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

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must go down one by one you cannot really do any
good business unless you pay attention to it mind the
loose rug at the bottom of the stairs. But if you do I
am quite sure that you can make it a great success, and
make money out of it into the bargain."

" I should quite have enjoyed engaging in business
myself," pursued Lady Pontypridd, when they had
taken their seats at the table. " There must be some-
thing quite romantic about walking into the Stock Ex-
change, and making a thousand pounds by a mere nod."

"Do they do that?" said Lettice. "What lucky
people! Why doesn't everybody go on the Stock Ex-
change? "

" They want a head for it, of course," said Lady
Pontypridd, " or they might just as easily lose. But I
am sure that I have the head, and should do very
well."

" Auntie, dear, I am quite sure you would lose every
penny you've got," said Lettice ; " you are far too
confiding."

Lady Pontypridd ignored this compliment. " Can



406 RICHARD BALDOCK

you tell me anything about Maritana Gold Mines, Mr.
Baldock? " she asked. " I bought a few hundred shares
some months ago, on the advice of young George Char-
ing, Lord Otford's boy, who was ploughed for the
Army, and is now doing very well in the City. I pro-
cured them extraordinarily cheap, as they were one
pound shares, and the man who wished to sell them was
content to take five and threepence apiece for them.
Young Charing arranged that."

" A friend of mine bought some, too," said Richard.
" I think you could get them for the odd threepence
now."

" Then if I were to sell those I have at present at
the price I gave for them, or rather more, and were
to buy several thousand shares at a very low price with
the proceeds, I suppose I should stand to gain a large
sum of money?" said Lady Pontypridd. "That is
how things are managed, is it not ? "

" Well, I'm afraid not exactly," Richard began, but
Lettice broke in. " Don't let's talk about money," she
said. " Auntje, you know you have not quite as much
as you want. If you go speculating you will only lose
it all."

" I should never dream of speculating, Lettice," re-
plied Lady Pontypridd. " But buying and selling a
few mining shares or railway shares, or whatever they
may be, is a well-known way of making money, and
one which well-known people employ. And however rich
one may be not that I am rich, far from it it is
always agreeable to have a little more. Don't you agree
with me, Mr. Baldock?"

Richard agreed as far as was necessary to preserve
the requisite harmony of the table, but in truth he was
paying very little attention to Lady Pontypridd or her



IN CUR20N STREET 407

conversation. He was taken up with Lettice, who ap-
peared to him in the light of a revelation. It was not
only that she was beautiful, although she was undoubt-
edly beautiful, with face and hair and eyes to have
confounded many a young man not the most impression-
able. It was that with all this new and strange and
rare beauty, she was still the Lettice he knew so well,
the Lettice in whose presence he felt all the old charm
of his happiest days, whom he had always loved, and
because he had always loved her, whose new beauty re-
vealed itself to him as a subject, not only of admiration,
but of pride. Conflicting emotions passed through his
mind as he talked to her over the dinner table, and
afterwards in the drawing-room by the piano, while
Lady Pontypridd read the evening paper, and probably
dozed a little. At one moment he seemed to be talking
to someone whom he knew so well that her proximity
was the most natural thing in the world; at the next
he was with a stranger, and he could hardly believe
that he had the right to such delightful intimacy. His
main feeling was one of bewilderment. It was Lettice,
his little friend of the forest, unchanged. It was a
lovely girl, moving in bright worlds, with which he
could never be familiar. But still it was Lettice, and,
again, he kept on saying to himself, unchanged and
yet with a strange, new power, which he should never
have expected her to possess, for she could make the
little dining-room glow with a radiance that lights and
flowers and silver had no power to evoke, and could
even throw over the comfortable figure of Lady Ponty-
pridd, sunk in an easy-chair, a glamour which it did
not possess of itself.

The evening was not a long one, for Lady Ponty-
pridd and Lettice had their parties to go to, and Rich-



409 RICHARD BALDOCK

ard was out of the house by eleven o'clock, making his
way to his home in the distant suburbs. He carried
away with him the remembrance of Lettice's sweet face,
the scent of her clothes, the sound of her voice; and
the radiance that hung round her, filling the poky little
house in Curzon Street, and lapping even Lady Ponty-
pridd with its beams, went with him through the dark-
ness.

Richard's hour had come like a thief in the night.
He had always loved Lettice, but the love with which he
loved her now was as different from his former love as
the poles are far asunder. The whole world was changed
for him, and he lay down that night with happiness
embracing him like a garment.



CHAPTER XXXI

TROUBLED DAYS

THE gleam of happiness which had struck into Rich-
ard's somewhat prosaic life lasted no longer than the
night which followed his meeting with Lettice. The
morning brought doubts which piled themselves one
upon another until his whole sky was overcast by them.
He had fallen desperately in love. There was no dis-
guising that fact, which was sufficiently obvious to
make it impossible for him to deceive himself as to the
quality of his new feeling for Lettice. But the admis-
sion that it was so brought him little gratification. He
was not a boy to whom the first stages of a passion are
so new and delightful that the mind is content to feed
on the delicious sensations of the moment and to leave
the future unconsidered. His passion for Lettice was
as keen as if her beauty and sweetness had been that
of a stranger revealed to him suddenly in a flash of
what is known as love at first sight. But it was made
immeasurably stronger and more lasting by his knowl-
edge of her. He knew that the new and rare graces
that had taken him captive by a shock were allied to
qualities of mind and character deserving of all devo-
tion, and there could be no doubts, no after thoughts,
that in yielding to his love for her he had been carried
away by the mere fascination of her beauty.

But he wanted more than to cherish his love for her
in his own bosom ; much more. He wanted her and all
her sweetness and friendliness for his own. He wanted

409



410 RICHARD BALDOCK

to declare his love and have it returned. And here
he seemed to be met with insuperable difficulties.

These difficulties lay not so much in the difference
between his position in the world and hers. She was
rich, but he ignored that, as he knew she would ignore
it in her frank generosity, supposing there to be no
other obstacle to his suit. He was not a needy adven-
turer pursuing an heiress. He was well off already, and
was growing richer every year. There could be no great
disparity between them in this respect. And yet, after
all, it was the difference in position, if not in wealth,
which made his suit appear almost hopeless. She moved
in a different world from his. She was surrounded by
wealth and rank and luxury, and he was a worker with
the fewest possible connections with the world of fashion
and leisure in which she was shining now as a bright
particular star. His very pride in her forced him to set
her high above himself. What chances would he have,
an unknown undistinguished young man, to enjoy her
favour against those of the many eligible, self-confident
suitors, distinguished by birth, wealth, perhaps actual
achievements, whose approaches her aunt would take
good care should be made easy?

His manhood rose up to encourage him. He wanted
her for his own. He loved her and could make her
happy. He had a right to try to gain her love, the
right of an honest lover, and he would fight for it
against those most favoured in externals against him-
self.

But how was he to fight? The very battle-ground
was hedged round with obstacles which he knew not how
to surmount. The men whom he pictured to himself
as his rivals lived the same life, breathed the same air
as she did. They could urge their suit, directly or in-



TROUBLED DAYS 411

directly, night and day, while he must remain outside
the enchanted ground and see her only at rare intervals.
For the simple little fact, which was yet of such impor-
tance, obtruded itself upon him : he had not the entrance
to the places where she was now to be seen. And, fur-
ther than that, he knew that if he tried to scale the
weak places in the palisades that surrounded her, Lady
Pontypridd, whose recent complacency towards himself
he priced very low, would use all her energies to
strengthen them against him.

Well, the difficulties in front of him were rather
mean ones. He would have preferred to have to fight
something more serious than the opposition of an am-
bitious old woman and the exclusiveness of a social
clique. But if those were the obstacles that lay between
him and the lady of his choice he would surmount them
as best he could, and bring to bear upon them the same
intrepid constancy which the knights of old had offered
to their more formidable enemies.

These considerations did not occur to him all at once,
but they pressed upon him hardly when he came to
discover what a barrier there was between the daily life
of the class to which Lettice belonged, the class which
uses London for a few months in the spring and early
summer as a city of pleasure, and his own much larger
class which lives and works in it all the year round.
At first he was fortunate. He called on Lady Ponty-
pridd a few days after he had dined in Curzon Street
and found Lettice, by a happy chance, alone. He
talked to her for half an hour, and came away more
deeply in love with her than ever. She was frankly
friendly, more than friendly, and he was fired anew with
the hope of winning her. Then he met her at dinner at
the house of a Royal Academician, unexpectedly. He



412 RICHARD BALDOCK

and she were the only young people present, and he had
the felicity of sitting next her at the table and almost
monopolizing her afterwards. But on this occasion
Lady Pontypridd was present, and he saw cold gleams
of distrust and aversion chasing each other across that
lady's expressive face. The next evening he walked in
the Park, met both the ladies, and snatched a few min-
utes' conversation, but Lady Pontypridd, now roused to
action, manoeuvred him out of his advantage, and he had
the mortification of seeing Lettice surrounded by the
butterflies of fashion, towards whom he felt a jealous
dislike, and, if the truth were told, completely at home
and merry in their company. Then he called again at
Curzon Street and underwent a dreadful ten minutes of
surface conversation with Lady Pontypridd, who made
it quite clear that she was only coldly civil to him be-
cause that method of treatment was as likely to show
him that he was not wanted there as any other. Let-
tice did not appear, probably did not know he was in
the house, and he left in despair, feeling that if he rang
Lady Pontypridd's bell again he would be committing
an unpardonable intrusion.

After that, things went from bad to worse. He
could never look back afterwards upon the weeks which
followed without an uncomfortable shrinking at the
thought of the misery he endured. He could settle to
nothing, neglected his work, or as much of it as could be
neglected, and was for ever haunting the places where
he might have a chance of seeing her. His success was
not remarkable. Two or three times he received invita-
tions to houses where he hoped to meet her, and, when he
was not disappointed in his hope, he had a few words
with her. She was always kind to him, but he was too
diffident to take advantage of his opportunities, and



TROUBLED DAYS 413

he came to think after a time that she was getting a
little tired of his modest advances, and was pleased when
other acquaintances claimed her attention and elbowed
him out. He walked constantly in the Park of an eve-
ning and spoke to her sometimes there. But he was so
obviously there for that purpose alone, knowing no
other soul of all those who sat or walked under the
trees, that it was almost torture for him to present him-
self to her, especially when she was accompanied by
Lady Pontypridd, who now made no disguise of her
aversion, and even her contempt. He felt humiliated,
out of place. His lugubrious face showed his shrinking
and could hardly have commended him to the least
exacting or adored ladies. Yes, Lettice was always
kind to him, but the horrible feeling came over him by
and by that she must think him a bore.

Then he determined that he would make no more
efforts to see her, since he could not meet her on equal
terms, and for a week he led the life he had led for years
before this sudden desire had altered his habits. He
came regularly to his office from his father's suburban
vicarage, did his work, and went back again in the
evening. If he dined out it was where he could have
no expectation of meeting Lettice, and it cannot be
said that he did much to add to the sociability of any
meal which he ate in company. He was very unhappy,
and his life, hitherto smooth and well ordered, became a
procession of meaningless days and nights.

Meaking, of course, noticed the change in him, and
questioned him about it in his bluff and not too tactful
manner. " I believe you're in love," he said, and
laughed a hoarse guffaw.

" You needn't worry about me," said Richard, irri-
tably. " Something has happened to upset me rather,



RICHARD BALDOCK

but I'll keep my private life apart from business, if you
don't mind. I do my work here, and

"That's just what you don't do," interrupted Mea-
king. " You get through just what you've got to, but
as for using your brain over it well, another clerk
would be as useful in the office as you just now. If
you're ill why don't you go away for a bit ? You might
just as well for all the good you're doing here."

" I'm not ill," snapped Richard. " Please leave me
alone."

Meaking looked at him intently. " You've never
spoken to me like that before," he said. " I don't
want to pry into your private affairs, but you know
what I feel towards you. Why don't you tell me what's
the matter, and let me help ? "

" Thank you very much," said Richard. " You can't
help. I shall get over it. I'm sorry I showed annoy-
ance."

Richard had been unhappy enough before, but his
wretchedness at the end of this week of self-enforced
denial was acute. What he would have done next if left
to himself he was not afterwards able to determine.
But he was not left to himself. To his intense surprise
he received a note from Lady Pontypridd asking him to
dine in a few days' time.

What induced Lady Pontypridd to issue this invita-
tion will never be known. Enlightenment cannot now
come from her, for she is dead and has left no diaries.
Lettice declared afterwards that she had nothing to do
with it, and was as surprised as Richard hrmself.
Compunction for her treatment of her brother's and
niece's friend it can hardly have been, for Lady Ponty-
pridd was far removed by nature from such feelings.
It is more probable that it was the outcome of an im-



TROUBLED DAYS 415

pulse of pure contempt for his pretensions and person.
The working out of the motive would be somewhat
subtle, but for want of a more likely explanation this
must serve, at least, as a suggestion.

Hope revived in Richard's breast, and he betook him-
self once more to the house in Curzon Street. He spent
a quarter of an hour alone in the drawing-room, for
Lettice did not come down this time to keep him com-
pany. But at the end of fifteen minutes he was sur-
prised and also disturbed at the entrance of another
guest, and once more after ten years came face to face
with Laurence Syde.

Laurence was as handsome a man as he had been a
boy. He was dressed, of course, in the very height of
the masculine fashion of the day, and bore himself with
such an assured air of superiority and self-confidence
as he entered the room that Richard felt all the old un-
happy sense of contrast revived in his mind the moment
he set eyes on him.

Laurence's eyes never wavered as he recognized his
one-time antagonist. He did not offer to shake hands,
but said in a voice as unmoved as if they had last seen
each other the day before, "Hallo! How are you?
Devilish cold for the time of year, isn't it? "

The entrance of Lady Pontypridd and Lettice at
this moment saved Richard the necessity of a reply.
He could not but envy Laurence the possession of quali-
ties which made him, quite apart from what he was or
anything he might have done, a man of mark, attracting
instant attention and deference, while he himself sank
naturally into the background and was made apparently
of no account whatever. He thought to himself, during
the progress of the meal which followed, that if Lady
Pontypridd had asked him and Laurence to the house



416 RICHARD BALDOCK

together for the express purpose of showing up his own
inferiority she could hardly have chosen a more success-
ful method of humiliating him before Lettice. Lau-
rence dominated the conversation, and led it into chan-
nels in which it was impossible for him to follow. He
had nothing whatever to say, and sat at Lady Ponty-
pridd's table as silent as he had sat at his aunt's years
before, when nobody seemed to have anything to say to
him or any desire to include him in the conversation.
Even Lettice, although she did turn to him occasionally
with her charming smile, and address some remark to
him, did not appear to be as anxious as she might have
been to turn the talk on to a subject in which he might
take his part; for when he had answered her she left
him alone again, and talked and laughed with Laurence,
who for his part ignored Richard completely, as did
Lady Pontypridd in what he felt to be the most inhos-
pitable fashion. He felt sore all over, bitterly humili-
ated. He was angry with every one, even with Lettice,
who seemed, every time he saw her, to be drifting farther
away from him. He wished a hundred times that he had
not come to the house. He was only laying himself
open to be despised, accepting a position in which he
could not possibly expect to appear to advantage. He
told himself that it should be the last time.

He was not made happier by the conviction that
presently grew upon him that Laurence was applying
himself to the entertainment of Lettice in a way that
was more marked than his ordinary manner. His own
feelings towards her rendered him susceptible to shades
of meaning, and his jealousy sprang into flame as he
perceived, was convinced that he perceived, the man
whom he now looked upon as his enemy, entering design-
edly upon the first stages of love-making. His dislike of



TROUBLED DAYS 417

Laurence, his contempt for his unscrupulous selfishness
and mean outlook on life, prompted him to put the worst
construction on the possibilities of such a suit. He
would do anything for money, he sneered to himself, and
put down Laurence's attempts to ingratiate himself
with Lettice as an ignoble pursuit of an heiress, ignor-
ing the charm of his lady and her power to attract the
most unworthy of mankind. The fire of his jealousy
was fed by his observation of Lettice's reception of Lau-
rence's efforts to please her. She was far from reject-
ing them. It even seemed to him that she went out of
her way to encourage them, and by the time the ladies
left the room he was in a smouldering state of anger
and misery.

But before that time came they talked of Beechurst.

" How I should love to see the old place again," said
Lettice. " All my happiest years were spent there, and
I have never been there since my dear grandfather
died."

" You must come and stay there," said Laurence.
" Lady Pontypridd, you will bring Miss Ventrey down
for a week-end, won't you? It is not so very far. Lady
Syde loves the place, too, and is always flying off there.
She is never happy in one place for long. When she is
in London she wants to be in the country, and when she
is in the country she longs for the excitements of town."

" I don't know," said Lady Pontypridd. " I am too
old to enjoy this modern habit of careering all over
England at a few hours' notice. In my day, when we
came up to London for the season we stayed there till
it was over, and shut up our country houses till we
settled down in them again in the autumn."

" But you didn't have motor-cars in those days,"
said Laurence. " They make everything so easy. You



418 RICHARD BALDOCK

would leave this house at half-past four and get to
Beechurst in plenty of time for dinner. Do let us fix
up a week-end."

" Well, perhaps I might make an exception if Lady
Syde is kind enough to ask us," said Lady Pontypridd.
" Beechurst is a very charming place, and I own I
should like to see it again."

" That will be delightful ! " cried Lettice. " I should
love to spend a day or two in the dear old place. Do
you ever go down there now ? " she asked, turning to
Richard.

" I haven't been there for four or five years," he an-
swered. " Not since my aunt went to live at the Hall."

"Your aunt?" echoed Lady Pontypridd, regarding
him with bare tolerance.

" Lady Syde is my aunt," he said.

" You ought to come down and look her up," said
Laurence, addressing him for the first time.

Richard made no reply, and presently the ladies left
the room.

When the two young men were left to their coffee and
cigarettes there was complete silence between them for a
time. Richard sat hugging his bitter thoughts, his
antagonism towards his companion growing every mo-
ment. Laurence sat with his eyes downcast, buried in
his thoughts. Apparently his opinion of Richard's im-
portance in the scheme of things was so slight that he
was quite at ease in ignoring his presence altogether if
his own cogitations interested him enough to make him
prefer to indulge in them. But presently he raised his
head and said, " Have you been living in London since
your father left Beechurst?"

" Yes," said Richard, shortly.

" Why haven't you looked up her ladyship? " pursued



TROUBLED DAYS 419

Laurence. " We're in Brook Street. She's generally
there at this time of the year."

" I don't flatter myself she would be particularly
pleased to see me."
" Why not?"

" I should think you could probably answer that
question better than I can. You told me the last time
we met that you'd take good care I shouldn't see any
more of her, and I supposed you did so."

Laurence gave vent to an impatient exclamation.
" Want to have a row again, do you? " he said. " I've
never come across a fellow quite so quarrelsome as you.
I'm not going to oblige you. I don't care a damn what
you think or what you do. We're not likely to meet
very often. What you are doing here I don't
know."

" It's quite easy to see what you're doing here," re-
torted Richard, unwisely, out of the bitterness of his
heart.

Laurence looked at him with a sneering face, dully
red. " I'm going upstairs," he said, rising. " I'm not
going to sit at the same table with a cad."

Richard followed him upstairs into the drawing-room,
not feeling pleased with himself. The hour which fol-
lowed did not lighten his dejection. Lettice went to
the piano and Laurence followed her at once. Lady
Pontypridd acquiesced in this arrangement so far as to
keep Richard by her side and talk to him with a greater
show of amiability than she had hitherto employed.

" I didn't know that Lady Syde was your aunt," she
said. "What is the exact relationship?"
" She was my mother's sister," he replied.
" She is very rich, is she not ? "
" I don't know. I see very little of her."



420 RICHARD BALDOCK

" I always understood that she had no relatives, and
that she had made Captain Syde her heir."

Richard looked at the pair by the piano. He would
have liked to reply : " I can see that you thought so."
but sat silent. Before he left the house he had two
minutes' conversation with Lettice, while Laurence ad-
dressed himself to his hostess.

" I shan't see you again, Lettice," he said, looking
at her with miserable eyes, which yet spoke of a deter-
mination taken.

Her face grew serious, but she returned his look.
" Why not, Dick? " she said, softly.



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 28 of 29)