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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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here as a suppliant for my bounty."

" I do no such thing. You may do what you like
with your money. You have gone back upon the prom-
ises for they amounted to promises you made with
regard to it. You will not again be reminded of them
from me, and you can settle with your own conscience
the question of your behaviour in that respect. But
the education stands on another footing. It was an
explicit undertaking, and you have no right now to
repudiate it as a whim. It means much for the boy's
future, and it would be a wicked thing to deprive him
of it."

Mrs. Moggeridge had made several attempts to inter-
rupt this speech, but John Baldock, with raised voice
and masterful mien, had persisted in it to the end. As
he finished, and she was about to reply, the door of the
room opened and Sir Franklin Syde entered. He was
spruce and cool, in his riding clothes ; and, as he gazed
inquiringly at the clergyman in his shabby black suit,
his face flushed with the excitement of conflict, and
then at Mrs. Moggeridge, hardly less excited, he gained
all the advantage of contrast, and appeared to John
Baldock a formidable adversary.

The Vicar stood up instantly. " I know Sir Franklin
Syde," he said, " though he does not know me. Before
I went to Beechurst I held a small living at Lindseydale,
in Yorkshire, and the patron of the living was Mr.
Delmar, who at one time had served in the same regiment
as Sir Franklin."

Sir Franklin sat down with elaborate unconcern. He
turned his face away from Mrs. Moggeridge as he did
so, but John Baldock saw that it was not undisturbed.

** I knew Delmar," he said, " when I was a captain



152 RICHARD BALDOCK

and he a subaltern. We had not met for many years.'*

" You were not likely to. Mr. Delmar died a lonely
man. He had lived the life of a recluse for years. And
he looked upon you as the cause of his loneliness."

Sir Franklin addressed himself to Mrs. Moggeridge.
" The object of all this," he said, with an air of cour-
tesy and frankness, " is to create prejudice against me.
The fact of the matter is that Mr. Delmar and myself
were both suitors of the same lady. She married me,
and I believe that Delmar's disappointment was so great
that he never forgave me for my success."

" I cannot see," said Mrs. Moggeridge, " what this
has to do with me, or why the subject is brought up at
all."

" It is brought up to create prejudice," repeated Sir
Franklin.

" It is brought up," said John Baldock, " to show
you, Henrietta, the kind of man it is for whose sake
you are throwing over your own kin. Sir Franklin's
statement is not a straightforward one. He '

Sir Franklin rose from his seat. " I do not allow
any man to use an expression of that sort in my pres-
ence," he said, very quietly.

John Baldock took no notice of him. " You can
judge for yourself, Henrietta," he said. " Mr. Delmar
was actually engaged to the lady who became Sir Frank-
lin Syde's wife, and they were within a week of their
marriage. Sir Franklin persuaded her to throw Mr.
Delmar over, and she did so. She was rich."

" Mr. Baldock," said Sir Franklin, still very quietly,
" you may either leave the room at once of your own
accord, or I will ring for somebody to turn you out.
The choice is your own."

Timidity played little part in John Baldock's char-



A DISAPPOINTMENT 153

acter, but the elaborate unconcern of his enemy very
nearly had its intended effect. Perhaps it was too elabo-
rate. At any rate, after a moment's hesitation, during
which he half rose from his seat, he threw off the im-
pression made by Sir Franklin's manner, and said : " My
business is with my sister-in-law. I don't know, sir, by
what right you take upon yourself to order me out of
her house."

" I will tell you, Mr. Baldock," replied Sir Franklin.
" Mrs. Moggeridge has promised to be my wife. She
has given me the right to protect her against the annoy-
ance caused her by men like yourself, who wish to take
advantage of her generosity for their own selfish pur-
poses."

The effect of this statement was as marked as Sir
Franklin could have wished. It was entirely unex-
pected. John Baldock leant back in his chair, and
stared at the speaker and then at his sister-in-law.

Mrs. Moggeridge turned away in some confusion.
" I did not wish the statement to be made just yet,
Franklin," she said.

" It is necessary, Henrietta," said Sir Franklin.
" You will never be rid of the designs and calculations
of Mr. Baldock as long as you have only yourself to
rely on."

Then John Baldock found his tongue. " Designs and
calculations ! " he echoed, scornfully. " So that is why
my boy has been pushed aside, elbowed out of the way
in case he should interfere with your precious schemes!
Henrietta, are you quite blind? Can't you see why this
man who acted so basely in his first marriage a noto-
rious spendthrift, almost a bankrupt seeks marriage
with you? Do you really think that it is for love of
you a middle-aged woman? Can't you see that it is



154 RICHARD BALDOCK

your money that attracts him, and that he will stoop
to any contrivance to gain his end? "

Mrs. Moggeridge, until the fact of her age was
brought to her notice, had looked distressed during this
outburst. She was now simply angry and was about to
break forth into speech, but Sir Franklin detained her.
" I can understand Mr. Baldock's annoyance," he said.
" It may serve as an excuse for his insolence. But he
will now leave the room and the house without further
ado." He walked to the fireplace and rang the bell,
and then to the door, which he opened invitingly.

" I am going," said John Baldock. " I never wish
to enter this house again, or to have anything further
to do with you, Henrietta Moggeridge. You are a self-
ish, deluded woman. Prosperity has been your undoing,
for you had impulses towards goodness. Now they are
choked out of existence, and you are on the path to
perdition. You have behaved cruelly and unjustly
towards your dead sister's child, and I pray that you
may live to repent it. As for your future husband, you
will live to despise him. For all his brave outward
show he is corrupt through and through, and it will be
part of your punishment to find it out for yourself."

Mr. Bliss had come to the door and listened respect-
fully to the latter part of this harangue, which Sir
Franklin also received without flinching. " Show this
gentleman to the door," he said, when John Baldock
had finished, " and do not admit him into the house
again."

" Very good, Sir Franklin," replied Mr. Bliss, and
showed the visitor out without the slightest sign that
he had noticed anything unusual in his method of
leave-taking.

John Baldock walked away from the house angry and



A DISAPPOINTMENT 155

disturbed. He did not remember that the fly that had
brought him from the station was in the stable-yard
awaiting his return journey. He walked for nearly a
mile, immersed in his angry thoughts, until he had
passed the swan pond and was nearing the lodge gates.
Then he heard wheels behind him, and looked back to
see the till now forgotten vehicle he had hired follow-
ing him. The driver pulled up when he reached him,
the door opened and his sister-in-law's butler stepped
out and approached him.

" Excuse me, sir," said Mr. Bliss, taking off his hat.
" I have taken the liberty of telling the flyman to wait
until I have had a few words with you. I was unable
to speak to you in the house. My position does not
admit of it. But I had the honour of Master Richard's
acquaintanceship away from professional duties, and
if I may make so bold I should like to say that everyone
in the house was greatly taken with the young gentle-
man and wishes him well."

John Baldock stared at the butler as if he were at
a complete loss to understand his speech, which was
indeed the case. He gave a short, unpleasant laugh
when the speech was ended. " Everybody in the house
by no means wishes him well," he said.

" I took the liberty of referring, sir, to those hold-
ing what is usually called a menial position in the house-
hold," replied Mr. Bliss. " His attitude towards the
domestics of the establishment was that of a well-bred
and courteous young gentleman, and naturally it was
appreciated. My position prevents me alluding in so
many words to what may or may not have been ob-
served during the discharge of duties incumbent on me,
but out here, perhaps, I may be allowed to say, as a
man who is acquainted with manners of the highest,



156 RICHARD BALDOCK

that Master Richard would adorn any position, and
regrettable misunderstandings I can't go any farther
than that under present circumstances alone prevented
his agreeableness and value being appreciated where it
might have been hoped that thus it would be."

John Baldock appeared somewhat at a loss during
the delivery of this address. Mr. Bliss, a man of delicate
perceptions, probably grasped the fact that his object
would best be gained by leaving the matter where it
stood. He allowed no time for a reply. " I will not
detain you longer, sir," he said. " I hope you will
pardon the liberty I am taking in acquainting you with
the general appreciation and admiration aroused by
Master Richard. In the name of the household of Para-
dine Park I wish him success and happiness wherever he
may be. Good afternoon, sir."

Mr. Bliss raised his hat again, turned on his heel,
and walked back the way he had come. John Baldock
entered the carriage and drove to the station. Richard's
friend, the butler, had succeeded in removing from his
mind the last trace of any feeling he may have enter-
tained that his son was in any way responsible for the
change that had come over his own fortunes.

That change was a hard blow to Richard. His father
and he talked over the matter in the Vicar's study after
his return from his fruitless expedition. They were
closer together in spirit that evening than they had
ever been before, and it was some consolation to the
boy in his disappointment to feel that he had his father's
confidence.

" Your aunt will do nothing for you," John Baldock
told him. " She is going to marry Sir Franklin Syde,
and will have other interests. You may put all thoughts
of her from your mind, as I have done. We will speak



A DISAPPOINTMENT 157

of her no more. You understand that it is impossible
for me to send you to Rugby. I cannot afford it. You
must not let the disappointment weigh too heavily with
you. Fortunately it is possible for you to have a good
classical education elsewhere. I have been thinking over
the matter seriously on my journey down. I shall send
you next term to the Grammar School at Storbridge.
You will ride to and fro every day. I have prepared
you well for school life, and you ought to take a good
position there. You must do your very best to keep
it. No doubt this disappointment is sent us for our
good. My ambition for you is that you shall grow up
a holy man and do God's work in the world. You can
do that, as I have told you before, in whatever position
in life you occupy, but you get the fullest opportunities
by taking Orders in the Church. I wish you to set that
end in view and work towards it. The way is plain for
the next ten years or so. There is an exhibition to be
obtained from Storbridge Grammar School which will
help you at the University. You must work for that
from the beginning, and I will help you to the best of
my power. You will also try for a college scholarship
or exhibition, and I shall put by as much money as I
can afford so that you may be able to live at Oxford
or Cambridge for four years without anxiety, and take
a good degree if that be God's will. Your duty now
lies plain before you, and I hope that you will be en-
abled to do it."

Richard thought that he would, and said so. His
spirits rose somewhat as a definite scheme of life was
put before him. Storbridge would not be so good as
Rugby, but he thought he might like to go there. As
for taking Orders, he had no particular objection to that
course, The mental constitution of a boy of thirteen



158 RICHARD BALDOCK

seldom impels him to look forward as far as ten years
ahead. So he went to bed late that night, his mind
relieved of the weight that had recently oppressed it,
and cheered by the thought of going to school in a
few weeks' time.



CHAPTER XIII

RICHARD MEETS AN OLD FRIEND

ON the borders of the forest some seven miles from the
village of Beechurst slept the old town of Storb-ridge,
placidly, like a veteran in the evening of life who takes
his well-earned ease after long years of activity, and
with contentment, still possessed of time-worn honour.
The clash of ecclesiastical strifes had echoed round the
great pile of its monastic church, now shorn of its
dependencies. Its bridges of solid masonry had rung
to the tramp of armed men and horses, and its narrow
streets had seen many a desperate combat. But now
all effort and conflict passed it by. The church stood
on a slight rise, and could be seen for miles across the
low-lying country, intersected by broad gliding rivers
which encircled the rich water meadows and flowed by
sleepy villages, woods, and parks. Round the church
was grouped the little town, retaining much the same
aspect as it had worn for a hundred years past, except
that now and then an old house had been pulled down
to make way for a modern one, or a carved and timbered
front had been ruthlessly refaced according to Vic-
torian ideas of architectural propriety. There was no
station within four miles of Storbridge, and it had lived
to see towns of half its old-time importance, revivified
through the arteries of locomotion, surpassing it in
population and activity by many times. There was
an old and dwindling market, one or two quite unim-
portant manufactures, a great inn exercising a mere

159



160 RICHARD BALDOCK

fraction of its ancient hospitalities, a few old-fashioned
shops still resorted to in a spirit of conservatism by the
surrounding gentry and farmers, and an old endowed
school occupying what was left of the monastic build-
ings.

It was to this school that Richard Baldock was sent
when his cherished hopes of Rugby were overthrown.
The fees were of the smallest, and the education on
sound classical lines of the best. There are many such
schools scattered about the country. They form an
invaluable stepping-stone to the honours of the Uni-
versities and the learned professions, and almost alone
among scholastic foundations rebut the accusation that
opportunities provided by the beneficence of past ages
for the poor have been appropriated by the rich. Each
of these little-known country schools has its roll of
honour, and cherishes the name of a bishop or a judge
or a soldier or a world-famed scholar, and to every
poor parson's or farmer's son among its scholars is
held out the opportunity of a career in the world.

On every weekday except Saturday, wet or fine, Rich-
ard rode the seven miles between Beechurst and Stor-
bridge, stabled his pony and went into chapel at nine
o'clock, and every afternoon, when school was over,
rode home again and spent the rest of his day prepar-
ing lessons for the morrow under the watchful eye of
his father. The school was small, educating not more
than fifty or sixty boys, and the farmers' and trades-
men's sons who formed the bulk of its society, and were
mostly removed at the age of sixteen or seventeen, were
not for the most part distinguished by the extreme
activity of intellect. He got into the Sixth Form after
he had been there two years : and there seemed little
doubt but that he would take the school exhibition, when



RICHARD MEETS AN OLD FRIEND 161

he came to be of an age to go to Oxford, and probably
a college scholarship or exhibition as well, for although
his parts were not brilliant he was a good worker and
was moving steadily along the beaten track.

The bitter disappointment he had felt when his ex-
pectations of a career at a big public school were frus-
trated soon wore away, and his life was a happy one.
He was able to take very little part in the games of
his schoolfellows, but these were not of such importance
in the life of the Storbridge schoolboys as is usual,
for many of them, like himself, came from a distance, al-
though none so far ; and there was a general inclination
among the boys rather more towards the interests of
field and forest and river, than to cricket and foot-
ball.

Two years went over Richard's head quietly and
happily. No life could have been healthier than that
he was leading. He was a mass of hard muscle, active,
almost tireless. With his clear eye, sunburnt skin and
crisp curly hair, he was a picture of boyhood. Every-
body loved him for his open sunny disposition, in which
there was no trace of meanness or selfishness. Even
his father, harsh and captious as he was by nature and
bound rigidly by the tenets of his creed, softened
towards him and found himself the better man for it.
Richard had put himself on a new footing with old
Sarah, who, if she could have had her way, would have
gone on bullying and scolding him to the end of the
chapter. He half chaffed and half petted her, laughed
heartily at her awful threats of future doom, and put
more humanity into her stony old heart than it had ever
sheltered before. She loved him dearly, although she
did not know it. Job was his crony and did his bidding,
which was more than he had ever done for his lawful



162 RICHARD BALDOCK

master. And he was the friend of every villager in
Beechurst, from the oldest to the youngest, and knew
them and their thoughts and ways not as a gentleman
knows his inferiors in station, but as they were known
to their familiars.

Mrs. Meaking still maintained her gentility by means
of her school and her dressmaking, but the once trucu-
lent Montague or Pug had not been seen in Beechurst
since about the time that Richard had begun to go
over to Storbridge to school. His whereabouts was
something of a mystery, which Mrs. Meaking sought to
wrest to her own advantage by telling tales of his
effulgent prosperity, tales which varied in detail but
only increased in splendour as the months went by. He
was on a visit to a relation of her own, whose status
grew from comparatively unimposing beginnings to one
of extreme wealth and importance. There were now
beginning to be hints that he was a member of the
peerage and had adopted Montague as a convenient
way of disposing of his title when he should no longer
be in a position to require it himself. The facts of the
case, which were perfectly well known to the inhabitants
of Beechurst generally, were that Pug Meaking had
left home early one morning after an acrid discussion
overnight with his mother, and had never been heard of
since.

There was in the main street of Storbridge a nar-
row street with cobbled paving, which wound irregularly
down to the river from the square in which stood the
church and the old buildings of the grammar school
an old-fashioned bookseller's shop, somewhat more im-
portant than a visitor might have expected to find in
such a town as Storbridge. The shop, which bore on
its front the name of Gannett, was on the ground floor



RICHARD MEETS AN OLD FRIEND 163

of one of the ancient half-timbered houses of which a
few still stood among the more modern fronts and
houses of the town. In its dim recesses could be seen
walls lined with books from floor to ceiling books on
counters and tables, books on the floor, books stacked
untidily in the oval window, and at such a height as
seriously to interfere with the purpose for which win-
dows are designed. Books overflowed on to the pave-
ment, and were housed in rough shelves, and in a sort
of horse-trough which ran along the front of the shop
and filled in either side of the doorway. In the midst
of all this heaped-up materialization of the thoughts of
many minds, ancient and modern, wise and foolish,
moved an old withered man, dusty and ill-dressed, with
a high forehead overhanging keen deep-set eyes, a long
grey beard, and thin nervous hands, with finger-tips
which, although none of the cleanest, were delicately
formed. This was Mr. Gannett, known to every book-
collector in England for his bibliographical knowledge
and for the deep interest which could be extracted from
the catalogues sent out by him with some irregularity,
but on an average about twice a year.

Mr. Gannett, wide as was his fame, was without much
honour in the town of Storbridge. A few of the sur-
rounding clergy and landowners whose tastes lay in
that direction would come into his shop to buy or to
talk books, but that was about the extent of his social
intercourse with his neighbours. He lived quite alone
in two rooms over his shop. An old woman came in
every day to attend to his meagre bodily wants, and
left him to himself at nightfall. Sometimes she did a
little cleaning, but as her excursions with soap and
water irritated Mr. Gannett exceedingly, there seemed
no particular reason why she should put him and her-



164 RICHARD BALDOCK

self out in this respect, and she did so only when her
shrivelled household conscience cried an imperative bid-
ding. No neighbour ever disturbed the old bookseller's
solitude after the shutters of his shop were put up for
the night, and he was popularly supposed to spend his
evenings in feeding with his books not only his brain,
but his body. His bugbears were the town boys, who
played all manner of pranks on him, and even Richard's
schoolfellows at the grammar school were not always
above committing little pleasantries with him, such as
mixing his more expensive books with the outcasts in
the penny trough, and acting generally in a way which
pleased their small sense of humour as much as it en-
raged the bookseller.

At the age of fifteen Richard was beginning to nibble
at books, sometimes laid out a few of his scanty coppers
in Mr Gannett's shop, and found himself frequently
drawn towards an inspection of his stock. One day,
after morning school, he was turning over the books in
the penny trough, with his back towards the doorway,
when he was astonished to feel a hand on his collar and
himsel 1 swung out into the roadway, while a voice, which
was no-', that of Mr. Gannett, said, " You just be off out
o* that. There'll be no more o' your grammar-grubs'
pranks played here." Grammar-grub, it may be ex-
plained, was an opprobrious term for the scholars of
Storbridge School, used by the town boys when they
were in sufficient force to enable them to do so without
fear of effective retaliation.

Richard was tnrning round with an injured face,
prepared strongly to resent the undeserved imputation
put upon him, when his look changed. " What, Pug
Meaking!" he exclaimed, at the same time as his ag-
gressor said, " Master Baldock, I beg your pardon, sir,



but I have just turned two of them off for playing
monkey tricks, and I thought you were another."

" I was only looking at the books," said Richard, his
wrath vaporized into astonishment. " Whatever are
you doing here, and where have you been these two
years? "

" I've come as Mr. Gannett's assistant, sir," said
Meaking, " and I've been earning my living in
London."

"Don't call me sir," said Richard; "I'm just the
same as I was. Tell us all about it. Everybody's
wanted to know what had become of you."

Meaking looked up and down the street and behind
him into the shop where Mr. Gannett was buried
amongst a pile of books on a desk busily engaged in
preparing one of his famous catalogues, and oblivious
to outside influences.

" Come upstairs," he said. " It's dinner-time, and
there won't be anybody in."

They passed through the shop, the old man taking no
sort of notice of them. "Do you live here?" asked
Richard, as they made their way up the steep staircase
to the second floor.

" Yes," said Meaking, and led the way into a barely
furnished room with latticed window looking on to the
street. The room, unlike the rest of those in the house,
was neat, and bore signs of having 1 been recently well
scrubbed. Richard gazed round him in surprise.
" Fancy rinding a room like this in old Goose's house ! "
he said. " They say he only washes himself once a year,
on Christmas Eve, and as for his house ! "

" I did it myself before I went to bed last night," said
Meaking. " I only came yesterday afternoon, but I'm
not going to live in filth. And I tell you, Master Bal-



166 RICHARD BALDOCK

dock, I'm going to turn this old house inside out and
the business too."

" Well, let's hear all about it from the beginning.



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 11 of 29)