THE VIEWS OF A CYNIC

To rule mankind is all I crave
And at my feet to see them curled,
For if you make the world your slave
You’ll ne’er be slave unto the world.
Evidently Dr. Nestley had become friendly with his quondam enemy, for
both gentlemen now seemed to be on the best of terms with one another.
Either the doctor had succumbed to the wonderful personal fascinations
of Beaumont, or the artist had convinced Nestley that he was wrong in
regarding him in a hostile manner.
On recognizing Miss Challoner, the young physician came forward to
greet her, while Beaumont remained in the background lost in
admiration at the wonderful beauty of her face, which appealed
strongly to his artistic nature.
“I didn’t expect to find you here, Miss Challoner,” said Nestley
eagerly; “my friend and I heard the singing and came in to listen; by
the way, will you permit me to introduce Mr. Beaumont?”
Una bowed a little coldly, for she remembered what Reginald had said
about the artist, but, hearing his name mentioned, Beaumont came
forward and was formally presented. In spite of her distrust, Una
could not but admire the handsome, tired-looking face she beheld and
was still further impressed by the peculiar _timbre_ of his voice when
he began to talk. Beaumont certainly possessed in no small degree that
wonderful fascination of manner attributed to the ill-fated Stewarts
of Scotland which atoned so much for their fickleness, treachery and
ingratitude.
“It is Mr. Blake who is singing, I think,” observed Basil idly, “he
has a wonderful voice.”
“Yes,” answered Una with a pleased smile. “I have never heard a
finer–not even in Germany.”
“Ah! you have been in Germany, Miss Challoner?”
“For some years–I stayed at Munich.”
“A charming city which affords great opportunities for studying art
both in music and painting.”
“Did you study either, Miss Challoner?” asked Nestley, who seemed
rather annoyed at the impression Beaumont had made.
“A little of both,” she answered. “I was educated in Munich, but I’m
afraid my learning was rather desultory–I sing a little–paint a
little–and do both badly.”
“That would be impossible,” said Nestley desirous of paying a
compliment, but Una frowned at the remark.
“Don’t, please,” she said coldly, “I dislike insincerity.”
Nestley reddened a little at the tone of her voice and the obvious
rebuke, on seeing which Una held out her hand to him with a charming
smile.
“You must not mind what I say, Dr. Nestley,” she observed, bending
forward, “I’m afraid I’m dreadfully rude.”
“And wonderfully charming,” thought Beaumont, who, however, kept his
opinion to himself, warned by the fate of his friend.
The young doctor, meanwhile, had hastily assured Una that he did not
mind her severity, in fact rather liked it, and would doubtless in all
sincerity have committed himself again only that Blake commenced to
sing “Come, Marguerite come,” from Sullivan’s “Martyr of Antioch,” and
they all listened attentively.
Cecilia played the graceful accompaniment of _arpeggi_ lightly, while
above this constant sweep of dissevered chords, rising and falling
with the voice, the high, penetrating notes of the singer flowed
smoothly onward and, as the organist played softly, the full purity of
the voice could be heard with marvellous effect. Owing to want of
training, Blake’s voice lacked in a great measure the power to give a
perfect rendering to the melody, but the richness and mellowness of
his notes were undeniable.
When he had finished Beaumont’s face betrayed the pleasure he felt,
and Una, who was watching him closely, asked his opinion.
“A wonderful voice,” he said critically, as the three walked up the
aisle, “but of course it requires a great deal of cultivation.”
“I think it’s charming,” interposed Nestley, eager to curry favour
with Una by praising one whom she evidently regarded as a brother.
“Of course you would think so,” replied Beaumont a little
contemptuously, “because you know nothing about the subject; to an
uncultivated ear Blake’s voice sounds well because he has a
wonderfully fine organ, but to a musician there is a crudeness of
style, a want of colouring, and a lack of refinement which makes him
regret that such a great natural gift is not trained to its full
capabilities.”
“But you’re not a musician?” said Nestley, nettled at the superior
tone adopted by his friend.
“No,” answered Basil complacently, “but I have heard a great deal, and
as most of my life has been passed among musicians I have picked up a
general knowledge of the technicality of the art. Shakespeare never
committed a murder, yet he wrote Macbeth and Hamlet. Balzac did not
fall in love till somewhere about the forties, but, he wrote ‘Modeste
Mignon,’ and ‘La Lys dans la vallee,’ before that age–one does not
need to be an artist to possess the critical faculty.”
By this time they had arrived at the chancel, and Reginald came
forward to meet them, blushing a little with modesty on discovering
three listeners instead of one.
“I must congratulate you on your voice once more,” said Beaumont
looking at him, “my advice is to go to London at once and study.”
“London!” echoed Blake disbelievingly, “why not Italy?”
“A tradition only,” replied the artist calmly, “because Italy is the
land of song every singer thinks he or she must study there, but I
assure you it’s a mistake–London and Paris have as good teachers as
Milan and Rome–I may say better, for everyone goes to the place where
the largest income is to be made.”
“How cynical,” said Una playfully.
“And how true–this is not the golden age, Miss Challoner, but the age
of gold–there is a vast difference between Arcady and Philistia, I
assure you.”
“I think I’ll take your advice,” observed Blake gaily, “perhaps I’ve
got a fortune in my throat, who knows?”
“Who, indeed?” said the artist gravely, “they pay nightingales well
now-a-days.”
“All the better for Mr. Blake,” said Una lightly, “but how rude I am,
I must introduce you two gentlemen to the organist–Miss Mosser–Dr.
Nestley and Mr. Beaumont.”
Beaumont, not knowing Cecilia was blind, merely bowed, but Nestley
took the fragile hand of the girl and grasped it warmly.
“I enjoyed your playing so much,” he said heartily, “where did you
learn?”
On hearing his voice the pale face of the blind girl coloured, and a
painfully eager look crossed her features, as if she were trying to
see the speaker’s countenance in spite of her infirmity.
“What a beautiful voice,” she murmured softly, and Nestley had to
repeat his question before she answered:
“At the school for the blind at Hampstead,” she said turning towards
him, which reply gave Nestley a painful shock as he realized her
misfortune. With delicate tact, however, he passed the answer off
lightly in a conversational manner.
“I don’t know much about music myself,” he said easily, “it seems such
a complicated affair–are you fond of it?”
“Very,” answered the blind girl quickly. “You see it is the only
pleasure I have. When I go out on to the common and feel the fresh
wind and smell the perfume of the gorse, I come back here and try and
put it all into music. I often thank God for being able to play the
organ.”
It was deeply pathetic to hear her talk in this strain; shut out by
her affliction from all the beauties of Nature, she could yet thank
God for the one gift which enabled her in some measure to understand
and appreciate what she had never beheld. Doctors, as a rule, are not
very soft-hearted, but Nestley could hardly help feeling moved at the
thrill of sadness which ran through her speech. This she perceived,
and with a light laugh, hastened to dispel the illusion she had
created.
“You must not think I am sad,” she said cheerfully, “on the contrary,
I never was so happy in my life as I am here. I was brought up all my
life in London, and when I was appointed organist here, you can have
no idea of the pleasure I felt. I have the common and the organ, while
everyone is kind to me, so what have I to wish for? Now, Doctor
Nestley, I must ask you to go, as I am about to practise. I think Miss
Challoner and your friends have gone.”
They were waiting for the doctor at the lower end of the church, so
after saying good-bye to Cecilia, he hurried away into the dusky
atmosphere, and as he reached Beaumont, the organ rolled out the
opening chords of a mass by Pergolesi. Reginald went outside with
Nestley as he wished to speak to him about the Squire, and Una was
left standing with Beaumont in the grey old church. They listened in
silence to the deep thunder of the bass notes echoing in the high
roof, when suddenly in the middle of a crashing chord the sonorous
tones died away and a sweet, pure melody thrilled through the silence,
which seemed almost oppressive after the tempest of sound.
“After the fire there came a still small voice,” quoted Basil
dreamily. “Do you remember how perfectly Mendelssohn has expressed
that idea in music?”

“Yes, I heard the Elijah at the Albert Hall,” replied Una in a
matter-of-fact way, being a healthy English girl and not moved by the
subtle meaning of the sacred music which touched so quickly the
highly-strung nerves of this man.
“The Albert Hall,” he repeated with a shrug. “Oh yes, very fine I’ve
no doubt, but to my mind it secularizes sacred music to hear it
there–one hears a volume of sound–an immense number of voices in
chorus and solos by the best artistes; but where is the soul of the
work? one only finds that in a church. The Messiah was first heard in
England in Westminster Abbey, and it was there, following the example
set by the king, that the whole audience arose at the Hallelujah
Chorus, but it was not the music alone, grand as it is, that produced
this sudden burst of emotion, it was the august fane grey with
centuries of tradition, the presence of the mighty dead sleeping
around, and to crown all the dramatic grandeur of the chorus. All
these together wrought on the feelings of those present and they did
homage to the sublimity of the music–such a thing would be impossible
in the Albert Hall.”
“Don’t you think you’re giving all the praise to the surroundings and
nothing to the musician,” said Una quickly; “a true composer could
impress his ideas on his hearers without any other aid.”
“I’ve no doubt he could,” replied Beaumont carelessly, “and no doubt
plenty of people have felt emotion at Handel’s music in the Albert
Hall, but even Handel’s genius would never have created such an effect
as I have described anywhere but in a church; of course I haven’t
mentioned the memorable shaft of sunlight which deserves praise for
its share in the affair.”
Something in the flippancy of this remark jarred upon Una’s feelings,
so she made no reply but walked outside into the cool fresh air,
followed by Beaumont.
He accompanied her as far as the lichgate and then raised his hat.
“I won’t go any further, Miss Challoner,” he said. “I’m in a
meditative mood and will take a look round this old place. I hope to
see you again soon at the Grange.”
“The Grange?” she questioned, looking at him inquiringly.
“Yes, I’m coming to see the Squire about painting his portrait you
know.”
“Of course,” she replied quickly. “I remember Patience told me.”
“Patience,” he asked in a startled tone, “did you say Patience?”
“Yes, Patience Allerby, the housekeeper,” said Una gaily. “How pale
you look, just as if you had seen a ghost–I dare say it’s the effect
of the church and music; good-bye, at present,” and she walked quickly
away.
He raised his hat mechanically and stood staring at the ground,
looking pale and haggard.
“Patience Allerby,” he said in a low voice. “After all these
years–Patience Allerby.”