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Fate Knocks at the Door by Will Levington Comfort

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Produced by Charles Aldarondo, GF Untermeyer and PG Distributed

Fate Knocks At The Door

_A Novel_


Will Levington Comfort

Author of

"Routledge Rides Alone,"
"She Buildeth Her House," etc.


In speaking of the first four notes of the opening movement, Beethoven
said, some time after he had finished the Fifth Symphony: "So pocht das
Shicksal an die Pforte" ("Thus Fate Knocks at the Door"); and between
that opening knock, and the tremendous rush and sweep of the Finale,
the emotions which come into play in the great conflicts of life are

--From Upton's _Standard Symphonies_.




I. ASIA. (_Allegro con brio_.)

First Chapter: The Great Wind Strikes
Second Chapter: The Pack-Train in Luzon
Third Chapter: Red Pigment of Service
Fourth Chapter: That Adelaide Passion
Fifth Chapter: A Flock of Flying Swans
Sixth Chapter: That Island Somewhere
Seventh Chapter: _Andante con Moto_--Fifth
Eighth Chapter: The Man from _The Pleiad_

II. NEW YORK. (_Andante con moto_.)

Ninth Chapter: The Long-Awaited Woman
Tenth Chapter: The Jews and the Romans
Eleventh Chapter: Two Davids Come to Beth
Twelfth Chapter: Two Lesser Adventures
Thirteenth Chapter: About Shadowy Sisters
Fourteenth Chapter: This Clay-and-Paint Age
Fifteenth Chapter: The Story of the Mother
Sixteenth Chapter: "Through Desire for Her."
Seventeenth Chapter: The Plan of the Builder
Eighteenth Chapter: That Park Predicament
Nineteenth Chapter: In the House of Grey One
Twentieth Chapter: A Chemistry of Scandal
Twenty-first Chapter: The Singing Distances
Twenty-second Chapter: Beth Signs the Picture
Twenty-third Chapter: The Last Ride Together
Twenty-fourth Chapter: A Parable of Two Horses

III. EQUATORIA. (_Allegro. Scherzo_.)

Twenty-fifth Chapter: Bedient for _The Pleiad_
Twenty-sixth Chapter: How Startling is Truth
Twenty-seventh Chapter: The Art of Miss Mallory
Twenty-eighth Chapter: A Further Note from Rey
Twenty-ninth Chapter: At _Treasure Island Inn_
Thirtieth Chapter: Miss Mallory's Mastery
Thirty-first Chapter: The Glow-worm's One Hour
Thirty-second Chapter: In the Little Room Next
Thirty-third Chapter: The Hills and the Skies
Thirty-fourth Chapter: The Supreme Adventure
Thirty-fifth Chapter: Fate Knocks at the Door

IV. NEW YORK. (_Allegro. Finale_.)

Thirty-sixth Chapter: The Great Prince House
Thirty-seventh Chapter: Beth and Adith Mallory
Thirty-eighth Chapter: A Self-Conscious Woman
Thirty-ninth Chapter: Another _Smilax_ Affair
Fortieth Chapter: Full Day Upon the Plain




_Allegro con brio_



Andrew Bedient, at the age of seventeen, in a single
afternoon,--indeed, in one moment of a single afternoon,--performed an
action which brought him financial abundance for his mature years.
Although this narrative less concerns the boy Bedient than the man as
he approaches twice seventeen, the action is worthy of account, beyond
the riches that it brought, because it seems to draw him into somewhat
clearer vision from the shadows of a very strange boyhood.

April, 1895, the _Truxton_, of which Andrew was cook, found herself
becalmed in the China Sea, midway between Manila and Hong Kong, her
nose to the North. She was a smart clipper of sixty tons burden, with a
slightly uptilted stern, and as clever a line forward as a pleasure
yacht. She was English, comparatively new, and, properly used by the
weather, was as swift and sprightly of service as an affectionate
woman. Her master was Captain Carreras, a tubby little man of
forty-five, bald, modest, and known among the shipping as "a perfect
lady." He wore a skull-cap out of port; and as constantly, except
during meals, carried one of a set of rarely-colored meerschaum-bowls,
to which were attachable, bamboo-stems, amber-tipped and of various

The little Captain was fastidious in dress, wearing soft shirts of
white silk, fine duck trousers and scented silk handkerchiefs, which he
carried in his left hand with the meerschaum-bowl. The Carreras
perfume, mingled with fresh tobacco, was never burdensome, and unlike
any other. The silk handkerchief was as much a feature of the Captain's
appearance as the skull-cap. To it was due the really remarkable polish
of the perfect clays so regularly cushioned in his palm. Always for
dinner, the Captain's toilet was fresh throughout. Invariably, too, he
brought with him an unfolded handkerchief upon which he placed, at the
farther end of the table when the weather was fair (and in the socket
of the fruit-bowl when the weather-frames were on), a ready-filled
pipe. This he took to hand when coffee was brought.

His voice was seldom raised. He found great difficulty in expressing
himself, except upon affairs of the ship; yet, queerly enough, there
were times when he seemed deeply eager to say the things which came of
his endless silences. As unlikely a man as you would find in the
Pacific, or any other merchant-service, was this Carreras; a gentleman,
if a very bashful one; a deeply-read and kindly man, although it was
quite as difficult for him to extend a generous action, directly to be
found out,--and his mind was continually furnishing inclinations of
this sort,--as it was to express his thoughts. Either brought on a
nervous tension which left him shaken and drained. The right woman
would have adored Captain Carreras, and doubtless would have called
forth from his breast a love of heroic dimension; but she would have
been forced to do the winning; to speak and take the initiative in all
but the giving of happiness. Temperate for a bachelor, clean
throughout, charmingly innocent of the world, and a splendid seaman. To
one of fine sensibilities, there was something about the person of
Captain Carreras of softly glowing warmth, and rarely tender.

Bedient had been with him as cook for over a year, during which the
_Truxton_ had swung down to Australia and New South Wales, and called
at half the Asiatic and insular ports from Vladivostok to Bombay. Since
he was a little chap (back of which were the New York memories, vague,
but strange and persistent), there had always been some ship for
Bedient, but the _Truxton_ was by far the happiest.... It was from the
_Truxton_ just a few months before that he had gone ashore day after
day for a fortnight at Adelaide; and a wee woman five years older, and
a cycle wiser, had invariably been waiting with new mysteries in her
house.... Moreover, on the _Truxton_, he had nothing to do with the
forecastle galley--there was a Chinese for that--and Captain Carreras,
fancying him from the beginning, had quartered him aft, where, except
on days like this, when Mother Earth's pneumatic cushion seemed limp
and flattened, there was a breeze to hammock in, and plenty of candles
for night reading.

Then the Captain had a box of books, the marvel of which cannot begin
to be described. Andrew's books were but five or six, chosen for great
quantity and small bulk; tightly and toughly bound little books of
which the Bible was first. This was his book of fairies, his Aesop; his
book of wanderings and story, of character and mystery; his
revelations, the source of his ideality, the great expander of
limitations; his book of love and adventure and war; the book
unjudgable and the bed-rock of all literary judgment. He knew the Bible
as only one can who has played with it as a child; as only one can who
has found it alone available, when an insatiable love of print has
swept across the young mind. Nothing could change him now; this was his
book of Fate.

Except for those vision-times in the big city, Andrew could not
remember when he had not read the Bible, nor did he remember learning
to read. He seemed to have forgotten how to read before he came to sea
at seven, but when an old sailor pointed out on the stern of the
jolly-boat, the letters that formed the name of his first ship--it had
all come back to the child; and then he found his first Bible. Slowly
conceiving its immensity, its fullness _for him_--he was almost lifted
from his body with the upward winging of happiness. It was his first
great exaltation, and there was a sacredness about it which kept him
from telling anybody.... And now all the structures of the great
Scripture were tenoned in his brain; so that he knew the frame of every
part, but the inner meanings of more and more marvellous dimension
seemed inexhaustible. Always excepting the great Messianic Figure--the
white tower of his consciousness--he loved Saint Paul and the
Forerunner best among the men....

There was also a big book in the Captain's chest--_Life and Death on
the Ocean_--quarto-sized and printed in agate. It was filled with
mutiny, murder, storm, open-boat cannibalism and agonies of thirst,
handspike and cutlass inhumanities. No shark, pirate nor man-killing
whale had been missed; no ghastly wreck, derelict nor horrifying
phantom of the sea had escaped the nameless, furious compiler. For four
days and nights, Andrew glared consumingly into this terrible book, and
when he came to the writhing "Finis," involved in a sort of typhoon
tailpiece--he was whipped, and never could bring himself to touch the
book again. One reading had burned out his entire interest. It was not
Life nor Death nor Ocean, as he had seen them in ten solid years at
sea. He had given the book his every emotion, and discovered it gave
nothing back; but had shaken, terrified, played furious _tarantellas_
upon his feelings--and replenished naught. So he turned for unguent to
his Book of Books. Here was the strong steady light in contrast to
which the other was an "angled spar." True, here crawled hate, avarice,
lust, flesh and its myriad forms of death--not in their own elemental
darkness--but as scurrying vermin forms suddenly drenched with
light.... There were other and really wonderful books in Captain
Carreras' chest--a bashful welcome to his cabin, and such eager lending
from the Captain himself!

This had become a pleasant feature in the young man's life--the queer
kindly heart of the Captain. There were few confidences between them,
but a fine unspoken regard, pleasing and permanent like the Carreras
perfume. Bedient's desire to show his gratitude and admiration was
expressed in ways that could not possibly shock the Captain's
delicacy--in the small excellences of his art, for instance. To say
that the boy was consummate in the limited way of a ship's cook does
not overstate his effectiveness. He did unheard-of things--even fruit
and berry-pies, from preserves two years, at least, remote from vine
and orchard. The two mates and boatswain, who also messed aft, bolted
without speech, but marvelled between meals. To these three, the
tension of the Captain's embarrassment became insupportable, beyond
four or five minutes; so that Carreras, a discriminating, though not a
valiant trencherman, was always the last to leave the table.

And once after a first supper at sea out of Singapore (there had been a
green salad, a fish baked whole, a cut of ham with new potatoes, and a
peach-preserve tart), the Captain put down his napkin and coffee-cup,
drank a _liqueur_, reached for his pipe and handkerchief, and suddenly
encountering the eyes of Andrew, who lit a flare for him, jerked up
decisively, as one encountering a crisis. His face became hectic, and
the desperate sentence he uttered was almost lost in the frantic
clearing of his throat:

"You're a very prime and wonderful chap, sir!"

Moreover, Bedient's arm had been pressed for an instant by the softest,
plumpest hand seaman ever carried. Coughing alarmingly in the first
fragrant cloud from his Latakia and Virginia leaf, the Captain beat
forth to recover himself on deck.

* * * * *

The _Truxton_ was now six days out of Manila. For the past thirty-six
hours, she might as well have been sunk in pitch, for any progress she
made.... The ship's bell had just struck four. Bedient had finished
clearing away tiffin things, and stepped on deck. The planking was like
the galley-range he had left, and the fresh white paint of the three
boats raised in blisters. The sea had an ugly look, yellow-green and
dead, save where a shark's fin knifed the surface. The crew was lying
forward under the awnings--a fiend-tempered outfit of Laskars and
Chinese. Captain Carreras appeared on deck through the companion-way
still farther aft and nodded to Bedient. Then both men looked at the
sky, which was brassy above, but thickening in the North. It augmented
darkly and streakily--like a tub of water into which bluing is added
drop by drop.... A Chinese arose and tossed a handful of joss-tatters
into the still air. And now the voice of the Captain brought the rest
of the crew to its feet.

The China Sea can generate much deviltry to a square mile. The calm of
death and the burn of perdition are in its bosom. Cholera, glutted with
victims, steals to his couch in the China Sea; and since it is the pool
of a thousand unclean rivers, the sins of Asia find a hiding-place
there. It has ended for all time the voyages of brave mariners and
mighty ships, and become a vault for the cargoes, and a tomb for the
bones of men. The China Sea fostered the pirate, aided him in his
bloody ways, and dragged him down, riches and all. Bed of disease,
secret-place of the unclean, and graveyard of the seas; yet, this
yellow-breasted fiend, ancient in devil-lore, can smile innocently as a
child at the morning sun, and beguile the torrid stars to twinkling.

It was in this black heart that was first conceived the Tai Fung
(typhoon), and there the great wind has its being to-day, resting and

The Captain's eyes were deep in the North. Bedient's soul seemed to
sense the awful solemnity on the face of the waters. He was unable
afterward to describe his varying states of consciousness, from that
first moment. He remembered thinking what a fine little man the Captain
was; that their sailing together was done.... A sympathetic disorder
was brewing deep down on the ocean floor; the water now had a charged
appearance, and was foul as the roadstead along the mouths of the
Godivari--a thick, whipped, yeasty look. The changes were very rapid.
Every few seconds, Bedient glanced at the Captain, and as often
followed his gaze into the churning, blackening North.

A chill came into the deathly heat, but it was the cold of caverns, not
of the vital open. The heat did not mix with it, but passed by in
layers--a novel movement of the atmospheres. Had the coolness been
clean and normal, the sailors would have sprung to the rigging to
breathe it, and to bare their bodies to the rain--after two days of
hell-pervading calm--but they only murmured now and fell to work.

An unearthly glitter, like the coloring of a dream, wavered in the East
and West, while the North thickened and the South lay still in
brilliant expectation.... In some hall-way when Bedient was a little
boy, he recalled a light like this of the West and East. There had been
a long narrow pane of yellow-green glass over the front door. The light
used to come through that in the afternoon and fill the hall and
frighten him. It was so on deck now.

The voices of the sailors had that same unearthly quality as the
light--ineffectual, remote. Out of the hold of the _Truxton_ came a
ghostly sigh. Bedient couldn't explain, unless it was some new and
mighty strain upon the keel and ribs.

A moment more and the Destroyer itself was visible in the changing
North. It was sharp-lined--a great wedge of absolute night--and from
it, the last vestiges of day dropped back affrighted. And Bedient heard
the voice of It; all that the human ear could respond to of the awful
dissonances of storm; yet he knew there were ranges of sound above and
below the human register--for they awed and preyed upon his soul.... He
thought of some papers dear to him, and dropped below for them. The
ship smelled old--as if the life were gone from her timbers.

Above once more, he saw a hideous turmoil in the black fabric--just
wind--an avalanche of wind that gouged the sea, that could have shaken
mountains.... The poor little _Truxton_ stared into the End--a puppy
cowering on the track of a train.

And then It struck. Bedient was sprawled upon the deck. Blood broke
from his nostrils and ears; from the little veins in his eyes and
forehead. Parts of his body turned black afterward from the mysterious
pressure at this moment. He felt he was being _born again into another
world_.... The core of that Thing made of wind smashed the _Truxton_--a
smash of air. It was like a thick sodden cushion, large as a
battle-ship--hurled out of the North. The men had to breathe it--that
seething havoc which tried to twist their souls free. When passages to
the lungs were opened, the dreadful compression of the air crushed
through, tearing the membrane of throat and nostril.

Water now came over the ship in huge tumbling walls. Bedient slid over
the deck, like a bar of soap from an overturned pail--clutching, torn
loose, clutching again.... Then the Thing eased to a common hurricane
such as men know. Gray flicked into the blackness, a corpse-gray sky,
and the ocean seemed shaken in a bottle.

Laskars and Chinese, their faces and hands dripping red, were trying to
get a boat overside when Bedient regained a sort of consciousness. The
_Truxton_ was wallowing underfoot--as one in the saddle feels the
tendons of his mount give way after a race. The Captain helped a huge
Chinese to hold the wheel. The sea was insane.... They got the boat
over and tumbled in--a dozen men. A big sea broke them and the little
boat like a basket of eggs against the side of the ship.

Another boat was put over and filled with men. Another sea flattened
them out and carried the stains away on the surge. There were only nine
men left and a small boat that would hold but seven. Bedient helped to
make a rigging to launch this over the stern. He saw that the thing
might be done if the small craft were not broken in two against the

The Captain made no movement, had no thought to join these stragglers.
He was alone at the wheel, which played with his strength. His face was
calm, but a little dazed. It did not occur to him other than to go down
with his ship--the old tradition. The fatuousness of this appealed
suddenly to Bedient. Carreras was his friend--the only other white man
left. The two mates and boatswain had tried out the first two

Bedient ran to the wheel, tore the Captain from it and carried him in
his arms toward the stern. A Chinese tried to knife him, but the man
died, _as if_ struck by a flying bit of tackle. Bedient recaptured the
Captain, who during the brief struggle had dumbly turned back to the
wheel. It was all done in thirty seconds; Carreras was chucked into the
stern-seat of the little boat, where he belonged. The body of a Laskar
cushioned the craft from being broken against the rudder. And now they
were seven.

The _Truxton_ had been broken above and below. She strangled--and was
sucked down. Bedient saw her stern fling high like an arm; saw the big
"X" in the centre of the name in the whitish light.

He remembered hearing that typhoons always double on their tracks; and
that a ship is not done that manages to live through the first charge.
This one never came back. They had five days of thirst and equatorial
sun. Two men died; two fell into madness; Captain Carreras, Andrew
Bedient and a Chinese made Hong Kong without fatal hurt.

Captain and cook took passage for London. The former declared he was
through with the sea, except as a passenger. In twenty-five years he
had never encountered serious accident before; he had believed himself
accident-proof; and learning differently, did not propose to lose a
second ship. He could bring himself to say very little about Bedient's
action of the last moment on deck, but he asked the young man to share
his fortunes. Captain Carreras intended to stay for a while at his
mother's house in Surrey, but realized he could not stand that long....
Bedient told him he was not finished with Asia yet. On the day they
parted, the Captain said there would be a letter for Bedient, on or
before July first of every year, sent care the "_Marigold, New
York_."... The old embarrassment intervened at the last moment--but the
younger man did not miss the Captain's heart-break.



The first letter from Captain Carreras was a real experience for
Bedient. Hours were needed to adjust the memories of his timid old
friend to this flowing and affectionate expression. Captain Carreras,
shut in a room with pen and white paper, loosed his pent soul in
utterance. A fine fragrant soul it was, and all its best poured out to
his memorable boy.

The letter had been written in England, of which the Captain was
already weary. He must have more space about, he confessed; and
although he did not intend to break his pledge on the matter of
navigating, he was soon to book a passage for the Americas. He imagined
there was the proper sort of island for him somewhere in those waters.
He had always had a weakness for "natives and hot weather." Bedient was
asked to make his need known in any case of misfortune or extremity.
This was the point of the first letter, and of all the letters....

At length Captain Carreras settled in Equatoria, a big island well out
of travel-lines in the Caribbean. The second and third letters made it
even plainer that the old heart valves ached for the young man's
coming. A mysterious binding of the two seems to have taken place in
the months preceding the day of the great wind; and in that instant of
stress and fury the Captain realized his supreme human relationship. It
grew strong as only can a bachelor's love for a man. Indeed, Carreras
was probably the first to discover in Andrew Bedient a something
different, which Bedient himself was yet far from realizing.... The
latter wished that the letters from the West Indies would not always
revert to the strength of his hands. It brought up a memory of the
despoiled face of the Chinese with the knife, and of the inert figure
afterward on the planking.... Bedient knew that sometime he would go to
find his friend.

Three years after the great wind, the excitement in Manila called
Bedient across the China Sea. There had been a _coup_ of the American
fleet, and soldiers from the States were on the way to the Islands....
In the following weeks, there was much to do and observe around that
low large city of Luzon, the lights of which Andrew had seen many times
at night from the harbor and the passage--lights which seemed to lie
upon still waters. When Pack-train Thirteen finally took the field from
the big corral, to carry grub and ammunition to the moving forces and
the few outstanding garrisons, Bedient had already been tried out and
found excellent as cook of the outfit.

It is to be doubted if history furnishes a more picturesque service
than that which fell to Luzon pack-trains throughout the following two
years. It was like Indian fighting, but more compact, rapid and
surprising. The actions were small enough to be seen entire; they fell
clean-cut into pictures and were instantly comprehensive. As the
typhoon confirmed Carreras, this Luzon service brought to Bedient an
important relation--his first real friendship with a boy of his own

In the fall of 1899, David Cairns, the youngest of the American
war-correspondents, stood hungry and desolate in the plaza of the
little town of Alphonso, two days' cavalry march below Manila--when
Pack-train Thirteen arrived with provisions. The mules swung in with
drooping heads and lolling tongues, under three-hundred-pound packs.
The roars of Healy, the boss-packer, filled the dome of sky where a
young moon was rising in a twilight of heavenly blue--dusk of the gods,
indeed. A battalion of infantry in Alphonso had been hungry for three
days--so the Train had come swiftly, ten hours on the trail, and forced
going. It was a volunteer infantry outfit, and apt to be a bit lawless
in the sight of food. Some of the men began pulling at the packs. Healy
and his iron-handed, vitriol-tongued crew beat them back with the
ferocity of devils--and had the battalion cowed and whimpering, before
the officers withdrew the men and arranged an orderly issue of rations.

Meanwhile, David Cairns watched the tall, young cook, lean, tanned, and
with an ugly triangle of fresh sunburn under his left shoulder-blade,
where his shirt had been torn with a thorn that day. He loosed the
_aparejos_ and _mantas_, containing the kitchen-kit; almost magically a
fire was started. Water was heating a moment later and slabs of bacon
began to writhe.... Savage as he was from hunger, it was marvellously
colorful to the fresh-eyed Cairns--his first view of a pack-train. The
mules, relieved of their burdens, were rolling on the dusty turf.
Thirty mountain-mules, under packs one-third their own weight, and
through the pressure of a Luzon day; dry, empty, caked with
sweat-salt--yet there were not a few of those gritty beasts that went
into the air squealing, and launched a hind-foot at the nearest rib or
the nearest star, or pressed close to muzzle the bell-mare--after the
restoring roll. Then, some of the packers drove them down to water,
while others made ready the forage and grain-bags; infantry fires were
lit; the provisions turned over; detachments came meekly forward for
rations, and the lifting aroma of coffee enchanted the warm winds.
Cairns remembered all this when the sharp profile of battle-fronts grew
dull in memory.

And now Bedient had three great pans of bacon sizzling, a young
mountain of brown sugar piled upon a _Poncho_, a big can of hard-tack
broken open, and the coffee had come to boil under his hands--three
gallons at least. The watered mules had to do just so much kicking, so
much braying at the young moon; had to be assured just so often,
through their queer communications, that the bell-mare was still in the
land of picket-line--before nose-bags were fastened. Then, with all the
pack rigging in neat piles before the picket-line, and the untouched
stores covered and piled, the packers came in with their mess-tins and

Bedient had seen the hunger in the eyes of David Cairns, the empty
haversack, and noted that he was neither officer nor enlisted man.
Bedient had plenty of water, but with a smile he offered the other a
pail and pointed to the stream. This was a pleasantry for the eyes of
Boss Healy. Cairns appeared presently through the infantry, and around
the end of the picket-line--a correspondent serving mule-riders with
all the enthusiasm of a pitifully-tightened belt.... The packers were
at their pipes and cigarettes and were spreading blanket-rolls, and
groups of "chucked" infantry had warmed into singing--when the two boys
sat down to supper. The cook said:

"I'm Andrew Bedient--and are you a correspondent?"

"A cub--and pretty nearly a starved cub.... There's been nothing to
buy, you know, and this outfit was hung up here grubless. The trails
aren't open enough to travel alone. Some of the officers might have
taken me in----"

"We have plenty. The packers hadn't had their coffee when I gave you
the pail," Bedient whispered. "They hate the doughboys. I wanted them
to see you weren't enlisted.... I should say the trails _weren't_ open
for travelling alone. The niggers peppered at us all day. Healy rides
through anything--says we make better time when the natives are

"I saw how he went through the bunch that started to help you unpack,"
Cairns said laughing.

... Theirs was a quick love for each other. They had not known how
lonely their hearts were, until they encountered this fine mutual
attraction. Together they cleaned up the supper things, and spread
their blankets side by side.... Later, when only the infantry sentries
were awake, and the packers' running guard (and a little apart, the
interminable glow from Healy's cigarettes), the two were still
whispering, though the day had been terrific in physical expenditure.
So aroused and gladdened by each other were they, that intimate matters
poured forth in the fine way youths have, before the control and
concealment is put on. Grown men imprison each other.... Their low
tones trembled with emotion while the night whitened with stars. Cairns
wished that something of terror or intensity might happen. He hated a
knife to the very pith of his life, but now he would have welcomed a
passage of steel in the dark--for a chance to defend the other.

And the cook had that absolute, laughing sort of courage. Cairns
divined this--a courage so sure of itself that no boastful explanations
were needed. They talked about men, books, their yearnings, the recent
fights. Cairns was enthralled and mystified. Bedient did not seem to
hope for great things in a worldly way, while the correspondent was
driven daily by ambition and its self-dreams. Life apparently had shown
this cook day by day what was wisest and easiest to do--the ways of
little resistance. He appeared content to go on so; and this challenged
Cairns to explain what he meant to do with the next few years. Bedient
heard this with fine interest, but no quickening. Cairns was insatiable
for details of a life that had been spent in Asia and upon ships of the
Eastern seas. Everything that Bedient said had a shining exterior of
mystery to the American. His vague memories of New York; the
water-fronts that had since called his steps; different ships and
captains; the men about him, Healy and the packers; his entire
detachment from relatives, and his easy familiarity with the great
unhasting years--all these formed into a luminous envelope, containing
the new friend.

"I was always fed somehow," Bedient whispered, as he told about the dim
little lad that was himself. "There was always some one good to me. I
'member one old sailor with rings in his ears----"

The David Cairns of twenty likewise gave all gladly. Queerly enough, he
found the other especially fascinated in anything he told of his mother
and sisters, and the life at home in New York, made easy by the
infinite little cushions of wealth and culture. A youth eight months
away on his first campaign can talk with power on these matters.
Here Cairns was wonderful and authoritative and elect to
Bedient--particularly in the possession of a living, breathing Mother.
This filled the cup of dreams in a way that the dominant exterior
matters of the young correspondent's mind--newspaper beats, New York
honors, great war stories, and a writer's name--could never have done.
Bedient was clearly an inveterate idealist. His dreams were strangely
lustrous, but distant, not to be touched nor handled--an impersonal
kind of dreaming. Cairns was not so astonished that the other had been
of uncommon quality in the beginning, but that his life had not _made_
him common was a miracle, no less.

Elements of glory were in this life he had lived, but those who
belonged to it, whom Cairns had observed heretofore, were
thick-skinned; men of unlit consciousness and hardened hearts,
gruelling companions to whom there was no deadly sin but physical
cowardice, and only muscular virtues. Bedient was not of these, neither
in body, mind nor memory, aspiration, language nor manner. And yet
_they_ believed in him, accepted him in a queer, tentative, subdued
fashion; and he spoke to them warmly, and of them with affection. All
this needed a deeper and more mellowed mind than Cairns' to
comprehend; though it challenged him from the first moment in that
swiftly-darkening night. "It's too good to be true," was his
oft-recurring sentence.... Though apart, Bedient was not scoffed. Could
it be that he was so finished as a cook, as a friend, as an
indefatigable--so rhythmically superior, that the packers took no
offense at his aloofness? Certainly, Bedient felt no necessity of
impressing his values upon his companions, as do those who have come
but a little way in culture.

Somehow, Alphonso smelled of roses that night, as the two lay together
in that little plaza, where the mules were picketed and the satisfied
infantry slept. In the jungle (which seemed very close in the
moonlight), bamboo stalks creaked soothingly and stroked each other in
the soft night winds, and the zenith sky boiled with millions of
white-hot worlds.... Are not the best dreams of this earth to be heard
from two rare boys whispering in the night? They have not been
frightened by their first real failure, and the latest, most delicate
bloom of the race has not yet been brushed from their thoughts. Curled
within their minds, like an endless scroll, are the marvellous
scriptures of millenniums, and yet their brain-surfaces are fresh for
earth's newest concept.... What are they whispering? Their voices
falter with emotion over vague bits of dreaming. They ask no greater
stimulus to fly to the uttermost bounds of their limitations--than each
other and the night. Reason dawns upon their stammered expressions, and
farther they fly--thrilling like young birds, when their wings for the
first time catch the sustaining cushions of air.... These are the
vessels of the future--seals yet unbroken.



Bedient explained that he had come to the Philippines pleased with the
thought of seeing his own people, the Americans. He realized that he
was not seeing them at their best under martial law. The pair exchanged
narratives of action. Cairns pictured his first time under fire,

"... First you see the smoke; then you hear the bullets--then the
_sound_ of the guns last----"

"Yes, that's the order," said Bedient, who laughed softly, and
presently was telling of a recent and terrible baptism of fire. The
Pack-train had spurred to the rescue of a small party of sick and
footsore, making their way to garrison.

"Why that was the Pony Pack Massacre!" Cairns exclaimed. "I heard about
it--one of the worst affairs we've had over here--and you saw it?"

"I wish I hadn't," Bedient answered. "The little party of Americans
were down when I first saw them. Six or seven of the sixteen were dead;
nearly all the rest wounded. The natives had fired from three
sides--and would have finished their work with knives, except for
Thirteen. The American lieutenant in charge was clear-grained. He had
been trying to withdraw toward the town and carry his wounded--think of
that. There were not two others besides himself unscathed. I'll never
forget him--striding up and down praying and cursing--his first fight,
you know--and his boy's voice--'Be cock sure they're dead, fellows,
before you leave 'em behind for the bolos!... For the love of God don't
leave your bunkies behind for the butchers!'

"In a half minute, I saw it all--what a thing for white men to be
gathered for slaughter on a trail over here. The boys knew it--and
fought horribly against it...."

Cairns started to say something about this, but the words didn't come
quickly enough, and Bedient went on:

"There is a picture of that day which always means _war_ to me. The
soldier was hit mortally just as I got to him, but didn't fall at once,
as one does when the spine or brain is touched. As my hands went out to
him, he got it again and lost his legs, as if they were shot from
under. His body, you see, fell the length of his legs. This second
bullet was a Remington slug that shattered his hip. He had a full
canteen strung over his shoulder, infantry fashion. The bullet that
dropped him sitting on the trail, had gone through this to his hip. The
canteen was spurting water. Mind you, it was the other wound that was
killing him. There he sat dying on the road. I felt like dying for
him--felt that I couldn't bear it if it took long. He was in my
arms--and the canteen was emptying itself through the bullet-holes.
Then he seemed to hear the water flopping out on the sand, and wriggled
around to look at his hip, and I heard him mutter thickly: 'Look--look
at the b-bl-blood run!'"

Cairns felt that his companion suffered in this telling--that behind
the dark, the face close to his was deadly pale. He couldn't quite
understand the depths of Bedient's horror. It was war. All America was
behind it. One boy can't stand up against his nation. It was all very
queer. He felt that Bedient had a crystal gameness, but here was the
sensitiveness of a girl. Cairns thought of the heroes he had read of
who were brave as a lion and gentle as a woman, and these memories
helped him now to grasp his companion's point of view.... Hesitating,
Bedient finished:

"You know, to me all else was hushed when I felt that boy in my arms.
It was like a shouting and laughing suddenly ceased--as when a company
of boys discover that one of their playmates is terribly hurt.... I
imagine it would be like that--the sudden silence and sickness. It was
all so unnecessary. And that boy's mother--he should have been in her
arms, not mine. Poor little chap, he was all pimpled from beans, which
are poison to some people. He shouldn't have been hurt like that....
There was another who had needed but one shot. The Remington had gone
into his throat in front the size of a lead-pencil--and come out behind
like a tea-cup. The natives had filed the tip of the lead, so that it
accumulated destruction in the ugly way. It was like some one putting a
stone in a snow-ball--so vicious. You can't blame the natives--but the

Boss Healy growled at them to go to sleep.

* * * * *

Cairns remained with the Pack-train after that until the Rains. Never
did a boy have more to write about in three months. Every phase and
angle of that service, now half-forgotten, unfolded for his eyes. And
the impossible theme running through it all, was the carabao--the great
horned sponge that pulls vastly like an elephant and dies easily like a
rabbit--when the water is out.... They make no noise about their dying,
these mountains of flesh, merely droop farther and farther forward
against the yoke, when their skins crack from dryness; the whites of
their eyes become wider and wider--until they lay their tongues upon
the sand. The Chinese call them "cow-cows" and understand them better
than the Tagals, as they understand better the rice and the paddies.

Once Thirteen was yanked out of Healy's hand--as no volley of native
shots had ever disordered. The mules were in a gorge trotting into the
town of Indang. Natives in the high places about, were waiting for the
Train to debouch upon the river-bank--so as to take a few shots at the
outfit. Every one expected this, but just as the Train broke out of the
gorge into the open, at the edge of the river-bed--there was a great
sucking transfiguration from the shallows, a hideous sort of giving
birth from the mud.

It was just a soaked carabao rising from his deep wallow in the stream,
but that she-devil, the gray bell-mare, tried to climb the cliffs about
it. The mules felt her panic, as if an electrode ran from her to the
quick of every hide of them. When the fragments of the Train were
finally gathered together in Indang, they formed an undone, hysterical
mess. The packers were too tired to eat, but sat around dazed, softly
cursing, and smoking cigarettes; as they did one day after a big fight,
in which one of their number, Jimmy the Tough, was shot through the
brain. For days the mules were nervous over the delicate condition of
the bell.

Study of Andrew Bedient and weeks in which he learned, past the waver
of a doubt, that his friend was knit with a glistening and imperishable
fabric of courage, brought David Cairns to that high astonishing point,
where he could say impatiently, "Rot!"--as his former ideals of manhood
rose to mind. It was good for him to get this so young.... One morning
something went wrong with Benton, the farrier. He had been silent for
days. Bedient had sensed some trouble in the little man's heart, and
had often left Cairns to ride with him. Then came the evening when the
farrier was missed. It was in the mountains near Naig. At length, just
as the sun went down, the Train saw him gain a high cliff--and stand
there for a moment against the red sky. Bedient reached over and
gripped Cairns' arm. Turning, the latter saw that his friend's eyes
were closed. The remarkable thing was that not one of the packers
called to Benton--but all observed the lean tough little figure of one
of the neatest men that ever lived afield--regarded in silence the hard
handsome profile. Finally Benton drew out his pistol and looked at it,
as if to see that the oil had kept out the dust from the hard day on
the trail. Then he looked into the muzzle and fired--going over the
cliff, as he had intended, and burying himself.

"Some awful inner hunger," Bedient whispered hours afterward. "You see,
he couldn't talk--as you and I do.... I've noticed it so long--that
these men can't talk to one another--only swear and joke."

Early the next morning Cairns awoke, doubtless missing Bedient
subconsciously. It was in the first gray, an hour before Healy kicked
his outfit awake. Bedient was back in camp in time to start breakfast,
having made a big detour to reach the base of the gorge. It wasn't a
thing to speak about, but he had made a pilgrimage to the pit where the
farrier had fallen.... Another time, Cairns awoke in the same way. It
was the absence of Bedient, not the actual leaving, that aroused him.
The Train had camped in a little nameless town. Cairns, this time,
found his companion playing with a child, at the doorway of one of the
shacks of the village. Inside, was an old man sick with
_beri-beri_--swollen, features erased, unconscious; and an old woman
who also had been too weak to flee before the American party. These
two, the child, and a few pariah dogs were all that remained. You could
have put the tiny one in a haversack comfortably. A poor little mongrel
head that shone bare and scabby in places, but big black eyes, full of
puzzles and wonderings; and upon his arms and legs, those deep humors
which come from scratching in the night. The infant sat upon a banana
leaf--brown and naked and wonderful as possible--and Bedient knelt
before him smiling happily, and feeding hard-tack that had been
softened in bacon-gravy.

Cairns saw the old woman's face. It was sullen, haggard. The eyes were
no strangers to hunger nor hatred. She watched the two Americans, as
might a crippled tigress, that had learned at last how weak was her
fury against chains. He saw that same look many times afterward in the
eyes of these women of the riverbanks--as the white troops moved past.
There was not even a sex-interest to complicate their hatred.

One day Thirteen overtook a big infantry column making a wide ford in
the river before Bamban. It was high noon, but they found during the
hold-up, a bit of shade and breeze on a commanding hill. Cairns and
Bedient kicked off their shoes into the tall, moist grass, and
luxuriously poked their feet into the coolness; and presently they were
watching unfold a really pretty bit of action.

A thin glittering cloud of smoke across the river showed where the
trenches of the natives were. The Americans in the river, held their
rifles and ammunition-belts high, and wriggled their hips against the
butting force of the stream. It all became very business-like. The
battalion first across, set out to flank the native works; a rapid-fire
gun started to boom from an opposite eminence, and the infantry took to
firing at the emptying trenches. The Tagals were poked out of their
positions, and in a sure leisurely way that held the essence of

After all, it was less the actual bits of fighting that cleared into
memories of permanence, than certain subtleties of the campaign: a
particular instant of one swift twilight, as in the plaza at Alphonso;
a certain moment of a furious mid-day, when the sun was a python
pressure, so that the scalp prickled with the congested blood in the
brain, and men lifted their hats an inch or two as they rode,
preserving the shade, but permitting the air to circulate; some
guttural curse from a packer who could not lift his voice in the heat,
nor think, but only curse, and grin in sickly fashion....

There were moments, reminders of which awoke Cairns in a sweat for many
nights afterward: One day when he was badly in need of a fresh mount,
he saw just ahead of the Train--a perfect little sorrel stallion
fastened to the edge of the trail. He dismounted to change saddles. The
Train was straggling along under an occasional fire. Cairns found that
the pony was held by a tough wire, that led into the jungle. Such was
the braiding at the throat, that only a sapper could have handled it.
The correspondent started to follow the wire into the thicket--when
Bedient caught him by the shoulder and half-lifted him from the ground.
There was strength in that slim tanned hand that had nothing to do with
the ordinary force of men. The cook smiled, but disdained explanation.
It all dawned upon Cairns a second later. He would have followed the
wire to the end in the jungle--where the trap of knives would
spring.... The bolo-men need but a moment.... It was only two or three
days later that one of the packers dropped behind the Train to tighten
a cinch. No one had noticed, and Thirteen filed on.

"For Christ's sake--don't!" they heard from behind.

Wheeling, they found that the man had seen the end--as he had called
out in that horrible echoing voice. He was not more than fifty yards
behind the rear packer--and pinned to the trail. A bolo had been
hammered with a stone--through the upper lip and the base of the brain,
two or three inches into the earth.... He had been butchered besides.

At the end of a terrific ten days, Thirteen was crawling at nightfall
into the large garrison at Lipa. Men and mules had been lost in the
recent gruelling service. The trails and the miles had been long and
hard; much hunger and thirst, and there was hell in the hearts of men
this night. Even Bedient was shaking with fatigue; and Cairns beside
him, felt that there wasn't the brain of a babe in his skull. His
saddle seemed filled with spikes. His spur was gone, and for hours he
had kept his half-dead, lolling-tongued pony on the way, by frequent
jabbing from a broken lead-pencil.... And here was Lipa at last, the
second Luzon town, and a corral for the mules. As they passed a
nipa-shack, at the outer edge, a sound of music came softly forth. Some
native was playing one of the queer Filipino mandolins. The Train
pushed on, without Cairns and Bedient. All the famine and foulness and
fever lifted from these two. They forgot blood and pain and glaring
suns. The early stars changed to lily-gardens, vast and white and
beautiful, and their eyes dulled with dreams.

They did not guess, at least Cairns did not, that the low music brought
tears that night--because they were in dreadful need of it, because
they were filled with inner agony for something beautiful, because they
had been spiritually starved. And all the riding hard, shooting true
and dying game--those poor ethics of the open--had not brought a crumb,
not a crumb, of the real bread of life. Nor could mountains of mere
energy nor icebergs of sheer nerve! In needing the bread of life--they
were different from the others, and so they lingered, unable to speak,
while a poor little Tagal--"one of the niggers"--all unconsciously
played. "Surely," they thought, "his soul is no dead, dark thing when
he can play like that."

* * * * *

... So often, Bedient watched admiringly while Cairns wrote. The
correspondent didn't know it, but he was bringing a good temporal fame
to Thirteen and himself in these nights. He had a boy's energy and
sentiment; also a story to tell for every ride and wound and shot in
the dark. The States were attuned to boyish things, as a country always
is in war, and a boy was better than a man for the work.... Often
Bedient would bring him a cup of coffee and arrange a blanket to keep
the wind from the sputtering candles. The two bunks were invariably
spread together; and Bedient was ever ready for a talk in the dark,
when Cairns' brain dulled and refused to be driven to further work,
even under the whip of bitter-black coffee.... They were never to
forget these passionate nights--the mules, the mountains, nor the
changing moon. Cairns was tampering with a drug that is hard to give
up, in absorbing the odor and color of the oriental tropics. It filled
his blood, and though, at the time, its magic was lost somewhat in the
great loneliness for the States, and his mother and sisters--still, he
was destined to know the craving when back on consecrated ground once
more, and the carnal spirit of it all, died from his veins.

The most important lesson for Cairns to grasp was one that Andrew
Bedient seemed to know from the beginning. It was this: To make what
men call a good soldier means the breaking down for all time of that
which is thrillingly brave and tender in man.

Healy is a type--a gamester, a fiend, a catapult. With a yell of
"Hellsfire!" like a bursting shell, he would rowel his saddle-mule and
lead the Train through flood or flame. His was a curse and a blow. He
seemed a devil, condemned ever to pound miles behind him--bloody miles.
Sometimes, there was a sullen baleful gleam in the black eye, shaded by
a campaign hat, but more often it was wide-open and reckless like a man
half-drunk. Rousingly picturesque in action, a boy would exclaim, "Oh,
to be a man like that!" but a _man_ would look at him pityingly and
murmur, "God forbid!"... No other had the racy oaths of this
boss-packer. Here was his art. Out of all his memories of Healy and the
Train, one line stands out in the mind of Cairns, bringing the picture
of pictures:

Again, it was a swift twilight among the gorges between Silang and
Indang. It was after the suicide of the farrier, and there were sores
and galls under the packs. If one cannot quickly start the healing by
first intention, a sore back, in this climate, will ruin a mule. In a
day or two, one is all but felled by the stench and corruption of the
worm-filled wound--when the _aparejo_ is lifted.... Just before the
halt this night, an old gray mule, one of the tortured, had strayed
from the bell; sick, indeed, when that jangle failed to hold her to the
work. Something very strange and sorrowful about these mighty
creatures. If they can but muzzle the flanks of the bell-mare once in
twenty-four hours, often stopping a jolt from the heels of this
temperamental monster--the mules appear morally refreshed for any fate.

Miraculous toilers, sexless hybrids--successful ventures into Nature's
arcanum of cross-fertilization--steady, humorous, wise, enduring, and
homely unto pain! The bond of their whole organization is the bell. It
is the source inseparable in their intelligence from all that is lovely
and of good report--not the sound, but what the sound represents. And
this is the mystery: mare or gelding doesn't seem to matter, nor age,
color, temper; just something set up and smelling like a horse.
Thirteen's crest-jewel was an old roan Jezebel that smothered with
hatred at the approach of the least or greatest of her slaves. She had
a knock-out in four feet--but Beatrice, she was, to those mules.

When Healy found the old gray missing, he remembered she was badly off
under the packs. It was an ordeal to halt and search, for Silang meant
supper and pickets. But the boss led the way back--and his eye was
first to find her.... There she was, silhouetted against the sunset as
poor Benton had been--seventy or eighty feet above the trail. Her head
was down, her tongue fallen. The old burden-bearer seemed to have
clambered up the rocks--through some desperate impulse for a breeze--or
to die! She lifted her head as the hoofs rang below--but still looked
away toward some Mecca for good mules. You must needs have been there
to get it all--the old gray against the red sky--and know first-hand
the torture of the trails, the valor of labor, the awfulness of Luzon.
To Cairns and Bedient there was something deep and heady to the
picture, as they followed the eyes of Healy--and then his yell that
filled the gorges for miles:

"Come down here--you scenery-lovin' son of----"

That was just the _vorspiel_. Mother Nature must have fed color to
Healy. He did not paint, play nor write, but the rest of that curse
dropped with raw pigment, like a painting of Sorolla. Prisms of English
flashed with terrible attraction. It was a Homeric curse of all
nations. Parts of it were dainty, too, as a butterfly dip. Cairns was
hot and courageous under the spell. The whole train of mules huddled
and fell to trembling. A three-legged pariah-dog sniffed, took on a
sudden obsession, and went howling heinously dawn the gorge. Healy
rolled a cigarette with his free hand, and the old gray let herself
down, half-falling....

And then--the end of campaigning. The rains began gradually that
season, so that the last days were steamy and sickening with the heavy
sweet of tropical fragrance. Between clouds at night, the stars broke
out more than ever brilliant and near, in the washed air. There were
moments when the sky appeared ceiled with phosphor, which a misty cloud
had just brushed and set to dazzling. Something in the soil made them
talk of girls--and Bedient drew forth for Cairns (to see the hem of her
garment)--a certain hushed vision named Adelaide.... At last, the Train
made Manila, wreck that it was, after majestic service; and the great
gray mantle, a sort of moveless twilight, settled down upon Luzon and
the archipelago. Within its folds was a mammoth condenser, contracting
to drench the land impartially, incessantly, for sixty days or more.
And now the fruition of the rice-swamps waxed imperiously; the carabao
soaked himself in endless ecstasy; the rock-ribbed gorges of Southern
Luzon filled with booming and treachery. Fords were obliterated.
Hundreds of little rivers, that had not even left their beds marked
upon the land, burst into being like a new kind of swarm; and many like
these poured into the Pasig, which swelled, became thick and angry with
the drain of the hills, the overflow of the rice-lands, and the filth
and fever-stuff of the cities. At last, the constant din of the rain
became a part of the silence.



Andrew Bedient did not call at all these Asiatic and insular ports and
continue to meet only men. Indeed, he did not fail to encounter those
white women who follow men to disrupted places, where blood is upon the
ground,--nor those native women inevitably present. A man fallen to the
dregs usually finds a woman to keep him company, but it is equally true
that man never climbs so high that, looking upward, he may not see a
woman there.

A little before the _Truxton's_ last voyage, the clipper had remained
in port for a fortnight at Adelaide, New South Wales. A woman in that
city was destined to mean a great deal to the boy of seventeen.... It
would be very easy to say that here was a creature whose way is the way
of darkness. The striking thing is that Adelaide (in the thoughts of
Bedient afterward, she gradually appropriated the name of her city) did
not know she was evil.... Such a woman, it is curious to note, has
appeared in the boyhood of many men of power and eminent equipment.

Adelaide was small and fragrant. Though formerly married, she was true
to her kind in being childless. All her interests were in senses of her
own; or in the senses of men and women who fell beneath her eye; pale,
narrow temples were hers, but crowded with what sensational memories! A
hundred and a few odd pounds, every ounce vivid with health and
rhythmic with desire; every thought a kiss loved, missed, or hoped for;
a frail little flame that needed only time to destroy an arena of
gladiators. Curving, pearly nails with flecks of white in them, a light
low laugh, a sweet low voice! Perhaps this was her charm, a sort of
_samosen_ tone--low lilting minors that have to do with dusk and
gardens and starlight....

There is not even a laughing pretense here that Adelaide was a real
woman; but real women, even in this era of woman, often fail to
remember what pure attractions to man, are their silences and their
minor tones.

Just a fortnight--but what a tearing it was to leave her! Old Mother
Nature must have writhed at this parting--groaned at the sight of the
boy staring back from the high stern of the _Truxton_, at the stars
lowering over the city and the woman, Adelaide. Possibly she retained
something from the depth of his individuality.... Bedient would not
have said so; but there is no doubt that her importance in his life was
that of a _mannequin_ upon which to drape his ideals. Had he seen her,
in the later years, he would have met the dull misery of
disillusionment. Adelaide was a boy's sensational trophy. Her distant
beauty and color was the art and pigment of his own mind.

A soul rudiment, a mental bud, and a beautiful prophylactic body--such
was her equipment. He dreamed of her as a love flower of
inextinguishable sweetness. The mere abstraction of her sex,--colorless
enough to most grown men,--was a sort of miracle to the boy. He made it
shining with his idealism.... Frail arms held out to him; cool arms
that turned electric with fervor. Unashamed, she took him as her

Exquisite devourer, yet she had much to do in bringing forth from the
latent, one of the rarest gifts a boy can have--lovelier than royalty
and fine as genius--the blue flower of fastidiousness. Adelaide, all
unconcerned, identified herself with this, and it lived in the
foreground of his mind. She became his Southland, his isle of the sea.
Winds from the South were her kisses--almost all the kisses he knew for
years afterward. Living women were less to him than her memory. Facing
the South, through many a hot-breathed night, he saw her--and the
little house.... And what a drowsy-head she was! Nothing to do with the
morning light, had she, save when it awakened, to shut it out
impatiently, and turn over to the dimmest of walls until afternoon. She
had never been truly alive until afternoon. How he had laughed at her
for that!... A creature of languors; a mere system of inert dejected
cells when alone, pure destructive principle, if you like,--yet she
held this boy's heart to her, without a letter, possibly with little or
no thought of him, across a thousand leagues of sea--and this, through
those frequently ungovernable years in which so many men become thick
and despicable with excess.

Bedient often questioned himself--why he had not given up his berth on
the _Truxton_ and remained longer in Adelaide. There were a dozen ships
in the harbor to take him forth when he cared. This thought had not
come to him at the time. Quite as remarkable was the formidable
_something_ which arose in his brain at the thought of going back. This
was not to be fathomed then--nor willed away. The roots of his
integrity were shaken at the thought of return. Andrew Bedient at
thirty-four understood. His was a soul that could thrive on dreams and
denials. Even half-formed, this soul was the source of a strange
antagonism, against which the fleshly desire to return was powerless.
Poise, indeed, for a cook among sailors and packers.

The time came when he heard other women--blessed women--speak of the
Adelaide type of sister as the crowning abomination; he watched their
eyes harden and glitter as only a mother-bird's can, in the circling
shadow of a hawk; he lived to read in the havoc of men's faces that the
ways of such women were ways of death; he believed all this--yet
preserved something exquisite. Ten years afterward, winds from the
South brought him the spirit of fragrance from her shoulders and hair.
From his own ideals, he had focussed upon that Emptiness, the beauty
and dimension of a Helen.

Other experiences, up to the real romance--and these were surprisingly
few--were episodes, brief quickenings of the old flame...When the first
American soldiers were being lightered ashore in Manila harbor, in
fact, shortly after the cannonading in the harbor, a certain woman came
over from the States and took a house in Manila. It was known as the
Block-House. Some months afterward, and just before the long trip of
the Train in which Cairns featured, Bedient met this woman on the
_Escolta_. It was at dusk, and she was crossing the narrow pavement
from the post-office entrance to her carriage-door. Their eyes met
frankly. She was wise, under thirty, very slender, perfectly dressed;
pretty, of course, but more than that; her little perfections were
carried far beyond the appreciation of any but women physically
faultless as herself.

Bedient was impressed with something passionate and courageous,
possibly dangerous. He could not have told the source of this
impression. It was not in the contour, in the white softness of skin,
in the full brown eyes, fair brow, nor in the reddened arch of her
lips. It was something from the whole, denoted possibly in the quick
dilation of her delicate nostrils or in the startling discovery of such
a woman in Manila.... She lowered her eyes, started for her
carriage--then turned again to the tall figure of Bedient in fresh
white clothing. Or it may have been that her deep nature found delight
in the excellent boyishness of the tanned face.

"Wouldn't you like to drive with me on the _Luneta_?" she asked
pleasantly, and there was a low tone in her voice which made her
instantly different.

"Why, yes, I should like to."

Her carriage was a _victoriette_, small to match the ponies--black
stallions, noteworthy for style and spirit even in Manila, where one's
equipage is the measure of fortune.... Bedient found that he could be
silent without causing an abatement of her pleasure. And, indeed, she
seemed a little embarrassed, too, although he did not accept this.
Vaguely he was ruffled by the thought that he had merely been chosen as
the principal of a nightly adventure.... This was untrue.

It was before the time of native concerts on the sea-drive, but in the
night itself, and in the soft undertone from the sea, there was ardent
atmosphere--with this woman beside him. The deeper current of his
thoughts rushed with memories, but upon the surface played the adorable
present, swift with adjustments as her swiftly-moving arms. The wonder
of Womanhood was ever-new to him. Mighty gusts of animation surged
through his body. He spoke from queer angles of consciousness, and did
not remember. She could laugh charmingly.... To her, the Hour uprose.
Here was clear manhood of twenty (and such an unhurt boy he had proved
to be)--to make her very own!... She had taught herself to live by the
hour; had forfeited the right to be loved long. She knew the time would
soon come, when she could not hold nor attract men. It comes always to
women who dissipate themselves among the many. Yet she loved the love
of an hour; was a connoisseur of the love-tokens of men to her; no
material loss was counted in the balance against a winning such as this
promised to be. Here was a big intact passion which she called unto
herself with every art; her developed senses felt it pouring upon her;
this was a drug to die for. It made her brave and filled her mind with
dreams--as wine does to some men. Already he was giving her love--of a
sort that older men withhold from her kind. She put her hand upon his
wrist--and told the native to drive them home.

... They sat in a hammock together on the rear balcony of the
Block-House. It had been a dangerous moment passing through the house.
There had been embarrassments, the telltale artifices of the
establishment, but she would not suffer the work of the ride to be torn
down. She held him in enchantment by sheer force of will; and now they
were alone, and she was building again. There was wine. Over the
balcony rail, they watched the Pasig running wickedly below; and
across, stretching away to where the stars lay low in the rim of the
horizon, the wet teeming rice-lands brooded in the night-mist.... The
piano, which had seemed unstrung from the voyage, as he passed through
the house, sounded but faintly now through several shut doors. The
fragments were mellifluous....

She knew he was a civilian from his dress, and asked his work in Luzon.
He told her he was cook of Pack-train Thirteen, just now quartered in
the main corral. She laughed, but didn't believe. He was not the first
to conceal his office from her. It was unpleasant; apt to be dangerous.
She did not ask a second time.... There was just one other perilous
moment. They had been together on the balcony but a half-hour, when she
turned her face to him, her eyes shut, and said:

"You're a dear boy!... I haven't kissed anyone like that--oh, in long,
long!... It makes me feel like a woman--how silly of me!"

Her face and throat looked ghastly white for a moment in the sheltered
candles. "Isn't it silly of me--isn't it--_isn't it_?" she kept
repeating, picking at his fingers, and touching his cheeks in
frightened fashion.... She was reaching amazing deeps of him. The best
of her was his, for she could give greatly. It was wonderful, if
momentary. He felt the terrific strength of his hands, as if his
fingers must strike sparks when he touched her flesh. The need of her
flamed high within him. She was delight in every movement and
expression; and so slender and fervent and sweet-voiced.... She had
banished the one encroachment of sordidness. The high passion of this
moment was builded upon basic attractions, as with children. Some
strong intuition had prevailed upon her so to build. They had come to
an end of words....

A knock at the door broke the _notturno appassionato_. She had left
word not to be called for any reason. Furiously now she rushed across
the room.... Bedient did not see the female servant at the door, but
heard the frightened voice uttering the word, "Brigadier----." The
answer from the woman who had left his arms was mercifully vague, but
the voice at the door whimpered, "Only it was _the General_----!"...

It was all hideously clear. Bedient was left sterile, polar. The door
slammed shut; the woman faced him--and understood. There was no
restoring _this_ ruin.... She now damned military rank and her
establishment in a slow, dreadful voice. Her knuckles seemed driven
into her temples. She wanted to weep, to be soothed and petted--to have
her Hour brought back, but she saw that her beauty was gone from
him--and all the mystery which had been in their relation a minute
before.... Her rebellion, so far hard-held, now became fiendish. It was
not against him, but herself. So vivid and terrible was her
concentration of hatred upon the cause, that Bedient caught the picture
of the Brigadier in her mind. He _saw_ the man afterward--a fat and
famous soldier.... She spat upon the floor. Her lower lip was drawn in
and the small white teeth snapped upon it.

There was nothing in the Block-House ever to bring him back. Her last
vestige of attraction for him had disintegrated. Bedient had nothing to
say; he caught up her clenched hand and kissed it.... And in the street
he heard feminine voices rising to the pitch of hysteria. A servant
rushed forth for a surgeon. The woman had fallen into "one of her

Pack-train Thirteen took the field a day or two afterward. Bedient was
not at all himself.... In all the months that followed meeting David
Cairns in Alphonso, the Block-House incident was too close and horrible
for words--though Bedient spoke of Adelaide and the great wind and a
hundred other matters.

There was another slight Manila experience, which took place after the
first parting with David Cairns, the latter being called to China by
rumors of uprising. Pack-train Thirteen had rubbed itself out in
service--was just a name. Bedient was delighting in the thought of
hunting up Cairns in China.... It was dusk again, that redolent hour.
Bedient had just dined. So sensitive were his veins--that coffee roused
him as brandy might another. His health was brought to such perfection,
that its very processes were a subtle joy, which sharpened the mind and
senses. Bedient had been so long in the field, that the sight of even a
Filipino woman was novel. Strange, forbidding woman of the
river-banks--yet in the twilight, and with the inspired eyes of young
manhood, that dusk-softened line from the lobe of the ear to the point
of the shoulder--a passing maid with a tray of fruit upon her head--was
enough to startle him with the richness of romance. It was not
desire--but the great rousing abstraction, Woman, which descends upon
full-powered young men at certain times with the power of a psychic
visitation. His heart poured out in a greeting that girdled the world,
to find the Woman--somewhere.

Bedient did not know at this time of the heart emptiness of the world's
women--a longing so vast, so general, that interstellar space is needed
to hold it all. Still, he had so much to give, it seemed that in the
creative scheme of things there must be a woman to receive and ignite
all these potentials of love.... In this mood his mind reverted to that
isle of the sea--the woman, and the room that was her house.... He was
sitting in the plaza before the _Hotel d'Oriente._ A little
bamboo-table was before him and a long glass of claret and fruit-juice.
The night was still; hanging-lanterns were lit, though the darkness was
not yet complete. There was a mingling of mysterious lights and shadows
among the palm-foliage that challenged the imagination--like an
unfinished picture.... Only a few of the tables were occupied. The
native servants were very quiet. Bedient heard a girlish voice out of
the precious and perilous South.

... It was not Adelaide. He had only started to turn, when his
consciousness told him that. But the voice was much like hers--the same
low and lazy loveliness in the formation of certain words. The appeal
was swift. Bedient did not turn, though he sat tingling and
attentive.... At this time not a few of the American officers had been
joined by their wives in Manila, and most of these were quartered at
the _Oriente_.... He knew the man's voice, too, but in such a different
way--the voice of a soldier heard afield.

What was said had little or no significance--a man's tolerant,
sometimes laughing monosyllables; and silly, cuddling, unquotable
nothings from his companion. It was the ardor in her tones--the sort of
completion of sensuous happiness--and the strange kinship between her
and the woman he had known--these, that brought to Bedient a sudden
madness of hunger to hear such words for his own....

The man had but recently come in from field-work. The woman was fresh
from a transport voyage from the States. He talked laughingly of the
"niggers" his company had met--of small, close fighting and surprises.
She wanted to hear more, more,--but alone. She was pressing him, less
with words than manner, to come into the hotel and relate his
adventures, where they could be quite alone.... She had been so
passionately lonely without him--back in Washington ... and the long
voyage.... Her voice enthralled Bedient.

They were married. The man laughed often. The tropics had enervated
him, though he made no such confession. He wanted drink and lights. To
him, the present was relishable. Their chairs scraped the tiles before
Bedient turned.... They had not risen. She caught his eyes. Hers were
not eyes of one who would be lonely in Washington nor during a long
transport voyage. She was very young, but a vibrant feminine, her
awakening already long-past. There was just a glimpse of light hair, a
red-lipped profile and slow, shining dark eyes. She was not even like
Adelaide, but a blood sister in temperament. Bedient saw this in her
hands, wrists, lips and skin, in the pure elemental passion which came
from her every tone and motion. One of the insatiate--yet frail
and lovely and scented like a carnation; a white flower,
red-tipped--sublimate of earthy perfume.

Bedient had seen the man in the field, a young West Point product, with
a queer, rabbit face, lots of men friends, the love of his company, and
a remarkable kind of physical courage--a splendid young chap, black
from the heats, who was being talked about for his grisly humor under
fire. This officer had seen his men down--and stayed with them.... His
was a different and deeper love. He did not hurry. It seemed as if she
would take his hand, after all, and lead him into the hotel. Just a
little girl--little over twenty.

For the first time it struck Bedient that he must leave. He was
startled that he had not left. His only palliation for such a venture
into two lives--was the memories her voice roused. His lips tightened
with scorn of self. And yet the thought became a fury as he walked
rapidly through the dark toward the river--what it would mean to have a
woman want him that way!.... His thoughts did not violate the soldier's
domain. Quite clean, he was, from that; yet she had shown him afresh
what was in the world. It was nearing midnight; sentries of the city,
still under martial law, ordered him off the streets before he realized
passing time.... And the hours did not bring to his mind the woman of
the Block-House, nor anyone of those flaming desert-women who love so
fiercely and so fruitlessly; whose relations with men do not weave, but
only bind the selvage of the human fabric....

* * * * *

Bedient was glad to get away to sea.... David Cairns, overtaken in
China, had changed a little. It appears that the very best of young men
must change when they begin to wear their reputation. Riding with
Thirteen had made easily the best newspaper fodder which the Luzon
campaigns furnished, and the sparkling wine of recognition eventually
found its own. It must be repeated that only a boy-mind can depict war
in a way that fits into popular human interest.

The David Cairns whom Bedient met at the Taku forts, near the mouth of
the Pei-ho, had a bit of iron tonic in his veins. His sentences were
shorter, less faltering and more frequent. He _knew_ things that he had
formerly held tentatively. His conceptions (during night-talks) were
called in quickly from the dream-borders, and given the garb and weight
of matter. The stamina of decision had hardened. He was eager to call
Bedient his finest friend, but he had forgotten for the time the
amazing subtleties which at first had deepened and broadened this
wanderer's place in his inner life. A touch of success and the steady
drive of ambition had gradually moved the abiding place of Cairns'
consciousness from his heart to his brain. Few would have detected
other than manliness and improvement. Bedient did not trust himself to
think much about it, for fear he would do his friend an injustice. The
fact that he could not see Cairns differently in the latter's first
fame-flush, and observing past doubt, that he was lifted for the
world's eyes, helped Bedient to realize that he was a bit weird in
judgment. At all events, something was gone from the friendship. He was
sore at heart, more than ever alone.... The two separated a second time
in Peking after the relief of the Legations. Bedient went to Japan,
where he made the acquaintance of an old Buddhist priest--a scabby,
long-nailed Zarathustra who roamed the boxwood hills above Nikko, and

Bedient was farther from such things now, but he could not avoid noting
that Japan is an old and easy shoe for the passions. The women of Japan
are but finished children, preserving a sense of innocence in their
bestowals. Many little Adelaides in fragrance, without will, without
high hopes, only momentary and baby hopes--children happy in the little
happinesses they give and take. This is the extraordinary feature of an
empire of dangerous half-grown men. Moreover, above the delicate charm
of sex, these little creatures are so remote and primitive in race and
idea, so intrinsically foreign and undeveloped--that one leaves the
fairest with a mitigated pang...

Bedient never repeated an action which once had brought home to him the
sense of his own evil. The emotions here narrated are but moments in
years. He accounted them quite as legitimate in the abstract as the
strange visionings of his higher life, as yet untold. These latter have
to do with his maturity, as wars and passions have to do with the
approach to maturity in the life of men. To Bedient, evil concerned
itself with the unclean. Wherever uncleanness (to him a pure
destructive principle) revealed itself there was a balance of power in
his nature which turned him from it, despite any concomitant
attraction. The original Adelaide was a superb answer to the more
earthy of his three natures; so utterly confined to her one plane as to
be innocent of others. In the two Manila twilights which saw the
dominance of his physical being, it was the Adelaide element which
roused; and the scars they left behind marked the scorch of memories.

The fact that there were moments in which Bedient smoldered helplessly
in a world of possible women is significant in the character of one
destined to fare forth on the Supreme Adventure. It is true, he was
preserved in comparative purity though he roamed unbridled around the
world. Perhaps it was the same instinct which held him apart from men
in their lower moments of indulgence. He could linger where there was
wine until the dregs of the company were stirred by the stimulus. All
delight left him then, and he found himself alone. His leaving was
quite as natural as the departure from a stifling room of one who has
learned to relish fresh air.... It was during his Japan stay that
Bedient pleased himself often with the thought that somewhere in the
world was a woman meant for him--a woman with a mind and soul, as well
as flesh. If the waiting seemed long--why should he not be content,
since she was waiting, too? He would know her instantly. The slightest
errant fancy of doubt would be enough to assure him that she was _not_
the One....

Send a boy out on a long journey (even to Circe and Calypso, and past
the calling rocks of the sea), but if his mother has loved into his
life, the rare flower of fastidiousness, he will come back, with
innocence aglow beneath the weathered countenance. It is the sons of
strong women who have that fineness which makes them choice, even in
their affairs of an hour. A beautiful spirit of race guardianship is
behind this fastidiousness.... Miraculously, it seems to appear many
times in the sons of women who have failed to find their own
knight-errants. Missing happiness, they have taken disillusionment from
common man; yet so truly have they held to their dreams, that _ever_
their sons must go on searching for the true bread of life.



One day (it was before he knew David Cairns) Bedient picked up the
_Bhagavad Gita_ from a book-stand in Shanghai. It was limp, little,
strong, and looked meaty. As he raised his eyes wonderingly from a
certain sentence, he encountered the glance of the fat old German

"Will this little book stand reading more than once, sir?" Bedient

"Ja--but vat a little-boy question! Ven you haf read sefen times the
year for sefen years--you a man vill haf become."

Bedient had been through the Song of the Divine One many times before
he heard of it from anyone else. He had liked to think of it as a
particular treasure which he shared with the queer old German, sick
with fat. Now, it was the old Japanese sage who had turned the young
man's mind to the comparative moderns--Carlyle, Emerson, Thoreau, and
several others--and it was with a shock of joy he discovered that
almost all of these light-bringers had _lived_ with his little book. So
queerly things happen.... However, the _Bhagavad Gita_ gave him a
brighter sense of the world under his feet, of a Force other than its
own balance and momentum, and of its first fruits--the soul of man....
_In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth_--that morning star of
Hebrew revelation was not at all dimmed; indeed, it shone with fairer
lustre in the more spacious heavens of the Farther East.

Directly from his old Japanese teacher, and subtly from the _Bhagavad
Gita_ and the modern prophets, Bedient felt strongly urged to India.
This culminated in 1903, when he was twenty-five years old. Hatred of
Russia was powerfully fomenting through the Japanese nation at this
time. Bedient grew sick at the thought of the coming struggle, but
delayed leaving for several weeks, in the hope of seeing David Cairns,
who, surely enough, was one of the first of the war-correspondents to
reach Tokyo late that year. Cairns had put on pounds and power, and
only Bedient knew at the end of certain fine days together, that the
beauty of their first relation had not returned in its fullness....
They parted (a third time during five years) in the wintry rain on the
water-front at Yokohama, Cairns remaining and Bedient taking ship for

Up into the Punjab he went with the new year; and there, all but lost
trace of time and the world. _He seemed to have come home_--an
ineffable emotion. When they told him quite seriously that the Ganges
was sent from heaven, and had wandered a thousand years in the hair of
Shiv before flowing down upon the plains with beauty and plenty and
healing for sin-spent man--Bedient instantly comprehended the meaning
of the figure: that the hair of Shiv was the Himalayas, whose peaks
continually rape the rain-clouds. And the lotos--name, fragrance and
sight of this flower--started a little lyrical wheel tinkling in his
mind, turning off snatches of verses that sung themselves; and
fluttering bits of romance, half-religious and altogether impersonal;
and strange pictures, lovely, though all but effaced.

Indeed, he was one with the Hindus in a love for the bees, the silence,
the mountains, rivers, the moon, and the heaven-protected cattle, in
whose great soft eyes he found the completion of animal peace.... The
legend that the bees had come from Venus, with the perfect cereal,
wheat, as patterns of perfection from that farther evolved
planet--fascinated, became the _leit-motif_ of his thoughts for weeks.
Earth had earned a special dispensation, it was said, and bright
messengers came with a swarm and a sheaf, each milleniums advanced
beyond any species of its kind here.

From a little boy he had loved the bees. Afternoons long ago (this was
clear to him as the memory of that sinister hall-way of yellow-green
light which returned on the afternoon of the great wind) he had lain
upon the grass somewhere, and heard the hum of the honey-gatherers in
thistle and clover. The hum was like the far singing of a child-choir,
and the dreamings it started then were altogether too big for the
memory mechanism of a little boy's head; but the vastness and wonder of
those dreamings left a kind of bushed beauty far back in his mind. He
had loved the bees as he had loved the _Bhagavad Gita_, thinking it
peculiarly his own attraction, but when the world's great poets and
prophets became known to him through their writings, he discovered,
again with glad emotion, that bees had stirred the fancy of each,
stimulated their conceptions of service and communistic blessedness;
furnished their symbols for laws of beauty and cleanliness,
brotherhood, race-spirit, the excellence of sacrifice--a thousand
perfect analogies to show the way of human ethics and ideal
performance.... But beyond all their service to literature, he
perceived that these masters among men had _loved_ the bees. This was
the only verb that conveyed Bedient's feelings for them; and he found
that they literally swarmed through Hindu simile in its expressions of
song and story and faith.

Northward, he made his leisure way almost to the borders of Kashmir,
before he found his place of abode--Preshbend, a little town of many
Sikhs, which clung like a babe to the sloping hip of a mountain. He was
taken on by the English of the forestry service, and liked the ranging
life; liked, too, the rare meetings with his fellow-workers and
superiors, quiet, steady-eyed men, quick-handed and slow of speech.
With all his growth and knowledge of the finer sort, Bedient carried no
equipment for earning a living--except through his hands. There was no
hesitation with him in making a choice--between patrolling a forest,
and the columns of a ledger. All the indoor ways of making money that
intervene between the artisan and artist were to him out of the
question. When asked his occupation, he had answered, "Cook."

One week in each month he spent in the town, and he came to love
Preshbend and the people; the tall young men, many taller than he, and
the great lean-armed, gaunt-breasted Sikh women. The boys were so
studious, so simple and gentle, compared with the few others he had
known, and the women such adepts at mothering! Then the shy, slender
girls, impassable ranges between him and any romantic sense; yet, he
was glad to be near them, glad to hear their voices and their laughter
in the evenings.... He loved the long shadow of the mountains, the
still dusty roads where the cattle moved so softly that the dust never
rose above their knees; the smell of wood-smoke in the dusk, the
legends of the gods, scents of the high forest, the thoughts which
nourished his days and nights, and the brilliant stars, so steady and
eternal, and so different from the steaming constellations of
Luzon;--he loved it all, and saw these things, as one home from bitter

And then with the cool dark and the mountain winds, after the long,
pitiless day of fierce, devouring sunlight, the moon glided over the
fainting world with peace and healing--like an angel over a
battle-field.... The two are mystic in every Indian ideal of beauty,
and alike cosmic--woman and the moon.

There was a certain trail that rose from Preshbend, and ended after an
hour's walk in a high cliff of easy ascent. Bedient often went there
alone when the moon was full--and waited for her rising. At last
through a rift in the far mountains, a faint ghost would appear, and
waveringly whiten the glacial breast of old _God-Mother_--the highest
peak in the vision of Preshbend. Just a nucleus of light at first, like
a shimmering mist, but it steadied and brightened--until that snowy
summit was configured in the midst of her lowlier brethren on the
borders of Kashmir--and Bedient, turning from his deep reflections,
would find the source of the miracle, trailing her glory up from the

Often he lost the sense of personality in these meditations. His eyes
turned at first upon that dead, dark mountain, which presently caught
the reflection of the moon (in itself a miracle of loveliness); then
the moon which held the reflection of the hidden sun, which in its turn
reflected the power of All; and he, a bit of suppressed animation among
the rocks of the cliff, audaciously comprehending that chain of
reflections and adding his own! The marvel of it all carried him a
dimension beyond the responsiveness of mere brain-tissue, and for hours
in which he was not Bedient, but _one_ with some Unity that swept over
the pageant of the universe, his body lay hunched and chill in the cold
of the heights.... That was his first departure, and he was in his
twenty-eighth year.

Another time, as he watched old _God-Mother_, he suddenly felt
_himself_ an instrument upon which played the awful yearning of the
younger peoples of Europe and America. Greatly startled, he saw them
hungering for this vastness, this beauty and peace; yet enchanted among
little things, condemned to chattering and pecking at each other, and
through interminable centuries to tread dim hot ways of spite and
weariness, cruelty and nervous pain. He, Bedient, had found peace here,
but it was not for him to take always. He seemed held by that awful
yearning across the world; as if he were an envoy commissioned to find
Content--to bring back the secret that would break their
enchantment.... No, he was not yet detached from his people; he could
only accept tentatively these mighty virtues of wonder and silence,
gird his loins with them and finally take back the rich tidings.... Was
he dwelling in silence to walk in power over there? This excited and
puzzled him at first. Bedient as a bearer of light was new....

Yet hunger was growing within for his own people; a passion to tell
them; rather to make them see that all their aims and possessions were
not worth one moment, such as he had spent, watching the breast of old
_God-Mother_ whiten, with the consciousness of God walking in the
mountain-winds, the scent of camphor, lotos, sandal and wild-honey in
His garments. A passion, indeed, grew within him to make his people see
that real life has no concern with wrestlings in fetid valleys, but up,
up the rising roads--poised with faith, and laughing with power--until
through a rift in the mountains, they are struck by the light of God's
face, and shine back--like the peaks of Kashmir to the moon.

And another night it came to him that he had something to say to the
women of his people. This thought emerged clean-cut from the deeps of
abstraction, and he trembled before it, for his recent life had kept
him far apart from women. And now, the thought occurred that he was
better prepared to inspire women--because of this separateness. He had
preserved the boyish ideal of their glowing mystery, their lovely
cosmic magnetism. India had stimulated it. All the lights of his mind
had fallen upon this ideal, all the colors of the spectrum and many
from heaven--certain swift flashes of glory, such as are brought, in
queer angles of light, from a butterfly's wing. He had been mercifully
spared from moving among the infinitudes of small men who hold such a
large estimate of the incapacity and commonness of women.... Even among
the Sikh mothers (Bedient did not dream how his spirit prospered during
these Indian years) his ideal was strengthened. He found among the
mothers of the Punjab a finer courage than ever the wars had shown
him--the courage that bends and bears--and an answering sweetness for
all the good that men brought to their feet....

So one night at last he found himself thanking God in the great
silence--that he could see the natural greatness of women; that he was
alive to help them; that he could pity those who knew only the toiling,
not the mystic, hands of women; pity those--and tell them--who knew her
only as a sense creature.... And swiftly he wanted to tell women--how
high he held them--that one man in the world had kept his vision of
them brighter and brighter in substance and spirit. He had the queer,
almost feminine, sense, of their needing to know this, and of
impatience to give them their happiness. Perhaps they did not
continually hold this in mind; perhaps the men of their world had
taught them to forget.... They would be happier for his coming. He
would put into each woman's heart--_as only a man could do_--a
quickened sense of her incomparable importance; make her remember that
mothering is the loveliest of all the arts; that only in the lower and
savage orders of life the male is ascendant; that as the human race
evolves in the finer regions of the spirit--when growth becomes centred
in the ethereal dimension of the soul--woman, invariably a step nearer
the great creative source, must assume supremacy.... Among the dark
mountains the essence of all these thoughts came to him during many

He would make women happier by restoring to them--their own. He must
show how dreadful for them to forget for an instant--that they are the
real inspirers of man; that they ignite his every conception; that it
is men who follow and interpret, and the clumsy world is to blame
because the praise so often goes to the interpreter, and not to the
inspiration. But praise is a puny thing. Women must see that they only
are lovely who remain true to their dreams, for of their dreams is made
the spiritual loaf, the real vitality of the race; that by remaining
true to their dreams, though starved of heart, the sons that come to
them will be the lovers they dream of--and bring the happiness _they_
missed, to the daughters of other women. For love is spirit--the stuff
of dreams--and love is Giving.... He must bring to women again, lest
they forget, this word: that never yet has man sung, painted,
prophesied, made a woman happy, nor in any way woven finer the spirit
of his time, but that God first covenanted with his mother for the
gift--and, more often than not, the gift was startled into its supreme
expression by the daughter of another.... All in a sentence, it summed
at last, to Bedient alone,--a flaming sentence for all women to hear:
_Only through the potential greatness of women can come the militant
greatness of men_.

And so things appeared unto him to do, as he watched the miracle of the
moon bringing forth the lineaments of the old _God-Mother_; and so the
cliff became his Sinai. On this last night, for a moment at least, he
felt as must an immortal lover who has seen clearly the way of
chivalry--the task which was to be, as the Hindus say, the fruit of his
birth.... Thus he would go down, face glowing with new and luminous
resolves.... And once dawn was breaking as he descended, and the whir
of wings aroused him. Looking upward he saw (as did Another of
visions), in the red beauty of morning--a flock of swans flying off to
the South.

* * * * *

Gobind must not be forgotten--old Gobind, who appeared in Preshbend at
certain seasons, and sat down in the shade of a camphor-tree, old and
gnarled as he; but a sumptuous refuge, as, in truth was Gobind in the
spirit. The natives said that the austerities of Gobind were the envy
of the gods; that he could hold still the blood in his veins from dusk
to dawn; and make the listener understand many wonderful things about
himself and the meaning of life.

The language had come to Bedient marvellously. Literally it flowed into
his mind, as in the rains a rising river finds its old bed of an
earlier season.

"This is your home, Wanderer," Gobind told him. "Long have you
travelled to and fro and long still must you wander, but you will come
back again to the cool shadows, and to these--" Gobind lifted his hand
to point to the roof of the world. The yellow cloth fell away from his
arm, which looked like a dead bough blackened from many rains. "For
these are your mountains and you love these long shadows. All Asia and
the Islands you have searched for these shadows, and here you are
content, for your soul is Brahman.... But you are not ready for Home.
You are not yet tired. Long still must you wander. Some sin of a former
birth caused you to sink into the womb of a woman of the younger
peoples. You have yet to return to them--as one coming down from the
mountains, after the long summer, brings a song and a story for the
heat-sick people of the plains to hear at evening----"

This was the substance of many talks. It was always the same when
Gobind shut his eyes.

"You say I shall come back here, good Gobind?" Bedient asked.

"Yes, you will come back here to abandon the body----"



Bedient was filled with grave questions. One can always put a mystic
meaning to the direct saying of a Hindu holy man, but there seemed no
equivocation here. The young man was slow to believe that all his
dreaming must come to naught. It seemed as if his whole inner life had
been built about the dream of a woman; and of late she had seemed
nearer than ever, and different from any woman, he had ever known--the
mate of his mind and soul and flesh. For a long time he progressed no
farther than this, for falling into his own thoughts, he would find
only the aged body of Gobind before him--the rest having stolen away on
night-marches of deep moment, while he, Bedient, had tried to realize
his life loneliness. At last he could think of nothing else throughout
the long day, and he went early in the semi-light and sat before the
holy man. The dusk darkened, and a new moon rose, but Gobind did not
rise to mere physical consciousness that night, though Bedient sat very
still before him for hours. The bony knees of the old ascetic, covered
with dust, were moveless as the black roots of the camphor-tree; and a
dog of the village sat afar off on his haunches and whined at
intervals, waiting for the white man to go, that he might have the
untouched supper, which a woman of Preshbend had brought to Gobind's

And again the next night Bedient came, but Gobind was away playing with
the gods of his youth--just the old withered body there--and the dog

But the third night, the eyes of Gobind filled with his young

"You say, good father Gobind," Bedient said quickly, "that I shall come
back here alone to die?"

"Yes," the _Sannyasin_ answered simply, but a moment later, he
shivered, and seemingly divined all that was in the young man's mind,
for he added: "You will learn to look _within_ for the woman.... You
would not find favor--in finding her without.... It is not for you--the
red desire of love!"

* * * * *

It was during these years in India that Bedient began to put down the
thoughts which delighted him during the long rides through the forest;
and something of the thrill of his reflections, as he watched old
_God-Mother_ from his cliff. He found great delight in this, and his
mind was integrated by expression. He recalled many little pictures of
the early years--not the actions, but the reflections of action. It was
fascinating. He found that his journal would bulk big presently, so he
took to polishing as he went along; chose the finest, toughest Indian
parchment--and wrote finely as this print--for it was clear to him that
he had entered upon what was to prove a life-habit.

The letters from Captain Carreras had become more frequent in late
years; in fact, there was almost always a letter en route either from
Preshbend or Equatoria.... The Captain wanted him to come; stronger and
stronger became the call. So far as money was concerned, he had done
extraordinarily well. He always wrote of this half-humorously.... At
last when Bedient was beginning his seventh year in the Punjab, there
came a letter which held a plaint not to be put aside.

Bedient was in his thirty-second year; and just at this time old Gobind
left his body for a last time beneath the camphor-tree. The young man
had sat before him the night before, and the holy man had told him in
symbolism--that the poor murky river of his life had made its last bend
through the forests, and was swiftly flowing into the sea of time and
space. Though he sat long after silence had settled down, Bedient did
not know (so softly and sweetly did the old saint depart) that the
_Sannyasin_ was tranced in death instead of meditation. It was not
until the next morning, when he heard the Sikh women of the village
weeping--one above all--that he understood. It was not a shock of grief
to these women, for such is their depth that the little matters which
concern all flesh and which are inevitable, cannot be made much ado of.
Still it was feminine and beautiful to him, their weeping; and possibly
the one who wept loudest had mothered old Gobind in her heart, and
there was emptiness in the thought that she could not fill his
begging-bowl again. Bedient, as well as others of the village, knew
that to Gobind, death was a long-awaited consummation; that he was gone
only from the physical eye of the village. _That_ missed him--as did
Bedient, who had loved to sit at the fleshly feet of the holy man....
But he loved all Preshbend, too.

And at length, he set out on foot for Lahore--often looking back.



ALL these impressive years, from seventeen to thirty-two, had brought
Andrew Bedient nothing in the civilized sense of success. It is quickly
granted that he was a failure according to such standards. He had never
been in want nor debt, nor so poor that he could not cover another's
immediate human need if presented; yet the reserve energy of all these
years, in fact, of his whole life, as represented in gold, amounted to
less than three hundred dollars. Probably, outside of Asia, there was
not a white man who had accumulated three hundred dollars with less
thought; certainly in Asia there was none, white or black, who carried
this amount with less vital concern. Up the years, he had given no
thought to the oft-expressed eagerness of Captain Carreras to help him
in a substantial way. He had always felt that he would go to his
friend--at times had hungered for him--and now he answered the call.

Fifteen years since he had taken the hand of Captain Carreras and
laughingly refused to share the other's fortunes! Bedient remembered
how bashfully, but how genuinely, that had been suggested. Then the
Captain's manner had become crisp and nervous to hide his heart-break,
and the order was given with all the authority of the quarter-deck,
that Bedient must never fail in any extremity to make known his need.
But there had been no need--save for the friendship....

Strange old true heart that could not forget! Bedient felt it in every
letter. Thousands of acquaintances, but not a friend nor relative! He
thought about Bedient every day; an old man's heart turned to the boy
whose hands had suddenly fallen upon him with such amazing power.
Occasionally in the letters, there was an obvious effort to cover this
profundity of affection with a surface of humor, but it always broke
through before a page was blotted.... Equatoria, and his really
remarkable acquisitions there, were invariably matters for light
touches. He had picked up big lands for almost nothing; and he found
himself presently in strong favor with what was probably the most
stable government Equatoria had ever known. The Captain's original
purpose of acquiring the mineral rights of certain rich rivers had
greatly prospered. Yes, there was gold in the river-beds....
Incidentally, to keep his hands "from mauling the natives," he had
caused to be planted at different times, several thousand acres of
cacao trees, all of which were now bearing. The Captain explained
naively that these had turned out rather handsomely, since the natives
harvested the nuts for him at a ludicrously low figure, and Holland
sent ships twice a year for the product. "Just suggest anything to this
soil, and the answer is perennials. We can't bother with stuff that has
to be planted more than once," he observed. Bedient returned many times
to the letter that told about the goats. Part of it read:

"There was a rocky strip of land in the fork of two rivers--several
thousand acres--that almost shut itself off, so narrow and rocky was
the neck.... For a long time this big bottle of land troubled
me--couldn't think of any use to put it to--until somebody mentioned
goats. In a fit of industry, I shipped over a few goat families from
Mexico, turned them loose in the natural corral--and forgot all about
them for a couple of years. You see, the natives are fruit-eaters, and
it's too hot for skins. My men occasionally brought me word that the
goats were doing well. Finally, I sent a party over to pile a few more
rocks at the mouth. They came back pale and awed, begging me to come
and look. I went. I tell you, boy, there were parades, caravans,
pageants of goats in there--all happy in the stone-crop.... I haven't
dared to look for a year or more, but with a good marine-glass from the
upper window of the _hacienda_, you can see a portion of the tract.
They're hopping about over there--thick as fleas!... That's the way
everything multiplies. Come and extricate me from the goat problem!...
Dear lad, I do need you--not for goats, nor for fruit, nor mining, nor
chocolate interests, not to be my cook--forgive the mention of a
delightful memory--but as a lonely old man needs a boy--his boy."

* * * * *

Only a half-day in New York on the way down to Equatoria, or the
alternative of waiting over a ship, meaning eight days later with
Captain Carreras. Bedient could not bring his mind to the latter delay
at this stage of the journey, though the metropolis called to him
amazingly. Here he had been born; and here was the setting of many
early memories, now seen through a kind of faery dusk. With but an hour
or so in lower Manhattan, he swept in impressions like a panorama-film,
his mind held to no single thought for more than an instant. The finest
outer integument had never been worn from his nerves, so that nothing
of the pandemonium distressed; but what his oriental training called
the illusion of it all--really dismayed. It seemed as if the millions
were locked in some terrible slavery, which they did not fully
understand, only that they must hurry, and never cease the devouring
toil. In the hideous walled cities of China, the same thought had often
come to Bedient--that these myriads had been condemned by the sins of
their past lives, blindly to gather together and maim each others'

Still there was some big meaning for him in New York. Bedient realized
that sooner or later he would return. Toward the end of the afternoon,
as he looked back from the deck of the Dryden steamer _Hatteras_, he
realized that New York had dazed him; that something of the grand
gloom, something of the granite, had entered his heart. Perhaps it was
well for him to have these glimpses, and to hurry away to adjust
himself in the silence--before he took up his place in New York again.

A week later the _Hatteras_ awaited dawn, sixty miles off the northern
coast of Equatoria. Treacherous coral reefs extend that far out to sea,
and the lights of the passage into port are few. This is an ugly part
of the Caribbean in high seas. Moreover, the coral has a way of
changing its ramifications; its spires build rapidly in the warm
surface water.

All the forenoon the liner crawled in toward the harbor, and at last
through the blazing noon, Bedient saw Coral City in a foreground of
palm-decked hills. Certain fresh-tinned roofs close to the water-front
reflected the sun like a burning-glass. Nearer still, a few white
buildings on the seaward slopes shone through the heat haze with the
vividness of jewels--whitened walls gleaming among the palms and
colorful turrets of pure Spanish line. The strip of beach, white as a
road of shells, lost itself on either side of the city in its own
dazzling light. Films of heat danced upon the painted roofs. The sky
was a blinding azure that tranced the hills and harbor with its
brilliance, silence and magic.

Clouds of yellow mud boiled up from the bottom of the oozy harbor as
the _Hatteras_ dropped her hook; and the sharks moved about, all the
more shuddery in their tameness. Two launches were making for the
steamer, and Bedient, sheltering his eyes from the light, discovered
the little Captain standing well-forward on the nearest--a puffy,
impatient face, pathetically unconscious of its own workings in
anxiety. Bedient's uplifted hand caught the other's eye as the launch
neared. The old adventurer needed a second or two to take in the tall
figure and the changed countenance--then a look of gladness, full, deep
and tender with embarrassment, crowned the years and the long journey.

Bedient had to remember hard, after dozens of fluent and delightful
letters, that he must encounter the old bashfulness again.... Plainly
the Captain showed the years. There was the dark dry look of some inner
consuming, and the trembling mouth was lined and assertive where
formerly it was unnoticed in the general cheer. There was a break in
rotundity. Perhaps this, more than anything else, put a strange hush
upon the meeting. Bedient was glad he had not delayed longer; and he
saw he must break through the embarrassment, as the boy and the cook of
years ago would not have thought of doing. The old perfume sought his
nostrils delicately with a score of memories.

The Captain seemed to have an absurd number of natives at his disposal.
Bedient's small pieces of baggage were prodigiously handled. A carriage
was provided, and the two drove up the main thoroughfare, _Calle Real_.
The little city was appointed and its streets named by the Spanish.
Parts of it were very old, and Bedient liked the setting, which was new
to him--the native courtesy and the mellowness of architecture which
that old race of conquerors has left in so many isles of the Western

At the head of the rising highway shone a gilded dome, a sort of crown
for the city. Bedient had seen it shining from the harbor, and supposed
it to be the capitol. The building stood upon an eminence like a
temple. _Calle Real_ parted to the right and left at its gates. Their
carriage passed to the right, and within the walls were groves of
palms, gardens of rose, rhododendron, jasmine, flames of poinsettia,
and a suggestion of mystic glooms where orchids breathed--fruit,
fragrance, fountains.

"The Capitol?" laughed the Captain. "No, my boy, those little
rain-rotted, stone buildings near the water-front are the government
property. However, you never can tell about Equatoria. There are folks
who believe that this stone palace of Senor Rey is fated to become the
Capitol. It might happen in two ways. Senor Rey might overturn the
government and move headquarters to his own house. You see, he loves
fine things too well to reside back yonder. Or, the government
overturning Celestino Rey--would ultimately move up here on the hill."

Bedient laughed softly. It was all delightfully young to him. "Then
Senor Rey aspires?"

"That's the idea--only we put it 'conspires' down here.... It is really
a remarkable institution--this of Senor Rey's," Carreras went on. He
forgot himself in a narrative. "Now, if you were in New York and had a
hundred thousand dollars of another man's money, and wanted to
relax--you would come here to Equatoria, and put up with Celestino Rey.
To all appearances, _The Pleiad_ is a hotel, but in reality it's just a
club for those who have taken the short cut to fortune--the direct and
amiable way of loot. There's so much red tape in Equatoria that a New
York warrant for arrest would be about as compelling in our city as a
comic valentine.

"So you see, Andrew, those who used to fly to Mexico now come here.
This is the most interesting colony of crime-cultured gentlemen in the
world--ex-cashiers, penmen, promoters and gamblers, all move in those
great halls and gardens. There are big games. Senor Rey is an artist in
many ways, not only as a master of gambling chances. His palace is
filled with art treasures from all lands. He was a pirate in these
waters--yes, within your years. I heard of him in Asia as the most
murderous pirate the Caribbean had ever known--and this was the Spanish
Main. Of course, stories build about a picturesque figure. The Senor
must be seventy years old now, but a man of mystery, fabulously
rich.... Just a little while ago, he brought over a fresh bride from
South America. They say she's a thriller to look at. The Spaniard calls
her his 'Glow-worm'----"

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