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Fate Knocks at the Door by Will Levington Comfort

Part 3 out of 7

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_Andante_, the Grecian ruin and vine-leaves were curiously blended in
his mind....

Though several days had passed since the Club affair, he had not seen
Beth Truba again. This fact largely occupied his thinking. He would not
telephone nor call, without a suggestion from her. The moment had not
come to bring up her name to David Cairns, who, since his talk with
Beth, had of course nothing to offer. So Bedient revolved in outer
darkness.... The morning after _Hedda Gabler_ he found a very good
chestnut saddle-mare in an up-town stable, and rode for an hour or two
in the Park, returning to the Club after eleven. At the office, he was
told that Mrs. Wordling had asked for him to go up to her apartment, as
soon as he came in. Five minutes later, he knocked at her door.

"Is that you, Mr. Bedient?" she called. The voice came seemingly from
an inner room; a cultivated voice, with that husky note in it which
charms the multitude. Had he not a good mental picture of Mrs.
Wordling, he would have imagined some enchanted Dolores.... "How good
of you to come! Just wait one moment."

The door opened partially after a few seconds, and he caught the gleam
of a bare arm, but the actress had disappeared when he entered. Bedient
was in a room where a torrential shower had congealed into photographs.

"I can't help it," she said at last, emerging from the inner room,
unhooked.... "I've been trying to get a maid up here for the past
half-hour.... I think there's only three or four between the
shoulder-blades--won't you do them for me?"

She backed up to him bewitchingly.... Mrs. Wordling was in the
twenty-nine period. If the thing can be imagined, she gave the
impression of being both voluptuous and athletic. There was a rose-dusk
tone under her healthy skin, where the neck went singing down to the
shoulder, singing of warm blood and plenteous. Hers was the mid-height
of woman, so that Bedient was amusedly conscious of the length of his
hands, as he stood off for a second surveying the work to do.

"What's the trouble; can't you?"

There was a purring tremble in her tone that stirred the wanderer, only
it was the past entirely that moved within him. The moment had little
more rousing for him, than if he were asked to fasten a child's
romper.... Yet he did not miss that here was one of the eternal types
of man's pursuit--as natural a man's woman as ever animated a roomful
of photographs--a woman who could love much, and, as Heine added,

"I'll just throw a shawl around, if you can't," she urged, nudging her

"Far too warm for shawls," he laughed. "I was only getting it straight
in my mind before beginning. You know it's tricksome for one accustomed
mainly to men's affairs.... There's one--I won't pinch--and the
second--anytime you can't find a maid, Mrs. Wordling--I'm in the Club a
good deal--there they are, if they don't fly open----" and his hands
fell with a pat on each of her shoulders.

Facing him, Mrs. Wordling encountered a perfectly unembarrassed young
man, and a calm depth of eye that seemed to have come and gone from her
world, and taken away nothing to remember that was wildly exciting....
At least three women of her acquaintance were raving about Andrew
Bedient, two artists with a madness for sub-surface matters having to
do with men. Mrs. Wordling believed herself a more finished artist in
these affairs. She wanted to prove this, while Bedient was the dominant
man-interest of the Club.

And now he surprised her. He was different from the man she had
pictured. Equally well, she could have located him--had he kissed her,
or appeared confused with embarrassment. Most men of her acquaintance
would have kissed her; others would have proved clumsy and abashed, but
none could have passed through the test she offered with both denial
and calm.... She wanted the interest of Bedient, because the other
women fancied him; she wanted to show them and "that hag, Kate Wilkes,"
what a man desires in a woman; and now a third reason evolved. Bedient
had proved to her something of a challenging sensation. He was
altogether too calm to be inexperienced. Every instinct had unerringly
informed her of his bounteous ardor, yet he had refrained. That which
she had seen first and last about him--the excellence of his masculine
attractions--had suddenly become important because no longer
impersonal. Mrs. Wordling was fully equipped to carry out her ideas.

"You did that very well," she said, dropping her eyes before his steady
gaze, "for one experienced only with men-matters. And now, I suppose
you want to know why I took the pains to ask you here; oh, no, not to
hook me up.... I didn't know you would get back so soon; I had just
left word a few moments before you came.... Wasn't it great the way a
dreadful disaster was averted at the _Hedda Gabler_ performance last
night?... Did you see the morning paper?"

"No," said Bedient. "I was out early."

"Why, it appears that after the explosion, when everyone was crushing
toward the doors, some man in the audience took the words of _Hedda_
and steadied the crowd with them, as men and women struggled in the
darkness.... 'Now's the time for vine-leaves!' he called out. An
unknown--wasn't he lovely?"

She placed the paper before him, and he read a really remarkable
account of "the vine-leaf man" magnetizing the mob and carrying out a
fainting girl. It was absurd to him, though Ibsen's subtlety, queerly
enough, gave the story force.... No face of the audience had impressed
him; none had appeared to notice him in the dark. He wondered how the
newspaper had obtained the account.... There was a light, quick knock
at the door.

"It isn't very often that a newspaper story is gotten up so
effectively," Mrs. Wordling was saying. Apparently she had not heard
the knock. Her voice, however, had fallen in a half-whisper, more
penetrating than her usual low tones. "Do you suppose the hero will
permit his name to be known?"

The knock was repeated in a brief, that-ends-it fashion. Mrs. Wordling
with a sudden streak of clumsiness half overturned a chair, as she sped
to the door. Bedient did not at once penetrate the entire manoeuver,
but his nerve and will tightened with a premonition of unpleasantness.

Beth Truba was admitted. Quite as he would have had her do, the artist
merely turned from one to the other a quick glance, and ignored the
matter; yet that glance had stamped him with her conception of his

"I could just as well have sent the poster over," Beth said, "but, as I
'phoned, it is well to see, if it suits exactly, before putting it out
of mind----"

"Lovely of you, dear. I'm so glad Mr. Bedient is here to see it!" Mrs.
Wordling's brown eyes swam with happiness.

Beth was in brown. Her profile was turned to Bedient, as she unrolled
the large, heavy paper.... The work was remarkable in its effect of
having been done in a sweep. The subtle and characteristic appeal of
the actress (so truly her own, that she would have been the last to
notice it) had been caught in truth and cleverly, the restlessness of
her empty arms and eager breast. The face was finer, and the curves of
the figure slightly lengthened; the whole in Beth's sweeping way,
rather masterful.

"Splendid!" Mrs. Wordling exclaimed, and to Bedient added: "It's for
the road. Isn't it a winner?"

"Yes, I do like it," Bedient said.

Beth was glad that he didn't enlarge.

"I must be on my way, then," she said. "I'm going into the country
to-morrow for the week-end.... We're getting the old house fixed up for
the winter. Mother writes that the repairs are on in full blast, and
that I'm needed. Last Saturday when I got there the plumbers had just
come. Very carefully they took out all the plumbing and laid it on the
front lawn; then put it back.... Good-by."

"Good-by, and thank you, Beth."

"I am glad that it pleases you, Mrs. Wordling." Her tone was pleasantly

Bedient missed nothing now. He did not blame Mrs. Wordling for using
him. He saw that she was out of her element with the others; therefore
not at her best trying to be one with them. In her little strategies,
she was quite true to herself. He could not be irritated, though he was
very sorry. Of course, there could be no explanation. His own innocence
was but a humorous aspect of the case. The trying part was that look in
Beth Truba's eyes, which told him how bored she was by this sort of

Then there was to-morrow and Sunday with her away. In her brown dress
and hat, glorious and away.

Bedient went away, too.



Beth Truba hadn't the gift of talking about the things that hurt her.
She had met all her conflicts in solitudes of her own finding; and
there they had been consummated, like certain processes of nature, far
from the gaze of man. She had found the world deranged from every
girlish ideal. Full grown young men could be so beautiful to her
artist's eyes, that years were required to realize that these splendid
exteriors held more often than not, little more than strutting
half-truths and athletic vanities.

Whistler, the master, had entered the class-room unannounced, where
Beth was studying, as a girl in Paris. Glancing about the walls, his
eyes fastened upon a sketch of hers. He asked the teacher for the pupil
who did it, and uplifted Beth's face to his, touching her chin and
forehead lightly.

Then he whistled and said: "Off hand, I should say that you are to
become an artist; but now that I look closely into your face, I am
afraid you will become a woman."

Tentatively, she was an artist; she would not grant more.... A little
while before, she had been very close to becoming a woman. None but the
Shadowy Sister knew how near. (The Shadowy Sister was an institution of
Beth's--her conscience, her spirit, her higher self, or all three in
one. She came from an old fairy-book. A little girl had longed for a
playmate, even as Beth, and one day beside a fountain appeared a
Shadowy Sister. She could stay a while, for she loved the little girl,
but confessed it was much happier where _she_ lived.)... Shadowy
Sisters for little girls who have no playmates, and for women who have
no confidantes.

Under Beth's mirth, during the recent talk with David Cairns, had been
much of verity. She was carrying an unhealed wound, which neither he
nor the world understood. In Andrew Bedient she had discerned a fine
and deeply-endowed nature--glimpses--as if he were some great woman's
gift to the world, her soul and all. But Beth's romantic nature had
been desolated so short a time ago, that she despised even her
willingness to put forth faith again.... Such fruit must perish on the
vine, if only common hands attend the harvest.

Women like Beth Truba learn in bitterness to protect themselves from
possibilities of disillusionment. They hate their hardness, yet
hardness is better than rebuilding sanctuaries that have been brutally
stormed. For one must build of faith, radium-rare to those who have
lost their intrinsic supply.

The Other Man had been a find of Beth's. He had come to her mother's
house years ago--a boy. He had seemed quick to learn the ways of real
people, and the things a man must know to delight a woman's
understanding. In so many ways, the finishing touches of manhood were
put upon him gracefully, that Beth gloried in the work of adding
treasures of mind and character. She had even made his place in the
world, through strong friends of her own winning.

Beth was a year or two older. The boy had grown splendid in appearance,
when she discovered she was giving him much that he must hold sacredly,
or inflict havoc upon the giver.... In moments when she was happiest,
there would come a thought that something would happen.... The young
man did not fully understand what caused the break. This may be the key
to the very limitation which made him impossible--this lack of delicacy
of perception. Certainly he did not know the greatness of Beth's
giving, nor the fineness she had come to expect from him.... She did
not exactly love him less, but rather as a mother than a maid, since
she had to forgive.

A woman may love a man whom she is too wise to marry. There are
man-comets, splendid, flashing, unsubstantial, who sweep into the zones
of attraction of all the planet sisterhood; but better, if one cannot
have a sun all to oneself, is a little cold moon for the companion
intimate.... Something that the young man had said or done was pure
disturbance to Beth, compatible with no system of development. She had
sent him from her, as one who had stood before her rooted among the

Only Beth knew the depth of the hurt. All the feminine of her had
turned to aching iron. The Shadowy Sister seemed riveted to a hideous
clanking thing, and all the dream-children crushed.

Her friends said: "Who would have thought that after making such a
_man_ of her protege, Beth would refuse to marry him? Ah, Beth loves
her pictures better than she could love any mere man. She was destined
to be true to her work. Only the great women are called upon to make
this choice. Nature keeps them virgin to reveal at the last unshadowed
beauty. This refusal is the signet of her greatness."

Beth heard a murmur of this talk and laughed bitterly.

"No," she said to her studio-walls. "It's only because Beth is a bit
choosey. She isn't a very great artist, and if she were, she wouldn't
hesitate to become Mrs. Right Man, though it made her falter forever,
eye and hand."

In her own heart, she would rather have had her visions of happiness in
children, than to paint the most exquisite flowers and faces in the
comprehension of Art.... For days, for weeks, she had remained in her
studio seeing no one. Some big work was rumored, and she was left alone
with understanding among real people, just as was Vina Nettleton....
But she was too maimed within to work. She wanted to rush off to Asia
somewhere, and bury herself alive, but pride kept her at home. As soon
as she was able to move and think coherently, she sought her few
friends again. Even her dearest, Vina Nettleton, had realized but a
tithe of the tragedy.

* * * * *

Beth Truba reached her studio again Monday noon. Among the letters in
her post-box, was one she felt instinctively to be from Andrew Bedient,
though it was post-marked Albany. She hesitated to open the letter at
first, for fear that he had attempted to explain his presence in Mrs.
Wordling's room. This would affix him eternally to commonness in her
mind. He had a right to go to Mrs. Wordling's room, but she had thought
him other than the sort which pursues such obvious attractions.
Especially after what Cairns had said, she was hurt to meet him
there.... Beth found herself thinking at a furious rate, on the mere
hazard that the letter was from Bedient....

Were there really such men in the world as the Bedient whom Cairns
pictured, and believed in? Personally, she didn't care to experiment,
but there was a strange reliance in the thought that there _were_ such
men.... The fine nature she wanted to believe in--wouldn't have
written!... This one letter alone remained unopened--when the telephone

It was Cairns, who inquired if she had heard aught of his friend.... "I
reached town Saturday morning," Cairns went on, "and found a note that
he would be away for the day and possibly Sunday; didn't say where nor
why. He left no word at the Club. In fact, Mrs. Wordling called me just
now to inquire, volunteering that Bedient had been in her world Friday.
Excuse me for bothering you. I've an idea this is his way when a gale
is blowing in his brain. He pushes out for solitude and sea-room."

Beth had not offered to assist. The Albany letter might not be his. It
stared at her now from the library-table, full-formed black writing.
There were no two ways about a single letter. It was the writing of a
man who had not covered continents of white paper. "Miss Beth Truba"
had been put there to stay, with a full pen, and as if pleasing to his
sight. She was thinking--it would be well if Mrs. Wordling were always
inquiring; and that the day would be spoiled if he had undertaken to
explain things in this letter....

Beth crossed to the table, placed the paper-cutter under the flap and
slit it across. Just at this moment, the door of the elevator-shaft
opened on her floor--and her knocker fell. She tossed the letter under
the leather cover of the table, and admitted Vina Nettleton.



A new light had come into the studio of Vina Nettleton; and only when
at last the light became too strong, and the struggle too close, had
she left it to seek her friend Beth Truba. She had not been sleeping,
nor remembering to eat; but she had been thinking enough for seven
artists, in the long hours, when the light was bad for work. And now
the packing was worn from her nerve-ends, so that she wept easily, like
a nervous child, or a man undone from drink.

The new force of Andrew Bedient had found in her a larger sensitiveness
than even in David Cairns. That long afternoon which he had spent in
her place of working and living was to her a visitation, high above the
years. She had been amazed at the Grey One, for preserving a semblance
of calm. The gratefulness that she had faltered was but a sign of what
she felt.

The figures of Jesus in her room, she had been unable to touch. Bedient
had made her see the _Godhood_ of the Christ. John the Baptist, who had
attained the apex of manhood and prophecy, had called himself unworthy
to loose the latchet of His shoes, and this before Jesus had put on the
glory of the Father.

All the others were amazingly nearer to her. She saw the bleak Iscariot
as never before, and his darkened mother emerged a step out of the
gloom of ages. The Romans moved, as upon a stage, before her, unlit
battling faces, clashing voices and armor; and the bearded Jews heavily
collecting and confuting. She saw the Eleven, and nearest the light,
the frail John, the brother of James,--sad young face and ascetic
pallor.... And in the night, she heard that great Voice crying in the
wilderness, that mighty Forerunner, the returned Elias; next to Christ
Himself, this Baptist, who leaped in the womb of the aged Elizabeth,
when the Mother of the Saviour entered her house in the hill country!
This cataclysmic figure, not of the "Stations," was dominant in the
background of them all. She saw him second to the Christ (for was he
not a prophet in the elder Scripture?) in being called to the Father's
Godhood; and Saint Paul, of that nameless thorn in the flesh, following
gloriously on the Rising Road!

There was a new and loving friendliness in the Marys. She could pray to
_them_, and wait for greater purity to image the Saviour, as they saw
Him.... And one night from her fire-frame, staring down into the lurid
precipices of the city, the awful question preyed upon her lips, "Are
you Jews and Romans that you must have again the blood of the Christ,
to show you the way to God?"... She was weeping, and would have
swooned, but something in her consciousness bade her look above. There
were the infinite worlds, immensities of time and space and evolving
souls; and urging, weaving, glorifying all, was the Holy Spirit, Mystic
Motherhood.... And back in the dark of her studio, she turned among
creations and visions and longings. Next morning she sat upon the floor
and wept, because she could not have her child of soul, only children
of clay.... Hours afterward she was fashioning a cross with her
fingers, and was suddenly crushed with anguish because she had not been
there to carry the cross for Him, to confront the soldiery and take the
cruel burden, and hear His Voice, Whom she knew now to be the Son of

* * * * *

The women embraced in that rare way which is neither formal nor an
affectation. They had long liked and admired each other.

"Why, Vina,--it has been weeks--how did you manage to leave?"

"I haven't done much--for days," Vina said, ducking from under her huge
hat, and tossing it with both hands upon the piano-top. "Not since he
came up with the Grey One and spoiled my little old ideas. Let's have
some tea?"

Beth laughed at the other, until Vina moved into the circle of light,
and her face showed paler and more transparent than ever. She sat down
upon Beth's working-stool, elbows on knees, and stared trance-like at
her friend.

"Why, you dear little dreamer, what's the matter?" Beth asked quickly.
"Who is the destructive _he_?"

"The sailor-man David Cairns called us together to see. He's been in
the shadows among the panels ever since. What he said I keep hearing
again and again----"

Beth laughed at the remarkable way Bedient was besieging her own
studio, without appearing in person. "But Vina, you've been living like
a Hindu holy man, and no one can do that in New York, not even Hindus.
I order you to eat thrice daily and tire yourself physically----"

"I eat," Vina said, looking bored and helpless at the thought. "I eat
and I do enough physical work to tire a stone-mason----"

"But I can see through you to the bone! I think you only imagine you
take nourishment. Oh, Vina, I know your life--handling huge hard things
and making them lovely with pure spirit. I must take better care of
you. Tell me all about it, if it will help."

"Beth, please don't talk about pure spirit, meaning me. I used to be
able to stand it, but not any more. The Grey One does that. I seem to
suggest it to flesh and blood people.... I'm sure he didn't see me so.
He looked at me, as if to say, oh, I don't know what!... I wish I
_were_ fish-cold! I'm all overturned.... I just met Mary McCullom on
the way over."

Beth had forgotten the name for the moment. She thought Vina was about
to tell her of Bedient.

"Don't you remember Mary McCullom, who tried painting for awhile,
painted one after another, discolored and shapeless children, wholly
bereft and unfortunate children?"

"Oh, yes," said Beth. "I heard she had married----"

"That's just it.... Do you remember how she used to look--pinched,
evaporated, as one looks in a factory blue-light? I remember calling
upon her, as she was giving up her last studio. We sat on a
packing-case, while they took out her pictures, one child after
another, foundlings which had come to her, and which no one would take
nor buy----"

"Vina, you're cruel to her!"

"Listen, and you'll see whom I'm cruel to.... I remember telling her
that day what a fearsome, ineffectual thing art is anyway.... How
spooky thin she looked, and her face was yellow in patches! My heart
was wrung with her, the image of a little woman with no place, no heart
to go to, all her dreams of girlhood turned to ghosts, fit only to run
from. Then she admitted that she might marry, that a man wanted her,
but her wail was that she was mean and helpless, a failure; as such it
was cowardly to let the man have her, hardly a square thing for a girl
to do. Well, I perked her up on that.... She took him; I don't even
know him by sight, but he's a man, Beth Truba! Mind you, here was a
woman who said she was so dismayed and distressed and generally bowled
over by living twenty-seven years, that she hadn't the heart left to
love anybody. But he took her, and he's a man----"

"That seems to charm you," Beth ventured. "'He took her, and he's a

"It does, for I just left her, and she's a wicked flaunt of womanly
happiness. I tell you, she has been playing with angels, all daintily
plumped out, eyes shining, hands soft and white, her neck all round and
new, lips red, and her voice low and ecstatic with the miracle of it
all. And 'Oh, Vina,' she whispered, 'I almost die to think I might have
refused him! You helped me not to. He loves me, and oh, he's so
wonderful!'... I kissed her in an awed way--and asked about him....
'Oh, he's just a nurseryman--trees, you know, but he lo--we're so
happy!'... Oh, Beth," Vina finished in a lowered voice, "something
eternal, something immortal happens, when a man brings love to a
thirsting woman!"

"Not tea, but strong tea," Beth observed. "Perhaps you think that's a
pretty story--and perhaps it is," she added indefinitely.

Vina seemed hardly to hear. Many matters were revolving in her tired
mind, and as soon as she caught a loose end, she allowed words to come,
for there was some relief in thinking aloud.

"Hasn't the world done for us perfectly, Beth?" she demanded finally.
"Everything is arranged for men, to suit men--it's a man's world--and
we're foreigners. We're forced to stand around and _mind_, before we
understand. If we speak our own language, we're suspected of sedition.
And then we don't stand together. We're continually looking for some
kind male native, and only now and then one of us is lucky.... Hideous
and false old shames are inflicted upon us. We are hungry for many
things, but appear shameless, if we say so... Beth, has it ever
occurred to you that we come--I mean fair and normal women--we come
from a country where there are lots of little children--?"

"The kingdom of heaven, you mean, Vina?"

"Possibly that's it. And when we get here we miss them--want them
terribly. It's all _through_ us--like an abstraction. We know the way
better than the natives here, but they have laws which make us
dependent upon them for the way.... It has not lifted to an abstraction
with our teachers, Beth. A crude concrete thing to them, a matter of
rules broken or not. We must submit, or remain lonely, reviled
foreigners.... Sometimes we discover a native who _could_ bring us back
our own, but he's probably teaching the nearest...."

"We've got to stand together, we foreigners," Beth said laughingly.
"All our different castes must stand together first--and keep the
natives waiting--until in their very eagerness, they suddenly perceive
that we know best----"

"It's not for us--that happy time," Vina added hopelessly. "We are the
sit-tight, hold-fast pilgrims. We belong to the clay-and-paint age----"

"It's something to see that----"

"Oh, how truly _he_ sees it!"

"Your Sailor-man, does he see that, too?"

"Has he been _seeing_ other things--in your studio?" Vina asked

"Oh, no, he hasn't been here, but he has been telling David Cairns
things about writing.... David has really been born again."

"Do you know, Beth," Vina declared with intensity, "he has been such an
inspiration to me, that I'm afraid my 'Stations' will look like a
repaired wall, half new and half old plaster."

"My work will stand an inspiration, too."



"You know what I think of your work, but I believe the Sailor-man could
give you that inspiration----"

"Perhaps I can get it through you and David Cairns," remarked Beth, who
was beginning to see, and with no little amazement, that to Vina the
inspiration was spiritual, impersonal. This made Bedient's influence
all the more exciting.

"Oh, he'll come to you, right enough. I supposed he had.... You know I
was making my James and Matthews, my Peters and Jews and Romans quite
contentedly in that bleak way it has been done a thousand times. But he
made me see them! And the slopes of Calvary, and Gethsemane hunched in
the darkness, and the Christ kneeling in a faint starry light; he made
me see Him kneeling there, His Spirit, like a great mother's loving
heart, standing between an angry Father and the world, a wilful

"Yes," came softly from Beth.

"And it's almost too much for me now--the Passion, the Agony, the Crime
and the Night--too much for me and clay. It would be, if it were not
for the glowing Marys. They're for _us_, Beth----"

"That's sweet of you, Vina.... It won't be too much. You're in the
reaction now. After that passes you will do the 'Stations' as they have
never been done. And God's poor people will pass before your work for
years and years to come; and something, as much as they can bear of the
thrilling anguish of this new light of yours, will come to them, as
they pray before the Eternal Tragedy."

"But that isn't all, Beth!... There's another; a terrible side. I sort
of had myself in hand until he came, sort of felt myself two thousand
years old, back among them. But he has made me a pitiful modern again,
a woman who has tried and refuses to try longer, to be happy with clay
dolls. And Mary McCullom----"

"Is submerged in tea--past resuscitation.... That modern madness will
pass, too, dear. 'Member how those Italian giants used to have periods
of madness while they decorated the everlasting cathedrals? No modern
man could come into your studio and break your work for long, Vina. You
know we promised each other that none could." Beth shivered at her
memory. Vina had made her forget for a moment.

"But we said in our haste then, that all men were just natives----"

"Many wise women say so at their leisure----"

"But Mary McCullom----"


"Well, then, _he_ made me see there were real men in the world," Vina
declared with slow defiance.


"You're sure to misunderstand. Please listen carefully. He is as far
_to me_--from being that kind of a real man--as a mere native. Do you
understand?... I could worship through him, as through a pure

"Vina, you're a passionate idealist!"

"You don't know him. I think he is beyond sex--or going beyond. Perhaps
he doesn't know it.... Oh, we've been hurt a little, by boys who failed
to grow into men, and so we took to our breasts painted and molded
images, saying there _are_ no real men. And here in our midst comes
more than we ask or dream--a Prophet in the making. That's very clear
to me, and you'll see it!... The result--a clearer vision into clay and
its possibilities, and an expanded conception of my subjects--that's
one point and a wonderful one. I'm grateful, but there's another....
Oh, Beth, I'm sick unto nausea with repression. Why, should I deny it;
I want a real lover among men, and I want live dolls!"

A trenchant moment to Beth Truba. No one, so well as she, could
perceive the tragedy of this gifted woman, whom the right man had
missed in the crush of the world's women. A real artist, but a greater
woman.... More than this was revealed to Beth. Her own Shadowy Sister
was speaking to her with Vina Nettleton's tongue, as Beth Truba could
never speak of another...

The Grey One, too, had her tragedy; and Kate Wilkes had hers long ago,
a strong woman, whose cup of bitterness had overflowed in her veins;
who had come so to despise men, as to profess disliking children.
Indeed, that moment, Beth Truba seemed to hear the whispered
affirmations of tragedy from evolved women everywhere....And whither
was tending the race, if only the Wordlings of the world were to be
satisfied--if Wordlings were all that men cared for? What was to become
of the race, if the few women who loved art, and through art learned
really to love their kind, were forever to be denied? And here was Vina
Nettleton with the spiritual power to concentrate her dream into an
avatar (if into the midst of her solitary labors, a great man's love
should suddenly come)!... Did the Destiny Master fall asleep for a
century at a time, that such a genius for motherhood should be denied,
while the earth was being replenished with children of chance, branded
with commonness and forever afraid?

Beth Truba shook herself from this crippling rush of thoughts, and
started to her feet.

"Vina, you've been drinking deep of power. You're a giantess reeking
with mad contagions. Also, you're a heretic. Allow me to remind you
that we are spinsters; born and enforced, and decently-to-be-buried
_spinsters_. It isn't the Sailor-man, but the spring of the year, that
makes us a bit feverish. We should go to the catacombs for this season,
when this devil's rousing is in the air.... If you have anything
further to say, purely in regard to artistic inspirations, you may go

Vina sat rigidly before her, wan and white-lipped as if her emotions
were burned out. Presently she began to talk again in her trailing
pensive way:

"I had been working deep and doggedly for days, hardly noticing who
came in or out. When the Grey One entered with him, I felt myself
bobbing, whirling up into light surface water. I hardly spoke the first
half hour. I remembered the night before, when he told that fine story
straight into your eyes. I thought him wonderful then, and it occurred
to me that you were in for it. But it was different when he came into
my shop--something intimate and important. His eyes roved from one
'Station' to another, while the Grey One exploited me in her absurd,
selfless fashion. She's a third in our trouble Beth.

"Presently he asked me how I knew the Christ had such wonderful hands;
then he talked of the Forerunner and Saint Paul, who could have done so
much, had they been there during the Passion, and of the women who
_were_ there. It was strange to have him come into the studio--to
me--with all these pictures developed through silent years. It seems to
me something tremendous must come of it... Someone knocked, and
frenziedly I ordered the intruder away, without opening the door."

And now Vina repeated the belief of Bedient that impressed her so
deeply: that the Holy Spirit is the source of the divine principle in
woman; that the Marys of this world are the symbols of that Mystic
Motherhood--the third of the Trinity--which will bring the races of the
world to God, as a woman brings children to her husband.

"Everything he said glowed with this message," she went on. "His every
thought brought out that women are the holders of the spiritual loaf;
that prophets are the sons of strength of great spiritual mothers; that
artists and poets are prophets in the making, and that unto the purest
and greatest of the prophets must come at last Godhood--the Three in
One; and of this Jesus is the Exemplar; His life and death and rising,
His whole Mission, should make us see with _human_ eyes, the Way of

"I see, dear girl," Beth said softly, "_why_ you could not open the
door to anyone... Then the, Mission of Jesus was vicarious? I had about
given up hope of comprehending that."

"Yes. He lived and moved and bled and died and rose before the eyes of
common men!" Vina exclaimed. "One has to _bleed_ for such eyes! Without
the living sacrifice, only the rare souls here and there, with the
highest prophetic vision, could have risen clearly to understand these
things.... Thus the growth of spirituality was quickened among the
lowly multitudes. The coming of the Christ is the loveliest
manifestation of the divine feminine principle within Him--the Holy
Spirit. Did he not become a Spiritual Mother of the world? Was not
Godhood the next step for such a finished Spirit? His awful agony was
that these tremendous mysteries of His illumination were enacted in the
hideous low pressures of human understanding. That he could endure this
for the world's eye, is his greatness, his Godhood!"

"And Mr. Bedient comes out of India with this Christian conception?"

"Beth," Vina said solemnly, "I believe there is meaning in that, too.
The beauty and simplicity of that Sacrifice has been husked in dogmas
for centuries, and we here have not torn them all away. He had just the
Book and the Silence, and his own rare mind!"

* * * * *

"But, Vina, how could these things of pure religious fervor and beauty
bring about that other rebellion of yours--the Mary McCullom one?"

"Oh, in a hundred ways; I'm all tired out now, but they'll come back.
In a hundred ways, Beth, he spoke of women--with that same fervor and
beauty. Just as he cleared and made exalted the Mystic Motherhood of
the Christ, he pointed out how it works among _us_. Why, he says that
there is nothing worth reading nor regarding nor listening to in the
world of art, that has not that visioning feminine quality. The artist
must be evolving through spirit, before his book or painting or
symphony begins to live. All the rest of art is a mere squabbling over
the letter of past prophecies, as the Jews did with the living Christ
in their streets!... What a mother he must have had! I seemed to see
her--to sense her--beside him. It was as if _she_ looked into my heart
and the Grey One's heart, and with her hand on her big boy's head, said
to us, smiling and happily: 'This is _my_ art--and he lives! You have
but to look into your own hearts, you listening women, to know that he
lives!'... Oh, Beth, her work does live to bless her! Can't you see how
dead-cold the clay felt to my fingers after that?"

"Did he speak of his mother?"


Beth arose. "Vina," she said, "we are absolutely detached from the
centres of sanity. We shall now walk Broadway, not the Avenue, but
Broadway, to get back to markets and mere men. You're too powerful for
this poor little room----"

"You always talk and laugh, Beth, but you're confronted and you know
it. Confronted--that's the thing! Woman or artist--there's no word so
naked and empty to me as just _artist_----"

"Only _spinster_," Beth suggested, shivering.

Vina stretched out her frail arms wearily, and her eyes suddenly
fastened upon a fresh heather-plant on the corner of the writing-table.
"Oh, please, drop a veil over that little bush," she pleaded. "It's
arrayed like a bride----"

"A bridal veil, dear?"

"'No, no, a shawl, a rug!"

* * * * *

Beth returned alone at dusk. In some ways the afternoon was memorable.
It was hard for her to keep her doubts about Bedient. Most of all that
impressed her was Vina's sense of the mother's nearness to the man. She
had thought of that at once, as she listened to his story. And he had
not told Vina nor the Grey One about his mother... She sat down at her
table and drew forth the opened but unread letter from Albany.

"Woman or artist," she whispered bitterly, "as if one could not be
both!...It is only because a woman-and-artist requires a man who can
love artistically. Few men can do that--and anything else beside....
Can you, Sailor-man?... Not if you explain to me why I found you at
Wordling's.... Perhaps I can forgive you, after all the lovely things
you've said. Anyway I shall tell no one...."

"Dear Miss Truba: I want to have a portrait painted of myself. I'm
convinced that you can do it very well. Will you undertake the work? I
shall be back in New York shortly after this letter reaches you Monday,
and will wait at the Club until I hear from you. Yours, Andrew

There was an instant in which she was conscious of something militant,
something of the quiet power of the man who does not go home
empty-handed. In his leaving the city Saturday, she perceived one who
wishes to avoid the appearance of evil, and is content to leave his
movements unexplained, trusting to another's perception.

"Vina is right," she said slowly. "'Confronted' is the word."



Andrew Bedient had entered the company of lovers.... There have been
great lovers who were not otherwise great men, but never a great man
who was not a great lover.... On the night he had first seen Beth Truba
across the table, deep within there had been a swift ignition of
altar-flames that would never cease to burn. Often in his reading and
thinking, in pictures he had seen, and in his limited adventures into
music; wherever, in fact, man had done well in the arts, the vision of
some great woman was behind the work for his eyes; famous and lovely
women long-dead, whose kisses are imperishable in tone or pigment or
tale; women who called to themselves for a little space the big-souled
men of their time, and sent them away illustrious. And these men
forever afterward brought their art to witness that such women are the
way to the Way of Life.

Bedient had rejoiced to discover the two women in every great man's
life: the woman who visioned his greatness in the mothering; and the
woman who saw it potentially afterward--and ignited it. How often the
latter loosed a landslide of love at the ignition, and how seldom she
stepped aside to let it pass!

All this thinking for years upon the beauty and fineness of women was
focussed now.... The depth of his humility, and the vastness of his
appreciation were the essential beginnings of the love of this hour,
just as they would be, if he were ready to perform some great creative
expression in art. The boyhood of a genius is a wild turning from one
passionate adoration to another among the masters of his art; often his
gift of appreciation is a generation ahead of his capacity to produce.
And love is the genius of mothering, the greatest of all the arts. The
love that a man inspires in a woman's heart is _her_ expression of the
Holy Spirit. According to the degree and beauty of that love, does the
woman's child lift its head above the brute; according to the greater
or lesser expression of this Mystic Motherhood in the world, at a
certain hour, must be determined the morality of the race.

A fortnight in New York had terrorized Bedient. He perceived that men
had not humility, nor passionate appreciation for anything; that they
were dazed with their own or other men's accumulations; that they
destroyed every dream of woman, drove the kingdom of heaven from her
heart, with their comings and their goings and their commonness. He
came to believe that this was an age of impossible men, impossible
lovers, artists, and critics, because they had not the delicacy and
wisdom to accept the finer forces, which women bring into the world for

Indeed, he saw that this was woman's gray hour of restless hoping,
pitiful dreaming and untellable pain; that out of these must come the
new generation. Then it appeared to him with splendid cheer, that woman
had not fallen to these modern miseries, but _risen_ to them, from a
millenium of serfdom, untimely outraging, hideous momentary loving,
brute mastery, ownership and drudgery.... These of to-day were finer
sufferings; this an age of transition in which she was passing through
valleys of terrible shadow, but having preserved her natural greatness
through the milleniums, she could not fail now with her poor gleanings
of real love to give the world a generation of finer-grained men.

Women, then, he thought, have a natural greatness which man cannot
destroy. If men were able to destroy it, the sources of the saving
principle of the race would be shut off. But marvellously can man
_inspire_ this natural greatness, make it immense and world-swaying by
bringing out the best of women, and yet how few have this chivalry!
Here was the anguish, the failure. With his mind filled with these
illimitable possibilities, Bedient was overcome with his insight of New
York, the awfulness of ignorance and cruelty in the ordinary relations
of man with woman.

Bedient firmly believed that if women were granted (a heavenly
dispensation, it would have to be) a decade of happiness beginning now,
a decade of lovers of their own choosing, men of delicacy and wisdom,
that thirty years from now there would be that poise and sweetness in
the world that dreamers descry in far future ages. And here and there
would be a beyond-man, indeed; and here and there cosmic, instead of
mere self-consciousness.

He believed that the greatest miracle for the unsealed eye in this day,
was that woman had emerged from a degraded past with this powerful
present vitality; the capacity to hope and dream and suffer and be
aroused; that she had the fervor and power of visioning _left_ to be
aroused! Surely this was the Third of the Trinity sustaining her....
Bedient began to study with sympathy and regard those groups of women,
willing to sacrifice the best of their natures and descend into man's
spheres of action, there to wring from man on his own ground the
privileges so doggedly withheld. He saw that their sacrifice was
heroic; that their cause was "in the air"; that this was but one
startling manifestation of a great feminist seething over the world;
and yet every brightness of evolution depended, as he saw it, upon
woman being herself, retaining first of all those stores of beauty and
spirit which are designed to be her gifts to manhood and the race. In
the eyes of the future, he believed, these women would stand as the
inspired pioneers of a rending transition period.

The note that came from Beth Truba, saying that she would see him about
the portrait at two on Tuesday, Bedient regarded as one of the happiest
things that ever befell. It was delivered at the Club by messenger that
Monday night. Very well he knew, that she gracefully might have
declined, and would have, had she not been able to look above a certain
misleading event.

There were moments in which he seemed always to have known Beth Truba.
Had he come back after long world-straying?

There was a painting of Bernhardt in an upper gallery at the Club, that
he had regarded with no little emotion during past days. The face of
the greatest actress, so intensely feminine, in strangely effective
profile between a white feathery collar and a white fur hat, had made
him think of Beth Truba in a score of subtle ways. They told him that
the painting had been done by a young Italian, who had shown the good
taste to worship the creator of _La Samaritaine_.... Bedient wished he
could paint the russet-gold hair and the lustrous pallor of ivory which
shone from Beth's skin, and put upon the canvas at the last, what had
been a revelation to him, and which had carried credentials to the
Bedient throne, to the very crown-cabinet of his empire, the fine and
enduring spirit in her brilliant eyes.

They met in the studio on the business basis. It was a gray day, one of
those soft, misty, growing days. She was a trifle taller than he had
thought. Something of the world-habit was about her, or world-wear, a
professionalism that work had taught her, and a bit of humor now and
then. The studio was filled with pictures, many studies of her own,
bits of Paris and Florence, many flowers and heads. There was one door
which opened into a little white room. The door was only partly open,
and it was shut altogether presently. Bedient had only looked _within_
it once, but reverently. Besides, there was a screen which covered an
arcanum, from which tea and cakes and sandwiches came on occasion. An
upright piano, some shelves of books, an old-fashioned mantle and
fire-place; and the rest--pictures and yellow-brown hangings and
lounges. He wondered if anyone ever saw Beth's pictures so deeply as
he.... She was in her blouse. The gray light subdued the richness of
her hair, but made her pallor more luminous. She was very swift and
still in her own house.

A chair was placed for him, and Beth went back to her stool under the
light. Occasionally she asked him to look at certain pictures in her
room, studying him as he turned. She told him of adorable springtimes
in Florence; how once she had asked a beautiful Italian peasant boy to
help her with an easel, and some other matters, up a long flight of
marble steps, and he had answered, with drowsy gentleness, "Please ask
another boy, Signorina. I have dined to-day."... And Bedient watched,
when her head was bowed over the board upon her knee. Her hair, so
wonderful now in the shadows, made amazing promises for sunlit days.
Uncommon energy was in his heart, and a buoyant activity of mind that
formed, one after another, ideals for her happiness.

"Yesterday at this time," she said finally, "Vina Nettleton was here.
She spoke of your great help in her work----"

"Her studio was thrilling to me.... Altogether, getting back to New
York has been my greatest experience."

"You have been away very long?"

"So long that I don't remember leaving, nor anything about it, except
the boats and whistles, the elevated railways and the Park, and certain
strains of music. I remember seeing the animals, and the hall of that

"Where the light frightened you?"

"Yes. And I remember the bees.... I have ridden through and about the
Park several times, but I can't seem to get anything back. I felt like
asking questions, as I did long ago, of my mother."

Beth wanted to tell him that she would ride with him sometime and
answer questions, but he seemed very near the deep places, and she
dared not urge nor interrupt.

"It was very clear to me then, that we needed each other," he added. "A
child knows that. She must have answered all the questions in the
world, for I was always satisfied. I wonder that she had time to think
about her own things.... Isn't it remarkable, and I don't remember
anything she said?"

Bedient seemed to be thinking aloud, as if this were the right place to
talk of these things. They had been in the foreground of his mind
continually, but never uttered before.

"It was always above words--our relation," he went on presently.
"Though we must have talked and talked--it is not the words I
remember--but realizations of truth which came to me afterward, from
them. What a place for a little boy's hand to be!...

"I remember the long voyage, and she was always near. There were many
strange things--far too strange to remember; and then, the sick room.
She was a long time there. I could not be with her as much as I wanted.
It was very miserable all around, though it seems the people were not
unkind. They must have been very poor. And then, one night I knew that
my mother was going to die. I could not move, when this came to me. I
tried not to breathe, tried to die too; and some one came in and shook
me, and it was all red about my eyes.

"They took me to her, but I couldn't tell what I knew, though she saw
it. And this I remember, though it was in the dark. The others were
sent away, and she made a place for me on her arm, and she laughed, and
whispered and whispered. Why, she made me over that night on her arm!

"She must have whispered it a thousand times--so it left a lasting
impression. Though I could not always see her, _she would always be
near_! That remains from the night, though none of the words ever came
back. I never lost that, and it was true.... Do you see how great she
was to laugh that night?... And how she had to struggle to leave that
message on such a little boy's mind?... More wonderful and wonderful it
becomes, as I grow older. She was dying, and we had been such dependent
lovers. She was not leaving me, as it _had_ been with us, nor in any
way as she liked....

"She must have grappled with all the forces that drive the world that
night!... First, I was happy on her arm--and then, through the long
hours, and mysteriously, she implanted her message.... And see what
came of it--see her strength! The actual parting was not so
terrible--she had builded a fortress around me against that--not so
terrible as the hours before, when I tried not to breathe."

Beth did not raise her eyes as he paused. She could not speak. The
little boy had come home to her mind--like a wraith-child of her own.
She was shaken with a passion of pity.

"It seems it was meant for me to stay in that house, but I couldn't,"
Bedient went on. "They probably bothered a great deal after I stole
away, and tried to find me. But they didn't.... And I went down where
there were ships. I think the ships fascinated me, because _we_ had
come on one. I slipped aboard, and fell asleep below. The sailors found
me after we had cleared. They were very good, and called me 'Handy.'...
I think my mother must have taught me my letters, for when an old
sailor, with rings in his ears, pointed out to me the name of the ship
on the jolly-boat, the letters came back to me. I was soon reading the
Bible. That was the book I cut my teeth on, as they say.... And one
time, as we were leaving port, I thought I had better have a name. One
of the men had asked me, you see, and I was only able to say, 'Handy.'
And just then, we passed an old low schooner. She had three masts; her
planking was gray and weathered, and her seams gaped. On her stern, I
saw in faded sprawly letters, that had been black:


"Of--somewhere, I couldn't make out. So I took that for my name. It
fitted 'Handy' and the little boy's idea of bigness and actuality,
because I had seen it in print.... I never saw the old schooner again.
I don't know the port in which she lay at the time; nor the port where
my mother died. You see, I was very little.... Everyone was good to me.
And it is true that my mother was near.... There were places and times
that must have put dull care into her eyes, but she was the true
sentry. I only _knew_ when I was asleep."

It was beautiful to Beth, the way he spoke. His heart seemed to say,
"God love her!" with every sentence.

Her lips breathed the words, her eyes had long questioned:

"And your father?"

The room suddenly filled with her fateful words.

"My father?" he repeated. "He was never with my mother. I did not
understand until long afterward, but she meant me to understand--that
she was not married. She impressed it upon my consciousness _for_ me to
understand--when I was older."

Beth could have knelt in her humility that moment.

"Please forgive me for asking," she faltered.

"It was right. I intended to tell you."

Some strange, sustaining atmosphere came from him. His words lifted
her. Beth saw upon his brow and face the poise and fineness of a
love-child.... With all the mother's giving there had been no name for
him; and he had told her with all the ease and grace of one who knows
in his heart--a mother's purity of soul.... It was hard for Beth to
realize, with Bedient sitting there, that the world makes tragic
secrets of these things he had told her; that lives of lesser men have
been ruined with the fear of such discoveries.... Nothing of so intense
and intimate appeal had ever come to her studio, as the heroism of this
mother, impressing upon her tortured and desperate child, that though
taken from him, she would be near always.... The sensitive Vina had
seemed to see the mother _near_ him, her hand upon his head, saying
with a laugh, "This is my Art--and he _lives_!"

Beth spoke at last: "You honor me, Mr. Bedient, in telling me these
deep things."

"This seemed the place," he said, leaning forward. "It's extraordinary
when I recall I have only been here an hour or so. It would seem absurd
to some women, but the story knew where it belonged.... In fact, it is
hard for me to remember that this is our first talk alone.... Perhaps
you should know, that I've never spoken of my mother to anyone else....
I never could find the port where she died."

They learned that they could be silent together.... Beth knew that she
would have extended conference with the Shadowy Sister when alone. Big
things were enacting in the depths. There was another thing that Vina
had said regarding the appeal of Bedient personally to her, which
required much understanding.... Beth had found herself thinking (in
Bedient's presence) that she might have been hasty and imperious in
sending the Other away. She had been rather proud of her iron courage
up to this hour. Of course, it was ridiculous that Bedient should
recall the Other, and after months suggest her unreasonableness; yet
these things recurred.... Moreover, a moment after Bedient's entering,
there had been no embarrassment between them. Not only had they dared
be silent, but they had not tried each other out tentatively by talking
about people they knew. Then he had said it was hard for him to
remember this was their first talk together alone. Beth realized that
here was a subject who would not bore her before his portrait was

"Does David Cairns know Miss Nettleton very well?" Bedient asked, as he
was leaving.

She smiled at the question, and was about to reply that they had been
right good friends for years, when it occurred that he might have a
deeper meaning.

Bedient resumed while she was thinking: "I know that he admires her
work and intelligence, but he never spoke to me of any further
discoveries. Perhaps he wouldn't.... He's a singularly fine chap, finer
than I knew.... I noticed a short essay in your stand that contains a
sentence I cannot forget. It was about a rare man who 'stooped and
picked up a fair-coined soul that lay rusting in a pool of tears.'"

"Browning," she said excitedly.

"Yes.... Good-by and thank you.... To-morrow?"


* * * * *

He left her in the whirl of this new conception. She was taking dinner
with David Cairns that night. David, she felt, had arranged this for
further urging in the matter of her seeing his friend. And now she
smiled at the surprise in store for him; then for a long time, until
the yellows and browns were thickly shadowed about her, Beth sat very
still, thinking about the Vina Nettleton of yesterday, and the altered
and humble David Cairns of the past fortnight.... In the single saying
of Bedient's, that he had found Cairns finer than he knew, there was a
remarkable, winsome quality for her perception. Bedient had started the
revolution which was clearing the inner atmospheres of his friend; and
yet, he refused any part.

David took her for dinner to a club far down-town--a dining-room on the
twentieth floor, overlooking the rivers and the bay, the shipping and
the far shores pointed off with lights.... They waited by a window in
the main hall for a moment while a smaller room was being arranged.
Forty or more business men were banqueting in a glare of light and
glass and red roses--a commercial dinner with speeches. The talk had to
do with earnings, per cents, leakages, markets and such matters. The
lower lid of many an eye was updrawn in calculation.

Beth shivered, for she saw avarice, cunning, bluff, campaigning with
humor and natural forces. "The starry night and the majestic rivers
might just as well be plaster-walls," she whispered. "What terrible
occupations are these to make our brothers so dull, bald and

"It's their art," said Cairns. "They start in merrily enough, but it's
a fight out in the centre of the current. You see them all of one
genial dining-countenance, yet this day they fought each other in the
streets below, and to-morrow again.... It's not only the sweep of the
current, but each other, they have to fight.... Oh, it's very easy for
an artist to look and feel superior, Beth, but we know very well how
much is sordid routine in our own decenter games--and suppose we had
been called to money-making instead. It would catch us young, and we'd
either harden or fail."

... They were taken to a place of stillness and the night-view was
restoring.... Though Cairns had just left Bedient, he had not been told
about the portrait nor the first sitting. Beth wondered if Bedient
foresaw that she would appreciate this. She was getting so that she
could believe anything of the Wanderer. For a long time they talked
about him.... Cairns already was emerging from the miseries of
reaction; new ways of work had opened; he was fired with fresh growth
and delights of service. Beth was charmed with him.... At last she

"Nor has Mr. Bedient missed those rare and subtle things which make
Vina Nettleton the most important woman of my acquaintance."

The sentence was a studied challenge.

"You mean in her work?" he said, under the first spur.

"Did I say _artist_? I meant woman--'most important woman'----"

"That's what you said."

"Yes, I thought so----" Beth shaded the interior light from her eyes to
regard the night through the open window. "It was misty gray all day,
and yet it is clear now as a summer night."

"And so Bedient sees more than a remarkable artist in Vina?" Cairns

"That much is for the world to see.... Why, those dollar-eating
gentlemen in the big room could see that, if they interested themselves
in her kind of work. But they are not trained to know real women. Their
work keeps them from knowing such things. When they marry a real woman,
it's an accident, largely. A diadem of paste would have caught their
eyes quite as quickly. Sometimes I think they prefer paste jewels....
Only here and there a man of deep discernment reads the truth--and is
held by it. What a fortune is that discernment! A woman may well
tremble before that kind of vision, for it is her own, empowered with a
man's understanding----"

"Why, Beth, that's Bedient's mind exactly!" Cairns exclaimed. "A
woman's vision of the finest sort, empowered with a man's

"Of the finest sort," Beth finished laughingly. "By the way, that's a
good definition of a prophet, isn't it?"

"It does work out," he said, thinking hard.

Beth observed with interest at this point, that Bedient had confined
his discussion of the visioning feminine principle to Vina. There were
several approaches to his elevation.

"How glorious it is to see things, David!" she exclaimed happily. "Even
to see things after they are pointed out. And you--I'm really so glad
about you! You're coming along so finely, and putting away boyish

She reached across the table and dropped her hand upon his sleeve.

"It's so tonic and bracing to watch one's friend burst into bloom!... I
needed the stimulus, too. You are helping me."

It was Cairns' turn to shade his eyes for a clearer view of the night.



David Cairns left Beth at her elevator, and walked down the Avenue
toward Gramercy. It was still an hour from midnight. As he had hoped,
Bedient was at the Club. The library was deserted, and they sat down in
the big chairs by the open window. The only lights in the large room
were those on the reading table. The quiet was actually interesting for
down-town New York.

"I've been out hunting up music," Bedient said. "There is a place
called the _Columbine_ where you eat and drink; and a little Hungarian
violinist there with his daughter--surely they can't know how great
they are! He played the _Kreutzer Sonata_, the daughter accompanying as
if it were all in the piano, and she just let it out for fun, and then
they played it again for me--"

Cairns laughed at his joy. Bedient suddenly leaned forward and regarded
him intently through the vague light. "David," he said, "you're looking
fit and happy, and I'm very glad to see you." This was a way of
Bedient's at unexpected moments.... "Do you know, it's a marvellous
life you live," he went on, "looking inward upon the great universe of
ideas constantly, balancing thought against thought, seeking the best
vehicle, and weighing the effects--for or against the Ultimate

"It appears that you had to come up here--to show me----"

"It's good of you to say so, David, but you had to be Cairns and not
New York! A woman would have shown you----"

Cairns had met before, in various ways, Bedient's unwillingness to
identify himself with results of his own bringing about. Beth had long
realized his immaturity, yet she had not spoken. Cairns saw this now.

"A woman would have shown me----?" he repeated.

"That the way to heaven is always against the crowd," Bedient
finished.... "A few days after I came to New York, you joined me at the
Club. You said you couldn't work; that you found your mind stealing
away from the pages before you. I knew you were getting closer to real
work then. David, when you find yourself stealing mentally away to
follow some pale vision or shade of remembrance, don't jerk up,
thinking you must get back to work. Why, you're nearer real work in
following the phantoms than mere gray matter ever will unfold for you.
Creating is a process of the depths; the brain is but the surface of
the instrument that produces. How wearisome music would be, if we knew
only the major key! How terrible would be sunlight, if there were no
night! Out of darkness and the deep minor keys of the soul come those
utterances vast and flexible enough to contain reality."

"Why don't you write, Andrew?" Cairns asked.

"New York has brought one thought to my mind with such intensity, that
all others seem to have dropped back into the melting-pot," Bedient

"And that one?"

"The needs of women."

"I have heard your tributes to women----"

"I have uttered no tributes to women, David!" Bedient said, with
uncommon zeal. "Women want no tributes; they want truth.... The man who
can restore to woman those beauties of consciousness which belong to
her--which men have made her forget--just a knowledge of her
incomparable importance to the race, to the world, to the kingdom of
heaven--and help woman to make men see it; in a word, David, the man
who can make men see what women are, will perform in this rousing hour
of the world--the greatest good of his time!"

"Go on, it is for me to listen!"

"You can break the statement up into a thousand signs and reasons,"
said Bedient. "We hear such wonderful things about America in Asia--in
India. Waiting for a ship in Calcutta, I saw a picture-show for the
first time. It ran for a half hour, showing the sufferings of a poor
Hindu buffeted around the world--a long, dreary portion of starvation,
imprisonment and pain. The dramatic climax lifted me from the chair. It
was his heaven and happiness. His stormy passage was ended. I saw him
standing in the rain among the steerage passengers of an Atlantic
steamer--and suddenly through the gray rushing clouds, appeared the
Goddess of Liberty. He had come home at last--to a port of freedom and
peace and equality----"

"God have mercy on him," murmured Cairns.

"Yes," said Bedient, "a poor little shaking picture show, and I wept
like a boy in the dark. It was my New York, too.... But we shall be
that--all that the world in its distress and darkness thinks of us, we
must be. You know a man is at his best with those who think highly of
him. The great world-good must come out of America, for its bones still
bend, its sutures are not closed.... You and I spent our early years
afield with troops and wars, before we were adult enough to perceive
the bigger conflict--the sex conflict. This is on, David. It must clear
the atmosphere before men and women realize that their interests are
_one_; that neither can rise by holding down the other; that the
present relations of men and women, broadly speaking, are false to
themselves, to each other, and crippling to the morality and vitality
of the race.

"You have seen it, for it is about you. The heart of woman to-day is
kept in a half-starved state. That's why so many women run to cultists
and false prophets and devourers, who preach a heaven of the senses. In
another way, the race is sustaining a tragic loss. Look at the young
women from the wisest homes--the finest flower of young womanhood--our
fairest chance for sons of strength. How few of them marry! I tell you,
David, they are afraid. They prefer to accept the bitter alternative of
spinsterhood, rather than the degrading sense of being less a partner
than a property. They see that men are not grown, except physically.
They suffer, unmated, and the tragedy lies in the leakage of genius
from the race."

Cairns' mind moved swiftly from one to another of the five women he had
called together to meet his friend.

"David," Bedient added after a moment, "the man who does the great
good, must do it _through_ women, for women are listening to-day! Men
are down in the clatter--examining, analyzing, bartering. The man with
a message must drive it home through women! If it is a true message,
they will _feel_ it. Women do not analyze, they realize. When women
realize their incomparable importance, that they are identified with
everything lovely and of good report under the sun, they will not throw
themselves and their gifts away. First, they will stand together--a
hard thing for women, whose great love pours out so eagerly to
man--stand together and demand of men, Manliness. Women will learn to
withhold themselves where manliness is not, as the flower of young
womanhood is doing to-day.... I tell you, David, woman can make of man
anything she wills--by withholding herself from him.... _Through his
desire for her_!... This is her Power. This is all in man that
electricity is in Nature--a measureless, colossal force. Mastering that
(and to woman alone is the mastery), she can light the world. Giving
away to it ignorantly, she destroys herself."

... So much was but a beginning. Their talk that night was all that the
old Luzon nights had promised, which was a great deal, indeed.... It
was not until Cairns was walking home, that he recalled his first idea
in looking in upon Bedient that night--a sort of hope that his friend
would talk about Vina Nettleton in the way Beth had suggested. "How
absurd," he thought, "that is exactly the sort of thing he would leave
for me to find out!"



New York had brought Andrew Bedient rather marvellously into his own.
He awoke each morning with a ruling thought. He lived in a state of
continual transport; he saw all that was savage in his race, and missed
little that was beautiful. Work was forming within him; he felt all the
inspiritings, all the strange pressures of his long preparation. He
realized that his thirty-three years had been full years; that all the
main exteriors of man's life had passed before him in swift review, as
a human babe in embryo takes on from time to time the forms of the
great stations of evolution. He had passed without temptation from one
to another of the vast traps which catch the multitude; nor tarried at
a single one of the poisoned oasis of sense. Mother Earth had taken him
to her breast; India had lulled his body and awakened his spirit; he
had gone up to his Sinai there.

He looked back upon the several crises in which he might have faltered,
and truly it seemed to him that he had been guided through these, by
some wiser spirit, by something of larger vision, at least, than his
own intelligence. Humility and thankfulness became resurgent at the
memory of these times. Books of beauty and wisdom had come to his hand,
it seemed, at the certain particular instants when he was ready.
Exactly as he had been spared the terrible temptations of flesh in his
boyhood years, so had he preserved a humble spirit in his intellectual
attainments. It was not he, but the poise that had been given him,
through which he was enabled to cry out in gratitude this hour; for the
soul of man meets a deadlier dragon in intellectual arrogance than in
the foulest pits of flesh. The Destiny Master can smile in pity at a
poor brain, brutalized through bodily lusts, but white with anger is
the countenance that regards a spirit, maimed and sick from being yoked
together with a proud mind. Angels burst into singing when that spirit
is free.

His health was a perfect thing; of that kind that men dream of, and
boys know, but do not stop to feel. He could smell the freshness of
pure water in his bath or when he drank; there was delight in the taste
of common foods; at night in his high room, higher still than the
studio of Vina Nettleton, there were moments when the land-wind seemed
to bring delicacies from the spring meadows of Jersey; or blowing from
the sea, he sensed the great sterile open. He was tireless, and could
discern the finest prints and weaves at bad angles of light.

He moved often along the water-fronts and through abandoned districts;
a curious sense of unreality often came over him in these night
rambles, as if he were tranced among the perversions of astral light.
He gave a great deal, but saw that if he gave his life nightly, even
that would not avail. His money was easily passed into another hand;
that would not do--little vessels of oil overturned upon an Atlantic of
storm. These were but tentative givings; they denied him nothing.
Bedient saw that he must give more than this, and waited for the
way.... The most poignant and heart-wringing experience for him in New
York was suddenly to find himself in the midst of the harried human
herd, when it was trying to play. One can best read a city's tragedy at
its pleasure-places.

...Beth Truba was his great ignition. His love for her overflowed upon
all things.... The hour or more in her studio became the feature of his
day. Bedient was not shown the work on the portrait. Beth didn't
altogether like the way it progressed. Sometimes, she talked as she
worked (sitting low beneath the skylight, so that every change of light
was in her hair, while the spring matured outside). Deep realities were
often uttered thus, sentences which bore the signet of her strong
understanding, for they passed through the stimulated faculties of the
artist, engrossed in her particular expression. Thus the same
intelligence which colored her work, distinguished her sayings....
Bedient daily astonished her. Again and again, she perceived that he
had come to New York, full of power from his silences apart. She wanted
him to preserve his freshness of vision. His quiet expressions thrilled

"The women I know, married or unmarried, are nearly all unhappy," she
said, one day. "My younger friends, even among girls, are afraid. They
see that men are blinded by things they can taste and see and
touch--speed, noise and show. The married women are restless and
terrified by spiritual loneliness. The younger women see it and are

"'Had I but two loaves of bread, I should sell one to buy white
hyacinths,'" Bedient quoted; "I like to think of that line of
Mahomet's.... Women are ready for white hyacinths--the bread of
life.... But this spiritual loneliness is a wonderful sign. The spirit
floods in where it can--where it is sought after--and the children of
women who are hungry for spiritual things, are children of dreams. They
must be. They may not be happy, but they will feel a stronger yearning
to go out alone and find 'the white presences among the hills.'"

Beth was silent.

"Yearning is religion," Bedient added. "Hunger of the heart for higher
things will bring spiritual expansion. Look at the better-born children
to-day. I mean those who do not have _every_ chance against them. I
seem to catch a new tone in the murmur of this rousing generation. They
have an expanded consciousness. It is the spiritual yearnings of

"But what of the woman who will not take the bowl of porridge that
ordinary man gives her?" Beth demanded. "So many women dare
not--cannot--and then their dreams, their best, are not reflected in
the consciousness of the new race."

Bedient smiled, and Beth regarded her work intently, for an echo of the
confessional had come back to her from her own words.

"That is a matter so intensely individual," he replied. "We are at the
beginning of the woman's era, and with every transition there are pangs
to be suffered by those who are great enough. These great ones are
especially prepared to see how terrible is their denial from the
highest privileges of woman. And yet they may be spiritual mothers,
centres of pure and radiant energy. Every work of genius has been
inspired by such a woman. And if, as sometimes happens, a true lover
does come, the two are so happy that the temperature of the whole race
warms through them."

"What an optimist!" she said, but when alone, it came to her that he
had been less certain than usual in this answer. Perhaps, he had felt
her stress upon realizing the personal aspect; perhaps he had too many
things to say, and was not ready. It _was_ a matter intensely
individual. However, this was the only time he had failed to carry her
critical attention.

* * * * *

Bedient saw that the years had locked one door after another about the
real heart of Beth Truba. His work was plain--to unlock them one by
one. How the task fascinated; he made it his art and his first thought.

"You change so," she complained laughingly, after there had been
several sittings. "I'm afraid I shall paint you very badly because I am
trying so hard. You don't look at all the same as you did at first.
Therefore all the first must be destroyed."

Bedient knew if his work prospered, all that had been before would be

One morning--it was one of the first of the May mornings--there was
something like heart-break in the room. Up on the skylight, the
sparrows were debating whether it would rain or not. There was tension
in the air which Bedient tried to ease from every angle. Consummately
he set about to restore and reassure, but she seemed to feel her work
was faring ill; that life was an evil thing. All the brightness that
had suffused her mind from his presence, again and again, had vanished
apparently, leaving not the slightest glow behind.

"Don't bother to work on this to-day," he said. "I am not in the
slightest hurry and you are to do it wonderfully. Please be sure that I
know that.... Will you go with me to the Metropolitan galleries

Beth smiled, and went on deliberating before the picture. Presently,
the tension possessed her again. She looked very white in the North

"Did you ever doubt if you were really in the world?" she asked after a
moment, but did not wait, nor seem to expect an answer.... "I have,"
she added, "and concluded that I only thought I was here--queer sense
of unreality that has more than once sent me flying to the telephone
after a day's work alone--to hear my own voice and be answered. But,
even if one proves that one is indeed here, one can never get an answer
to the eternal--_What for_?... I shall do a story, sometime, and call
it _Miss What For_.... A young girl who came into the world with
greatness of vitality and enthusiasm, alive as few humans are, and
believing in everything and everybody. Before she was fully grown, she
realized that she was not sought after so much as certain friends whose
fathers had greater possessions. This was terrible. It took long for
her to believe that nothing counted so much as money. It made the world
a nightmare, but she set to work to become her own heiress.... In this
struggle she must at last lose faith. This can be brought about by long
years, smashing blows and incredible suffering, but the result must be
made complete--to fit the title."

"But, why do you try to fit such a poor shivering little title?"

She smiled wearily. "I was trying, perhaps, to picture one of your
spiritual mothers, centres of pure and radiant energy, in one of the
_other_ moments, that the world seldom sees. The power is almost always
turned on, when the world is looking."

She had made him writhe inwardly, as no one else could.

"But there _are_ many such women," she went on, "victims of your
transition period, caught between the new and the old, helpers,
perhaps, of the Great Forces at work which will bring better
conditions; but oh, so helpless!... They may bring a little cheer to
passing souls who quickly forget; they may even inspire genius, as you
say, but what of themselves when they, all alone, see that they have no
real place in the world, no lasting effect, leaving no image, having no
part in the plan of the Builder?"

Bedient arose. Beth saw he was not ready to answer.

"A visit to the galleries is tempting," she said. "It may give me an
idea.... I never had quite such a patron. You are so little curious to
see what I have done, that I sometimes wonder why you wanted the
portrait, and why you came to me for it.... I wonder if it's the day or
my eyes--it's so much easier to talk aimlessly than to work----"

"It's really gray, and the sparrows have decided upon a shower."

She regarded him whimsically.

"And you look so well in your raincoat," he added.

They took the 'bus up the Avenue.... She pointed out the tremendous
vitalities of the Rodin marbles, intimated their visions, and remarked
that he should hear Vina Nettleton on this subject.

"She breaks down, becomes livid, at the stupidity of the world, for
reviling her idol on his later work, especially the bust of Balzac,
which the critics said showed deterioration," Beth told him, "As if
Rodin did not know the mystic Balzac better than the populace."

"It has always seemed that the mystics of the arts must recognize one
another," Bedient said.... "I do not know Balzac----"

"You must. Why, even Taine, Sainte Beuve, and Gautier didn't _know_
him! They glorified his work just so long as it had to do with fleshly
Paris, but called him mad in his loftier altitudes where they couldn't

It was possibly an hour afterward, when Bedient halted before a certain
picture longer than others; then went back to another that had
interested him. Moments passed. He seemed to have forgotten all
exteriors, but vibrated at intervals from one to another of these--two
small silent things--_Le Chant du Berger_ and another. They were
designated only by catalogue numbers. Beth, who knew them, would have
waited hours.... Presently he spoke, and told her long of their
effects, what they meant to him.

"You have not been here before?" she asked.


"You don't know who did those pictures?"


"Puvis de Chavannes."

"The name is but a name to me, but the work--why, they are out of the
body entirely! I can feel the great silence!" he explained, and told
her of his cliff and _God-mother_, of Gobind, the bees, the moon, the
standing pools, the lotos, the stars, the forests, the voices and the
dreams.... They stood close together, talking very low, and the
visitors brushed past, without hearing.

"If not the greatest painter, Puvis de Chavannes is the greatest mural
painter of the nineteenth century," Beth said. "Rodin, who knew Balzac,
also knew Puvis de Chavannes.... '_The mystics of the arts know one
another_,'" she added. "I saw Rodin's bust and statue of these men in

To Beth, the incident was of inestimable importance in her conception
of Bedient.... A Japanese group interested him later--an old vender of
sweetmeats in a city street, with children about him--little girls bent
forward under the weight of their small brothers. Beth regarded the
picture curiously and waited for Bedient to speak.

"It's very real," he said. "The little girls are crippled from these
weights. The boy babe rides his sister for his first views of the
world.... Look at the sweet little girl-faces, haggard from the burden
of their fat-cheeked, wet-nosed brothers. A birth is a miss over
there--a miss for which the mother suffers--when it is not a boy. The
girls of Japan carry their brothers until they begin to carry their
sons. You need only look at this picture to know that here is a people
messing with uniforms and explosives, a people still hot with the ape
and the tiger in their breasts."

Beth was thinking that America was not yet aeons distant from this
Japanese institution, the male incubus of the girl child. She did not
speak, for she was thinking of what she had said in the studio--of the
edginess of her temper. "Spinsters may scold, but not spiritual
mothers," she thought. She might have been very happy, but for a mental
anchor fast to that gloomy mood of the morning.... Hours had flown
magically. It was past mid-afternoon.... There was one more picture
that had held him, not for itself, but like the Japanese scene, for the
thoughts it incited.... An aged woman in a cheerless room, bending over
the embers of a low fire. In the glow, the weary old face revealed a
bitter loneliness, and yet it was strangely sustained. The twisted
hands held to the fire, would have fitted exactly about the waist of a
little child--which was not there.

"I would call her _The Race Mother_," Bedient said reverently. "She is
of every race, and every age. She has carried her brothers and her
sons; given them her strength; shielded them from cold winds and
dangerous heats; given them the nourishment of her body and the food
prepared with her hands. Their evils were her own deeper shame; their
goodness or greatness was of her conceiving, her dreams first. Her sons
have turned to her in hunger, her mate in passion, but neither as their
equal. For that which was noble in their sight and of good report, they
turned to men. In their counsels they have never asked her voice; they
suffered her sometimes to listen to their devotions, but hers were
given to them_.

"They were stronger. They chose what should become the intellectual
growth of the race. Having no part in this, her mind was stunted,
according to their standards. She had the silences, the bearing, the
services for others, the giving of love. She loved her mate sometimes,
her brothers often, her sons always,--and served them. Loving much, she
learned to love God. Silences, and much loving of men, one learns to
love God. Silences and services and much loving of her kind--out of
these comes the spirit which knows God.

"So while her men, like children with heavy blocks, were passing their
intellectual matters one to the other, she came to know that love is
giving; that as love pours out in service, the Holy Spirit floods in;
that spaciousness of soul is immortality; that out of the spaciousness
of soul, great sons are born.... And here and there down the ages,
these great sons have appeared, veered the race right at moments of
impending destruction, and buoyed it on."

He had not raised his voice above that low animate tone, which has not
half the carrying quality of a whisper. Beth had hoped for such a
moment, for in her heart she knew that Vina Nettleton had felt this
power of his. With her whole soul, she listened, and the look upon his
face which she wanted for the portrait lived in her mind as he resumed:

"I ask you to look how every evil, every combination of hell, has
arisen to tear at the flanks of the race, for this is history. Yet a
few women, and a few men, the gifts of women, have arisen to save....
Do you think that war or money, or lust of any kind, shall destroy us
_now_, in this modern rousing hour, with woman at last coming into her
own--when they have never yet in the darkest hour of the world,
vanquished a single great dream of a pure woman? And now women
_generally_ are rising to their full dreams; approaching each moment
nearer to that glorious formula for the making of immortals...."

He smiled suddenly into her white face. "I tell you, Beth Truba," he
said, "there isn't a phase, a moment, of this harsh hour of transition,
that isn't majestic with promise!... It's a good picture.... Dear old
mother, in every province of the soul, she is a step nearer the Truth
than man. The little matters of the intellect, from which she has been
barred for centuries, she shall override like a Brunhilde. Even that
which men called her sins were from loving.... Gaunt mother with bended
back--she has stood between God and the world; she has been the vessel
of the Holy Spirit; she _is_ the Holy Spirit in the world; and when she
shall fully know her greatness, then prophets of her bearing shall walk
the earth."

They wound through the park in the rainy dusk, emerging in Fifty-ninth
Street; and even then, Beth did not care to ride, so they finished the
distance to her studio in the Avenue crowd.



More May days had passed. Bedient came in from one of his
night-strolls, just as an open carriage stopped in front of the Club,
and Mrs. Wordling called his name. He waited while she dismissed her
driver familiarly.... The Northern beauty of the night was full of
charm to him. A full moon rode aloft in the blue. He had been thinking
that there was cruelty and destruction wherever crowds gathered; that
great cities were not a development of higher manhood. He thought of
the sparcely tenanted islands around the world, of Australian, Siberian
and Canadian areas--of glorious, virgin mountain places and empty
shores--where these pent and tortured tens of thousands might have
breathed and lived indeed. All they needed was but to dare. But they
seemed not yet lifted from the herd; as though it took numbers to make
an entity, a group to make a soul. The airs were still; the night
serene as in a zone of peace blessed of God. The silence of Gramercy
gave him back poise which the city--a terrible companion--had torn

"That's old John, who never misses a night at my theatre door, when
that door opens to New York," Mrs. Wordling said. "He only asks to know
that I am in the city to be at my service night or day. And who would
have a taxicab on a night like this?... Let's not hurry in.... Have you
been away?"

"No, Mrs. Wordling."

"Don't you think you are rather careless with your friends?" she asked,
as one whom the earth had made much to mourn. "It is true, I haven't
been here many times for dinner (there have been so many invitations),
but breakfasts and luncheons--always I have peeked into the farthest
corners hoping to see you--before I sat down alone."

"I have missed a great deal, but it's good to be thought of," he said.

"You didn't mean, then, to be careless with your friends?"


"I thought you were avoiding me."

"If there were people here to be avoided, I'm afraid I shouldn't stay."

"But supposing you liked the place very much, and there was just one
whom you wished to avoid----"

He laughed. "I give it up. I might stay--but I don't avoid--certainly
not one of my first friends in New York----"

"Yes, I was a member of the original company, when David Cairns'
_Sailor-Friend_ was produced.... How different you seem from that
night!" she added confidentially. "How is it you make people believe
you so? You have been a great puzzle to me--to us. I supposed at first
you were just a breezy individual, whom David Cairns (who is a very
brilliant man) had found an interesting type----"

"So long as I don't fall from that, it is enough," Bedient answered.
"But why do you say I make people believe----?"

Mrs. Wordling considered. "I never quite understood about one part of
that typhoon story," she qualified. "You were carrying the Captain
across the deck, and a Chinese tried to knife you. You just mentioned
that the Chinese died."

"Yes," said Bedient, who disliked this part of the story, and had
shirred the narrative.

"But I wanted to hear more about it----"

"That was all. He died. There were only a few survivors."

Mrs. Wordling's head was high-held. She was sniffing the night, with
the air of a connoisseur. "Do you smell the mignonette, or is it Sweet
William? Something we had in the garden at home when I was little....
Are you afraid to go across in the park--with _me_?"

"Sailors are never afraid," he said, following her pointed finger to
the open gate.

They crossed the street laughingly. There had been no one at the Club
entrance.... They never determined what the fragrance was, though they
strolled for some time through the paths of the park, among the thick
low trees, and finally sat down by the fountain. The moonlight, cut
with foliage, was magic upon the water. Bedient was merry in heart. The
rising error which might shadow this hour was clear enough to him, but
he refused to reckon with it. He was interested, and a little troubled,
to perceive there was nothing in common in Mrs. Wordling's mind and
his. They spoke a different language. He was sorry, for he knew she
could think hard and suddenly, if he had the power to say the exact
thing. And that which he might have taken, and which her training had
designed her both to attract and exact, Bedient did not want. All her
sighs, soft tones, suddennesses and confidences fell wide; and yet, to
Mrs. Wordling, he was too challenging and mysterious for her to be
bored an instant. Their talk throughout was trifling and ineffectual,
as it had begun. Mrs. Wordling was not Bedient's type. No woman could
have dethroned Beth Truba this hour. Bedient was not sorry (nothing he
had said seemed to animate) when Mrs. Wordling arose, and led the way
to the gate... which had been locked meanwhile.

Mrs. Wordling was inclined to cry a little. "One couldn't possibly
climb the fence!" she moaned.

"They have keys at the Club, haven't they?" Bedient asked.

"Yes. All the houses and establishments on the park front have keys.
It's private--that far.... I should have known it would be locked after
midnight. Our talk was so interesting!... Oh, one will die of exposure,
and the whole Club will seethe."

Bedient patted her shoulder cheerfully, and led the way along the fence
through the thick greenery, until they were opposite the Club entrance.
He had not known the park was ever locked. He saw disturbance
ahead--bright disturbance--but steadily refused to grant it importance.
He was sorry for Mrs. Wordling.

"Let the Club seethe, if it starts so readily," he observed.

The remark astonished his companion, who had concluded he was either
bashful to the depths, or some other woman's property, probably Beth

"But you men have nothing to lose!" she exclaimed.

"I ask you to pardon me," Bedient said quickly. "I had not thought of
it in that way."

They were watching the Club entrance. One o'clock struck over the city.
Mrs. Wordling had become cold, and needed his coat, though she had to
be forced to submit to its protection. At last, a gentleman entered the
Club, and Bedient called to the page who appeared in the doorway. The
boy stepped out into the street, when called a second time. Bedient
made known his trouble. The keys were brought and richly paid for,
though Bedient did not negotiate. The night-man smiled pleasantly, and
cheered them, with the word that this had happened before, on nights
less fine.

* * * * *

David Cairns had stepped into a telephone-booth in the main-hall of the
_Smilax Club_ the following afternoon, to announce his presence in the
building to Vina Nettleton. Waiting for the exchange-operator to
connect, he heard two pages talking about Bedient and Mrs. Wordling.
These were bright street-boys, very clever in their uniforms, and
courteous, but street-boys nevertheless; and they had not noted the man
in the booth. A clouded, noisome thing, David Cairns heard. Doubtless
it had passed through several grades of back-stair intelligence before
it became a morsel for Cairns' particular informers. Having heard
enough to understand, he kicked the door shut, and Vina found him
distraught that day....

It was in the dusk of that afternoon when Cairns met Bedient, whose
happiness was eminent and shining as usual. Cairns gave him a chance to
mention the episode which had despoiled his own day, but Bedient seemed
to have forgotten it remotely. It was because such wonderful things had
been accomplished in his own life that Cairns was troubled. In no other
man would he have objected to this sort of affair, though he might have
criticised the trysting-place as a matter of taste. He had to bring up
the subject.

Bedient's face clouded. "How did you hear?"

Cairns told, but spared details.

"I hoped it wouldn't get out on account of Mrs. Wordling," Bedient
said. "I should have had the instinct to spare her from any such
comments. I didn't know the laws of the park. It was a perfect night.
We talked by the fountain. She was the first to suggest that we recross
the street--and there we were--locked in."

Cairns asked several questions. Once he started impatiently to say that
Mrs. Wordling had nothing to lose, but he caught himself in time. He
saw that Bedient had been handled a bit, and had only a vague idea that
he was embroiled in a scandal, the sordidness of which was apt to reach
every ear but the principals'. At all events, the old Bedient was
restored; in fact, if it were possible, he was brightened at one
certain angle. Cairns had been unable to forbear this question:

"But, Andrew, who suggested going across to the park?"

"I can't just say," Bedient answered thoughtfully. "You see we smelled
mignonette, and followed a common impulse. You should have seen the
night to understand.... I say, David, can I do anything to straighten
this out for Mrs. Wordling?"

"Only ignore it," Cairns said hastily. "I'll nip it--wherever it comes
up. And the next time a woman asks----"

"But I didn't say----"

"The next time you smell mignonette, think of it as a soporific. Just
yawn and say you've been working like a fire-horse on the Fourth....
You see, it isn't what happens that gets out to the others, including
those we care about, but what is imagined by minds which are not
decently policed."

"Crowds are cruel," Bedient mused.

Cairns had found it hard not to be spiteful toward one whom he
considered had abused his friend's fineness.... They dined at the Club.
The talk turned to a much fairer thing. Bedient saw (with deep and full
delight) that Cairns had sighted his island of that Delectable
Archipelago, and was making for it full-sailed. An enchanting idea came
to Bedient (the fruit of an hour's happy talk), as to the best way for
Cairns to make a landing in still waters....

Bedient was detailing the plan with some spirit, when Cairns' hand fell
swiftly upon his arm.... At a near table just behind, Mrs. Wordling was
sitting with a gentleman. Neither had noticed her come in. Mrs.
Wordling turned to greet them. She was looking her best, which was



Bedient went one morning to the old Handel studio in East Fourteenth
Street. The Grey One had asked him to come. Bedient liked the Grey One.
He could laugh with Mrs. Wordling; Vina Nettleton awed him, though he
was full of praise for her; he admired Kate Wilkes and had a keen
relish for her mind. The latter had passed the crisis, had put on the
full armor of the world; she was sharp and vindictive and implacable to
the world; a woman who had won rather than lost her squareness, who
showed her strength and hid her tenderness. He had rejoiced in several
brushes with Kate Wilkes. There was a tang to them. A little sac of
fiery acid had formed in her brain. It came from fighting the world to
the last ditch, year after year. Her children played in the
quick-passing columns of the periodicals--ambidextrous, untamable,
shockingly rough in their games, these children, but shams slunk away
from their shrill laughter. In tearing down, _she_ prepared for the

Bedient was not at all at his best with Kate Wilkes; indeed, none of
the things that had aroused Vina and Beth and David, like sudden
arraignments from their higher selves, came to his lips with this
indomitable veteran opposite; still he would go far for ten minutes
talk with her. She needed nothing that he could give; her copy had all
gone to the compositor, her last forms were locked; and yet, he caught
her story from queer angles on the stones, and it was a transcript from
New York in this, the latest year of our Lord....

Bedient's "poise and general decency" disturbed the arrant man-hater
she had become; she called him "fanatically idealistic," and was
inclined to regard him at first as one of those smooth and finished
Orientalists who have learned to use their intellects to a dangerous
degree. But each time she talked with him, it seemed less possible to
put a philosophical ticket upon him. "He's not Buddhist, Vedantist,
neo-Platonist," she declared, deeply puzzled. Somehow she did not
attract from him, as did Vina Nettleton, the rare pabulum which would
have proved him just a Christian. Finally, from fragments brought by
Vina, the Grey One, and David Cairns, she hit upon a name for him that
would do, even if intended a trifle ironically at first: _The Modern_.
She was easier after that; became very fond of him, and only doubted in
her own thoughts, lest she hurt his work with the others, the good of
which she was quick to see.... "He does not break training," she said
at last. "He cut out a high place and holds it easily. Suppose he is
_The Modern_?" she asked finally. "If he is, we who thought ourselves
modern, should laugh and clap our hands!" This was open heresy to the
Kate Wilkes of the world. "I thought I was past that," she sighed.
"Here I am getting ready to be stung again."

Certain of her barbed sentences caught in Bedient's mind: "Women whom
men avoid for being 'strong-minded' are apt to be strongest in their
affections. You can prove this by the sons of clinging vines."...
"Beware of the man who discusses often, and broods much, upon his
spiritual growth, when he fails to make his wife happy."... "A man's
courage may be just his cowardice running forward under the fear of
scorn from his fellows."... "The most passionate mother is likely to be
the least satisfied with just passion from her husband. Wedded to a man
capable of real love, this woman, of all earth's creatures, is the most
natural monogamist."... "A real woman had three caskets to give to a
man she loved. One day she read in his eyes that he could take but the
nearest and lowest; and that moment arose in her heart the wailing cry:
'The King is dead!'"... "The half-grown man never understands that
woman is happiest, and at her best in all her services to him, when he
depends upon her for a few of the finer things."...

Also Kate Wilkes had a way of doing a memorable bit of criticism in a
sentence or two: Regarding MacDowell, the American composer, "He left
the harvest to the others, but what exquisite gleanings he found!"...
As to Nietschze; "He didn't see all; his isn't the last word; but he
crossed the Forbidden Continent, and has spoken deliriously, half-mad
from the journey."... And her beloved Whitman, "America's wisest

* * * * *

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