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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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 2 of 29)
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what I never thought to have let fall. I am not allowed
to love him as I would have loved him, with passion and


joy. It would be idolatry, displeasing of God. He has
such self-control. He asks nothing of me that he does
not impose upon himself. He loves me passionately.
I have divined it. But he holds himself back. His God
is terrible. There, I have said it. Death and judgment
are fearful to me now, and I loved God before, and
thought I knew Him. And as the years go on, and the
little child whom I must not fondle overmuch lest I
make it too dependent on my love, grows out of baby-
hood, I must see it trained and bent to a shape I am
too weak to wear; and I must carry a weight on my
mothers heart and show sternness where I would be all
pity. And who knows what will come later still? Oh,
I have thought of it all, through long nights and days.
The burden is too much for me. And there is no one to
share it."

She broke down and sobbed convulsively. Mrs. Mog-
geridge looked out into space with wide eyes. " The
man has a devil," she said under her breath.



OUTSIDE the room where Jessica Baldock lay dying
the sun drew long shadows across the grass of the once
trim lawns, now a dewy tangle of grass and clover;
and all round the unkempt flower garden, more beautiful
in its wild state than ever it had been in its days of
prosperity, stretched the great forest, mile after mile
of glade, woodland, and open heath. For hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of years the trees of the forest had
swung their green branches into the blue skies of spring,
turned red and brown and gold in the autumn and shed
their dead leaves in winter, their glory departed, their
loss unregarded. And the human life that had bloomed
for so short a time in their shadow was drawing to its
end, not, like them, to blossom again, unless it were in
the more fruitful soil of an unknown country. The in-
explicable wastefulness of nature, careless of age or
youth or sorrow, was at work. Out of the millions of
seeds that had fallen to the earth every autumn from
the trees in the forest one or two here and there had
perpetuated the growth from which they had sprung.
The rest had perished. What was one human life, still
young and sweet, in face of this lavish mechanism of
reproduction ? A new life had been born into the world,
and the life that had produced it was fading into

The doctor had given his verdict. Mrs. Moggeridge
had seen him in the bare drawing-room, that monument



of her own incongruous modernity, strangely insignifi-
cant of any impress from the personality of her who
had occupied it, unlike the rest of the house and the
common life that went on within its walls. The master-
ful spirit impressing itself everywhere else had ignored
this room, and it was without colour, meaningless. The
relentless verdict of death, spoken here, called forth no
echo of incredulity from inanimate trifles made alive by
association. It came with cold force and gripped the
brain. " It cannot be so," Mrs. Moggeridge had cried,
but her tone carried no conviction, unless it were to
contradict her words.

The doctor was a thin, elderly man, nervous and
hesitating, but the downright manner of his questioner
plucked the truth out of his hesitations. " She is sink-
ing now," he said. " It is only a question of hours."

" Is there nothing to be done? " she said. " Another
opinion? "

" Another opinion would only confirm mine," he an-
swered, " and by the time we could get it she would be

' ; Oh, how terrible it is ! Could nothing have been
done before ? She seemed well yesterday evening. Why
did you leave her through the night? It was only this
morning she began to fail."

" It was only this morning," he said, gravely.
" There was no reason for me to stay through the

" Then it was the nursing. There ought to have
been a professional nurse."

The doctor was silent.

" Is that old woman incompetent? " Mrs. Moggeridge
pressed him. " I dislike her, but I thought she was a
good nurse. She nursed my brother-in-law, and has


been with him ever since. I was shocked at first to hear
that no trained nurse was engaged, but did not press
the point because I thought she would be as good.
Was I wrong? "

The doctor twisted his fingers nervously. " I should
have preferred a professional nurse," he said.

"Then it is that. Oh, why didn't I insist? And
you say it is too late. But why am I talking here when
there is so little time? I must go to her." She left
the room hurriedly, and went upstairs.

The slight figure on the bed lay motionless, very pale,
the eyes closed. John Baldock was sitting by the pillow,
his head bent in his hands. The little wooden cradle
stood by the fireplace, and Sarah, the old servant, was
busying herself with water and flannel's. Her face was
interested, her movements active. Tending the life that
had just come to be, she seemed quite detached from the
tragical slipping away of the other life, now near its
final extinction.

Mrs. Moggeridge stood over her like a vengeance, in
terrible cold anger. " Go out of the room," she said
in a tense whisper. " It is you who have killed her.
You shall not be in here."

The old woman looked up at her in a frightened
manner. She did not attempt to excuse herself, nor
did she show indignation at the charge. " The baby,"
she whispered, tremulously.

" What does the baby matter now? Take it away
and go at once into another room, and don't come back
here again. I can't bear to see you."

She obeyed without a word, making two or three
journeys, and leaving the room finally to the now un-
disturbed influence of death.

Mrs. Moggeridge cast one look at the bowed figure


of the man by the bedhead, a direct look of intolerant
dislike, almost of hatred. Then she sat down on the
other side of the bed, and gazed fixedly at the still
figure lying on it. Her face grew tender, broke into
tearless contortions, became calm again. They sat for
a long time in silence, while the evening sunlight on the
wall shifted a space and the breath of the forest came
through the open casement. Then John Baldock raised
his head and looked at his wife.

Suddenly he threw himself on his knees by the bed,
and began to pray. " Oh, God ! " he cried. " Save
her. Bring her back to me. Take away this bitter cup
which I cannot drink ; this burden which is too hard for
me to bear."

" It was she who bore the burden," Mrs. Moggeridge
flashed back at him. He continued, without noticing

" If I have been blind to Thy will, blind to grace
which came from Thee, but which I could not under-
stand, forgive me, and remove the punishment from me.
Thou art all powerful. I believe it, I know it. Thou
canst do this great thing. Thou Who didst raise
Lazarus from the very grave itself, and didst give life
to the son of the widow, Life-giver, Healer, grant the
prayer of Thy servant who puts his trust in Thee, and
put back the hour of death if it be Thy will. Oh,
Lord, make it Thy will."

The language of the man in dire distress fashioning
the cry that came from the depth of his heart into con-
ventional smooth-slipping words aroused in Mrs. Mog-
geridge's mind a fury of scorn and anger. She heard
nothing but the glib speech. The self-accusing bitter-
ness failed to reach her.

" Cant ! " she cried. " And at such a time as this !


You who have ruined a life and crushed the only spark
of love in this dreary house! Take your punishment
and keep silent. Let her die in peace."

The pale face on the pillow was motionless. The
brain was already groping in eternities, or comatose,
dying with the body. Who could tell? Whatever might
be, it was deaf to the voices of the world.

John Baldock raised his dark face to the shrill
accuser. He seemed to observe her presence for the
first time. "Why do you come between us now? " he
said. " Leave me alone with her with her and my

"Your God!" she sneered. "What a God! The
product of your own vain cruel imagination. One
thought of hers had more of God in it than all your
harsh rules and sermons. Oh, why did I let you have
her? My little sister!" She became all tenderness
again, and threw herself on her knees by the bed, crying,
in tears:

" Oh, don't leave us, Jessica, my darling ! We shall
become hard and worldly without you. Stay with us,
little sister, and help us to be good."

" Pray to God," said the man, sternly. " Join your
prayers to mine, and He may grant them."

She rose from her knees. " No," she said, quietly.
" It is of no use. You know it as well as I do. Let
us keep quiet. We may be troubling her."

Once more he buried his head in his arms, and prayed
with terrible concentration and fervour, agonizing in
spirit, with fierce determination against the decrees of
unanswering fate, bruising his faith upon the stony
silence, unregarded alike in his revolt and his angry
remorse. Mrs. Meggeridge, hope departed, acquiescent
already in the inevitable, sat quietly, watching him in


a mild stupor of curiosity, her power of feeling re-
laxed. By and by there was complete silence in the
room, broken only by the child's distant wailing the
tiny, child who recked nothing of the great loss for
which he might have wailed so bitterly.

John Baldock rose from his knees and took his seat
by the bed. Whatever his prayers had been during the
time in which his lips had uttered no word, they had
brought him something which he had not gained from
his tempestuous cryings. His face was lined and grief-
stricken, but it was no longer in revolt. He kept it
fixed on his wife. Mrs. Moggeridge sat with her eyes
before her, her face clear of expression. And again
there was silence.

There came a faint disturbance over the pale face
of the dying woman, a flicker of life very weak, the
shadow of a breath, and again silence, complete and

John Baldock rose to his feet and kissed her gently
on the brow. " God's will be done," he said, solemnly.

Mrs. Moggeridge started up with a wild cry, and
flung herself on the bed. " Oh, no, it can't be ! " she
wailed. " How cruel to take her ! Oh, God, how cruel ! "
She lost control over herself and beat her breast with
her hands, sobbing and crying incoherent words.

" God's will be done," said John Baldock again.



RICHAKD BALDOCK, started on the race of life under a
penalty somewhat severe, will be the hero of the follow-
ing pages, of which a few may well be devoted to the
tale of his early years. It is a question how far tender
pity for his motherless state may be indulged in with-
out giving way to unreasoning sentiment. His depriva-
tions were positive and need not be disregarded, but he
had compensations which must be considered against
the debit side of his life account.

It is a pleasant thing to think of the first steps along
the pathway of life taken by the child of good and
happy parents. He is lapped round with love, and
knows nothing of any other characteristic of human-
kind. The world he has come to must be very like the
world he has left. Neither of them contains for him
selfishness, anger, cruelty, or any of the evil passions
of humanity, for with all our faults on our heads we
show him nothing of our nature that is not godlike. He
sets out upon his journey through a country empty of
danger or darkness, its air warm and kindly, its mea-
dows smiling with flowers, protected on every hand, but
knowing not the need of protection, and so fearlessly
drawing with unspoilt confidence on the measureless
stores of love around him. His first smile is an event,
and every milestone of intelligence he passes eagerly
noted. There he lies, " fretted by sallies of his mother's
kisses, with light upon him from his father's eyes," the
centre of countless hopes and plans and ambitions, of



infinite importance, one of life's most precious treasures.
To think of all the gracious influences he sheds around
him in his unconscious babyhood is to grasp much of the
goodness of the world and to forge a weapon against
the pessimist.

Yet it must be confessed that the child for his part
takes all the love and care with which he is surrounded
very much as a matter of course, and accepts the wor-
ship tendered him with coolness. In the case of babies
who are deprived of the atmosphere of adoration and
Richard Baldock was one of them we may be per-
mitted and even encouraged to doubt whether they miss
it. Consciously they cannot do so in the early days,
and afterwards, if pity is brought to bear upon them,
it must be with discretion.

Pity, in his case, could hardly be withheld alto-
gether. His father was without that passionate affec-
tion for little children which some men share with most
women, and could not make up to him for the loss of his
mother. Doubtless he loved his son, but there was no
foolishness in his love, and the foolishness of a mother's
love has something to do with its divine quality. Until
the baby began to walk and to prattle he took but
little notice of it, and when he did he began to correct
it, assuming the responsibilities of education very early,
so that the child's dawning knowledge of his father, if
he could have analysed it, would have been of a man
who existed chiefly for the purpose of saying " Thou
shalt not."

Deprived thus of a mother's love and of a father's
tenderness, the child had nothing to fall back upon in
his early years but the care of old Sarah, his nurse,
who might have made up to him in some measure, if she
had been so constituted, for the lack of both. But


Sarah was not so constituted. The light vouchsafed to
her was the reflection of the religious creed held by
John Baldock, and she also said " Thou shalt not " with
overmuch frequency. According to her lights she
did her duty, and probably the only child she tended
from infancy was the only being in the world she really
cared for. At the same time she was unconscionably
harsh and captious, and had nothing to give which
would have made up in the slightest degree for the
mother-love of which the child had been deprived. Cer-
tainly he was unfortunate in this respect, because most
women in her place would have been able to make up
for it in some measure, and he would have felt the
advantage, even if she had been at less pains to attend
to his spiritual welfare. How many women, if a very
little child came to them holding up a piteous face for
sympathy over a hurt, could have refrained from taking
it in their arms to comfort it with murmurs and rock-
ings? And this was a motherless child towards whom
she stood for protection and pity. But she never did
that. Tears were naughtiness from the earliest days,
and vigorously scolded. Childish falls and accidents
were carelessness, and therefore naughtiness again, and
rebuked as such. High spirits, involving noise, were
naughtiness. Hunger, leading to undue celerity in the
consumption of food, was of course naughtiness.
Absence of hunger, occasioned by the appearance of
tapioca pudding, was naughtiness. Sarah kept a sharp
look-out for naughtiness in the shoals of the little
Richard's nature as a pilot for hidden rocks, and struck
it with astonishing frequency. The aggregate of her
discoveries as to his character and tendencies was
summed up in the word " limb," and if she did not
always add " of Satan," she always meant it.


And yet little Richard loved his Sarah, took her
many scoldings and her absence of tenderness philo-
sophically, as the ordained portion of small boys, not
knowing any better, and put up with the conviction,
persistently drummed into him, of his shining unworthi-
ness, as best he might. If he grazed his knees she did
bind them up, although she allowed his lacerated spirit
to heal of itself. If he was ill he was made to feel that
the illness had some intimate connection with the fact
of his being a limb, but he was most carefully nursed
back to health. His everyday wants were attended to.
In fact, he was cared for, and if he was cared for, as
has been said, without tenderness, not knowing what
tenderness could be he did not greatly miss it, and it
is possible that on that account he gained more in self-
reliance and self-control than he lost in happiness.

And after all, Sarah was not always nagging. Rich-
ard and she passed together many hours of intimate
companionship. The fact that from his earliest child-
hood he regarded the Bible as the most interesting of
books he owed entirely to her. Her gift of exposition
was remarkable, and she made the characters that
walked and talked and strove with one another in the
beginning of the world as real to him as the men and
women of his father's parish. The historical books of
the Old Testament were her favourites, which was for-
tunate for him, but they both had a decided liking for
the Book of Revelation, and frequently dipped into the
Gospels, particularly that of St. Luke.

On one delightful summer Sunday evening, when they
were alone in the house and perfect stillness and a sort
of golden dusk enwrapped them, they allowed their
minds to dwell on an alleged promise that each of us
hereafter would inhabit a mansion. A mansion, ex-


plained Sarah, in answer to inquiries, was a large and
beautiful house. Was the Rectory a mansion? The
suggestion was scouted. Was the Hall a mansion,
then? Yes; and Richard's mind went off in a canter
of delightful anticipation, increased to a gallop by the
information that it was a mere hovel in comparison
with the desirable residences whose amenities they then
spent a pleasant hour in discussing. He was recalled
to earth by the return of his father from church, and
a sudden statement to the effect that he was not to
regard himself as eligible for a tenancy unless he showed
a marked, and, as it seemed to him, even a miraculous
increase of goodness.

On another happy evening they explored the possi-
bilities of Hell, regarded as an opportunity for in-
genious torture. It was winter and a big ripe fire
glowed in the grate of the nursery.

" How would you like," inquired Sarah, " to put
your finger into that and keep it there? "

Richard hastened to reply that he should not like it
at all, half afraid that for his soul's health she might
think it advisable for him to try. But as his last ebul-
lition of naughtiness had been connected with experi-
ments having to do with the flame and wax of a candle
and a red-hot hairpin which had not turned out as he
anticipated, a further object-lesson was not deemed

" Ah," said Sarah, " you cried in your wickedness
when you burnt the smallest part of your finger. Think
of the pain when every inch of your body burst into
flame. And there'll be no Sarah to bind it with an
oiled rag. The pain will go on, ah, and get worse, for
ever and ever and ever ! "

Richard was fascinated by this amiable conception,


and they pursued it further. He did not take her
adjuration personally, nor did she mean him to. She
was in high good-humour and surpassed herself in her
imaginative excursions, binding down her God to a
monstrous cruelty, the idea of which if he had not been
blessed with more than the average scepticism of healthy
childhood, might have sent him gibbering into idiocy.

Well, that was Richard's Sarah, and with all her
faults he loved her, for she stood to him for what he
knew of motherhood, and they were often very comfort-
able together. He used to think sometimes in after
years that if a few drops of that rain of love which is
the birthright of every child brought into the world
had fallen upon him, it would have found fruitful soil,
and might very well have tempered the aridity of his
naughtiness, of which so much was made in his child-
hood. But there was no one to give it him, and he had
to do without.

One other friend he had in his father's household,
Job Wilding, gardener and groom. Martha, the only
other indoor servant, may be omitted, because she was
stone deaf and liable to periodical fits of aberration be-
sides, so that what with her bodily infirmities and a
somewhat morose and grudging habit of mind, she was
not a person upon whom affection could conveniently be
lavished, nor was she apparently capable of returning
it if it had been.

Job Wilding was elderly and rather bent, and, like
the bones in the scriptural valley, he was very dry.
His conversation, when he vouchsafed it, was a great
pleasure to little Richard. It had so many unexpected
twists and turns, and there was a kind of sporting
excitement in watching it carefully for the sake of a
hidden joke, which you might come upon at any mo-


ment under the innocent-looking form of words which
concealed it. The concealment would usually have been
complete had not Job's eye acted the part of a pointer
in marking down the game. He would bend his gaze
upon whatever he might be doing while he talked, until
he had spoken the sentence that contained the pleas-
antry, when a single glance, flicked obliquely at his
listener, would set him reconsidering, seldom without

There was this added charm to little Richard about
Job's companionship, that it was always uncertain, until
he tried, whether he would get it or not. For days to-
gether Job would be quite affable in his acceptance of
his society, ready to talk and even to be talked to, and,
on the other hand, he would suddenly veer round in the
middle of a regular spinney of humours, his eye flicker-
ing at every other sentence, and send him packing off
out of his sight as if he were an offence under Heaven.
This inequality of behaviour on Job's part the child
accepted with the same equanimity which he brought
to bear upon his father's severity and Sarah's nagging
tongue, and liked him none the worse for it. Job spent
his time doing interesting things with his hands, and on
this account alone Richard would have envied him
greatly, for his own duties in the world were the learn-
ing of hard things out of books, and his pastime to try
to do the very things Job earned his living by.

How Job came to be and remain part of a household
ruled over by a man of John Baldock's convictions it
would be difficult to say. He was a commoner of the
great forest of which the parish of Beechhurst formed
a part, and held a diminutive holding, exercising his
rights of pasture and pannage and the rest, and fre-
quently staying away for a day or two to look after


his own affairs without leave or subsequent apology.
This form of independence, however, was taken for
granted in that part of the world by anyone who cared
to employ a forester in his service. What it is difficult
to understand John Baldock taking for granted was
the fact that Job was never by any chance to be found
in church. Although a clean-living man, he was in an
undoubted state of perdition, judged by the standards
used by his master. He was also, in accepted parlance,
a scoffer, for he made no secret of his total unconcern
over those matters held by John Baldock as all-impor-
tant. He did not " hold with religion," and said so
whenever he felt it to be required of him. And yet he
was never sent about his business. Perhaps he would
not have consented to go.

Between Job and Sarah there was a great gulf fixed.
She frequently told him that if she were in the master's
place she would send him packing without any cere-
mony for a godless, idle creature; and he with a com-
mand of Scripture that was somewhat remarkable, con-
sidering his churchless proclivities, would retort with
a biting quotation, directed against women in general
and brawling women in particular, that sent her into
a fury. In her more serious Bible readings she would
identify Job as possessing all the recognizable char-
acteristics of that curious abstraction known as " the
sinner," or " the wicked," leaving little Richard with the
impression that King David and King Solomon must
have missed a deal of pleasant society through their
prejudices; and of course she frequently forbade the
child to imperil his meagre hopes of ultimate salvation
by consorting with such an obvious reprobate. These
injunctions he disobeyed, and with comparative im-
punity, for she never called in his father in aid of


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 2 of 29)