“Woman or artist,” she whispered bitterly, “as if one could not be both!...It is only because a woman-and-artist requires a man who can love artistically. Few men can do that—and anything else beside.... Can you, Sailor-man?... Not if you explain to me why I found you at Wordling’s.... Perhaps I can forgive you, after all the lovely things you’ve said. Anyway I shall tell no one....”
“Dear Miss Truba: I want to have a portrait painted of myself. I’m convinced that you can do it very well. Will you undertake the work? I shall be back in New York shortly after this letter reaches you Monday, and will wait at the Club until I hear from you. Yours, Andrew Bedient.”
There was an instant in which she was conscious of something militant, something of the quiet power of the man who does not go home empty-handed. In his leaving the city Saturday, she perceived one who wishes to avoid the appearance of evil, and is content to leave his movements unexplained, trusting to another’s perception.
“Vina is right,” she said slowly. “‘Confronted’ is the word.”
THE STORY OF THE MOTHER
Andrew Bedient had entered the company of lovers.... There have been great lovers who were not otherwise great men, but never a great man who was not a great lover.... On the night he had first seen Beth Truba across the table, deep within there had been a swift ignition of altar-flames that would never cease to burn. Often in his reading and thinking, in pictures he had seen, and in his limited adventures into music; wherever, in fact, man had done well in the arts, the vision of some great woman was behind the work for his eyes; famous and lovely women long-dead, whose kisses are imperishable in tone or pigment or tale; women who called to themselves for a little space the big-souled men of their time, and sent them away illustrious. And these men forever afterward brought their art to witness that such women are the way to the Way of Life.
Bedient had rejoiced to discover the two women in every great man’s life: the woman who visioned his greatness in the mothering; and the woman who saw it potentially afterward—and ignited it. How often the latter loosed a landslide of love at the ignition, and how seldom she stepped aside to let it pass!
All this thinking for years upon the beauty and fineness of women was focussed now.... The depth of his humility, and the vastness of his appreciation were the essential beginnings of the love of this hour, just as they would be, if he were ready to perform some great creative expression in art. The boyhood of a genius is a wild turning from one passionate adoration to another among the masters of his art; often his gift of appreciation is a generation ahead of his capacity to produce. And love is the genius of mothering, the greatest of all the arts. The love that a man inspires in a woman’s heart is her expression of the Holy Spirit. According to the degree and beauty of that love, does the woman’s child lift its head above the brute; according to the greater or lesser expression of this Mystic Motherhood in the world, at a certain hour, must be determined the morality of the race.