The sentence was a studied challenge.
“You mean in her work?” he said, under the first spur.
“Did I say artist? I meant woman—’most important woman’——”
“That’s what you said.”
“Yes, I thought so——” Beth shaded the interior light from her eyes to regard the night through the open window. “It was misty gray all day, and yet it is clear now as a summer night.”
“And so Bedient sees more than a remarkable artist in Vina?” Cairns mused.
“That much is for the world to see.... Why, those dollar-eating gentlemen in the big room could see that, if they interested themselves in her kind of work. But they are not trained to know real women. Their work keeps them from knowing such things. When they marry a real woman, it’s an accident, largely. A diadem of paste would have caught their eyes quite as quickly. Sometimes I think they prefer paste jewels.... Only here and there a man of deep discernment reads the truth—and is held by it. What a fortune is that discernment! A woman may well tremble before that kind of vision, for it is her own, empowered with a man’s understanding——”
“Why, Beth, that’s Bedient’s mind exactly!” Cairns exclaimed. “A woman’s vision of the finest sort, empowered with a man’s understanding——”
“Of the finest sort,” Beth finished laughingly. “By the way, that’s a good definition of a prophet, isn’t it?”
“It does work out,” he said, thinking hard.
Beth observed with interest at this point, that Bedient had confined his discussion of the visioning feminine principle to Vina. There were several approaches to his elevation.
“How glorious it is to see things, David!” she exclaimed happily. “Even to see things after they are pointed out. And you—I’m really so glad about you! You’re coming along so finely, and putting away boyish things.”
She reached across the table and dropped her hand upon his sleeve.
“It’s so tonic and bracing to watch one’s friend burst into bloom!... I needed the stimulus, too. You are helping me.”
It was Cairns’ turn to shade his eyes for a clearer view of the night.
“THROUGH DESIRE FOR HER”
David Cairns left Beth at her elevator, and walked down the Avenue toward Gramercy. It was still an hour from midnight. As he had hoped, Bedient was at the Club. The library was deserted, and they sat down in the big chairs by the open window. The only lights in the large room were those on the reading table. The quiet was actually interesting for down-town New York.
“I’ve been out hunting up music,” Bedient said. “There is a place called the Columbine where you eat and drink; and a little Hungarian violinist there with his daughter—surely they can’t know how great they are! He played the Kreutzer Sonata, the daughter accompanying as if it were all in the piano, and she just let it out for fun, and then they played it again for me—”