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

. (page 3 of 29)
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 3 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

them. His philosophy taught him early that if his
naughtiness were so everywhere apparent, he might as
well suck some advantage of it.

If the people among v/hom he lived were not such
as to add greatly to the happiness of a child, little
Richard's surroundings in other respects were enviable.
The old rectory, shabby, rambling, and out of repair,
but quiet and beautiful, stood in the midst of an over-
grown garden whose amenities were so impossible to
cope with by the energies brought to bear on them by
Job that those parts of it not devoted to fruit and
vegetables were allowed to relapse into wilderness. The
dense shrubberies and massy trees were a very treasure
house of the secrets of nature, and Richard would have
been a personage among the village boys if for no
other reason than that he had unrestrained access to
these arcana, which they pried into only under extreme
peril. Dewy dawns of early summer, blossoming lilacs,
liquid thrush notes, or grass in shade, sun-flecked, had
power in after years to bring back to him the delights
of that gree.n garden of his childhood.

And all around this garden, divided from it indeed
in one place only by a tottering fence, stretched mile
after mile of the great forest, deep woodland alternating
with sandy heath. Never was such a playground for
nature-loving youth, and his earliest impressions were
indissolubly mixed up with it. He had only to creep
through a gap in the fence, hidden by a bush of syringa,
to find himself in a forest glade, with great clean nobly-
branching beeches springing from its green and russet
floor, giant dark glittering hollies, level stretches of
bracken in sun and shade, and a sense of vastness and
freedom over all as the track wound on into the un-
explored distance far beyond the limits of his wander-


ings. Here he might play for hours with no com-
panionship save that of the creatures of the forest,
and never feel alone or afraid. There were the rabbits
lopping across the rides, the busy wood-pigeons and
harsh- voiced jays, the pleasant notes of more tuneful
birds, the chattering squirrels, the insistent but com-
panionable cuckoo. Sometimes a drove of black pigs
would cross his path, fussily intent on their ovesting,
more rarely a herd of fallow deer. Events to be remem-
bered were the sight of a red deer, majestically pacing,
or a fox trying to steal hidden through the under-
growth, or an otter, timid-eyed but unsuspicious of his
presence, seeking its supper in a secret pool.

Of the multitudinous occupations and excitements of
a more sociable character afforded by the forest there
were enough to provide a varied round of amusement
from January to December. On New Year's Day the
village boys would go out " squoyling." Armed with
loaded sticks, of a sufficiently formidable character when
they sometimes turned them against their fellows, they
would wage war upon the squirrels, bringing them down
with wonderful dexterity by throwing their " squoyles "
at them as they crouched on the leafless branches of the
trees. Richard never liked this pastime and removed
himself from the company of his fellows whenever it
was afoot. In fact, he grew to be shy of all forms of
forest sport, spending so many hours as he did alone
with the hunted birds and beasts, and looking on them
as his friends.

One glorious day in May a pack of itinerant otter
hounds met at Beechurst, and Richard, then about
twelve years old, followed them up and down a stream
deep in the heart of the forest, pushing through the
aromatic bog-myrtle and wading the pebbly shallows


all through the early hours of the morning, happy and
excited. But the end of that was that the hounds and
the crowd of alien followers, strange men and stranger
women in rough tweeds, noisy and eager, invaded the
secrets of the pool which he was persuaded until that
time was known to him alone, and killed their quarry
there. It was the same otter that he had watched feed-
ing the evening before, in contented security, and as she
died she turned her brown eyes reproachfully on him,
and he fancied she thought that he had betrayed her.
He never ran with the otter hounds again.

Nor did he hunt the deer more than once or twice, al-
though he could always have found some sort of a pony
to carry him, in that country where ponies could be
had, or at any rate used, for the asking. All his life
through he shrank from the bloody climax of field
sports, however legitimate. In those days he was prob-
ably somewhat ashamed of this shrinking, which was
instinctive and not reasoned, and it was not strong
enough to prevent his taking a keen interest in those
phases of any sport that had to do with woodcraft. He
was astir many a time at cold dawn to accompany a
" harbourer," whose duty it was to mark down a war-
rantable buck to the hidden covert whence he was pres-
ently to be awakened by the sage old " tufters " and cut
off from his companions, so that the rest of the pack
could hunt him unconfused; and his pride was great
when he first realised that his company was permitted
by this otherwise morose and unapproachable function-
ary because his knowledge of the deer and their ways was
considered of value. He was more than content with
those early stages of the chase, and ran off home when
the hounds had got fairly to work and taken the throng-
ing turmoil of the field after them,


The kind of hunting he did enjoy, perhaps because
there was no ultimate bloodshed involved in it, was the
rounding up of the ponies, when it was brought home to
those at other times unfettered denizens of the forest
that they were as much under obligations to humanity
as their sleeker brethren who passed them bitted and
saddled along the roads and bridle-paths. What times
those were for the boy when he was asked by some
owner of mares running in the forest to take part in a
colt hunt, and spent the day galloping over the heaths
and through the woodlands in chase of the scandalised
little creatures with their rough coats and shaggy
manes, who did their cunning best to shake off the per-
emptory invitation to civilization. A summer day spent
thus in the open air and amidst such surroundings by a
healthy boy exercising skill and endurance, with no
anxieties of mind or responsibility to mar the delight
of the body, is a life possession of enjoyment to be
hoarded in the memory. And Richard had many of
them to look back upon.

And apart from these excitements, there was always
some activity afoot which provided him with interest
all through the year. He would help Job to cut his
commoner's share of peat, and that of his father, when
the permits were assigned in the late autumn. They
would go up to their apportioned plot of ground on
the heath and cut it into squares like a chessboard,
taking one and leaving two, according to forest law.
Earlier still they had carted their harvest of russet
bracken, which was used for litter, and occasionally for
thatching. Sometimes, in winter, there was the glorious
excitement of firing the gorse, when great tangles of
an acre or more would toss fiery arms high into the
night, when fire-flakes and billows of smoke would go


sailing off in the wind, and you could not come within
many yards of the conflagration, because of the heat.
Then there was the mystery of hurdle-making to be
learnt in an April copse, close pollarded, a carpet of
primroses ; and the felling of timber, for which Richard
might be fortunate enough to borrow an axe, and after
an hour's diligent chopping produce a ragged and
shameful stump which his neighbour would have left
clean and smooth with a dozen well-directed strokes.

These were only a few of the constant occupations
which went on in the forest, and in which the boy took
his part, laying up for himself a store of pleasant
memories which he valued the more the older he grew,
and especially when his life came to be spent in far
different surroundings. The charm of the free forest
life, delightful enough to those who first experience it
in manhood, was to Richard Baldock, who reached the
heart of its mysteries at an age when the mind is most
affected by outside impressions, an emotion almost poig-
nant. All the days of his childhood and youth were
gladdened and the deprivations of his home life soothed
by it. The motherhood of nature, to him who had never
known his mother, was no mere phrase, but a very reul



WHEN Richard Baldock reached the ripe age of five
his education in letters was taken in hand. More
fortunate children are lured over the first steps in the
path of learning in many artful and pleasant ways,
make warm friends with the letters of the alphabet on
their nursery floors, and have a nodding acquaintance
with some of them in conjunction before it is time to
show them in their true colours, as task-masters and
not as playmates. Richard went into his father's study
at nine o'clock on the morning of his fifth birthday, as
ignorant of the alphabet as he was of the algebraical
signs, and came out of it an hour afterwards in tears
and black despair.

John Baldock chose little Richard's birthday on
which to commence operations because he was a man
of method and had no glimmering of an idea of the
importance of such festivals in the calendar of child-
hood, having forgotten his own long since. Between the
time of his leaving the University and taking Orders
he had been an assistant master in a public school, a
fair scholar and a painstaking teacher, and he looked
forward to undertaking the early stages of his son's
education with some eagerness, judging him intelligent
and capable of developing quickly under systematic in-
dividual tuition.

Behold, therefore, a small curly-headed figure, dressed
in a holland blouse, seated upright at the table at a



height made convenient by a large volume of the
Septuagint between himself and his chair, gazing with
wide-open, serious blue eyes at a serious of cabalistic
signs in bewildering numbers, each of which he was ex-
pected to greet by name after a single introduction.
The book chosen for his initiation was no lavishly pic-
tured child's alphabet with enlightening representations
of archers and frogs and butchers, but an old church
Bible with large print, his father having a desire, which
he would have been shocked to hear described as senti-
mental, that his first acquaintance with the art of let-
ters should be made through the medium of holy writ.

John Baldock was a votary of the impatient method
of teaching. He had fussed and fumed through many
a Fourth Form lesson in days gone by, wasting a great
deal of his own energy and that of his pupils in a
running commentary on their individual and collective
stupidity, and he treated his little five-year-old son in
the same manner as he had been accustomed to treat
the idle sixteen-year-old hobbledehoys who had col-
lected like a sediment at the bottom of his form twenty
years before. The consequence was that the child
grew first of all bewildered, and then frightened, and
finally, when his father had reduced him to a state in
which he could do nothing with him, he sent him out
of the room in disgrace and bemoaned his own fate in
having a son who was both stupid and obstinate.

Little Richard knew better than to take his trou-
bles to Sarah, and ran out into the garden to Job,
who, although not entirely reliable as a comforter,
possessed arts which could stop tears if he cared to
exercise them. On this occasion he proved more com-
placent than usual.

" Why, Master Richard," he said, cocking an eye



from behind a gooseberry bush which he was stripping,
" you be a-bellowing like a toad with the rheumatics."

Interest in this suggested zoological freak caused a
pause in the lamentations, which Job filled in by an
inquiry as to their cause.

" See here now," he said when this had been con-
vulsively explained to him. " I'll learn you to spell a
word. Now what does this stand for ? " He disposed
a dozen gooseberries carefully on the gravel of the path
in the rough shape of a letter. Richard, his sobs still
shaking him, expressed a timid ignorance.

" Well, if you was to ask me before breakfast,"
said Job, " I should say it was a Har, and I shouldn't
say no different after supper, not if you was to take
me out and shoot me for it. Now, what do you say it

" Capital R," replied Richard, with a flash of mem-
ory, his tears stopped and his interest aroused by this
novel method of tuition.

" Never mind about the capital," said Job. " We
ain't got no call to be so particular, not with goose-
berries. That's a Har Har for Richard, and if
anybody says it ain't, my address is well known and
I'm to be found there regular after six. Now, sup-
posing you was to take two postes and lean 'em to-
gether, and tie another one across 'em, you'd get a
letter, I suppose, and not one of the puzzlers neither."

" That would be an A," said little Richard.

" Nobody knows that better than you," continued
Job, " and now you've got two of 'em. Now if you
was to take and turn my gooseberries so's the Har,
instead of waving his tail abroad, was to tread on it
with his foot, there'd be your letter * B ' and you've
got R.A.B. Now take three rungs of a ladder and


knock away one side, and you'll get a letter ' E ' what
you might be proud to see facing you in a printed
book, and there's your R.A.B.E. Only one more and
,you've got a word as good as any of 'em. Stick a post
in the groun and another one acrost his top, and what's
that letter? " He exemplified it with the aid of two

Richard shook his head. " I've seen it," he said,
" but it's gone out of my head."

" Well, if that ain't as proper a letter T as ever
the greatest scholard in the world wrastled with," said
Job, " there's no obligin' nobody. An' there you've
got 'em. Five good 'uns. R.A.B.E.T. And what
word might that spell, now?"

" I don't know," said Richard. " I don't know

" Well, you will some day, and you'll never forget
as Job first learned you how to spell a word. That
word's raab't. R.A.B.E.T., raab't ; and if you was to
go into the yard and look behind the coachhouse door
I shouldn't wonder but what you was to find a little
raab't in a hutch what's fond o' lettuces, and here's
some to take to him. And another day I'll learn you
how to spell pie." This last witticism was fired at
Richard's retreating back.

Here was success in consolation indeed. The shadow
of the alphabet departed from Richard's path for the
rest of that day, which even Sarah celebrated by the
production of a birthday cake, and he was as happy
as it was his nature to be.

But the next day it began again. Richard showed
unshaking precision in recognizing five out of the
twenty-six letters, but his poor little exasperated brain
refused to hold any more. Again he retired in tears,


Job had taken a day off, but the rabbit was some com-
fort. He was talking to it quite happily, having
shaken off for the time being the memory of his morn-
ing's reverses, when his father came upon him sud-

John Baldock's appearances in his stable-yard were
rare. Richard's fondling words died on his lips, and
he stared up at his father with frightened eyes, crouch-
ing on the ground before the hutch with the rabbit on
his lap.

"Where did you get that from, Richard?" asked
the autocrat.

" Job gave it me for my birfday."

" You should have told me about it. I do not wish
you to keep animals without my knowledge. They con-
sume produce."

"Oh, mayn't I keep my rabbit? I do love my
rabbit ! " cried Richard, his fear of his father driven
out by a greater fear.

" I will not take it away from you now you have it.
But you do not deserve a present, and if I had known
I should have forbidden Job to give you one until you
had pleased me over your lessons. You may keep it
for the present, but I warn you, Richard, that if you
do not amend I shall take it from you. Presents are
not for idle and obstinate children. If I see a marked
improvement in you from to-morrow, you may keep
your rabbit. If not it will be taken from you." And
the man of responsibilities walked off to point out the
way of salvation to a sick parishioner.

Richard, with the terrible fear of losing his first pet
to confuse him still further, made but a sorry ex-
hibition of learning the next morning and the. morn-
ing after that, and on the third day the threat of


sequestration was carried out. " Come with me," said
John Baldock, and he marched off to the stable-yard,
followed by Richard, crying as if his heart would

Job was found washing the wheels of the gig.

" Well, Master Richard, I be ashamed of you, that
I be," he said, when the mission was explained to him.
" Didn't I learn ye five good letters a Monday, and
didn't you suck 'em in like mother's milk ? "

Richard, his anguish receiving a further wrench
from hearing his former ally thus shamelessly siding
against his, howled acquiescence.

" He will not learn them from me," said John Bal-
dock, his face a mask of severity.

" Dear, dear ! " said Job, " what terrible hearing !
Here be I, a poor labouring man, learning of you five
letters in five minutes with a few onripe gooseberries
and a bundle of peasticks, and your father, great
scholar as he is, and a holy man, besides, using his great
powers of mind, and you won't learn nothing. Why,
anybody 'ud think he didn't know the right way to go
to work. That they would."

Richard's trouble, in no wise abated by this speech,
became more vocal than before. " Stop that noise,"
said his father, impatiently ; and, when he did not obey,
being past the stage of self-control, " Then go back to
my room and wait there till I come to you."

" Now this here raab't," pursued Job, evenly, when
the little forlorn figure had slowly withdrawn itself,
" if you was to take and brandish a lettuce in front
of 'er face, and poke it at 'er nose, might go hungry,
and yet raab'ts is not onwilling as a general rule to
consoom lettuces. Them as is bred up on parables, so
to speak, can take 'em or leave 'em."


" Is it true that you taught the child some letters on
Monday? " asked John Baldock.

" Is it true that the child shows acquaintance with
a R and a A and a B and a E and a T whenever he
comes acrost 'em? " asked Job in return.

" He does know those letters, and very few besides."

" Oh, the evil passions of the human 'eart ! The raab't
will consoom a lettuce leaf when insinuated into 'er by
the poor ignorant man at sixteen shillings a week and
refuse a banquet poked at 'er by the great scholard."

" Enough of this folly. The child is obstinate, and
as a punishment you are to take that animal away. He
shall not have it."

Job faced him squarely, with an angry light in his

" Then I takes myself away with it," he said. " You
ought to be ashamed of yourself, that you ought, a
aggravating a bit of a thing like that till he don't
know a A from a ampersand. He's sharp enough, and
so you'd know it, if you wasn't so choked up with your
own Christian pride."

" Leave Christianity alone. What do you know of
it who never set your foot inside a place of worship? "

" I'll set my foot in a place o' worship when them
as is most regular there shows me an example I feel like
follerin'. I wouldn't treat a stupid harse like you treats
your own flesh and blood. Master Richard if I could
'a 'ad a child without his mother he's just the child I
should 'a liked to have 'ad, and I'd 'a made something
of 'im. If you'd 'ad a angel from 'eaven you'd 'a found
something wrong with 'im and took away his raab't
for not doing something you won't let him do. You
don't desarve neither wife nor child, and if you're not
careful he'll be took from you like the other was,"


John Baldock turned and went out of the stable-
yard without a word. He remembered a night five
years before when a prayer wrung out of the depths
of his heart had borne to the skies his conviction of
error. For the first time since the birth of his little
son he asked himself whether he was in danger of re-
peating that error. His conscience, often tortured
with self-questionings, was in much the same state of
timidity as a worried pupil taught to twist his mind
to so much knowledge from outside that he is shy of
obtruding his own. Turned, however, to this question
John Baldock's conscience spoke up with a wealth of
accusations which only increased the more they were
rebutted. He was treading exactly the same road as
had brought him such pain and contrition five years

If only this hard, narrow, upright man had pos-
sessed a trace of tenderness ! The pathetic little figure,
o'erwhelmed by a grief as deep as its cause was trivial,
which met his gaze as he entered his study, might have
touched with anguish the heart of another man on the
way to a conviction of his own injustice. John Bal-
dock had no such feeling. The child's sobs irritated
him. No impulse moved him to caresses or the few
words which would have brought sunshine where now
was heavy cloud. He must still play the schoolmaster.

" Richard," he said gravely, " leave off crying and
listen to me. You know I have not been pleased with
you. I have thought you obstinate and idle, and I have
punished you for being so. You learnt some of your
letters from Job. Why will you not learn them from

The answer was obvious. John Baldock from the
height of his own knowledge had so bullied and bad-


gered his pupil that he had put it out of his power to
learn anything. But Richard was too young to make
the answer. " I don't know, father," he said, tremu-

" Could you learn from someone else, do you think? "

This gleam of light roused the small brain to an

" If you'd let Job teach me my letters, father, with
gooseberries and sticks, I would remember them."

" I do not intend to let Job teach you. He is an
ignorant man, and has other things to do. But it
seems to be useless for me to try to teach you myself
at this stage. You either cannot or will not learn
from me. I must think what is to be done. Learn you
certainly must from somebody. You would not like to'
grow up an ignorant man like Job, would you? "

Now Job was to Richard the embodiment of wisdom,
and Richard was truthful by nature, so he replied,
" I should like to be like Job, father, an' then I could
ride harses."

John Baldock turned away in despair. What was
to be done with a being so lost to the gravity of life
as this? He gave up the large problem and seized on
the small offence.

" What do you mean ? Harses ! " he exclaimed,
irritably. "Don't you know better than that? Say
c horses.' "

Richard repeated the word obediently. "Don't let
me hear you say * harse ' again," commanded his father.
" It is not * harse ' ; it is * horse.' You may go now,
and I shall not want you here to-morrow morning."

"Can I keep my bunny rabbit, father?" pleaded
the small dismissed one. " I do love my rabbit."

His father was visited by a touch of compunction,


the first fruits of his workings of conscience. " You
may keep your rabbit if you are good," he said.

The result of John Baldock's subsequent reflections
was that the child was undoubtedly difficult to man-
age, and that he was in the right to correct him,
severely if need be, but that it was quite possible no,
he would be honest it was probable that he himself
had been somewhat to blame in the matter of lessons.
If so his offence had been purged from Richard's point
of view by the rescinding of his punishment, and with
regard to his own soul's health an important point
this, with John Baldock by a resolve he made to
take no further notice of Job's plain speaking. He
would not have known where to find a substitute had
he lost Job's services, but he ignored that fact. No
great harm had been done, but the mistake very well,
then, if conscience insisted, the fault should not occur
again. There was something wrong in his method of
laying the foundations of learning, however capable
he had proved himself of building on to them when
once laid. What was the solution? Ah, he had it.
He would go and call the next day on Mrs. Meaking.

Mrs. Meaking was the widow of a former Beechurst

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 3 of 29)