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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see his way to fall in with your wishes, and I won't pry
into the reasons, which don't concern me."

"Naturally," replied John Baldock, stiffly; "I
shouldn't wish to go into these matters with you."

" Quite so, sir. The thing is settled ; and as he has
got to make up his mind now, from what he tells me,
to take up some other means of livelihood, I thought I'd
bring forward my proposal, which I don't think you'd

"What is your proposal?"

" I want Richard as my partner half and half
share in a good and growing business, and I'm will-
ing to take him in with a hundred and fifty pounds
to be used in the business."

" That is what he told me. I thought he must be
making some mistake. I have very little acquaintance
with business men or business habits, but I cannot think
that anybody would be willing to offer such terms to a
mere schoolboy, if the business was really prosperous
and satisfactory."


" The prosperity of the business, sir, is a matter of
facts and figures, which can be seen from the books, by
you or any one you like to appoint to look into them.
There isn't a business man in the country who
wouldn't tell you that the offer is an exceptionally
good one."

"You are in Mr. Gannett's business, are you not?
What is to become of Mr. Gannett? Has he been con-
sulted in this matter? "

" As I told Richard, sir, I think I could make ar-
rangements to buy him out. I'm pretty sure I could,
or I should wait before I made the proposition."

" Buy him out ? Then, that's what you want money

Meaking allowed himself a gentle laugh. " A hun-
dred and fifty pounds wouldn't buy him out, sir," he
said. " We shouldn't pay him hard cash. We should
give him a certain portion of the profits."

" And you, a young man of what? twenty-one, and
Richard, a boy of eighteen, would expect to carry on
the business successfully without the advantage of his
long experience. That doesn't seem to me a scheme
that shows great possibilities of success."

" I don't expect you, sir, to give me the credit that
belongs to me for my business capabilities, knowing
me chiefly as a mischievous young scamp about the vil-
lage; but the books will show to any one who knows
how to read them that Mr. Gannett's long experience
only enabled him to make a bare living out of the busi-
ness, and that since I've had to do with it, and espe-
cially since I've been a partner, it has not only kept
Mr. Gannett very well, but me and mother too, though
I only get a quarter share. And it's got to the point
jphere it can be greatly extended if a little fresh capital


is put in. And as for Mr. Gannett, I should hope he'd
still work at his branch of it as long as he lived."

The Vicar was somewhat impressed, though against
his will, by the young man's confidence. " I should
like to know, then," he said, " why you are making this
exceptionally good offer to Richard."

" Because I want a partner, and he's the partner I
want. I know I could get one who'd put in a deal more
money than I'm asking of him and I'm putting that
as low as I reasonably can. But I might not be able
to work comfortably with him. I shouldn't know him as
I do Richard. I'm quite sure he'll be worth the present
sacrifice to me in the long run else I shouldn't want
him. It's a business proposal as far as I'm concerned,
though it doesn't look like it."

" How do you know that he has the capabilities you
require? "

" Because I'm a judge of character, sir, hoping you'll
pardon the seeming boastfulness. He's fond of books ;
it comes natural to him to pick up a lot about them,
where other people wouldn't gather anything. And he's
a good worker, and cheerful and friendly with it all ; and
generally liked. And he's enterprising at least, he will
bo when he gets to work on something he's cut out for.
Those are the qualities I want in my partner, and I'm
willing to pay high for them."

" It seems that we are expected to do the paying."

" You can put it in that way if you like, sir. But
you can hardly expect to get what I'm offering for
nothing. And you wouldn't be paying me anything
either. The money would go into the business and he'd
benefit by it as much as I should. With the develop-
ments I have in my mind, we should have to keep as
much of our profits in the business as possible, and, of


course, Mr. Gannett would take a large share of them ;
but I should take out a hundred a year for the present
for my own use and Richard could do the same, or he
could leave some of it in to bear interest. That's not
a bad return on a hundred and fifty capital ; and of
course there would be much more in the future."

It seemed to John Baldock an extraordinarily good
return, and the idea of it rather took his breath away.
But he recovered himself quickly. " I dton't know
whether you have the power to carry out your inten-
tions or not," he said. " I am not capable of judging.
Probably you are far too sanguine. But it would be
quite useless to discuss it further, for there is no pos-
sibility of my being able to provide the sum you men-
tion. Richard has seventy pounds of his own, and that
I should be willing to allow him to use for the purpose,
if a thorough investigation by a competent third party
showed it to be advisable. More than that I could
not do."

Meaking's face had flushed a little during the last
speech. " As I told you, sir," he said, " I have no ob-
jection to everything being examined by any one you
like to appoint. In the meantime it will save irritation
if you'll kindly take it that I am making a bona fide
offer which will be at least as much to the advantage of
your side as to mine."

The Vicar looked at him closely. The last occasion
on which he had held any dealings with this self-reliant
and apparently capable young man was when he had
summoned him to his presence and rebuked him sternly
for the sin of cracking nuts in church. It was he who
was now being rebuked, and he did not quite like it.

" I shall certainly reserve my independence of judg-
ment on the subject," he said, stiffly. " The factor in


the situation that I can understand is that you want
a considerable sum of money, and "

" I want Richard as a partner, sir," interrupted
Meaking, hotly. " And I'm offering to take him in on
very generous terms. I won't have my offer thrown in.
my face as if I had come here to try for something for

The disagreeable side of John Baldock's character,
always pushing to assert itself, was aroused by his tone.
" That is not the way for you to address me," he said
arrogantly. " I would have you remember our re-
spective positions."

Meaking gave a short laugh. " Yes," he said, " I
suppose I'm still dirt here in Beechurst, whatever I've
made myself elsewhere. I've been told so. Well, there's
my offer, Mr. Baldock, and I think you would be wise
to think it over. And any one you like to appoint to
look into the business will have every assistance I can
give him. I won't keep you any longer now."

He rose to go. The Vicar did not offer to shake
hands with him. " I think you may consider the matter
closed," he said. " I should not care for my son to go
into partnership with you." Then he returned to his
books with an unpleasant expression on his face, and
Meaking left him.



RICHARD hung about the house while the interview just
described was in progress. When Meaking went out he
was in the garden and missed him. After half an hour
he ventured near the window of his father's study, and
saw his head bent over the table, and realized that he
was alone. He made inquiries in the house and found,
somewhat to his surprise, that Meaking had gone with-
out trying to find him to relate what had happened. He
dared not go in to his father; and, indeed, Mr. Ven-
trey's request that he would not discuss with him the
question that was exercising his mind made him rather
shy of discussing any question. He felt the request to
be irksome, and suddenly made up his mind, when he
discovered that there was no hope of his seeing Meaking
again just then, to go to the Squire and ask him to
withdraw it. To his surprise, when he reached the Hall
he learnt that Meaking himself was in the library with
Mr. Ventrey, but when his name was taken in he was
asked to join them.

" Well, Dick," said the Squire, when he went in. " It
is you and your future we are discussing. You may as
well take part in our conclave, as you are most con-
cerned. Mr. Meaking is kind enough to be giving me his
views as to the proper career for you to take up."

Meaking looked rather ill at ease, sitting in a high
oak chair opposite to his host who was ensconced in a
low easy one. He sat well forward, holding his hat



between his knees and twirling it nervously by the brim.
Obviously, he was finding it more difficult to hold his
own in a conversation with the Squire than with the

" I was waiting for you," said Richard. " Why
didn't you let me know you had finished talking to

" I was rather upset," replied Meaking. " He didn't
treat me quite as I like to be treated. I went straight
out and was opposite the Hall before I thought about
you. Then I thought I would come and ask Mr. Ven-
trey if he would kindly let me speak to him about it."

" We are in the middle of thrashing the matter out,"
put in the Squire. " Mr. Meaking is anxious that
you should become a bookseller, and is prepared to
do all in his power to make you a successful one. But
he has learnt that I am in the way with my proposal
that you shall first of all finish your education ; and
when you came in. he was advancing reasons why I
should well, I can't express it better than by saying,
get out of the way."

It was said in the most easy agreeable manner, but
there was a look on the smiling face of the speaker that
gave more point to the sarcasm of the speech than to
its pleasant tone. Mr. Ventrey meant to fight, and it
was plain that Meaking was finding him a formidable

But Meaking did not lack courage and was pre-
pared to fight too, to meet delicate rapier play by
broadsword strokes, and to acknowledge as little as pos-
sible his opponent's advantage of position.

" In the ordinary way," he said, with an air of candid
honesty, " I shouldn't put my opinions against yours,
sir,. You're a gentleman high above me, with knowl-


edge and experience I can't lay claim to. But I've
thought over this and I'd like to tell you how it strikes

This appeal would not have failed in the usual course
to draw a generous acknowledgment from the Squire,
and Richard was rather surprised to hear him reply, in
an unmoved voice, " I think the ordinary way ought to
be your way now, Mr. Meaking. I can quite confi-
dently accept your tribute. My knowledge and experi-
ence of the world must be and actually is far greater
than yours, and it leads me to a different conclusion
from the one you have come to. You have told me how
it strikes you, and my conviction is still unshaken."

" I've only begun to tell you, sir," replied Meaking,
doggedly. " It's only fair that you should hear what
it is I'm offering, and what he'd be giving up if he
accepts your offer instead, before you turn me out."

" I have not the slightest wish to turn you out, Mr.
Meaking," said the Squire, always speaking with great
courtesy. " And if you have not already told me what
your offer is, I should like to hear it."

Meaking, driven by nervousness, plunged hurriedly
into a diffuse statement of the success that might be
expected to attend an enterprising extension of his pres-
ent business. He made none of the paths by which it
was to come very clear, and to an unprejudiced listener
would have been thought to be depicting a state of
affairs existing solely in his own sanguine imagination
and unlikely to come into actual being. Mr. Ventrey
heard him politely to the end, kept his eye fixed upon
him, and gave him no assistance as parentheses and
afterthoughts fell from his lips, .confusing instead of
enlightening his meaning. Richard felt anxiously dis-
appointed as he heard his friend muddling away the


effect of his statement and quite failing to make the
impression he desired. He had the inclination to strike
in and help him, and made a motion as if to do so once,
but Mr. Ventrey held up his hand, and Meaking finished
his exposition, tailing off to an ineffective ending and
taking out his handkerchief to wipe the perspiration
from his forehead when his ordeal was at last over.

The Squire turned calmly towards Richard. " Well,
Dick," he said, " it is for you to decide. You have
heard what Mr. Meaking hopes to be able to do for you
if you join him in his business. Will you do so, or will
you go to Oxford ? "

Richard felt supremely uncomfortable. He blushed
a deep red, and shifted uneasily in his chair. Then he
blurted out, " I think you ought to give him a chance,
Mr. Ventrey."

For the first time since he had known him Richard
saw his friend's face change its almost invariable ex-
pression of courteous self-possession to one of angry

" Kindly tell me what you mean," he said, sharply.

Richard cleared his throat and, with his eyes cast
down, said, " He told you that in the ordinary way he
would think it cheek of him to put his opinion against
yours. But he has thought a lot about this, and wants
to tell you what his opinion is, and you don't help him."

" I wanted to put it to you, sir," added Meaking,
" and see if you didn't agree with me."

Mr. Ventrey had recovered himself. He smiled.
" Well, I don't agree with you," he said. " But come
now, let us take for granted for the moment what you
have by no means convinced me of, that your offer
provides a great opportunity for a prosperous career
for our friend. Let us take that for granted, I say;


and now tell me as plainly as you can why you think
Dick ought to embrace it now at once and give up the
great advantages of education which he cannot possibly
have offered to him later on. I will give full considera-
tion to your views. It is no less than what opponents
in argument ought to do."

The tension it is difficult to say how, for the Squire
still kept his gaze fixed upon the speaker was removed,
and Meaking took heart and began again.

" He ought to come in now," he said, " because if he
waits for four or five years, although I'd still take him,
I couldn't offer anything like the same terms as I can

" That supposes you will have the complete success
you anticipate," said the Squire. " But the point is
one that we are taking for granted. What I under-
stand is that you feel he would be wrong to go to the
University in any case, and I want to know why."

" Well, sir, I can't put it as plain as I could wish,
and of course I don't know much about Oxford, but
I think I know enough to say that, as he's got to earn
his living whether he goes there or not, he can't afford
to waste four or five years before he begins to do it."

" You really look upon a university education as
pure waste of time, Mr. Meaking?"

" No, sir, that isn't my meaning. If a young man
has got his future all laid out for him, and needn't
worry about ways and means, let him take all the educa-
tion he can and go on as long as he likes, and be thank-
ful for the chance. If he's not so situated and you
can't say that Baldock is then I look upon it as waste
of time. You may waste time over a good thing as
well as a bad. Sleep's a good thing when you're work-
ing hard ; but there may come a time when you have to

339 V

work so hard for a spell that you've got to knock off
some of your times of sleep; you'd be wasting time if
you didn't."

" That is a good illustration, and you have made
your point clear, but you have forgotten that the Uni-
versity, besides being a place of pure education, and
offering advantages that perhaps you are right in say-
ing only those who have no anxieties as to their future
are capable of enjoying, is very largely, and perhaps
chiefly, used as an actual stepping-stone to future em-
ployment, generally of a higher kind, although pos-
sibly not more lucrative, than could be taken up by
those unable to use it."

" What kind of employment, sir? "

" I expect you know as well as I do. All the learned
professions and the higher posts in the Government
service, as well as numerous other occupations which
can only be filled by men whose brains have been exer-
cised by the best education. The fact is, Mr. Meaking
and I hope you will forgive my emphasizing it that
you are intensely interested in the money-making side
of life."

" I don't think money-making is everything, sir,"
interrupted Meaking.

" I do not accuse you of doing so. You have had
success in a business which exercises the brain in a more
humane way than most, and I have not the slightest
doubt that you value that factor in it; but you do
not value it nearly so much as the larger factor of
money-making, do you ? "

" I don't know, sir. I am not sure that I don't."

" I am quite sure. Your good partner, Mr. Gan-
nett, undoubtedly does, but you pride yourself on being
a far better business man than he is."


" Nobody could say that I wasn't."

" On the money-making side, certainly not. In every
other respect you are far inferior to him, and you
would show great partiality of mind if you were to
deny it. From what Richard has told me of you, I am
assured that you have used your opportunities well,
and are justified in being proud of your present situa-
tion and satisfied with the way you are conducting your
life. But you will forgive me again for saying that the
career that would satisfy you ought not to satisfy one
of already superior education, and in some respects of
superior powers. You see I speak quite plainly. At
the best you are offering my friend the chance of
becoming a rich man by means of a pleasant, and, as
far as it goes, a worthy occupation. I want to give
him the chance of becoming something better than a
rich man; and the way I propose to do it is by giving
him the education which will fit him to take oppor-
tunities when they come and make the best of them.
If I may use myself as a poor example, I am not alto-
gether unknown in the world, but I am not known by
the amount of wealth I enjoy should, indeed, be bet-
ter known if that wealth did not encourage me to live
a more idle contemplative life than I should want if
I were without it."

The point of view, perhaps, was rather beyond Mea-
king's mental horizon. He realized it dimly as a not
unreasonable one, but the intensely practical side of his
mind clung to actualities.

" Education's a good thing," he said. " I don't deny
it. And of course it helps you to become great if
you've got it in you to become great. But I don't be-
lieve Dick Baldock has, and he knows I think so. If
he has, he'll be great anyhow. I believe what I'm offer-


ing him will just suit him. Perhaps you're right, sir,
about the money-making. But that will be my part of
the business. His will be the other side. It's what he's
fitted for by nature, and I believe he'll be thoroughly
happy in it."

" He would be better fited for it, as well as for any-
thing else, if he spent the next few years in educating
himself all around," said the Squire. " And he is too
young in mind, if not in years to bind himself down
to his life-work. He may change; he is bound to de-
velop. I want to see him a man armed all round for his
conflict with life. I shall not mind in ten years' time
nobody whose opinion is worth having will mind
whether he is rich or not. I shall mind if he is narrow
and obscure. Come, Dick, my friend, it is for you to

" Wait a minute, sir," put in Meaking, hurriedly.
" Let me speak plainly, and no offence meant or taken.
Look at the practical side. He must make a living.
If you send him to Oxford, you ought to go further.
You ought to see him started afterwards. Perhaps it
won't matter in ten years' time if he's rich or not, but
it will matter if he's not making enough to get married
on. That's the chief thing in life, after all to have
a home of your own, and someone to share it with you.
I feel that, though I'm young yet, and with no plans
of the sort in my head. Give him the chance of that,
and I'll stand aside and say no more to influence him."

" I do give him that chance," replied the Squire.
" I meant nothing else. When he has gone through
what I look upon as his time of probation, I will start
him on the road. And if the road leads in the direction
you have made up your mind it should lead, Mr. Mea-
king, that is the road I will start him on. He shall lose


no advantage by my interference, I can assure you, and
I promise him, by my long experience of life, that he
shall gain immeasurably."

Meaking rose from his seat. " Then I've nothing
more to say," he said. " Except that I'm bitterly dis-
appointed for my own sake, and very doubtful for his.
Good-evening, sir, and thank you for your kind atten-
tion." With which he walked out of the room and out
of the house and along the dusty six-mile road to Stor-
bridge, a prey to acute depression.

Richard started up, as he passed him on his way
down the long room, but made no effort to detain him.
He stood irresolutely as the door closed. " He is a
good fellow," he cried, not without distress in his voice.
"Don't you see it, Mr. Ventrey?"

" I do see it," said the Squire. " He is the best of
fellows, with a heart of gold, a most amazing industry
and enterprise, and quite a gift of sound, if limited,
philosophy. But he is not of the clay, my dear Dick,
that you should be advised to ally yourself with for
life. Not unless you have failed amongst men of a
higher order of intelligence. And my hope is that you
will gratify an old man by taking his advice and will
set yourself from now to spend the next few years of
your fortunate youth in the pursuit of knowledge
not," he added with a pleasant smile, " under altogether
disagreeable surroundings."

" Oh, Mr. Ventrey, you are good," said Richard, with
emotion. " I can't do more than thank you, and do my

" Then that is settled," said the Squire, with satis-
faction, " and I must have an interview with your
father as soon as possible."



MR. VENTREY, having once gained Richard's assent to
his project, lost no time in its further pursuance. He
sent a message to the Vicar early in the afternoon, to
ask him to pay him a visit, and when he arrived fired
his whole broadside into him.

" I asked you to come to see me, Mr. Baldock," he
said, " because I want to talk to you about your son.
As you know, I have a great affection for him, as well
as a great respect for his character and abilities. A
man of my age may well have the privilege of doing
something to help on his younger friends, and I want
you to allow me to be responsible for Richard's fur-
ther education and for his start in life."

John Baldock was completely at a loss. Among his
faults could not be counted that of subservient watch-
fulness of riches, and it had never entered his mind
that either he or his son might benefit in a pecuniary
way from the Squire's wealth and generosity.

" I I suppose I ought to express my gratitude, Mr.
Ventrey," he stammered, after a short silence ; " but,
really the idea is so new to me, that "

" There is no occasion for gratitude," pursued the
Squire. " It gives me great pleasure to be able to do
this for the boy. And I do not wish to put you per-
sonally under any obligation to me. I think that Rich-
ard cannot do better than continue at Storbridge Gram-
mar School for another year, and I suppose that you



will see to that. But afterwards I should like to take
the responsibility on my shoulders. I will see that he
has everything that he can want at Oxford, and prob-
ably, when he has finished with the University, there
will be a year or two of preparation for whatever pur-
suit he takes up before he can expect to be earning
his own living. That time also I will make myself re-
sponsible for."

John Baldock had been collecting his thoughts dur-
ing the progress of the foregoing speech. Now he
spoke with less hesitation.

" The offer," he said, " is, of course, a munificent
one. An J I thank you, Mr. Ventrey, sincerely, and once

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 23 of 29)