“I got a particular reason why I want him to believe it wasn’t his ideas I objected to—them ideas of his about the government carryin’ everything on and givin’ work. I don’t understand ’em exactly, but I found a writin’—among—my son’s-things” (he seemed to force the words through his teeth), “and I reckon he—thought—that way. Kind of a diary—where he—put down—his thoughts. My son and me—we differed about a good-many things.” His chin shook, and from time to time he stopped. “I wasn’t very good to him, I reckon; I crossed him where I guess I got no business to cross him; but I thought everything of—Coonrod. He was the best boy, from a baby, that ever was; just so patient and mild, and done whatever he was told. I ought to ‘a’ let him been a preacher! Oh, my son! my son!” The sobs could not be kept back any longer; they shook the old man with a violence that made March afraid for him; but he controlled himself at last with a series of hoarse sounds like barks. “Well, it’s all past and gone! But as I understand you from what you saw, when Coonrod was—killed, he was tryin’ to save that old man from trouble?”
Yes, yes! It seemed so to me.”
“That ’ll do, then! I want you to have him come back and write for the book when he gets well. I want you to find out and let me know if there’s anything I can do for him. I’ll feel as if I done it—for my—son. I’ll take him into my own house, and do for him there, if you say so, when he gets so he can be moved. I’ll wait on him myself. It’s what Coonrod ’d do, if he was here. I don’t feel any hardness to him because it was him that got Coonrod killed, as you might say, in one sense of the term; but I’ve tried to think it out, and I feel like I was all the more beholden to him because my son died tryin’ to save him. Whatever I do, I’ll be doin’ it for Coonrod, and that’s enough for me.” He seemed to have finished, and he turned to March as if to hear what he had to say.
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.”
“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!”