Part 2 out of 7
"Truly a honeymoon name," Bedient observed.
"You see," the Captain concluded, "I can speak of _The Pleiad_ only
from the outside. That's the Senor's name for his establishment,
possibly because there are seven wings to his castle, but others say it
was the name of a gold-ship that he took in the early days. Anyway, Rey
and I don't neighbor. He's becoming formidable, I'm told, in the
politics of the Island. He's at the head of a very powerful colony
nevertheless, and no matter what its inter-relations are, it hangs
together against the law and the outside world. Rey wants more say back
yonder at headquarters, and our Dictator, Jaffier, all things
considered, is a very good man, but old and stubborn and impolitic. He
won't be driven even by Celestino Rey, who in turn is not a man to be
denied. He is probably richer than Equatoria, and then Coral City lives
off this institution as Monaco lives off Monte Carlo. He doubtless
commands the whole lower element of the town. The word is, Celestino
Rey intends to run the Island first-hand--if he can't run it through
the powers that are."
All of which Bedient found of interest, inasmuch as he was passing
through the heart of these strange affairs. Having any part in them
seemed unearthly remote. The carriage was taking the gradual rise
behind a pair of fine ponies, and the view behind, over _The Pleiad_ to
the sapphire water, was noble. The horizon, beyond the harbor
distances, was a blazing intensity of light that stung the eyes to
quick contraction. The Captain sat back in the cushions, weary from
talking, but his face was happy, and he took in the exterior, and
something of the inner proportions, of the young man, with a sense of
awe. He did not try to explain yet--even to himself.
The _hacienda_ was slightly over twenty miles interior. Bedient was
entranced by the sunset from the heights. Then the slow ride to the
Carreras House through the darkened hills: the smell of warm earth from
the thick growths by the trail-side; little stars slipping into place
like the glisten of fireflies in a garden, or gems in a maiden's hair;
a scandalously-naked new moon lying low, like an arc of white-hot wire
in the purple twilight, and always behind them, a majestic splash of
jewel-edged crimson which showed the West.
And presently, from a high curve in the road, they saw the lights of
the _hacienda_ bold upon its eminence--and a dark valley between. Into
this night they descended, for the last course of the journey; and as
the ponies clattered upward again, white-coated natives came forth to
meet them. Bedient was further astonished at their volubility and easy
laughter. They spoke a debased Spanish, which the Captain had fallen
into,--as difficult of understanding for one whose medium was pure
Castilian as for one who spoke English. There was that mystery upon the
environs that always comes to one who reaches his destination in the
darkness. And to Bedient the sensation was not wholly of joy. These
were wild hills, not without grandeur, but there was something of
chaos, too, to him who came from the roof of the world. He missed the
peace of the greater mountains. His heart hungered to go out to the
natives crowding around--white-toothed men and women of incessant
laughter--but the tones of their voices checked the current. It was
emptiness--but nothing he had to give seemed able to enter.
The Captain was ill with fatigue. His face--the weakness expressed in
the smiling mouth--remained before Bedient's mind, as he followed a
giggling native boy to the large upper room which was for him. Rows of
broad windows faced the South and East, while a corridor ran to the
North for the cool wind at night. Electric lights and glistening black
floors--the first effect came from these. Then the details: rugs that
matched, by art or accident, as perfectly as a valley of various
grain-fields pleases the eye from a mountain-side; a great teak bed,
caned with bamboo strips and canopied with silk net, yards of which one
could crush in his hand, so nearly immaterial was this mosquito fabric;
sumptuous steamer-chairs; a leather reading-couch that could be moved
to the best breeze or light with a touch of the finger; a broad-side of
books and a vast writing-table, openly dimensioned to defy litter--the
whole effect was that of coolness and silence and room. Everything a
man needed seemed to be there and breathing spaciously.... Turning
through a draped door, the astonished wanderer found completeness
again--everything that makes a bath fragrant and refreshing--even to
Carreras scent and a set of perfect English razors.... It was all new
to Bedient. For an hour he _tried_ things--and still there were drawers
and cases of undiscovered novelties and luxuries--details of wealth
which make delightful and uncommon the mere processes of living. Very
much restored in his fresh clothing, and eagerly, he went down to
The little man was waiting with expectant smile under a dome of
sheltered lights in the dining-hall. Something of his dazed, ashen look
brought back to Bedient the afternoon of the great wind--the Captain
expecting to stick to his ship.... The table was set for two, and on
one corner was the fresh handkerchief and the rose-dark meerschaum
bowl. Bedient took his old place at the other's chair until the Captain
was seated--and both were laughing strangely.... The ships from Holland
brought all manner of European delicacies. Fresh meats and Northern
vegetables arrived every eight days in the refrigerators of the
alternating Dryden steamers, _Hatteras_ and _Henlopen_, from New York.
Most tropical fruits were native to Equatoria--those thick, abbreviated
red bananas, and small oranges with thin skin of _suede_ finish, so
sharply sweet that one never forgets the first taste. These were served
in their own foliage.
Much of the solid and comfortable furnishing of the _hacienda_ had come
from the old English house of the Carreras' in Surrey. The Captain's
cook, Leadley, and his personal factotum, Falk, were English. A dozen
natives kept the great house in order; and their white dress was as
fresh and pleasing as the stewards of an Atlantic liner. As a matter of
fact, Captain Carreras had softened in this kingly luxury, the infinite
resourcefulness of which was startling to Bedient, who had known but
simplicities all his years, and who even in the Orient had been his own
The Captain lit his pipe but forgot to keep it going. His eyes turned
to Bedient again and again, and each time with deeper regard. Often he
cleared his voice--but failed to speak. The young man plunged into the
heart of things--and finally with effort, the other interrupted.
"You are not what I expected--forgive me, Andrew----"
"You mean I've disappointed you? Thinking a long time about
one--sometimes throws the mind off the main road of reality--"
"Dear God, not disappointed.... The Man has come to you in a different
way than I expected, that's all. What has India been doing to you?"
"It made New York very strange to me," said Bedient.
"You are like an Oriental," Carreras added. "Oh, they are all mad up in
The States.... It's very good to have you back. I wonder why it
was--that I never doubted you'd come?" Here the Captain swallowed some
wine without adequately preparing his throat, and fell to coughing.
Then he rose with the remark that he had experienced altogether too
much joy for one old man, in a single day--and started for bed in
confusion. Bedient sat back laughing softly, but noting the feeble
movement of the other's limbs, quickly gave his arm. Up they went
together.... In the big room alone, Bedient put on night garments; and
unsatisfied, crossed after a time to the Captain's quarters. He found
the old man sitting in the dark by the window, the meerschaum
glowing.... It may have been the darkness altogether; or that Bedient
as a man gave the other an affection that the boy could not; in any
event that night, they found each other across the externals.
This was the cue for further grand talks--pajamas and darkness. Often,
if it were not too late, they would hear the natives singing in their
cabins. The haunting elemental melody of the African curiously blended
with the tuneful and cavalierish songs of Spain and fitted into the
majestic nights. The darkies sang to the heart of flesh. In such
moments, Equatoria was at her loveliest for Bedient--but the clear
impersonal meditations did not come to him. In a hundred ways he had
been given understanding during the first fortnight, of that something
he had missed the first night on the Island. These people were infant
souls. They were children, rudimentary in every thought. Theirs were
sensations, not emotions; superstitions, not faiths. Their
consciousness was never deeper than the skin. And fresh from his
spacious years in India, where everything is old in spirit, where more
often than not the beggar is a sage,--to encounter in this land of
beauty, a people who were but babes in the thought of God--gave to
Bedient the painful sense that his inner life was dissipating. There
was no Gobind to restore him. It was as if the Spirit had favored the
East; that Africa and the Western Isles had been cast apart as unfit
for the experiment of the soul.
Moments of poignant sorrow were these when Bedient realized he was not
of the West; that he irrevocably missed the great inner _con_tent of
India, and would continue to hunger for it, until he returned, or
coarsened his sensibilities to the Western vibration. This last was as
far from him as the commoner treason to a friend. There were moments
when he feared Captain Carreras almost understood. That dear old seaman
through his solitudes, his natural cleanness and kindness, his real
love, and more than all, through those vague visions which come late to
men of simple hearts--had seemed, from several startling sayings, to
touch the very ache in the young man's breast. These approaches were
under the cover of darkness:
"There was something about you then, Andrew," (meaning the long-ago
days at sea,) "I haven't been able to forget.... Damme--I haven't done
Bedient bent forward, perceiving that "here" meant his earthly life, as
well as Equatoria.
"I should have stayed over yonder and sat down as you did--before you
did. Here"--now the Captain meant Equatoria alone--"I have thought of
my stomach and my ease. My stomach has gone back on me--and there is no
ease. Over there, I might have--oh, I might have thought more--but I
didn't know enough, early enough. And you did--at seventeen, you did!
That's what made you. They're all mad up in The States, and they're
just little children down here.... I might have profited in India--"
That was a frequent saying of the Captain's about the States. Twice a
year at least, he was accustomed to make the voyage to New York.... The
truth was, the old man felt a yearning for something the years and
India had given Bedient. He felt much more than he said, and often
regarded the young man, as one rapt in meditation.... His interest in
Gobind and the Himalayas was insatiable; much more eagerly did he
listen regarding the Punjab than about the ports he had known so
well--and the changes that had passed under the eyes of the young man
in Manila and Japan.... When Bedient was relating certain events of
days and nights, that had become happy memories through the little
things of the soul, Captain Carreras would start to convey the
indefinite desires he felt; then suddenly, the deep intimacy of his
revelations would appear to his timid nature, and even in the mothering
dark, the panic would strike home--and he would swing off with pitiful
humor about goats or some other Island affair....
Bedient had an odd way of associating men whom he liked with mothers of
his own imagining. Happily discovering fine qualities in a man, he
would conjure up a mother to fit them.... Often, he saw the little
Englishwoman whose boy had taken early to the seas.... She was plump
and placid in her cap; inclined to think a great deal for herself, but
still she allowed herself to be kept in order mentally and spiritually
by her husband, whose orthodoxy was a whip. Perhaps she died thinking
her tremulous little departures were sure attractions of hell and
heresy. Bedient liked to think of her as vastly bigger than her mate,
bigger than she dreamed--but alone and afraid.
_ANDANTE CON MOTO_--FIFTH
For the first time in his life, Bedient learned what America liked to
read.... All the finer expressions of the human mind and hand gave him
deep joy. His love and divination for the good and the true were the
same that characterized the rarest minds of our ancestors, who had
access only to a few noble books in their formative years. And
Bedient's was the expanded and fortified intelligence of one who has
grown up with the Bible.
Each ship brought the latest papers, periodicals and certain pickings
from the publishers' lists. India had not prepared Bedient for this.
With glad welcome he discovered David Cairns here and there among
short-story contributors, but the love of man and woman which the
stories in general exploited, struck him of Indian ideals as shifty and
pestilential. The woman of fiction was equipped with everything to make
her as common as man. She was glib, pert, mundane, her mind a
chatter-mill; a creature of fur, paint, hair, and absurdly young. The
clink of coins was her most favorable accompaniment; and her giving of
self was a sort of disrobing formality. The men who pursued her were
forward and solicitous. There was something of sacrilege about it all.
The minds and souls of real women--such were not matters for American
story; and yet the Americans wrote with dangerous facility. Bedient,
who worshipped the abstraction, Womanhood, felt his intelligence
seared, calcined.... Only here and there was a bit of real
literature--usually by a woman. The men seemed hung up to dry at
twenty-five. There was no manhood of mind.
Bedient's sense of loneliness became pervasive. Apparently he was
outside the range of consciousness--for better or worse--with the
country to which he had always hoped to give his best years. His ideals
of the literary art were founded upon large flexible lines of beauty
into which every dimension of life fell according to the reader's
vision. He felt himself alone; that he was out of alignment with this
young race from which he had sprung, to wander so far and so long.
And yet there was a Woman up there for him to know. This was imbedded
in his consciousness. Soon he should go to her.... He should find her.
And as the Hindu poets falteringly called upon the lotos and the
nectars; upon the brilliance of midday athwart the plain, and the glory
of moonlight upon mountain and glacier and the standing water of
foliaged pools; upon the seas at large, and the stars and the bees and
the gods--to express the triune loveliness of woman (which mere man may
only venture to appraise, not to know)--so should he, Bedient, envision
the reality when the winds of the world brought him home to her heart.
* * * * *
There was much to do at the _hacienda_. The Captain was past riding a
great deal, and the large hill and river property--the coffee, cacao,
cotton, cane and tobacco industries profited much better with an
overseer. Still Bedient slowly realized that the hundreds of natives in
touch with Captain Carreras' plantations worked about as well for him
as they knew. Single-handed, Carreras had done great things, and was
loved as a good doctor is loved. In spite of his huge accumulation of
land, the Captain was the least greedy of men. He had been content to
improve slowly. His incalculable riches, as he had early confided to
Bedient, were in the river-beds. Only a few of these placer
possibilities were operated. There was a big leak in the washings.
Still, the natives were not greedy, either. They were home-keepers, and
had no way to dispose of bullion.
Carreras had managed all his affairs so as to keep the government on
his side, and his revenues were no little part of the support of the
Capitol. This was his largest outlay, but in return he was
protected.... Deep disorder brooded in the present political silence;
all recalcitrants were gathering under Celestino Rey--but this
situation was only beginning to be understood.
At certain times of year, Carreras had in his employ the heads of five
hundred families, and had shown himself unique in paying money for
labor. This was un-Spanish. It gave him the choice of the natives. He
represented therefore a stable and prosperous element of the
population. His revenues were becoming enormous. The Hollanders paid
him a fortune annually for raw chocolate. This, with tree-planting and
culture, would double, for the soil seemed to contain the miraculous
properties of _alkahest_. The point of all this is, that Captain
Carreras had come to be regarded as the right wing of the government.
He arranged all his dealings on a friendly rather than a business
basis; his good-will was his best protection.... Bedient had been in
Equatoria for several months when Jaffier sent for the Captain.
"I don't feel like it, but I'd better go," the old man said. "Something
amiss is in the air. Damme, I've got all delicate to the saddle since
you came, sir.... I used to think nothing of the ride down town--and
now it's a carriage.... Ah, well, you can try out a new symphony--and
tell me what it says when I get back."
As it turned out, Bedient did exactly this thing.... Time could not
efface the humor evoked by the sight or sound of the magnificent
orchestrelle. During one of the Captain's New York trips, he had heard
a famous orchestra. The effect upon him was of something superhuman.
The Captain went again--followed the musicians to Boston and
Philadelphia. The result was more or less the same. Soul flew in one
direction; mind in another; and, inert before the players--a little fat
man, perspiring, weeping, ecstatic. What came of it, he had told
Bedient in this way:
"The _Hatteras_ was to sail at night-fall, but on that morning I went
into a music-store, not knowing what I wanted exactly,--but a souvenir
of some kind, a book about orchestras. It appears, I told a man there
how I'd been philanderin' with the musicians; how I had caught them in
an off day at Springfield, Mass., and bought cornucopias of Pilsner
until they would have broken down and wept had they not been near their
instruments.... It was a big music-store, and he was a very good man.
He sold me the orchestrelle that morning. You think I had an electric
plant installed down here to light the house and drive my sugar-mill,
don't you? It wasn't that at all, but to run the big music-box yonder.
The man had smoothly attached a current, but he said I could just as
well pump it with my feet. Then he called in a church organist--to
drive the stops. Between them, they got me where I was all run down
from that orchestra crowd. They said a child could learn the stops....
You should have heard my friends on the _Hatteras_--when the
orchestrelle was put aboard that afternoon. They never forget that.
Then we had a triple ox-cart made down in Coral City, and four span
were goaded up the trail--and there she stands.
"Andrew, they finally left me alone with it and a couple of hundred
music-rolls.... It was hours after, that I came forth a sick man to
cable for power.... About those music-rolls--I had called for the best.
One does that blind, you know. But the best in music matters, it
appears, has nothing to do with retired sea-captains.... It's a pretty
piece of furniture. The orchestra had died out of me by the time we had
the electric-plant going.... I take it you have to be caught young to
deal with those stops.... You go after it, Andrew. It scares me and the
natives when it begins to pipe up. I had a time getting my household
back that first time. Maybe, I didn't touch the right button--or
I touched too many. You go after it, my boy--it's all
there--_appassionato--oboe--'consharto'--vox humana_ and the whole
... It is hard for one to realize how little music Bedient had heard in
his life. Just a few old songs--always unfinished--but they had haunted
the depths of him, and made him think powerfully. Certain strains had
loosed within him emotions, ancient as world-dawns to his present
understanding, but intimate as yesterday to something deeper than mind.
And so he came to ask; "Are not all the landmarks of evolution
identified with certain sounds or combinations of sounds? Is there not
an answering interpretation in the eternal scroll of man's soul, to all
that is true in music?"
Long ago, one night in Korea, he had been wakened by the yammering of a
tigress. His terror for a moment had been primal, literally a simian's
helpless quaking. Earlier still, he had heard a hoot-owl, and
encountered through it, his first realization of phantom horrors; he
knew then there _was_ an Unseen, and nether acoustics; here was a key
to ghostly doors. A mourning-dove had brought back in a swift passage
of consciousness the breast of some savage mother. Night-birds
everywhere meant to him restless mystery.... Is sound a key to
psychology? Is the history of our emotions, from monster to man,
sometime to be interpreted through music--as yet the infant among the
The answer had come--why the unfinished songs had the greater magic for
him. So diaphanous and ethereal is this marvellously expressive young
medium, music, that the composers could only pin a strain here and
there to concrete form--as a bit of lace from a lovely garment is
caught by a thorn. So they build around it--as flesh around spirit. But
it was the strain of pure spirit that sang in Bedient's mind--and knew
no set forms. So an artistic imagination can finish a song or a
picture, many times better than the original artist could with tones or
pigments. Too much finish binds the spirit, and checks the feeling of
those who follow to see or hear.
These, and many thoughts had come to him from the unpretentious things
of music.... _Ben Bolt_ brought back the memory of some prolonged and
desperate sorrow. The lineaments of the tragedy were effaced, but its
effect lived and preyed upon him under the stress of its own melody.
Once he had heard _Caller Herrin'_ grandly sung, and for the time, the
circuit was complete between the Andrew Bedient of Now, and another of
a bleak land and darker era. In this case the words brought him a
clearer picture--gaunt coasts and the thrilling humanity of common
fisher folk.... Many times a strain of angelic meaning and sweetness
was yoked to a silly effigy of words; but he rejoiced in opposite
examples, such as that little lullaby of Tennyson's, _Sweet and Low_,
which J. Barnby seemed to have exactly _tono_-graphed.... Once across
infantry campfires, _Juanita_ came, with a bleeding passion for
home--to him who had no home. There was a lyrical Ireland very dear to
him--songs and poems which wrung him as if he were an exile; Tom
Moore's _Sunflower Song_ incited at first a poignant anguish, as of a
sweetheart's dead face; and _Lead Kindly Light_ brought almost the
first glimmer of spiritual light across the desolate distances of the
world--like a tender smile from a greater being than man. And there
were baleful songs that ran red with blood, as the _Carmagnole_; and
roused past the sense of physical pain, like the _Marseillaise_. What
heroic sins have been committed in their spell! By no means was it all
uplift which the songs brought. There was one night when he heard
_Mandalay_ sung by some British seaman across the dark of a Japanese
harbor. They were going out, and he was coming into port....
These were his sole adventures in music, but they had bound his dreams
together. He had felt, _if the right person were near_, he could have
made music tell things, not to be uttered in mere words; and under the
magic of certain songs, that which was creative within him, even dim
and chaotic, stirred and warmed for utterance.... So fresh a surface
did Bedient bring to the Carreras music-room.
The time had come when his nature hungered for great music. The
orchestrelle added to the Island something he needed soulfully.
Experimenting with the rolls, the stops and the power, he found there
was nothing he could not do in time. Music answered--trombone,
clarionet, horn, bassoon, hautboy, flute, 'cello answered. Volume and
tempo were mere lever matters. On the rolls themselves were
suggestions. Reaching this point, his exaltation knew no bounds. He
looked upon the great array of rolls--symphonies, sonatas, concertos,
fantasies, rhapsodies, overtures, prayers, requiems, meditations,
minuets--and something of that rising power of gratitude overcame him,
as only once before in his life--when he had realized that the Bible
was all _words_, and they were for him. From the first studious
marvellings, Bedient's mind lifted to adoring gratefulness in which he
could have kissed the hands of the toilers who had made this instrument
answer their dreams. Then, he fell deeply into misgiving. It seemed
almost a sacrilege for him to take music so cheaply; that he had not
earned such joy. But he could praise them in his heart, and he did with
The orchestrelle unfolded to a spirit like this. Doubtless his early
renderings of random choice were weird, but more and more as he went
on, the great living things righted themselves in his consciousness,
for he had ear and soul and love for them. Some great fissure in his
nature had long needed thus to be filled. He sent for books about the
great composers; descriptions of the classics; how the themes were
developed through different instruments. Then he wanted the history of
all music; and for weeks his receptivity never faltered. No neophyte
ever brought a purer devotion to the masters. His first loves--the
_Andante in F_, the three movements of the _Kreutzer Sonata_, a prayer
from _Otello_, the _Twelfth_ _Rhapsody,_ the _Swan Song_ and the
_Evening Star_, and finally _Isolde's Triumph over Death_--these were
ascendings, indeed--to the point of wings.
The stops so formidable at first became as stars in the dark.... Little
loves, little fears and sins and hopes were all he had known before;
and now he entered into the torrential temperaments of the
masters--magnificent and terrifying souls who dared to sin against God,
or die defying man; whose passions stormed the world; whose dirges were
wrung from heaven. Why, these men levelled emperors and aspired to
angels, violated themselves, went mad with music, played with hell's
own dissonances, and dared to transcribe their baptisms, illuminations,
temptations, Gethsemanes, even their revilings and stigmata.
The dirges lifted him to immensity from which the abysses of the world
spread themselves below. Two marches of Chopin, and the death-march of
Siegfried, the haunting suggestion of a soul's preparation for
departure in Schubert's _Unfinished_; the _Death of Aase_, the
_Pilgrim's Chorus_, one of Mozart's requiems, and that Napoleonic
_funebre_ from the _Eroica_--these, with others, grouped themselves
into an unearthly archipelago--towering cliffs of glorious gloom, white
birds silently sweeping the gray solitudes above the breakers....
It was during the four days while Captain Carreras remained in Coral
City with Jaffier, that Bedient entered into the mysterious enchantment
of the _Andante_ movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. He had played
it all, forgetting almost to breathe, and then returned to the second
movement which opens with the 'celli:
[Illustration: Musical notation]
Again and again it unfolded for him, but not its full message. There
was a meaning in it _for him_! He heard it in the night; three voices
in it--a man, a woman and a soul.... The lustrous third Presence was an
angel--there for the sake of the woman. She was in the depths, but
great enough to summon the angel to her tragedy. The man's figure was
obscure, disintegrate.... Bedient realized in part at least that this
was destined to prove his greatest musical experience....
Captain Carreras found much to do in the city, but he did not tell
Bedient that the real reason for his remaining four days was that he
couldn't sooner summon courage for the long ride home. He spoke but
little regarding the reasons Jaffier had called him.
"He's afraid of Celestino Rey, and likely has good reason," said the
Captain wearily. "The old pirate is half-dead below the knees, but his
ugly ambition still burns bright. He thinks he ought to be drawing all
the Island tributes, instead of the government. Jaffier expects
assassination. On this point, it would be well to watch for the death
of Rey. These two old hell-weathered Spaniards are worth watching--each
tossing spies over the other's fences, and openly conducting affairs
with melting courtesy toward each other--but I don't seem to have much
appetite for the game. There was a time when I would have stopped work
and helped Jaffier whip this fellow. But I hardly think he'll take our
harvests and the river-beds just yet--"
They talked late. The Captain alternated from his bed to a chair,
seemed unwilling for Bedient to leave and unable to sleep or find ease
anywhere. He was over-tired, he explained, and hearing about Bedient's
experience with the _Andante con moto_, insisted upon it being played
"It's very soothing," Carreras said, when Andrew returned to the upper
apartment. "I think I can sleep now. Off to bed with you, lad."
So lightly did Bedient sleep, however,--for the music haunted his
brain,--that he was aroused by the bare feet of a servant in the
hall-way, before the latter touched his door to call him. Captain
Carreras had asked for him. The glow of dawn was in the old man's
quarters, and he smiled in a queer, complacent way from his bed, as if
a long-looked-for solution to some grave problem had come in the night,
and he wanted his friend to guess. A hand lifted from the coverlet, and
Bedient's sped to it; yet he saw that something more was wanted. The
Captain's shoulder nudged a little, and the smile had become wistful.
He did not fail to understand the need, but other realizations were
pressing into his brain. So the Captain nudged his shoulder again
bashfully. Bedient bent and took him in his arms.
It was death. Bedient had known it from the first instant of entering,
but he was not prepared. He could not speak--only look into the tender,
glowing smile. Captain Carreras finally turned his eyes into the
"You know it was very foolish of me--very--to think I could make you
happy, Andrew, with all these riches," he said at last, not thickly,
but very low, as if he had saved strength for what he wished to say....
"You were a long time coming, but I knew you would come--knew it would
be just like this--in your arms. Queer, isn't it? And all the waiting
years, I kept piling up lands and money, saying: 'This shall be his
when he comes.'... It was a little hard at first to know you didn't
care--you couldn't care--that one, and ten, were all the same to you.
And last night, I saw it all again. Had I brought you word that
Celestino Rey had the government and that confiscation of these lands
were inevitable, you would never have compared it in importance with
finding that part of the symphony. It's all right. I wouldn't have it
Andrew listened with bowed head, patting the Captain's shoulder gently,
as he sustained.
"But I have given you more than money, boy. And this you know--as a
man, who knew money better, could never understand. I have given you an
old man's love for a son--but more than that, too,--something of the
old man's love for the mother of his son.... I thought only women had
the delicacy and fineness--you have shown me, sir.... It is all done,
and you have made me very glad for these years--since the great wind
failed to get us--"
Then he mingled silences with sentences that finally became
aimless--seas, ships, cooks, and the boy who had nipped him from the
post he meant to hold--and a final genial blending of goats and
symphonies, on the borders of the Crossing. Then he nestled, and
Bedient felt the hand he had taken, try to sense his own through the
gathering cold.... It was very easy and beautiful--and so brief that
Bedient's arm was not even tired.
An hour afterward, Falk came in for orders--and withdrew.
Bedient had merely nodded to him from the depths of contemplation....
At last, he heard the weeping of the house-servants. And there was one
low wailing tone that startled him with the memory of the Sikh woman
who had wept for old Gobind.
THE MAN FROM _THE PLEIAD_
Bedient drew from Falk a few days afterward that the Captain had
planned almost exactly as it happened. Since the beginnings of unrest
in Equatoria, he had transferred his banking to New York; so that in
the event of defeat in war, only the lands and _hacienda_ would revert,
upon the fall of the present government. Falk could not remember (and
his services dated back fifteen years, at which time he left Surrey
with the Captain) when the master did not speak of Bedient's coming.
"But for your letters, sir, Leadley and I would have come to think of
you as--as just one of the master's ways, Mister Andrew."
Falk was a middle-aged serving-class Englishman, highly trained and
without humor. Leadley, the cook, and a power in his department, dated
also from Surrey, which was his county. These men had learned to handle
the natives to a degree, and the entire responsibility of the
establishment had fallen upon them during the absences of the Captain.
As chief of house-servants and as cook, these two at their best were
faultless, but the life was very easy, and they were given altogether
too many hands to help. Moreover, Falk and Leadley belonged to that
queer human type which proceeds to burn itself out with alcohol if left
alone. The latter years of such servants become a steady battle to keep
sober enough for service. Each man naturally believed himself an
Natives came from the entire Island to smoke and drink and weep for the
Captain. Dictator Jaffier sent his "abject bereavement" by pony
pack-train, which, having formed in a sort of hollow square, received
the thanks of Bedient, and assurances that his policy would continue in
the delightful groove worn by the late best of men. The reply of
Jaffier was the offer of a public funeral in Coral City, but Bedient
declined this, and the body of his friend was turned toward the East
upon the shoulder of his highest hill....
Presently Bedient read the Captain's documents. Falk and Leadley were
bountifully cared for; scores of natives were remembered; the policy
toward Jaffier outlined according to the best experience; and the bulk,
name, lands, bonds, capital and all--"to my beloved young friend,
Andrew Bedient."... At the request and expense of the latter, the New
York bankers sent down an agent to verify the transfer of this great
fortune. A month passed--a foretaste of what was to come. Bedient,
prepared for greater work than this, was lonely in the sunlight.
He knew that he must soon begin to live his own life. His every faculty
was deeply urging. Equatoria had little to do with the realities for
which he had gathered more than thirty years' equipment. He felt a
serious responsibility toward his fortune, though absolutely without
the thrill of personal possession. The just administration of these
huge forces formed no little part of his work, and in his entire
thinking on this subject, New York stood most directly in the need of
service. It was there that the Captain's accumulated vitality must be
used for good.
Early in the second month, Bedient came in at noon from a long ride
across the lands, and reaching the great porch of the _hacienda_, he
turned to observe a tropic shower across the valley. The torrent
approached at express speed. It was a clean-cut pouring, several acres
in extent. Bedient watched it fill the spaces between the little hills,
sweep from crest to crest, and bring out a subdued glow in the wild
verdure as it swept across the main valley. Sharp was the line of dry
sunlit air and gray slanting shower. Presently he heard its pounding,
and the dustless slopes rolled into the gray.... Now he sniffed the
acute fragrance that rushed before it in the wind, and then it climbed
the drive, deluged the _hacienda,_ and was gone.... In the moist,
sweet, yellow light that filled his eyes, Bedient, fallen into deeps of
contemplation, saw the face of a woman.
He went inside and looked up the Dryden sailings. The _Hatteras_ would
clear, according to schedule, in ten days. That meant that the
_Henlopen_ was now in port. His eyes had looked first for the former,
since it had brought him down, and was the Captain's favorite.... Yes,
the _Henlopen_ was due to sail to-morrow at daylight.... He told Falk
he would go.... In that upper room across from his own, he bowed his
head for a space, and the fragrance still there brought back the
heaving cabin of the _Truxton_.... Then he rode down to Coral City in
the last hours of daylight.
His devoirs were paid to Dictator Jaffier, who confided that he had
purchased a gunboat and search-light on behalf of the government. Its
delivery was but ten days off, and with it he expected to keep that old
sea-fighter, Celestino Rey, better in order.... Bedient had the evening
to himself. In one of the _Calle Real_ cafes, he was attracted by the
face and figure of a young white man, of magnificent proportions and
remarkably clean-cut profile. The stranger sipped iced claret, watched
the natives moving about, and seemed occasionally to forget himself in
He looked more than ever a giant in the midst of the little tropical
people, and seemed to feel his size in the general diminutive setting.
Yet there was balance and fitness about his splendid physical
organization, which suggested that he could be quick as a mink in
action. He chaffed the native who waited upon him, and his face
softened into charming boyishness as he laughed. His mouth was fresh as
a child's, but on a scale of grandeur. Bedient found himself smiling
with him. Then there was that irresistible folding about the eyes when
he laughed, which is Irish as sin, and quite as attractive. Left to
himself he fell to brooding, and his brow puzzled over some matter in
the frank bored way of one pinned to a textbook. Bedient sat down at
the other's table. Acquaintance was as agreeably received as offered.
The stranger's name was Jim Framtree. He had been on the Island for
several weeks, and intended to stay for awhile. He liked Equatoria well
enough--as well, in fact, as a man could like any place, when he was
barred from the real trophy-room in the house of the world, New York.
"I'm sailing for New York in the morning," Bedient said.
Framtree shivered and fell silent.
"You've found work that you like here?" Bedient asked simply.
The other glanced at him humorously, and yet with a bit of intensity,
too,--as if searching for the meaning under such an unadorned question.
"I seem to have caught on with Senor Rey at _The Pleiad_," he replied.
"I'm afraid you're making a mistake, sir," Framtree added quickly. "I'm
not barred from New York on any cashier matter. You know when something
you want badly--and can't have--is in a town--that isn't the place for
you.... Even if you like that town best on earth.... What I mean is,
I'm not using _The Pleiad_ as a hiding proposition."
"I wasn't thinking of that," Bedient said.
"I suppose it would be natural--down here----"
"But I _saw you first_."
"I was only thinking," Bedient resumed, "that if the establishment of
Senor Rey palled upon you at any time, I'd like to have you come up and
see me in the hills.... I'd be glad to have you come, anyway. I may not
be very long in New York--"
* * * * *
"That's mighty good of you," Framtree declared, and yet it was obvious
that he could not regard the invitation as purely a friendly impulse,
even if he wished to. "I remember now. I've heard of your big place up
"Perhaps, I'd better explain that I wasn't thinking of Island
politics--when I asked you.... Queer how one has to explain things down
here. I've noticed that it's hard for folks to go straight at a thing."
Framtree laughed again, and tried hard to understand what was in the
other's mind. Bedient's simplicity was too deep for him. They talked
for an hour, each singularly attracted, but evading any subject that
would call in the matters of political unrest. Each felt that the other
wanted to be square, but Bedient saw that it would be useless to
impress upon Framtree how little hampered he was by Jaffier.... At
daybreak the next morning, the fruity old _Henlopen_ pointed out toward
the reefs, and presently was nudging her way through the coral passage,
as confidently as if the trick of getting to sea from Coral City was
part of the weathered consciousness of her boilers and plates.
_Andante con moto_
THE LONG-AWAITED WOMAN
Bedient went directly to the house-number of David Cairns in West
Sixty-seventh Street, without telephoning for an appointment. It
happened that the time of his arrival was unfortunate. Something of
this he caught, first from the look of the elevator attendant, who took
him to the tenth floor of a modern studio-building; and further from
the man-servant who answered his ring at the Cairns apartment.
"Mr. Cairns sees no one before two o'clock, sir," said the latter,
whose cool eye took in the caller.
Bedient hesitated. It was now twelve-forty-five. He felt that Cairns
would be hurt if he went away. "Tell him that Andrew Bedient is here,
and that I shall be glad to wait or call again, just as he prefers."
And now the servant hesitated. "It is very seldom we disturb him, sir.
Most of his friends understand that he is not available between nine
Bedient was embarrassed. The morning in the city had preyed upon him.
Realizing his discomfort, and the petty causes of it, he became
unwilling to leave. "I am not of New York and could not know. I think
you'd better tell Mr. Cairns and let him judge----"
The servant had reached the same conclusion. Bedient was shown into a
small room, furnished with much that was peculiarly metropolitan to
read.... He rather expected Cairns to rush from some interior, and
waited ten minutes, glancing frequently at the door through which the
servant had left.... His heart had bounded at the thought of seeing
David, and he smiled at his own hurt.... A door opened behind him. The
writer came forward quietly, with warm dignity caught him by both
shoulders and smilingly searched his eyes. Bedient was all kindness
again. "Doubtless his friends come in from Asia often," he thought.
"Andrew, it's ripping good to see you.... Why didn't you let me know
you were coming?"
"I didn't want you to alter your ways at all."
"You see, I have to keep these morning hours----"
"Go back--I'll wait gladly, or call when you like."
"Don't go away, pray, unless there is something you must do for the
next hour or so."
* * * * *
In waiting, Bedient did not allow himself to search for anything
theatric or unfeeling at the centre of the episode. Cairns had moved in
many of the world atmospheres, and had done some work which the world
noted with approval. Moreover, he had called from Bedient bestowals of
friendship which could not be forgotten.... "I have been alone and in
the quiet so much that _I_ can remember," Bedient mused, "while he has
been rushing about from action to action. Then New York would rub out
anybody's old impressions."
As the clock struck, Cairns appeared ready for the street. He was a
trifle drawn about the mouth, and irritated. Having been unable to work
in the past hour, the day was amiss, for he hated a broken session and
an allotment of space unfilled. Still, Cairns did not permit the other
to see his displeasure; and the distress which Bedient felt, he
attributed to New York, and not the New Yorker....
The mind of David Cairns had acquired that cultivated sense of
authority which comes from constantly being printed. He was a
much-praised young man. His mental films were altogether too many, and
they had been badly developed for the insatiable momentary markets to
which timeliness is all. Very much, he needed quiet years to synthesize
and appraise his materials.... Bedient, he regarded as a luxury, and
just at this moment, he was not in the mood for one. Cairns drove
himself and his work, forgetting that the fuller artist is driven....
Luzon and pack-train memories were dim in his mind. He did not forget
that he had won his first name in that field, but he did forget for a
time the wonderful night-talks. A multitude of impressions since, had
disordered these delicate and formative hours. Only now, in his
slow-rousing heart he felt a restlessness, a breath of certain lost
It was a sappy May day. The spring had been late--held long in wet and
frosty fingers--and here was the first flood of moist warmth to stir
the Northern year into creation. Cairns was better after a brisk walk.
Housed for long, unprofitable hours, everything had looked slaty at
"Where are you staying, Andrew?"
"Why do you live 'way down there? That's a part of town for business
hours only. The heart of things has been derricked up here."
"I'm very sure of a welcome there," Bedient explained. "My old friend
Captain Carreras had Room 50, from time to time for so many years, that
I fell into it with his other properties. Besides, all the pirates,
island kings and prosperous world-tramps call at the _Marigold._ And
then, they say--the best dinner----"
"That's a tradition of the Forty-niners----"
"I have no particular reason for staying down there, even if I keep the
room. I'll do that for the Captain's sake.... I'm not averse to
breezing around up-town."
"Ah----" came softly from Cairns.
"I'd like to know some _folks_," Bedient admitted.
Cairns was smiling at him. "You'll have to have a card at my clubs.
There's _Teuton's, Swan's_ and the _Smilax_ down Gramercy way....
Perhaps we'd better stop in at the _Swan's_ for a bite to eat. The idea
is, you can try them all, Andrew, and put up at the one you fit into
"Exactly," breathed Bedient.
"You won't like the _Smilax_ overmuch," Cairns ventured, "but you may
pass a forenoon there, while I'm at work. Stately old place, with many
paintings and virgin silence. The women artists are going there more
"I like paintings," said Bedient.
They walked across _Times Square_ and toward the Avenue, through
Forty-second. Cairns waited for the quiet to ask:
"Andrew, you haven't found Her yet--The Woman?"
"No. Have you?"
"Did--I used to have one, too?"
"Andrew, do you think She's in New York?" Cairns asked.
"It's rather queer about that," Bedient answered. "I was watching a
rain-storm from the porch of the _hacienda_ seven or eight days ago,
when it came to me that I'd better take the first ship up. I sailed the
This startled Cairns. He was unaccustomed to such sincerity. "You mean
it occurred to you that She was here--the One you used to tell me about
Cairns now felt an untimely eagerness of welcome for the wanderer. A
renewal of Bedient's former attractions culminated in his mind, and
something more that was fine and fresh and permanent. He twinged for
what had happened at the apartment.... Bedient was a man's man, strong
as a platoon in a pinch--that had been proved. He was plain as a sailor
in ordinary talk, but Cairns knew now that he had only begun to
challenge Bedient's finer possessions of mind.... Here in
New York, a man over thirty years old, who could speak of the
Woman-who-must-be-somewhere. And Bedient spoke in the same ideal,
unhurt way of twenty, when they had spread blankets together under
strange stars... Cairns knew in a flash that something was gone from
his own breast that he had carried then. It was an altogether uncommon
moment to him. "So it has not all been growth," he thought. "All that
has come since has not been fineness."... He felt a bit denied, as if
New York had "gotten" to him, as if he had lost a young prince's
vision, that the queen mother had given him on setting out.... He was
just one of the million males, feathering nests of impermanence, and
stifling the true hunger for the skies and the great cleansing
All this was a miracle to David Cairns. He was solid; almost English in
his up-bringing to believe that man's work, and established affairs,
thoughts and systems generally were right and unimpeachable. He heard
himself scoffing at such a thing, had it happened to another.... He
stared into Bedient's face, brown, bright and calm. He had seen only
good humor and superb health before, but for an instant now, he
perceived a spirit that rode with buoyancy, after a life of loneliness
and terror that would have sunk most men's anchorage, fathoms deeper
than the reach of the longest cable of faith.
"I think I'm getting to be--just a biped.... I'm glad you came up....
Here we are at _Swan's_," said Cairns.
* * * * *
Like most writers, David Cairns was intensely interesting to himself.
His sudden reversal from bleak self-complacence to a clear-eyed view of
his questionable approaches to real worth, was strong with bitterness,
but deeply absorbing. He was remarkable in his capacity to follow this
opening of his own insignificance. It had been slow coming, but
ruthlessly now, he traced his way back from one breach to another, and
finally to that night in the plaza at Alphonso, when he had been
enabled to see service from a unique and winning angle, through the
pack-train cook. That was the key to his catching on; that, and his boy
ideals of war had lifted his copy from the commonplace. He remembered
Bedient in China, in Japan, and in his own house--how grudgingly he had
appeared in his working hours. He felt like an office-boy who has made
some pert answer to an employer too big and kind to notice. Now and
then up the years, certain warm thoughts had come to him from those
island nights, but he had forgotten their importance in gaining his
Andrew Bedient was nothing like the man he had expected to find. He
remembered now that he might have looked for these rare elements of
character, since the boyhood talks had promised them, and power had
emanated from them.... Still, Bedient had grown marvellously, in
strange, deep ways. Cairns could not fathom them all, but he realized
that nothing better could happen to him than to study this man. Indeed,
his mind was fascinated in following the rich leads of his friend's
resources. He consoled himself for his shortcomings with the thought
that, at least, he was ready to see....
They talked as of old, far into the night. Cairns found himself
endeavoring with a swift, nervous eagerness to show his _best_ to
Andrew Bedient, and to be judged by that best. He spoke of none of the
achievements which the world granted to be his; instead, the little
byway humanities were called forth, for the other to hear--buds of
thought and action, which other pressures had kept from fertilizing
into seed--the very things he would have delighted in relating to a
dear, wise woman. Something about Bedient called them forth, and Cairns
fell into new depths. "I thought it was pure sex-challenge which made a
man bring these things to a woman." (This is the way he developed the
idea afterward.) "But that can't be all, since I unfolded so to
Bedient.... He has me going in all directions like a steam-shovel."
Cairns was arranging a little party for his friend. In the meantime,
his productive quantity sank from torrent to trickle. His secretary,
who knew the processes of the writer's mind as the keys of his machine,
and had adjusted his own brain to them through many brisk sessions,
fell now through empty space. He had no resources in this room, where
he had been driven so long by the mental force of another. Having
suffered himself to be played upon, like the instrument before him, he
died many deaths from _ennui_.... So Cairns and the secretary stared
helplessly at each other across the emptiness; and New York rushed on,
with its mad business, singing spitefully in their ears: "You for the
poor-farms. You'll lose your front, and your markets. Your income is
suffering; the presses are waiting; editors dependent...."
Cairns left the house on the third morning after Bedient's coming,
having dictated two or three letters.... Bedient was across the street
from the _Smilax Club_ in the little fenced-in park--Gramercy. Cairns
told his work-difficulty.
"Don't you think it would be good for you, David," Bedient asked, "to
let the subconscious catch up?"
Cairns was interested at once. "What do you mean?"
"I've been thinking more than a little about you and New York. One
thing is sure: New York is pretty much wrong, or I'm insane----"
"You're happy about it," Cairns remarked. "Tell me the worst."
"People here use their reflectors and not their generators," Bedient
said. "They shine with another's light, when they should be
incandescent. The brain in your skull, in any man's skull, is but a
reflector, an instrument of his deeper mind. There's your genius,
infinitely wiser than your brain. It's your sun; your brain, the moon.
All great work comes from the subconscious mind. You and New York use
too much moonshine."
Both men were smiling, but to Cairns, nevertheless, it seemed that his
own conscience had awakened after a long sleep. This wanderer from the
seas had twigged the brain brass which he had long been passing for
gold value. He saw many bits of his recent work, as products of
intellectual foppery. He recalled a letter recently received from an
editor; which read: "That last article of yours has caught on. Do six
more like it." He hadn't felt the stab before. He had done the
six--multiplied his original idea by mechanical means....
All things considered, it was rather an important affair--the party
that night at the _Smilax Club_. Cairns began with the idea of asking
ten people, but the more he studied Bedient's effect upon himself, the
more particular he became about the "atmosphere." Just the men he
wanted were out of reach, so he asked none at all, but five women. Four
of these he would have grouped into a sentence as "the most interesting
women in New York," and the fifth was a romantic novelty in a minor
key, sort of "in the air" at the Club.
So there were seven to sit down to the round table in the historic
Plate Room. The curving walls were fitted with a lining of walnut
cabinets. Visible through their leaded-glass doors, were ancient
services of gold and silver and pewter. The table streamed with light,
but the faces and cabinets were in shadow.... Directly across from
Bedient sat Beth Truba, the most brilliant woman his visioning eyes
The sight of her was the perfect stimulus, an elixir too volatile to be
drunk, rather to be breathed. Bedient felt the door of his inner
chambers swing open before fragrant winds. The heart of him became
greatly alive, and his brain in grand tune. It is true, she played upon
his faculties, as the Hindus play upon the _vina_, that strange,
sensitive, oriental harp with a dozen strings, of which the musician
touches but one. The other strings through sympathetic vibration
furnish an undertone almost like an aeolian harmony. You must listen in
a still place to catch the mystic accompaniment. So it was in Bedient's
mind. Beth Truba played upon the single string, and the others
glorified her with their shadings. And the plaint from all humanity was
in that undertone, as if to keep him sweet.
She was in white. "See the slim iceberg with the top afire!" Cairns had
whispered, as she entered. Other lives must explain it, but the Titian
hair went straight to his heart. And those wine-dark eyes, now cryptic
black, now suffused with red glows like a night-sky above a
prairie-fire, said to him, "Better come over and see if I'm tamable."
"I can see, it's just the place I wanted to be to-night," she said,
taking her chair. "We're going to have such a good time!"
And Kate Wilkes drawled this comment to Cairns: "In other words, Beth
says, 'Bring on your lion, for I'm the original wild huntress.'"
Kate Wilkes was a tall tanned woman rather variously weathered, and
more draped than dressed. She conducted departments of large feminine
interest in several periodicals, and was noted among the "emancipated
and impossible" for her papers on Whitman. The romantic novelty was
Mrs. Wordling, the actress, and the other two women were Vina
Nettleton, who made gods out of clay and worshipped Rodin, and
Marguerite Grey, tall and lovely in a tragic, flower-like way, who
painted, and played the 'cello.
"Meeting Bedient this time has been an experience to me," Cairns said,
toward the end of dinner. "I called together the very finest people I
knew, because of that. He had sailed for ten years before I knew him.
That was nearly thirteen years ago. Not that there's anything in miles,
nor sailing about from port to port.... He has ridden for the English
since, through the great Himalayan forests--years so strange that he
forgot their passing.... We are all good friends; in a sense, artists,
together, so I can say things. One wants to be pretty sure when one
lets go from the inside. I didn't realize before how rarely this
happens with us.
"The point is, Bedient has kept something through the years, that I
haven't. I'm getting away badly, but I trust what I mean will clear
up.... Bedient and I rode together with an American pack-train, when
there was fighting, there in Luzon. He was the cook of the outfit, and
he took me in, a cub-correspondent. I look back now upon some of those
talks (with the smell of coffee and forage and cigarettes in the night
air) as belonging to the few perfect things. And last night and the
night before, we talked again----"
Cairns' eye hurried past Mrs. Wordling, but he seemed to find what he
wanted in the glances of the others, before he resumed:
"Without knowing it, Bedient has made me see that I haven't been
keeping even decently white, here in New York. I found out, at the same
time, that I couldn't meet him half-way, when he brought the talk
close. Back yonder in Luzon, I used to. Here, after the years, I
couldn't. Something inside is green and untrained. It shied before real
man-talk.... Bedient came into a fortune recently, the result of saving
a captain during a long-ago typhoon. His property is down in Equatoria,
where he has been for some months. So he has had a windfall that would
be unmanning to most, yet he comes up here, just as unspoiled as he
used to be----"
"David," Bedient pleaded, "you're swinging around in a circle. Be easy
"You've kept your boy's heart, that's what I'm trying to get at,"
Cairns added briefly.
Kate Wilkes dropped her hand upon Bedient's arm, and said, "Don't
bother him. It looks to me as if truth were being born. You'd have to
be a city man or woman to understand how rare and relishable such an
"Thanks, Kate," said Cairns. "It's rather difficult to express, but I
see I'm beginning to get it across."
"Go on, please."
Cairns mused absently before continuing:
"Probably it doesn't need to come home to anyone else, as it did to
me.... I've been serving King Quantity here in New York so long that
I'd come to think it the proper thing to do. Bedient has kept to the
open--the Bright Open--and kept his ideals. I listened to him last
night and the night before, ashamed of myself. His dreams came forth
fresh and undefiled as a boy's--only they were man-strong and
flexible--and his voice seemed to come from behind the intention of
Fate.... I wouldn't talk this way, only I chose the people here. I
think without saying more, you've got what I've been encountering since
Bedient blew up Caribbean way."
Cairns leaned back in his chair with a glass of _moselle_ in his hand
and told about the big lands in Equatoria, about the two Spaniards,
Jaffier and Rey, trying to assassinate each other under the cover of
courtesy; about the orchestrelle, the mines and the goats. Cleverly, at
length, he drew Bedient into telling the typhoon adventure.
It was hard, until Beth Truba leaned forward and ignited the story.
After that, the furious experience _lived_ in Bedient's mind, and most
of it was related into her eyes. When he described the light before the
break of the storm, how it was like the hall-way of his boyhood, where
the yellow-green glass had frightened him, Beth became paler if
possible, and more than ever intent. Back in her mind, a sentence of
Cairns' was repeating, "His voice seemed to come from behind the
intention of Fate."... Finally when Bedient told of reaching Equatoria,
and of the morning when Captain Carreras nudged bashfully--wanting his
arm a last time--Beth Truba exclaimed softly:
"Oh, no, that really can't all be true, it's too good!" and her
listening eyes stirred with ecstasy....
She liked, too, his picture of the _hacienda_ on the hill.... The party
talked away up into the top of the night and over; and always when
Bedient started across (in his heart) to tame the wine-dark eyes--lo,
they were gone from him.
THE JEWS AND THE ROMANS
Kate Wilkes lived at the _Smilax Club_, as did Vina Nettleton, and, for
the present, Mrs. Wordling. The actress was recently in from the road.
Her play had not run its course, merely abated for the hot months. She
was an important satellite, if not a stellar attraction. About noon, on
the day following the party for Bedient, Mrs. Wordling appeared in the
breakfast room, and sat down at the table with Kate Wilkes, who was
having her coffee.
"What an extraordinary evening we had," the actress remarked. "David's
party was surely a success."
"Rather," assented Miss Wilkes, who felt old and nettled. She seemed of
endless length, and one would suppose that her clothes were designed so
that not one bone should be missed. Mrs. Wordling was not an especial
favorite with her.
"They made it up beautifully between them, didn't they?" the actress
observed, as she squeezed orange-juice into her spoon.
"Why, that story--that friendship, storm-at-sea, Equatoria story--done
jointly by Messrs. Cairns and Bedient."
"You think they rehearsed it, then?" Kate Wilkes asked softly.
"Why, of course. It unfolded like a story--each piling on clever
enthusiasm for the other."
There was a slight pause.
"And so you think David Cairns simulated that fine touch, about
discovering through his friend, what damage New York was doing him?"
Kate Wilkes' manner was lightly reflective.
"Of course. Don't you remember how he stumbled until you helped him
"You think--as I understand it----" Miss Wilkes had become queerly
penetrative, and spoke in a way that made one think of a beetle being
pinned through the thorax, "----that David Cairns merely used his
artistic intelligence for our entertainment; that Andrew Bedient is
merely an interesting type of sailor and wanderer who has struck it
"Why, yes, Kate, that's the way it got over to me. We all know David
Cairns is selling everything he writes at a top-figure; that he is
eminently successful, quite the thing in many periodicals, finely
pleased with himself as a successful man----"
"Wordling," said Kate Wilkes, leaning toward her, "what kind of people
do you associate with in your work?"
"The best, dear,--always the best. People who think, and who love their
Slowly and without passion the elder woman now delivered herself:
"People who _think_ they think and who love themselves!... I have tried
to make myself believe you were different. You are not different,
Wordling. You are true to your kind, and not distinguished from them.
David Cairns never rehearsed a part with Andrew Bedient. Men as full of
real things as these two do not need rehearsals. Bedient came up from
his Island, and all unconsciously made his old companion realize that
he was not breathing the breath of life here in New York. Cairns wept
over it, and made up his mind to try again; and fine chap that he is,
he called a few of his friends together, to give us a chance to see the
thing as he saw it. I call it an honor that he invited me. I see you do
not. Unfortunately this is one of those differences of opinion which
are at the base of things.... Luck to you, Wordling," she finished,
rising. "I feel seedy and have a busy afternoon ahead."
Mrs. Wordling laughed delightedly, though boiling lava ran within and
pressed against the craters. Alone, she asked herself what Kate Wilkes
had done to get away with eccentricities, to which only those of
stardom are entitled.
"Hag," she muttered, after such conning.
* * * * *
Bedient was early abroad in the city, having felt entirely above the
need of sleep. He was less serene than usual, but with compensations.
There was a peculiar fear in his mind that New York was laughing at him
a bit. Perhaps, Cairns had pressed down a little too hard on the queer
unhurt quality he was alleged to possess. In a word, Bedient sensed the
humor of Mrs. Wordling, and could not yet know that she, of the entire
company, monopolized the taint.
The _Smilax Club_ pleased him, and he had permitted Cairns to put him
That flame of a woman, Beth Truba, was the spirit of his every thought.
Her listening had drawn the soul from him. The great thing had
happened; and yet it was different from the way he had visioned it....
Never had a woman so startled him with the sense of the world's
fullness--in that she was in the world. That he had found her was his
first achievement, true reward of deathless faith; and yet it was all
so different. She was different. She had not known him.
In the amplitude of his wanderings, one conception had grown slightly
out of proportion. He saw this now, and smiled affectionately at the
old thought: "When The Woman appears, I shall not be alone in the
gladness of the moment."... Those were mountain-tops of dreaming upon
which he strode without reckoning. It would have been absurd, had Beth
Truba given him a sign. This was not India, nor the Dream Ranges....
She had faced life, lived it among the teeming elements of this vast
city. The world had wrought upon her, while she wrought her place in
the world. She was finished, an artist, a woman of New York, wise,
poised, brilliant. It was the world's ideals, and not those of the
silence and the spirit, altogether, that governed her manner and dress
and movement. She had not lived in the silence; therefore that which
was of the silence had been kept among the deep inner places of her
life. The secrets of her heart were deeper than mere man's leaden
fathomings. Even had he appeared unto her as an illumination--only Beth
Truba would have known.
He did not come into great peace in her presence. No matter what she
dreamed of, or desired, the lover could only come to her in the world's
approved ways. So, all the accumulated beauty of idealism counted
nothing in this first stage of Bedient's quest. Instead of the peace of
her presence, he was filled with restless energies, past all precedent.
Quite in a boyish way, he wanted to do things for her, huge and little
things, forgetting not the least, and performing each succeeding action
with a finer art.
Beth Truba was the first woman who ever appealed to Bedient, without
recalling in some way the Adelaide passion. There was hardly a trace of
that element in the new outpouring. If it is true that a woman calls
from man a love-token in her own image, Beth Truba was marble cold. The
larger part of his first giving was above the flesh, a passion to
bestow beautiful things, the happiness of others. That she might ever
have any meaning to him beyond receiving these gifts, scarcely entered,
as yet, his thrilled consciousness. It _had_ startled him that she was
seemingly free; that she had reached full womanhood in solitary empire.
He dared be glad of this, but he could not grasp it, unless she were
vowed to spinsterhood by some irrevocable iron of her will; or perhaps
some king of men had come, and she had given her word.... Bedient could
not understand how any discerning masculine mind could look upon Beth
Truba, and go his way without determining his chance. He felt (and here
he was "warm," as they say in the children's game) that David Cairns
must be one of the men who had seen Beth Truba and not conquered.
Perhaps Cairns would tell him regarding these things, but they were
altogether too sacred to broach, except in the finest possible moment.
He had returned to the club early in the afternoon, and was standing at
one of the windows, his eyes turned toward the green square opposite.
He was thinking of the enchantress, and how she would admire the
shower-whipped hills of Equatoria and all that wild perfumed beauty....
His name was softly spoken by one of the regal shadows of the night
before, Marguerite Grey.
"If I hadn't seen you or Mr. Cairns again," she began, "I'd have come
to think of last night almost as a dream."
"That's queer, Miss Grey," he answered, taking her hand. "It's like a
dream to me, too."
"I didn't feel like working to-day," she said. "The routine appalled
me, so I came over to look in upon Vina Nettleton. Her studio is above.
Have you seen her 'Stations of the Cross'?"
"Her four years' task--for the great Quebec cathedral?... You really
must. It's an experience to watch her work, and Vina's worth
knowing--pure spirit.... Would you like to go up with me?"
Alternating fascinations possessed Bedient, as the elevator carried
them upward.... These were his real playmates, these people of pictures
and statues. He had come a long way through different lights and
darkness to find them. He did not know their ways of play, but well
knew he should like them when he learned, and that their play would
prove prettier than any he had ever known.... And this tall, still
woman beside him--almost as tall as he, of rarest texture, and with a
voice sensuously soft, having that quality of softness which
distinguishes a charcoal from a graphite line--this woman seemed
identified in some remoteness of mind with long-ago rainy days, of
which there had been none too many.... Her voice seemed to lose
direction in his fancy, loitering there, strangely enticing.... _"Would
you like to go up with me?"_... And these were Beth Truba's friends....
A bell was touched in the high hall, and Vina Nettleton's plaintive
tone trailed forth:
"Won't you come right in--please--into my muddy room?"
A large room opening upon a steel fire-frame, where two could sit, and
a view of the city to the North. Commandingly near on the left arose
the Metropolitan Tower. The studio itself had an unfinished look, with
its step-ladders and scaffolding and plaster-panels. In the midst of
such ponderous affairs, stood a frail creature in a streaky blouse,
exhibiting her clayey hands and smiling pensively. It was only when you
looked at the figures in the panels, and at the models in clay, that
Vina Nettleton appeared to belong to these matters of a contractor.
Marguerite Grey was saying:
"When I get too weary, or heart-sick, tired of my own work, in the
sense of being bored by its commonness----"
"Wicked woman," murmured Vina.
"When the thought comes that I should be a cashier in a restaurant,"
the other went on, in her sadly smiling way, speaking altogether to
Bedient, "I come to this place. Here is an _artist_, Mr. Bedient. Vina
has been working at these things for two years. She has still two years
to finish within her contract. These are her prayers; they will live in
the transept of a great cathedral."
"Don't mind the Grey One, Mr. Bedient," Vina Nettleton said lightly.
"We are dear friends."
Bedient lost himself in the study of the veins which showed through the
delicate white skin of Vina's temples. He was moved to personal
interest by this woman's work. The room was intense with the figures
about, and the artist's being. He was sure Marguerite Grey did not know
all that concerned her friend, the full meaning, for instance, of the
shadows that began at the inner corners of her eyes and flared like
dark wings outward. There was something tremendous in the frail, small
creature, an inner brightness that shone forth through her white skin,
as light through porcelain. Bedient granted quickly that there was
power here to make the world remember the name of Vina Nettleton; but
he knew she was not giving _all_ to these creatures of clay. He had
never sensed such a mingling of emotions and spirit.... "Pure spirit,"
the Grey One had said. Possibly it was so to the world, but he would
have said that the spirit of Vina Nettleton was fed by emotion--seas,
woods, fields, skies and rivers of emotion--and that mighty energies,
unused by the great task, roamed in nightly anguish.
Bedient moved raptly among the panels. He wondered how the artist had
made the light fall upon the dull clay, always where the Christ stood
or walked or hung.... "And how did you know He had such beautiful
hands?" he asked.
Vina Nettleton looked startled, and the Grey One came closer, saying:
"I'm glad you see that. To me the hands are a particular achievement.
Do you notice the fine modelling at the outer edges of the palms, and
the trailing length of the fingers?"
"Yes," said Bedient, "as if you could not quite tell where the flesh
ended and the healing magnetism began."
Vina Nettleton sat down upon one of the steps of a ladder and stared at
him. The Grey One added:
"And yet you cannot say they are overdone. They are the hands of an
artist, but not assertively so."
"It is my limitation that I don't know," he said, "but how is that
effect obtained, that suggestion of psychic power?"
"Part is your sensitiveness of eye and understanding," the Grey One
answered, "and the rest comes from our little woman making a prayer of
her work; from taking an image of Him and the Others into the dark; of
light, ascetic sleep and putting away the dreams of women----"
Scarlet showed under the transparent skin of the Nettleton temples
now--as if putting away the dreams of women were not an unqualified
"It is all interesting. I am grateful to you both for letting me come,"
Bedient said with strange animation, eager yet full of hesitancy. "More
wonderful than the hands, is the Face, which Miss Nettleton has kept
averted throughout her entire idea. That's the way the Face appears to
me. The disciples and the multitudes must have seen it so, except on
rare, purposeful occasions.... He must have been slight and not tall,
and delicate as you see Him. It was not that He lacked physical
endurance, but He was worn, as those about Him did not understand, with
constant inner agony. That was His great weariness.... It was not an
imposing Figure. Nothing about Him challenged the Romans. They were but
abandoned boys who bowed to the strength that roars, and the bulk that
makes easy blood-letting. Even in custody, He was beneath the notice of
most Romans, so inflamed and brutish from conquest were they; and
Pilate, though the Tragic Instrument, was among the least ignoble of
Bedient felt vaguely the interest of Vina Nettleton in what he was
saying. It was a remarkable moment. His mind was crowded with a hundred
things to say; yet he was startled, diffident, in spite of the joy of
speaking these things aloud.
"What a hideous time of darkness!" he added in the silence. "The Jews
were but little better than the Romans. They were looking for a king, a
Solomon sort of king with temples and trappings and sizable
authorities. Isn't it divine irony, that the Messianic Figure should
appear in the very heart of this racial weakness of the Jews? And their
lesson seems still unlearned. New York brings this home to-day.... So,
to the Jews and the Romans, He was insignificant in appearance. His
beauty was spiritual, which to be recognized, requires spirituality--a
"And among the disciples: Hasn't it occurred to you again and again how
their doubting egos arose, when His face was turned away? Poor fellows,
they were bothered with their stomachs and their places to sleep; they
quarrelled with the different villagers, and doubtless wished
themselves back a hundred times to their fishing-banks and kindred
employments, when the Christ moved a little apart from them. I can see
them (behind His back), daring each other to approach and make known
their fancied injustices and rebellions. It was so with the multitudes
before they looked upon His countenance.
"But when He turns, whether in sorrow or in anger, the look is
invincible.... That is always true, whether the Face is turned upon
one, or the Twelve, or the multitude--in the crowded market-place, or
by the sea where the many were fed, or on the Mount--perfect tributes
of silence answered His direct attention, and all spiteful, petty ego
outcroppings vanished.... So there were two Figures: One, a man,
slender, tired and tortured; and an Angel Countenance, before whose
lustrous communications all men were abased according to their spirit."
He paused, but the women did not speak....
"Dear God, how lonely He was!" Bedient said after a moment, as he
regarded a picture of the Christ alone on the Mount, and the soldiers
ascending to make the arrest "There were two who might have sustained
in His daily death agonies. I have always wished they could have been
near Him throughout the Passion. _They_ would not have slept, that
darkest of nights while He prayed! I mean Saint Paul, who of course did
not see the Jesus of history, and John the Baptist, who was given to
know Him but an hour at the beginning. They were the greatest mortals
of those days.... They were above the attractions of women of flesh. Do
you see what I mean? They were humanly complete, beyond sex! Their
grandeur of soul meant a _union within themselves_ of militant manhood
and mystic womanhood. Illumination really means that. They could have
sustained and ministered unto the Christ with real tenderness.
"Invariably, I think, this is true: It is a woman, or _the woman in
man_ that recognizes a Messiah.... Look at those males of singing
flesh--the ultra-masculine Romans--how blind and how torpid they were
to Him; and the materialistic Jews, ponderously confronting each other
with stupid forms and lifeless rituals, while their Marys and Magdalens
and Miriams followed the Master and waited upon Him!... I always found
a kind of soulful feminine in John, the apostle--not the Forerunner,
but the brother of James. He was weak in those days of the Passion, but
became mighty afterward, and divinely tender, the apostle whom Jesus
loved, to whom he intrusted His Mother.... But look into the
arch-feminine ideal of the Christ Himself--that night on the Mount of
Olives, when all Earth's struggle and anguish passed through Him,
clothing itself with His pity and tenderness, before it reached the eye
of the Father. What ineffable Motherhood!"
The room wrought strangely upon Bedient. He had never spoken at such
length before, nor so eagerly. Vina Nettleton spoke for the first time
almost, since she had welcomed him. "You help me greatly," she said
with difficulty. "I cannot tell you exactly. I didn't know why, but
last night I hoped you would come here. Oh, it wasn't to help me with
this--not selfishly in the work, not that--but I seemed to know you
knew the things you have said just now."
Bedient was thrilled by her sincerity.... The low voice of the Grey One
"Spirituality, a feminine quality?"
"To me, always," said Bedient, his eyes lit with sudden enthusiasm.
"The Holy Spirit _is_ Mystic Motherhood. It is divinely the feminine
principle.... Look at the world's prophets, or take Saint Paul, for he
is in finished perspective. Completely human he is, unconquerable
manhood ignited by the luminous feminine quality of the soul. There he
stands, the man born again of the Holy Spirit, or Mystic Motherhood....
Now look at Jesus, a step higher still, and beyond which our vision
cannot mount. Here is the prophet risen to Godhood--the union of Two,
transcendent through that heavenly mystery--the adding of a Third!
Doesn't it clear for you startlingly now? It did for me. Here is the
_Three in One in Jesus_--the Godhood of the Father, the manhood of the
Son, and the Mystic Motherhood of the Holy Spirit. So in the radiance
of the Trinity--Jesus arose--'the first fruits of them that slept.'"
There was a light knock at the door. The face of the Grey One was like
a wraith, motionless and staring at him. Vina Nettleton looked up from
her soiled hands, which had streaked her face.... She moved suddenly to
the door, but did not touch it.
"Go away," she said intensely. "I can see no one."
Her eyes seemed to burn along the frame. There was no answer from
without, but a light step turning away.... Assured that the visitor was
gone, Vina turned back to Bedient.
"We mustn't be interrupted--nor must you go yet," she said with effort.
"I don't think anything ever happened to me so important. Oh, I don't
mean for my work; believe me in _that_, won't you? Since a little girl,
I have thought of these things. And here for two years they have been
about me. To me the Third of the Trinity has been as a voice calling
out of darkness. They told me when I was a bit of a girl that It was
not for me to understand, and that terrible men committed the deadly
sin of blasphemy through It----"
"Poor child," Bedient said, smiling at her. "They didn't know. Could
anything be lovelier for one to think about? The Holy Spirit as the
source of the divine principle in Woman, and Woman ever so eager to
give the spiritual loaf to man! That's the richest thought to me. After
_that_ is realized, all one's thinking must adjust itself to it; as in
Hindu minds, all thoughts adjust to reincarnation, and flow from it....
There is a tender glow of spirit, a sort of ignition of the narrative,
in every instance where a woman approaches the Christ in His mission on
earth. And men seem to find no meaning in these wonderful things....
The women of this world _are_ the symbols and the vessels of the Holy
Spirit. It is only through woman's love that It can be given to the
race. I like to think of it this way: _As a woman brings a child to her
husband, the father, so the Holy Spirit--Mystic Motherhood--is bringing
the World to God, the Father. And Jesus is the first fruits_."
The women regarded each other in silence. Bedient stayed, until the
tardy May dusk effaced the city, all but the myriad points of light.
TWO DAVIDS COME TO BETH
Beth Truba awoke late. Goliath of Gath had just fallen with obituary
hiccoughs and a great clatter of armor.... She sat up, and reviewed
recent events backward. The stone had sunk into the forehead. David
came down to meet the giant smiling. There was no anger about it. The
stone had been slung leisurely. Before that, the boy had been brought
in from his sheep-herding to be anointed king. Samuel had seen it in a
vision, and not otherwise.... David found Saul's armor irksome, took up
his staff, and went to the brook for good, sizable stones, just as if
he had spied a wolf slavering at the herds from the brow of the
Beth laughed, and wondered why the Bible story had come back in her
dream. There seemed no clue, not even when she contemplated the events
of the rather remarkable evening preceding. Many minutes afterward,
however, arranging her hair, she found herself repeating:
"_Now he was ruddy, and withal, of a beautiful countenance."_ Finally
it came to her, and she was pleased and astonished: Throughout the
evening, Beth had felt that some Bible description exactly fitted in
her mind to the new impression of Bedient, but she could not think of
it then. Her effort had brought it forth in the night, and the whole
story that went with it.
Beth drank a bottle of milk, ashamed of the hour, though she had not
slept long. She loved mornings; New York could never change her delight
in the long forenoon. She was at work at two, and undisturbed for two
hours. Beth's studio was the garret of an old mansion, a step from
Fifth Avenue in the Thirties. Its effect, as one entered, was golden at
midday, and turned brown with the first shadows.
Mrs. Wordling called at four. For a woman who had been scornfully
analyzed by Kate Wilkes (who really could be vitriol-tongued) and
ordered away from Vina Nettleton's door like an untimely beggar, Mrs.
Wordling looked remarkably well. In point of fact, Mrs. Wordling was
ungovernably pretty. Moreover, she knew Kate Wilkes well enough to
understand that she was too busy to sketch the characters of other
women except for their own benefit. As for Vina Nettleton, the
cloistered, she could do as she liked, being great in her calling;
besides, a woman who had a man-visitor so rarely as Vina Nettleton,
might be expected to become snappy and excited. Bedient was proving a
rather stiff drug. Mrs. Wordling now wished to observe his action upon
Beth Truba. "I'll appear to regard it as a perfectly lady-like party,
which it was," she mused, in the dingy interminable stairways,--the
elevator being an uncertain quantity--"and run no risk of being thrown
"Beth, you're looking really right," Mrs. Wordling enthused.
"So good of you," said Beth. "Must be lovely out, isn't it?... The
poster will be ready in three or four days.... Didn't we have a good
time at David's party?"
"Such a good time----"
"Really must have, since we stayed until an unconscionable hour.
Half-past two when we broke up----"
"All of that, Beth."
The artist looked up from her work. Mrs. Wordling's acquiescences
seemed modulated. The "Beths" were no more frequent than usual,
however. The artist had grown used to this from certain people. It
appeared that her name was so to the point, that many kept it juggling
through their conversation with her, like a ball in a fountain.... The
poster, Beth had consented to do in a weak moment. It was to be framed
for theatre-lobbies. People whom Beth painted were seldom quite the
same afterward to her. She seemed to learn too much. She had greatly
admired Mrs. Wordling's good nature at the beginning. There was no
objection now; only the actress had given her in quantity what had
first attracted, and quantity had palled. Beth often wished she did not
discern so critically.... Just now she divined that her caller wanted
to discuss Cairns' friend. The result was that Mrs. Wordling left after
a half-hour, with Bedient heavier and more undeveloped than ever in her
consciousness. Always a considerable social factor in her theatrical
companies, Mrs. Wordling was challenged by the people of the _Smilax
Club_. She was not getting on with them, and the thought piqued.
Bedient, who had not greatly impressed her, had apparently struck
twelve with the others. Therefore, he became at once both an object and
a means. There was a way to prove her artistry....
Beth went on with her painting, the face of another whom she had found
out. And painting, she smiled and thought. She was like a pearl in the
good North light. Across the pallor of her face ran a magnetic current
of color from the famous hair to the crimson jacket she wore, pinned at
the throat by a soaring gull, with the tiniest ruby for an eye....
David Cairns called. He seemed drawn and nervous. Obviously he had come
to say things. Beth knew his moods.
"David, we had a memorable time last night, you know that," she said.
"You know, too, that I have been, and am, friendly to Mrs. Wordling. As
the party turned out, I'm interested to know just how you came to
choose the guests. We drew rather close together for New Yorkers----"
"That's a fact."
"But the Grey One is engaged to be married. In theory, Kate Wilkes is a
man-hater. Dear little Vina is consecrated to her 'Stations' for two
years more. Eliminate me as, forborne, a spinster.... Yet you told me
two or three days ago that you wouldn't be surprised if your friend
took his lady back----"
"That may be true, Beth," he interrupted. "But I spoke hastily. It
sounds crude and an infringement now. I really didn't know Bedient----"
"When you invited your guests--Mrs. Wordling?"
"I should have consulted someone----"
"Not at all, David. It was eminently right. I am not criticising, just
"I've been revoluting inside. Mrs. Wordling happened three days ago,
when I was first thinking out the party. I didn't know we were to get
into real things. 'Ah, here's a ripe rounding influence,' said I. 'Do
come, Mrs. Wordling.' Maybe I _did_ figure out the contrast she
furnished. She's friendly and powerfully pretty and, why, I see it now,
one of the Wordlings of this world would have taken Andrew Bedient into
camp years ago, if he were designed for that kind of woman. Why, that's
the kind of woman he doubtless knows----"
"Do you know what I think?" Beth inquired. "I think you should be
punished for using Mrs. Wordling or anyone else as a foil. That's a
Wordl--a woman's strategy."
"I know it, Beth," Cairns said excitedly. "But I didn't think of it
until afterward. I wouldn't do it again."
She was startled, saw too late that this was no time for showing him
"You're a dear boy----" she began.
"No, I'm not, Beth. Oh, it isn't the only thing--that has been rammed
home to me.... _Me_; there's so much _me_ mixed up in my mind, so much
tiresome and squalid _me_, that I wonder every decent person hasn't cut
me long since for a bore and a nuisance. Why, I had become all puny and
blinded--_my_ stomach, _my_ desires, markets, memories, ambitions,
doubts, rages, rights, poses and conceits. I really need to tell some
one, to unveil before some one who won't wince, but treasure the little
"You have done well to come to Beth," she said, leaning forward and
patting his shoulder with the thin stem of her brush, though a woman
always feels her years when a man brings woes such as these to her....
It was Beth's weakness (or strength) that she could never reveal the
intimacies of her heart. Only sometimes in half-humorous generalities,
she permitted things to escape, thinking no one understood.
"Thanks, Beth. I'm grateful," Cairns said. "I seem to have missed for a
long time the bigger dimension in people, books, pictures, faces, even
in the heart. It's a long time since I set out this way, a down-grade,
and the last few days, I've heard the rapids. I'm going back, as far
and as fast as I can up-stream. And this is no lie; no pose."
"I repeat, you're a dear boy----"
"Oh, it's Bedient who jerked me up straight. I'd have gone on.... And
to think I made him wait over an hour, when he first called.... He's
the finest bit of man-stuff I've ever known, Beth."
She found herself relieved, that he had given to the stranger the
"... And, Beth, if you want to dig for his views, you'll get them. He
says New York plucks everything green; opinionates on the wing, makes
personal capital out of another's offering, refusing to wait for the
fineness of impersonal judgment. He asks nothing more stimulating than
the capacity to say on occasion, 'I don't know,' flat and unqualified.
He sees everywhere, the readiness to be clever instead of true. So many
New Yorkers, he says, are like fishes, that, knowing water, disclaim
the possibility of air.
"You know, Beth, Bedient never encountered what America was thinking
and reading, until a few months ago down on his Island.
We are editorialists in the writing game, he declares,
what-shall-I-write-about-to-day-folks! We don't wait for fulness, but
wear out brain thin bandying about what drops on it. If we would wait
until we were full men, we would _have_ to write, and not drive
ourselves to the work----"
"Oh, I do believe that!" Beth said. "We need to be reminded of that."
"That _we_ is very pretty, Beth," Cairns went on. "...Such a queer
finished incident happened yesterday. I hunted up Bedient at noon, and
we talked about some of these matters. And then we met Ritchold for
luncheon. It was at _Teuton's_. I took Bedient aside and whispered with
a flourish, 'One of our ten-thousand-a-year editors, Andrew.'... 'What
makes him worth that?' he asked. 'He knows what the people want,' I
replied. Can you see us, Beth?...
"The luncheon was interesting. Bedient and Ritchold got together
beautifully. The talk was brisk and big, just occasionally cutting the
edges of shop. Both men came to me afterward. 'Splendid chap, your
friend,' Ritchold said. 'A man who has seen so much and can talk so
well, ought to _write_. Thanks for meeting him.'
"'I was very glad to meet Mr. Ritchold,' Bedient remarked later--hours
later--after I had given up hope of hearing on the subject. 'I think he
shows where one trouble lies.... It's in _him_ and his kind, David. His
periodical sells to the great number. He is a very bright man, and his
art is in knowing what the great number wants. Being brighter, and of
finer discernment, than those who buy his product, he debases his taste
to make his organs relish the coarser article. That's the first
evil--prostituting himself.... Now a people glutted with what it wants
is a stagnant people. Its only hope is in such men as Ritchold leading
them to the higher ways. In refusing, he wrongs the public--the second
evil.... Again, in blunting his own sensibilities and catering to the
common, he stands as a barrier between the public and real creative
energy. He and the public are one. A prostituted taste and a stagnant
popular mind are alike repelled by reality. Rousing creative power
glances from them both. So his third evil is the busheling and harrying
of genius.... There he stands, forcing genius to be common, to appear,
paying well and swiftly only for that which is common. Genius writhes a
bit, starves a bit, but the terrible needs of this complicated life
have him by the throat until he cries "Enough," and presently is
"He need not have spoken of writing only," Beth remarked. "_They_ must
have taught him to see things clearly in the Orient.... You know,
David, I found it hard last night, and a little now, to fix his point
of view and his power to express it, with the life of outdoor men, the
'enlisted,' as he says, rather than the 'commissioned' folk of this
"He has done much reading, but more thinking," Cairns declared. "He has
been much alone, and he has lived. He sees inside. 'The great books of
the world are little books,' he said recently, 'books that a pocket or
a haversack will hold. You don't realize what they have given you,
until you sit down in a roomful of ordinary books and see how tame and
common the quantities are.' And it's true. Look at the big men of few
books. They learned to look _inside_ of books they had! He knows the
Bible, and the _Bhagavad Gita_."
"Oh, I'm beginning to understand," Beth exclaimed. "Nights alone with
the Bible and the _Bhagavad Gita_, and one's schooldays--a weathering
from the open and seasoning from the seas. Men have such chances to
learn the perils and passions of the earth, but so few do.... I see it
now. It isn't remarkable that we find him poised and finished, but that
he should have had the inclination naturally--a child among
sailors--for the great little books of the world, and through them and
his nights alone, to have kept his balance and builded his power."
"That's the point, Beth. New York is crowded with voyagers, and men of
mileage to the moon, but what made this powerful unlettered boy _look_
for the inside of things? What made him different from the packers and
cooks and sailors around the world, boys of the open who never become
men except physically?"
Beth answered: "I think we'll find that has to do with Mr. Bedient's
"I know he'd be thrilled to hear you say that."
"Is she still living?"
"No, or he'd be with her.... He has never spoken to me of her. And yet
I'm sure she is the unseen glow upon his life. I think he would tell
_you_ about her. Only a woman could draw that from him.... He saw no
one but you last night; did all his talking to you, Beth."
"I'm the flaringest, flauntingest posy in the garden. I call the bees
first," she said dryly, but there was a flitting of ghostly memories
through her mind. "And then I'm an extraordinary listener."
"Beth," he said solemnly, "no one knows better than I, that it is you
who send the bees away."
She laughed at him. "We found each other out in time, David.... Too
much artist between us. We'd surely taint each other, don't you see?"
"I never could see that----"
"That's being polite; and one must be polite.... We are really fine
friends, better than ever after to-day, and that's something for a pair
of incomplete New Yorkers."
There was a pause.
"Beth," said Cairns. "Shall I bring Bedient over to-morrow?"
"No, please. At least not to-morrow."
He was surprised. Beth saw it; saw, too, that he had observed how
Bedient talked to her last night. Mrs. Wordling had not missed comment
here.... Cairns must not think, however, that she would avoid Andrew
Bedient. She fell into her old resource of laughing at the whole
"I can't afford to take any chances, David. He's _too_ attractive.
Falling in love is pure dissipation to one of my temperament, and I
have too many contracts to fill. I'm afraid of your sailor-man. Think
of the character you built about him to-day in this room. If he didn't
prove up to that, what a pity for us all! And if he did, what a pity
for poor Beth, if he started coming here!... Anyway, I've ceased to be
a bachelor-girl. I'm a spinster.... That word hypnotizes me. I'm all
ice again. I shall know Mr. Bedient ethically and not otherwise."
Cairns laughed with her, but something within hurt. His relation with
Beth Truba had been long, and increasingly delightful, since the ordeal
of becoming just a friend was safely past. He realized that only a
beautiful woman could speak this way, even in fun to an old friend....
His work dealt with wars, diplomacy and politics; his fictions were
twenty-year-old appeals, so that Beth felt her present depth of mood to
be fathoms deeper than his story instinct.
"You know, David, I've said for years there were no real lovers in the
world," she went on lightly. "But your friend was full of touches last
night such as one dreams of: that colored pane in the hall-way, when he
was a little boy somewhere, and the light that frightened him from
it.... 'One of the Chinese knifed me, but he died.'... That big 'X' of
the _Truxton_ flung stern up, as she sank; ... and about the old
Captain wriggling his shoulder bashfully for his young friend's arm at
the last.... It is altogether enticing, in the light of what you have
brought to-day. Really you must take him away. Red-haired spinsters
mustn't be bothered, nor imprisoned in magic spring weather. When does
he return to his Island?"
"He hasn't spoken of that, but I do know, Beth, that Bedient will never
sink back into the common, from your first fine impressions. I've known
him for years, you see----"
She put down her brush and said theatrically, "I feel the fatal
premonitive impulses.... Spinster, spinster; Beth Truba, spinster!...
That's my salvation."
"You're the finest woman I know," Cairns said. "You know best, but I
doubt if Bedient will go back to Equatoria without seeing more of
"Did he speak of such a thing?"
"That isn't his way----"
"I am properly rebuked."
... Cairns was at the door. "Did you say, Beth, that the Grey One is
engaged to be married?"
"Pure tragedy. The man is fifty and financial.... She's a courageous
girl, but I think under her dear smile is a broken nerve. She has about
reached the end of her rope. The demand for her work has fallen off.
One of those inexplicable things. She had such a good start after
returning from Paris. And now with Handel's expensive studio, probably
not less than three thousand a year for that, debt and unsought
pictures are eating out her heart. There's much more to the story--I
mean leading up. Help her if you can, or she must go to the arms and
house of a certain rich man.... What a blithe thing is Life, and how
little you predatory men know about it!"
They regarded each other, their thoughts poised upon an _If_. Beth
"If your friend----"
"But Bedient didn't look into the eyes of the Grey One when he told his
tale of the sea," Cairns said, leaving.
TWO LESSER ADVENTURES
A few nights after the party, Bedient was left to his own devices,
Cairns being appointed out of town. He attended the performance of a
famous actress in _Hedda Gabler_.... Bedient was early. The curtain
interested him. It pictured an ancient Grecian ruin, a gloomy, heavy
thing, but not inartistic. Beneath was a couplet from Kingsley:
"So fleet the works of men, back to their earth again,
Ancient and holy things fade like a dream."
Sensitive to such effects, he sat, musing and contemplative, when
suddenly his spirit was imperiously aroused by the orchestra. The
'celli had opened the _Andante_ from the C Minor Symphony. For ten
minutes, the music held his every sense.... It unfolded as of old, but
not its full message. There was a meaning in it _for him_! He heard the
three voices--man, woman and angel. It was the woman's tragedy. The
lustrous Third Presence was for her. The man's figure was obscure,
disintegrate.... Bedient was so filled with the mystery, that the play
had but little surface of his consciousness during the first act. He
enjoyed it, but could not give all he had. Finally, as _Hedda_ was
ordering the young writer to drink wine to get "vine-leaves in his
hair," there was an explosion back of the scenes. Bedient, as did many
others, thought at first it belonged to the piece. The faces of the
players fell away in thick gloom, the voices sank into crazy echoes,
and the curtain went down. Bedient's last look at the stage brought him
the impression of squirming chaos. Fire touched the curtain behind,
disfiguring and darkening the pictured ruin. Then a woman near him
screamed. The back of a chair snapped, and now scores took up the
The crowd caught a succession of hideous ideas: of being trapped and
burned, of inadequate exits, murderous gases, bodies piled at the
doors--all the detailed news-horror of former theatre disasters. And
the crowd did all it could to repeat the worst of these. Bedient
encountered an altogether new strength, the strength of a frenzied
mass, and to his nostrils came a sick odor from the fear-mad. The
lights had not been turned on with the fall of the curtain. Untrained
to cities, Bedient was astonished at the fright of the people, the
fright of the men!... The lines of _Hedda_ recurred to him, and he
called out laughingly:
"Now's the time for 'vine-leaves in your hair,' men!"
He moved among the seats free from the aisle. A body lay at his feet.
Groping forward, his hand touched a woman's hair. He smiled at the
thought that here was one for _him_ to help, and lifted her, turning to
look at the glare through the writhing curtain. There were voices
behind in that garish furnace; and now the lights filled the theatre
again. Bedient quickly made his way with others to a side exit, the red
light of which had not attracted the crowd.
The woman was light in his arms. She wore a white net waist, and her
brown hair was unfastened. She had crushed a large bunch of English
violets to her mouth and nostrils, to keep out the smoke and gas. A
peculiar thing about it was, Bedient did not see her face. In the
alley, he handed his burden to a man and woman, standing together at
the door of a car, and went back. One of the actors had stepped in
front of the stage, and was calling out that the fire was under
control, that there was no danger whatever. The roar from the gallery
passages subsided. Only a few were hurt, since the theatre was modern
and the main exit ample.... Bedient returned to the side-door but the
woman he had carried forth was gone, probably with the pair in the car.
He decided to see the end of _Hedda Gabler_ another time. The