The doctor made a slight gesture toward the white canvas screen which in such places forms the death-chamber of the poor and friendless. “Come round this way—he won’t know you! I’ve got rather fond of the poor old fellow. He wouldn’t have a clergyman—sort of agnostic, isn’t he? A good many of these Germans are—but the young lady who’s been coming to see him—”
They both stopped. Lindau’s grand, patriarchal head, foreshortened to their view, lay white upon the pillow, and his broad, white beard flowed upon the sheet, which heaved with those long last breaths. Beside his bed Margaret Vance was kneeling; her veil was thrown back, and her face was lifted; she held clasped between her hands the hand of the dying man; she moved her lips inaudibly.
In spite of the experience of the whole race from time immemorial, when death comes to any one we know we helplessly regard it as an incident of life, which will presently go on as before. Perhaps this is an instinctive perception of the truth that it does go on somewhere; but we have a sense of death as absolutely the end even for earth only if it relates to some one remote or indifferent to us. March tried to project Lindau to the necessary distance from himself in order to realize the fact in his case, but he could not, though the man with whom his youth had been associated in a poetic friendship had not actually reentered the region of his affection to the same degree, or in any like degree. The changed conditions forbade that. He had a soreness of heart concerning him; but he could not make sure whether this soreness was grief for his death, or remorse for his own uncandor with him about Dryfoos, or a foreboding of that accounting with his conscience which he knew his wife would now exact of him down to the last minutest particular of their joint and several behavior toward Lindau ever since they had met him in New York.
He felt something knock against his shoulder, and he looked up to have his hat struck from his head by a horse’s nose. He saw the horse put his foot on the hat, and he reflected, “Now it will always look like an accordion,” and he heard the horse’s driver address him some sarcasms before he could fully awaken to the situation. He was standing bareheaded in the middle of Fifth Avenue and blocking the tide of carriages flowing in either direction. Among the faces put out of the carriage windows he saw that of Dryfoos looking from a coupe. The old man knew him, and said, “Jump in here, Mr. March”; and March, who had mechanically picked up his hat, and was thinking, “Now I shall have to tell Isabel about this at once, and she will never trust me on the street again without her,” mechanically obeyed. Her confidence in him had been undermined by his being so near Conrad when he was shot; and it went through his mind that he would get Dryfoos to drive him to a hatter’s, where he could buy a new hat, and