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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for all, for its intention. But I must have time to think
it over. It implies obligations on my side that I cannot
disassociate myself from. By taking upon yourself the
cost of Richard's further education you would, I sup-
pose, expect to have the leading voice in settling his
life-work. And I cannot close my eyes to the fact that
your ideas on that subject would be widely different
from mine."

" You put the case clearly, Mr. Baldock. But I have
no axe of my own to grind. What I should do would
be to watch the development of the boy's tastes and
aptitudes closely, and advise him to the best of my
ability towards a career. But I take it that you would
be in the same position, and that your advice would
carry as much weight as mine."

" I fear not. In fact, I think your advice on this
very subject has already outweighed mine. For the
past five years, ever since he was of an age at which
the subject could be fitly considered, I have had only
one career in my mind for Richard: by far the high-
est career which any one can follow the ministry of


the Gospel. I had no reason to suppose that he him-
self looked upon this holy work in anything but the
right spirit. But he has definitely refused now to con-
sider it. I would not press him to it against his will,
and I have now put the idea out of my mind entirely,
as I can see that his determination is strongly set
against it. This change in him I can only put down to
your influence. It has long been in my mind to say this,
and I say it now without fear."

" There is no occasion for fear, Mr. Baldock. I can
respect a man who speaks out plainly what is in his
mind. I hope that you have the same power, for I will
speak just as plainly. It is only through the glasses
of prejudice that you can have regarded your boy as
marked out for a teacher of your own religion, for I
do not imagine that you ever had in mind the possibility
of his following any variant of it. To every impartial
eye he must have been seen to be unfitted for it, both
by temperament and trend of mind."

" His trend of mind has been greatly altered since
you made a confidant of him."

" Please let me finish. You accused me just now of
influencing him in the decision to which you have al-
luded. I did nothing of the sort. He has always taken
it for granted in his conversation with me that he was
to take Orders after leaving Oxford, and I have said
nothing to dissuade him from the step. Whether I
should have gone on keeping silence on what I have
always looked upon as a grave mistake is another ques-
tion. But I should have done or said nothing behind
your back. You will do me the justice to remember
that the crisis which resulted in his rejecting your
plans for him occurred while I was away. It was only
when I returned that he told me that he had made the


decision for himself. It was a decision of which I
thoroughly approve, and still more do I approve of the
spirit of honesty in which it was made. My opinion of
the boy is higher, if possible, than it was before. You,
in the, perhaps, natural disappointment you have suf-
fered from, have not cared, apparently, to accord him
any credit for the sacrifice he was prepared to make,
and was, as a matter of fact, obliged to make, in order
to preserve his independence of mind."

" What sacrifice do you allude to ? I do not under-
stand you."

" Do you think it is a small thing for a boy of his
age to give up the idea of going to the University, and
to be told to turn out at once to make his living with-
out help from you, his father, or anybody? "

John Baldock suddenly became excited. " I am not
to be driven into a decision on a matter of such moment
with unthinking suddenness," he said. " It is a matter
that is continually in my thoughts, and I arrive at
conclusions in my own way. An opening has occurred
in which I can assist him, and I am strongly tempted
to close with it. But I will not be hurried."

" The temptation must have attacked you rather
suddenly, Mr. Baldock," said the Squire, drily. " I
know to what you refer, and I have heard that when
the opening was offered to you, a very few hours ago,
you rejected it somewhat contemptuously."

" So that is known to you, Mr. Ventrey. It seems
to me that I was right in saying that my son's own
plans for his future are discussed with you more freely
than with me."

" That is not what you said. If it had been, I should
not have contradicted you. Can you be surprised at


The father's face fell. He was too free from guile to
care to hide the fact that the shot had told.

" What you did say," pursued the Squire, " was that
I had influenced your son against your wishes. And
that I deny."

" I repeat the accusation," said John Baldock, once
more becoming heated. " It has not been done directly,
perhaps, but the influence has worked with every word
you have spoken. You have inoculated the boy with
your views of life. They are not the views of a Chris-
tian. They have a specious air of high-mindedness
I am well aware of that, and they are all the more in-
sidious and dangerous on that account. As a minister
of Christ's Gospel, it is my duty to tell you that the
views you hold and freely express, not to those who can
refute them, but to the young and impressionable, are
more soul-destroying than open blasphemies against the

" That, I know, is the view of you and your co-
religionists," replied the Squire, apparently unmoved
by this outburst. " It seems to me a very shocking
view for a man who preaches the gospel of charity to
hold. But I am not concerned to refute it. As far as
Richard is concerned, if I read him aright, he must have
come to reject it in time, even if my baleful example
had never affected him. But come, Mr. Baldock, let us
cease from these recriminations. We both have the wel-
fare of your boy at heart. You have admitted yourself
that your hopes of making a clergyman of him are at
an end. Surely we can combine to help him to some
other career which both of us will be happy to see him
embarked on. Let us settle on the preliminary of Ox-
ford, and leave the rest till a later date."

John Baldock rose. " No," he said, decisively.


" My mind is now clear. He shall not be placed in an
atmosphere of doubt and infidelity. For such a nature
as his there is nothing spiritually stimulating in such
a place as Oxford. I have already refused to counte-
nance his going to the University unless it is with the
direct determination to resist the spirit of levity and
prepare quietly for a life of teaching and service. As
he has rejected that, I choose that he shall take up some
honest work such as has been proposed to me. It is
better for him to live an obscure life, doing his daily
round of duty, than continue to exercise his brain in
idleness, sucking in with worldly knowledge the poison
of doubt. I thank you for your offer, Mr. Ventrey,
and refuse it."

Mr. Ventrey lay in his chair, a prey to his infirmity.
His eyes flashed beneath the thick white brows, but his
lips smiled. " Ah," he said, lightly. " You have the
advantage of me in being able to stand and thunder
forth your refusal. But I think, my friend, it is a little
ungenerous to adopt that attitude towards an old man
whose limbs are powerless."

John Baldock sat down again awkwardly.

" You are a man of honest but very mistaken views,"
said the Squire, evenly. " And you are not the kind
of man with whom it is possible to argue. I shall not
attempt to do so. You have thrown the gage. I accept
it. I give you fair warning of my intention. I think it
is a shameful thing that you should seek to impose your
own limited outlook on a nature prepared for all good
and high purposes. I shall resist your attempt to
do so."

" You mean, I suppose," said the other quietly,
" that you will try to influence my own son to turn
away from me."


" I mean that I shall point out to him where I think
you are mistaken. I shall ask him to exercise his own
reason, as he has already done, and resisted your will
where it was obviously to his soul's harm to acquiesce
in it. He is of an age to decide such matters as these
for himself, and you are wrong in assuming unreason-
ing authority over him. If you are wise you will accept
his decision. Otherwise, you will be repelling him in a
way which I should be sorry to see him repelled from
his father."

John Baldock rose again. " These are idle words,
Mr. Ventrey," he said, with some dignity. " The effect
of your intention is plain. I have nothing to say in an-
swer to your threat, except that I shall do my best,
God helping me, to retain my hold over my son's affec-
tions, and to advise him as I may be guided. I will wish
you good-afternoon." And he went out without any
other form of leave-taking.

He walked home trying to bring his thoughts and
passions into subjection, for his passions had been
unduly exercised by his late interview. The beauties of
a mellow autumn afternoon brooding over the fair scenes
amongst which his life and labours were spent did little
to soothe him. He was not under the sway of such in-
fluences. He walked with his eyes downcast, intent upon
the thoughts within him. With all the waywardness
of the fanatic, impelled now in one direction, now in
another, by the power of an idea he is unable or unwill-
ing to adjust to a consistent course, he was now all
eager to push his son at once into the path he had re-
jected for him that morning. It would be the saving
of him from the demoralizing attentions of the Squire,
whom he now considered as having thrown off his mask
of goodness, and as having shown himself in all the


hideous guise of the tempter. Whatever happened, he
would forbid his son to have further dealings with a
man of such dangerous ascendancy. And he would make
it very clear that under no conditions would he permit
him to accept the offer that had been made on his behalf.
'He did not stop to consider the generosity of that offer.
It was enough for him that it had been made by one
whom he now profoundly distrusted. No doubt it had
some unworthy, undisclosed purpose. It remained in
his mind only to be determinedly rejected. The money
that was required for Richard's entry into Meaking's
business should be found somehow. He did not see at
the moment whence it was to come, but that did not
trouble him. It was God's wish that Richard should be
shut up into this engagement as in an ark of refuge, and
the money would be provided. No trace of the suspicion
he had shown of the offer in the morning remained.
Everything was now taken for granted. The wisdom of
having an examination of the state and prospects of the
business in which money was to be invested did not even
occur to him. If he had been able to do so, he would have
sent Meaking a cheque for one hundred and fifty pounds
the moment he reached home, and closed the bargain.

He met Richard in the garden and ordered him
peremptorily into his study.

" Has Mr. Ventrey told you of the proposal he has
made to me that he should pay your expenses at Ox-
ford ? " he asked.

" Yes," replied Richard.
" Then why didn't you tell me of it? "
" Mr. Ventrey asked me not to for the present."
" And you think it is right that you should be asked
to hide things from your father, and that you should
consent to do it? "


" I went up to the Hall this morning to tell him
that I wanted to talk to you about it. I didn't want
to keep anything from you, but, really, father I must
say it you have been so unreasonable and harsh with
me lately that I haven't had much inclination to con-
sult you."

" You are forgetting the respect due to me."

" I don't want to. But how am I to act ? You told
me yourself that you washed your hands of me, and that
I could do what I liked. When I brought you Meaking's
proposal, you wouldn't hear of it, and you treated him
this morning in such a way as to make him feel very
sore. You don't help me. You don't help me in the
least. You only show anger at whatever I say or do."

He spoke with considerable impatience, and John
Baldock was not the man to allow impatience of speech
from anybody but himself.

" I will not have you twisting my words and actions
to excuse your own insubordination," he said. " Mea-
king's proposal had to be considered, and it is childish
of him and impertinent of you to take exception to my
way of doing so. I have now considered it, and I shall
accept it. It is a good opening for you, and will give
you something to do at once."

" If you had said that yesterday, father, or showed
that you might come to say it, I should have been very
pleased. But Mr. Ventrey has shown me that I ought
not to lose any chances of doing better work than I
could do as a bookseller, and he has made me a very
generous offer which I have accepted."

John Baldock's face became dark with anger. " You
have accepted ! " he exclaimed, contemptuously. " A
pretty thing, indeed, if a boy of eighteen is to be al-
lowed to set himself against his father's wishes and


arrange his actions according to the pleasure of a

" Mr. Ventrey is not a stranger. He has shown me
the greatest kindness for years, and his advice has al-
ways been ready for me when I couldn't get advice from

" You could always get advice from me when you
approached me in the proper spirit. Mr. Ventrey has
acquired a most ruinous influence over you. I put it
down to him that you have so obstinately set your will
against mine in the matter of taking Orders. But that
is over now. I have no wish to reopen the question.
You have persisted in your rejection of guidance, and
the result must be upon your own head. But I insist
with the whole force of my authority that you shall not
imperil your soul's health further. I now look upon a
residence at Oxford, in the circumstances under which
you would obtain it, as the worst possible thing for
you. I am pretty certain that you would be idle and
would become greatly demoralized."

" I should not be idle," Richard broke in. " Mr.
Ventrey warned me against that himself. Unless I go
to Oxford to learn, he thinks too that it would not be
a good thing. And if I do go, I am determined to work
hard and do my very best."

" If you go ! You are not going, I tell you. My
opposition would not be in the least removed if I were
assured that you would work your hardest. As Mr.
Ventrey's beneficiary you would follow out his views as
to your education, and they would not be on religious
lines, not even Christian lines. Mr. Ventrey has shown
himself in his true colours to me. He is not a Christian
man. He makes no pretence of being so, or even of
treating the views of a Christian with respect. I will


have no more dallying with infidelity. I command you
to break off your intimacy with Mr. Ventrey. You
are to have nothing more to say or to do with him."

Richard's face became set. It bore a look that ought
never to have been seen upon it, and never would have
been seen but for his father's unwisdom in dealing with
him. " I shall not obey a command of that sort," he

John Baldock habitually used his heaviest guns when
excited over the most ordinary question, and had no
reserve of surprise and indignation to draw on, con-
fronted with this revolutionary attitude. " You will
not obey me ! " he exclaimed, ineffectively.

" No. If you had forbidden me to have anything to
do with Mr. Ventrey when he first came here, it might
have been different. But I have had years of kindness
from him, and he has always treated me as a real friend.
You had nothing to say against it all that time. I
haven't got many friends, and I am not going to turn
my back on one of the best of them."

John Baldock was tempted again to say that he
washed his hands of his son. But he had already said
it once, without actually meaning it, and felt that the
threat would be inadequate. He had no wish to wash
his hands of Richard. He wanted to force him to his
will. He saw now that he could not do so. His son
was too old and too self-reliant to be forced, and he
himself was not strong enough to use the necessary
pressure. He realized something of this as he sat at his
desk opposite to Richard with his face and lips set.
But the matter was too near his heart to cause him to
hesitate. At the moment of defeat his true strength
asserted itself. He loved his son, and he was assured
that it was his duty to save from a great peril. He


dropped his hectoring manner on the instant, and took
another tone.

" Your obstinacy is causing me great pain, Rich-
ard," he said quietly. " You put yourself into conflict
with me, but you cannot be happy in doing so. You
know that I have only your welfare at heart. Believe
me, that the course you are bent on pursuing will turn
out disastrously for you. You were all eagerness a
very short time ago to embrace this opportunity that
young Meaking has provided for you. Perhaps I was
over hasty in rejecting it at the time. Yes, I did reject
it. I still had hopes that you would see your way to
following my long-cherished plans for you. I have
buried that wish now. But I still long to see you a
good, humble-living man, and I believe that your best
chance of becoming so will be for you to take up this
work that has been provided close at hand for you.
Why cannot you follow your first inclination and do so?
I will make any sacrifice to help you. We need not be
parted, and can live together until it pleases God to
take me from the scene of my labours, getting, I trust,
to know and respect each other better as the quiet years
go by."

Richard was touched by this appeal, as he was al-
ways touched when his father became reasonable and
human. And there is no doubt that the sudden removal
of the difficulties in the way of his joining Meaking at
once weighed with him. That prospect still had power
to charm him, in spite of the cold water that the Squire
had thrown on it. But there were other considerations.

" I can't promise to give up my friendship with Mr.
Ventrey," he said. His tone was decisive, but his face
was softened.

" Can you not trust me to judge? " asked his father.


" I tell you in all seriousness that Mr. Ventrey's influ-
ence is of evil, not of good."

" I don't think so. He has helped me a great deal
in man}* ways. I cannot possibly promise to give him

John Baldock thought for a moment. His anger had
disappeared. He was all reasonableness, both of inten-
tion and manner.

" Perhaps it would not be possible for you to do so
entirely," he said.

" I can't make any difference at all," replied Richard
promptly. " I am old enough now to choose my own

John Baldock thought again. There was nothing
for it but to give way on this point. But he reflected
that if he gained his chief desire, his son would still
be with him and under his watchful care. God helping
him, he would exercise that care wisely. His mind

" My dear boy," he said, " you shall do as you wish
about it. But you must not forget that your chief
friend ought to be your father, who desires nothing
more than that you should rely on him for what help
and guidance he can give you."

Richard's mood melted. " Oh, father," he said, " I
never do forget it when you talk to me like that. But
you have given me so little help lately."

" Let us start again, then. How do you stand with
Mr. Ventrey as to his offer? Have you actually pledged
yourself to accept it? "

" Yes. No. I don't know that I have actually
pledged myself. I should not mind telling Mr. Ventrey
that I found I could not accept his offer, if if I de-
cided not to do so. But I must think it over, father


quietly by myself. I can't say one thing and then
another at a moment's notice."

" Well, then, Richard, think it over. But do not say
anything either to yourself or to Mr. Ventrey until you
have talked with me again. Will you promise me

" Yes, I will."

" Then God guide you aright, my boy. I leave the
matter in His hands."

So Richard was again thrown into doubt, and again
went out to take counsel with himself on a problem of
ever-increasing difficulty.


IT was the morning after Richard's interview with his
father. He had come to no new decision. His brain
and his will were tired. He had only to set himself to
weigh once again the alternate courses he had before
him to feel a sort of heavy languor descending on his
mind, through which no clear determination could
pierce. He felt incapable of judging between the con-
victions of his father and those of the Squire, incapable
even of disengaging his own desires from the confusion
of purpose to which he had been brought. It was more
in idleness of mind than from a wish for further en-
lightenment that he had saddled his horse and ridden
over to Storbridge to see Meaking.

Meaking was busy in the smaller of the two shops,
and Richard found him there alone. His friend did not
greet him with his usual cordiality. He looked worried
and put out.

" Well," he said, " I suppose I'm beaten. You are
going to Oxford to be turned into a fine gentleman.
And you are going to chuck away everything that I
could have done for you."

" I don't know," Richard replied. " I can't make up
my mind. I don't even know which I should like best."

" 7 know well enough," said Meaking. " You'd like
this best. You'd be interested every hour of the day.
And you'd feel you were doing something. You'd be a
man. You might begin being a man to-morrow if you



liked. But you are not going to be. You are going to
be a schoolboy for another five years or so. Very
jolly, no doubt. I dare say you'll have a rare good time.
I wouldn't change places with you all the same."

" I should work, you know," said Dick, a little put
out by his friend's contemptuous tone.

" No, you wouldn't work," answered Meaking. " At
least not to any purpose. It isn't your line. That's
where Mr. Ventrey makes his mistake. I've been think-
ing over the situation during the night, and I've got
the hang of it. If Mr. Ventrey saw as clearly as I do
what'll be the outcome of it, he'd take back his offer.
I dare say you'll do a good deal of what they call work
at Oxford, the same as you do now at school, and I
dare say you'll pass your examinations very well.
That'll be the end of it. When you've finished your
time at Oxford you'll stand just where you are now,
except that you'll have rubbed up against a few more
people and learnt something in that way. You're not
the sort to learn much from books. As sure as I stand
here, when you've finished with Oxford, however hard
you work, Mr. Ventrey will be disappointed in you, and
you'll be disappointed in yourself. I can't warn Mr.
Ventrey. He's too big a man to talk to, and means
that I shall know it. But I hare warned you and I
warn you again. You've had just exactly as much edu-
cation out of books as you can do with, and you're
ripe to begin work at something real. Go on trying to
learn out of books and you'll only go forward in time.
In no other way. You'll begin your life five years from
now over again disappointed in yourself, and that's the
worst sort of start you can have. You bear in mind
what I say and remember it when you leave Oxford."

" I think you're rather hard on me, John," said


Richard, somewhat dejectedly. " You know I'd like to
join you and as a matter of fact father wants me to,
now. But it is a difficult thing to make up one's mind to
throw over the chances that Mr. Ventrey has offered me,
especially after what he has said about it. And you
know how I've always looked forward to going to

" Yes, I do know. And your reason for wanting to
go now is the same as it's always been, only you deceive
yourself about it. If you could get the advantages that
Mr. Ventrey thinks you will get by going and studying
at Manchester or Liverpool you wouldn't look twice at
his offer. You want to go to Oxford. Why? Because
of the romance of the life there. I'll tell you this, no
romance of that sort lasts longer than a few weeks,
wherever you are. When you have been at Oxford a
term it will be just as ordinary and humdrum to you
as Storbridge is. You'll go on enjoying life, I dare
say, but you won't enjoy it as much as you think you

" I wish I knew what to say," said Richard, irreso-

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 24 of 29)