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Richard Baldock: an account of some episodes in his childhood, youth, and early manhood, and of the advice that was freely offered to him. by Archibald Marshall online

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back of your mind, although you have not been able
to express it, and have given me a wrong impression of
the result of your thoughts. No, you are right, Rich-
ard. I see it now. If you went to Oxford it could
hardly be expected that you could be brought into the
state of mind in which you could receive the revelation
that I believe will come to you. It is there I was wrong.
Not in the main object of my desires for you, but in this
one detail of carrying them out. The University is not
the only training ground for Holy Orders. There are
other avenues. I must think them over carefully, now
that this light has come to me."

Poor Richard, his self-destructive object now accom-
plished, could hardly be expected to receive this further
proof of his father's still determined designs with
equanimity.

" It is not of the slightest use, father," he inter-
rupted, with some impatience. " I am not going to
take Holy Orders. If you will not let me go to Oxford
and prepare for some other profession

He did not finish this sentence. John Baldock rose
from his seat and stood over him. " Then, Richard,"
he cried, " I wash my hands of you. I will resist you
no longer. Your obstinacy is grievous and wicked. Go
youi own way, and the responsibility be on your own
shoulders."

Richard rose and left the room without another word.
His heart was sore within him. He had tried to do
right. He had fought against a temptation which had
dressed itself in all the plausible allurements of obedi-
ence and righteousness, and had overcome it. And this



300 RICHARD BALDOCK

was his reward. There was nothing to lighten his de-
pression. The whole of his life seemed to lie in ruins
around him, and it seemed impossible that he should
take pleasure in it again. His anger against his father
burned hotly, and suffered no diminution when they met
at dinner an hour or two later, and he found that the
attitude to be adopted towards him was one of silent
and accusing displeasure. He made one or two re-
marks during the course of the meal, which were received
either in silence or with curt unfriendly replies. Then
he relapsed into silence himself and brooded on the in-
justice with which he was treated.

This state of things lasted for several days. Rich-
ard's anger against his father died down in some meas-
ure, but its place was taken by a feeling very near
contempt. If his father liked to sulk in that ridiculous
way, he said to himself, disrespectfully, he might do so
as long as he pleased. He should take no steps to put
him in a more amiable temper.

It was curious that now the question had been de-
cided once for all, and Oxford had retired out of his
reach as Rugby had done five years before, his disap-
pointment had become eased of some of its sting. The
world was before him, and, however much he had been
prepared to make the best of another year at school
when that had been the prelude to the delights of the
University, there was no doubt that independence and
some definite occupation other than that of learning
out of books presented still greater attractions. He
thought it unlikely that his father, when he should have
come to his senses and be ready to look facts in the face
again, would wish him to go back to school again at all,
and there was some excitement of quite a pleasurable
kind in casting about in his mind for a calling which



HOW THE DECISION WAS RECEIVED 301

he could take up at once, which would provide him with
a small but rapidly increasing livelihood, complete inde-
pendence, and work which he could thoroughly enjoy
doing. It did not occur to him that such openings were
somewhat rare. He was young and adventurous.
There were so many things that he might do now that
it was open to him to do anything he liked, and he did
not despair of lighting upon something that would
lead him to fame and fortune, and that by the most
agreeable and expeditious of routes.

He was lying under his favourite beech throwing little
sticks and stones idly into the water when there occurred
to him in a flash of memory the words of his friend
Meaking : " In whatever business I am, there'll always
be a place for you." His hand upraised dropped to
his side, and he looked out into space suddenly struck
with an idea. He recalled the occasion on which the
words had been spoken. It was when they had ridden
to Exton together two or three years before. Mea-
king had talked to him then about his future, and he
remembered now that he had opposed the idea of his
becoming a clergyman, and advanced much the same
arguments against it as he himself had lately used in
his deliberations. And he had talked about his own in-
terests in life too, and it was then that he had given
the invitation which had risen to the surface of Rich-
ard's mind.

He considered the suggestion with growing appre-
ciation of the possibilities it opened out. Meaking had
now got a share in Mr. Gannett's business, had in fact
the entire management of it, for the old man was in
failing health and did little more than work at his
catalogues and advise in the branch of the trade that
he had made specially his own. It could not be long



302 RICHARD BALDOCK

before ^leaking would have the whole of the business
in his hands, and it was a thriving business, as Richard
knew, for his friend kept little from him, and Mrs.
Meaking was living in a state of surpassing gentility.
He grew more and more enamoured of the idea of tak-
ing part in it. It had to do with books, and books he
increasingly loved. No other business he could engage
in would present such charms, and he supposed that
business would have to be his lot, as it was unlikely he
would be able to qualify for one of the learned profes-
sions. The fact that by entering it he would commit
himself to the plane of retail trade did not trouble
him, did not enter into his thoughts. There is some-
thing of fascination to most minds in the idea of mak-
ing money by trade, and retail trade presents the most
easily grasped illustration of the process. The more his
thoughts dwelt on the idea the better he liked it, and at
last he sprang up from his couch on the bank of the
stream and went off to saddle his pony, determined to
lose no time in consulting Meaking on the subject. It
\vas twelve o'clock, and if he rode to Storbridge now
he would be away from the early dinner at which he and
his father met. He had never taken this step before
without asking permission, but on this occasion he did
nothing but leave a message that he would not be home
until late in the afternoon, saddled his pony, and rode
off.



CHAPTER XXIII

MEAKING'S PROPOSAL

You must imagine Richard, now at the beginning of the
nineteenth year of his age, as a young man who had
already attained to his full height of about five foot
ten. His fair hair still curled over his broad forehead
and pleasant open face, and his blue eyes smiled at the
world and hid nothing secret or shameful. Dressed in
rough tweeds, and mounted on a young mare of awk-
ward paces and no great beauty, which he had recently
acquired as the result of much bargaining, his forest
ponies being no longer up to his weight, he was never-
theless a figure at which you would have turned to look
if you had met him trotting along the lanes on that
August morning, so well did he sit in the saddle, and so
full of life and youth was his slim, active figure.

He found Meaking just leaving the shop to go up to
his dinner.

"Hullo, Dick!" his friend greeted him. "There's
nobody I'd rather see than you. I quite miss you when
the holidays are on. Come up and have a bit of dinner
with mother and me."

" Are you sure it's convenient? " asked Richard. " I
wanted to see you about something important-, so I
came straight off. I didn't think about coming to
dinner."

" I dare say mother will make a fuss," returned Mea-
king, cheerfully. " But there's sure to be enough.
Come on."

803



304 RICHARD BALDOCK

They went upstairs to a large old-fashioned room
with window seats under latticed casements overlooking
the street. A smell of roast mutton, agreeable enough
to hungry youth, pervaded it. The table was laid for
two. The clean tablecloth and shining plate and glass
spoke well for Meaking's prosperity and the scale on
which he lived, which was above that to which Richard
was accustomed at home. He looked round him with
renewed interest at the comfortable room with its easy
chairs, its books, and its new bright carpet, and thought
it would be pleasant to furnish and occupy such a
room of his own, while Meaking went out to prepare
his mother for an addition to their party.

By and by they both came in together, Mrs. Mea-
king with a hot face, in an undoubted fluster.

" Really, Mr. Richard," she simpered. " I am quite
ashamed to receive you like this. I don't know what
you'll think of us, I'm sure; me in an old dress, and
nothing nice as I could wish to have it when honoured
by a visit."

" Oh, come, mother," expostulated Meaking. " We'll
give him as good a dinner as he gets any day of his
life. A hot leg of mutton and a roly-poly pudding.
You couldn't have anything better than that. You
don't give him much of a welcome."

" I'm sure I'm delighted to see Mr. Richard when-
ever he comes," said Mrs. Meaking, " if he doesn't mind
taking us as we are, and will make allowances."

" That's all right, then," said Meaking. " Let's go
into my room and have a wash, Dick, and dinner will
be ready for us when we come back."

" Mother's as pleased as Punch, really," he explained,
as he took off his coat in his bedroom. " I can give
her pretty well what she wants now. She keeps a serv-



MEAKING'S PROPOSAL 305

ant, though she don't leave much for her to do. Still,
it's cheap and makes her happy. The only thing she
doesn't like is living over a shop, but we'll alter that
some day, I dare say."

"I think you live jolly comfortably," said Richard.

" Well, I do. I can afford it now, and I believe in
living comfortably. Eat well and you'll work well.
That's one of my mottoes. And how goes it with you,
Dick? When are you coming back to school?"

" I don't know that I'm coming back. I wanted
to talk to you about that and about something
else."

" Ho, ho ! " commented Meaking. " Well, perhaps
we'd better leave it till after dinner. Then we can have
a yarn for as long as you like. There's not much
doing now, and they can always send up for me if I'm
wanted."

When they got back to the sitting-room they still
had to wait a short time, for Mrs. Meaking had con-
sidered it necessary to make an alteration in her cos-
tume, and could now be heard coaching her hitherto
invisible helper, in subdued but anxious voice, in her
duties. A shade of annoyance came over Meaking's
face, as his mother sailed into the room in a black silk
dress and a lace collar, and apologized for the delay
by explaining that she had a new servant who had not
yet got into her ways. " However others may choose
to live," said Mrs. Meaking, " I like to have things
nice, and the trouble I have in teaching servants to
behave genteel passes belief."

The small servant who presently made her appear-
ance in a short black frock, a cap, and an apron, like a
child playing at houses, may have tickled Mrs. Mea-
king's sense of gentility, but she was an undisguised



306 RICHARD BALDOCK

nuisance /rom every other point of view. She relied so
much upon her mistress's promptings to tell her how
she was to deal with the thousand-and-one problems
that arose during the course of the meal, that the
simplest operation was enveloped in a haze of whispers
and frowns and nudges, and conversation became an
impossibility until every one had been completely sup-
plied, and then the poor child was instructed to stand
behind Mrs. Meaking's chair where she spent her time
audibly sniffing, her eyes bent in an agonized gaze upon
the back of her mistress's head, and at the slightest
sign darted from her point of vantage to offer wildly
something that nobody in the least required.

" Oh, do let Louisa go out of the room," expostu-
lated Meaking at last, " and let's help ourselves. We
shall get on twice as well." The obvious completion of
the sentence, " and let's help ourselves " was " as we
always do." But Meaking was loyal, and tender of his
mother's weaknesses.

Mrs. Meaking flushed. " I think you had better do
so, Louisa," she said, severely. " I don't know what
can have come over you to-day."

Louisa fled, her dread of the scolding to come later
being tempered by the most obvious relief. Mrs. Mea-
king made certain excuses and explanations, which
Richard received with politeness, and the rest of the
meal passed in a grateful peace.

" I want to have a talk with Dick, mother," said
Meaking, when it was over, " if you don't mind leaving
us here alone for a bit."

" Not at all," said Mrs. Meaking. " Louisa needn't
clear away yet. Perhaps you'll bring Mr. Richard to
say good-bye to me in the drawing-room before he
goes."



MEAKING'S PROPOSAL 307

" All right," said Meaking, shortly, and the two
young men were left alone together.

" Well, John," said Richard, " I've made up my mind.
I'm not going to be a clergyman, and I'm not going to
Oxford."

" Not going to Oxford ! " exclaimed Meaking. " But
that's rather a change round, isn't it?"

" I've had it all out with my father. It's a long
itory, and I needn't go into it. But it comes to this,
that the only chance I ever had of going to Oxford
was to prepare for the Church, and the one goes with
the other."

" I'm not surprised that you don't see your way to go
into the Church. You know my views on that subject.
It isn't the work you are cut out for. And you've
come to feel that yourself, eh ? "

" Yes. I think our views are much the same on that
question, but it needed a lot of thinking out, and I
must say that to lose Oxford was a very great dis-
appointment to me."

" I'm glad you had the strength of mind to give it
up, Dick. I honour you for it. And what are you
going to do now ? "

" I want a job in your business."

Meaking's face expressed gratification. " Oh, you
do, do you? " he said. Then he laughed aloud.

Richard smiled back at him. " You promised, you
know," he said. " And I want to begin at once."

" Well," said Meaking, " you're welcome to what-
ever I can do for you. Whether it's much or little at
present remains to be considered. Does your father
know of this yet? "

" I am sorry to say that my father and I are not on
speaking terms just now. He can't see my reasons for



308 RICHARD BALDOCK

refusing to do as he wishes, and in fact he told me two
or three days ago that he washed his hands of me."

" I'm sorry for that. But of course he'll come
round? "

" I suppose so. But it seems to me that I must
look out for something to do myself. To tell you the
truth, I think I'm as capable of finding work as he is.
He has no connections that would help me, so far as I
know, and no money to give me a start with."

" No money, eh? "

" No. His living is not worth much, you know, and
he gives away as much as ever he can afford. But why?
Is money necessary if you give me a job? "

" I'll tell you how the matter stands. The business
is going up steadily. What I call the legitimate book-
selling business has about reached its limits. There's
no scope for further enlargement here. But the book-
binding that I took on a year ago you remember
is increasing, and I am beginning to see a big develop-
ment in it. But, if I'm to do what I want to do, I must
take to printing as well. Now there's that old-fashioned
business of Morton's in the High Street. Morton's an
old man ; he's made his money and he doesn't care. The
business is going down and down, and I believe he'd sell
it at practically the value of his machinery and stock.
I don't think he'd want anything for goodwill, and, as
a matter of fact, if he goes on as he's going on now for
another year or two there won't be any goodwill worth
a cent. The machinery's old-fashioned, but it would do
to make a start with, and I could get it dirt cheap.
Well, I've saved altogether about fifty pounds with
what I had when I came here. It isn't much, but I've
only been a partner for a year, and of course I don't
get a very big share, and mother and I live well, as you



HEARING'S PROPOSAL 300

see. Mr. Gannett has put by about two hundred since
I came here. I know that. But to tell you the truth I
don't want Mr. Gannett in it. I only get a quarter
share, and the time has come when, if I am to make
the business go ahead any further, I want to reap the
benefit of it myself. Now if I could get hold of another
hundred and fifty pounds or so, I think I could make
arrangements both with Mr. Gannett and with old
Morton that would give me everything I wanted for
an entirely new departure that might mean big things
in the future."

" I see," said Richard, who saw in fact very little.

" As far as you're concerned," Meaking continued,
" whatever happens there's a job here for you. I don't
go back from my word there. I don't want to. I want
you with me, and really, Dick, old boy, I was as pleased
as Punch just now when you told me that you wanted
to come in with me, and come in at once. I can make
my way all right by myself, but I'm like that that I'd
rather do it in company with somebody else. I dare say
a wife might serve the purpose if she was the right sort,
and I own I have thought of getting married more
than once. But marriage is a lottery, I always say,
and you'd be worse off than you were before if you
married the wrong person. Besides, I don't know many
people in the social way, and I've never seen a girl I've
begun to want to marry yet. So I've given up that
idea, at all events for the present.

" Well, I'm getting off the lines. But it helps me to
give my tongue its run. My ideas get put better in
the end. What I mean is that a chum such as you is
what I want to work with, so'? I can be completely
happy in what I'm doing and laying out for the future,
and you, especially, not only because I like you better



310 RICHARD BALDOCK

than anybody, but because you've got qualities which'll
help in this business education and knowledge up to a
certain point, and a pleasant way with you, and so on.
So there's the job. In the ordinary way it'd simply
be as an assistant at the ordinary salary, and working
up to a partnership, just as I've worked with Mr. Gan-
nett, and I'd see that you got every chance of learning
the details of the business and fitting yourself to be
worth as much to me as possible. I tell you it wouldn't
be a bad opening for you. But it so happens from what
I've told you that just at this time I could do better
for you than that if you could bring a bit of money
into the business. I could get the money, on terms, all
right; in fact, if it wasn't just you that I want to be
with me, they'd be easier terms by a good deal than I
should offer you for it. I shouldn't be coming to your
father and asking for cash to bolster up a rotten con-
cern. It would be a very different proposition I should
have to put before him. Now don't you think he could
find, say, a hundred and fifty pounds, to give you a
start in a business that you and I together could work
up into a big thing? You wouldn't get such a chance
anywhere else, I'm certain of that."

" I don't know at all," said Richard. " I don't know
anything about his affairs except what he told me the
other day. He said he had about seventy pounds saved
up for me which my aunt sent me from time to time
when I was little."

" Well, come now, there's half of it."

" Yes, but I don't think there's much more. He said
he would have to make up the rest of what I should want
at Oxford if I went there out of what he gives away in
charity. And I'm pretty sure he wouldn't do it for
anything else."



MEAKING'S PROPOSAL 311

" Anything else but Oxford ? "

" Only that if it meant preparing for the Church,
and not otherwise."

" I see. Well, I think I'd better talk to him about
it. I might manage with a bit less than a hundred and
fifty pounds. I'd do my level best to make it as easy
for you as I could. I haven't told you yet what I
should be prepared to do, Dick. I should buy Mr.
Gannett out not with cash down, of course, but I could
make an arrangement. I've already sounded him about
it, and I don't think he'd make any objection. His
name would remain here as long as he lived, and he'd go
on doing just the work he wanted. Then we should
start in partnership at once, my boy, and on equal
terms. That's what a hundred and fifty pounds
will do for you if you can raise it, or your father
can. I don't think you'll get such an offer elsewhere,
eh?"

It was, indeed, a munificent offer far more munifi-
cent than Richard in his complete ignorance of business
matters could possibly realize, and showed a remark-
able strain of sentiment in the otherwise hard-headed,
alert-minded young man who made it.

" I want you with me, Dick," he repeated, when
Richard had feebly expressed his thanks. " I'll do
twice as good work. We'll be as happy as the day is
long struggling up together and we'll be rich men in
no time."

They talked a little longer, both of them waxing
more and more enthusiastic over the future, and it was
arranged that Meaking should come over to Beechurst
on the following morning and disclose his proposal to
Richard's father. Then Richard left, having first bid-
den good-bye to Mrs. Meaking in her drawing-room, a



312 RICHARD BALDOCK

room of about ten feet square, in which she was dis-
covered realistically reading a book.

He rode home in the highest spirits. The life of
independence was about to begin for him, and he looked
forward to it with fervour and delight. His late dis-
appointment had faded away completely, and if he had
now been told that after all he was to continue at school
for another year and then go to Oxford he would have
undergone a second disappointment.

Judging it to be politic to prepare his father for
Meaking's visit on the morrow, he sought him out di-
rectly he reached home, and found him, as usual, in his
study.

" I want to talk to you, father, if I may," he said.

John Baldock looked at him with disfavour.

" You have not come to tell me that you have re-
pented of your misguided decision, I suppose," he said.

" No. I am sorry that you do not agree with me
about that, but I have made up my mind."

" Then I do not think that there is anything I can dis-
cuss with you at present."

" I hope you will listen to what I have to say. I
have been over to Storbridge to-day, and seen Meaking,
who is now a partner in Mr. Gannett's business. There
is a good opening for me there, and I should like to take
it and begin work at once, if you are satisfied with what
he offers me."

" If I am satisfied. You know very well that I can-
not be satisfied with any occupation for you other than
that I have always had in my mind."

" Can't you leave that out now, father? I have done
my best to decide rightly, and "

" I will not discuss it any further. It would only lead
Ito the old useless round of argument. You set yourself



definitely against me. You must understand that I
refuse to help you further. You must take your own
line, irrespective of me."

" I am very sorry that you feel like that about it,
father. If you really mean that you are going to leave
me entirely to myself, I shall take whatever position
Meaking is ready to offer me in his business. But I
hoped you would talk it over with me, because "

*' You must understand, Richard, that I am not only
sore and angry about your refusal to continue in the
path I had marked out for you, but that I regard it
as a deliberate resistance of Divine will on your part.
You can hardly expect me to put all that from my
mind, and acquiesce in a step that would finally cut you
off from all chances of getting into the right path."

Richard thought for a moment as to how he was to
overcome this curious obstinacy. " You know, father,"
he said, " if it is to happen as you think it will, and I
am to be brought to see that it is right for me to take
Orders, there will be nothing to prevent me doing so
later on."

His father's face brightened a little. " You are be-
ginning to think over it, and are being drawn towards
the idea ? " he asked.

" No. I don't want you to think I mean that. But
I must do something to earn my own living, mustn't I?
I can't simply sit still and no nothing."

John Baldock reflected. " I have felt so strongly
still feel so strongly that I am right in this matter," he



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 21 of 29)