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  • 1912
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The boat was launched. Sorenson was swimming–his oaths proved that–but rapidly receding. The Glow-worm rushed out of the cabin, Framtree following. The latter halted, however, at a sharp command of the Spaniard. Then Miss Mallory heard Bedient’s voice. It was not lifted above the normal tone, and hoarse with thirst.

She craned her head forward from the wheel to peer into the cabin. Bedient’s face was like death. He did not even have a pistol in his hand, but there was a look in his eyes she had never seen in any eyes before, and he was smiling. The disturbance on deck, Bedient’s face and command, had held Rey and Framtree, but the former’s hand now reached toward his hip. Bedient caught it with an incredibly quick movement, and took the gun from the Senor’s pocket.

“Just to reduce tension to a minimum, Senor,” he said.

The third Chinese opened the door from the galley, but a look and gesture from Bedient sent him back, and the lock was turned upon him. Bedient now placed the gun upon the table, and directed his attention to Framtree.

“You made it rather hard for me to have a talk with you, my friend,” he said.

The place was terrible with strain….

There had been a moment, as the Spaniard’s hand crept to his pocket, in which Miss Mallory was powerless with fear, but she could not scream. It was as if Bedient’s eyes had held her, too. She watched the pistol now. It was out of Key’s reach, and he could not rise from a chair without great difficulty. Framtree did not seem to be armed, for which she was greatly attracted to him…. He had started to speak two or three times, but found no words. The appearance of Bedient seemed to have fascinated him for a moment, but now he managed to declare:

“It must have been the Chinese who turned, Senor…. Somebody went overboard–I think Sorenson.”

And not until now did Miss Mallory venture to take her eyes from the cabin interior…. Madame Sorenson was fighting windmills of hysteria. Far back there was a blotch in the darkness, and a curious blend of sea-water, Russian and Chinese, as Sorenson was dragged into the boat; back farther still the lights of Jaffier’s gunboat…. And now she found the Glow-worm staring at her, the big face drawing closer, and a rising flame of hope in the strange eyes.

“What have you done, dearest?” she questioned softly.

“He could swim. He told me he could swim,” Miss Mallory heard herself repeating vaguely.

THIRTY-FIRST CHAPTER

THE GLOW-WORM’S ONE HOUR

Sorenson and the two Chinese were now eliminated. Senor Rey, disarmed, was not a physical menace; third Chinese was locked in the galley; in a sense Bedient and Framtree equalized; Madame Sorenson was having trouble to overcome her own hysteria; and Adith Mallory uncovered no hostility in the Glow-worm–quite the opposite. Framtree answered Bedient:

“I suggested to the Senor that he let me see you, but he thought to the contrary. He is my commanding officer…. As for you, Bedient, all I have to say is that you carry–a maniac’s luck. I think–I think if you hadn’t looked so like a dead man, Senor Rey would have done the natural thing, as you came forth from the forecastle.”… The big chap glanced at the pistol on the table. “What is it you want with me?”

Again and again, in the stifling forecastle, Bedient had swooned from the heat, the vile air and his utter weakness. Only he had nailed to his brain surfaces, through terrific concentration, an expectancy for Miss Mallory’s signals; otherwise they would have failed to rouse him. He had come forth more dead than alive, with only a glimmering of what he was to do, until he saw the hand of Celestino Rey move toward his pocket. Then a strange jolt of strength shook him, and he had the pistol. It was like that day on the _Truxton_. Afterward he heard the words of Miss Mallory insisting that Sorenson could swim, and amusement helped to clear his consciousness. A queer sense that he was not to lose in these lesser affairs possessed him; that enough strength, enough intelligence would be given, a peculiar inner sustaining which he was odd enough to accept as authoritative…. And now he heard Framtree’s words, and a water-bottle on the table beside the pistol magnetized his eye. He poured out a glassful and drank, and the thought came–apart from his listening to Framtree–if only other agonies could be eased with the swift directness of his thirst-torture that moment.

“I wanted you to go back on the _Hatteras_, Mr. Framtree,” he said. “The _Henlopen_ won’t sail for a week. We won’t lose sight of each other, so there is time. As for our talk, we must be alone.”

The words crippled Framtree’s hostility, but he did not forget Rey. It was a hard moment for him.

“One wouldn’t think you had a week–to judge by the chances you took in turning this trick to-day,” he said.

The Spaniard’s bony shoulders sank a little in his lids dropped for an instant.

“You proved so hard to reach in these days of preparation,” Bedient replied, “that I feared I might fail altogether in case of eventualities. And we had reason to think that to-night marked the end of Equatorian peace.”

Rey moistened his lips, watching Framtree, but did not speak.

“It must be damned important,” Framtree said.

“It is,” Bedient answered, and the American woman listening intently at the wheel did not miss the change in his voice.

Meanwhile the yellow-brown face of the Spaniard had scarcely altered, except perhaps that the pallid scar had a bit more shine about it. His eyes moved around the cabin, darting often at the pistol, halting upon the knob of the forecastle-door in the fear that others might be concealed there; inscrutable black brilliants, these eyes, and to the woman at the wheel the cabin was evil from their purgatorial restlessness…. Suddenly he started, and commanded Framtree:

“See to the ship’s course!”

“It’s all right, Senor Rey,” Miss Mallory called. “I can hold her. We’re scudding along beautifully, and our convoy is keeping pace—-“

The Spaniard’s bony shoulders sank a little in his chair. He interpreted this, as did Framtree, as an order. It was his first positive assurance that the American woman was against him.

“But the Chinese, Miss Mallory—-” he said, with rare control.

“Oh, they have picked up Mr. Sorenson…. They can see the light at the point of the Inlet. Mr. Sorenson will need a change of clothing—-“

There was a laugh from Framtree, rich, ripping, infectious. It released accumulations of fever and strain from all but the Spaniard, who joined nevertheless…. Bedient stood somewhat rigidly by the table. Waves of mist alternated with intervals of clear perception in his mind.

Miss Mallory had entered into reaction. The laugh of Jim Framtree was the only good omen to her. She wasn’t quite so afraid of him after that…. As for the wheel, the situation was not nearly so blithe as she had represented to Rey. The _Savonarola_ had changed course, while the Chinese were getting the small boat overside. The Inlet had been astern and a little to star-board then. She had wondered, at the time, at the course, because Captain Bloom of the _Hatteras_ had shown her how the reefs stretched out, forming a great breakwater for Coral City harbor, and the _Savonarola_ had seemed to be making for trouble…. She jumped with a thought now. Perhaps Rey had intended to run over the coral with his lighter craft, or perhaps he knew a lesser passage; and thus elude Jaffier’s gunboat, or strand the latter upon the reefs….

The Inlet light was now straight to port, but the breeze was brisker, and she hated the thought of losing it. She had handled the tiller of small craft, but would not have dared to bring around the _Savonarola_ with her vast sweep of sail, even had she cared to regain the original course…. Bedient could not hold these two men at bay all night. He looked as if he might fall any moment. And now he had postponed his talk with Framtree. This was beyond her. She had counted upon him for a message that would make Framtree _his_. She did not realize the meaning of the few words already spoken. There might be pistols secreted, where Framtree could find them. One shot and she was _alone_…. Bedient did not even adequately care for the pistol he had. There was a large stain of red upon the breast pocket of his coat,–a coat that had been white in the morning, but now grimed from the forecastle. The stain terrified her…. Where was the voyage to end? Certainly they could not go back to _The Pleiad_ Inlet, nor over the reefs to the main harbor; and this strain could not last. These were bits of her furious thinking during the last few moments, while Bedient stood beside the table like a freshly risen Lazarus…. The Glow-worm moved past her, as a sleep-walker might have done, murmuring that she must have a glass of wine or die. Madame Sorenson moaned at being left alone, and followed the Senora into the cabin. And now Senor Rey asked blandly:

“Why don’t you send the two ladies ashore also, Miss Mallory? There is an extra boat–also an extra Chinese—-“

“_You won’t do that, dear_?” The Glow-worm turned back to her with a horrified look. Her tone was not to be forgotten.

“No, Senora,” Miss Mallory answered. “It is well to have at least one small boat.”

“Excellent wisdom, I am sure,” said Rey, as his eyes settled upon the Glow-worm.

She drained a glass of wine, and sank into a chair in a still huddled fashion. There was something unnatural in the fixed inclination of her head. She had betrayed herself, and watched Rey now out of the corners of her eyes–and in dissolving fear–quivering under his stare and voice. Madame Sorenson was sitting near, dazed from sensational expenditure, her lips moving without sound. There was something hideous in the tension, and in the whole cabin arrangement. Framtree had taken a seat across the aft doorway. He could turn from the woman at the wheel to the light with a movement of his head. He appeared to be much mixed in mind and resigned to await developments. Bedient stood silently watching these changes of position. Miss Mallory felt she must scream before many minutes. She wanted Bedient to know all the fears that distressed her, but dared not speak lest she betray the weakness of their position as she saw it. Once she thought Framtree was laughing at her.

“What a pleasant little party!” Rey remarked at length. “Too bad you can’t join us, Miss Mallory.” And now he turned to Bedient with a scornful laugh: “Why don’t you use your men in the forecastle to man the ship, and relieve the lady at the wheel?”

“They are off watch, Senor,” Bedient said, smiling.

“How tired they are! How silently they rest!” the Spaniard replied softly, and his long hands caressed each other.

Framtree glanced from Bedient to Miss Mallory, who realized with added dread that the forecastle bubble was pricked. She wondered how he had conveyed the impression that others were behind.

“Better let me help you with the wheel, Miss Mallory,” Framtree said, decently enough.

“No.”

“Shall I get you a glass of wine?”

“No.”

Rey seemed to have caught a sudden hope. At least, Miss Mallory imagined so; and that he tried to cover it with words.

“Mr. Bedient,” he said pleasantly, “I do not wish to under-rate your genius in the least, but I should like to pay a compliment to your remarkable fellow-worker.”

“I have several to pay, as well, Senor.”

“I should be glad for her to hear,” Rey added.

“If you mean me,” Miss Mallory called, “I am listening intently.”

The Spaniard leaned forward, appearing to cover his eyes with his fingers. Miss Mallory could hardly restrain a scream for Bedient to look out for the pistol, but nothing happened. Senor Rey sat back and began reminiscently:

“I was sailing and garnering in these waters before either of you men, and certainly before any of the women present, were alive. I made Equatoria interesting, and a delightful place to live. I have met in the old days, sometimes in strategy, sometimes in open warfare, the most crafty and daring seamen the world could send to the Caribbean. All, to the last man, I have overmatched in strength and cleverness. A ship has at last changed hands beneath my feet. It is well. I have lived long and am content. Only, I wish to say that it is a bright pleasure to think that no man, however brilliant or daring, outgeneraled me–but a delightful American girl.”

“It’s a tribute that I shall always remember, Senor,” Miss Mallory responded, “and one that comes from a master of his profession.”

Out of this pleasantry brewed a change. The Spaniard stared from face to face for several seconds. What came over him cannot be told–a break in his fine control; a sudden realization that he was whipped; a resurgence of all the shattered strategies in his brain, many of which certain others of the party did not yet understand; his doubt of Framtree, or his inability to reach the weapon,–the exact point which goaded him to black disorder was never known, but the fury of it concentrated upon the Glow-worm. Her mortal fear attracted it.

The look he turned upon her was demoniacal, harrowing as a dream of hell. All else stopped–words, thoughts, even hearts. Miss Mallory craned down to see. The Sorenson woman panted as one dying of thirst. The Senora shrank back. Her face seemed dim, fallen, but she could not lose his eyes. Rey was speaking, leaning forward in his chair, and heaping words upon her like clods upon a corpse:

“… But to-night, things were spoken which could only have come to them–through you! Celestino Rey has been outgeneraled by a clever American girl, but he has also been betrayed by a South American cat–the tortoise-shell of a bagnio-litter—-“

Both white men commanded him to stop. The Spaniard turned a glance from Framtree to Bedient…. The woman at the wheel, straining downward, saw the Glow-worm rise with an appalling shudder, as the eyes of her lord left her; saw her body huddle forward toward him, her hands fumbling in her hair.

“My dear Bedient,” the Spaniard was saying, “I regret this domestic scene. You must excuse a man who has so recently discovered his Glow-worm to be a scorpion—-“

The crouching figure of the woman–in the rage she had prayed for, and as she had prayed for it, _with his eyes turned away_–hurled forward as one diving into the sea. The flying body seemed huge in the little cabin. The concentration of her weight struck him in the throat. His head whipped back like a flaunted arm. The chair had been screwed to the floor, but the weight of impact ripped the fastenings out of the heavy planking. Backward Rey was borne, beneath a stabbing creature whose cries were as some bestial mystery of the dark.

It was Framtree who tore her loose, and tightened upon her wrist until the fingers opened and the little knife–concealed how long in her hair?–dropped like a feather to the carpet. Swiftly it had let out the life of the Spaniard…. Bedient opened the galley-door at a gesture from the woman. The Chinese came forth.

“It was I–your mistress, Boy–who killed the Senor. You may look. Then fix him quickly, so he will sink. I want him to sink!” she panted.

Bedient waited for Framtree to look up. The eyes of the two men met.

“The first and last chance of war in Equatoria is eliminated,” Bedient said.

Presently he moved out of the cabin, and sat down beside Miss Mallory. Each had held out a hand to the other, but they had not words.

The place was being made clean within…. The Glow-worm could not be silent, muttered constantly to the Chinese. “… You shall go back to South America with me. I shall be very good to you…. Oh, do open some wine, Boy! I am so very thirsty!” and on, until she saw the face of Framtree, moodily watching. She sank into a chair shuddering, and covered her face. “Don’t look at me so horribly!” she cried. “Ask Senorita Mallory about it–ask her about me.”

He jerked up, but did not answer at once. The Glow-worm screamed at him to speak.

Framtree crossed the cabin, and dropped his huge hand upon her shaking shoulder.

“I have nothing to say, Senora…. It was a matter between you and him…. But I’m glad to help you. It bowled me over a little, that’s all.”

His voice was big in the hush that had fallen upon the cabin…. Framtree helped the Chinese carry forth the weighted body…. As it paused for an instant on the gunwale, the searchlight from Jaffier’s gunboat flicked athwart the _Savonarola_–sinister tableaux in its ghostly light…. Without a sound the Glow-worm fell backward to the cabin floor, as if touched by the finger of the Destroying Angel. Bedient worked upon her until consciousness was restored.

“What next in this terrible night?” Miss Mallory asked in an awed voice, when Bedient rejoined her.

“Such an end has hung over him for more years than we have lived,” he said. “I call it rather wonderful–as it came about. Hundreds of men will continue to live because of this death. It means an end of war-making, the release of this turbulent spirit.”

Bedient turned to the light. She saw the red stain upon the breast of his coat.

He glanced down, and felt in the inner pocket. “It’s the red chalk,” he said with a laugh. “It got crushed somehow, and it was oily. The forecastle melted it.”

…Plainly at this moment they both heard the sound of a steamer’s screw–ahead. But there were no lights. Bedient took the wheel and brought the _Savonarola_ sheering away to the south of the sound, which had stopped abruptly.

Nothing was seen, not even a denser shadow in the moonless dark. Framtree joined them, and they waited expectantly for Jaffier’s index of light to pick up the mystery. Ten minutes passed before the gunboat, following doggedly, and whipping her light over sea, suddenly uncovered the dark from a big tramp steamer, aimed at the Inlet. For an instant it was lost again, but the searchlight swept back, groped until the tramp was caught, and this time held–in all her unlit wickedness.

“Framtree,” said Bedient, “I believe we are about to lose our convoy—-“

“Looks that way,” Framtree replied. “Miss Mallory has steered—-“

“Miss Mallory has steered–Equatoria off a revolutionary shoal,” Bedient finished.

“You mean the Senora—-?” Miss Mallory intervened.

“No.”

“I’m very tired and stupid; please tell me in little words,” she pleaded.

“You changed the ship’s course?”

“I didn’t. It changed itself. I didn’t dare to change back, because of the reefs,” she added hastily. “Didn’t the Senor mean to run the convoy aground if they didn’t give up the chase?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Bedient said. “Mr. Framtree, hadn’t you better explain to Miss Mallory?”

“No, that’s for you.”

“Perhaps you will correct me if I am wrong…. The black tramp yonder was making for _The Pleiad_ Inlet, with a cargo of guns and ammunition for the rebellion. The little sailing-trip of Senor Rey was designed to pull the gunboat afar off in the Southwest, the original course, as you say, to permit the tramp to make the Inlet unmolested. Jaffier won’t need the guns, but they’re a moral force—-“

“As a war correspondent,” Miss Mallory remarked, “I am rather a spectacular failure.”

“It’s a boy’s game,” said Bedient.

THIRTY-SECOND CHAPTER

IN THE LITTLE ROOM NEXT

They sailed around open water until daybreak, when Bedient brought the _Savonarola_ into a river-mouth on Carreras land, and forcing her in out of the current, dropped anchor. The small boat was launched and pulled ashore. Six, a silent and weary six, they were. The _hacienda_ was five miles inland. Bedient sent natives there for saddle-ponies, and made the party comfortable until these were brought. The roads would not permit vehicle of any sort, and though saddling was an ordeal for the Glow-worm and Madame Sorenson, the distance was not great, and from every eminence there were flashes of morning glory upon the endless company of hills.

Falk and Leadley stood upon the great porch as the cavalcade drew up. They steadied and leaned upon each other in this climacteric moment of their service…. There was breakfast with Carreras coffee, and the party separated for rest. The still torrid day became more vivid, and the native women and children hushed one another under the large open windows…. Miss Mallory was last in the breakfast room. Bedient saw that she wanted to speak with him, and they walked out on the porch together.

“You say it will be six days before the _Henlopen_ leaves for New York?” she asked.

“Yes, and no _Pleiad_ for you, Miss Mallory. There will be changes and disorder down in the city…. I’ll make you comfortable as I can.”

“Oh, I’ll like that! It’s so still and restful–and–from here–last night seems ages behind…. It would have been unbearable, but for what you said about the other men’s lives saved. Then the Glow-worm had told me so much! He was unspeakable…. As for Sorenson, I just couldn’t have done that had I thought of sharks first!… I wonder what Rey meant to do–just before … yes, yes, let’s forget him!… When you are rested, there is something I have to tell you.”

“And there is something for me to say–but now?” he questioned.

“I want you to let me take care of you–during the six days—-“

The old feminine magnetism thrilled him again. It was so strange and unexpected from Miss Mallory–a breath from the old Dream Ranges. It quickened him to the race of women, even to the great work, as he had not been quickened since the night he looked back at the empty open door…. He did not speak, but held out both hands to her.

“I think you are living and moving at this moment,” she went on fervently, “upon some strange force that other people do not have. Since we left New York, I have watched you–seen you almost every day. You are like a traveler who has crossed some terrible and forbidden land. You do not eat nor sleep. I must help you. Please let me…. Oh, it isn’t as if I were a girl! I’ve worked with men–done a man’s work among the newspapers. I’d call it bigger than all that has happened for the good fortune of Equatoria–if I could make you look as—-“

She checked the tumult of words. There was a misty look in her eyes–and his. He smiled and held himself hard, to say steadily:

“A man doesn’t often win so dear a friend—-“

“You have found about me so much of humor and scheming,” she said pathetically, “but since I came to understand a little, I’ve wanted to show you other things—-“

“I could not have relished your humor, nor used your plans, had I not felt so much besides.” He pointed over the shining lands. “Great good can come from all this–perhaps you’ll help me–where the suffering is blackest in New York. With that big tramp steamer in _The Pleiad_, and Celestino in command, it would have been hard to save this. You did it—-“

“If I did, it’s not _vital_ to you. It does not bring you rest. How clearly I see that!”

Bedient turned aside from her tearful searching eyes. He was facing the old battle; and yet a certain uplift came from her brave spirit. It was one of the big intimate warmths of the world, one of the fine moments of life in the world. Her giving was true. He could think of no other who could have helped him in this way, save Vina Nettleton. These two had not entered his mind together before. And they were unlike in every way, except in their pure quality of giving.

“Please tell me that other matter now–why you were so good to me, even on the steamer?”

“But I want you to rest.”

“I would rest better—-“

Miss Mallory looked up at him for a moment, and embarrassment came to her face–different from any look of hers before.

“It was in New York…. I wore a white net waist and a big bunch of English violets,” she said, watching him. “It seems very long ago, but it isn’t–hardly ten weeks. There was darkness and _Hedda_ was telling young _Loevborg_ to drink wine and get vine-leaves in his hair—-“

“And you were the one?” Bedient said.

“‘So fleet the works of men, back to their earth again, Ancient and holy things fade like a dream,'”

she repeated.

“I remember.”

“And do you remember the first scream?… If I were a lost and freezing traveler in Siberia, the first cry of a gathering wolf-pack could not have more terror for me than that scream. And, I can hear the snapping of the chair-backs still, hideous secrets from human lips, and the scraping, panting, packing. I was hurt in the first crazy rush. I crushed the violets to my lips to keep out the smoke and gas…. Then your voice, ‘Now’s the time for vine-leaves, fellows,–there’s a woman for everyone to help!’ I heard you laugh and challenge the men to their best manhood…. And all the time, I thought I was dying…. Then your foot touched me, and I heard you say, ‘Why, here’s a little one left for me—-‘”

“Your hair had come undone,” he said softly.

“And you never looked under the violets—-“

“I went back to look for you. I wasn’t gone a minute, but you had vanished.”

“They took me away in the car–then I thought of the story and I didn’t see you again, until you brushed by me in the Dryden ticket office in New York–the day before we sailed—-“

“And you’ve been my good angel ever since—-“

“I want to be–now…. Please get me a glass of warm milk.”

He obeyed. From her bag she produced a powder and, at her word, Bedient held forth his tongue….

“And now I want you to drink the milk–all of it. You put down asterisks in the place of breakfast–quite as usual. I considered my self-control remarkable at the time.”

He drank the milk slowly, as she had ordered…. The moments were sensational. Picture after picture passed through the light of his mind, as from other lives, and the loves of many women; and then the whole story that he had told Beth Truba rushed by–the mother’s hand and the little boy–the city, the parks, the ships–the hours upon her arm, when she had made him over anew to face the long voyage alone–the questions he had asked–the last port with her, which he had never been able to find–the last ride with Beth–until he was shaken with the rush of visions. Everything that he was, and hoped to be, everything that he had thought of beauty and truth and giving, every aspiration and every inspiration–seemed gifts of women! His very life and all that had come to him–gifts of women. And all their loving, wistful, smiling faces were there–among the Dream Ranges…. Now this one was speaking:

… “I want you to show me where I am to rest and where you are to rest.”

Up they went together and softly…. He led her into his own room, but she saw his things and would not.

“This is where you belong,” she whispered. “You will rest better here…. Please don’t dispute…. But let me be near, if you will.”

He showed her a little room that joined his own. Falk had made it ready.

“Just the place for me…. And after you have lain down, please whistle softly. I shall come in and read to you until you are asleep.”

“It’s like a fairy story already,” he said.

* * * * *

He closed his eyes, and the pictures took up their swift passing again. It was not the drug, but the new thing in this life of his–a woman’s ministering…. She came in presently, her hair loosened. She wore one of his silk night-coats, the sleeves rolled up; and very little, she looked, in the heelless straw sandals. She was pale. He saw the throbbing artery in her white throat. The polished ebon floor had a startling effect upon her black hair.

“You are like Rossetti’s _Pomegranate_ picture,” he said, and added with a strange smile, “Do you know there is something true about you–arrow-true?”

She sat down in the chair near him and picked up the Book. “What shall I read?” she asked without looking up. “It must be something that will soothe, and not make you think, except happily.”

“It’s all there…. The stately prose of Isaiah–I love the ringing authority of it—-“

She read. There were delicate shadings of volume, even in her lowered voice, which lent a fine natural quality to her expression. Bedient knew the words, but he loved the mystery of this giving of hers–her giving of peace to him…. He had obeyed her implicitly, and the morning had become very dear…. Ill and weary, all his nerves smarting with terrific fatigue, as the eyes smart before tears, and yet her ministering had made him a little boy again…. His eyelids were shut and he was happy. It was a bewildering sense, so long had he been, and so far, from a moment like this. His immortal heroine was close once more–she of the answered questions and the healing arms. So real was it, that he thought this must be death…. A sign from _her_ made him know that it was not…. Queer, bright thoughts winged in and out of his mind. There was a drowsy sweep to the atmosphere–no, it was the nuances of the voice that read to him…. “When one comes to see in this life a clearer, brighter way for the conduct of the next, he has not failed.” His mind went over this several times…. And presently he felt himself sailing through space toward one bright star. For eternities he had sailed–dominant, deathless–often wavering in the zones of attraction of other worlds, but never really losing that primal impetus for his own light of the universe…. And so while she read, Bedient drifted afar, sailing on and on toward his star….

She saw that he slept, and her head dropped forward until it touched the edge of his bed, but very softly…. And there, for a long time, she remained, until the woven cane left a white impress upon her forehead.

Late in the afternoon the others met below, but Bedient had not awakened. Miss Mallory joined them and told what she had done, and how ill he had been for need of rest…. When the day was ending she stole through the little room into his. Still he slept, so softly, that she bent close to hear his breathing…. All the furious moments of action in recent days passed in swift review, as she stood there in the dark. And from it all came this:

“It is a good thing for a woman to serve a man, with hand and brain,–as one man might serve another–and there’s high joy in it; but a woman must not serve a man that way–if she’d rather have his love than hope of heaven.”

… And when he awakened, she was still beside him.

THIRTY-THIRD CHAPTER

THE HILLS AND THE SKIES

Varied were the emotions of Dictator Jaffier and Coral City generally, while Bedient slept through that long day of surpassing fortune to the Island. He communicated certain facts to the Dictator next morning, and a day later, the government forces entered and took possession of _The Pleiad_ without firing a shot.

It did not transpire at this time that the vast inflation of war-sentiment in Equatoria was pricked with a knife, so small that a woman could conceal it in her hair.

Bedient intervened between Jaffier and Senora Rey, and upon the latter a substantial settlement was made, as well as a generous annuity. Within three days, the Glow-worm had left Coral City for an Antillean port, to connect with a South American steamer. The Sorensons and one Chinese accompanied her. The Glow-worm shone as one lavishly rich, but trembled with fears which she dared not express, until Equatoria should sink from her horizon.

Jaffier’s gunboat, which had followed the _Savonarola_ on principle and deserted for the unlit tramp, drove this latter destiny-maker through the coral passage in daylight, and around to the harbor, amid the subdued rejoicing of the Defenders. Subdued, because the Defenders were jerky with fear of a trick, even with the guns and ammunition safely stored in the Capitol–until the message from Bedient to Jaffier made certain mysterious issues clear.

_The Pleiad_ guests were not summarily routed, but the force of law, and the flood of light, suddenly turned upon every corner of this establishment, destroyed the atmosphere for crime and concupiscence. The paintings and various beautiful collections of the late art-lover-and-patron, were gathered together in one of the great wings of the establishment, and opened to the people. The magnificent grounds became a public park.

Bedient was regarded with something akin to awe for his activity at _The Pleiad_, and on board the _Savonarola_. Jaffier could readily perceive how large were the pecuniary interests of Carreras’ heir in the complete demolition of the Spaniard’s power, but such single-handed effectiveness had a supermasculine voltage about it, despite Bedient’s laughing explanations. The Carreras interests became, in Jaffier’s mind, second only to the interests of the government. A handsome present and a rich grant of land were privately conferred upon Miss Mallory, at Bedient’s suggestion, for her brilliant services to the government…. But these are dry externals. A careful resume of happy adjustments from Jaffier down to Monkhouse following the last sail of the Spaniard, would weary…. Three days after the spent and silent six rode up to the _hacienda_, Bedient was left with but two guests, Miss Mallory and Jim Framtree, who were awaiting the New York steamer…. In effect, the parable of the horses had been retold to Framtree. Bedient took him for a night-walk over the hills for this.

“But Beth showed me very clearly–where I wouldn’t do at all,” the big man said intensely. “And clearly, I saw it, too,–raw and unfinished beside her, I was.”

“Did she ever show you that little picture of you she painted?” Bedient asked.

“No. All she had of me were a few kodak prints—-“

“She probably painted the picture from them,” Bedient said. “I saw it on her mantle one day, and instantly our little talk in Coral City recurred to me. I knew you. Beth Truba didn’t mention your name…. The portrait is exquisitely done…. Why, Jim Framtree, that portrait meant more to her than my comings and goings in the flesh—-“

“I can’t quite understand that, Bedient!”

“I knew there was some power in her heart that I did not affect. I related it to the picture, and when she told me the parable, I asked her outright if the picture and her heart’s knight were one. She answered ‘Yes.’… And so, Jim, I stand in awe of you. You’ve won and held what is to me the greatest woman of our time. I don’t know anything I wouldn’t do for you–with that light upon you—-“

“You’ve got me thinking faster than is safe, Bedient. Do men turn this sort of trick very often for each other?”

“It was glad tidings,” Bedient said. “The fact is, I have no better thing to give, than services for such a woman. It’s clear and simple, that my business is to make her as happy as I can from the outside…. And, Jim, she must not know I told you, nor that I hunted you up. It wouldn’t be best…. Just go back to New York, ask to see her, and try again. She’ll be glad—-“

“You’re sure of that?”

“Well, I shouldn’t be sure. It’s her province…. I want her to have the chance.”

“…You ought to know how I feel about all this, Bedient,” Framtree said unsteadily, “since you know her.”

Bedient liked that.

“I made it a bit hard for you,” he replied, “the way I told it–as if you didn’t count at all with me–only as something she wanted–but you do, Jim—-“

“…We’ll come back, or I’ll come back,” Framtree said, and he turned away from the other’s eyes.

Bedient had looked upon him that moment, as if he would add his own soul’s strength to the strength of Framtree…. The hours that followed, to the moment of the _Henlopen’s_ sailing, were hours of building. Framtree found himself locked in the concentration of Bedient’s ideals–matters of manhood fitted about him, that he had not aspired to. And it was not easy to fall from them, when Bedient believed in him so truly.

And Miss Mallory lured back Bedient’s strength. He ate, drank and slept at her bidding…. So little she said, so instant to understand, so strange and different she was, waiting upon his words as upon a master’s…. The last evening at the _hacienda_ (the _Henlopen_ had arrived in the harbor) he played for them upon the orchestrelle. Music came forth new and of big import to his consciousness…. He had tried the soul-rousing _heimweh_ from the slow movement of Dvorak’s _New World Symphony_, when Miss Mallory, looking over the rolls, discovered the _Andante_ of Beethoven’s Fifth.

“Don’t you remember–the orchestra–that night?… It’s wonderful and mysterious–won’t you—-?” But she saw the look that came into his face, and did not finish. Instead, she put the roll away quickly, knowing she had touched a more vital association than a theatre fright.

“Don’t mind, and please forgive me—-“

…That night they stood together at the door of the little room, for she had refused to change. Bedient said:

“Every time I think of you I feel better, Adith Mallory…. I shall think of you often, always as if you were in the little room next to mine.”

They went aboard the following night, and sailed at dawn. Bedient rode back to the _hacienda_ during the morning…. How strange it will be–alone, he thought; stranger still, he faced the prospect without dread…. A hush had fallen upon the hills, and upon his heart. Some mysterious movement was stirring at the centres of his life….

A box of pictures had come on the _Henlopen_; also a letter from Torvin. There were three canvases in the latest shipment, and seven had come to the _hacienda_ while he was in New York. He hung them all in a room where there was good North light, and kept the key with him. And so there was a gallery for the Grey One in that house, as well as the little room next to his. He smiled at the thought that a man’s life becomes a house of his friends…. Torvin reported that Miss Grey had disposed of several pictures direct from her studio; that he had marketed eight pictures beside the ones shipped to Equatoria, and that there was a sprightly demand for her work….

* * * * *

That night, as Bedient ascended the stairs, a long sigh escaped him. So uncommon a thing was this, that he stopped to reflect. It was like one casting off a worn garment. Some old, ill, tired part of him passed away, and out of the great still house. He did not loathe it, but sped its passing, happily, gratefully…. Then the thought came, “Why do I attract all this beauty of friendship and loyalty?”… All the eager activity of others in his behalf recurred–the gracious image of that Mother of myriad services, before all–and the fragrant essence of a hundred deeds of love for him…. “I must hurry to keep pace, but I can’t–with these infinite favors!” he whispered.

A passion for service surged through him–to pray, and serve, and love and do; to write and give and lift and smile; always to help; to fall asleep blessing the near and the far; to awake prodigal with strength…. Such a spirit of giving brimmed into his life, that his flesh thrilled with the ecstasy of illimitable service.

The material things about him–walls, staircase, even the lamp-globes–were shadowy and unreal in the midst of these mystically glowing conceptions.

The sense of perfect health came to him–a steady, rhythmic radiation; not a tired, weak fibre, but a singing vitality of every tissue, as if it were cushioned in some life-giving fluid–a pure perfumed bloom of health.

Bedient turned upon the stair. He wanted no man-made room, but the night and the hills and the skies…. Bare of head he went forth.

THIRTY-FOURTH CHAPTER

THE SUPREME ADVENTURE

The night was full of sounds, sights, odors, textures–that he had never sensed before. He smelled the wild oranges from the hillsides, and the raw coffee that lay drying on the great cane mats before the native cabins. His limbs seemed lifted over the rocky ways; he loved the dim contours in the starlight, and the breath of the sea that came with the night-wind. The stars said, “Welcome,” and the hills, “All is well.”

Mother Earth was lying out in more than starlight–but not asleep. She was laughing, wise, sweet in eternal youth. Always she had been dear to him, this Flesh Mother. Her storms and terrors she had shown, but never harmed him. He loved her, sea and mountain and plain–_God-Mother_ and the Kashmir border–the highway ride with the lustrous lady and its sunshine–the path through the wood…. What a boy and girl they had been! How he had loved her–and the day–how he had suffered for it!

And now Bedient knelt upon the stones, uplifted his hands to the starlight, and cried in a low voice: “God bless Beth Truba, and help me to bless her at every turning of her life! God bless Beth Truba for the sensitizing sorrow she gave me, without which this hour could not have been revealed to me!”

… He seemed to be leaping from crest to crest in an ocean of happiness…. Some glorious magnetic Presence strode beside him. The night quivered with mighty energies–strange brightenings flashed before his eyes. He wanted nothing–but to give…. All was clear to him. Immortality was here and now: This life but a hut upon the headland of interminable continents, yet as much a part of immortality, as the life of the star-clothed Master who blinded Saul on the road to Damascus.

What a symphony–the flower, the star, the drop of rain, the rose, the child, the harvest, the voice of love, the soul of Woman,–all from the Luminary, God,–all His immortal symphony.

He was filled with light–as a still, clear harbor at high noon–gems and treasure-horns flashing in the depths. He _realized_ God. This was a ray of God that penetrated him–the spiritual essence “all science transcending.”

With joy, a sentence he had once heard returned, “Prayer is not catching God’s attention, but permitting him to hold ours!”… Faith and truth are one; Faith is the scaffolding in which the structure of Truth is builded; that which is Faith to us, is Truth to the angels…. As never before, he realized that wisdom comes from the inner light of man, and not from the comprehension of externals…. He knew now the meaning of ecstasy on the faces of the dying, and remembered with confusion and alarm that men of this day were afraid of Death!… How much more should they fear birth–birth, the ordeal of the soul–the putting on of flesh. Great souls put on flesh to hasten the way of their younger brothers to the Shining Tablelands. That is pure Spirit–to lift the weak and show the way to those dim of sight.

Integration of spirit–that is power, that is progress. Compared to this, a mere education of the mind is vain and dull–a hoarding of facts, as coins are hoarded; a gathering of vanities, as clothes and adornments are gathered together. His soul cried out within him: Teach the Spirit of God. “The soul who ascendeth to worship God is plain and true.”… Teach the Spirit, break daily new ground of giving and devotion. Growth of Spirit–_that_ is blessedness! _That_ is the exalted end of all suffering in the flesh. The world is good; all is good. There is no evil, but the ignorant uses of self-consciousness. Man has fallen into dark ways that belong to the awful ascent from the dim innocence of animals to the lustrous knowledge of God.

Treasure every loving impulse; the number of these is your day’s achievement–thus the Voice went on. Love giving; let the throat tighten with emotion for others, and the hand go out to the stranger; love giving, but love more–him who receives. Preserve humility in your blessedness. There is nothing to fear, no darkness of destiny, nothing to fear for the growing and humble spirit. Death! It is but the breaking of a rusty scabbard to loose a flashing blade!

“Oh, that I were a hundred men–to die before all men–to die daily!” he cried out. “But I shall live. I shall live with the poor. I shall feed them the bread of the body; and, if I may, the bread of life. I shall be brother to the poor, and they shall hear of their kingdoms…. Oh, God, help me to utter the glory of life, the sublimity of the human soul!”

And now he saw the terrible need of pity for those who wrap themselves in the softest furs, who feed upon the breasts of doves and drink the spirit of purple and golden grapes–those whom the world serves, and who are so arrogant in their regality. He must not forecast the falling of such, but pity them–and speak, if they would listen–for their need is often greater than that of the menials who cringe before their empty greatness, blinded by their kingly trappings. The world so often betrays them at the end, strips them to nakedness and leaves them to die–for they are the cripples, the sick, the blind in spirit…. Delicately he must attend the brutal and arrogant; not hate them, even when he perceives their devastation among the poor. Everywhere to give tokens of his health and power.

His love came back–as in lightning, his love came back! Not the love of one that he had known–that was good, inevitable, even the restless agony of it. Through the love of one, comes the love of many…. But this was love of the world! It surged over, through him–like the fire of the burning bush–that did not devour…. He had abstained from evil before, but held the taste for certain evils. _Now the taste was gone_–for every fleshly thing. Wanting nothing, he could love, indeed.

* * * * *

How strange and wonderful! All that he had thought before, and expressed in New York, had seemed his very own–the realizations of Andrew Bedient–but this night his every thought, almost, had a parallel, from one or another of the great ones who had gone this high way before…. He perceived that he had been old in self-consciousness, so, that, in a way, his New York utterances were stamped with his own individuality. In this greater consciousness he was a child; its glory was beyond words. He could only echo the attempts of those whose lips had faltered with ecstasy.

_If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new._

Such was Paul’s clear saying…. The difference between Andrew Bedient at this hour and the self he had been was great as that between the simple consciousness of the ox and the self-consciousness of man.

This was the borderland of Gautama’s Nirvana; this the Living Water, Jesus offered to the woman at the well; this the Holy Ghost that appeared unto the Hebrew saints and prophets–Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Isaiah, Stephen; this the genius of Paul, the ecstasy of Plotinus, the paradise of Behmen, the heavenly light of St. John of the Cross; this, the Beatrice of Dante, the Gabriel of Mahomet, the Master Peter of Roger Bacon, the Seraphita of Balzac, the radiant companion of Whitman, and the _I_ of Edward Carpenter.

The light would have killed one who had not integrated spiritual light to reflect it. The light of the Illuminati is terrible to eyes filled with evil. This was the “smile of the Universe” that Dante saw…. He, Andrew Bedient, loved infinitely and was infinitely loved. The words of a hundred saints echoed in his consciousness–and out of them all came this command:

_Make men to know that this which has come to you, will come to them. The few have gone before you, but the many have not ascended so far._

And now he saw the whole road of man, from the simple consciousness of animals, through human self-consciousness, to the cosmic consciousness of prophets–and beyond to Divinity. Always the refinement of matter, and the attraction of light–spiritual light. He saw the time when a self-conscious man was the best specimen of the human race. So for cosmic consciousness, the time would come; and as the centuries passed, the earlier would it appear in the life of the evolved.

A clear expression of what had taken place within him now appeared–his own expression to make it clear for men. In the summit of self-consciousness, his mind was like a campfire in the night–a few objects in a circle of red firelight and shadow. The crown of cosmic consciousness now come, was _the dawn of full day upon the plain_.

Full day upon the plain–distances, contours, the great blooms of space; a swarm of bees, a constellation of suns; the traffic of ants among the dropped twigs of the sand, the communion of angels beyond the veils of heaven; the budding of a primrose, the resurrection of a God–and all for men, when the daybreak and the shadows flee away.

He saw that this was the natal hour of the world’s soul-life, and that it would come through the giving spirit of Woman. He saw great souls pressing close to every pure, strong, feminine spirit; the first fruits of the centuries hovering close to great women of the world, praying for bodies to toil with, eager to turn from their heaven to labor for men…. And this was the _shekinah_ of Andrew Bedient–the spirit of his message.

* * * * *

His blood ceased to flow; he heard the flight of angels; he was bathed in Brahmic splendor–until he could bear no more….

He awoke in the “ambrosia of dawn”; in that strange hush which lies upon the world before fall the floods of rosy red…. He arose, his feet stumbling with ecstasy. Light winged over the hills–and afar off, he saw the roofs of the _hacienda_ sharpen with day….

His face was like morning upon a cloud. The natives vanished before him; Falk and Leadley shrank back, wondering what manner of drink he had found in the night.

THIRTY-FIFTH CHAPTER

FATE KNOCKS AT THE DOOR

During the month that followed, Bedient wrote at length to all his friends in New York. Nightly he roamed the hills and rode his lands throughout the long forenoons. It was a season of sheer exaltation. The great house had become dear to him. His own fullness was enough. There was no loneliness–“loneliness, with our planet in the Milky Way?”… He felt a sense of authority in what he wrote, altogether new, a more finished simplicity–the very white wine of clarity.

Then he placed great energies of planting upon the lands Jaffier had conferred upon Miss Mallory; and carried out plans for the increase of his own harvests. In fact, he was more interested than ever in this base of his future operations in New York. He realized the need of help–an ordering executive mind. His brain and body quickly adjusted to the great good which had descended upon him–work and praise, and love for all things. With these, his hours breathed.

One midnight in July, as he lay awake, an impulse came to play Beethoven’s symphony–in the dark…. He arranged the four rolls to hand, turned off the lights again, and sat down before the orchestrelle. The opening bars, which the Master designated, “_So pocht das Schicksal an die Pforte_,” lured his every power of concentration. He was one with it, and movements of the dark swung with the flow of harmony. The silence startled him. It was hard to re-assemble his faculties to change the rolls for the _’Andante_….

The three voices returned to his mind–man and woman and the luminous third Presence. That which had always been dim and formless before, now cleared–the place and the man. The room was large and had the character of a music studio, or one department of a large conservatory. A grand piano, a stand for violin, pictures of the masters, and famous musical scenes on the wall–more, there was music in the air–intervals when the three figures seemed to listen. A violin was across the man’s knee, a bow in his right hand.

The man was down, whipped. The world had been too much for him. The face was not evil, nor was it mighty. A tall young man–a figure knit with beauty and precision. It was the figure of a small man enlarged, rather than one of natural bulk. Bedient’s recognition of the man was not material; some inner correspondence made him know…. He was sitting upon a rocker, too small and low for him. The long, perfect limbs stretched out would have appeared lax and drunken but for their grace of line. The bow-hand dropped limp, almost to the floor. The other moved the violin about, handled it lightly, familiarly, as one would play with a scarf. Fugitive humor flashed across the face, relieving the deep disquiet, but the laugh was an effort of one who was confronted by demolished fortunes. His whole look was that of a man who has been shown some structural smallness of his own, shown beyond doubt–his ranges of personal limitation, made clear and irrefutable. He recognized his master in the woman opposite…. Yet powerful natural elements within him were bearing upon the hateful revelation. They sought to cover the puny nakedness, and make an hallucination of it all. He was not evolved enough to accept the truth with humility.

* * * * *

The woman was psychically torn. The agony of her face cannot be pictured, nor her martyrdom of sustaining courage. She could not see the third Presence, but it was there _for her_. It was above her, yet was called by her natural greatness. There was a line of luminous white under her eyes, that left the lower part of her face in shadow. The eyes were shining with that dissolving supernatural light, that comes with terrible spiritual hunger. Her dark hair had fallen in disarray.

In the first transcendent happiness she had conceived a child. The hideous disillusionment was now–months before the babe. And her struggle at this moment of her heart’s death–was to keep the madness of sorrow from despoiling the child, that lay formative within–to preserve the child whole, and in her original greatness of ideal, in the midst of her own destroying, and against the defiling commonness that had just been revealed in the father….

She had crossed the last embankment of agony; her struggle was finished. She had conquered. The Presence had come to hold her mind true, in this passage through chaos…. Her own death she would have welcomed, save that the babe must live. It had come to her as a daybreak from heaven. It must not be crushed and weighted with this tragedy of pure earth…. She held the blight from the child!

She _knew_ this. She arose and smiled. Into her soul had come a sense of the amplitude of time–a promise of adoration–a blessing upon her courage–a knowledge of her child’s lustre. The Angel had whispered it. Blithe, lifting, loving, the message had come to her from the Presence.

The man perceived that he had hurt her mortally; that his meaning to her had vanished. He arose to approach her, but a gesture of her hand made him sink again into the low chair. He seemed trying to realize that she had passed beyond him, indeed,–trying to realize what it would mean to him…. Pitiful, boyish and unfinished, he struggled to adjust his own life to her going–and watched her bind her hair.

Every movement of the conflict held a globe of meaning for the son of this woman, a third of a century afterward. Her tragedy had marked it imperishably upon the tissue of his life, with Beethoven’s _Andante_ movement for the key. Strains of it may have come to that music-room with these towering emotions…. More than this Andrew Bedient saw the sources of his own heritage! From another aspect he viewed the deathlessness of time, the beauty of physical death, the radiance of the future, the immortality of love. It was revealed how all the agony of the world arises from the knitting together of soul and flesh, the evolving of soul through flesh. Spirit is given birth in flesh–and birth is pain. Death is the ecstasy of the grown spirit. Spirit prospers alone through giving, and greatly through the giving of love. Spirit shines star-like in the giving of woman–in the fineness and fullness which she _loves_ into her children, binding glory upon them with her dreams. Thus is expressed her greatness; thus women are nearest the sources of spirit; thus they fulfill the first meaning of life on earth. And the woman who preserves the nobility of her conception of Motherhood–against the anguish of a broken heart and a destroyed love–God sends his Angels to sustain her!…

Bedient was aroused at last in the silence and in the dark…. He knelt in a passion of tribute to his immortal heroine, whose spirit had danced with him above the flesh and the world. He saw again that he was ordained to look within for the woman; that his heart was his mother’s heart; his spirit, her spirit–this twain one in loving and giving.

IV

NEW YORK

_Allegro Finale_

THIRTY-SIXTH CHAPTER

THE GREAT PRINCE HOUSE

There were calms and conquests on the brow of Vina Nettleton. She had been in Nantucket one whole day alone, before David Cairns came. Such a day availeth much, but she shuddered a little at the joy she took in the prospect of his coming. Vina had learned what his absence meant a month before, when three entire days elapsed without a call from Cairns at the studio. He had been away on a certain happiness venture…. There had been no word yet, but here, Nantucket–Vina breathed deeply at the name. Almost every day their thoughts had turned a sentence upon this meeting…. He stepped forth from the little steamer late in the afternoon in a brisk proprietory fashion, but the treasures of boyhood were shining in his eyes; and he searched her face deeply, as if to detect if mortal illness had begun its work amid the terrible uncertainties of separation.

“Do you remember, at first, I was to find you down among the wharves with _Moby Dick_?” she said.

“To-morrow morning–for that,” he replied.

She showed him the way to his hotel, and the house where she was a guest. But they supped together.

… They walked in Lily Lane in the dusk.

“It’s too dark to see the Prince Gardens,” she told him. “They’re the finest on the Island, and the house is the finest in Lily Lane…. There doesn’t seem to be a light. I wonder if the old sisters are gone?… The Princes were a great family here years and years ago, but gradually they died out and dwindled away, until last summer there were only two old maiden-aunts left–lovely, low-voiced old gentlewomen, whom it was so hard to _pay_ for their flowers. But they lived from their gardens and now _they’re_ gone, it seems. I must ask to-morrow what has become of them. And yet, the gardens are kept up. Can you see the great house back in the shadows among the trees?”

Cairns believed he could make out something like the contour of a house in denser shadow.

“The fragrance of the gardens is lovelier than ever,” Vina went on, “and listen to the great trees whispering back to the sea!”

They walked along the shore, and stared across toward Spain, and talked long of Beth and Bedient…. And once Vina stretched out her arms oversea, and said:

“Oh, I feel so strange and wonderful!”

Cairns started to speak, but forbore….

They met early in the morning, down upon the deserted water-front. An hour of drifting brought them back to Lily Lane. There was a virginal pallor in the sunlight, different from the ruddy summer of the Mainland, as the honey of April is paler and sweeter than the heartier essence of July flowerings. The wind breathed of a hundred years ago, and the sublime patience of the women who hurried down Lily Lane (faded but mystic eyes that lost themselves oversea through thousand-day voyages), to welcome their knight-errants, bearing home the marrow of leviathans….

“The gardens are kept up,” Vina said, standing on the walk, before the Prince house. “Perhaps the old sisters are still there, and we may get some flowers from them—-“

“I think, if you’ll let me walk ahead and talk with the gardener,” Cairns said, “we’ll be allowed to go in–at least, for some flowers.”

She laughed at the audacity of a stranger in Nantucket, but bade him try.

“If you fail, it’s my turn,” she added.

Cairns seemed to have little trouble in negotiating with the gardener, and presently beckoned.

“I’ve done very well for a stranger,” he whispered. “We’re to have the flowers. More than that, we are to look through the house. The sisters are away—-“

“David—-“

“But I told him who you were–about your friends and relatives in Nan–here…. I assure you, he believes we have never set foot out of New England.”

There was a sweet seasoning in the house; decades of flowers and winds, spare living, gentle voices and infallible cleanliness–that perfumed texture which years of fineness alone can bring to a life or to a house.

“See, the table is set for two!” Vina whispered, “as if the sisters were to be back for dinner. Everything is just as they left it.”

They moved about the front rooms, filled with trophies from the deep, a Nantucketer’s treasures–bits of pottery from China, weavings from the Indies, lacquers from Japan–over all, spicy reminders of far archipelagoes, and the clean fragrance of cedar.

On the mantel in the parlor stood a full-rigged ship, a whaling-ship, with her trying-house and small-boats–a full ship, homeward bound….

The gardener had left them to their own ways.

“That’s because he knows your _folks_,” Cairns said softly. “Shall we look upstairs?”

“Oh, do you think we’d better?”

“Don’t you want to?”

“Yes—-“

“It isn’t a liberty–when we have the proper spirit.”

“Isn’t it, David?” … With hushed voices and light steps, they passed up and through the sunny rooms. Fresh flowers everywhere, and one bright room with two small white beds.

“The maiden-aunts,” Cairns said hoarsely.

At length, he held open for her to enter, the door of the great front room, filled with Northern brightness from a skylight of modern proportions.

“Why, David,” she whispered raptly, “it’s like a studio! It _is_ a studio!”

And then she saw the scaffoldings, the ladders and panels which do not belong to a painter.

She faced him….

The room was filled with adoration that enchanted the light. The branches of the trees about the lower windows, softly harped the sound of the sea … Vina’s hands were pressed strangely to her breast, as she crossed to an open window…. And there she stood, face averted, and not moving her hands, until she felt him near.

* * * * *

“But I must tell you that the thought was not mine first of all, Vina,” Cairns was saying an hour afterward. “You used to talk to me a great deal about Nantucket–about the houses in Lily Lane, the little heads about the table, and how you walked by, watching hungrily like a night-bird–peering in at simple happiness. I couldn’t forget that, and I told Bedient–how you loved Nantucket. One night at the club, he said: ‘Buy one of those houses, David, and let her find out some summer morning slowly–that it is hers–and watch her face.’ Then he suggested that we both come over here to see about it. That’s what took us away a month ago.”

There was a soft light about her face, not of the room. Cairns saw it as she regarded him steadily for a moment. “I love your telling me that, David,” she said.

“I could hardly hold the happiness of it so long,” he added. “Last night it was hard, too…. So Bedient and I came over and met the maiden-aunts. Such a rare time we had together–and yet, deep within, he was suffering.”

“He went away almost immediately afterward, didn’t he?”

“Yes…. Vina, do you think he couldn’t make Beth forget the Other?”

“No, David.”

Her unqualified answer aroused him. “I haven’t seen Beth for weeks,” he said. “She has been out of town mostly. I must see her now.”

“Yes?”

“Vina, what a crude boy, I was–not to have known you–all these years. It seems as if I had to know Bedient first.”

“Perhaps, I did too, David.”

“And Vina, it was a word of Beth’s that started me thinking about you–that made me realize you were in the world…. This moment I would give her my arms, my eyes–for that word of hers.”

“She is the truest woman I have ever known,” Vina said.

… “The Other is back in New York,” Cairns told her a moment later. “I saw him an hour before leaving, but not to speak to…. How strange it would be—-“

Vina shook her head.

“Come back to New York with me to-day!” he said suddenly. “Our friends are there. You wouldn’t trust anyone to pack the panels you’ll need for work here…. Then we’ll come back together for the long summer’s work–will you?”

“Yes.”

There was a quick step below–not the step of the man of flowers. Vina glanced at Cairns, who was smiling.

“I’ve arranged for servants, of course,” he said. “I think dinner is nearly ready…. The table wasn’t set for maiden-aunts—-“

“The long summer’s work together—-” she said, in an awed voice.

“But first, our dinner together–you and I–here–oh, Vina!”

“… But, David,… you said–dinner first!”

THIRTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER

BETH AND ADITH MALLORY

Beth Truba dreamed:

She had been traveling for days and years, over plains, through the rifts of high mountains, across rivers and through great lonely silences, with just a dog for a companion. A white dog with small black spots, very playful and enduring, and though not large, he was very brave to contend with all that was fearful. At night he curled up close to her and licked her hand, and in the morning before the weary hours, he played about and made her laugh.

They came at last to a great desert. There was no other way, but to cross, if she hoped ever to reach her journey’s end…. On and on, through the burning brightness they went, forgetting their hunger in the greater thirst. The nights were dreadful with a drying, dust-laden wind, and the days with destroying brilliance. At length one mid-day, the dog could go no further.

He sat down upon his haunches and looked at her, his tail brushing the sand–eyes melting with love for her. She put her hand upon his head, and the dry tongue touched her fingers…. She must leave him. He seemed to understand that she must go on; his eyes told her his sufferings–in that he could not be with her. And so she went on alone.

When she turned he was watching, but he had sunk down upon the sand. Only his head was raised a little. Still she saw the softness of the eyes; and his ears, that had been so sharp in the happy days, had dropped close about his head.

On she went, looking back, until the spot on the sand where he lay was gone from her eyes. And she knew what it meant to be alone. The days were blazing, and the nights filled with anguish to die. At last her hour came…. So glad she was to sink down a last time and let the night cover her…. But the sound of running water–water splashing musically upon the stones, and the breath of flowers–awoke her after many hours. A cooling dawn was abroad, and in the lovely light she saw low trees ahead–green palms around a fountain–fruits and shade and flowers…. She arose, and from her limbs all weariness was gone. There was a quick bark, and her dog came bounding up–and Beth awoke, thinking it was her soul that had returned to her, restored.

* * * * *

Beth realized that she had half-expected Bedient to re-enter that open door…. Reflecting upon the days, she found that he had done none of the things she had half-expected. Only, while she had believed herself comparatively unresponsive, he had filled her with a deep, silent inrushing. One by one he had swept away the ramparts which the world had builded before her heart. So softly and perfectly had he fitted his nature to her inner conception that she had not been roused in time. But the Shadowy Sister had known him for her prince of playmates…. She wondered how she could have been so wilful and so blind with her painter’s strong eyes. Even her pride had betrayed her. Wordling and the ocean could not continue to stand against all the good he had shown her.

Beth had run away for a few days. She could not bear her mother’s eyes, nor the studio where he had been. Better the house of strangers, two hours from New York up the Hudson…. She heard he had gone back to his Island…. The June days drowsed. The mid-days were slow to come to as far hills; and endless to pass as hills that turn into ranges. The sloping afternoons were aeon-long; and centuries of toil were told in the hum of the bees about her window, toil to be done over and over again; and sometimes from the murmur of the bees, would appear to her like a swiftly-flung scroll, glimpses of her other lives, filled like this with endless waiting–for she was always a woman. And for what was she waiting?…

Often she thought of what Bedient had said about the women who refuse the bowl of porridge, and who therefore do not leave their children to brighten the race. These he had called the centres of new and radiant energy, the spiritual mothers of the race. And one night she cried aloud: “Would one be less a spiritual help, because she had a little of her own heart’s desire? Because she held the highest office of woman, would her outer radiance be dimmed? To be a spiritual mother, why must she be just a passing influence or inspiration–a cheer for those who stop a moment to refresh themselves from her little cup, and hurry on about their own near and dear affairs, in which she has no share?… He stands in a big, bright garden and commands the spiritual mother to remain a waif out on the dusty highway. ‘How much better off you are out there!’ he says. ‘You can show people the Gate, and keep them from going the wrong way, on the long empty road. Nothing can hurt you, but yourself. It is very foolish of _you_ to want to come in!'”…

She remembered that some fine thing had lit his eyes like stars at the parting. Time came when she wished she had seen him at the studio, or at her mother’s house, when he called before going away…. The sharp irony of her success brought tears–and Beth Truba was rather choice of her tears. The portrait had made a stir at the Club, and the papers were discussing it gravely.

It brought back the days in which he had come to the studio, and what it had meant to her for him to move in and out. How dependent she had become upon his giving! The imperishable memories of her life had arisen from those days, while she painted his portrait. Beth realized this now–days of strange achievement under his eyes–errant glimpses of life’s inner beauty–moments in which she had felt the power to paint even that delicate and fleeting shimmer of sunlight about a humming-bird’s wing, so intense was her vision–their talks, and the ride–well she knew that these would be the lights of her flagging eyes–treasures of the old Beth, whose pictures all were painted.

It was hard to have known the joy of communion with his warm heart, and deeply seeing mind–and now to accept the solitude again. She felt that his going marked the end of her growth; that now it was a steady downgrade, body and mind…. Some time, long hence, she would meet him again…. She would be “Beth-who-used-to-paint-so-well.” They would talk together. The moment would come to speak of what they might have been to each other, save for the Wordlings of this world. She would weep–no, she would burst into laughing, and never be able to stop! It would be too late. A woman must not be drained by the years if she would please a man of flesh. She could not keep her freshness after this; she had not the heart to try…. Thus at times her brain kept up a hideous grinding…. She could feel the years!… Jim Framtree saw them.

She had found a note from him two days old under her studio-door. He had telephoned repeatedly, and taken the trip over to Dunstan to see her…. Would she not allow him to call? And now Beth discovered an amazing fact:

She had been unable to keep her mind upon him, even during the moment required to read his single page of writing. She wrote that he might come….

She heard his voice in the hall. The old janitor of the building had remembered him. Beth’s hands, which had lain idle, began leaping strangely from the inner turmoil. She wished now she had met him somewhere apart from the studio. His tone brought back thoughts too fast to be tabulated, and his accent was slightly English. She divined from this he had been out of the country–possibly had returned to New York on a British ship. How well she knew his plastic intelligence! It was so characteristic and easy for him–this little affectation…. She was quite cold to him. Bedient had put him away upon the far-effacing surfaces of her mind.

The knocker fell. Rising, she learned her weakness. As she crossed the room the mirror showed her a woman who has met many deaths.

He greeted her with excited enthusiasm, but the tension which her change in appearance caused, was imperfectly concealed by his words and manner…. She knew his every movement, his every thought before it was half-uttered, as a mother without illusions knows her grown son, who has failed to become the man she hoped. They talked with effort about earlier days. He treated her with a consideration he had never shown before. The challenge of sex was missing. Duty, and an old and deep regard–these Beth felt from him. She attributed it to the havoc of a few weeks upon her face. She wished he would not come again; but he did.

It was the next morning–and she was painting. Again the knocker and his cheery greeting. Beth sat down to work–and then thoughts of the two men came to her. She should not have tried to paint, with Framtree in the room…. Thoughts arose, until she could not have borne another. The colors of her canvas flicked out, leaving a sort of welted gray of flesh, from which life is beaten. She rubbed her eyes.

“Jim,” she said at last, “why did you come back?”

He came forward, and stood over her. “I wanted to see if there was any change, Beth,–any chance.”

She regarded him, noted how effective is humility with such magnificent proportions of strength.

“There isn’t, Jim,” she answered. “At least, not the change you look for. I’m sorry if you really wanted it, but I think in time you’ll be glad—-“

“Never, Beth.”

She smiled.

Framtree hesitated, as if there were something further he would like to say. He refrained, however…. Beth gave her hand, which he kissed for old love’s sake.

* * * * *

On the following Sunday morning, Adith Mallory’s Equatorian news-feature appeared. The entire truth and all the names were not needed to make this as entertaining a Sunday newspaper story as ever drew forth her fanciful and flowing style. It was Equatoria that caught and held Beth’s eye, and she saw Andrew Bedient in large movement behind the tale. The feature was dated in Coral City ten days before. Beth was so interested that she wanted to meet the correspondent, and wondered if Miss Mallory had returned to New York. She dropped a card with her telephone number, and the next morning Miss Mallory ‘phoned. Her voice became bright with animation upon learning that Beth was upon the wire.

“There’s no one in New York whom I’d rather talk with this moment, Miss Truba.”

“And why?”

“That portrait at the _Smilax Club_–I saw it yesterday. I’m writing about it…. The face I know–and you have done it tremendously! I can’t tell you how it affected me. Don’t bother to come down here. Let me go to you.”

“I shall be glad to see you, Miss Mallory,–this afternoon?”

“Yes, and thank you.”

The call had brightened Beth’s mood somewhat. A bundle of letters had been dropped through her door as she talked. Beth saw the quantity of them and remembered it was Monday’s first mail. She busied about the studio for a moment…. Letters, she thought,–these were all she had to represent her great investments of faith. Letters–the sum of her longings and vivid expectations. No matter what she wanted or deserved–a voice, a touch or a presence–it had all come to this, the crackle of letter paper. What a strange thing to realize! A fold of paper instead of a hand–a special delivery instead of a step upon the stair–a telegram instead of a kiss!…

“I belong in a cabinet,” she sighed. “I guess I’m a letter-file instead of a lady.”…

There was a large square envelope from Equatoria…. With stinging cheeks, Beth resented the buoyant happiness of the first few lines. Until a clearer understanding came, it seemed that he was blessing her refusal of him. How unwarranted afterward this thought appeared! The letter lifted her above her own suffering. Her mind was held by the great vital experience of a soul, a soul faring forth on its supreme adventure. He did not say what had happened in words, but she saw his descent in the flesh and his upward flight of spirit–the low ebb and the flashing heights…. How well she knew the cool brightness of his eyes, as he wrote! The god she had liberated that sunlit day was dead–not dead to her alone, but to any woman of Shore or Mountain or Isle…. With a gasp, she recalled Vina Nettleton’s first conception, that Bedient was past, or rapidly passing beyond the attraction of a single woman.

Beth saw that she had helped to bring him to this greater dimension. There was a thrill in the thought. There would have been a positive and enduring joy, had he not gone from her to another. Truly, that was an inauspicious beginning for Illumination–but miracles happened. This thought fascinated her now: Had she seen clearly and made the great sacrifice of withholding herself–that he might rise to prophecy–there would have been gladness in that! She felt she could have done that–the iron Beth–given him to the world and not retained him for her own heart. He said that other women had done so. What an instrument!

But strength did come from his letter; there was a certain magic in his praise and blessing. It gave her something like the natural virtues of mountain coolness and ocean air. Austerely pure, it was. Plainly, pleasure had not made him tarry long.

* * * * *

Beth and Miss Mallory had talked an hour before the name of Jim Framtree was innocently mentioned by the newspaperwoman. It was not Beth’s way to betray her fresh start of interest, even though she gained her first clue to the meaning of the fine light she had seen in Bedient’s eyes at parting…. The blood seemed to harden in her heart. The familiar sounds of the summer street came up through the open windows with a sudden horror, as if she were a captive on cannibal shores.

“No one knows why he wanted this talk with Mr. Framtree,” Miss Mallory was saying. “He wanted it vitally–and you see what came of it–a revolution averted–the fortunes of the whole Island altered for the better–and yet, those were only incidents. He was so ill–that another man would have fallen–and yet he went to _The Pleiad_–and aboard the Spaniard’s yacht, as you read…. I knew his courage before–from the _Hedda Gabler_ night–but it was true, he didn’t know me! The only result I know was that Mr. Framtree came to New York—-“

It seemed to Beth that her humanity was lashed and flung and desecrated…. “But he did not know,” she thought. “He did not know. He could not have hurt me this way. He thought I could not change, that I should always worship the beauty of exteriors. I told him the parable–and he went away–to send me what he thought I wanted!…”

Miss Mallory had come with a tribute of praise to a great artist. She found a woman who was suffering, as she had suffered, in part. A great mystery, too, she found. It was almost too sacred for her to try to penetrate, because it had to do with him…. She wondered at Miss Truba’s inability to speak, or to help herself in any way with the things that pressed her heart to aching fullness…. She had found it wonderfully restoring to talk of him–with a woman who knew him–and who granted his greatness from every point.

The long afternoon waned, but still the women were together. All that had taken place was very clear to Beth–even this woman’s ministerings.

“And he is better–beyond words, better!” Miss Mallory added. “I received a note from him this morning. The _Hatteras_ arrived yesterday. I came up on the _Henlopen_ eight days ago. So it was my first word. Something great has happened. He is changed and lifted.”

“Has Mr. Framtree finished his mission?” Beth asked.

“Yes. He intends to go back to-morrow afternoon. He finished sooner than he thought. He is going to help Mr. Bedient in the administration of the vast property…. It seems that no one ever touches Mr. Bedient, but that some great good comes to him. I am going back, too—-“

“To live?”

“Yes.” Miss Mallory explained what Dictator Jaffier had done for her, adding:

“It was all Mr. Bedient’s doing…. You see what I mean, about the wonderful things that happen to others–where he is…. Yet I would rather have that picture of him you painted–than all Equatoria–but even that should not belong to one—-“

“You love him then?” Beth asked softly.

“I dared that at first, but I didn’t understand. He is too big to belong that way…. I would rather be a servant in his house–than the wife of any other man I ever knew. I am that–in thought–and I shall be near him!”

After a moment, Beth _heard_ the silence–and drew her thoughts back to the hour. She seemed to have gone to the utmost pavilions of tragedy–far beyond the sources of tears–where only the world’s strongest women may venture. The Shadowy Sister was there…. Beth had come back with humility, which she could not reveal.

The dusk was closing about them.

“You have been good to come–good to tell me these things,” Beth said. “Some time I shall paint a little copy of the portrait for you. I’m sure he would be glad.”

THIRTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER

A SELF-CONSCIOUS WOMAN

Two days later Beth answered a ‘phone call from David Cairns…. He was just back from Nantucket … for a few days…. Very grateful to find her in…. Yes, Vina had come over, too.

Beth was instantly animate. Vina had planned to be gone a month at least.

“I’d like to come over alone first–may I, Beth?” Cairns asked.

“Yes.”

“Within a half-hour?”

“Yes…. I shall prepare to listen to great happiness.”

… Beth reflected that she looked a belated forty; that she had lost her charm for the eye of Jim Framtree, who had treated her like a relative. She was ashamed to show her suffering to David Cairns–ashamed that she cared–but it was part of her. Happiness was in the air. She must listen. She marveled at her capacity to endure….

The dews of joy were upon David Cairns. Between Bedient and Vina, he had been born again. He looked at her–as all who knew her did now–and then again in silence. It always made her writhe–that second stare. It gave her the sense of some foreign evil in her body–like the discovery of a malady with its threat of death in every vein.

He told her that Vina and he were to be married at once. Beth gave to the story all that listening could add to the telling of happiness.

“And, David,” she said. “I claim a little bit of credit for this glorious thing—-“

“Credit, Beth!” he said rousingly. “I told Vina I could worship you for it!”

“Don’t, please–David. I don’t need it. I’m too happy over you both…. And then, it wasn’t all mine, you know. I think Mr. Bedient saw you together in his mind. I think he meant me to startle you to your real empire—-“

“Did he?” Cairns asked eagerly.

“Hasn’t it turned out perfectly?”

Beth did not miss the gladness which this hint gave him. She knew that Bedient’s thought of it would be like an authority to Vina as well…. She felt herself drawing farther and farther back from the lives of the elect, but joyously she urged David to tell about their house in Nantucket.

“And, Beth,” he said intensely. “That was Bedient’s doing, too. I have–all I have seems to be the happiness part.”

“Poor dear boy–how hard!”

“…I was telling him how Vina loved Nantucket,” Cairns went on, “some of the rare things she said about the Island and the houses in Lily Lane, and how I planned to go over and find her there this month. He knew we were coming on very well…. One night at the Club, he asked me why I didn’t buy one of those houses in Lily Lane, fix up a studio in one of the upper rooms, and then show it to her some summer morning and let it seep in slowly that it was hers–and my heart, too—-“

“Beautiful!” Beth exclaimed. A trace of color came to her face.

“I’m telling it badly. Vina will tell you better. Anyway, he wouldn’t let me go over alone. You remember when we went away together–for three or four days early in June?”

“I didn’t know you–were you with him?”

“Yes, we went together–found the house in Lily Lane—-“

“And he went back to Equatoria–right after that?”

Her tone had risen, the words rapid.

“Yes–and without letting me know.”

Cairns noted vaguely that Beth’s face seemed farther away.

“David, you were with him–those three days, beginning Monday, the first week in June–you–were–with–with–him—-?”

“Every minute, Beth—-“

“David, how did Mrs. Wordling know–you were going?”

“Why, Beth, she didn’t. No one knew—-“

“Are you sure? Isn’t there some way she could have heard–at the Club?”

He hesitated. He had caught her eyes. They horrified him…. He remembered.

“Why, yes. We were talking–it was the night he first spoke of going over to Nantucket with me. Mrs. Wordling was behind at a near table. I told him we’d better talk lower—-“

No sound escaped her. Cairns sprang up at the sight of her uplifted face…. Her eyes turned vaguely toward the door of the little room. He was standing before it. She seemed only to know–like some half-killed creature–that she was hunted and must hide. She couldn’t pass him into the little room, but turned behind the screen. He did not hear her step, but something like the rush of a skirt, or a sigh.

There was no sound from the kitchenette. Cairns could not think in this furious stress. After a moment he called.

No answer.

It did not occur to him to go to her. Scores of times he had been in the studio, but he had never passed that screen.

He called again…. Not a breath nor movement in answer. He did not think of her as dead, but stricken with some awful madness. She had stood transfixed…. Yet her old authority was about her. He feared her anger.

“Dear–Beth,–won’t you let me come–or do something?… In God’s name–what is it?”

He listened intently.

“Beth, I’ll go and get Vina–shall I?”

Terrible seconds passed; then her voice came to him–trailed forth, high-pitched, slow–an eerie thing in his brain:

“_I thought I was a good queen, but I have been hard and wicked as hell. I’m Bloody Beth…. He asked for bread and I gave him a stone…. Bloody Beth of the Middle Ages_.”

“Beth–please!” he cried.

“Go away–oh, go away!”

Cairns’ only thought was to bring Vina to her. Some awful hatred for himself came forth from the back room. He turned to the outer door, saying, aloud:

“Yes, Beth, I’ll go.”

The door shut and clicked after him–without his touch–it seemed very quickly. He descended the steps–a sort of slave to the routine of death–as one who finds death, must run to perform certain formalities. At the front door he stopped a second or two, as if his name had been called faintly. He thought it a delusion–and went out. Crossing the street, he heard it again:

“David!”

It was just enough for him to hear–a queer high quality.

He glanced up. Beth was leaning out of the lofty window…. More than ever it was like death to him–the old newspaper days when he was first at death–the mute face aloft, the gesture, the instant vanishing, when he was seen to comprehend.

Her door was ajar. She called for him to come in, as he halted in the hall. Beth came forth from the little room, after a moment, and stood before him, leaning against the piano. Her face was grayish-white, but she was controlled.

“Once you told me you loved me,” she said. “A happy man should be ready to do something for a woman he once told that.”

“Anything, Beth.”

“It came forth from your happiness–so suddenly. You have found me out…. You made me see–that I believed the lie of a worthless woman—-“

She halted. The last words had a familiar ring.

“I believed a despicable thing of Andrew Bedient–and sent him away…. He must never know. I could not live and have him know that I believed it. I am paying. I shall pay. I only ask you to keep it, forever–all that you saw–all that was said–to-day—-“

“I will keep it, Beth.”

“Even from Vina. Vina is pure. He would read it in her eyes–if she knew. I wonder that he loved me…. God!… You have enough of the world left–to bury this evil thing–for me. I am glad of your happiness.”

“Vina will want to see you to-day.”

“She may come…. You may say I have been ill. It is true…. I shall stay and be with you for your marriage. You want me—-“

“We came back to New York for that.”

“Yes…. And then I shall go away.”

Cairns lingered. “But Beth, Bedient will always love you. He will come back—-“

“It is not the same. You will see when he writes. I made him suffer–until a great light came–and he is the world’s–not mine.”

“Beth,” he said humbly, “you are Absolute!”

“I shall come back–strong enough to meet him–as one of the world’s women–or I shall stay away,” she said.

THIRTY-NINTH CHAPTER

ANOTHER SMILAX AFFAIR

The _Hatteras_ was warping into a New York slip the day before Christmas. Bedient was aboard. There was to be a little party for him, given by Cairns and Vina at the _Smilax Club_ that night. The Cairns’ had come over from Nantucket for the winter, and were living at the Club. This was Bedient’s third trip to New York in the half-year preceding. He had not seen Beth, but there had been letters between them–of late, important letters, big with reality and understanding. She had been in Europe since July, but had promised to be home for the holidays. Vina’s last letter told him that Beth would be at their affair of greeting to-night.

Adith Mallory saw Jim Framtree in New York, after her hours with Beth Truba. It was the day before he sailed for Equatoria. Framtree asked her not to tell Mr. Bedient that the name of Framtree was spoken in her conversation with Beth. This request gave her a clearer understanding.

Bedient may have guessed that the mystery of the return of Jim Framtree was penetrated by Beth, but he did not ask Miss Mallory, nor mention Framtree in his letters to the lustrous lady. He doubtless wondered at the hasty return of his young friend, but it was a privilege of Beth to return his gifts–one of the glowing mysteries of Beth.

Just now, Bedient caught the waving hand of David Cairns in the small crowd below. Fifteen minutes later they were in a cab together…. Beth had returned to New York. This was the answer to Bedient’s first question.

“Are you going to stay with us this time, Andrew?” Cairns asked, raptly studying his friend.

“Yes. Several weeks at least.”

“At the Club?”

“No. I shall go back to Broderick Street to-morrow.”

This was a broken arrow of black sorrows near the East River, straight East from Gramercy. Bedient had found it in the summer, where it had lain rotting in its wound.

“So the New York office of the Carreras plantations is to be in Broderick Street,” Cairns said thoughtfully.

“But I’ll be with you often…. And, David, I’ve brought up a small manuscript which I want you to read. After that we’ll advise together about its publishing—-“

“That _is_ important–if the stuff is anything like your letters to me…. Have you thought of attaching your name to this beginning?”

“Not more than _A.B._”

* * * * *

“Is everything bright down yonder?” Cairns asked after a moment.

“Bright past any idea you can have. Framtree is doing greatly–indispensable–and loves the life. Miss Mallory still unfolds. She’s a Caribbean of buried treasure—-“

“And _they_?” Cairns asked.

“Are friends.”

…Vina met them in her studio. The three stood for a moment in silence among the panels. It was not yet four in the afternoon, but the dusk was thickening…. Vina put on her hat.

“I’ve just received word from Mary McCullom,” she said. “She’s in Union Hospital–I don’t know–but I must hurry. The word said that Mary McCullom wanted me–nothing more. That was her maiden-name. I knew her so. Her husband died recently, but I didn’t hear in time to find her.