Life is a game
The keenest wins.
Repute or shame.
Life is a game;
We give or claim
For virtues, sins;
Life is a game
The keenest wins
Beaumont was perfectly satisfied with the result of his experiment, as
he had discovered the squire’s secret, and had yet succeeded in
keeping him in ignorance of his having done so. With the keen
intellect of a man accustomed to live by his wits, he had, during his
rapid survey of the papers, seen the chances of turning the secret to
his own advantage. But to do so he required the co-operation of
Patience, and this he was doubtful of obtaining.
She held studiously aloof from him, and since the interview in the
churchyard had given no sign that she was aware of his existence. Many
men would have been discouraged by this contemptuous silence; but not
so Beaumont, who never saw discourtesy in anyone of whom he wanted to
make use. Hitherto Patience had been a mere cipher in his eyes; but
now, since his discovery of the existence of her son, and since he had
learned the jealously-guarded secret of the squire, she suddenly
became an important person; for it was through her he hoped to secure
his ends–ends calculated to benefit himself alone.
The only way by which he could hope to gain her ear was through her
love for their son, hence his explanation on the stairs. Now, after
putting away his painting utensils, he lighted a cigarette, and
strolled easily along to the housekeeper’s room in order to arrange
matters with her. Of the result he had no fear, as he intended to
appeal to her motherhood, which appeal, he well knew, would not be
neglected by this woman, whose whole life was devoted to her son. Mr.
Beaumont was an expert whist-player, and, moreover, admired the game
very much. So, in this case, being somewhat doubtful of Patience, yet
holding a strong hand, he took an illustration from his favourite
game, and said:
“When in doubt, play trumps.”
“It will be a charming game,” he murmured, as he knocked at the door
of the housekeeper’s room, “she is no mean adversary, and hates me
like poison–all the more credit to me if I win–as I mean to.”
Patience Allerby, in her quiet, grey dress, was sitting silent and
statuesque by the window, staring out at the rapidly darkening
landscape. When Beaumont entered, she looked coldly at him, but
neither rose to receive him nor invited him to sit down. Her visitor,
however, was not troubled by any sensitive feeling, so threw himself
into a comfortable chair that was near the fire, and coolly went on
“I hope you don’t mind my cigarette,” he said, languidly, “but I can’t
exist without smoking.”
“You can’t exist without all sorts of luxuries,” replied Patience,
bitterly, “you’re not the man to deny yourself anything.”
“I had to deny myself a good many things when we were starving in
London,” said Mr. Beaumont, leisurely. “By the way, I want to speak to
you about London.”
“And I want to speak to you about the squire,” she retorted, quickly.
“What were you doing following him upstairs?”
“Don’t distress yourself, my good soul,” said the artist, in a coolly
aggravating manner. “I’ll tell you that later on; meantime, we will
talk of Chelsea.”
“Pardon me–yes. Do you remember how we lived there, you and I, and
the visions we used to indulge in? I haven’t forgotten it, I assure
you, and then Fanny Blake–poor Fanny! she is dead now. I see you gave
the boy her surname.”
“And what if I did?” she flashed out fiercely, with a deep frown on
her face. “Could I give him yours–the father who had deserted him?
Could I give him mine–the mother to whom his birth was a disgrace?”
“A disgrace! I thought you loved him?”
“So I do–I love him more than my life; but his birth was a disgrace,
and I wish to keep the knowledge from him, please God.”
“Was the boy you call Reginald Blake ever christened?”
“Why not?”
“Because I could not tell the truth about his birth, and I refused to
tell a lie. He was neither christened, nor was his birth registered.”
“Then he has no right to the name he bears.”
“I know that. Whose fault is it, Basil Beaumont–yours or mine? Why
didn’t you make an honest woman of me?”
“Because I did not choose to,” he replied, coolly; “by the way, has
our son been confirmed?”
“Oh,” he said, sneering, “I’m sorry he’s not got some religious
flavour about him. I wonder, Patience, when you called him Blake, you
did not pass him off as Fanny’s son.”
She arose from her seat in a fury.
“Do you think I was going to place my sin on Fanny’s shoulders?”
“I don’t see why not–Fanny and yourself both came up to London at the
same time–the child was born six months after you arrived there–why
not call it Fanny’s child?”
“There was no reason.”
“Not then; but there is now, and a very excellent reason–ten thousand
a year.”
“What do you mean?”
“Simply this, that Reginald Blake, from this time forward, is the son
of Fanny Blake and Randal Garsworth.”
Patience looked at him in surprise, and involuntarily drew back a
step, thinking him mad. Beaumont saw this, and laughed mockingly.
“Don’t be afraid–there’s method in my madness.”
“There’s some villainy in it,” she said, with a hard smile, sitting
down near him; “tell me what you mean, Basil Beaumont, if you intend
touching a hair of my son’s head I’ll punish you.”
“I intend to give him ten thousand a year, if you won’t be a fool.”
She smiled coldly, and folded her hands upon her lap.
“I’m no fool, but I know you–go on, Ananias.”
Beaumont flung the burnt-out cigarette into the fire with an irritable
gesture, and turned his face towards the frigid woman seated before
“Listen to what I’ve got to say,” he said slowly, “and then you can do
as you please–if you assist me it means money and happiness for our
son; if you don’t, I’ll tell him everything, and then leave the
village for ever.”
Patience shivered slightly under the steely glitter of his eyes, and
then resumed her cold impassive manner.
“Brag’s a good dog,” she said mockingly, “but he does not bite–go on,
I’m all attention.”
The artist glanced at the door to make sure that it was closed, then
drawing his chair closer to that of Patience Allerby, began to talk
rapidly, in a low tone of voice.
“Of course you know the squire is mad–quite mad–he has an idea that
his soul will be re-incarnated in another body, and as he is afraid he
may be born poor, he has invented a silly scheme by which to become
repossessed of his present wealth. I have discovered this scheme–how
it does not matter–all I need tell you is, that I have found out all
about it–his idea is to pass himself off as his own son.”
“But he has no son.”
“Of course not, you fool,” said Beaumont impatiently, “he couldn’t
carry out his idea if he had; it’s this way, he has made his
will, leaving the property to his natural son, who will at some
future time–date not fixed, as he cannot tell when he’ll be
re-incarnated–go to the lawyers who hold the will and produce, as a
proof of his claim to the estate, a letter written to him by his
supposed father, also the squire’s seal ring–when he does so, under
the terms of the will, he inherits the Garsworth estate.”
“I understand, so far; but how does the squire, in a new body, expect
to get these papers?”
“Oh! he thinks he’ll remember about the affair when he is born again,
so he has hidden the papers where he’ll be able to find them–in his
new body he’ll simply go and look them up, produce them to the
lawyers, and there you are.”
“What a foolish idea.”
“What a foolish remark, you mean,” said Beaumont; “of course it’s
foolish, the man is mad. When he dies the papers will remain
undisturbed till doomsday–if I choose.”
“What do you mean?”
“Simply this–as he does not know when or where he’ll be
re-incarnated, he has left a number of blanks in the letter.”
“Have you seen the letter?”
“Of course I have. I know where the paper is hidden–didn’t I tell you
I’d discovered his secret. Well, all I’ve got to do is to fill up
these blanks–the name of the mother, the place of the supposed son’s
birth, and all the rest of it.”
“I see. But what have I to do with this?”
Beaumont arose to his feet and walked angrily to and fro.
“What an idiot you are, Patience,” he said irritably. “Can’t you see?
I’m going to fill up the mother’s name as Fanny Blake, and the son’s
as Reginald.”
“Our son?”
“Precisely. Now do you see why I want your help?”
“I do, but you shan’t have it.”
“Indeed; why not?”
“I’m not going to have such a sin on my conscience.”
“There’s no sin, you Puritan,” he said quickly, “the re-incarnation
idea is rubbish; no one will appear to claim the property, so why not
give the ten thousand a year to Reginald?”
“It would dispossess Miss Una.”
“It would do nothing of the sort–under the will Miss Una cannot
claim–the lawyers don’t know anything about the re-incarnation
theory; all they know is that Squire Garsworth has a son who will
appear and prove his claim by the possession of certain papers and a
seal ring–until that son appears no one can claim the estate.”
“Miss Una could dispute the will on the ground of madness.”
“I dare say she could, but she won’t–if Reginald becomes master of
Garsworth Grange she will marry him, and will enjoy the property just
the same as if she were sole heiress–on the other hand, if he does
not become master she’ll have to wait till this non-existent son
appears or upsets the will, one of which things will be impossible and
the other troublesome.”
Patience thought for a moment or two and then looked up.
“How do you know Reginald will marry Una?”
“Because I’ve got eyes in my head. The boy is madly in love with her.
I’m sure you must see that your helping me to place Reginald in
possession of this property will hurt no one and be for the benefit of
both Una and your own son.”
“I see that, but I fail to see what benefit you obtain from it, and I
don’t think you’re the man to work for nothing.”
“You’re perfectly right,” he replied calmly, “but I’m going to make
myself Reginald’s right hand, and when he comes in for the property I
can help him to look after the estate.”
“And ruin him.”
“I won’t ruin him. Why should I want to ruin my own son?”
“Bah! don’t talk like that to me.”
“Oh well, if you disbelieve in interest, I’ll put it another way. Why
should I kill the goose with the golden eggs?”
“Yes, that’s more like it,” she said with a sneer, “I think your plan
is an admirable one, but there’s one obstacle.”
“What is it?”

“Reginald is an honourable man, and won’t accept any property gained
by fraud.”
Beaumont sighed in a resigned manner, apparently hopeless of
explaining matters clearly to this painfully obstinate woman.
“He’ll never know the property is obtained by fraud, because you will
tell him he is the son of Fanny Blake and the squire; he will believe
you, and regard himself as the lawful heir.”
“Still, he thinks he’s been born in lawful wedlock, and to undeceive
“Gives him ten thousand a year,” interrupted Beaumont coolly. “Well,
what do you say, will you help me?”
“I’ll tell you to-morrow.”
“Why not to-day?”
“Because I don’t trust you, I want to go over the affair in my own
Beaumont shrugged his shoulders, put on his hat and lighted another
“Just as you please,” he said, pausing a moment at the door. “I’ll
call and see you to-morrow; but if you don’t help me in this, I’ll do
what I say and tell Reginald everything.”
When he was gone Patience sat for a long time looking into the fire,
evidently pondering deeply. At length she sighed and muttered:
“I don’t know what to do, I must ask counsel of the Lord.”
She arose, and having lighted a candle opened the Bible.