Chapter 16 Summary
Shane has been gone for a while. The people in town and the school children love to talk about Shane and his exploits. They create fantastic tales and make grand speculations about him, but Bob never does those things.
The awful night of the shootout in Grafton’s saloon is now a legend. Countless details have been added as the story spreads, just as the town has grown and spread up the river banks. Bob never bothers to correct any falsehoods he hears, no matter how strange or outrageous the stories become. Shane belongs to Bob and his parents, and no wild fabrications will ever alter that fact.
Marian is right. Shane is there on the farm and he is in each of them. Whenever Bob needs him, Shane is there. The boy sees him plainly and hears his gentle voice. Bob thinks of Shane in each of the moments when Shane was revealed to him. Most often he thinks of his friend as he whirled to shoot Fletcher that night in Grafton’s saloon; he can still see Shane’s fluidity and power, the most beautiful thing the boy has ever seen. The man and his gun, a powerful tool, were joined in “indivisible deadliness.” Both the man and the tool were good, and they worked together to do what needed to be done.
Bob still thinks about the night Shane left, about seeing him as a lone rider against the moonlight as he headed to town either to kill or be killed. He remembers Shane reaching down to help a stumbling boy and looking at the land as a place where a boy could grow up straight from the inside. When he hears men in town talking about Shane’s past, Bob just smiles to himself.
The men hear a passing traveler mention a famous gunman and gambler named Shannon who once lived in Arkansas and Texas but suddenly disappeared, and for a time they are certain this is Shane’s story. When that idea begins to fade, other stories arise, shaped by bits and pieces that random travelers share with them in passing. Bob smiles when he hears any of these tales, knowing that Shane could not have been any of these things.
Shane is the man who rode into the valley from the magnificent West, and when his work here was finished he rode back to the glorious place from which he came.