--she answered, in an exaltation--"he suffered for the sins of others."


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