MR. BEAUMONT MAKES A DISCOVERY

When one is playing in the game of life
‘Tis wrong to throw away a single card,
Lest by some odd mistake of circumstance
The card despised–if played with dext’rous hand–
Should gain an unexpected victory.

When Basil Beaumont came to think over things, it struck him as
somewhat strange that Patience should have voluntarily told him a
secret, for the concealment of which she had several excellent
reasons. Firstly, she must have had a great struggle with her pride
before bringing herself to address the man to whom she owed her ruin.
Secondly, on informing Beaumont that Reginald was his son, she must
have known there were great chances of him revealing the whole story
to the young fellow out of sheer devilry; and thirdly, knowing that
Reginald was clever, she must have expected his penniless father would
try and make money out of his talents.

Beaumont was too astute a reader of character to blind himself to the
fact that Patience must have been aware of these three things, hence
his wonder at her telling him what she did not want known. But the
artist, clever as he was, still lacked discernment to recognise the
full subtlety of a woman’s instincts, else he would have readily seen
that Patience feared his ignorance of the real state of affairs more
than his knowledge.

She heard that he was in the village and acquainted with Reginald
Blake, and she was also aware that he was coming to the Grange to
paint Squire Garsworth’s portrait. Had he seen her there he would have
made inquiries concerning her position, and among other things would
doubtless have ascertained that she was Reginald’s nurse. Knowing that
she had left London with her own son, such a weak story as she told
about Blake’s parentage would not have imposed upon him for a moment,
and by putting two and two together he would have discovered
everything, with the natural result that he would have recognised
Blake as his own child, sought him out and told him the whole story of
his birth.

In order to avert such a calamity, she determined to boldly take the
bull by the horns and tell Beaumont everything, at the same time
warning him that she would embitter Reginald’s mind against him should
he dare to speak out. The result of her interview in the churchyard
was as she expected. Beaumont was too cunning to risk the dislike of
his own son, and thereby lose any chance of influencing him for his
own ends, so he quietly acquiesced in the line of conduct she laid
down. Patience returned to the Grange thoroughly satisfied that she
had disarmed Beaumont by pointing out how she could turn Reginald
against him, so the astute man of the world, abandoning his desire to
play the part of a long-lost father, determined to wait for a few
weeks and see how things turned out. Then he intended to let his plans
be guided to a large extent by circumstances, and had no doubt that he
would then be able to out-man[oe]uvre Patience by a little dexterous
generalship.

A few days after his curious meeting with Patience in the churchyard,
Beaumont set out for a long walk in the morning, as he wanted to think
over the aspect of things, and pedestrianism always stimulated his
brain. It was a bright, fresh morning, with a deeply blue sky, a
cheerful sun shining and a keen, fresh wind blowing across the common
on to which he strolled. The gorse was in bloom, and every breath of
wind brought the odour of its peach-like scent to his nostrils. How
often, in his Bohemian life had that odour recalled the wide, bare
common with its miles of gorse-covered ground, and made him long half
regretfully for the quiet country village where his youth had been
passed.

But now that the common was actually before him, by some curious
contradiction of nature he did not feel the least regret or longing
for his youth, but on the contrary strolled over the waste ground,
hatching all kinds of plots and plans in his busy brain.

All at once, as he stood on the edge of a gentle slope, where the
ground was hollowed out like a cup and surrounded by the dark green of
the gorse with its golden blossoms, he saw a woman seated on a grassy
bank, apparently basking in the sun. Her hands were lying idly in her
lap, and with her face turned upward to the bright sunshine, she was
drinking in the sweet, keen air which swept over the wild moorland.
Beaumont saw that it was Cecilia Mosser who sat there, and for a
moment half envied the blind girl in spite of her great sorrow, for
her pleasant enjoyment of nature.

“She looks like the Goddess of Desolation,” murmured Beaumont, as he
descended the slope, “or some eyeless Destiny that sees nothing, yet
governs all!”

Lightly as he walked over the soft, green grass, the blind girl heard
the sound of his muffled footsteps, and turned her face in the
direction from whence she heard them come, with a questioning look on
her placid face.

“How do you do, Miss Mosser?” said Beaumont, tranquilly. “I was taking
a stroll on the common, and saw you sitting here alone, like the
Genius of Solitude.”

“I often come here,” observed Cecilia, placidly, folding her hands.
“This is a favourite spot of mine–I know every inch of the way.”

“You are not afraid of losing yourself?”

“I was at first,” said the blind girl, with a quiet laugh, “but I soon
got to know my way about. I could find my way here on the darkest
night.”

“Like Bulwer Lytton’s Nydia,” remarked Beaumont, idly casting himself
down on the grass.

“Yes. Like her, it is always darkest night with me,” replied Cecilia,
with a sigh. “Still, I have my compensations, for I can hear many
sounds that very likely escape the notice of you fortunate people who
can see.”

“What kind of sounds?” asked the artist, more for the sake of making a
remark than because he cared to know.

“The flowing of the river, the whispering of the wind, the humming of
the bees and the rustle of the gorse–they all seem to me to have
human voices and tell me stories. I can well understand those old
legends where mortals heard voices everywhere, and understood the
sayings of the waves and the melancholy voice of the night winds.”

“As Siegfried understood the language of birds,” said Beaumont. “You
require no dragon’s blood to teach you that, I suppose?”

“I don’t know what you mean, exactly,” replied Cecilia, in a puzzled
tone, for she had never heard of the Niebelung’s Ring, “but the birds
do speak to me–that is, I fancy they do–I love to hear the cuckoo
and the throstle, then the lark–ah! the lark is the most charming of
all!”

“So the poets think. There is no bird who has inspired more poetry
than the lark–from Shakespeare down to Tennyson–and I suppose you
put all your fancies into music?”

“Yes, I often try to do so, but I don’t think anyone understands the
meaning but myself,” answered Cecilia, with a faint smile. “You know
the English are not a music loving nation.”

“That depends on how you define music,” said the artist, cynically.
“The great B. P. like something with a tune in it, but when they hear
anything they can’t understand, such as Bach and Spohr, they admire it
all the same. I’m afraid the B. P.’s a humbug.”

“You are terribly severe,” said Cecilia, laughing. “I hope you won’t
criticise our concert?”

“No. I assure you I am the most lenient of critics; I will come to
admire beauties, not to find out faults. Besides, Blake is going to
sing–and his voice is charming.”

“Yes, it is,” replied the blind girl, cordially, “and Miss Challoner
sings very well, also. She is going to sing a duet with Mr. Blake, if
she can get away for one night from the squire.”

“Oh, that will be easily arranged, I’ve no doubt,” said Beaumont,
carelessly. “Doctor Nestley will attend to that.”

As he uttered this name a vivid flush passed over the pale face of the
girl, and Beaumont noticed it with secret amazement.

“Hullo!” he said to himself, “I wonder what this means? I must find
out.”

It was curious that he should trouble himself about such a trivial
matter; but Beaumont was a wise man, who never overlooked the smallest
thing he thought might prove useful to him. At present an idea had
suddenly shot into his scheming brain–it was only an embryo idea,
still it might help him in some way. He was completely in a mist as to
what he was going to do, but Cecilia’s blush had given him a clue to
something tangible, and he immediately began to artfully question the
blind girl so as to obtain some possible result.

“You know Doctor Nestley, of course?” he said, looking keenly at her
face, from whence the red flush had died away.

“Yes, I met him a few days ago; he was in the church when Mr.
Blake was singing,” observed Cecilia, in a low tone. “I heard him
speak–what a beautiful voice.”

“Ah! I know the reason of the blush, now,” thought Beaumont; “she
loves him. Good Heavens! what a hopeless passion! She loves Nestley,
and he loves Una Challoner. How tricky Dan Cupid is, to be sure.”

As he had made no answer, the blind girl went on speaking.

“As I cannot see a face, I always guess what it is like by the voice.
Doctor Nestley has a beautiful speaking voice–is his face handsome?”

“Rather handsome,” said Beaumont, now seized with a cruel desire to
fan the flame of hopeless love which burned in this blind woman’s
heart. “Yes, I suppose a woman would call his face handsome–but it’s
rather sad.”

“Sad!” echoed Cecilia, in a startled tone; “why is his face sad?”

Beaumont shrugged his shoulders.

“Ouf!” he replied, coolly, “how should I know?–because his soul is
sad, I presume. The face is the index of the mind, you know. I daresay
it runs this way–his face is sad because his soul is sad, and the
soul-sadness is caused by a sad life.”

“Is he unhappy, then?” asked Cecilia, breathlessly.

“I should say not–now,” said Beaumont, with emphasis, “but when I
knew him in London a few years ago he had met with many reverses of
fortune.”

“Poor Doctor Nestley,” sighed the blind girl, seized with a sudden
desire to comfort this unhappy man, of whom she knew absolutely
nothing save that he had a beautiful speaking voice. “Do you know his
story.”

Whereupon Beaumont, who knew from Shakespeare that “pity is akin to
love” set himself to work to awaken Cecilia Mosser’s pity, and told a
marvellously pathetic story of Nestley’s early life in which truth and
fiction were so dexterously blended that the hero himself would have
been puzzled to say which was real and which false. He attained his
object, however, for he saw by the varied emotions that passed over
the blind girl’s expressive face how moved she was by the story.

“Poor Doctor Nestley,” she said again, “poor, poor Doctor Nestley.”

“Oh, but all his misery is past now,” said Beaumont, lightly, “he has
weathered the storm, and will, no doubt, some day marry a woman who
will make him happy.”

The blind woman laid her hand on her heart, as if she felt there a
cruel pain, then spoke to Beaumont in a strangled kind of voice.

“You must think me a curious creature, Mr. Beaumont,” she said,
rapidly, “to take such an interest in a man of whom I know nothing,
but remember I am blind, and be kind to my failing. I can only judge
people by their voices, and Doctor Nestley’s voice has affected me
more than any one else’s. Why, I do not know. Of course I am precluded
by my misfortune from many things, but–but–you understand–ah, you
must understand how difficult it is for me to conceal my feelings. He
is a stranger, I am a blind woman, but his voice rouses in me a
strange feeling I cannot explain even to myself. I know I am foolish
talking like this, so forget what I have said. You will forget, will
you not?”

“Miss Mosser,” said Beaumont gravely, rising to his feet, “you may be
sure I will respect what I have heard as a sacred confidence.”

“Thank you, thank you, very much,” cried the poor woman, while the
tears ran down her cheeks. “I know I am foolish. You must despise me
for the way I’ve spoken. Still, I’m blind–blind.”

Beaumont felt a pang of pity in his hard heart at the anguish of this
unhappy woman, shut out from all love as between man and woman by her
misfortune, and he was about to speak when Cecilia lifted her head.

“Will you go now, Mr. Beaumont?” she said, in a low voice. “Please
leave me. I will be all right soon, and can then go home. But you will
not forget your promise?”

“My promise is sacred,” said the artist slowly, and turning away he
left the blind woman seated in the hollow with her hands clasped on
her lap, and her sightless eyes looking up to the blue sky.

“Strange,” he thought, as he lighted a cigarette, “that girl has
fallen in love with a voice, and does not even know she is in love,
although she half guesses it. She knows nothing of Nestley and yet she
loves him. Why? because he has a charming voice. I suppose we must
call it a woman’s instinct–ah if she only knew how hopeless her love
is–Nestley is too much bewitched by Una to waste a thought on her.”

This discovery, slight as it was, gratified Beaumont’s keen sense of
intrigue, as it gave him another card to play in the game against
Patience. If he could do nothing with Reginald because he was
embittered against him by his mother, still he could separate him from
Una by circulating a few skilful falsehoods. If Cecilia ever learned
that Nestley loved Una, she was too much of a woman to keep silent in
the matter, and through her Una would hear of Nestley’s infatuation;
and, again, to secure Nestley to herself, Cecilia, knowing Reginald
adored Una, would tell him of this new complication, with the result
that Nestley and Reginald would quarrel over Miss Challoner, and,
perhaps, in the end, such a quarrel would part Una and her lover for
ever. It was all very vague and intangible as yet, still Beaumont felt
in some mysterious way that the knowledge of the blind girl’s love for
Nestley might prove useful to him in weaving his nets around his son
so as to secure him entirely to himself.

“Reginald and Nestley both love Una,” he mused, as he sauntered home.
“Cecilia Mosser loves Nestley. Yes, the materials for a complication
are there. How, I don’t see at present–still the more cards I have to
play against Patience Allerby the sooner I’ll win the game.”