March would have liked to run; he thought how his wife had implored him to keep away from the rioting; but he could not have left Lindau lying there if he would. Something stronger than his will drew him to the spot, and there he saw Conrad, dead beside the old man.
In the cares which Mrs. March shared with her husband that night she was supported partly by principle, but mainly by the, potent excitement which bewildered Conrad’s family and took all reality from what had happened. It was nearly midnight when the Marches left them and walked away toward the Elevated station with Fulkerson. Everything had been done, by that time, that could be done; and Fulkerson was not without that satisfaction in the business-like despatch of all the details which attends each step in such an affair and helps to make death tolerable even to the most sorely stricken. We are creatures of the moment; we live from one little space to another; and only one interest at a time fills these. Fulkerson was cheerful when they got into the street, almost gay; and Mrs. March experienced a rebound from her depression which she felt that she ought not to have experienced. But she condoned the offence a little in herself, because her husband remained so constant in his gravity; and, pending the final accounting he must make her for having been where he could be of so much use from the first instant of the calamity, she was tenderly, gratefully proud of all the use he had been to Conrad’s family, and especially his miserable old father. To her mind, March was the principal actor in the whole affair, and much more important in having seen it than those who had suffered in it. In fact, he had suffered incomparably.
“Well, well,” said Fulkerson. “They’ll get along now. We’ve done all we could, and there’s nothing left but for them to bear it. Of course it’s awful, but I guess it ’ll come out all right. I mean,” he added, “they’ll pull through now.”
“I suppose,” said March, “that nothing is put on us that we can’t bear. But I should think,” he went on, musingly, “that when God sees what we poor finite creatures can bear, hemmed round with this eternal darkness of death, He must respect us.”
“Basil!” said his wife. But in her heart she drew nearer to him for the words she thought she ought to rebuke him for.
“Oh, I know,” he said, “we school ourselves to despise human nature. But God did not make us despicable, and I say, whatever end He meant us for, He must have some such thrill of joy in our adequacy to fate as a father feels when his son shows himself a man. When I think what we can be if we must, I can’t believe the least of us shall finally perish.”
“Oh, I reckon the Almighty won’t scoop any of us,” said Fulkerson, with a piety of his own.
“That poor boy’s father!” sighed Mrs. March. “I can’t get his face out of my sight. He looked so much worse than death.”