“I’ll come in soon again, if I may,” I told him.
“Do, Paret,” he said, “it’s done me good to talk to you—more good than you imagine.”
I was unable to answer him, but I glanced back from the doorway to see him smiling after me. On my way down the stairs I bumped into the doctor as he ascended. The dingy brown parlour was filled with men, standing in groups and talking in subdued voices. I hurried into the street, and on the sidewalk stopped face to face with Perry Blackwood.
“Hugh!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to inquire for Krebs,” I answered. “I’ve seen him.”
“You—you’ve been talking to him?” Perry demanded.
I nodded. He stared at me for a moment with an astonishment to which I was wholly indifferent. He did not seem to know just how to act.
“Well, it was decent of you, Hugh, I must say. How does he seem?”
“Not at all like—like what you’d expect, in his manner.”
“No,” agreed Perry agitatedly, “no, he wouldn’t. My God, we’ve lost a big man in him.”
“I think we have,” I said.
He stared at me again, gave me his hand awkwardly, and went into the house. It was not until I had walked the length of the block that I began to realize what a shock my presence there must have been to him, with his head full of the contrast between this visit and my former attitude. Could it be that it was only the night before I had made a speech against him and his associates? It is interesting that my mind rejected all sense of anomaly and inconsistency. Krebs possessed me; I must have been in reality extremely agitated, but this sense of being possessed seemed a quiet one. An amazing thing had happened—and yet I was not amazed. The Krebs I had seen was the man I had known for many years, the man I had ridiculed, despised and oppressed, but it seemed to me then that he had been my friend and intimate all my life: more than that, I had an odd feeling he had always been a part of me, and that now had begun to take place a merging of personality. Nor could I feel that he was a dying man. He would live on....
I could not as yet sort and appraise, reduce to order the possessions he had wished to turn over to me.
It was noon, and people were walking past me in the watery, diluted sunlight, men in black coats and top hats and women in bizarre, complicated costumes bright with colour. I had reached the more respectable portion of the city, where the churches were emptying. These very people, whom not long ago I would have acknowledged as my own kind, now seemed mildly animated automatons, wax figures. The day was like hundreds of Sundays I had known, the city familiar, yet passing strange. I walked like a ghost through it....