The Shining Band by Robert W. Chambers
BEFORE the members of the Sagamore Fish and Game Association had erected
their handsome club-house, and before they had begun to purchase those
thousands of acres of forest, mountain, and stream which now belonged to
them, a speculative lumberman with no capital, named O’Hara, built the
white house across the river on a few acres of inherited property,
settled himself comfortably with his wife and child, and prepared to
acquire all the timber in sight at a few dollars an acre … on credit.
For thus, thought he, is the beginning of all millionaires.
So certain was O’Hara of ultimately cornering the standing timber that
he took his time about it, never dreaming that a rival might disturb him
in the wilderness of Sagamore County.
He began in the woodland which he had inherited, which ran for a mile on
either side of the river. This he leisurely cut, hired a few river
drivers, ran a few logs to Foxville, and made money.
Now he was ready to extend business on a greater scale; but when he came
to open negotiations with the score or more of landholders, he found
himself in the alarming position of a bidder against an unknown but
clever rival, who watched, waited, and quietly forestalled his every
It took a long time for O’Hara to discover that he was fighting a
combination of fifteen wealthy gentlemen from New York. Finally, when
the Sagamore Club, limited to fifteen, had completed operations, O’Hara
suddenly perceived that he was bottled up in the strip of worthless land
which he had inherited, surrounded by thousands of acres of preserved
property—outwitted, powerless, completely hemmed in. And that, too,
with the best log-driving water betwixt Foxville and Canada washing the
very door-sill of his own home.
At first he naturally offered to sell, but the club’s small offer
enraged him, and he swore that he would never sell them an inch of his
land. He watched the new club-house which was slowly taking shape under
the trowels of masons and the mallets of carpenters; and his wrath grew
as grew the house.
The man’s nature began to change; an inextinguishable hatred for these
people took possession of him, became his mania, his existence.
His wife died; he sent his child to a convent school in Canada and
remained to watch. He did the club what damage he could, posting his
property, and as much of the river as he controlled. But he could not
legally prevent fishermen from wading the stream and fishing; so he
filled the waters with sawdust, logs, barbed-wire, brambles, and brush,
choking it so that no living creature, except perhaps a mink, could
catch a fish in it.
The club protested, and then offered to buy the land on O’Hara’s own
terms. O’Hara cursed them and built a dam without a fishway, and sat
beside it nights with a loaded shot-gun.
He still had a few dollars left; he wanted millions to crush these rich
men who had come here to mock him and take the bread out of his mouth
for their summer’s sport.
He had a shrewd young friend in New York, named Amasa Munn. Through this
man, O’Hara began to speculate in every wild-cat scheme that squalled
aloud for public support; and between Munn and the wild-cats his little
fortune spread its wings of gold and soared away, leaving him a wreck on
his wrecked land.
But he could still find strength to watch the spite dam with his
shot-gun. One day a better scheme came into his unbalanced brain; he
broke the dam and sent for Munn. Between them they laid a plan to ruin
forever the trout-fishing in the Sagamore; and Munn, taking the last of
O’Hara’s money as a bribe, actually secured several barrels full of live
pickerel, and shipped them to the nearest station on the Sagamore and
But here the club watchers caught Munn, and held him and his fish for
the game-wardens. The penalty for introducing trout-destroying pickerel
into waters inhabited by trout was a heavy fine. Munn was guilty only in
intent, but the club keepers swore falsely, and Peyster Sprowl, a lawyer
and also the new president of the Sagamore Club, pushed the case; and
Munn went to jail, having no money left to purge his sentence.
O’Hara, wild with rage, wrote, threatening Sprowl.
Then Sprowl did a vindictive and therefore foolish thing: he swore out
a warrant for O’Hara’s arrest, charging him with blackmail.
The case was tried in Foxville, and O’Hara was acquitted. But a chance
word or two during the testimony frightened the club and gave O’Hara the
opportunity of his life. He went to New York and scraped up enough money
for his purpose, which was to search the titles of the lands controlled
by the Sagamore Club.
He worked secretly, grubbing, saving, starving; he ferreted out the
original grants covering nine-tenths of Sagamore County; he disinterred
the O’Hara patent of 1760; and then he began to understand that his
title to the entire Sagamore Club property was worth the services, on
spec, of any first-class Centre Street shyster.
The club got wind of this and appointed Peyster Sprowl, in his capacity
of lawyer and president of the club, to find out how much of a claim
O’Hara really had. The club also placed the emergency fund of one
hundred thousand dollars at Sprowl’s command with
to arrest a suit and satisfy any claim that could not be beaten by money
Now it took Sprowl a very short time to discover that O’Hara’s claim was
probably valid enough to oust the club from three-quarters of its
He tried to see O’Hara, but the lumberman refused to be interviewed, and
promptly began proceedings. He also made his will; for he was a sick
man. Then he became a sicker man, and suspended proceedings and sent for
his little daughter.
Before she arrived he called Munn in, gave him a packet of papers, and
made him burn them before his eyes.
“They’re the papers in my case,” he said. “I’m dying; I’ve fought too
hard. I don’t want my child to fight when I’m dead. And there’s nothing
in my claim, anyway.” This was a lie, and Munn suspected it.
When the child, Eileen, arrived, O’Hara was nearly dead, but he gathered
sufficient strength to shove a locked steel box towards his daughter and
tell her to keep it from Munn, and keep it locked until she found an
honest man in the world.
The next morning O’Hara appeared to be much better. His friend Munn came
to see him; also came Peyster Sprowl in some alarm, on the matter of the
proceedings threatened. But O’Hara turned his back on them both and
calmly closed his eyes and ears to their presence.
Munn went out of the room, but laid his large, thin ear against the
door. Sprowl worried O’Hara for an hour, but, getting no reply from the
man in the bed, withdrew at last with considerable violence.
O’Hara, however, had fooled them both: he had been dead all the while.
The day after the funeral, Sprowl came back to look for O’Hara’s
daughter; and as he peeped into the door of the squalid flat he saw a
thin, yellow-eyed young man, with a bony face, all furry in promise of
future whiskers, rummaging through O’Hara’s effects. This young
gentleman was Munn.
In a dark corner of the disordered room sat the child, Eileen, a white,
shadowy elf of six, reading in the Book of Common Prayer.
Sprowl entered the room; Munn looked up, then coolly continued to
Sprowl first addressed himself to the child, in a heavy, patronizing
“It’s too dark to read there in that corner, young one. Take your book
out into the hall.”
“I can see better to read in the dark,” said the child, lifting her
great, dark-blue eyes.
“Go out into the hall,” said Sprowl, sharply.
The child shrank back, and went, taking her little jacket in one hand,
her battered travelling-satchel in the other.
If the two men could have known that the steel box was in that satchel
this story might never have been told. But it never entered their heads
that the pallid little waif had sense enough to conceal a button to her
“Munn,” said Sprowl, lighting a cigar, “what is there in this business?”
“I’ll tell you when I’m done,” observed Munn, coolly.
Sprowl sat down on the bed where O’Hara had died, cocked the cigar up in
his mouth, and blew smoke, musingly, at the ceiling.
Munn found nothing—not a scrap of paper, not a line. This staggered
him, but he did not intend that Sprowl should know it.
“Found what you want?” asked Sprowl, comfortably.
“Yes,” replied Munn.
“Belong to the kid?”
“Yes; I’m her guardian.”
The men measured each other in silence for a minute.
“What will you take to keep quiet?” asked Sprowl. “I’ll give you a
“I want five thousand,” said Munn, firmly.
“I’ll double it for the papers,” said Sprowl.
Munn waited. “There’s not a paper left,” he said; “O’Hara made me burn
“Twenty thousand for the papers,” said Sprowl, calmly.
“My God, Mr. Sprowl!” growled Munn, white and sweating with anguish.
“I’d give them to you for half that if I had them. Can’t you believe me?
I saw O’Hara burn them.”
“What were you rummaging for, then?” demanded Sprowl.
“For anything—to get a hold on you,” said Munn, sullenly.
Munn was silent.
“Oh,” said Sprowl, lazily. “I think I’ll be going, then—”
Munn barred his exit, choking with anger.
“You give me five thousand dollars, or I’ll stir ’em up to look into
your titles!” he snarled.
Sprowl regarded him with contempt; then another idea struck him, an idea
that turned his fat face first to ashes, then to fire.
A month later Sprowl returned to the Sagamore Club, triumphant,
good-humored, and exceedingly contented. But he had, he explained, only
succeeded in saving the club at the cost of the entire emergency
fund—one hundred thousand dollars—which, after all, was a drop in the
bucket to the remaining fourteen members.
The victory would have been complete if Sprowl had also been able to
purchase the square mile of land lately occupied by O’Hara. But this
belonged to O’Hara’s daughter, and the child flatly refused to part with
“You’ll have to wait for the little slut to change her mind,” observed
Munn to Sprowl. And, as there was nothing else to do, Sprowl and the
Trouble appeared to be over for the Sagamore Club. Munn disappeared; the
daughter was not to be found; the long-coveted land remained tenantless.
Of course, the Sagamore Club encountered the petty difficulties and
annoyances to which similar clubs are sooner or later subjected;
disputes with neighboring land-owners were gradually adjusted; troubles
arising from poachers, dishonest keepers, and night guards had been, and
continued to be, settled without harshness or rancor; minks, otters,
herons, kingfishers, and other undesirable intruders were kept within
limits by the guns of the watchers, although by no means exterminated;
and the wealthy club was steadily but unostentatiously making vast
additions to its splendid tracts of forest, hill, and river land.
After a decent interval the Sagamore Club made cautious inquiries
concerning the property of the late O’Hara, only to learn that the land
had been claimed by Munn, and that taxes were paid on it by that
For fifteen years the O’Hara house remained tenantless; anglers from the
club fished freely through the mile of river; the name of Munn had been
forgotten save by the club’s treasurer, secretary, and president,
However, the members of the club never forgot that in the centre of
their magnificent domain lay a square mile which did not belong to
them; and they longed to possess it as better people than they have
coveted treasures not laid up on earth.
The relations existing between the members of the Sagamore Club
continued harmonious in as far as their social intercourse and the
general acquisitive policy of the club was concerned.
There existed, of course, that tacit mutual derision based upon
individual sporting methods, individual preferences, obstinate theories
concerning the choice of rods, reels, lines, and the killing properties
of favorite trout-flies.
Major Brent and Colonel Hyssop continued to nag and sneer at each other
all day long, yet they remained as mutually dependent upon each other as
David and Jonathan. For thirty years the old gentlemen had angled in
company, and gathered inspiration out of the same books, the same
surroundings, the same flask.
They were the only guests at the club-house that wet May in 1900,
although Peyster Sprowl was expected in June, and young Dr. Lansing had
wired that he might arrive any day.
An evening rain-storm was drenching the leaded panes in the
smoking-room; Colonel Hyssop drummed accompaniment on the windows and
smoked sulkily, looking across the river towards the O’Hara house, just
visible through the pelting downpour.
“Irritates me every time I see it,” he said.
“Some day,” observed Major Brent, comfortably, “I’m going to astonish
“How?” demanded the Colonel, tersely.
The Major examined the end of his cigarette with a cunning smile.
“It isn’t for sale, is it?” asked the Colonel. “Don’t try to be
mysterious; it irritates me.”
Major Brent savored his cigarette leisurely.
“Can you keep a secret?” he inquired.
The Colonel intimated profanely that he could.
“Well, then,” said the Major, in calm triumph, “there’s a tax sale on
to-morrow at Foxville.”
“Not the O’Hara place?” asked the Colonel, excited.
The Major winked. “I’ll fix it,” he said, with a patronizing squint at
his empty glass.
But he did not “fix it” exactly as he intended; the taxes on the O’Hara
place were being paid at that very moment.
He found it out next day, when he drove over to Foxville; he also
learned that the Rev. Amasa Munn, Prophet of the Shining Band Community,
had paid the taxes and was preparing to quit Maine and re-establish his
colony of fanatics on the O’Hara land, in the very centre and heart of
the wealthiest and most rigidly exclusive country club in America.
That night the frightened Major telegraphed to Munnville, Maine, an
offer to buy the O’Hara place at double its real value. The
business-like message ended: “Wire reply at my expense.”
The next morning an incoherent reply came by wire, at the Major’s
expense, refusing to sell, and quoting several passages of Scripture at
Western Union rates per word.
The operator at the station counted the words carefully, and collected
eight dollars and fourteen cents from the Major, whose fury deprived
him of speech.
Colonel Hyssop awaited his comrade at the club-house, nervously pacing
the long veranda, gnawing his cigar. “Hello!” he called out, as Major
Brent waddled up. “Have you bought the O’Hara place for us?”
The Major made no attempt to reply; he panted violently at the Colonel,
then began to run about, taking little, short, distracted steps.
“Made a mess of it?” inquired the Colonel, with a badly concealed sneer.
He eyed the Major in deepening displeasure. “If you get any redder in
the face you’ll blow up,” he said, coldly; “and I don’t propose to have
you spatter me.”
“He—he’s an impudent swindler!” hissed the Major, convulsively.
The Colonel sniffed: “I expected it. What of it? After all, there’s
nobody on the farm to annoy us, is there?”
“Wait!” groaned the Major—“wait!” and he toddled into the hall and fell
on a chair, beating space with his pudgy hands.
When the Colonel at length learned the nature of the threatened
calamity, he utterly refused to credit it.
“Rubbish!” he said, calmly—“rubbish! my dear fellow; this man Munn is
holding out for more money, d’ye see? Rubbish! rubbish! It’s blackmail,
“Do you think so?” faltered the Major, hopefully. “It isn’t possible
that they mean to come, is it? Fancy all those fanatics shouting about
under our windows—”
“Rubbish!” said the Colonel, calmly. “I’ll write to the fellow myself.”
All through that rainy month of May the two old cronies had the
club-house to themselves; they slopped about together, fishing cheek by
jowl as they had fished for thirty years; at night they sat late over
their toddy, and disputed and bickered and wagged their fingers at each
other, and went to bed with the perfect gravity of gentlemen who could
hold their own with any toddy ever brewed.
No reply came to the Colonel, but that did not discourage him.
“They are playing a waiting game,” he said, sagely. “This man Munn has
bought the land from O’Hara’s daughter for a song, and he means to bleed
us. I’ll write to Sprowl; he’ll fix things.”
Early in June Dr. Lansing and his young kinsman, De Witt Coursay,
arrived at the club-house. They, also, were of the opinion that Munn’s
object was to squeeze the club by threats.
The second week in June, Peyster Sprowl, Master of Fox-hounds,
Shadowbrook, appeared with his wife, the celebrated beauty, Agatha
Sprowl, née Van Guilder.
Sprowl, now immensely large and fat, had few cares in life beyond an
anxious apprehension concerning the durability of his own digestion.
However, he was still able to make a midnight mouthful of a Welsh
rarebit on a hot mince-pie, and wash it down with a quart of champagne,
and so the world went very well with him, even if it wabbled a trifle
for his handsome wife.
“She’s lovely enough,” said Colonel Hyssop, gallantly, “to set every
star in heaven wabbling.” To which the bull-necked Major assented with
an ever-hopeless attempt to bend at the waistband.
Meanwhile the Rev. Amasa Munn and his flock, the Shining Band, arrived
at Foxville in six farm wagons, singing “Roll, Jordan!”
Of their arrival Sprowl was totally unconscious, the Colonel having
forgotten to inform him of the threatened invasion.
The members of the Sagamore Club heard the news next morning at a late
breakfast. Major Brent, who had been fishing early up-stream, bore the
news, and delivered it in an incoherent bellow.
“What d’ye mean by that?” demanded Colonel Hyssop, setting down his
cocktail with unsteady fingers.
“Mean?” roared the Major; “I mean that Munn and a lot o’ women are
sitting on the river-bank and singing ‘Home Again’!”
The news jarred everybody, but the effect of it upon the president,
Peyster Sprowl, appeared to be out of all proportion to its gravity.
That gentleman’s face was white as death; and the Major noticed it.
“You’ll have to rid us of this mob,” said the Major, slowly.
Sprowl lifted his heavy, overfed face from his plate. “I’ll attend to
it,” he said, hoarsely, and swallowed a pint of claret.
“I think it is amusing,” said Agatha Sprowl, looking across the table at
“Amusing, madam!” burst out the Major. “They’ll be doing their laundry
in our river next!”
“Soapsuds in my favorite pools!” bawled the Colonel. “Damme if I’ll
“Sprowl ought to settle them,” said Lansing, good-naturedly. “It may
cost us a few thousands, but Sprowl will do the work this time as he did
Sprowl choked in his claret, turned a vivid beef-color, and wiped his
chin. His appetite was ruined. He hoped the ruin would stop there.
“What harm will they do?” asked Coursay, seriously—“beyond the
“They’ll fish, they’ll throw tin cans in the water, they’ll keep us
awake with their fanatical powwows—confound it, haven’t I seen that
sort of thing?” said the Major, passionately. “Yes, I have, at nigger
camp-meetings! And these people beat the niggers at that sort of thing!”
“Leave ’em to me,” repeated Peyster Sprowl, thickly, and began on
another chop from force of habit.
“About fifteen years ago,” said the Colonel, “there was some talk about
our title. You fixed that, didn’t you, Sprowl?”
“Yes,” said Sprowl, with parched lips.
“Of course,” muttered the Major; “it cost us a cool hundred thousand to
perfect our title. Thank God it’s settled.”
Sprowl’s immense body turned perfectly cold; he buried his face in his
glass and drained it. Then the shrimp-color returned to his neck and
ears, and deepened to scarlet. When the earth ceased reeling before his
apoplectic eyes, he looked around, furtively. Again the scene in
O’Hara’s death-chamber came to him; the threat of Munn, who had got
wind of the true situation, and the bribing of Munn to silence.
But the club had given Sprowl one hundred thousand dollars to perfect
its title; and Sprowl had reported the title perfect, all proceedings
ended, and the payment of one hundred thousand dollars to Amasa Munn, as
guardian of the child of O’Hara, in full payment for the O’Hara claims
to the club property.
Sprowl’s coolness began to return. If five thousand dollars had stopped
Munn’s mouth once, it might stop it again. Besides, how could Munn know
that Sprowl had kept for his own uses ninety-five thousand dollars of
his club’s money, and had founded upon it the House of Sprowl of many
millions? He was quite cool now—a trifle anxious to know what Munn
meant to ask for, but confident that his millions were a buckler and a
shield to the honored name of Sprowl.
“I’ll see this fellow, Munn, after breakfast,” he said, lighting an
“I’ll go with you,” volunteered Lansing, casually, strolling out towards
“No, no!” called out Sprowl; “you’ll only hamper me.” But Lansing did
not hear him outside in the sunshine.
Agatha Sprowl laid one fair, heavily ringed hand on the table and pushed
her chair back. The Major gallantly waddled to withdraw her chair; she
rose with a gesture of thanks, and a glance which shot the Major through
and through—a wound he never could accustom himself to receive with
Mrs. Sprowl turned carelessly away, followed by her two Great Danes—a
superb trio, woman and dogs beautifully built and groomed, and
expensive enough to please even such an amateur as Peyster Sprowl,
“Gad, Sprowl!” sputtered the Major, “your wife grows handsomer every
minute—and you grow fatter.”
Sprowl, midway in a glass of claret, said: “This simple backwoods régime
is what she and I need.”
Agatha Sprowl was certainly handsome, but the Major’s eyesight was none
of the best. She had not been growing younger; there were lines; also a
discreet employment of tints on a very silky skin, which was not quite
as fresh as it had once been.
Dr. Lansing, strolling on the veranda with his pipe, met her and her big
dogs turning the corner in full sunlight. Coursay was with her, his
eager, flushed face close to hers; but he fell back when he saw his
kinsman Lansing, and presently retired to the lawn to unreel and dry out
a couple of wet silk lines.
Agatha Sprowl sat down on the veranda railing, exchanging a gay smile
across the lawn with Coursay; then her dark eyes met Lansing’s
“Good-morning, once more,” she said, mockingly.
He returned her greeting, and began to change his mist leader for a
“Will you kindly let Jack Coursay alone?” she said, in a low voice.
“No,” he replied, in the same tone.
“Are you serious?” she asked, as though the idea amused her.
“Of course,” he replied, pleasantly.
“Is it true that you came here because he came?” she inquired, with
faint sarcasm in her eyes.
“Yes,” he answered, with perfect good-nature. “You see he’s my own kin;
you see I’m the old-fashioned sort—a perfect fool, Mrs. Sprowl.”
There was a silence; he unwound the glistening leader; she flicked at
shadows with her dog-whip; the Great Danes yawned and laid their heavy
heads against her knees.
“Then you are a fool,” she concluded, serenely.
He was young enough to redden.
Three years ago she had thought it time to marry somebody, if she ever
intended to marry at all; so she threw over half a dozen young fellows
like Coursay, and married Sprowl. For two years her beauty, audacity,
and imprudence kept a metropolis and two capitals in food for scandal.
And now for a year gossip was coupling her name with Coursay’s.
“I warned you at Palm Beach that I’d stop this,” said Lansing, looking
directly into her eyes. “You see, I know his mother.”
“Stop what?” she asked, coolly.
He went on: “Jack is a curiously decent boy; he views his danger without
panic, but with considerable surprise. But nobody can tell what he may
do. As for me, I’m indifferent, liberal, and reasonable in my views of
… other people’s conduct. But Jack is not one of those ‘other people,’
“And I am?” she suggested, serenely.
“Exactly; I’m not your keeper.”
“So you confine your attention to Jack and the Decalogue?”
“As for the Commandments,” observed Lansing, “any ass can shatter them
with his hind heels, so why should he? If he must be an ass, let him
be an original ass—not a cur.”
“A cur,” repeated Agatha Sprowl, unsteadily.
“An affaire de cœur with a married woman is an affair do cur,” said
Lansing, calmly—“Gallicize it as you wish, make it smart and
fashionable as you can. I told you I was old-fashioned.… And I mean
The leader had eluded him; he uncoiled it again; she mechanically took
it between her delicate fingers and held it steady while he measured and
shortened it by six inches.
“Do you think,” she said, between her teeth, “that it is your mission to
padlock me to that—in there?”
Lansing turned, following her eyes. She was looking at her husband.
“No,” replied Lansing, serenely; “but I shall see that you don’t
transfer the padlock to … that, out
there”—glancing at Coursay on
“Try it,” she breathed, and let go of the leader, which flew up in
silvery crinkles, the cast of brightly colored flies dancing in the
“Oh, let him alone,” said Lansing, wearily; “all the men in Manhattan
are drivelling about you. Let him go; he’s a sorry trophy—and there’s
no natural treachery in him; … it’s not in our blood; … it’s too
cheap for us, and we can’t help saying so when we’re in our right
There was a little color left in her face when she stood up, her hands
resting on the spiked collars of her dogs. “The trouble with you,” she
said, smiling adorably, “is your innate delicacy.”
“I know I am brutal,” he said, grimly; “let him alone.”
She gave him a pretty salutation, crossed the lawn, passed her husband,
who had just ridden up on a powerful sorrel, and called brightly to
Coursay: “Take me fishing, Jack, or I’ll yawn my head off my shoulders.”
Before Lansing could recover his wits the audacious beauty had stepped
into the canoe at the edge of the lawn, and young Coursay, eager and
radiant, gave a flourish to his paddle, and drove it into the glittering
If Sprowl found anything disturbing to his peace of mind in the
proceeding, he did not betray it. He sat hunched up on his big sorrel,
eyes fixed on the distant clearing, where the white gable-end of
O’Hara’s house rose among the trees.
Suddenly he wheeled his mount and galloped off up the river road; the
sun glowed on his broad back, and struck fire on his spurs, then horse
and rider were gone into the green shadows of the woods.
To play spy was not included in Lansing’s duties as he understood them.
He gave one disgusted glance after the canoe, shrugged, set fire to the
tobacco in his pipe, and started slowly along the river towards O’Hara’s
with a vague idea of lending counsel, aid, and countenance to his
president during the expected interview with Munn.
At the turn of the road he met Major Brent and old Peter, the
head-keeper. The latter stood polishing the barrels of his shot-gun with
a red bandanna; the Major was fuming and wagging his head.
“Doctor!” he called out, when Lansing appeared; “Peter says they raised
the devil down at O’Hara’s last night! This can’t go on, d’ye see! No,
“What were they doing, Peter?” asked Lansing, coming up to where the old
“Them Shinin’ Banders? Waal, sir, they was kinder rigged out in white
night-gounds—robes o’ Jordan they call ’em—an’ they had rubbed some
kind o’ shiny stuff—like matches—all over these there night-gounds,
an’ then they sang a spell, an’ then they all sot down on the edge o’
“Is that all?” asked Lansing, laughing.
“Wait!” growled the Major.
“Waal,” continued old Peter, “the shinin’ stuff on them night-gounds was
that bright that I seen the fishes swimmin’ round kinder dazed like.
‘Gosh!’ sez I to m’self, it’s like a Jack a-drawnin’ them trout—yaas’r.
So I hollers out, ‘Here! You Shinin’ Band folk, you air a-drawin’ the
trout. Quit it!’ sez I, ha’sh an’ pert-like. Then that there Munn, the
Prophet, he up an’ hollers, ‘Hark how the heathen rage!’ he hollers. An’
with that, blamed if he didn’t sling a big net into the river, an’ all
them Shinin’ Banders ketched holt an’ they drawed it clean up-stream.
‘Quit that!’ I hollers, ‘it’s agin the game laws!’ But the Prophet he
hollers back, ‘Hark how the heathen rage!’ Then they drawed that there
net out, an’ it were full o’ trout, big an’ little—”
“Great Heaven!” roared the Major, black in the face.
“I think,” said Lansing, quietly, “that I’ll walk down to O’Hara’s and
reason with our friend Munn. Sprowl may want a man to help him in this
When Sprowl galloped his sorrel mare across the bridge and up to the
O’Hara house, he saw a man and a young girl seated on the grass of the
river-bank, under the shade of an enormous elm.
Sprowl dismounted heavily, and led his horse towards the couple under
the elm. He recognized Munn in the thin, long-haired, full-bearded man
who rose to face him; and he dropped the bridle from his hand, freeing
the sorrel mare.
The two men regarded each other in silence; the mare strayed leisurely
up-stream, cropping the fresh grass; the young girl turned her head
towards Sprowl with a curious movement, as though listening, rather than
“Mr. Munn, I believe,” said Sprowl, in a low voice.
“The Reverend Amasa Munn,” corrected the Prophet, quietly. “You are
Sprowl turned and looked full at the girl on the grass. The shadow of
her big straw hat fell across her eyes; she faced him intently.
Sprowl glanced at his mare, whistled, and turned squarely on his heel,
walking slowly along the river-bank. The sorrel followed like a dog;
presently Munn stood up and deliberately stalked off after Sprowl,
rejoining that gentleman a few rods down the river-bank.
“Well,” said Sprowl, turning suddenly on Munn, “what are you doing
From his lank height Munn’s eyes were nevertheless scarcely level with
the eyes of the burly president.
“I’m here,” said Munn, “to sell the land.”
“I thought so,” said Sprowl, curtly. “How much?”
Munn picked a buttercup and bit off the stem. With the blossom between
his teeth he surveyed the sky, the river, the forest, and then the
features of Sprowl.
“How much?” asked Sprowl, impatiently.
Munn named a sum that staggered Sprowl, but Munn could perceive no
tremor in the fat, blank face before him.
“And if we refuse?” suggested Sprowl.
Munn only looked at him.
Sprowl repeated the question.
“Well,” observed Munn, stroking his beard reflectively, “there’s that
matter of the title.”
This time Sprowl went white to his fat ears. Munn merely glanced at him,
then looked at the river.
“I will buy the title this time,” said Sprowl, hoarsely.
“You can’t,” said Munn.
A terrible shock struck through Sprowl; he saw through a mist; he laid
his hand on a tree-trunk for support, mechanically facing Munn all the
“Can’t!” he repeated, with dry lips.
“No, you can’t buy it.”
“O’Hara’s daughter has it.”
“But—she will sell! Won’t she sell? Where is she?” burst out Sprowl.
“She won’t sell,” said Munn, studying the ghastly face of the president.
“You can make her sell,” said Sprowl. “What is your price?”
“I can’t make her sell the title to your club property,” said Munn.
“She’ll sell this land here. Take it or leave it.”
“If I take it—will you leave?” asked Sprowl, hoarsely.
Munn smiled, then nodded.
“And will that shut your mouth, you dirty scoundrel?” said Sprowl,
gripping his riding-crop till his fat fingernails turned white.
“It will shut my mouth,” said Munn, still with his fixed smile.
“How much extra to keep this matter of the title quiet—as long as I
“As long as you live?” repeated Munn, surprised.
“Yes, I don’t care a damn what they say of me after I’m dead,” snarled
Munn watched him for a moment, plucked another buttercup, pondered,
smoothed out his rich, brown, silky beard, and finally mentioned a
Sprowl drew a check-book from the breast-pocket of his coat, and filled
in two checks with a fountain pen. These he held up before Munn’s
snapping, yellowish eyes.
“This blackmail,” said Sprowl, thickly, “is paid now for the last time.
If you come after me again you come to your death, for I’ll smash your
skull in with one blow, and take my chances to prove insanity. And I’ve
enough money to prove it.”
“I’ll buy you this last time,” continued Sprowl, recovering his
self-command. “Now, you tell me where O’Hara’s child is, and how you are
going to prevent her from ever pressing that suit which he dropped.”
“O’Hara’s daughter is here. I control her,” said Munn, quietly.
“You mean she’s one of your infernal flock?” demanded Sprowl.
“One of the Shining Band,” said Munn, with a trace of a whine in his
“Where are the papers in that proceeding, then? You said O’Hara burned
them, you liar!”
“She has them in a box in her bedroom,” replied Munn.
“Does she know what they mean?” asked Sprowl, aghast.
“No—but I do,” replied Munn, with his ominous smile.
“How do you know she does not understand their meaning?”
“Because,” replied Munn, laughing, “she can’t read.”
Sprowl did not believe him, but he was at his mercy. He stood with his
heavy head hanging, pondering a moment, then whistled his sorrel. The
mare came to him and laid her dusty nose on his shoulder.
“You see these checks?” he said.
“You get them when you put those papers in my hands. Understand? And
when you bring me the deed of this cursed property here—house and all.”
“A week from to-day,” said Munn; his voice shook in spite of him. Few
men can face sudden wealth with a yawn.
“And after that—” began Sprowl, and glared at Munn with such a fury
that the Prophet hastily stepped backward and raised a nervous hand to
“It’s a square deal,” he said; and Sprowl knew that he meant it, at
least for the present.
The president mounted heavily, and sought his bridle and stirrups.
“I’ll meet you here in a week from to-day, hour for hour; I’ll give you
twenty-four hours after that to pack up and move, bag and baggage.”
“Done,” said Munn.
“Then get out of my way, you filthy beast!” growled Sprowl, swinging his
horse and driving the spurs in.
Munn fell back with a cry; the horse plunged past, brushing him, tearing
out across the pasture, over the bridge, and far down the stony road
Munn heard the galloping. He had been close to death; he did not quite
know whether Sprowl had meant murder or whether it was carelessness or
his own fault that the horse had not struck him and ground him into the
However it was, he conceived a new respect for Sprowl, and promised
himself that if he ever was obliged to call again upon Sprowl for
financial assistance he would do it through a telephone.
A dozen women, dressed alike in a rather pretty gray uniform, were
singing up by the house; he looked at them with a sneer, then walked
back along the river to where the young girl still sat under the elm.
“I want to talk to you,” he said, abruptly, “and I don’t want any more
refusals or reasons or sentiments. I want to see the papers in that
She turned towards him in that quaint, hesitating, listening attitude.
“The Lord,” he said, more cheerfully, “has put it into my head that we
must journey once more. I’ve had a prayerful wrestle out yonder, and I
see light. The Lord tells me to sell this land to the strangers without
the gates, and I’m going to sell it to the glory of God.”
“How can you sell it?” said the girl, quietly.
“Isn’t all our holdings in common?” demanded Munn, sharply.
“You know that I am not one of you,” said the girl.
“Yes, you are,” said Munn; “you don’t want to be because the light has
been denied you, but I’ve sealed you and sanctified you to the Shining
Band, and you just can’t help being one of us. Besides,” he continued,
with an ugly smile, “I’m your legal guardian.”
This was a lie; but she did not know it.
“So I want to see those papers,” he added.
“Why?” she asked.
“Oh, legal matters; I’ve got to examine ’em or I can’t sell this land.”
“Father told me not to open the box until … I found an … honest
man,” she said, steadily.
Munn glared at her. She had caught him in a lie years ago; she never
“Where’s the key?” he demanded.
She was silent.
“I’ll give you till supper-time to find that key,” said Munn,
confidently, and walked on towards the house.
But before he had fairly emerged from the shadow of the elm he met
Lansing face to face, and the young man halted him with a pleasant
greeting, asking if he were not the Reverend Doctor Munn.
“That’s my name,” said Munn, briefly.
“I was looking for Mr. Sprowl; I thought to meet him here; we were to
speak to you about the netting of trout in the river,” said Lansing,
Munn regarded him in sulky silence.
“It won’t do,” continued Lansing, smiling; “if you net trout you’ll have
the wardens after you.”
“Oh! and I suppose you’ll furnish the information,” sneered Munn.
“I certainly will,” replied Lansing.
Munn had retraced his steps towards the river. As the men passed before
Eileen O’Hara, Lansing raised his cap. She did not return his salute;
she looked towards the spot where he and Munn had halted, and her face
bore that quaint, listening expression, almost pitifully sweet, as
though she were deaf.
“Peter, our head-keeper, saw you netting trout in that pool last night,”
Munn examined the water and muttered that the Bible gave him his
authority for that sort of fishing.
“He’s a fake,” thought Lansing, in sudden disgust. Involuntarily he
glanced around at the girl under the elm. The beauty of her pale face
startled him. Surely innocence looked out of those dark-blue eyes, fixed
on him under the shadow of her straw hat. He noted that she also wore
the silvery-gray uniform of the elect. He turned his eyes towards the
house, where a dozen women, old and young, were sitting out under the
tree, sewing and singing peacefully. The burden of their song came
sweetly across the pasture; a golden robin, high in the elm’s feathery
tip, warbled incessant accompaniment to the breeze and the flowing of
water and the far song of the women.
“We don’t mean to annoy you,” said Lansing, quietly; “I for one believe
that we shall find you and your community the best of courteous
Munn looked at him with his cunning, amber-yellow eyes and stroked his
“What do you want, anyway?” he said.
“I’ll tell you what I want,” said Lansing, sharply; “I want you and
your people to observe the game laws.”
“Keep your shirt on, young man,” said Munn, coarsely, and turned on his
heel. Before he had taken the second step Lansing laid his hand on his
shoulder and spun him around, his grip tightening like a vise.
“What y’ doing?” snarled Munn, shrinking and squirming, terrified by the
violent grasp, the pain of which almost sickened him.
Lansing looked at him, then shoved him out of his path, and carefully
rinsed his hands in the stream. Then he laughed and turned around, but
Munn was making rapid time towards the house, where the gray-clad women
sat singing under the neglected apple-trees. The young man’s eyes fell
on the girl under the elm; she was apparently watching his every
movement from those dark-blue eyes under the straw hat.
He took off his cap and went to her, and told her politely how amiable
had been his intentions, and how stringent the game laws were, and
begged her to believe that he intended no discourtesy to her community
when he warned them against the wholesale destruction of the trout.
He had a pleasant, low voice, very attractive to women; she smiled and
listened, offering no comment.
“And I want to assure you,” he ended, “that we at the club will always
respect your boundaries as we know you will respect ours. I fear one of
our keepers was needlessly rude last night—from his own account. He’s
an old man; he supposes that all people know the game laws.”
Lansing paused; she bent her head a trifle. After a silence he started
on, saying, “Good-morning,” very pleasantly.
“I wish you would sit down and talk to me,” said the girl, without
raising her head.
Lansing was too astonished to reply; she turned her head partly towards
him as though listening. Something in the girl’s attitude arrested his
attention; he involuntarily dropped on one knee to see her face. It was
“I want to tell you who I am,” she said, without looking at him. “I am
Lansing received the communication with perfect gravity. “Your father
owned this land?” he asked.
“Yes; I own it now, … I think.”
He was silent, curious, amused.
“I think I do,” she repeated; “I have never seen my father’s will.”
“Doubtless your lawyer has it,” he suggested.
“No; I have it. It is in a steel box; I have the key hanging around my
neck inside my clothes. I have never opened the box.”
“But why do you not open the box?” asked Lansing, smiling.
She hesitated; color crept into her cheeks. “I have waited,” she said;
“I was alone; my father said—that—that—” She stammered; the rich
flush deepened to her neck.
Lansing, completely nonplussed, sat watching the wonderful beauty of
that young face.
“My father told me to open it only when I found an honest man in the
world,” she said, slowly.
The undertone of pathos in her voice drove the smile from Lansing’s
“Have you found the world so dishonest?” he asked, seriously.
“I don’t know; I came from Notre Dame de Sainte Croix last year. Mr.
Munn was my guardian; … said he was; … I suppose he is.”
Lansing looked at her in sympathy.
“I am not one of the community,” she said. “I only stay because I have
no other home but this. I have no money, … at least I know of none
that is mine.” Lansing was silent and attentive.
“I—I heard your voice; … I wanted to speak to you—to hear you speak
to me,” she said. A new timidity came into her tone; she raised her
head. “I—somehow when you spoke—I felt that you—you were honest.” She
stammered again, but Lansing’s cool voice brought her out of her
difficulty and painful shyness.
“What is your name?” she asked.
“I’m Dr. Lansing,” he said.
“Will you open my steel box and read my papers for me?” she inquired,
“I will—if you wish,” he said, impulsively; “if you think it wise. But
I think you had better read the papers for yourself.”
“Why, I can’t read,” she said, apparently surprised that he should not
“You mean that you were not taught to read in your convent school?” he
A curious little sound escaped her lips; she raised both slender hands
and unpinned her hat. Then she turned her head to his.
The deep-blue beauty of her eyes thrilled him; then he started and
leaned forward, closer, closer to her exquisite face.
“My child,” he cried, softly, “my poor child!” And she smiled and
fingered the straw hat in her lap.
“Will you read my father’s papers for me?” she said.
“Yes—yes—if you wish. Yes, indeed!” After a moment he said: “How long
have you been blind?”
That evening, at dusk, Lansing came into the club, and went directly to
his room. He carried a small, shabby satchel; and when he had locked his
door he opened the satchel and drew from it a flat steel box.
For half an hour he sat by his open window in the quiet starlight,
considering the box, turning it over and over in his hands. At length he
opened his trunk, placed the box inside, locked the trunk, and
noiselessly left the room.
He encountered Coursay in the hall, and started to pass him with an
abstracted nod, then changed his mind and slipped his arm through the
arm of his young kinsman.
“Thought you meant to cut me,” said Coursay, half laughing, half in
“Why?” Lansing stopped short; then, “Oh, because you played the fool
with Agatha in the canoe? You two will find yourselves in a crankier
craft than that if you don’t look sharp.”
“You have an ugly way of putting it,” began Coursay. But Lansing scowled
“Jack, I want advice; I’m troubled, old chap. Come into my room while I
dress for dinner. Don’t shy and stand on your hind-legs; it’s not about
Agatha Sprowl; it’s about me, and I’m in trouble.”
The appeal flattered and touched Coursay, who had never expected that
he, a weak and spineless back-slider, could possibly be of aid or
comfort to his self-sufficient and celebrated cousin, Dr. Lansing.
They entered Lansing’s rooms; Coursay helped himself to some cognac, and
smoked, waiting for Lansing to emerge from his dressing-room.
Presently, bathed, shaved, and in his shirt-sleeves, Lansing came in,
tying his tie, a cigarette unlighted between his teeth.
“Jack,” he said, “give me advice, not as a self-centred, cautious, and
orderly citizen of Manhattan, but as a young man whose heart leads his
head every time! I want that sort of advice; and I can’t give it to
“Do you mean it?” demanded Coursay, incredulously.
“By Heaven, I do!” returned Lansing, biting his words short, as the snap
of a whip.
He turned his back to the mirror, lighted his cigarette, took one puff,
threw it into the grate. Then he told Coursay what had occurred between
him and the young girl under the elm, reciting the facts minutely and
exactly as they occurred.
“I have the box in my trunk yonder,” he went on; “the poor little thing
managed to slip out while Munn was in the barn; I was waiting for her in
After a moment Coursay asked if the girl was stone blind.
“No,” said Lansing; “she can distinguish light from darkness; she can
even make out form—in the dark; but a strong light completely blinds
“Can you help her?” asked Coursay, with quick pity.
Lansing did not answer the question, but went on: “It’s been coming
on—this blindness—since her fifth year; she could always see to read
better in dark corners than in a full light. For the last two years she
has not been able to see; and she’s only twenty, Jack—only twenty.”
“Can’t you help her?” repeated Coursay, a painful catch in his throat.
“I haven’t examined her,” said Lansing, curtly.
“But—but you are an expert in that sort of thing,” protested his
cousin; “isn’t this in your line?”
“Yes; I sat and talked to her half an hour and did not know she was
blind. She has a pair of magnificent deep-blue eyes; nobody, talking to
her, could suspect such a thing. Still—her eyes were shaded by her
“What kind of blindness is it?” asked Coursay, in a shocked voice.
“I think I know,” said Lansing. “I think there can be little doubt that
she has a rather unusual form of lamellar cataract.”
“Curable?” motioned Coursay.
“I haven’t examined her; how could I— But—I’m going to do it.”
“And if you operate?” asked Coursay, hopefully.
“Operate? Yes—yes, of course. It is needling, you know, with
probability of repetition. We expect absorption to do the work for
us—bar accidents and other things.”
“When will you operate?” inquired Coursay.
Lansing broke out, harshly: “God knows! That swindler, Munn, keeps her a
prisoner. Doctors long ago urged her to submit to an operation; Munn
refused, and he and his deluded women have been treating her by prayer
for years—the miserable mountebank!”
“You mean that he won’t let you try to help her?”
“I mean just exactly that, Jack.”
Coursay got up with his clinched hands swinging and his eager face red
as a pippin. “Why, then,” he said, “we’ll go and get her! Come on; I
can’t sit here and let such things happen!”
Lansing laughed the laugh of a school-boy bent on deviltry.
“Good old Jack! That’s the sort of advice I wanted,” he said,
affectionately. “We may see our names in the morning papers for this;
but who cares? We may be arrested for a few unimportant and absurd
things—but who cares? Munn will probably sue us; who cares? At any
rate, we’re reasonably certain of a double-leaded column in the yellow
press; but do you give a tinker’s damn?”
“Not one!” said Coursay, calmly.
Then they went down to dinner.
Sprowl, being unwell, dined in his own rooms; Agatha Sprowl was more
witty and brilliant and charming than ever; but Coursay did not join her
on the veranda that evening, and she sat for two hours enduring the
platitudes of Colonel Hyssop and Major Brent, and planning serious
troubles for Lansing, to whose interference she attributed Coursay’s
But Coursay and Lansing had other business in hand that night. Fortune,
too, favored them when they arrived at the O’Hara house; for there,
leaning on the decaying gate, stood Eileen O’Hara, her face raised to
the sky as though seeking in the soft star radiance which fell upon her
lids a celestial balm for her sightless eyes.
She was alone; she heard Lansing’s step, and knew it, too. From within
the house came the deadened sound of women’s voices singing:
“Light of the earth and sky,
Unbind mine eyes,
Lest I in darkness lie
While my soul dies.
Blind, at Thy feet I fall,
All blindly kneel,
Fainting, Thy name I call;
Touch me and heal!”
In the throbbing hush of the starlight a whippoorwill called three
times; the breeze rose in the forest; a little wind came fragrantly,
puff on puff, along the road, stirring the silvery dust.
She laid one slim hand in Lansing’s; steadily and noiselessly they
traversed the dew-wet meadow, crossed the river by the second bridge,
and so came to the dark club-house under the trees.
There was nobody visible except the steward when they entered the hall.
“Two rooms and a bath, John,” said Lansing, quietly; and followed the
steward up the stairs, guiding his blind charge.
The rooms were on the north angle; Lansing and Coursay inspected them
carefully, gave the steward proper direction, and dismissed him.
“Get me a telegram blank,” said Lansing. Coursay brought one. His
cousin pencilled a despatch, and the young man took it and left the
The girl was sitting on the bed, silent, intent, following Lansing with
her sightless eyes.
“Do you trust me?” he asked, pleasantly.
“Yes, … oh, yes, with all my heart!”
He steadied his voice. “I think I can help you—I am sure I can. I have
sent to New York for Dr. Courtney Thayer.”
He drew a long breath; her beauty almost unnerved him. “Thayer will
operate; he’s the best of all. Are you afraid?”
She lifted one hand and held it out, hesitating. He took it.
“No, not afraid,” she said.
“You are wise; there is no need for fear. All will come right, my
She listened intently.
“It is necessary in such operations that the patient should, above all,
be cheerful and—and happy—”
“Oh, yes, … and I am happy! Truly! truly!” she breathed.
“—and brave, and patient, and obedient—and—” His voice trembled a
trifle. “You must lie very still,” he ended, hastily.
“Will you be here?”
“Yes—yes, of course!”
“Then I will lie very still.”
He left her curled up in an easy-chair, smiling at him with blind eyes;
he scarcely found his way down-stairs for all his eyesight. He stumbled
to the grill-room door, felt for the knob, and flung it open.
A flood of yellow light struck him like a blow; through the smoke he
saw the wine-flushed faces of Colonel Hyssop and Major Brent staring at
“Gad, Lansing!” said the Major, “you’re white and shaky as a
ninety-nine-cent toy lamb. Come in and have a drink, m’boy!”
“I wanted to say,” said Lansing, “that I have a patient in 5 and 6. It’s
an emergency case; I’ve wired for Courtney Thayer. I wish to ask the
privilege and courtesy of the club for my patient. It’s unusual; it’s
intrusive. Absolute and urgent necessity is my plea.”
The two old gentlemen appeared startled, but they hastily assured
Lansing that his request would be honored; and Lansing went away to pace
the veranda until Coursay returned from the telegraph station.
In the grill-room Major Brent’s pop eyes were fixed on the Colonel in
“Damme!” snapped the Colonel, “does that young man take this club for a
“He’ll be washing bandages in the river next; he’ll poison the trout
with his antiseptic stuffs!” suggested the Major, shuddering.
“The club’s going to the dogs!” said the Colonel, with a hearty oath.
But he did not know how near to the dogs the club already was.
It is perfectly true that the club and the dogs were uncomfortably close
together. A week later the crisis came when Munn, in a violent rage,
accused Sprowl of spiriting away his ward, Eileen O’Hara. But when
Sprowl at last comprehended that the girl and the papers had really
disappeared, he turned like a maddened pig on Munn, tore the signed
checks to shreds before his eyes, and cursed him steadily as long as he
remained within hearing.
As for Munn, his game appeared to be up. He hurried to New York, and
spent a month or two attempting to find some trace of his ward, then his
money gave out. He returned to his community and wrote a cringing letter
to Sprowl, begging him to buy the O’Hara land for next to nothing, and
risk the legality of the transfer. To which Sprowl paid no attention. A
week later Munn and the Shining Band left for Munnville, Maine.
It was vaguely understood at the club that Lansing had a patient in 5
“Probably a rich woman whom he can’t afford to lose,” suggested Sprowl,
with a sneer; “but I’m cursed if I can see why he should turn this club
into a drug-shop to make money in!” And the Colonel and the Major agreed
that it was indecent in the extreme.
To his face, of course, Sprowl, the Colonel, and the Major treated
Lansing with perfect respect; but the faint odor of antiseptics from
rooms 5 and 6 made them madder and madder every time they noticed it.
Meanwhile young Coursay had a free bridle; Lansing was never around to
interfere, and he drove and rode and fished and strolled with Agatha
Sprowl until neither he nor the shameless beauty knew whether they were
standing on their heads or their heels. To be in love was a new
sensation to Agatha Sprowl; to believe himself in love was nothing new
to Coursay, but the flavor never palled.
What they might have done—what, perhaps, they had already decided to
do—nobody but they knew. The chances are that they would have bolted if
they had not run smack into that rigid sentinel who guards the pathway
of life. The sentinel is called Fate. And it came about in the following
Dr. Courtney Thayer arrived one cool day early in October; Lansing met
him with a quiet smile, and, together, these eminent gentlemen entered
rooms 5 and 6.
A few moments later Courtney Thayer came out, laughing, followed by
Lansing, who also appeared to be a prey to mirth.
“She’s charming—she’s perfectly charming!” said Courtney Thayer. “Where
the deuce do these Yankee convent people get that elusive Continental
flavor? Her father must have been a gentleman.”
“He was an Irish lumberman,” said Lansing. After a moment he added: “So
you won’t come back, doctor?”
“No, it’s not necessary; you know that. I’ve an operation to-morrow in
Manhattan; I must get back to town. Wish I could stay and shoot grouse
with you, but I can’t.”
“Come up for the fall flight of woodcock; I’ll wire you when it’s on,”
Lansing took his outstretched hand in both of his. “There is no use in
my trying to tell you what you have done for me, doctor,” he said.
Thayer regarded him keenly. “Thought I did it for
her,” he remarked.
Instantly Lansing’s face turned red-hot. Thayer clasped the young man’s
hands and shook them till they ached.
“You’re all right, my boy—you’re all right!” he said, heartily; and was
gone down the stairs, two at a jump—a rather lively proceeding for the
famous and dignified Courtney Thayer.
Lansing turned and entered rooms 5 and 6. His patient was standing by
the curtained window. “Do you want to know your fate?” he asked,
She turned and looked at him out of her lovely eyes; the quaint,
listening expression in her face still remained, but she
saw him, this
“Am I well?” she asked, calmly.
“Yes; … perfectly.”
She sat down by the window, her slender hands folded, her eyes on him.
“And now,” she asked, “what am I to do?”
He understood, and bent his head. He had an answer ready, trembling on
his lips; but a horror of presuming on her gratitude kept him silent.
“Am I to go back … to him?” she said, faintly.
“God forbid!” he blurted out. With all his keen eyesight, how could he
fail to see the adoration in her eyes, on her mute lips’ quivering
curve, in every line of her body? But the brutality of asking for that
which her gratitude might not withhold froze him. It was no use; he
could not speak.
“Then—what? Tell me; I will do it,” she said, in a desolate voice. “Of
course I cannot stay here now.”
Something in his haggard face set her heart beating heavily; then for a
moment her heart seemed to stop. She covered her eyes with a swift
“Is it pain?” he asked, quickly. “Let me see your eyes!” Her hands
covered them. He came to her; she stood up, and he drew her fingers from
her eyes and looked into them steadily. But what he saw there he alone
knows; for he bent closer, shaking in every limb; and both her arms
crept to his shoulders and her clasped hands tightened around his neck.
Which was doubtless an involuntary muscular affection incident on
successful operations for lamellar or zonular cataract.
That day they opened the steel box. She understood little of what he
read to her; presently he stopped abruptly in the middle of a sentence
and remained staring, reading on and on in absorbed silence.
Content, serene, numbed with her happiness, she watched him sleepily.
He muttered under his breath: “Sprowl! What a fool! What a cheap fool!
And yet not one among us even suspected him of that!”
After a long time he looked up at the girl, blankly at first, and with a
grimace of disgust. “You see,” he said, and gave a curious laugh—“you
see that—that you own all this land of ours—as far as I can make
After a long explanation she partly understood, and laughed outright, a
clear child’s laugh without a trace of that sad undertone he knew so
“But we are not going to take it away from your club—are we?” she
“No,” he said; “let the club have the land—your land! What do we
care? We will never come here again!” He sat a moment, thinking, then
sprang up. “We will go to New York to-morrow,” he said; “and I’ll just
step out and say good-bye to Sprowl—I think he and his wife are also
going to-morrow; I think they’re going to Europe,
to live! I’m sure
they are; and that they will never come back.”
And, curiously enough, that is exactly what they did; and they are there
yet. And their establishment in the American colony is the headquarters
for all nobility in exile, including the chivalrous Orleans.
Which is one sort of justice—the Lansing sort; and, anyway, Coursay
survived and married an actress a year later. And the club still remains
in undisturbed possession of Eileen Lansing’s land; and Major Brent is
now its president.
As for Munn, he has permanently retired to Munnville, Maine, where, it
is reported, he has cured several worthy and wealthy people by the
simple process of prayer.