THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

“The sower scattereth his seeds
In rich or barren ground,
And soon the earth in place of weeds
With golden corn is crowned.”
Meanwhile the old squire was much better in health, owing to the skill
of Dr. Nestley, but dreading a relapse he insisted upon the young
doctor staying with him for a time, and, though miserly as a rule, yet
paid him a handsome sum for his services, so great was his dread of
death. As Nestley’s practice was not a very large one he looked upon
this whim of the squire’s as an unexpected piece of good luck, so made
a hurried visit to the country town where he lived and, having
arranged with his partner about the carrying on of their joint
business, returned to Garsworth and took up his abode at the Grange as
the medical attendant of the old man.
The village doctor did not give in to this arrangement without a
struggle, but Squire Garsworth, who consulted no man’s feelings or
interests when they clashed with his own desires, soon reduced the
local Sangrado to silence.
Mr. Beaumont came daily to the Grange in order to paint the portrait
of its master, and was now deeply interested in the picture, which
was beginning to have a wonderful fascination for him. In truth the
squire was no commonplace model, for his keen, ascetic face with the
burning eyes and his spare figure wrapped in a faded black velvet
dressing-gown made a wonderfully picturesque study. Besides, Basil
liked to hear the wild extravagant talk of the old man, who talked in
a desultory sort of manner, mingling gay stories of his hot youth,
with mystical revelations of mediƦval alchemists and whimsical
theories of spiritual existence. That he was mad, Beaumont never for a
moment doubted; nevertheless, his madness was productive of a certain
fantasy of thought that proved most alluring to the poetic nature of
the artist, weary of the commonplace things of the work-a-day world.
With regard to Reginald the artist treated him in his usual manner,
and neither by word nor deed betrayed the relationship which existed
between them, but nevertheless used all his powers of fascination to
attain a mastery over the young man’s mind.
In this he was partially successful, for nothing is so flattering to
the vanity of an unformed youth as the notice bestowed upon him by a
cultured man of the world. The artist told him stories of London and
Parisian life, described the famous men he had met, the beautiful
women he had known, and the keen excitements of Bohemian life, thus
investing an unknown world with a magic and glamour which could not
fail to attract a nature so clever, ardent and impressionable as that
of this unsophisticated lad.
Patience Allerby, living in a state of almost monastic seclusion,
congratulated herself upon her foresight in defeating Beaumont’s
possible plans, little dreaming that he was now enmeshing her son in
subtle toils which would render him the willing slave of his heartless
father. It was true that Una, with a woman’s keen instinct, distrusted
the brilliant adventurer, and ventured to warn Reginald against him,
but the young man received such a warning with somewhat ill grace and
talked about the need of experience. Beaumont, with his keen power of
penetration, soon discovered that Una distrusted him, and as it was
his aim to gain her over to his side he soon hit upon a plan by which
he hoped to achieve his end.
One morning, after he had been working at the squire’s portrait, he
was strolling out on the terrace when he met Una leaning over the
balustrade, looking at the still pool of water, encircled by a marble
rim, in the centre of which was a group of Naiads and Tritons which
should have spouted water in wreaths of foam from their conch shells,
but as the source of the fountain was dried up there only remained the
stagnant waters in the basin, reflecting their enforced idleness.
Una was thinking about Beaumont when he appeared, and in no very
generous strain, as she was afraid of his rapidly increasing influence
over the plastic mind of her lover–therefore when the artist paused
beside her she was by no means prepared to receive him with that suave
courtesy with which she generally greeted everyone.
“I’m glad to see you, Miss Challoner,” observed Beaumont lifting his
hat, “as I want to speak to you about Blake.”
“About Mr. Blake,” said Una rather coldly, “yes?”
“Of course you know how I admire his voice,” remarked Beaumont
leisurely, “and thinking it a pity he should waste its sweetness on
the desert air of Garsworth I wrote up to a friend of mine in London.”
“That is very kind of you, Mr. Beaumont,” said Una in a more cordial
tone, “and what does your friend say?”
“He wants Blake to go up to London, and will take him to Marlowe, who
is a very celebrated teacher of singing; if Marlowe is satisfied,
Blake can study under him, and when he is considered fit can make his
appearance.”
“It will take a lot of money,” observed Una thoughtfully.
“Oh! I’ve no doubt that can be arranged,” said Beaumont quietly.
“Blake and myself will come to some agreement about things, but I am
anxious that Blake should benefit by his talents.”
“What do you mean?” asked Miss Challoner in a puzzled tone, “I do not
understand.”
“Of course you do not,” answered the artist smoothly. “You do not
understand the world–I do–and at the cost of expenditure of money,
and sacrifice of illusions. Blake has an exceptionally fine organ and
great musical talent; if he went up to London unprovided with
money–of which I understand he has not any great store–he would very
likely be picked up by some hanger-on of musical circles who would do
him more harm than good, perhaps force him to sing before he was
matured and thus run the very probable risk of a failure–or if he was
taught by a good master and made a great success, unless he was very
careful, some impresario would entice him into some agreement to last
for years which would be eminently disadvantageous to him in the end.”
“But surely no men are so base?”
Beaumont shrugged his shoulders.
“My dear lady, they don’t call it baseness but business–the only
difference is in the name however–and how would leeches live if there
is no one for them to live on? The Genius very often has no business
capabilities and no money, the Leech, as a rule, has both, and as poor
Genius cannot get himself or his works before the public without the
help of Mr. Middleman Leech, of course that gentleman expects to be
well-paid for his trouble, and generally pays himself so well that
Genius gets the worst of it–the Middleman gets the money, the public
get the pleasure, and the Genius–well, he gets next to nothing,
except the delightful thought that his works have enriched one man and
pleased another. Genius is a fine thing, no doubt, but the capability
of being a leech is finer.”
“And yet you propose to be the middleman between Mr. Blake and the
public,” said Una, looking at him keenly.
“Only to save him from others,” observed Beaumont quickly. “For all I
know, Blake may be an exceedingly clever business man and quite
capable of holding his own against the tribe of Leech and Middleman,
still he has no money wherewith to bring his voice to that perfection
which will make it a saleable article. I can supply that money, and as
the labourer is worthy of his hire, I expect a fair remuneration for
my trouble, but I will act honestly towards him, and neither force him
into singing before he is fit, nor bind him for any term of years; if
he makes a financial and artistic success through my help, I am
willing to receive what is my just due, but if he goes to London with
no influence–no friends–no money–with nothing but that fine voice,
well then, unless he is as I said before a clever business man, there
will be some fine pickings for Mr. Leech.”
“It’s a dreadfully wicked world,” sighed Una.
“It is as God made it,” rejoined Beaumont cynically, “I don’t think
mankind have improved it much, but I daresay we’re no worse now than
we ever were, the only change I can see is the art of concealment–it
was fashionable to be wicked in Borgian Rome, so accordingly everyone
proclaimed his or her darling sins from the housetops, now it is
considered the correct thing to be decent, so we sin in private and
preach in public; the wickedness is with us all the same, but we hide
it carefully and prate about the morality of nineteenth century
England compared with sixteenth century Rome.”
“You are rather pessimistic.”
“My misfortune, not my fault, I assure you,” returned the artist
carelessly. “Very likely if I had gone through life wrapped up in the
cotton wool of position and money I would have found human nature all
that is honest and true. Unfortunately Poverty is a deity who takes a
pleasure in destroying the illusions of youth, therefore I see the
world in a real and not in an ideal sense–it’s unpleasant but
useful.”
“I hope Reginald will never cherish such harsh thoughts,” murmured
Una.
“That depends upon the great god Circumstance, but if he comes to
London I’m afraid he will be disenchanted. Arcady may be found in this
isolated village I’ve no doubt, but London soon disillusionises the
most generous and confiding nature, however, let us hope for the
best–but what do you say about my offer, Miss Challoner?”
“Well really,” said Una with a laugh, “what can I say? it is Mr.
Blake’s business and not mine.”
“Still, you take an interest in him,” observed Beaumont keenly.
“As a very clever man I do,” replied Una serenely, for she was
determined not to betray her love to this cold-eyed man of the world.
“I think it is a pity he should be condemned to stay down here.”
“I think so also,” said Beaumont cordially, for he was too crafty to
press a question he saw might prove distasteful to the proud woman
before him, “so I’ll speak to Blake.”

“And how are you getting on with my cousin’s picture?” asked Una,
dexterously turning the conversation as they walked down the terrace.
“Oh, very well indeed–it will make an excellent picture, and I enjoy
talking to the Squire, his ideas are so very strange.”
“The effect of solitude I’ve no doubt,” replied Una absently, “a
solitary existence generally engenders strange thoughts.”
“Exactly. I’d rather talk to a recluse than to a man or woman of the
world, for although the ideas of a hermit may be old fashioned they
are infinitely fresh.”
“Don’t you like Society then?”
“Sometimes I do–man is a gregarious animal you know–but Society
people as a rule are fearful humbugs. I suppose a certain amount of
deception is necessary to make things go smooth. A tells B lies and B
knows they are lies, still he believes them, because to preserve a
necessary friendship with A it won’t do to tell him he’s a liar; if
all our friends were put in the Palace of Truth it would be a mighty
unpleasant world, I assure you.”
“But you don’t think it is necessary to tell lies to make things go
smoothly?” said Una rather shocked.
“I daresay that’s the plain, brutal truth,” retorted Beaumont coolly;
“lies are the oil which diplomacy pours on the troubled waters of
Society. Lord, what a world of humbugs we are to be sure.”
“Well, good-bye just now,” said Una laughing, as she turned away,
“don’t forget to tell Mr. Blake about London.”
“Oh no, I won’t forget,” replied Beaumont, and taking off his hat, he
strolled away down the avenue, very well satisfied with the result of
his conversation.
“I think I’ve succeeded in pacifying her,” he murmured to himself,
“now she sees how anxious I am to help her lover she won’t distrust me
any more–it’s the parable of the sower over again–a little seed sown
in fruitful ground bears a goodly crop–now I am sowing the seed–when
I get Reginald in London I will reap the harvest.”