Archibald Marshall.

Richard Baldock: an account of some episodes in his childhood, youth, and early manhood, and of the advice that was freely offered to him. by Archibald Marshall online

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Henrietta was very kind to us to me and Laurence
Syde, the other boy I told you about in my letter and
got us ponies to ride and a cart, and gave us other



treats. And she told us two or three times to ask her
if we wanted anything else. So I asked her if we might
have guns to shoot rabbits with the keeper."

" Well ! "

" That was all."

"What do you mean all? She did not send you
away for that, I suppose? "

" I don't know. That is the only thing I can think
of. Except that I don't think she likes me."

" It was not at all a right thing to do, to ask for
such an expensive present as a gun, and at your age
you certainly ought to have asked rny permission first
to handle one. I am exceedingly displeased at what
you tell me, but we will put that aside for the present
and try to get at the bottom of things. You say that
is all, but you do not tell me the result of your modest

" I meant that that was all I was ashamed of asking
for the guns."

" The guns ! You did not ask for a pair, I sup-
pose? "

" I asked for one for each of us."

" Did you ask alone, or did the other boy ask with
you ? "

" I asked alone."

" Then it was your suggestion that the request should
be made ? "

Richard hesitated for a moment. " No, father, it
wasn't," he said. " He told me to ask, and said I must
ask alone as I was a relation of Aunt Henrietta's and
he wasn't."

" Then you put the blame on him. I don't think we
are getting on very far, Richard. First of all you tell
me you are ashamed of doing a certain thing, as you


ought to be. Then you shift the blame for it on to
other's shoulders."

The boy looked his father straight in the face. " I
didn't tell Aunt Henrietta a word of his asking me," he
said. " And I haven't told anybody but you. I thought
about it when I was in the train, and I made up my
mind I would tell you everything exactly as it hap-

John Baldock looked steadily into his eyes for a
space, and his look was returned. " You may tell me
the rest in your own \vay," he said. " When did this
happen ? "

" Yesterday morning, after we had been out in the
park with the keeper. Aunt Henrietta did not seem
very well pleased when I asked her, but she sent into
Sandley for the two guns and cartridges in the after-
noon. Then Sir Franklin Syde came back from London
in the evening, and I don't think he was pleased with
Laurence for having the gun, but I don't know what he
said or did. But at dinner they talked a lot about
shooting this morning, and everything seemed all right,
only they didn't talk much to me, and I was very sorry
I had asked. And they didn't seem to want me, so I
went away after dinner ; and I haven't seen any of them
since, because Mr. Bliss, the butler, called me early and
told me I was to go home."

The Vicar considered these disclosures for a time
and then took up Mrs. Moggeridge's missive and opened
it. His face darkened as he read, and when he had fin-
ished he handed the letter to Richard. " This puts a
very different light on the story," he said. " You had
better read it for yourself."

Richard did so. The letter was dated on the previous
day and ran as follows:


" Dear John, I am arranging that Richard shall be sent
back to you to-morrow. I am much disappointed with the
boy and can hardly believe that he is my own sister's child.
His manners and appearance are rough, but that I could
have got over. What I will not put up with is what I have
learnt about him only an hour ago, and I never wish to see
him again on account of it. I learn that he boasts openly
that he is to succeed to my money after my death, which, in
a boy of his age, seems to me quite unforgivable, let alone
that he will certainly do no such thing. I might have hesi-
tated to believe this of him had it not been told me by one
whom I can implicitly trust and had I not myself had an
instance of the way in which he regards me simply as a
means of supplying himself with the amusements he desires.
I am quite aware that the boy cannot have made up the
story of his prospects after my no doubt zvished-for death
out of his own head. He must have been encouraged to
dwell on the subject by others. I will say nothing further
about that. What I do say is that his expectations in this
respect are quite unfounded. I hope to live many years
yet, and when I do come to die my property which seems
to excite such unworthy desires in the minds of those who
profess very different ones ( !) will be disposed of in other
directions. I say this now quite plainly so as to prevent
further misconception. I am greatly disappointed in my
nephew and do not wish to see anything further of him.
Yours truly,


As Richard slowly waded through the earlier sen-
tences of this effusion, written in a bold and little legible
hand his face reddening as he took in their import
John Baldock stirred uneasily in his seat. " Give the
letter to me," he said, " I will read over what concerns
you," and he did so, coming to an end where Mrs. Mog-
geridge's pointed allusions to himself began. " Now


what truth is there in this? " he asked, when he had laid
down the letter again. " Is it possible that you can
have done such a shameful thing as to have boasted
what does she say? 'boasts openly that he is to suc-
ceed to my money after my death '? What is the truth
of that?"

" I told Laurence, father, what you told me, that
Aunt Henrietta was going to send me to Rugby and to

" That was a definite promise made to me, and is a
very different thing."

" And he asked me something about Aunt Henrietta's
money. I said ' yes.' '

" What do you mean? Speak plainly, and don't pre-

" I don't remember exactly what he said ; it was some-
thing about leaving me her money, whether she was
going to. And I said ' yes.' '

" How could you have said such a thing? Who told

" Sarah has talked a good deal about it, and Job ; and
I thought when you spoke to me about Rugby that
you meant it too."

John Baldock was silent. " Really, father," pleaded
Richard, " I didn't boast about it. He asked me,
and I told him * yes ' ; but I've never thought
much about it, as Aunt Henrietta makes out. I've
only thought about going to Rugby, and you told me

" I know that," replied his father, impatiently.
" You need not keep on saying so. You will not be
blamed for anything that you have not done. Did you
say anything to your aunt about Rugby? "

" Yes. I thanked her for sending me there."


"What did she say?"

" She seemed as if it was a new idea to her. I don't
think she had thought about it lately."

" Did she but no, I do not wish to cross-examine
you as to her words. As to your telling this other boy
in so many words that you were to succeed to your
aunt's property and the statement being repeated to
her I am not surprised that she should feel acute an-
noyance. I am deeply ashamed of your having done
such a thing, and you should be deeply ashamed too.
A boy of your age to have such things in his mind !
She expresses herself strongly, but I do not know that
she is not completely justified in what she says on the

Richard was silent. His father looked at him again
impatiently. " Well, have you nothing to say about
it? " he snapped. " Don't you think you ought to feel
ashamed? "

" I should if I had thought about it in that way,
father," replied the boy. " But I never have. I have
thought a great deal about going to Rugby, and a little
about going to Oxford, and that is all."

John Baldock shifted in his seat with an exclama-
tion of impatience. " You don't deny you told this
other boy that your aunt was going to leave you her
money," he said. " And you say that Sarah and Job
told you so. It was an unwarrantable liberty on their
part, if it is true. And you say that you understood it
to be so from me. Most certainly I have never told
you so."

" Didn't you think that she was going to do so,
father?" asked Richard.

John Baldock's face darkened. " How dare you
speak to me in that way ! " he said. " I I " His


angry speech tailed off into silence. The two natures
confronted one another, all accidents of relationship,
of rulership on the one side, and dependence on the
other, pushed for the moment aside. John Baldock saw
his boy, not as the ductile child whom he could mould
and sway to his own will, without heed to the factor of
personality, but with the character that was none of
his making already prompting him, the character which
by and by must move him to oppose a strong, self-
confident nature to a narrow, petulant one. He recog-
nized in a flash the uprightness and dawning strength
of the boy's nature, and with a twinge, the pettiness of
his own attitude, seeking causes of offence so that he
might satisfy his impulse to condemn and browbeat
when he should have been sympathetic, fatherly, every-
thing that it was most difficult for him to be.

And the boy saw it, too, as he stood before his father,
the weak judge who might be propitiated, but could
not do simple justice. In the light of the momentary
revelation he put in the last word of his defence. " I
thought you meant that, father," he said, " when you
told me about Aunt Henrietta sending me to Rugby and
Oxford, and you said that I should be rich afterwards.
If I had thought about it in the way Aunt Henrietta
thinks I have, I should not have said what I did to

John Baldock roused himself to grasp again his au-
thority, and the flash of mutual insight disappeared,
but his tone was different as he replied : " I don't want
to accuse you unjustly. Perhaps I did give you some
reason for supposing er what you say. I admit that
I thought But never mind that. I I yes, I shall
be going up to town I mean that I will go up and see
your aunt, and try to put this matter straight. It will


be the best way. You have not behaved well I cannot
say that. But "

" Where do you think I haven't behaved well,
father?" asked Richard.

John Baldock's face darkened again. " I think you
forget yourself," he said, " when you speak to me like
that. In want of respect alone I think you show a
marked deterioration since you left home. If you have
learnt that in so short a time I can understand that
your manners may not have been entirely pleasing to
your aunt. And there is the asking for the gun. That
I blame you for strongly. You are not to suppose
yourself a martyr."

" I hoped, father, that if I told you everything you
would not blame me very much," said the boy. " I am
very sorry if I have done wrong, but indeed I didn't
mean to. I think Aunt Henrietta is unkind to me, and
that she doesn't understand. Can't you help me and
put things right ? "

" I am going to try to put things right, as far as I
can. You can go away now. I will think over what is
best to be done."

Richard left the room without any further words.
He was suffering under the keenest sense of injustice.
He knew he had done nothing wrong, and realized
dimly that there had been influences at work to bring
him into disgrace other than his own actions. He had
longed for his father's sympathy, but knew now that
he had never had much hope of obtaining it. He was
old enough to recognize the fact that his father would
rather condemn than acquit, and to feel bitter about it.
He went out int the garden and through his old-time
gap in the fencr ;nto the forest and wandered about foi
an hour. The familiar influences presently soothed him,


but as he returned to the garden he said to himself, " I
have done nothing really wrong. I won't feel ashamed
of myself. Father is not fair to me. If he had been
kind and helped me I would have loved him always. He
doesn't want me to love him, and he doesn't love me.
I wish my mother had been alive. I think she wouldn't
have treated me like that. There is no one at all who
really cares for me." Then his childhood rose up and
swamped his dawning adolescence, and he threw himself
down under a great beech and cried bitterly at the
thought of his loneliness and at the downfall of his
hopes ; for he thought he saw now that the disturbances
in which he had become embroiled would end his bright
visions of a school career at Rugby, and there was noth-
ing to take their place but a round of lessons stretching
away into future years under the unsympathetic over-
sight of his father.

While the boy was thus tasting the bitterness of a
great disappointment, his father sat in his study turn-
ing over many things in his mind. He was dissatisfied
with the news he had learnt of Mrs. Moggeridge's change
of attitude, and he was dissatisfied with himself. To be
quite satisfied with himself and his actions under any
circumstance or crisis of life was a necessity to John
Baldock. He called this state of mind being at peace
with God. If anything happened to disturb it he looked
very carefully into his conscience and spared no pains in
tracking down the offence, which he sometimes found to
be the result of behaviour of his own, but more fre-
quently that of somebody else. Unfortunately, the
limits of his nature not infrequently hindered the suc-
cess of his search. He had no quick eye for integrity or
beauty of character, was, indeed, blind to those qualities
except when they bore the stamp of the religious creed


to which he adhered. He found it very difficult in this
instance to give credit to his son for the open honesty
of character which was plainly to be read on his face.
The graces of the boy's nature were written in a script
of which he had never sought the key. But the instinct
of fatherhood, weak as it was, was not wholly lacking
in him, and his uneasy self-communings were coloured
by a sense of protection towards the child who had
looked at him with a clear eye, and claimed help and
support in his difficulty. He knew well enough that the
boy was not to blame, nay, further, that he had behaved
well in face of a situation complicated by circum-
stances he could not be supposed to understand. John
Baldock thought he understood them himself very
well. It happened that he knew something about
Sir Franklin Syde, his family and his family affairs,
through an accident of his former life; and he had
no difficulty in supposing that, if he had succeeded in
gaining the interest of a very rich woman in himself
and his son, he would not be above working always in
a quite gentlemanly, but subtle way to procure dis-
taste and ultimate dismissal for one who might stand
in the way of his designs. That was why he had made
up his mind to confront him and, if he could do noth-
ing else, at all events to open the eyes of his sister-in-
law to the machinations of one whom he looked upon as
an enemy.

When his mind turned itself to the consideration of
this side of the question, and dwelt on what he regarded
as the villainy of Sir Franklin Syde, the character of
his son stood out in contrast innocent and honest.
Why, then the inquiry seemed to be sprung on him
from outside his own consciousness could he not have
comforted the boy with sympathy and affection, in-


stead of playing the schoolmaster? The scene at his
wife's death-bed rose once again to his memory, and
that other almost forgotten picture of the five-year-old
child sobbing in uncomforted trouble at his harshness.
His spirit was stirred by a breath of the divine love
which he preached about continually, but understood so
little. He would not repeat his old mistakes. God
helping him he wouldn't.

He rose from his seat and knelt by his table. Then
he went out of the room and into the garden. Richard
was crossing the lawn on his way to the house, discon-
solate. His eyes were red. He looked up at his father
and then down again. John Baldock put his hand on
the boy's shoulder. " I have been thinking the matter
over, Richard," he said. " I do not consider that you
have been to blame. I withdraw my displeasure."

The words were spoken stiffly. Native churlishness
plucked at the skirts of the angel of pity and spoiled
the graciousness of the approach. But to the boy the
healing quality of his father's words and halting un-
accustomed caress came with infinite solace. Bitterness
and disappointment were forgotten. He flung his arms
around his father's neck in gratitude, and felt nearer
to him than he had ever done before.



JOHN BALDOCK reached Sandley in the afternoon. He
had not announced his arrival to Mrs. Moggeridge. He
hired an open fly and drove out to Paradine Park. As
he came out on to the brow of the hill from which the
house could be seen lying below, he was aware of an
upright, military-looking man and a handsome boy
riding up the slope of grass to his right. They were
some distance off, but he saw Sir Franklin Syde turn
in his saddle and gaze at him from under bent eye-
brows. "My clothes will tell him who I am," said John
Baldock to himself. " I shall not be allowed to be very
long alone with Henrietta."

Mrs. Moggeridge was in, and he was shown by Mr.
Bliss straight into her boudoir. He did not realize that
this was an unusual proceeding for which the demure
and respectful butler would be afterwards severely
reprimanded, or he might have wondered why that func-
tionary should have departed from his usual course and
thus procured him the certainty of an interview with
his mistress unhampered by the presence of others.

Mrs. Moggeridge showed considerable surprise upon
his announcement. She was writing at her desk with
her back to the door and had only time to turn round
before Mr. Bliss had stated the visitor's name and left
the room.

*' Dear me ! " she exclaimed, rising from her seat.
" This is unexpected. Bliss does not usually show
visitors into this room. Pray sit down, John, I will



not pretend that your visit gives me any very great
pleasure. Nor do I suppose you come with any very
pleasant intention. So we need not pretend to be over-
joyed to see one another. I dislike pretence."

She spoke quickly, almost breathlessly, as if she
were labouring under some excitement and were anxious
to gain time to collect her thoughts. John Baldock
took the seat to which she had motioned him, and waited
until she had finished.

" I have certain things to explain, Henrietta," he
said, " and when I have explained them I will ask for
explanations from you."

" Now let us understand each other at once," inter-
rupted Mrs. Moggeridge. " I had Richard here be-
cause I thought if he were a nice well-mannered well-
brought-up boy and pleased me I would do something
for him in the future. I admit that. But he is not a
nice boy; he is not well mannered; he is not well be-
haved; and he does not please me. No obligation rests
on me to do anything for him if I do not choose. No
obligation at all. I do not choose, and that ends the

" I beg your pardon," returned John Baldock, " it
does not end the matter. You have treated my boy
with great unfairness and great harshness, and "

" Harshness ! " snapped Mrs. Moggeridge with a
short laugh. " An accusation of harshness comes
strangely from the husband of my sister."

A dark flush spread itself over John Baldock's face,
but it was the only sign that her words had told.
" Nevertheless the accusation is made," he said. " You
say in so many words it is in the letter you wrote to
me that Richard boasted that he was to succeed to
your property."


" I do say so. And I think it a shameful thing in
so young a boy. But I also said in my letter that this
idea must have been put into his head before it could
have come out. And I will say as plainly as you like
that I think it a still more shameful thing that you
yes, you should have encouraged him to look forward
to my death and to covet my money." She spoke with
great heat, and John Baldock felt the hopeless twinge
of the more or less logical male confronted by an angry,
inconsequent woman.

" If you will listen to me for a moment," he said,
" I will try to put the matter before you in a true light.
You did promise me very definitely that you would
undertake the boy's education. You even mentioned
the school and the college to which you would send him
those at which your father, and my wife's, was edu-
cated. You promised in a general way other things
which you have not taken much trouble to carry out,
for you let thirteen years go by without caring to see
the boy. I know you are unreliable in character

" Thank you," interpolated Mrs. Moggeridge.

" and that you very readily make promises that
you do not afterwards take the trouble to perform.
But this particular promise was so definite that I own
it has never once occurred to me in all these years to
doubt that it would be carried out. I have educated
the boy myself most carefully, with the idea of his tak-
ing full advantage of his opportunities, and when the
time approached for him to go to school, naturally, I
talked to him about it and urged him to do his

" I dare say I may have held out some such hopes ;
but, good gracious me, haven't you got sense enough to
see that whatever I said years ago was contingent on


the boy's turning out well? Am I to be pinned down
to words carelessly spoken years ago in a moment, per-
haps, of expansiveness? I know I am expansive; some
people are kind enough to call it generosity when I
find that the boy has not turned out well, that he is
grasping, and calculating "

The temper of both having now become heated, either
contestant was seldom henceforth permitted to end a
speech or a sentence without interruption from the

" Richard is not grasping nor calculating," inter-
rupted John Baldock. " No one whose judgment was
not warped by prejudice could say that of him. The
boy has his faults "

" Many of them."

" His lack of definite religious aspirations some-
times causes me uneasiness "

" Religious fiddlesticks ! "

" But I have closely examined him, and I say most
definitely that he has cherished no such unworthy de-
sires as you have credited him with. He is incapable
of them. He is far too young for one thing to think
about money and worldly advantages. Such things
are "

" But he does think about such things. He told
Laurence Syde that my money would be his after my

" In answer to a question. The other boy has his
eyes fully open to the things of this world, I can well

"What do you know about Laurence? Nothing at
all. He is a most attractive and open-natured boy. I
suppose Richard has been trying to shift the blame of
his disgrace upon Laurence's shoulders."


" He has not. He has been generous in shielding him.
I tell you, Henrietta, you are doing my boy and your
sister's child a very grave injustice. I am well aware
that you dislike me. You do not understand me or
the motives that sway my actions. I am indifferent to
dislike for my own sake, but for that of the sister you
professed to love."

" I will not listen to you on such a subject. You
well knew that I loved her dearly, and I cherish her
memory; but you^ John Baldock, now seem to me to
have very little to do with her. I look upon her short
married life as an episode. The fact is I do not recog-
nize Richard as her child. He seems to me to be entirely
yours, and as you say, and I do not mind repeating, I
have very little regard or even respect for you. But
why prolong this very unpleasant interview? I have
made up my mind, and nothing you can say is likely to
alter it. I "

" I prolong the interview, as unpleasant to me as it is
to you, because I, too, have made up my mind. I hold
you to your promise, at least as far as providing Rich-
ard with an education is concerned."

" If that had been all there need have been no diffi-
culty. But having had my eyes opened to what is
really expected of me "

" That is all absolutely all. I make no further
claims upon you. I never have made claims ; although,
mind this, you did hold out distinct hopes more than
hopes, expectations that you were going to make the
boy your heir."

" And I dare say I should have done so if I had been
pleased with him."

" Or if you had not come across others, in your
unreliability, who for the moment pleased you better."


" You take a very strange tone, considering you come

Online LibraryArchibald MarshallRichard Baldock: an account of some episodes in his childhood, youth, and early manhood, and of the advice that was freely offered to him. by Archibald Marshall → online text (page 10 of 29)