THE LAST RIDE TOGETHER
Bedient arose at four on Saturday morning and looked out of his high window. June had come. The smell of rain was not in the air. He was grateful and drew up a chair, facing the East. The old mystery of morning unfolded over sea, and there was no blemish.... Bedient had not slept, nor during the two preceding nights. While the abundance of his strength was not abated, deep grooves (that came to abrupt blind endings) were worn in his mind from certain thoughts, and he was conscious of his body, which may be the beginning of weariness; conscious, too, of a tendency of his faculties to mark time over little things.
Yesterday the picture had come. He had hoped hard against this. Its coming had brought to him a sense of separateness from the studio, that he tried not to dwell upon in mind, but which recurred persistently.... He could not judge a portrait of himself; yet he knew this was wonderful. Beth had caught him in an animate moment, and fixed him there. Her fine ideal had put on permanence.... “Hold fast to a soul-ideal of your friend,” he remembered telling her once, “and you help him to build himself true to it. If your ideal is rudely broken, you become one of the disintegrating forces at work upon him.”
He keenly felt the disorder in his relation to Beth. The thought that held together, against all others, was that Beth loved some one, just now out of her world. He wished she could see into his mind about this; instantly, he would have helped her; his dearest labor, to restore her happiness.
He had never been confident of winning. He loved far too well, and held Beth too high, ever to become familiar in his thoughts of her as a life companion. Power lived in her presence for him; great struggles and conquerings. He loved every year she had lived; every hour of life that had brought her to this supremacy of womanhood before which he bowed, was precious to him. In this instance he was myopic. He did not see Beth Truba as other women, and failed to realize this. His penetration faltered before her, for she lived and moved in the brilliant light of his love, blended with it, so that her figure, and her frailties, lost all sharpness of contour.
He had suffered in the past three days and nights. He was proud and glad to suffer. There was no service nor suffering that he would have hesitated to accept for Beth Truba.... This day amazed him in prospect, one of her beautiful gifts to him. It was almost as if she had come to his house, lovely, unafraid, and sat laughing before his fire. One of the loftiest emotions, this sense of companionship with her. There was something of distinct loveliness in every hour they had passed together. Not one of their fragrances had he lost. These memories often held him, like mysterious gardens.
...Bedient paced the big area in front of the ferry entrance long before seven. He saw her the instant she stepped from the cross-town car. The day was momentarily brightening, yet something of the early morning red was about her. His throat tightened at sight of her radiant swiftness. Her eyes were deeper, her lips more than ever red.... On the deck of the ferry, before the start, she said: