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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is all part of that behaviour, and it was against that
behaviour that my anger, if you like to call it anger, was

Richard felt the ground slipping from beneath his
feet. " Resentful sulkiness," was an exaggerated de-
scription of his attitude towards his father of late, but
it was near enough to be recognizable. " I can't argue
about it like you can, father," he said, " but "

" There is no question of ability to argue. You can
tell me straightforwardly what is in your mind."

" I am trying to. I am sorry that I spoke rudely
to you this afternoon, but what I said was true. I spoke
to you about Mr. Ventrey and the Hall the other day,
and you shut me up at once. I never know what I may
talk about and what I mayn't. You do find fault
with me if you possibly can. If I had told you about
meeting that little girl this morning I am pretty certain
you would have found fault with me for that, for some
reason or other. I can't talk to you about things
that interest me like other boys can to their fathers
and mothers. I'm either snubbed or I'm blamed. You


tell me to be good but you don't help me to be. When
I said that you never praised me for doing well I didn't
mean quite that. I don't want you to praise me. But
I don't think it would do me much harm if you were
just to show that you were pleased with me. It's sim-
ply this, that when I'm not doing as well as I might
you've got something to blame me for, and when I'm
doing my best you blame me for any little thing that
you find against me all the same. It doesn't make much
difference. You never show that you're pleased with
me. I suppose because you never are."

" Do you think what you are saying is quite true,
Richard? "

" Yes ; it is true."

" I think not. Although there may be a modicum of
truth in it. Possibly in my watchfulness over your
character I may have been over-anxious to root out
faults. I mean that the way I have gone about to
root them out may not have been the best I could have
used. Being mortal and infested with sin, the most
careful of us may make mistakes in the way we exer-
cise responsibility. But is it not true that from the
time you first began to go to school, from the time of
your visit to your aunt's and after what then occurred,
that we were happy together, that we talked of many
things from time to time as father and son should, that
there was confidence between us, that work went
smoothly, and that this state of things, which I admit
has new come to an end, continued until a few months

This point of view was new and somewhat surprising
to Richard. " I don't want to be ungrateful to you,
father," he said. " You certainly were kinder after
that. But I don't think there was quite so much dif?


ference as you say. I always had to be very careful."
" Quite so. And I intend that you always shall be.
I do not in the least regret anything I have ever done or
said that would cause you to look on life and conduct
seriously. And I am not the sort of parent, please
God never shall be, who is content to share light and
unworthy views of life with their children. Such parents
may gain a poor reward for a short time. Their chil-
dren, no doubt, have more freedom in their presence
and may give them an increase of the sort of affection
which I hold as worthless. But they will live to
anathematize them ; deservedly so, for such a training
or, rather, want of it is a wicked misuse of the respon-
sibilities of parentage. And now, Richard, I should
like you to ask yourself this question. Has there been
nothing in your conduct to produce the change which
has come over our relationship? Have you been quite
satisfied with yourself during the last six months ? You
have brought very severe charges against me for what
you regard as undue severity towards you. Have you
not some reason for being severe with yourself? "

Richard looked down on the floor ; but did not answer.
" I will ask you the question again," said his father.
" But first of all I want to say this. There are fathers
to whom it is possible to be companions to their sons,
to share such of their pursuits and recreations as are
innocent, without losing sight of their parental respon-
sibility in the way I have described. I am not one of
them. My pursuits and yours are different, as our
characters are different. We should both find a con-
stant and close companionship irksome. You no less
than I. But you will do me the justice to remember
that you have had as large a measure of freedom as any
boy of your own class, or indeed any class, you have


ever come across. I have never interfered with your out-
door pursuits, or objected to your spending your leisure
in any way you pleased. You will acknowledge, I think,
that is the case."

" Yes, father," said Richard.

" Then kindly take that into account when you are
passing judgment upon me in your mind. And now I
will repeat my question. You are right in saying that
I have not been pleased with you during the past six
months. You seem to do your work fairly well when
you are immediately under my eye, but there is a very
marked difference in the spirit in which you do it, and
I need not remind you that the result at the end of last
term was not satisfactory. I must say, too, that I
have no expectation of its being more satisfactory at
the end of this. I will say nothing more about your
attitude to me during that time. I have been severe to
you, you say. Granted. But you have resented my
severity in a way you would not have done if there
had not been cause for it. Now, am I not right ? "

Another pause.

Then John Baldock, at last, by the grace of God
hit the right note.

" Tell me what has been wrong, Richard, and let us
try to put it right."

Instantly the boy dissolved into tears. " Come here,"
said his father, and he went round the table and stood
by his chair with his hand on his shoulder and his
father's arm encircling him.

He sobbed out his confession, not so very dreadful a
confession after all. Even John Baldock, severe as was
his normal attitude towards what he called worldly
thoughts, and impatient with anything in the nature of
literature, in which category he included, of course, all


fiction, was surprised that it amounted to nothing more
than an overdose of novel-reading, not, strictly speak-
ing, even surreptitious. But as the boy went on he
realized something of how the matter stood with him,
and set himself to elucidate it, with a tact which seemed
to have descended for that purpose only, for it was as
superior to the ordinary insight vouchsafed to him as

" I think I see how it is," he said. " What you have
done was very delightful at first, and could not be said
to be definitely wrong in itself if you had not let your
thoughts become engrossed in it. The reading of tales
and stories I regard as absolute waste of valuable time.
If you allow them to take hold of your mind they give
you wrong views of life. I suppose if stories were
written by Christian men and women it might not be
so. But they are not. However, I should not expect
you to hold that view at your age, and I should not
seek to prevent your reading light books altogether as
long as they were not definitely irreligious. I don't
think you would want to read such books, and we need
say no more on that point. But, like all things that
have not to do with our eternal welfare, reading of that
sort, if over indulged in, becomes a temptation, and,
like all temptations, brings satiety at last. I think
you have become very tired of your novel-reading."

" Yes, father. I don't want to go on with it any

" Very well. You are now in a position to see plainly
why it has not brought you happiness. I don't accuse
you of wilfully deceiving me about it, but you knew that
I should not approve of the extent to which you car-
ried it, and of course that has made you unhappy and
explains much of the change in your attitude towards


me. For the change has been in you, Richard, and not
in me. Then of course it has affected your work. Al-
though you have not been actually idle in the times
set apart for lessons or preparation, your mind has
not been set on what are the chief duties of your life
at present in the way it must be set if you are to suc-
ceed. The duties have become toilsome, you have known
failure where before you had success, and you have
become dissatisfied with yourself on that account. And
lastly, I take it that you are dissatisfied with yourself
because you have been accustomed to take an innocent
pleasure in the life of the open air, and you have given
up that pleasure for a far less satisfactory one. I am
not on such sure ground here, because my interests in
life are different, but I think to a certain extent I
understand and sympathize. I have always, at any
rate, been content that you should spend much of your
time out of doors, and have felt that God might reveal
Himself to you in the bounties of nature with which He
has surrounded you, as He has revealed Himself to me
in other ways. Only this afternoon I was saying to Mr.
Ventrey that you knew and loved the forest as few of
us who dwell in it do. Although it is a knowledge and
love not to be compared with that given to God's Word
or His service, it may indirectly lead to that. It is, I
am assured, a healthy love and knowledge, and it should
be treasured as a Gift and not lightly exchanged for
something that, as you see, has brought unhappiness
with it. You have come to feel that, and now that you
are going to give up this indulgence, you will go back
to your open-air pursuits with renewed pleasure."

Richard's hand stole round and rested on his father's
other shoulder. " I wish I had told you about it before,
father," he said.

" I wish you had, my boy," replied John Baldock,
quite unconscious, so well had he played his part, that
nothing less than the defiance with which the interview
had started would have brought him into the mood to
deal with the situation in the way he had done. " We
could have talked it over and put an end to it much
sooner. But it is at an end now, let us thank God's
mercy for it, and shall come between us no longer. I
shall never mention the subject again."

And he never did. He had won handsomely, and
could afford to be generous. When he thought over
the course of the conversation later that night he did
ask himself whether there was any truth in the accusa-
tions the boy had brought against him, apart from the
actual case under special discussion ; but he was so
taken with the eloquence and reasonableness he had
brought to bear on the subject, and on its happy re-
sults, that the keenness of his inward vision was some-
what obscured. He decided that there was nothing in
those accusations.

As for Richard, for the first time for many months
he went to bed completely happy. He had purged his
soul of the indulgence that had clogged it, and cher-
ished a new feeling for his father made up of gratitude,
admiration, and affection mixed. Then there was the
Hall and the kind Squire and the charming child to
think of, and nothing now to come between him and
the enjoyment of these new delights. His heart was as
light as a feather, and he fell asleep with a smile on his



ME. VENTREY was dressing for dinner with the assist-
ance of the staid and respectable Filmer. Master and
man were very good friends. The one liked to talk and
the other to listen. Mr. Ventrey was talking now, and
Filmer was listening, throwing in from time to time a
small but well-considered contribution to the conversa-
tion, the subject of which was Richard, who had left
the house an hour or two before.

" It was a risk, Filmer," Mr. Ventrey was saying.
" I said to myself, ' The child cannot have made a
mistake. No child does when it is a question of char-
acter ; least of all my little Lettice.' But when I saw
the father that hard, ignorant bigot, whom, neverthe-
less, Filmer, we must be careful to support, and, if
possible, to humanize I confess I felt doubtful."

" Your kindness of heart, sir, is proverbial."

" Thank you, Filmer. Directly I set eyes on the boy
I knew that there had been no mistake. What a charm-
ing open face! I should have liked to have a son like
that. Those clear eyes nothing to conceal in the heart
to which they are the windows, Filmer."

" A pretty thought, sir."

" Thank you, Filmer. Perhaps just a slight shadow
now, but I found out the reason for that, and we shall
disperse it. Do you know, Filmer, what gives a boy a
look like that open and honest and fearless? "

" I should be pleased to be informed, sir."


" Then I will inform you. It is the look that is pro-
duced only by the open-air life, by constant companion-
ship with Nature. It is the look that Nature imprints
upon the faces of her votaries. You cannot get it from
poring over books, Filmer; you cannot even get it by
observation of humankind. It is the look that Adam
had before he was driven out of the Garden. The look
of innocence, of knowledge of good before there comes
knowledge of evil. I don't bear it, though I think I had
it once ; and you don't bear it, Filmer."

" No, sir."

" We know the world. We have eaten of the Tree,
and we have found some of the fruit bitter and some
sweet. One of the sweetest fruits, Filmer, is the ability
to recognize innocence and goodness, and to love it.
I am thankful that from the wreck of my bodily powers
that and many other good things have been preserved
to me. I think you have the ability too, Filmer."

" I believe so, sir."

" You would not remain very long with me if it were
not so, for you are most infernally clumsy. I could
have tied that tie in half the time if I had had the use
of both my hands. Please be a little more expeditious.
I am hungry, for a wonder. I suppose it is the forest
air. I almost wish, Filmer, that we had come here

" You would have missed the hintercourse, sir."

" Yes, I should have missed the hintercourse, as you
say. Possibly I shall miss it. But I think not. My
mind is stored. And there will be great compensations.
My little Lettice I shall see her sweet nature grow
and expand before my eyes. She is wise beyond her
years, and she is of the age to go straight to the heart
of those mysteries which are hidden from the eyes of


some of the wisest. This young wood-god will initiate
her. In my most sanguine moments I never hoped that
I should have found so good a guide. A girl could not
have done it. There would have been a conflict of in-
terests and desires, however genuine the knowledge and
love. And a man, the best man one could imagine for
the purpose, would play the schoolmaster. A boy,
frank and clean-minded, unspotted from the world
one might have hoped to come across such a one if one
had thought of it ; but boys to whom one could trust
our little fairy must be rare. I hope, Fihner, you share
my enthusiasm on this fortunate discovery."

" The young gentleman, so far as I have been able to
ascertain, is liked by all."

" We must make his life happy, Filmer. We are for-
tunate to be in a position to do something in that way.
If you get nothing else for your faithful service to me,
Filmer, and I think it very likely that you will not
for, upon my word, you are the most irritating bungler
in existence you will have got this, that the best way
to gain happiness for yourself is to do what you can to
give it to somebody else."

" I've got the best example of it before my eyes, sir."

" It is very nice of you to say so, Filmer. I am quite

sure that we shall be happy here. If we do miss the

hintercourse there is plenty to console us for it. By

the way, are you quite sure of Doury? "

" He had the very highest of recommendations, sir."
" I hope they were deserved. We are drawing near
to a very great test. If your clumsy fingers permit
you to finish dressing me, in ten minutes I shall be be-
ginning my first dinner cooked by Monseiur Dour9y.
The first dinner in a new house designed and prepared
by a new cook. The occasion is a momentous one.


The little supper last night was excellent, and promised
well. But to-night's dinner will be the crucial test. If
you are sure you have quite finished, Filmer, you may
take me downstairs. I hope when you bring me up
again I shall not have suffered a great disappointment."

Richard was astir early the next morning. The
pony he had in his mind as being the most suitable for
little Lettice's use belonged to a forester who lived some
miles away, and he was in the stable-yard saddling his
own pony to go and fetch it soon after seven o'clock.
Job, who had just arrived, was also in the yard.

" I hear you made friends along o' the Squire al-
ready," he remarked.

" Yes," said Richard. " I don't think I've ever met
a gentleman I liked so much."

" Ho ! " replied Job. " Seemingly he ain't a Roman
Catholic, as we was informed."

" I don't know. I never thought about it."

" It all come o' these here women. 'Tain't often I
believe what they says, an' never shan't again. Roman
Catholic, indeed ! Young Master Harry ! I think I
sees him bowing down to graven images. Not much
I don't ; though bowing down to anything in Heaven or
earth's beyond him now, poor soul."

" What do you mean ? Who are you talking about ? "

" Seems to me I'm going dotty. Though what with
Acts o' Parliament and such like, 'tain't to be expected
a plain man should have known."

Richard went into the harness room and came out
with his bridle, which he fitted on without a word.

" I suppose you haven't heard, then," proceeded Job,
disappointed of a question, which he would have ignored.

" J'vo heard all there is to hear."


" That I'll lay you haven't. This same Squire Ven-
trey, what we've all been talking about as if he was a
heathen foreigner, p'raps you'll tell me who he really

" Perhaps you'll tell me."

" I will. He's no other than young Master Harry
Sherwood, what I've gone bird's-nesting and such-like
pranks many's the time along of 'im, when I was a
nipper myself. And that's gospel, if the sky was to
fall and bury me."

" How does his name come to be Ventrey, then? "

" That's Act o' Parliament, and to be found written
in the laws of the land. Miss Ventrey, what owned the
Hall when I was a lad, she left it to him with her name
and all; and the Lords and Commons they sat in judg-
ment, and had him named afresh, accordingly, swear-
ing on the book as is commanded. We pieced it to-
gether last night, me and one or two more at ' The
Chequers,' after we'd seed him and knowed him for what
he was. And a good Squire we shall have, legs or no
legs, as kind-hearted a gentleman as ever drew the
breath of life, and bold and soaring in spirit though
afflicted in body."

"When did you see him? He didn't go out yester-
day. He told me so himself."

" Young Tasker, what's been taken on at the gardens,
come into * The Chequers ' last night. ' Come up to
the Hall and see a great sight,' he says. A simple young
man he is, and questions was lost on him, being exalted
in spirit. ' Come and see a sight of splendour,' he
says. So we followed of him, and them as wouldn't
go without knowing what they was going for was left
behind. When we got into the gardens behind the Hall
trespassin' you might call it if you was so minded


there was three windows alight from top to bottom an'
never a blind to one of them. * Don't show yourselves,
neighbours,' says young Tasker, ' but feast your eyes
on the glorious sight from behind this here bush.' So
we did, and what do you think we saw? "

" I suppose you saw Mr. Ventrey eating his dinner."

" 'Twas not like mortal man a-satisfying of his natu-
ral appetite. There was vessels of gold and vessels of
silver, and candles and fine linen, and at the table sat
the Squire with his weskit wide open against the time
there come repletion. And a coming and going of men-
servants there was constant and quiet, three grown men
to serve him on bended knee."

" Oh, come now, Job ! "

" Was my eyes blessed by the wondrous sight, or
was they not? First one would hand him a shining
dish o' victuals and another the belongings thereto, and
then the chief of them, with his shirt uncovered to keep
his master in countenance, would come forward with a
bottle of crystal and pour out the precious liquor.
Then they would stand still and solemn and watch every
mouthful, and him a-settin' there calm and majestic,
chew, chew, chew, like a king on his throne. The multi-
tude of dishes was a marvel to behold, and after each
one was ate the plate was whisked away like magic,
and another clean and shining set down in front of him.
Once the good food didn't please him and was took away
with wl ispers and melancholy sighing. But the next dish
was asked for again and happiness shone on the faces of
the sf lemn assembly. We was struck dumb with aston-
ishment at the wonders we beheld and our bones was
like water. Then all of a sudden old Jacob Biddleton,
whab was groom in the stables in the days of old Miss
Ventrey, he slaps his leg, and says : ' By the Lord,


neighbours, that great potentate's young Mr. Harry,
and no other.' And what I'd been groping for in my
own dark brain came to light at his words, and the
truth was revealed to me at that moment, ' You're
right, Jacob,' says I. * Cut off the beard of the man,
turn his white hair black, and give the poor soul the
use of his limbs, and there's Master Harry Sherwood
before us all.' And Tom Hendry knew the man for
what he was too, and Fred Doe, and we was all in a
flutter. I suppose the babel of our voices was uplifted
more than was fit, for something was said and all eyes
in the room was turned to the windows, and the chief
butler he come and looked out, but we had drawn back
and was crouching behind the bush. Then he drew
down the blinds and the glory inside was hidden from
us. So we went back to * The Chequers,' and there we
made out what I told you."

" You're a funny old thing, Job. Tell me what Mr.
Ventrey was like when he was young."

" Like none I've ever seen afore or since. Sometimes
solemn and quiet and as wise as a judge, wi' talk no
man could understand outside a pulpit. And the next
day, perhaps, as daring and wild as old Nick himself,
surpassing all in devilry and miscalling you to your
face enough to bring tears of mortification to the eyes
of such as had tender spirits. But at the end of all as
loving as a woman, and knowed what was in the mind
of each one same as it was his own. A wonderful
character, and all of us as was then young and now
is old, and them as has gone down to the grave since
them days of youthhood, wild to follow him wherever
he went, and many a sore heart left behind when he
ran away to foreign parts and his name blotted out
for ever."


"Ran away?"

"Yes. Him and Miss Ventrey had a misunderstand-
ing, so we heard, but never the rights of it. Proud they
were and high-spirited, both of them, and words there
was occasional, though she loved him and he loved her.
Last we heard of him he was in the Crimea a-fighting the
Prooshians, and never no more. They must have made
it up before she died, which was thirty years ago and
more, and why he's never come back to the old house
till now is beyond my knowing. Happen it was the
stroke that made him ashamed to face his old com-
panions, though a might ha' known, poor soul, that
that would be forgiven him, and him an old man
an* all now, same as them he left in the pride of

" It's very interesting, Job. I'll tell him that you
remember him, for I'm going there this morning."

" Aye, do so, Master Richard. I'll be proud ta
touch my hat to he, which is more than I've done to
gentle or simple this forty year, for my soul's my own,
and I don't hold wi' idolatry. But Master Harry's
different, and it's a bright day for Beechurst now he's
back come among us."

Richard mounted his pony and clattered out of the
yard. He had known Job Wilding all his life, but had
never heard him put so many words together in so short
a time before, and had hardly ever known him to speak
with approbation, much less enthusiasm, of any living
soul. It is not to be wondered at that what he had
seen and heard of the Squire made a deep impression
upon his mind, and occupied his thoughts to the ex-

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 16 of 29)