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  • 1912
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She must have left New York for a time. They were _so_ happy…. I’m afraid—-“

David went to her.

“No, you mustn’t go with me, David. There are too many things to do–for to-night—-“

“Let me go, Vina,” Bedient said.

In the cab, she told him the story of Mary McCullom’s failure as an artist and conquest as a woman–the same story she had told Beth Truba–and what meant the love of the nurseryman–to Mary McCullom.

Vina’s voice had a strange sound in the shut cab. She felt Bedient’s presence, as some strength almost too great for her vitality to sustain. He did not speak.

“Sometimes it seems almost sacrilege,” she said in a trembling tone, “to be so happy as we have been…. I should have persevered until I found her–after her … oh, what that must have meant to her!… And she used to rely upon me so—-“

* * * * *

“… Oh, Vina!” the woman whispered, holding out her arms. “I have wanted you!… I have waited for you to come…. I knew you would. I always loved you, because you made me take him!… We were so happy…. Draw the coverlet back—-“

A new-born child was sleeping at her breast.

Vina had knelt. Her head bent forward in silent passion.

“Won’t you, Vina–won’t _you_ take him?”

Vina covered her face, but made no sound.

* * * * *

“She will take the little one,” said the voice above them.

Both women turned their eyes to Bedient. Mary McCullom smiled shyly.

“I remember–David–Cairns,” she said, in an awed tone. “This is not—-“

“No, dear, but it is enough. I will take your–baby.”

The smile brightened…. “Oh, we were so happy,” she whispered…. “And Vina–tell him when he is older–how his father and I loved–the thought of him!”

“He will bless you,” Bedient said.

A glow had fallen upon the weary face of the mother…. “Yes,” she answered. “He will bless us … and I shall be with my husband…. Oh, now, I can go to my husband!”

* * * * *

Hours afterward, when it was over, Vina looked into Bedient’s face, saying:

“You may ask David–why I hesitated–that first moment.”

“I know, Vina–God love you!”

Before they left the hospital, he said: “We won’t speak of this to-night…. Everything is arranged…. To-morrow morning, we will come for the little boy…. It is time for us to be at the Club.”

“I had forgotten,” Vina answered vaguely.

* * * * *

Kate Wilkes and Marguerite Grey were waiting that evening in the Club library. David Cairns had left them a moment before, called to the telephone.

“Rather a contrast from that other night when we foregathered to meet _The Modern_–fresh from the sea,” Kate Wilkes observed.

“Yes,” said the Grey One.

“David no longer belongs to the coasting-trade in letters,” Kate Wilkes went on whimsically. “He has emerged from a most stubborn case of boyhood. Now he’s got Vina’s big spirit, and she has her happiness and is doing her masterpiece—-“

The women exchanged glances. “You mean the Stations?” the Grey One asked in her quiet way.

“Beth has done a great portrait–enough for any woman–just _one_ like that,” Kate Wilkes added, ignoring the other.

“For a time–I thought Beth and Mr. Bedient—-” the Grey One ventured.

“No,” the other said briefly. “Beth loves her work better than she could love any man. She’s the virgin of pictures. Have you seen her since she came back?”

“Yes. As lovely as ever.”

“And your ‘rage’ is on again…. I’m mighty glad about that, Margie. You were suicidal. Does the great fortune hold true?”

“Oh, yes,” the Grey One said, “I’m doing right well. Some of my things are going over the water.”

“Poor little Wordling…. I wonder what she has drawn of the great Driving Good–since that night?… I think it would puzzle even Andrew Bedient–to make her hark to any soul–but New York’s—-“

“And you, Kate–this Eve–what has the Year brought?”

“Nonsense, I’m glass; hold oil or acid with equal ease,” Kate said, leaning back in the big chair. “I’ve got a bit of work to do, and a few friends whose fortunes have taken a stunning turn for the better. And I mustn’t forget–letters from _The Modern_ when he’s away, and talks when he’s in New York…. What astonishes me about Andrew Bedient is that he wears. He set a killing pace–for our admiration at first–at least, I thought so–but he hasn’t let down an instant. He stands the light of the public square. I granted him a great spirit, but he has more, a great nature to hold it. He can mingle with men without going mad. There’s many a prophet who couldn’t do that—-“

David Cairns joined them. “They will be here in a few minutes,” he said. “Beth is due, too…. Talking about Bedient?”

“Yes—-“

“I was just thinking,” Cairns said, “that we were in a way concentrates of New York and the country, and he is talking to all the people through us.”

“You are strong, aren’t you, David–for him?” the Grey One asked.

“Yes, and I shall be stronger.”

“I like that,” said Kate Wilkes.

“He’ll work through us–and directly,” Cairns went on. “I’m glad to wait and serve and build for a man like that. Why, if a thief took his purse, he would only wish to give him a greater thing…. Moreover, he’s one of the Voices that will break Woman’s silence of the centuries.”

“I believe much that he says–all that he says,” Kate Wilkes replied, “that Woman is the bread-giver, spiritual and material; that it is she who conserves the ideals and rewards man for fineness and power–when she has a chance. But I also believe that Woman must conquer in herself–the love of luxury, her vanity, her fierce competition for worldly position–if only for the disastrous effect of such evils upon men. They force him to lower his dreams of her, who should be high-priestess.”

“He has not missed that,” Cairns said, “but there have been multitudes to tell Woman her faults. Bedient restores the dreams of women…. It is Woman who has turned the brute mind of the world from War, and Woman will turn the furious current of the race to-day from the Pits of Trade, where abides the Twentieth Century Lie.”

“David, you’re steering straight through the Big Deep,” Kate Wilkes told him.

“I should have been of untimely birth, if he had not come to me as the most rousing and inspiring of world-men. His face is turned away toward a Great Light. He has put on power wonderfully in the last few months…. He moves with men, but he sees beyond. I know that! And all makes for the most glowing optimism. He sees that our race is on the shadowy borders of cosmic consciousness, as the brightest of our domestic animals to-day are on the borders of self-consciousness. He sees that Woman will be the great teacher when humanity rises. Every thing is bright to him in this shocking modern hour, for it heralds the advent of the Risen Woman!… Yes, I am full of this. I have been getting his letters, and writing about the things he has made me think. The good that we do for the race–comes back–for we are the race always. I’ve already found so much that is good in the world, that I praise God every morning of my life!”

Beth had come. She was standing beside him.

“Glorious, David,” she said.

And now Vina appeared, to lead them to the big round table in the room of the cabinets.

“He will be here in a minute,” she said.

At each place of the table was an engraved card, which Vina explained: “When Mr. Bedient first came to my studio–to me it was a wonderful afternoon. I asked him to write for me some of the things he said, and I thought you would like to keep–what came of the request–his _Credo_:”

I BELIEVE

In the natural greatness of Woman; that through the spirit of Woman are born sons of strength; that only through the potential greatness of Woman comes the militant greatness of man.

I believe Mothering is the loveliest of the Arts; that great mothers are hand-maidens of the Spirit, to whom are intrusted God’s avatars; that no prophet is greater than his mother.

I believe when humanity arises to Spiritual evolution (as it once evolved through Flesh, and is now evolving through Mind), Woman will assume the ethical guiding of the race.

I believe that the Holy Spirit of the Trinity is Mystic Motherhood, and the source of the divine principle in Woman; that Prophets are the union of this divine principle and higher manhood; that they are beyond the attractions of women of flesh, because unto their manhood has been added Mystic Motherhood.

I believe in the Godhood of the Christ; that unto the manhood of the Son and Mystic Motherhood was added, upon Resurrection, the Third Lustrous Dimension of the Father-God; that, thus Jesus became the first fruit of earth, and thus He is enhanced above St. Paul and the Forerunner, becoming Three in One–Man, risen to Prophecy through illumination of the Holy Spirit, and to Godhood, through his ineffable services to Men.

I believe that the way to Godhood is the Rising Road of Man.

I believe that, as the human mother brings a child to her husband, the father,–so Mystic Motherhood, the Holy Spirit, is bringing the world to God, the Father.

All had read, when Bedient entered. He went first to Beth….

“It’s our own original gathering,” he said, after a moment, “–but Mrs. Wordling–where is she?”

Cairns’ eye turned to Beth. She fixed hers upon him, as if it helped to hold her strength.

Kate Wilkes answered: “We can find out in a moment–in the West somewhere with her company—-“

“She’s in Detroit this week,” came slowly from Beth. “I saw it to-day in a dramatic paper—-“

“Thank you…. We’ll send a telegram of greeting. She must know she isn’t forgotten.”

He wrote it out.

Kate Wilkes glanced at the Grey One, as if to say: “Here’s something to make her forget the soul of New York.”

“I’m thankful to be here,” Bedient said, in a moment. “It’s like one’s very own.”

FORTIETH CHAPTER

FULL DAY UPON THE PLAIN

Beth awoke early Christmas morning, and leaned out of the window to look at the East. After a week of the year’s darkest days, had come a lordly morn, bright garments fresh from ocean…. The night had shown her clearly the great thing which had befallen Andrew Bedient, a suggestion of which had come to her from the first Equatorian letter. And how wonderfully his life had prepared him for it!… Thirty-odd swift strange years–ships, Asia, queer voices, far travels, unspoken friendships, possibly a point or two of passion, glimpses into dim lands and dark lives, the adored memory of his Mother whispered only to one dear living heart, yet glowing over all his days—-

“It was a man’s love, then,” Beth whispered.

She remembered his comings and goings, his sayings and silences. All were leveled and subdued by a serene and far-evolved spirit; and upon all was the flower of truth. His love had been an inner reverent thing which did not vaunt itself. All but once the passions he had felt were his own deep property…. The Shadowy Sister, who would live on when the worn-out earth of her being sank into its seventh year of restoring,–yes, the Shadowy Sister had been chastened and strengthened by his passing.

…Beth saw the little boy, faring forth alone without the Mother’s hand–out into the great world of sea–under his star. Not a single preconception had his mind contained. Everything in the world had been for him to take, and when he would have taken something ill, the Mother had come and prevailed…. Only once he was denied–she, Beth, had done that. Did the Mother prevail against her?… But how mightily had he desired her!

Beth saw she had betrayed herself. She had been too much an artist of the world, too little a visionary. She had not seen deeply enough his inner beauty and integrity; too accustomed had she become to the myriad-flaring commonness of daily life…. But would the greater dimension have come to him, if she had given him the happiness he thought he wanted? Had he turned to Vina Nettleton the man-love she, Beth, had felt, and been answered with swift adoration, would he have met in this life the Great Light on his hills?

…Too much artist–how Beth understood what that meant now! There is a way to God through the arts, but it is a way of quicksands and miasmas, of deep forests and abysses. Only giants emerge unhurt in spirit. The artist is taught to worship line and surface; his early paths are the paths of sensuousness. He may be held true at first by the rigors of denial–but what a turning is the first success–his every capacity of sense is suddenly tested, as only an artist’s can be! Then, the hatred of the unsuccessful; he must forge ahead in the teeth of a great wind of contemporary hostility, _which rouses the Ego and not the Spirit_. And finally the artist must choose between his visions, for alike come purity and evil. The road of genius runs ever close to the black abyss of madness. The human mind ignited with genius is like an old time-weakened building, in which is installed new machinery of startling power. What a racking upon old fabric!

The simple religious nature with its ventures into a milder spiritual country, puts on glory with far less danger and pain than the artist, and what a perfect surface is prepared within him for the arts to be painted upon!

Beth knew she had lived her art-life bravely, loved her work with valor, and served it with the best of her eye and hand. The life of _just-woman_, she had wanted more, and idealized as only an artist can–to be a man’s maiden, a man’s mate and the mother of his babes, but this was not for her. The man had come, and she had turned him away. _Just-woman_ would have held him fast. Yes, it was the artist that had faltered at the right moment–the resolute creative force within her, weathered in suffering, not to be intimidated, slow, tragically slow to bow down…. A little Salvation band passed below:

Joy to the world,
The Lord is Come

Eight notes of the descending scale sounded mightily from drum and cornet….

* * * * *

Bedient was coming this morning. He had asked to, the night before; asked if he might come early…. What a morning for bleak December! She went to the window. Islands of rose and lily were softly blooming in the lakes of Eastern light. Heaven was building in the East–its spires to rise unto high noon….

His step was on the stair. Beth hurried to the door. She saw his strange smile, and the bundle in his arms.

“I thought you would like to play with him for a while,” he said. “He’s a wonderfully blessed little boy…. You really had to see him—-“

Beth had taken the babe to a far corner–and rushed to shut the window. Now, she bent over the coverings.

“I have always wanted to see you, just like that,” Bedient added. “…I know the little boy’s story…. He is amazingly rich–they both gave him the blue flower. He is love-essence…. May I leave him a little while, until I get some other things?”

Out of the fervent heat–he had come. Beth looked up. Bedient had drawn back to the door. Light from the hidden sun was in the room…. He was gone.

Beth did not yet know the babe’s story. Some dying woman’s love-child, she thought…. She would give him her years–to make him brave and beautiful. It would be her gift to the world–her greatest painting–and the little child would name it _Mother_.

“He means me to have it!” she murmured. “I think this has been struggling to get into my heart for years–the child of some woman who has kissed and died for it! … I think–I think this is the end of the fiery waiting…. Little boy, you shall heal the broken dreams, and I shall read in your eyes–the world-secret which aches so heavily in the breasts of women.”

* * * * *

Long afterward she heard his step upon the stair again…. As she turned to the door from the far corner–there was a tiny cry–just as she had heard it before–in that high noon.

She went back to the child.

And Bedient with further bundles, waited smiling outside the door.

END.