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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" Good heavens ! " exclaimed Meaking, his eyes flash-
ing. " I wish I could bring it home to you how you'd
enjoy the work you'd have to do here, and the enter-
prise of getting on, and all of it. You would not want
to know what to say for long. And you say your
father has come round? Well, I won't say anything
more about it. I should get carried out of myself.
You must decide on your own account. But there
I dare say you are pretty well decided already. Yes,
sir, what can I do for you?"

A customer had come into the shop, a young man in
smart yachting costume, a good-looking, dark young


man with a calm air of self-possession, not to say au-
thority. Richard turned round at Meaking's words,
and recognized Laurence Syde.

The recognition was mutual. " Hullo, Baldock,"
said Laurence in a tone that showed no surprise and
little pleasure. " Who'd have thought of finding you
in this dead and alive hole? How are you? "

They shook hands. Richard had cause to remem-
ber his acquaintanceship with Laurence with very little
gratification. He had grown old enough during tjie
five years that had elapsed since they had met to gauge
accurately the part his one-time companion had played
in the disgrace which had befallen him with his aunt.
But he was carried away by the other's assurance, and
replied without stiffness that his home was not far off,
and asked Laurence in return how he came to be at

" We are at Cowes," said Laurence. " Lady Syde
thought she'd like to have a look at the forest. We're
staying here for lunch. I thought I'd see if I could
get hold of something to read. Have you got any good
new sporting novels?" he asked, turning to Meaking.
" Nothing newer than ' Handley Cross,' " replied Mea-
king. " There's not much sale for sporting novels in
these parts."

" I don't suppose there is," said Laurence. " It
stems about as lively as a graveyard. I don't want
to buy Jorrocks, thanks. Come on, Baldock, you'd
better come and see her ladyship. She's at the
' King's Head,' resting. Better come to lunch. She'll
be pleased to see you."

Richard hardly knew what to say. He did not sup-
pose that his aunt, whom he recognized with difficulty
under her new name, would be particularly pleased to


see him, but Laurence seemed to take it for granted
that he would do as he was asked, and walked out of
the shop quite in hi& old authoritative manner, evi-
dently expecting that Richard would follow him, which
he did, having first murmured to Meaking a promise to

" What are you doing now ? " Laurence asked him,
as they walked up the cobbled street together, to out-
ward appearance an ill-assorted pair, the one in his well-
cut suit of dark serge, the other in rough ill-fitting
country-made clothes. " Gone to Oxford yet ? "

" No, I shouldn't go anyhow for another year," re-
plied Richard. " I'm at school."

"What, at Rugby?"

" No, at the Grammar School here at Storbridge.
I live at home and ride over every day in term time."

" Still great on horses, eh ? That's one thing you
could do ride. My father said you had the best seat
on a pony of any boy he'd ever seen."

Richard remembered that Sir Franklin had never
seen him on a pony, although he had promised to ride
with him, and took the easy compliment for what it
was worth.

" I'm not so much behind you there as I was," Lau-
rence went on. " I'm reckoned a pretty good man on a
horse at Cambridge. Of course I've hunted a lot since
I saw you. I shall be Master of the Drag next term ;
if it'll run to it, that is. I'm pretty hard up, but I dare

say I shall be able to get " He pulled himself up.

It was obvious what he expected to be able to get, and
from whom. " Why don't you come up to Cambridge ? "
he went on, a little hastily. " It's a better place than
Oxford. They let you alone more at least they do at
the Hall. What college are you going to at Oxford? "


Richard felt no inclination to explain how matters
stood with him. " I don't know," he said. " It de-
pends on scholarships, probably. I should like to go to
University College. My father was there."

" Well, it's an overrated place. I don't mean Univ.,
or Oxford particularly. Both of 'em. I'm only going
to stay up another two terms. I shouldn't come down
now if it weren't for the Drag. I've had enough of it."

" Aren't you going to take a degree? "

" What's the good of a degree to me? I should be
very sorry to have to stay up for three years for the
sake of one. I liked it at first all right, although I
always hated the rules, what there are of them. But, as
I -say, they don't trouble you much at the Hall."

" Is that Trinity Hall? Have you got rooms in col-
lege? "

" No, thank you. Never go near the place if I can
help it. You're much freer in lodgings."

" Don't you haVe to dine there? "

" No. You've got to pay for your dinner a certain
number of days in the week, but you needn't eat it,
thank goodness. I tried it once when I first went up.
Never again."

" What do you do, then? "

" You can have your dinner sent in to your rooms
from the college kitchens. They don't cook badly.
And, of course, you have your own wine. They don't
allow you to drink wine at all in Hall."

"It's rather lonely, isn't it?"

" Lonely? Well, I never heard it called that before.
You don't suppose we dine in solitary grandeur, do
you? There's somebody giving a dinner every night
of the week, and if there isn't you give one yourself.
I'm not sure the dinners aren't the best part of the



whole show. The amount of champagne \ve manage to
consume in the course of a term would would well,-
it'd float a 'bus. And it doesn't exactly depress us
either. The hilarity of the proceedings is sometimes
excessive. But after all it isn't necessary to go to the
Universit}- to drink enough champagne to make you
merry. That's why I'm getting tired of the place.
Everything you do to amuse yourself there you can do
just as well out of it, and you aren't always liable
to be knocking up against a proctor or a don of some
sort, or having differences of opinion over quite inno-
cent little enjoyments. I'm going into the Guards, you
know. I shall be quite ready for it when I've had my
season with the Drag. I shall have had quite as much
of Cambridge as I can do with."

This picture of University life, so different from any-
thing he had ever pictured, surprised Richard not a
little. " Don't you do any work? " he asked.

" Not more than I'm obliged," replied Laurence.
' 4 And that isn't much. I don't know anybody that
does. Here we are."

They had come to the doorway of the old inn that
graced the marketplace of Storbridge. Laurence led
the way into a small sitting-room, where Lady Syde,
formerly Mrs. Moggeridge, was reclining on a sofa,
reading the Morning Post. It had not been his aunt's
custom to recline on sofas, or to recline anywhere dur-
ing the daytime when Richard had last seen her. But
she looked older, rather thinner, and as if she had lost
something of her earlier vigour. She was as elabo-
rately dressed as ever, and was still a handsome woman,
with her beautifully braided iron-grey hair and her
neat upright figure. There was no languor in her move-
ments as she rose from the sofa upon recognizing her


nephew, and her greeting was as cordial as if they had
recently parted the best of friends.

" My dear boy," she said, " how you have grown !
And what a pleasure to see you again! It takes me
back to the old days. Give me a kiss, if you do not
think yourself too grown up. Ah, that is right. You
are the same, but altered. I knew you in a moment.
But you have grown like your dear mother. I can see
the likeness plainly. You will lunch with us, of course,
and you can tell me what you are doing, and intend
to do."

Richard was rather overcome by her warmth of
manner, obviously sincere for the moment, but prob-
ably with no deep root in her feeling. He could not
forget, though she seemed to have done so, that she
had treated him with the most inequitable disfavour
when he had last seen her, and that she had shown no
interest of any sort in him or his welfare during the
five years that had elapsed since that meeting. He
had to remind himself that her present cordiality was
for the moment only, before he could feel at ease in
her presence. When he had done so he was prepared to
take her as she showed herself, but still remained un-
aggressively on his guard.

But, by the time the meal was over, he had almost
entirely relinquished his watchfulness and was surprised
to find himself feeling something very like affection
towards his aunt. There was no doubt that she was
pleased to see him. Her manner was of the kindest,
and her eyes turned to him constantly with a soft and
almost wistful look. Her attitude towards Laurence,
who chatted easily when the conversation was such as he
could join in, and sat as easily silent when his step-
mother talked to Richard about her recollections of his


home and his mother, as she did, returning to the sub-
ject again and again, was not the pleased, admiring one
that it had been when he and Richard were boys to-
gether at Paradine Park. It was not unfriendly, for
she talked and laughed with him without any apparent
reserve, but there was certainly no sign of admiration
in her manner, and none of fondness ; she seemed to
accept him as part of her surroundings, but to have
lost her particular interest in him. It was Richard
who now engaged her attention, and aroused the warmth
in her manner.

Towards the end of the meal she suddenly formed the
idea of driving over to Beechurst, and, having formed
it, followed it with characteristic determination. " I
should like to see where my dear sister is laid to rest,"
she said, " and the house where she lived and died, sweet,
unselfish soul. The evenings are long; there will be
plenty of time."

" The launch was to meet us at five o'clock at Lymps-
ford," Laurence reminded her.

" The launch can be sent back for me later,"
she said. " You can go, Laurence, and give the

" I doubt if there will be time," returned Laurence.
" It takes pretty well an hour each way. It wouldn't
be back to take you off much before seven, and the Duke
of Belfast is coming to dine, you know, and some other
men. You won't have time to dress."

" Then, perhaps, you had better keep the launch till
six o'clock. I ought to be back by then, and if not it
can wait a little longer."

" Am I to kick my heels round Lympsford until six
o'clock or later?" asked Laurence.

" I dare say you will find something to amuse you,"


she replied, imperturbably. " But no. Go to the yacht
and send the launch back for me. There are no women
coming. I will leave your father to entertain the duke
and the other men."

" I don't think he'll like it, you know," said Laurence.

It did not appear that Lady Syde had yet come
to live in fear of her husband, for this warning did not
affect her decision or her manner.

" That is what I wish," she said. " You can take
our carriage back, and Richard will order me another
from here. A carriage with two horses, please, Richard,
so that I can drive straight back from Beechurst to
Lympsford. And as soon as possible. Laurence, you
may settle up for the luncheon here and for the other
carriage. Here are two sovereigns. That ought to
be enough."

Laurence pocketed the money, and went out with
Richard. " I say, you're in high favour," he said, as
they went round to the stable-yard. " If you play your
cards well you'll cut me out altogether. There was a
row at the end of last term over the bills, and we're not
quite over the effects of it yet. You'll have about four
hours to bring her round."

The cynicism of the speech, and still more of its
manner, angered Richard, and disengaged his real
opinion )f his companion from the wrappings of com-
placency which had obscured it. He found his tongue.
" I've no wish to cut you or anybody out," he said.
" I should be ashamed to toady a woman for the sake
of her money. You needn't be afraid of me. You're
welcome to all you can screw out of her as far as I'm

Laurence stopped short and looked at him. His face
was hot and his eyes angry. " Do you know what


you're saying?" he said. Richard stopped, too, and
met his look squarely.

"Yes, very well," he replied. "I'm not the fool I
was five years ago."

Laurence mastered his anger, and walked on. " I've
only your word for it," he said, insolently. " You
don't seem to be any more of a gentleman, anyhow."

" I hope I'm not, if being a gentleman only means
dressing well and getting drunk and spending other
people's money," retorted Richard. " Those seem to be
about the only things you're proud of."

Laurence turned round on him again. " I've had
enough of this," he said, wrathfully. " Who are you,
you ill-conditioned young clodhopper to talk to me in
that way?"

" I'm my aunt's nephew, for one thing," answered
Richard, " whom you got turned out of her house by
a dirty trick that I didn't see at the time, because you
were afraid I should interfere with your precious

"Still sore at not getting hold of her money?"
sneered Laurence. " I'll tell her what you're really
thinking of all the time. She'll be interested."

" You can tell her what you like. I don't want any-
thing from her. You can't do me any harm."

" I shan't do you any good, you may bet your life
on that. You'd better make the most of your oppor-
tunity this afternoon, for you won't get another."

With which he turned his back, and walked disdain-
fully away.



THE effect on Richard's mind of his altercation with
Laurence amounted almost to exhilaration. He had
made a discovery about himself, which was that su-
periority of air, appearance, station, in spite of his
readiness to yield to its implied claims in matters of
little moment, weighed not a jot with him against the
character that lay beneath it. He did not say as much
as this to himself, nor did he look at it in the light of a
discovery. But he felt none of that after-discomfort
which is experienced by one who has expressed himself
too freely to another having claims on his deference.
Richard felt no deference toward Laurence, no respect
for anything that he was or anything that he had. He
despised him heartily, and was relieved at having been
moved to show it plainly. He did not realize that in his
hasty indignation he had probably given a false impres-
sion of his own attitude towards him. Laurence would,
no doubt, think that he had been brooding on the wrong
that had been done him with regard to his aunt, and that
he had spoken out of the pent-up soreness of five years.
But he did not mind this in the least. It was not true,
and it was enough that he himself knew it to be untrue.
Laurence might think what he pleased; Sir Franklin
Syde, who would no doubt be told of what had hap-
pened, might think what he pleased. His aunt well, his
aunt was rather different. She had behaved with genu-
ine friendliness towards him, and he would be sorry if


she should be brought again to do him an injustice.
But her friendliness had been proved so unstable, and
her claims on his consideration were so slight, that an
additional injustice would not count for much. At any
rate, he expected and wanted nothing from her in the
way of material bounty, was independent of her, owed
her nothing. Yes, she also might thinki what she
pleased. No disquieting thoughts would trouble his
pillow if she once more withdrew her favour, and he
were never to see her again.

Having gone thus far, he went a little farther. He
would preserve his complete independence against his
aunt. He had gauged her well enough to be aware
that it was very likely that in her present mood she
would offer her patronage to him again in some way.
He wanted no more of it, with its sense of obligation
and probable humiliation. He had got on very well
without her help so far, and he would go on without it
to the end of the chapter. He was willing to forget
the injustice she had done him, as she seemed to have
done so. He had forgotten it until she had crossed his
path again. But he would not willingly put himself into
a position in which he might have to undergo it again.

These thoughts passed through his mind as they drove
together on their way to Beechurst. His aunt was un-
usually silent until they had covered a mile or more of
their journey, and by the time she spoke to him he had
put himself on the defensive against her.

" Now tell me," she said, " what you are going to
do when you leave school. I suppose you will not be
there much longer. Are you going to follow your fa-
ther's example, and become a clergyman?"

" No," said Richard. " Father wanted me to, but
I didn't see my way to it."


" I am rather sorry for that. It is a quiet, peaceful
life a country clergyman's, I mean. I should think
in a town it must be most disagreeable. But in a place
like Beechurst. So retired ; away from all worry and
anxiety. And that charming, restful old house. I have
the clearest recollections of it. I should like to think
of you settled down to a happy existence in such a

Richard did not feel called on to reply.

" But you say you could not see your way," she went
on. " Well, of course, there are drawbacks. There is
a great deal of promiscuous praying in a clergyman's
life with which he cannot always feel in tune. And
other, no doubt, irksome duties. Very likely anxieties
would enter even such a quiet idyllic spot as Beechurst.
What have you decided upon then ? "

" Well, it isn't quite decided yet," said Richard.
" I have a chance of going to the University, but I
have not quite made up my mind about it."

" Oh, don't go to the University," cried Lady Syde.
" It is the worst sort of place for a young man. I am
sure of it. The temptations are overwhelming. I look
upon Cambridge and I dare say Oxford is as bad
simply as a school of extravagance. I'm sure I don't
know what else is taught there. Money is spent like
water over one amusement after the other, and each one
more extravagant than the last. Debts are piled up
to an incredible extent, and of course parents or
those responsible have to pay them. I do not desire
to pry into your father's affairs, but I am sure he
cannot have the means to send you to the Uni-

" Laurence has told me something about the way he
amuses himself at Cambridge, ? ' said Richard, with a


note of contempt. " His is quite a different life from
anything I have ever looked forward to at Oxford for
myself. I don't think I should want to live in that sort
of way in the least."

" You couldn't help it. It is a sort of vortex into
which you are drawn. Laurence is most abominably
extravagant more so than usual with young men I
am quite aware. I don't know that he can be blamed
for it under the circumstances circumstances which
you wouldn't understand. But none other of the young
men I have met live any other sort of life. None of
them ever seem to do any work. How they ever find
time to take degrees and wooden spoons and things, as
I saw in the Senate House a short time ago, I don't
know. And I suppose it is as at Eton, and there are
collegers who do the work. Pray do not be persuaded
into going to Oxford or Cambridge. But I suppose it
is hardly for you to decide. Your father will have made
up his mind. I cannot understand him, with his views,
countenancing such a thing. He must know. He was
at the University himself."

" He certainly didn't live the life there that Lau-
rence describes," said Richard. " But as a matter of
fact he doesn't want me to go."

" Then, how , who ? "

" I have a great friend at Beechurst," Richard ex-
plained, " who is very anxious for me to go to Oxford,
and will help me there."

"Oh! Who is it?"

" Mr. Ventrey, who lives at Beechurst Hall."

" Harry Ventrey. Of course I know him. He is the
queerest of men. A very unsafe guide, I should think,
for a young man to follow. But, of course, he is enor-
mously rich. It would not matter to him. It is you I


am thinking of. Surely you will not go against your
father's wishes! What does he wish you to do?"

" A bookseller at Storbridge, someone I know very
well, has offered me a partnership in his business. He is
very enterprising, and no doubt it would be a good thing
for me, and I should like the work."

" But, my dear boy, what an opportunity to think of
throwing away ! That charming old-world place ! To
live your life quietly there within reach of all this
beauty, to have no anxieties, no connection with the
tiresome world with all its feverish bustle and worry !
I cannot imagine a happier lot. To have to do with
books, the most delightful and soothing of companions,
what a chance! Pray, pray, do not throw it away."

" You would not look down upon me if I started life
as a country bookseller, Aunt Henrietta? " asked Rich-
ard, with a view of testing further the curiosities of his
aunt's character.

" Look down on you ! " she exclaimed. " How can
you think it? I should look up to you as a wise man
who knew where true happiness was to be found in a
peaceful life filled with quiet duties instead of a per-
petual round of gaiety and excitement, which, I will
warn you very plainly, brings no happiness or satisfac-
tion with it. No, indeed, it would be delightful to me
to think of you settled down in that way. I should
have liked, myself, to do something for you, something
substantial to start you in life. But I cannot do every-
thing I should like, now. Expenses are so heavy that
but there, I need not go into that. Something, at
any rate, I probably can do. I will talk to your

" Thank you very much, Aunt Henrietta," said Rich-
ard> blushing, " but I would rather stand on my own


feet. All I want is an opportunity to work, and that I
shall have."

She looked at him sharply. " You do not mind ac-
cepting benefits from a stranger," she said, " but you
are too proud to be beholden to your own mother's

" Mr. Ventrey isn't a stranger," replied Richard.
" And I am not at all sure that I am going to accept
the benefits he offers me. If I take up the other work
I shall depend from the first upon my own energies."

" Something will have to be paid, I suppose, for you
to enter the business ? "

" Yes, but very little. The half of it has already
come from you, Aunt Henrietta."

" From me? How is that? "

" You were very generous in sending me presents
when I was a child. Father has saved all that money
for me, and it will help me towards my start in life
if I take to the bookselling."

" Is it possible ? " exclaimed Lady Syde. " Little
driblets of money that I had entirely forgotten! And
they are enough to do that ! " She gave a prodigious

sigh. " What a difference between ! No, I mustn't

say it here. Well, Richard, I shall talk to your father.
You are my godson. I must be allowed to do something
for you. I wish very much that I had done more when
the opportunity was open to me. One learns one's mis-
takes as one grows older. But you seem to have done
very well without my help. Probably I should have
spoilt you. I fear that indulgence does spoil. It cer-
tainly does not call forth gratitude. Now I will rest a
little, and steep myself in the charm of this lovely
forest of yours."

She leaned back in her seat, and her face grew tired.


Richard was left to his thoughts as they drove on
through the forest aisles, and they took him back to the
difficult problem he had to face. He found that his
mind was clearer and that he could look at it from a
different point of view. What, after all, was the Uni-
versity life to which he had been so strangely attracted ?
If it was anything like the picture that Laurence had
drawn of it, there was nothing to attract anybody
who regarded it as an opportunity for learning; very
little, indeed, that was attractive of it was only to be
regarded as an opportunity for social intercourse.
Richard's ideas of the work he would do at Oxford
were far more imperfectly formed than Mr. Ventrey
had allowed for, but his ideas of the social life of col-
lege and University were clearly formed, and had noth-
ing in common with the life described by Laurence. If

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 25 of 29)