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

. (page 12 of 29)
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 12 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Then you haven't been adopted by a nobleman who is
going to leave you his title and a large fortune? "

An expression of impatient disgust passed across
the young man's face. " That's the sort of nonsense
that's put about, is it? " he said. " I might have known
it. I'll tell you what it is, Master Baldock well,
then, Dick, and I'm pleased to see you haven't learnt to
put on any airs, which I'll do you the justice to say
you never did in the old days it was to get rid of all
that that I ran away. I couldn't put up with it no
longer. Mind, I'm not saying anything against mother
and don't want to. She's got her ways of looking at
things and I've got mine, and my way isn't her way.
I didn't want to be brought up genteel. I wanted to
do something for myself, and get on in the world. It'll
be time enough to be genteel when I've made a bit of
money. Until then I've got too much to do to worry
about gentility. I've got to work, and whether I work
with my head or my hands it's all one to me, as long as
I'm getting on. I'd listened to such a lot of blat
mind you, I'm not saying anything against mother
about gentility and what I might do and what I mightn't
do, which seemed to end in doing nothing at all, that
one night it suddenly struck me that I'd had enough of
it. Don't waste time in doing what you mean to do
when you've made up your mind to do it, is one of my
mottoes, so the next morning I cleared out with a
bundle of clothes and what I'd got in my money-box
and walked to London. When I got there I made up
my mind I'd take the first job that offered and stick to
it if I saw my way to rising and if not find another,


I struck it first time. That was luck, but luck's the
bird and pluck's the cage that catches it, and you don't
keep the bird if you haven't got the cage to put it in.
That's one of my mottoes. I make 'em up and put 'em
in a book, and one day I'll print it.

"Well, I found a job in a big bookseller's shop. It
was to sweep and dust and put up the shutters and run
errands and so on, but it wasn't that for long. I did
the work I was set to, and as much more as I could
lay my hands to, and whenever I saw a chance of nicking
in and serving a customer you bet I took it. The other
assistants were only too glad to shove off some of their
work on me. They weren't anxious to do any more than
they were obliged, and I was taking all I could get.
Of course I got the first vacant place when one of them
left, and I learnt all I could and did all I could. I
didn't think about amusing myself, I thought all the
time about my work, and I even saved a bit of money.
When I left the other day, after two years, they offered
to increase my screw by half if I'd stay; and if I had
stayed I should have been manager in no time, and a
partner sooner or later. There was nothing could have
stopped me."

"Why didn't you stay? " inquired Richard, not un-

Meaking's florid, self-confident face took on a softer
look. " I don't mind telling you" he said, " though
it mustn't go any further. It was chiefly the forest. I
found I wanted it. I was all right in London in the
day time doing my work, and at night when I'd got
something else to do, such as learning book-keeping and
so on, but in the summer evenings and on Sundays it was
awful. I hadn't got any friends, and I wasn't going to
waste time and money over amusements. I tell you,


Dick Baldock, I've sometimes sat at my window and
almost cried at the thought of the forest, and all the
times we used to have there. I've often thought of you,
and wished I could see you again, and of all the rest of
the people at Beechurst one by one, and of course of
mother, and I thought perhaps I hadn't ought to have
left her like that, and never let her know what I was
doing. So at last it came so as I couldn't put up
with it any longer, and I made up my mind to come
back, though I wouldn't go to Beechurst and live on
her till I'd got something to do, not for a single day I

" You're quite a changed character, Pug," said
Richard. " I'd never have thought you'd have taken
to work like you say. You used not to be like

" That's where you make a mistake," replied Mea-
king. " Most of my thoughts was taken up with play
when you knew me, but you never knew me slack about
play or anything but pushing on, whatever I might have
been doing."

Richard laughed. " That's true enough," he said.
" But fancy your taking to books ! I remember you
saying you'd never look inside another if you could
help it."

" No more I do," answered Meaking, coolly, " ex-
cept perhaps a title-page. If I ever find reading books
helps me to sell them I'll read every book that's pub-
lished, but I haven't found the necessity of it yet and
don't expect to."

" And how did you hit upon Goosey-Gannett? " asked
Richard. " You haven't told me that yet."

" Look here, Baldock, just oblige me by giving the
proprietor of this business his proper name. I shall


have a share in it some day, and I don't wish it to be

" Right you are. But you seem to have fixed things
up pretty quickly if you only got here twelve hours or
so ago."

" It didn't take me twelve hours to fix that up. I
did it before I started. When I was casting about
how I could get back to the forest and make use of the
business knowledge I'd already got, I thought of this
shop, and I knew it was the very thing for me. It's
got a name already, and I'm the man to get it a bigger
one. There's lots of room for development here, and
it'll be some years before I've developed it up to what
I consider its limits. When I do I'll look about for
something else, but in the meantime I'll stay here doing
work I like in a place I like."

" And how did you get old Goo old Gannett to take
you on? Was that luck?"

" No. That was the other thing. I brought my box
here from the station and put it down just inside the
door. I told him I knew he wanted an assistant, and
mentioned the place where I had been trained. He said
he hadn't an idea of taking an assistant, the shop boy
was as much as he wanted to worry him; and he often
thought of getting rid of him and doing his work him-
self. I said he could get rid of him as soon as he liked.
I would do the work and I'd save him a lot of trouble
in the departments of the business he didn't care about.
I got at him there. I thought I should. He likes pot-
tering about among books, but as for selling 'em he's no
more idea of it than a baby. He doesn't want to sell
them. It's my belief he'd rather not. However, it
wasn't anything I said particularly that made him take
me on. It was the way I said it. I'd determined to get


into the business, and it 'ud have taken a more wide-
awake man than him to stop me. I fixed it upon my
own terms I put 'em low enough at first sacked the
boy I don't mind doing his work for a bit and was
in the place before he knew he'd engaged me. He's
more comfortable in his mind already. He's got noth-
ing to do now but make up his catalogue. I've taken
all the rest off his shoulders. Oh, I tell you, Dick Bal-
dock, I know how to get my own way and to make use
of it when I've got it."

Richard had stared at him open-mouthed during the
progress of his story, fascinated by this recital of self-
confident enterprise. " I'm sure I hope you'll make a
success of it, Pug," he said.

" Thank you," said Meaking. " But we'll have no
more Pugs, if you please, Baldock. Nor Montagues
either. I've got past the one and I've not worked up to
the other yet, though I shall in time. Montague Au-
gustus John was the names mother thought of when I
was christened, and many a kick I've had for them in
the old days, as you know. I've chucked the first two
overboard for the present, not having any use for 'em,
and I'm plain John Meaking now. Don't you forget it,
please. Mr. Meaking to the customers, Meaking to my
superiors, what there are of them, and there won't be
many in a few years' time, and John to my friends.
I don't wish to shove myself on to you, Master Bal-
dock, for you're a gentleman born, and above me at
present. But I always liked you, and John's at your
service if you like to make use of it. Otherwise
it's Meaking. I don't insist upon the Mr. from

" It shall be John," said Richard. " And I'm Dick
not Dickie. I'll come and see you often and talk


about the forest and about books. I like books, and I'm
getting to like them more and more."

" You can't come too often for me," returned Mr.
Meaking. " I'm very pleased to see you again."

"And I'm pleased to see you," said Richard, upon
which they ratified their renewed friendship with a shake
of the hand and parted.



OLD Sarah Wellbeloved, now considerably over sev-
enty, still retained her position at Beechurst Vicarage.
She and a young woman from the village, vice Martha,
the afflicted cook, now deceased, divided the work of
the house between them, and Sarah claimed, not without
reason, that she was as useful, in spite of advancing
years, as when she had first joined the household of
John Baldock's father well over fifty years before.
Her spare, diminutive frame, never overweighted with
the generous juices of life, retained its wiry activity.
She was rather more bent and withered, and her hair
was thinner and whiter, but she was the same Sarah,
truculently religious and minatory, as she had been
fifteen years ago, when she had first inoculated her
charge v.ith a respect for Holy Writ, as such, and an
enlivening curiosity on the subjects of Heaven and
Hell. The nursery in which she and Richard had sat
together during his childhood was still his chief haunt.
He did his lessons in his father's study, but kept his
more cherished possessions in the room upstairs, and
retired there during such of his leisure hours c.^ he
did not spend out of doors.

One Friday evening, a few days after his encounter
with the youth whom, in deference to his own clearly
expressed wishes, we must now call John Meaking,
Richard was sitting by the Tarsery fire, while Srrah
plied a busy needle, as of old. He had finished the



preparation of his lessons for Monday, and was now
on his way to bed. It was the happiest hour of his
week, for he had a glorious day's holiday to look for-
ward to, and nothing on his mind to prevent the full
enjoyment of it. It was at this time that his spirits,
never particularly low, ran to the height which made
him desirous of teasing somebody, and old Sarah, in
her dry secretive way, also rather enjoyed the passage
of arms into which she was regularly inveigled on
Friday evenings.

" Ah ! " began Richard on this particular evening,
hugging a worsted-stockinged knee and turning a mis-
chievous face upon the old woman : " I've got a piece
of news that you'd give a good deal to hear."

" If you've got a piece of news," returned Sarah,
" I shall hear it soon enough for my comfort. You
never kep' nothing to yourself yet, an/ couldn't if you

" Well, I think I'll keep this to myself, after all. I
don't suppose Mrs. Meaking would really care for you
to hear it before she does."

" Eh? " inquired Sarah, looking up at him through
her spectacles. " What's that about Mrs. Meak-

" I said Mrs. Meaking ought to know of it first."

"Know of what?"

" What I've found out."

" Now, Master Richard, don't you go for to be ag-
gravating. If you got something to tell me that I
ought to know, you just tell it straight out."

" I never said you ought to know it. I said you'd
like to."

" Well, of all the "

" Now don't get angry. Anger is a wicked passion,


sent to us to resist, you know. You often used to tell
me that."

" Yes, and I'll tell it you again. Precious few's the
wicked passions you resist. You're a despiser of grace,
and given over to 'em. Ah, and you'll get your reward
by and by, unless you find peace full and free. You
mark my words. There'll be a deal hotter fire where
you'll go if you're not careful nor the one you're
a settin' at now."

" It couldn't be much hotter, because the worms
couldn't live in it. There will be worms, won't there?
I think you said worms."

" Yes, I did say worms. And why did I say worms ?
'Cos Revelations said worms afore me; and I suppose
he knowed. So there, Master Clever! And don't you
go a scoffing at what's in the Holy Bible, or I'll ac-
quaint your Pa."

" I'm not scoffing. I like worms. But you always
were an old tale-bearer."

" Now, Master Richard, that I never was nor never
will be, and well you know it, not requiring so to do,
but well able to reprove evil myself when I see it a
saved sinner this fifty years."

"Oh, you were a sinner, were you? I didn't know
you'd ever been a sinner. What fun you must have

Old ' Jarah held up pious hands of horror. " To
think," she exclaimed, " that I should live to hear such
talk, r.nd from one I've done my best to bring up in
godly ways, and scourge the devil out of ! "

" Oh, you scourged him out long ago. I shouldn't
think he'd ever want to look at the back of a hair
brush again. I say, Sarah, do you think curiosity is
a sin? "


" Loose talk is," retorted Sarah, " and a wicked one,
as I've told you many a time. You know where you'll
go if-

" Oh, yes, I know that all right. But I suppose
when you were really a sinner, fifty years or so ago,
you couldn't have rested till you'd found out what I

" I don't know what I should have done then up
and boxed your ears, very likely. But what'll happen
now is you'll go straight off to bed unless there's any-
thing you want to tell me. It's past nine o'clock."

" Perhaps I'd better go, then. I am rather sleepy,
and I shall have to get up early to-morrow."

Richard yawned and stretched himself, and made a
feint of rising from his seat. But he kept an eye on
old Sarah, who stitched on unconcernedly.

" I s'pose it's something about that good-for-nothing
young Montague," she said. " I'd Montague him if
he was mine. I dessay you've heard something about
him." She bit off a piece of thread, and added with
a sharp glance through her spectacles, " Eh? "

" Well, I won't keep you in suspense any longer,"
said Richard, settling himself down again in his chair.
" I know you'd be hanging over me all night to see if
I let something drop in my sleep, if I didn't tell you.
He's come back."

" Well there ! " exclaimed Sarah. " And how do you
know ? Have you seen him ? "

" And is he high up in the world, as the poor boast-
ing creature gives tongue to? "

Richard told her where and how he had met the
deserter, and something of his hopes and ambitions,
which had interested him to admiration, but did not


interest old Sarah in the least. " To think of that ! "
she cried in high glee. " A boy in a shop ! Well, I'd
give a hundred pound, if I'd got it, to ha' seen her face
when he come in at the door an' told her."

" He hasn't come in at the door yet," said Richard.
" He's coming over to-morrow afternoon. Mrs.
Meaking doesn't know he's at Storbridge yet, or any-
thing about him."

"What time is he coming over?" asked Sarah,

" What do you want to know for ? " asked Richard,
in return.

" I don't want to know, if you put it that way. I
only asked the question."

" Oh, you wicked old thing ! You do want to know.
You want to catch a sight of him before his mother
does. I know you and your deceitful ways."

" Don't you talk to me like that, Master Richard.
A deceitful heart, as the Good Book says, is far from
them as is in my comfortable state, and not to be
brought up against such by them as stands without.
And if I would like to see the prodigal returning, like
husks before swine, what harm in that? "

" None that I know of, you old busybody. Well
now, look here. I know what time he'll be coming in
to Beechurst to-morrow, and if you go and make me
a large piece of hot dripping toast in the kitchen, and
bring it to me in bed, I'll tell you."

" I couldn't so demean myself. Dripping toast in
bed, indeed ! And at this time of night too ! You
ought to be ashamed of yourself asking for such a

** Well, if you won't, you won't. Good-night, Sarah


" Go along with you," said Sarah ; and Richard

Twenty minutes later, just as he had blown out his
candle and settled himself to sleep, the door of his
bedroom was opened and Sarah appeared, with a light,
and a plate upon which was the desired delicacy.
" It so happened," she explained, " that Lizzie was
making some for our supper, and a piece being
left over here it is. You wouldn't ha' got it other-

" That's what I call the working of Providence,"
said Richard, sitting up in bed, " if it's true, which
I doubt, for you're not a truthful woman, Sarah. Now
don't be silly. You know you're not strong enough to
take it away from me, now I've got it. Well, I'll tell
you. He gets off from the shop at one o'clock. Then
I suppose he'll have his dinner, and start off at about
half-past. It will take him two hours to walk here,
and he ought to be getting into Beechurst at about
half-past three. So if you get behind the hedge in
Ratley's Copse you can have a good look at him, and
you'll always be able to say you were first."

" / don't want to see the young good-for-nothing,"
said Sarah. " You're making a mistake, Master
Richard. I'd forgot all about him till you brought
him to my mind. Now you just lay down and go to
sleep, if you've finished repleting yourself like a boa-

" Quite finished, thank you," replied Richard, settling
himself down again in his pillows. " Good-night, Sarah
dear; and do learn to tell the truth. You know where
you'll go to if you don't."

Richard was up early the next morning, preparing
to ride to the other side of the forest on some business


of his own in connection with the buying or selling
of a pony, and told Job of Meaking's return, as a
piece of interesting news that might congeal the frost
of that retainer's early morning frame of mind.

" Drat young Meaking ! " growled Job. " What do
I care for he? He never done nobody no good 's fur 's
I know, and ain't likely to it. Don't let him poke his
nose in here, that's all I say, or he'll have a piece of
my mind."

" You can't spare much, Job," said Richard. " I
shouldn't make rash prophecies if I were you."

" I don't want none o' your lip, Master Richard,"
returned Job. " If you can't speak civil you just be
off out o' this."

" I'm going as soon as I'm ready. You're not nearly
so much interested in the news as Sarah was. She
bribed me to tell her what time Meaking would be
coming into Beechurst this afternoon, so as she could
get a sight of him before his mother."

Job looked up at him. " Is that what she told
you? " he asked.

" Yes."

" And you believed her, eh? "

" Of course I did. What else should she want to
know for? "

Job turned away, and began to pump water into a
stable bucket. " Wonderful these here autumn tints
are ! " he said in a tone of detachment, between the
strokes. Richard waited* " There's not nearly so
much green about as there was." More strokes of the
pump handle. " Leastways, not on the trees." Pump,
pump, pump. " I s'pose it's in the autumn that green
gets into people's eyes." Pump. " Some people can't
see very far." Pump, pump. " Any old woman's


tale's good enough for them to swallow." Pump.
" Same as if it was an oyster."

" Well, come on then," said Richard, encouragingly.
" Get it out."

Job ceased his pumping. "Ain't you scholard
enough to see," he said, " you with all your book-
larnin', that what that spiteful old bag o' bones wants
is to go and crow over Mother Meaking, and be a
settin' there when the boy comes in to see his mother? "

" Oh, no, Job. You haven't got much opinion of
Sarah, I know; but she wouldn't do a thing like that."

" Wouldn't she ? She'd go and crow over her if he
was being brought home in his coffin. She's the spite-
fullest old interferin' varmint ever I seed. If she's got
one foot in the grave she'd pull it out to spite the
sexton. Now you see if that ain't what she's up to.
I knows 'er."

Richard, who had saddled and bridled his pony, and
was ready to mount, began to tie his reins to a ring
on the wall. " I'll just go in and see about it," he
said. " I wouldn't have that happen. Meaking ought
to see his mother with no-one else about."

" Look here," said Job, " you leave it alone. I'll see
to it."


" Never you mind how. I'll stop 'er little game.
You can leave it to me quite safe."

Richard hesitated. " You'll promise? " he said. " I
don't want her to go making mischief."

" Yes, I'll promise."

Richard rode off, and Job went about his business

In the afternoon Sarah dressed herself in the self-
same bonnet and jacket that she had worn when she


had bearded Mrs. Meaking ten years before on the
subject of Richard's injury, and set out about three
o'clock for that lady's cottage. Mrs. Meaking was
engaged as on a former occasion, and showed some
surprise, as she opened the door to her visitor.

" Good-afternoon, ma'am," said old Sarah, pleas-
antly. " It being a fine afternoon for the time of
year, and me taking a short walk, and seeing your
house so inviting, I made bold to come in and inquire."

Mrs. Meaking invited her politely to step inside.
" What mischief is the old cat up to now? " was her
inward comment as she handed her a chair, but all she
said was : " I'm sure I take your notice very kindly,
Mrs. Wellbeloved. And how is your saintly master,
and the young gentleman ? "

" I thank you, ma'am," replied Sarah. " Their
health is good, neither shall any plague come nigh their
dwelling. And I hope the same may be said of you
and yours."

Her sweetness and temper were quite out of the
common. Usually she would have bridled up at the
implied superiority in Mrs. Meaking's inquiry. That
lady was more than ever convinced that there was some
hidden intention in her visit, and set her wits to work
to bring it to light, carefully watching the channels
into which the ensuing conversation was directed, and
making her own contributions to it as non-committal as

After circling about for a time among local hap-
penings and personalities, Sarah said affably : " And
what news is there of Mr. Montague lately? For I
suppose with him so high in the world now, and up
among the gentlefolks, honour must be given where
honour is due."


" Oh, that's it, is it? " said Mrs. Meaking to herself.
" Well,' I don't give way an inch there."

" Thank you, Mrs. Wellbeloved," she replied.
" Your sentiments are very proper, but I don't deny
that others do not see the matter in that light, and
much impertinence I have had to put up with on the
subject. When my son does come back to visit me,
which I have asked him not to do just yet, things here
being not quite such as he in his position is accustomed
to and has a right to expect, a very different tune, I
assure you, will be sung."

This was just what old Sarah wanted, and her
amiability became almost cloying as she proceeded:
" Respect to true gentlefolk is what I never have and
never will be wanting in. And if so be that the young
gentleman has risen to a lofty station in the world,
far be it from me to forget it."

" Stations in life, Mrs. Wellbeloved, are not always
marked by the wealth belonging to such. You have
seen me living quiet and contented in Beechurst, work-
ing for my living as if I was the same as them around
me. But belong to a higher station I do, and brought
up genteelly I have been, and the position in life now
taken by my son is the rightful position I should
occupy myself if all had their due."

" And it's the position you will occupy, ma'am, I
make no doubt, when Mr. Montague does what a
dutiful son ought to do for his mother. I take it that
when he does come to visit you it will be in great state
and gentility."

Mrs. Meaking gave a short laugh. " You must know,
Mrs. Wellbeloved," she said, " that the class of gentle-
folk to which I belong or I might say any class of
gentlefolk does not use state in such matters, pre-


ferring to act simply, but as you say with gentility.
You need not expect gold coaches and footmen witli

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 12 of 29)