Every Saturday the distinguished physician from Angelica City came to Manzanita on the afternoon train, spent two or three hours at Camilla Van Arsdale’s camp, and returned in time to catch Number Seven back. No imaginable fee would have induced him to abstract one whole day from his enormous practice for any other patient. But he was himself an ardent vocal amateur, and to keep Royce Melvin alive and able to give forth her songs to the world was a special satisfaction to his soul. Moreover, he knew enough of Banneker’s story to take pride in being partner in his plan of deception and self-sacrifice. He pretended that it was a needed holiday for him: his bills hardly defrayed the traveling expense.
Now, riding back with Banneker, he meditated a final opinion, and out of that opinion came speech.
“Mr. Banneker, they ought to give you and me a special niche in the Hall of Fame,” he said.
A rather wan smile touched briefly Banneker’s lips. “I believe that my ambitions once reached even that far,” he said.
The other reflected upon the implied tragedy of a life, so young, for which ambition was already in the past tense, as he added:
“In the musical section. We’ve got our share in the nearest thing to great music that has been produced in the America of our time. You and I. Principally you.”
Banneker made a quick gesture of denial.
“I don’t know what you owe to Camilla Van Arsdale, but you’ve paid the debt. There won’t be much more to pay, Banneker.”
Banneker looked up sharply.
“No.” The visitor shook his graying head. “We’ve performed as near a miracle as it is given to poor human power to perform. It can’t last much longer.”
“A matter of weeks. Not more. Banneker, do you believe in a personal immortality?”
“I don’t know. Do you?”
“I don’t know, either. I was thinking.... If it were so; when she gets across, what she will feel when she finds her man waiting for her. God!” He lifted his face to the great trees that moved and murmured overhead. “How that heart of hers has sung to him all these years!”
He lifted his voice and sent it rolling through the cathedral aisles of the forest, in the superb finale of the last hymn.
“For even the purest delight may pall,
And power must fail, and the pride must fall
And the love of the dearest friends grow small—
But the glory of the Lord is all in all.”
The great voice was lost in the sighing of the winds. They rode on, thoughtful and speechless. When the physician turned to his companion again, it was with a brisk change of manner.
“And now we’ll consider you.”
“Nothing to consider,” declared Banneker.
“Is your professional judgment better than mine?” retorted the other. “How much weight have you lost since you’ve been out here?”