“Young people," McDonald said contemptuously. "You always think there's something to find out."
"Yes, sir," Andrews said.
"Well, there's nothing," McDonald said. "You get born, and you nurse on lies, and you get weaned on lies, and you learn fancier lies in school. You live all your life on lies, and then maybe when you're ready to die, it comes to you--that there's nothing, nothing but yourself and what you could have done. Only you ain't done it, because the lies told you there was something else. Then you know you could of had the world, because you're the only one that knows the secret; only then it's too late. You're too old."
"No," Andrews said. A vague terror crept from the darkness that surrounded them, and tightened his voice.
"That's not the way it is."
"You ain't learned, then," McDonald said. "You ain't learned yet....look. You spend nearly a year of your life and sweat, because you have faith in the dream of a fool. And what have you got? Nothing. You kill three, four thousand buffalo, and stack their skins neat; and the buffalo will rot wherever you left them, and the rats will nest in the skins. What have you got to show? A year gone out of your life, a busted wagon that a beaver might use to make a dam with, some calluses on your hands, and the memory of a dead man."
"No," Andrew said. "That's not all. That's not all I have."
"Then what? What have you got?"
Andrews was silent.
John Williams, Butcher's Crossing