Chapter 10 Summary

Harry Butler stands in his son’s bedroom for the first time since True Son came home. He is only there now because the boy is sick. The doctor has been here and bled the boy, but he is certain True Son has simply lived too long among the heathen Indians and has contracted one of their mysterious and primitive diseases. (He knows that the Indians have exactly the same organs, muscles, bones, and blood as white men, but there are “obscure primitive tendencies and susceptibilities in the aboriginal race.”)

All the doctor knows for certain is that the boy has had a strong fever for a week and that none of his tests and medicines has been effective on the sick boy. Eventually the fever will either break or kill him.

Butler does not want his son to die and feels guilty because of his role in the boy’s heathenish upbringing. He would like to explain that to True Son; then perhaps his son would like to admit his regret for his “persistent and unhealthy passion for Indian ways” and his stubborn refusal to adopt a more Christian lifestyle. The boy might even confess to stealing Butler’s rifle. Butler could then forgive him and explain that he intended to gift the rifle to him anyway.

True Son is unaware of anything, including his father’s presence, until Butler speaks to him. True Son answers mechanically, as if his father were an intruding stranger. On pegs along the wall are all of True Son’s clothes, including his Indian garb, and the sight moves Butler. Eventually, with a heavy heart, Butler goes to his office.

The parson’s son arrives; Elder sent him to warn Butler that there are Indians in the area. Butler is shocked since they are at peace with the savages, but already one Indian has been shot. Only two Indians have been seen; they were asking around town for the white boy who was taken from them. They were directed to True Son’s Uncle Owens, where they were given too much to drink. One of the Indians told awful stories and later one of them was shot in the back and scalped.

Butler asks the boy if his father knows who shot the Indian. The boy says his father did not tell him, but he cannot meet Butler’s eyes as he says it. No one has seen the other Indian since sundown last night; he may have crossed back over the river or there may be more Indians in hiding on the mountain.

Elder is afraid this news might make True Son even sicker. Butler decides not to tell anyone this news and returns to his neat, uncomplicated bookkeeping. Counting his money and figuring his profits soothe him, and Butler regrets that his eldest son is not able to assess and enjoy the rewards of honest labor and the accumulation of productive properties.