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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it was really like that ! but he knew that it would not
be in his case. Still, even if you took out the dining and
the drinking, the extravagance and the idleness, was it
worth while to spend three or four years in pleasurable
intercourse with men of his own age and tastes if it
meant giving up the instant participation in activities
which he knew would bring him interest and content-
ment? His association with men of stronger views and
greater experience than his own helped him to weigh the
matter carefully. He was not carried away by his own
immediate desires, as is the manner of youth. But he
was under the sway of impressions, and those made on
him by what Laurence and his aunt, and, in a less de-
gree, by what Meaking had said, influenced him more
than he knew. The glamour which his mind had thrown
over the ordinary life of the undergraduate had been
disturbed, and the hold of Oxford over his imagination
was weakened.


And a word that his aunt had let drop raised another
train of thought. He would have definitely refused to
accept her bounty if it had been she who offered him
what he had been prepared to accept from Mr. Ventrey.
He had told her that he preferred to stand on his own
feet. But if he went to Oxford he would not be doing
so. He would probably not even be able to stand on
his own feet without further help when he had done with
the University. Surely his inclinations led him to ac-
cept patronage from no one not even from a friend
to whom he would always owe the unpayable debt of
gratitude and affection if he could do without it.
And there was no doubt that in this instance he could.

In the mysterious workings of the human mind this
phenomenon is apparent, that alongside of a course
of inward controversy, where hesitancy reigns over a
decision that has to be taken, when the mind needlessly
tosses to and fro opposing arguments, and is convinced
by none, there has been going on all the time another
silent controversy. And, suddenly, the active, conscious,
indecisive train of argument is cut across by a clear
conviction. The tried victim of doubt wakes to find
the matter settled for him, and his whole apparatus
of arguments, of statement and counter-statement, can
be thrown from him. His soul has spoken, and his
mind has nothing to do but to acquiesce. So it is with
those who honestly change their religious attitude. So
it was with Richard over this smaller problem. By the
time the carriage had reached Beechurst his outlook was
clear before him. He would take Meaking's offer and
set to work at once.

Lady Syde roused herself as the carriage drove in at
the gate of the Vicarage and up the shady drive. " Oh,
this enchanting spot ! " she exclaimed. " How it all


comes back to me! the beautiful old house and the
great trees ! That was the window of the room in which
she died nearly twenty years ago. It is sad to think
how one changes, here, where so little is changed."

Old Job Wilding was sweeping the gravel in front
of the doorway as they drove up. He drew up his bent
figure and looked in surprise at the invasion.

" Why, I declare ! " said Lady Syde, in a brighter
tone, " there is my old friend Job, looking the same
as ever. Well, Job, how do you do? "

A sly look came over Job's face as he recognized her.
" I couldn't make a change under a month's notice," he
said, cryptically.

" A month's notice ! " echoed Lady Syde, as she
alighted from the carriage. " Why, Job, you are surely
not thinking of leaving your present master? "

" I reached the ripe age of seventy year twelve months
ago come Michaelmas," returned Job, " and it's been in
my mind to better myself. Twenty years I've been con-
sidering of it, owing to a hearty hint received. An'
now I'm to be taken off by a fiery chariot, same as
Elijah. But I can't give less than a month's notice."
And he turned his back and went off chuckling.

" Queer old creature ! " said Lady Syde. " But is he
really thinking of leaving? If so, I might be able
to "

" I don't think he has the least intention of leav-
ing," said Richard. " Will you come into the drawing-
room, Aunt Henrietta; and I will go and tell father
you are here? I am not quite sure that he will be in."

They went into the drawing-room, now entirely dis-
used. Richard unfastened the shutters, and let in the
light on its faded emptiness.

" What a sweet, quiet old room," said Lady Syde.


" How charming one might make it ! One would clear
out all this terrible modern furniture and fill it with
beautiful old things. The framework of the room is
perfect. One can only be thankful that it has escaped
desecration. Leave me here, Richard, and ask your
father to come to me."

Richard found his father about to set out on his
parish visits.

" Aunt Henrietta is in the drawing-room, and wants
to see you," he said.

" Who ! " cried John Baldock, in amazement.

" Aunt Henrietta. I met her in Storbridge and she
drove here with me."

The Vicar put down his Bible and the bundle of tracts
he was carrying, and left the room.

"Henrietta!" he exclaimed to himself, as he went
up the stairs and along the passage leading to the
drawing-room. " What can she want here? "

She wanted apparently more than he was prepared
to give her, as he found when he had entered the room
in which she was sitting by the window, and shut the
door behind him. She held out her hand to him, as if
no antagonism had ever existed between them, and
said :

" Ah, John. It is years since we met, and perhaps
we were not always the best of friends, but there is no
need to remember that now."

John Baldock ignored the outstretched hand.

" I should find it impossible to forget it," he said,
with a dark look. " I came to your house five years
ago, and was flouted and jeered at. I should have been
turned out with ignominy if it had not been my own
pleasure to depart. You come now into my house, and
expect me to welcome you. I cannot do it."


" Now, my dear John," she replied with her old de-
cisive intonation. " How senseless it is to bring up old,
forgotten, and, no doubt at the time, unpleasant scenes.
As the worldly woman you no doubt think me, I have
forgotten them long since. Surely you, as a clergy-
man, can hardly do less. Why brood on the past? "

" I do not brood on it. But I will not pretend that
I am pleased to see you, remembering as I do not only
the painful scene to which I refer, but what led up
to it."

" Now, what did lead up to it? Tell me, for good-
ness' sake, and then let us make friends."

" You talk glibly of making friends. Have you for-
gotten how you turned my son out of your house at
a moment's notice, most unjustly, and, after having
promised definitely to provide for his education, and in
a general way to do far more than that for him, went
back upon all your promises, and have shown no sign
of interest in him from that day to this."

" Did I do such dreadful things as that? "

" You know very well you did. You had bestowed
your favours elsewhere, and cast him off without a mo-
ment's compunction. I only hope that you are satisfied
with the result of your choice."

" No, my dear John. You do not hope that. You
hope that I have been thoroughly well served out. I
fear I cannot oblige you with the information you wish.
I have the best of husbands and am a very happy
woman." She turned her head away towards the win-
dow for a moment. " But granted that your version of
what occurred is the right one, which I do not grant,
mind you," she said. " Supposing, rather, that I admit
I am apt to let my impulses run away with me and
arouse hopes that I do not always thoroughly fulfil,


will you say that Richard has suffered by my action?
Do you not think that he is growing up here under your
own care to be a better man than he would be if I had
showered money and presents on him, and he had learnt
to be extravagant and selfish and ungrateful?"

"Thank God," said John Baldock, "that he was
spared that."

" Quite so. But he would not have been spared it, I
am afraid, if I had made a protege of him. As it is he
is a young man whom any father would have the right
to be thoroughly proud of. I admire him immensely.
I am more pleased with him than I can say. He is a
true gentleman. Honest, fearless, courteous, and
strong. 7 could not have brought him up to be that,
John. I admit it in sorrow. If I had taken a fancy
to him five years ago, was it? as I wish for my own
sake I had done I should have given him everything
I thought he could want to make him happy, and he
would have grown up with no thought but to get more.
He would not have cared for me one jot, nor for you
nor for any one but himself. I think you ought to
thank me for saving him from that, and not overwhelm
me with reproaches when I only come to you for an
hour's peace, and to indulge a few sad but not unhappy
memories, before I go away again into the crowded
noisy world in which I live."

John Baldock was vanquished, not so much by her
words as by the note of appeal on which she ended.

" God knows," he said, " that I would not willingly
cherish animosity. The past is over and done with,
and perhaps you are right in saying that Richard has
not suffered by the injustice with which you undoubt-
edly treated him. I will say no more. What poor hos-
pitality I can offer you, you are welcome to,"


He sat down opposite to her.

" Thank you, John. I can only stay an hour. I
should like to go up and see the room in which dear
Jessica died, and I should like Richard to take me to
her grave. Her memory is still green with me, as I
am sure it is with you. But, first of all, I want to
have a word with you about Richard. I will not rouse
your suspicions again by undertaking great things on
his behalf. It might not now be in my power to carry
them out. At the same time I am not going away
without making him a present. At least, directly I get
back to the yacht I shall send you a cheque for a hun-
dred pounds for him. I should like to send more, but
at the present time I really cannot afford it."

"Thank you, Henrietta," John Baldock said. "I
want no presents, either for myself or for him."

" I am not proposing to give you a present. Richard
is my godson, and nothing can prevent me giving him
one if I choose to do so. He has told me how care-
fully you have preserved the odds and ends of money
I sent him years ago, and that it may now be turned
to good use. You must not deny me the pleasure of
adding to the little store. It is small enough, I am
ashamed to say; hardly more than my than many
young men would throw away in a day's amusement ;
but I understand that in his case it may be of real

John Baldock's face became eager.

" Has he told you that? " he said.

" Yes. He has told me of the quiet, contented, un-
eventful life that he is thinking of leading in that de-
lightful old town where I met him. It is very gratifying
to me to think that the small sums of money I sent you
for him years ago will help towards his settlement, and


if this hundred pounds makes it still easier, I am thank-
ful for it."

" Then he has made up his mind. He will tell me
so. I, too, am profoundly thankful. There are those
who are trying to tempt him away from my influence,
and to "

" You mean Harry Ventrey. I should hardly think
he can be trying to do that. It is not in his line. To
be thoroughly satisfied with his cook and get some-
body to listen to him talking is all he wants to make
him thoroughly happy. But Richard did tell me that
he was going to send him to Oxford. I hope he will not
do so, because I do not think that the University is a
good place to send a boy to."

" But I understood you to say that Richard had
made up his mind not to accept his offer."

" I don't know. You must talk to him about it your-
self. At any rate, there is the hundred pounds at his

service, and if I hear But no, I will make no

further promises. Now let me go upstairs, and perhaps
you will let me have a cup of tea before I set off again."

Lady Syde carried out her programme, and drove
away an hour later, expressing herself as soothed in
spirit by her visit. She left behind her a far more
pleasant impression than she had created on the jocca-
sion of her former visits, and even old Sarah, softened
by the gift of a golden coin, allowed herself to indulge
hopes for her future salvation.

" Now you must write to me and tell me all that
you are doing," she said to Richard, as he helped her
into the carriage. " And I hope it will not be very
long before we meet again."

" Very well, my dear boy," said the Squire, when


Richard informed him of his final decision. " I think
you are making a mistake, but your life is your own
to make what you can of it. I will adapt myself as
quickly as my time of life permits to the new conditions,
and shall no doubt have a great deal of advice to offer
you as to the best way of selling books. For we shall
see each other, I hope, as frequently as ever."



IN one of the streets about Covent Garden, now much
in favour with publishers of books and weekly and
monthly periodicals, the wayfarer may come across
a ground-floor window filled with an attractive dis-
play of books, large and small, but all of them bearing
the appearance which would be most likely to tempt
the book buyer. The inscription on the window and
on the brass plate of the big swing doors which give
access into the building is " Meaking and Baldock,"
and this name also appears on the covers of the books
in the window.

In a first-floor room, at the back of the house, Rich-
ard Baldock was sitting at a writing-table one evening
of late spring some ten years after the events related
in the preceding chapters. He was altered in appear-
ance only so much as a boy on the threshold of manhood
alters in ten years of a somewhat strenuous life. His
fair hair still curled over his forehead, and his blue
eyes were honest and clear. His face had lost the
brown freckled tint of his boyhood, its lines were
stronger, and it bore the index of ten years of absorb-
ing work. But any of his early friends would have
recognized him without difficulty, even if they had not
seen him during those ten years, and, recognizing him,
would have expected the years to roll away when once
they heard his voice.



It was six o'clock, and Richard was finishing up his
work for the day, when the door opened and his partner
came in. John Montague Meaking, for he had now re-
asserted his right to the name by which he had been
called in his childhood, had not altered in the least either
in face or figure, but in outward appearance he had
altered immensely. His flaming red hair still shone con-
spicuously, but it had been brushed and oiled with
neatness and did its shining under a silk hat which
vied only with his patent leather boots in point of polish.
The rest of his habiliments were in keeping with the
splendour of his boots and hat, and he looked the pic-
ture of prosperity, which was exactly the impression he
sought to convey. This change had come about sud-
denly when the firm had moved to London some four or
five years before, and Meaking had blossomed like a
butterfly from his chrysalis state of easy, somewhat
shabby country clothes into the rigorous but noticeable
habit which he now wore. " It's policy," he had said at
the time. " Dress like a man of means and you'll be
taken for a man of means. That helps credit, and,
though we don't want credit just at present, there's no
telling when we may. You'd better do the same, Dick.
We can't help being young, but we can help being unim-

But Richard had lacked the inclination to gain im-
portance by the conspicuousness of his attire. He wore
a black coat and a tall hat, and he looked like a gentle-
man. But he looked like a gentleman who worked.

Meaking threw himself into the easy chair which
stood by Richard's desk. " That's a good day's work
done," he said. " You nearly finished, Dick? 'Cos if so
we'll be off. We've got half an hour to get to the
station in, and it takes pretty nearly that."


" I'm ready now," said Richard, locking up the
drawer of his writing-table. " What a nuisance it must
be having to go all the way to and from your station
twice a day."

" It is a nuisance. But it's the only line that gets
you out to the Forest. I wouldn't live anywhere else
out of London. It isn't as good as our old forest, but
it's pleasant enough, especially at this time of the

" Yes, it is pleasant. I should like to come and live
there too if it weren't for my father."

" It wouldn't be a good thing for you. My work's
finished when I've left the office. It doesn't matter
where I live. You've got to make a point of meeting
people. Don't go forgetting that. You ought to have
been at that Hafiz Club dinner to-night, by rights."

" I'd rather come and look at your garden and have a
stroll amongst the trees. Come along. I'm ready

They went out through the busy outer office in which
Meaking lingered a moment to give one or two authori-
tative orders. Then they made their way to the City
terminus and out to the woodland suburb where Mea-
king resided.

Meaking's residence was a detached villa at the end
of a new road, about half a mile from the station, and
would have presented no point of attraction to the
aesthetic, either outside or in. But it stood in a garden
of half an acre, well shaded by trees, and there was
nothing 1 between it and the Forest but a few fields. " I
shall live here for the seven years of my lease," Meaking
had said when he first took it, " and then I shall buy
some land and build a house for myself. That is if we
do as well as I think we shall,"


Five years of Meaking's lease were up, and they
were doing at least as well as he had anticipated.
He was already spending his leisure time in a tour
of inspection, and the acreage he had proposed to
himself as the setting of his house had risen from three
to twenty.

Mrs. Meaking, now in a blissful state of self-
confidence as to her position in life, received them in
her drawing-room, and played the well-to-do lady of
the house to perfection. No one would have recog-
nized her as the village matron with whom her
neighbours had kept up a continuous guerrilla war-
fare with the object of reducing her proud spirit
twenty years before. Probably her sole cause for
regret in her present situation was that it could not
be beheld by those who had flouted her in the days of
her poverty; but there was not one of her Beechurst
acquaintances whom she would now have thought a
fit and proper person to receive into her house. She
would have liked them to know this, but had not suc-
ceeded in devising a way by which the knowledge could
be conveyed to them.

They dined well. Mrs. Meaking, for all her nonsense,
was an excellent housekeeper. And as they dined they
talked about old days at Beechurst.

** I think I shall have to run down to Storbridge next
week," Meaking said. " Fisher is a good man to have
in charge, but I'm not quite satisfied with the way he
is running the second-hand department."

" That was bound to go down after Mr. Gannett's
death," said Richard. " There wasn't his equal at it in

" Who would have thought," said Mrs. Meaking, with
the most genteel air, " that that old bag of bones,


if I may be allowed the expression, would have gone on
living until he was eighty? There was hardly any-
thing of him left by the time he died."

" Except brains," said Richard.

" Brains and money," corrected Mrs. Meaking.
" But the money I attribute to you, Montague. Be-
fore you joined him, Mr. Gannett would certainly not
have left three thousand pounds."

" He spent nothing on himself," said Meaking.
" Hardly as much as a labourer. He was a close old
file. Of course I did help him to turn his knowledge
to advantage. But he never let on that he knew it.
Never a word all the years we worked together."

" He acknowledged it pretty handsomely when he
died," said Richard.

" Yes. I don't suppose there's another case of an
endowed bookshop in England, or anywhere else. It
came in handy for us. There are plenty of good
scholars who would like to have Fisher's place. But
he's like Mr. Gannett. He thinks more of the books
than the trade. I shall have to go down and wake him
up every now and then. Would you like to come down
with me next week, mother, and look up the old places?
We could stay the night and go over to Beechurst on
our way back."

" No, thank you, Montague," said Mrs. Meaking,
with pursed lips. " I have very few pleasant recollec-
tions of Beechurst. The people there are a set of sav-
ages, and would only be impertinent if I ventured among
them again. They have not the slightest idea how to
treat a lady. If I had them here I should know how
to deal with them, but go amongst them I will not."

" I shall go over," said Meaking. " I haven't been
to Beechurst for five years. It'll do me all the good in


the world to see a bit of the forest again and visit the
old haunts. Do you remember that gap in the fence of
the Vicarage garden, Dick, by the syringa bush? "

"Yes, I do," said Richard. "But I thought that
was my own secret. I didn't know you shared it."

" Of course I did. That's how I used to get in,
though I never told you so. It seems like yesterday
when we used to go prowling about the shrubbery, play-
ing at Red Indians. What a place it is ! None like it.
I'll go back and end my days there, as I began them.
Don't you feel the same about it, Dick? "

** I do in a way. But it has altered so that I don't
feel that I want to go back just yet awhile."

" Altered ! It hasn't altered in the least. There's
not been a new building put up since you or I can
remember, and none pulled down as far as I know."

" The people have altered. It must be quite a dif-
ferent place now ? "

"When were you last there?"

" Four years ago, when Mr. Ventrey died."

" Ah, of course you'd miss him. He was a good friend
to you."

" He was one of the best I've ever had."

" A real gentleman," put in Mrs. Meaking. " Al-
ways a courteous word for everybody, and knew how to
treat a lady like a lady. It was a sad end, Mr.

" Well, I don't know. He was never conscious after
his stroke, and died quite quietly. He lived his life
fully up to the end. Nobody would have hated more
than he to live on with impaired powers, although he had
such extraordinary strength of mind that he would
have made the best of what was left to him as he had
done before. I am glad I was with him at the last, but


I wish he had been able to recognize me, and give me
a word."

" You saw him not long before, didn't you? "

" Yes. A fortnight before. I was there for the week-
end. It is one of the pleasantest recollections I have
of Beechurst. Everything was just as it had been ex-
cept at the Vicarage, but I was so taken up with Mr.
Ventrey and and with his little granddaughter, that I
didn't mind that so much. He was as brilliant as ever,
quite like a young, active man, although he was well
over seventy, and, of course, quite helpless physically.
I never really understood until then how he stood out
from other men at least any other man I have ever
known. His talk was wonderful to listen to, and his
friendliness and gaiety were beyond description."

" He had quite forgiven you by that time for taking
on with me, hadn't he?" asked Meaking.

" He had never said a word except of encouragement
after I first told him that I meant to do so. But I
think he finally realized that I had been right in my
decision. I think he did. He said to me : * Well, you're
making a great success of your work, and it's bringing
you into touch with the most intelligent of people. I
should think you must be enjoying the best society to be
found in London. I, at any rate, think that the society
of men of letters is the best.' I remember his words
so well because they gave me great pleasure at the

" Did he say anything about your not having gone to
Oxford when he wanted you to? "

" Not in so many words. But he did say that most
young men of my age I was twenty-four then were
preparing to do something, but that I was doing it. I
know he was pleased and interested in all I told him,

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 26 of 29)