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  • Writer's pictureWilliam F. Stratton

The Voices of Beasly

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

Showing That The Evil Things Listeners Hear Of Themselves May Prove To Be Blessings In Disguise.

By Frank Neilson

The Argosy, February 1903

When Mr. Beasly arrived within sight of his house he groaned. For when he arrived within sight he also arrived within hearing, and what he heard reminded him of what he had forgotten — that Mrs. Beasly was entertaining the Ladies’ Whist Club.

The sounds of laughter, of animated voices, of clinking tableware indicated that Mrs. Beasly’s entertainment was really entertaining. So Beasly groaned again.

Anything that pulled at his purse or produced pleasure made Beasly groan.

Pleasure meant expenditure of money, or of time, which was the same thing. Beasly believed in the encouragement of economy and the prohibition of pleasure.

Beasly was not a gregarious animal. Mrs. Beasly was. Beasly had found it cheaper to compromise than to contest, and Mrs. Beasly had been allowed to join the club upon the condition that she “entertain ” but once per annum.

“I suppose they’ll cackle around my table until every scrap is devoured,” Beasly muttered. “Then I can buy more or go without my supper. If I hadn’t forgotten this I’d have stayed down town. Wonder if I can hide in the library till the row’s over. I’ll try it.”

He tried it, via the side window, and succeeded.

“Must he about through,” he growled as he turned the key. “Hear ’em telling Maria what a good time they’ve had. Good time indeed! Don’t cost them anything. Go ahead! Gorge yourselves! Beasly pays!”

Another groan.

“Yes, thank heaven, they’re beginning to straggle into the next room after their wraps. Some of ’em in there now. Wonder if they consider who’s putting up for this infernal nonsense. Wonder if they’ll give me any credit. I’ll listen.”

He seated himself where he could employ eye and ear alternately at the keyhole. He tried an eye first, unsuccessfully. Then he applied an ear.

“It's positively shameful,” a low voice was saying. “She ought to be expelled from the club. I saw her cheat twice with my own eyes. She simply stole that prize.”

“Why don’t you protest to Mrs. Beasly?” queried voice number two.

“And what good would that do?” rejoined the first voice. “Mrs. Beasly’s been browbeaten and cowed by her brute of a husband” (Beasly nearly fell off his chair) “till she hasn’t the backbone of a mouse.”

“That’s the truth,” asserted voice number two.“I just pity her. It’s awful the way she has to skimp along. It’s my opinion that lunch didn’t cost over ten dollars. I could see how mortified she was.”

“John says,” resumed voice number one, “that old Beasly’s the meanest — Oh, come on, dear, quick. There comes that Mary Jacobs, and I will not speak to her, the hateful cheat. I’d have won that prize if —”

“They’re gone,” snarled Beasly, applying his eye. “Great Moses! Ten dollars for a lunch for such creatures to gobble up. And here comes another gang. What’ll they have to say about me?”

Voice number three:

“So glad you won the prize, dear. Isn’t it pretty?”

Voice number four:

“Do you really think so? I think it horrid. I priced that very bowl at Hubbard’s bargain sale last week, and it was two ninety eight. What do you think of that? Wouldn’t that jar you?”

It did jar Beasly so that he came near shrieking out what he “thought of that.” Three dollars for a bowl to give away!

Voice number five:

“Well, it isn’t expensive as our club’s accustomed to. But Mrs. Beasly has to economise, you know, um! — but haven’t you heard? Really? You mustn’t repeat it for the world, but Will says that it’s generally understood that old Beasly is in his last ditch financially. Yes — the crash may come any minute.”

“Will told me to keep my eyes open this afternoon, and if I saw anything to confirm the rumor he would intimate the truth in his morning paper. That would be quite a scoop on the other papers, you know. And I’ve seen enough, goodness knows.”

Voices three and four, in chorus, softly but intensely:

“Why, what?”

Voice number five:

“Lots of things. Isn’t the house miserably cold? I’ll guess there isn’t a ton of coal in the bin. And there’s no hired help. And Mrs. Beasly's wearing a last year’s dress made over. And the carpets, and the curtains, and that lunch! How much proof do you require?”

Voice number three:

“And I saw a large darn in the table cover. Mrs. Beasly tried to hide it with a platter, but I saw it. And I know she borrowed most of that silverware. Probably they’ve had to sell or pawn their own. Tom was saying only last night that Beasly looked shabbier every day. Oh, it must be true — and Tom’s put all my money in Beasly’s hands, too.”

Voice number four:

“Maybe it’s only stinginess. Fred has often said to me that Beasly is too mean to live. Look at this house, and the furniture. Old fashioned, of course, but —”

Voice number five:

“The house and furniture were left to Mrs. Beasly by her father. Didn’t you know that? Catch old Beasly buying anything good. She’d have had more, too, but Beasly was executor, you know, and they say —”

Voice number three:

“Oh, I’m so glad you told us. I’ll have Tom draw my money the first thing in the morning.”

Voice number five.

“Do, dear. And do have him warn his friends. Beasly has simply been speculating until he has lost all of his own money, and goodness only knows how much more. It’s just awful. I hope Will will come right out plain in the morning paper, and —”

Beasly didn’t try to hear any more, he had heard enough to make the fringe of gray hair around his bald head bristle with rage and his red face turn crimson.

He waited, wrathfully, until the great, lonely house was silent. Then he climbed softly out of the window and let himself in at the front door.

Mrs. Beasly sat alone at the remnants of the lunch. She looked tired and sad.

She had often looked that way, but Beasly had been too busy making money to notice it before.

“Maria,” he said gruffly as he sat down opposite her, “what did that lunch cost?”

“Not — not over twelve dollars, Alfred. I tried —”

“And the prize?”

“I got that for two dollars, Alfred. It was marked —” “Can you give another party and have those same people — the very same, mind you?”

“Why — yes — I suppose — I could,” Mrs. Beasly gasped.

“Well, do it — and do it quick. And make it double discount anything of the kind that has happened in this town. And don’t you pay less than twenty-five dollars for the prize.

“Oh, don’t ask me any questions. I’ll show ’em” — savagely. “And you get a girl. Two of ’em — the best. Don’t mind the cost. Whose silver is this? Why will you wear that old dress? See here, in the morning you’ll have an account of one thousand dollars at the First National Bank. And it’ll grow. Buy everything you want. Show those people that Alfred Beasly is no pauper. I’m going down town to see Will Ware. You needn’t wait for me. Go to bed.”

Next day at breakfast Beasly called his wife’s attention to an article on the first page of the morning Banner:

“To the First Presbyterian Church of our thriving city: Next Sunday will prove to be a day long to be remembered. The mortgage of five thousand dollars which has so long been a burden to the congregation and the faithful pastor, will then be burned in public. This is made possible by the beneficence of our esteemed fellow citizen, Mr. Alfred Beasly, one of the most enterprising and successful financiers in the State. In an interview last night Mr. Beasly reluctantly admitted that he had just handed his check to the Rev. J. R. Lane for the amount and purpose above stated. Like Mr. Carnegie, Mr. Beasly purposes to devote much of his great wealth to charitable and educational institutions, and this first step in that direction will meet with the heartiest approval. This church is first favored for the reason that Mr. Beasly’s estimable wife has long been a member of that congregation. Mr. Beasly’s valuable and increasing business warrants —”

"I — I — can’t understand it at all,” stammered Mrs. Beasly.

“Don’t try,” said Beasly.

And she didn’t. She’s too happy to care. But she believes in modern miracles — for Beasly never told her about the voices.

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