and then we'll go and have a cup of tea and talk a bit
more. We've got nearly half an hour."
" I've told you enough about myself," said Mr. Bliss,
when they were seated opposite one another at a marble-
topped table in the station refreshment room. " My
foot's well up the ladder, and I shall be performing in
royal palaces before I'm dead. It's a fine life, Mr.
270 RICHARD BALDOCK
Richard none like it. I assure you I consider myself
a fortunate and happy man. I this tea isn't fit for
the pig-tub. Hi ! waitress ! "
But for this fortunate interruption Mr. Bliss would
probably have gone on talking about himself without
interruption until his train left the station. But dur-
ing the short altercation which ensued Richard decided
that Mr. Bliss had talked enough about himself, and
when he was again available for conversation asked
him when he had left Paradine Park.
" We didn't go there much after the marriage," said
Mr. Bliss. " We resided mostly at Bursgath Hall
Sir Franklin's place in Yorkshire. There were great
doings there. You never saw a fine place so tumble-
down, not unless it was quite a ruin. It took us the
best part of a year just to get the house set right. Her
ladyship she enjoyed that thoroughly. Speaking as
a professional man I can now say what I couldn't have
said when we met last, and I was in a confidential posi-
tion with regard to her. The fact is in her character
she must have something going on to occupy her
thoughts something big. She can't just settle down
and lead an ordinary life ; though, poor thing, if all I
hear's true, she'll be having to draw her horns in a bit
" Why, what has happened? "
" What any one with eyes in his head would have
expected to happen. Sir Franklin, he's a very pleasant
gentleman to live with. Never an ill word from him,
and up to a certain point considerate for others, and
specially for those in a subordinate position. Well
liked he was in the household a good deal better than
young Mr. Syde, who was arrogant and domineering
to the servants though not to me ; I wouldn't have put
A COUNTESS AND A CONJURER 271
up with it. Well, as I was going to say, her ladyship,
she's rich very rich. I should be afraid to say how
rich, but in an ordinary way money's no object with
her at all. Thousands and thousands must have gone
on restoring Bursgath Hall, and on the gardens and
stables, and after that on the estate. Oh, thousands
and thousands enough to make you or me rich for
life. Then there was a house in town bought and fur-
nished from top to bottom, regardless. A fine house
Grpsvenor Square, no less. Money must have been
poured out like water that first year, and I've not the
slightest doubt there were debts of Sir Franklin's to
settle too, and for a pretty penny. Well, she didn't
turn a hair over it. In fact she was as busy and as
pleased as could be all the time. And he behaved well
to her, too. Until he's crossed in his own pleasures
there's no more polite and thoughtful gentleman than
Major-General Sir Franklin Syde, K.C.B."
" And Laurence? "
" Mr. Laurence Syde isn't old enough to sink his own
feelings so much as his distinguished father, but he's
learning it fast. She took to him wonderfully. Well,
you saw that when you were at Paradine Park, and
it didn't go off as you might have expected, for I won't
hide from you that her ladyship is very changeable
in her likes and dislikes. She must be amused, you see,
and kept occupied with something fresh. However, as
I say, Mr. Syde, he knows how to please her, and he
did please her. Not very difficult, as he was only at
home in his holidays, and had everything he wanted
almost before he could ask for it. He's in clover, that
young gentleman, and he's sensible enough to know it
and see that he keeps there."
" Then what is wrong with them ? "
272 RICHARD BALDOCK
" Well, it's the racing. I think she was frightened of
it from the first, because Sir Franklin, he's got through
two fortunes over it already, and, after all, it's the
stupidest way of getting rid of money that you could
hit on. The second year, when the best part of the work
had been done in getting the houses as they wanted
them, there was a yacht bought. Her ladyship didn't
care for it much, and of course a yacht's a big expense.
I happened to be in the room when it was settled they
were to have it. She was too careless to hide what she
had to say when I was there, or the other servants either
for that matter. ' Well, we've spent an enormous lot
of money, Franklin,' she says, ' during the last year,
and we really ought to wait for the yacht. But if you
want it we will have it. I don't care much about it
myself; but, as long as it isn't the stud again, I don't
mind what I spend to make you happy.' She was de-
voted to him, you know ; treated him like a child who
always wanted new toys. And that's just what he was,
and only the most expensive toys that would suit him.
So they bought the yacht and we went to Cowes that
summer, and then for a cruise up the West Coast, and
that kept us quiet for that year. Next year there was
a moor in Scotland to keep him quiet, and, of course,
all the other expenses going on just the same. How-
ever, she was so rich that I really don't think all that
mattered, and of course she must have saved a lot since
Mr. Moggeridge died. At the end of that year I left,
and struck out for myself, but things seemed to me then
to be getting a little strained between them ; and I know
the racehorses had been mentioned more than once, for
Sir Franklin was set on that form of folly, and I heard
him arguing with her that it was the best way of making
money, if it was done as he meant to do it."
A COUNTESS AND A CONJURER 273
" He does keep racehorses, doesn't he? I've seen his
name in the paper."
" Yes, she gave way. I don't hear much of them now,
because in my position I can't very well correspond
with those in domestic service; but I did see Hart, the
coachman, last year, and he said the talk was that he
began to get nasty to her; and as she couldn't stand
that, being fond of him, she gave in. Sir Franklin got
his stud, and we'll hope he's pleased with it. He's never
won a big race yet, and I don't believe he ever will.
He's one of the unlucky ones. But it's a patent sink
for money, and Hart told me that he was running
through hers at a gallop. The yacht and the moor's
been put down, and that's a sign that it's telling. I
don't know what'll go next ; but if he don't ruin her
before he's done, he'll make a great deal of difference
in her income and way of living. I think it's a crool
shame, myself. That money ought to have come to you,
and would a' done if he hadn't intrigued himself into
her good graces. And young Mr. Syde was just as
bad. He was worse, 'cos, being young, he oughtn't to
have been thinking about such things. He behaved with
black treachery towards you that time you were
staying with us, and I've never forgiven him for it ; and
if I could put a spoke in their wheels I'd do it now to
see things put right again. However, I'm afraid it's
too late to think of that now."
" You needn't think of it on my behalf," said Rich-
ard. " I don't want to look forward to other people's
death that I may become rich, and I should never have
been able to please Aunt Henrietta ; I see that quite
plainly now. She wants flattery. Even if Sir Franklin
and Laurence hadn't disliked me and tried to get me out
of the place, as I believe they did, I should have gone
274 RICHARD BALDOCK
pretty soon. My aunt would have sent me packing
sooner or later. I don't feel a bit sore now about what
happened then ; in fact, I never think of it."
" Spoken like a man, and as I thought you'd speak.
No, you don't want to be hanging on the whims of a
rich woman; you're made of too good stuff. You can
leave that sort of thing to people whose only idea in the
world is to amuse themselves and spend money. I name
no names. You're much better off striking out a line
for yourself and making your own way in the world.
Now, tell me what you're doing. I've always taken an
interest in your career, Mr. Richard, and always shall.
Begin at the beginning. Now Bless me; there's
my train! Here, Miss, take the money quick one and
four, and there's twopence for yourself. Hi ! porter,
you be careful of those boxes. Where's a second smok-
ing? Well, good-bye, Mr. Richard. It's done me good
to see you again and hear you talk. And if ever I can
do anything to "
The rest of Mr. Bliss's words were lost in the rumble
of the retreating train, but he continued to wave his
hat with hearty good will until his carriage disappeared
round a curve.
RICHARD MAKES A DECISION
ON Richard's eighteenth birthday his father called him
into his study. " I wish to talk to you about the fu-
ture," he said. " It is time we came to a definite
Richard sat down and waited for what was to come
" Is there anything in your mind that you would wish
to say to me about it ? " asked the Vicar.
" I don't think so, father," said Richard ; " at least I
would rather hear what you thought of for me, first."
*' Well, you know quite well what I have thought of
for you. It is my dearest wish that you should preach
the Gospel. I have hoped that it might become your
wish too, but I have not pressed you on the matter.
I have left it in God's hands. What I have done is to
see that your education was conducted on such lines
as to lead up to your taking orders in the Church. But
we now have to make a definite decision, and it is for
you to make it, because I should be the last man in the
world to ask you to take up such a life-work as I
have put before you if your own heart was not in it."
Richard thought for a moment. " Why have I got
to make the decision now, father?" he asked.
" Because if you are to go to the University, it is
time to make preparations."
Richard flushed a little. " I have been thinking about
that lately, father," he said. " I had an idea that you
276 RICHARD BALDOCK
would make my going to Oxford depend upon whether
I went into the Church afterwards, and I decided to
ask you when you talked to me about it not to make it
dependent on that. I suppose the University is a good
preparation for other professions besides the Church."
" I dare say it is; but I should not feel justified in
spending the money on your going there unless it were
to prepare you for work in the ministry. I will tell
you how the matter stands, Richard. You are old
enough now to enter into my motives, and to think for
yourself. You could not, of course, go to Oxford in
any case unless you gained both the school exhibition
and a college scholarship or exhibition as well. The
first I think you are safe for, and the second you ought
to get. If it were a major scholarship we might man-
age it in any case, but I am quite convinced that you
are not quite up to that mark. You could not expect
more than an exhibition, and that would leave another
seventy pounds a year to be provided for three or four
years. I have about sixty or seventy pounds put by
for you which your aunt sent you from time to time
during your childhood, and the rest I should have to
provide. My income is a very small one, and, when I
have set aside a tithe of it for God's service, it is only
by constant watchfulness that I am able to meet neces-
sary expenses. I do not shrink from self-sacrifice on
your behalf, and something I could contribute by
economizing severely. But the bulk of my contribution
would have to come out of the money I set aside, as I
tell you, for the direct service of God. I should con-
sider this money properly spent in fitting you for that
service, but not in fitting you merely for a secular pro-
fession. That is how the matter stands, and why you
must make up your mind now to consecrate your life to
RICHARD MAKES A DECISION 277
the ministry or take up some other employment which
does not demand a University education."
Richard sat silent, in considerable dejection.
" Of course," pursued his father, " it is a serious
matter for any one of your age to decide on, and I do
not expect you to decide it entirely on your own respon-
sibility. I have had your future in my mind for so long,
having thought earnestly and prayed earnestly about it,
and I am convinced that I have done right, and that it is
God's wish that you should undertake the work of the
ministry. I dedicated you to Him at your birth, and
I believe He has accepted my gift. I think I have
gained assurance that this is so. You have never had
the startling experiences of conversion which come to
some, but God works in many ways, by the still small
voice as well as the storm and the earthquake, and when
you were confirmed I was comforted to believe that the
beneficent work of grace was going on in your heart and
that you were being perfected as an instrument. I have
not attempted to interfere. I have held back very often
when my impulse was to advise and exhort. I have left
the matter in His hands, and I believe that I have done
right; but, oh my boy, I have yearned over your soul
and longed so earnestly to see the stirring of the waters,
the saving breath of the Divine Spirit."
He spoke with emotion. Richard was touched by
his words and his tone, but he was also troubled in his
mind. It seemed to him that in the decision that was
to be made emotion ought to have as little place as pos-
sible. And, again, the upheavals and crises of spiritual
experience which were to his father so all-important,
were unreal to him, outside anything he had ever known
or seen. He felt as if he were being asked to produce
signs of inward struggles which his mind was quite in-
278 RICHARD BALDOCK
capable of ever undergoing. It had never occurred to
him to question the truth of the beliefs in which he had
been brought up, but, as far as their miraculous ap-
plication to human life was concerned, he was a sceptic
without knowing it. He could make no reply to his
father's half appealing words, but sat silent, feeling
uncomfortable. John Baldock mastered his emotion
" What you have to do now, Richard," he said, " is
to set your mind wholly on the course that .you haVe to
run. Put away childish things. Your whole life must
be consecrated to the work that lies before you. The
years of preparation that
" Then you have decided for me, father ? " inter-
rupted Richard, in some not unnatural surprise.
" Do you doubt my wisdom in deciding such a ques-
tion ? " returned his father.
" I thought you said that it was for me to decide."
" So, of course, it is, in the sense that, if you felt
for any good reason that you were unable to devote
yourself whole-heartedly to the work that lies before
you, I should consider it very wrong to force you into
it or to press you in any way. But I cannot believe
that at your age you can feel any strong disinclination
that would cause you to run counter to my wishes.
" But, father, surely, if you think me too young to
decide against it, I am too young to decide in favour
of it? If I say yes now, I bind myself for my whole
life. You mean that, don't you ? Unless I say definitely
now that I do not wish to be a clergyman when I am old
enough, I shall go to Oxford in another year, and after
that it won't be open to me to say that I have thought
it over and I do not think that I am suited for it."
RICHARD MAKES A DECISION 279
John Baldock's face had been growing darker dur-
ing this speech. " You certainly would be going to
Oxford under false pretences if you drew back later,"
he said. " I have explained that to you."
" Then I am to consider myself bound in honour for
my whole life to what I decide now on my eighteenth
" You speak in a strange way. Is there anything in
your life that leads you to draw back from the holy
calling you are privileged to be able to follow ? "
" I have not thought very much about it. When I
have done so, I haven't disliked the idea. But I don't
think I ever intended to undertake it without thinking it
over very seriously."
" That, of course, you must do. You must make up
your mind that no worldly thoughts or ambitions shall
influence you; you must make a most strenuous effort
of mind knowing well that you will be helped to do so
to keep straight in the narrow path. It will seem a
very narrow one at first, no doubt, but you will be
abundantly blessed and happy when you come to tread
it. I wish you to think seriously of it most seri-
ously and prayerfully, but I do not wish you to draw
back from it at the very entrance of your man-
Richard felt a strong impulse of irritation. " You
seem to want me, father, to consider a question quite
settled, which at the same time you tell me I have to
decide upon for myself," he said. " What do you really
mean that I am to decide for myself? "
" You have to decide that you will allow nothing to
turn you aside from the path laid down for you."
" Then it is not open to me to decide whether I take
that path or not? That is already settled for me? "
280 RICHARD BALDOCK
" I have never thought of it otherwise. I confess I
should be very grievously disappointed if you refuse to
follow out the course I have had in my mind for you
for years ; which I am assured is the one that has been
chosen for you, and, as you yourself have known, has
been before you ever since you went to school."
" I am very sorry, father," said Richard, after a
short pause. " I hope you won't be angry with what I
say, or misunderstand it; but I must decide a question
of that sort for myself. I thought you said as much
just now, but I suppose I was mistaken. I can't pos-
sibly give a promise now that will bind me for my whole
life to do something that I may think quite differently
about in five years' time."
" I am immensely disappointed in you, Richard. Can
you deny that the life of a clergyman is, of all others,
the one spent most directly in doing God's service? "
" I I suppose it is so ! "
" And are you not pledged by your baptismal and
confirmation vows to spend yourself and your life in
God's service ? "
" Yes," hesitatingly.
" Then, why this refusal to take up the highest work
of all? "
" I am not sure that it is the highest work of all, for
everybody. In fact it is quite certain that it can't be,
or everybody who professes Christianity would be bound
to take it up."
" I must beg of you not to speak flippantly. This is
perhaps the most serious moment of your life, for you
have to make a choice of good or evil in it. Nobody
would say that every Christian is called to a particular
work. The question you have to face is whether you
are not called to it."
RICHARD MAKES A DECISION 281
" That is the question I am trying to face, father.
If I felt that I were called to it, I Well, I don't
know how that call would come, but I I hope I should-
n't refuse it."
" A call may come in many ways. It came to St.
Paul by a compelling miracle; it comes to us in these
days very often through the juncture of circumstance.
In your case it seems clear to me that the way is
pointed out, and that you may interpret the circum-
stances of your life as a call to the ministry."
"What circumstances, father? I am the son of a
clergyman. That is the only possible circumstance I
can see that directs me towards the Church."
" That is one circumstance one of the least. There
are many others. The expectations which I had for
the first twelve years of your life of worldly position
and wealth were disappointed, as you know. I look
upon that as a very strong guiding circumstance. The
fact that it is only possible for me to send you to
the University which is the only entrance I know of
to such callings as you might otherwise be suited for
if it is to be a preparation for this one holy calling, is
another. But the greatest of all is the inward convic-
tion which has been given to me that I am right in
dedicating you to this service."
" But, father, you may be mistaken in that convic-
" I am not mistaken."
" I don't feel it myself. Surely I ought to feel it
strongly myself if if it is sent from God."
" I pray that you may feel it. I believe that you
will if you do not resist the Divine call."
" Then I must wait until I do. I can't run the risk.
I cannot bind myself now."
282 RICHARD BALDOCK
" I don't sympathize with you in your hesitation,
Richard. It seems to me to come from lack of faith, and
if you yield yourself to God's guidance the faith will
come at once. But I will not hurry matters. I will put
aside my own disappointment, and wait until God's will is
revealed to you. I think that in that, at any rate, you
are right. Only I am convinced most firmly of this,
that the assurance will come the moment you yield your-
self. Cannot you make up your mind now to ask for
grace sufficient to enable you to do so? "
" I will think over it, father."
" Not resting on your own powers, still less, I trust,
on the advice of others who are ill fitted to help you
in a matter of this sort. Will you pray over it? "
" Then I am content to leave it there. I believe you
are honest, Richard. You have been taught what
prayer means and what it can do. If you exercise your-
self in prayer the answer will come sooner or later. I
am so sure of what the answer will be that I am willing
to let you go on now with your preparations for the
University, and even to send you there if the light has
not come to you by the time you will have to go up. I
shall wait in full confidence until you come and tell me
that you have made up your mind that the call has
come. I will trust you. I know well what the result
With this strange compact Richard departed. He
went out through the garden into the heart of the
forest to where a great beech spread branching arms
over a deep-chasmed brook, and threw himself down
under its shade. He stayed there for hours, and fought
his battle. He did not deceive himself. He knew very
well that he had to come to a decision, and he told him-
RICHARD MAKES A DECISION 283
self that he would make it in that place and abide by it
He went over in his mind the conversation he had
had with his father. The contradictions which had been
so patent in his father's attitude towards the question
presented no great difficulties to him. He resolved them
by what he knew of his character and habits of thought.
First of all he had been told that he must make the
decision for himself, and at once. Of course such a
decision lay with him who alone was concerned in it, as
any sensible being must perceive; and his father had a
strong vein of common sense, however much he might be
turned aside from relying on it by other considerations.
And, allowing for his views, he was not altogether un-
reasonable in stipulating that the decision must be
come to at this early date under the circumstances he
had mentioned. Then had come the startling disclosure
that, after all, the decision was considered to have been
already arrived at, Richard himself having had no say
in the matter. This was John Baldock in his domineer-
ing mood, impatient of any opinions opposed to his
own, hardly admitting that such opinions had a right
to exist. Richard had suffered enough under this qual-
ity of his father's character in the past, but very little
of late ; and in the generosity of his youth he passed it
over without resentment, recognizing, in an impulse of
affection, that it had lasted during their interview but
a short time before giving way to an attitude quite
different. It could be left out of account for the pres-
ent, but if it appeared again there could be no doubt
but that it must be resisted.
And then had come the disclosure by which he realized
that his determination must be influenced. His father,
convinced that the decision had already been made by a
284 RICHARD BALDOCK
Power whom both of them must eventually obey, had
been willing, after all that had gone before, to insist
neither on an undertaking from Richard nor on his
own right to decide for him, but to leave the decision
indefinitely open. Richard might stay at school another
year, and then go to Oxford, without binding himself
to anything that might come later. He might, in fact,
do just what he wished to do, and put off all question
of the future for another four or five years.
Very well, then, why not? There was no step to
take of any sort. He had simply to go on with his life
on the lines on which he had thought an hour before it