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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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think yourself above others. You ought to be proud
to be allowed to have the vicar's son coming here in-
stead of your being had up to the vicarage and told to
wait in the hall till the breakfast's cleared away and
there's a table for you. And here's the child made a
scapegrace of all on account of your pack of sham
genteel whippersnappers what 'ud be treated peaceful
and same as ordinary if it wasn't for the rubbish they're
taught here. I beg to acquaint you, ma'am, that I
shall not let the matter drop here. If I can't get satis-



60 RICHARD BALDOCK

faction out of you, I shall go elsewhere, and we shall
see what we shall see."

Mrs. Meaking saw her way. " You are quite right
to lodge a complaint with me, Miss Wellbeloved," she
said loftily, " for I believe you have no right to the
title of Mrs. though your behaviour in doing so is
most unbecoming in a servant towards a lady. I shall
complain to the proper quarters myself, and if you are
going back to the Vicarage I shall be obliged if you
will kindly tell your master that I am coming to call
on him in about half an hour's time."

" It'll take you that to curl up your best fringe,"
chuckled old Sarah, not at all put out by the rebuke.
" I should make it an hour if I was you, and you can
sit in the kitchen till the master's ready for you." And
with that she turned a meagre black back on Mrs. Mea-
king, and pottered down the garden path, very well
satisfied with herself.

A visit to the mother of the boy who she thought
was the most likely to have thrown the stone produced
results as satisfactory. She got a cup of tea and a
good gossip, during which she retailed to the delight
of herself and her hearer the particulars of her late
conversation with Mrs. Meaking, and not the slightest
reluctance was shown to give full credit to her accusa-
tion. The supposed culprit, who could have proved a
satisfactory alibi if he had been allowed to call up his
witnesses, was dealt with in a thoroughly drastic man-
ner in her presence, and if she had not done little
Richard much good by her advocacy she had spent a
thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, and went back to her
household duties at the Vicarage in high good humour.

Here Mrs. Meaking had preceded her, and, putting a
genuine grievance with more than her customary direct-



MRS. HEARING'S SCHOOL 61

ness, had received promises of redress. TTie vicar
visited the village school the next morning and an-
nounced such pains and penalties if the persecution of
Mrs. Meaking's pupils was continued as to create no
small effect. And the schoolmaster backed him up, so
that after a few dwindling alarums and excursions the
feud died down and did not break out again until a few
years later, when Mrs. Meaking decided to put the
boys of her school into mortar boards. Then there was
trouble, but it no longer affected Richard Baldock.



CHAPTER VI

RICHES INNUMERABLE

IT will have been gathered from what has already been
said that John Baldock's household was established on
no very generous scale. He was indeed a poor man,
having no income outside the rather meagre stipend
attached to his cure and the few guineas he occasion-
ally earned by his pen. Food, clothing, warmth and
shelter there was, and little besides, but in the ample
surroundings of his home Richard never felt the want
of more, or, if he thought about it at all, considered
himself rather rich and important in comparison with
the village boys who were his chief companions. Never-
theless, there grew up within him a conviction that his
life was to be somehow different from that of his father.
Sarah, who for a saint so firmly convinced of her fu-
ture beatitude was singularly alive to the advantages of
temporal wealth, when she unbent so far as to discuss
his probable future with him, always took it for granted
that he would be a rich man, a very rich man. These
discussions were not of course carried on on the plane
of actualities. No small boy considers his future career
otherwise than as an opportunity for boundless play,
or his occupation in life other than as something to
be done with his hands in connection with animals or
machinery or tools of some sort. It was on the pos-
sibilities of infinite self-indulgence in the matter of
houses and servants and horses and carriages that
Sarah loved to dwell, whenever the advantage of a

OS



RICHES INNUMERABLE 63

carpenter's career over that of a coachman or an
engine-driver, or some such problem, was exercising
Richard's brain. She would bring in a few observa-
tions touching on the responsibilities of extreme wealth
towards the poor, for convention's sake, but her mind
dwelt chiefly on the capabilities of limitless riches for
providing an uncomfortable amount of state, and she
would expatiate on this subject at great length, only
bringing her golden imaginings down to earth again
when Richard entered into them with some plan of his
own. Then she would rebuke him for arrogance, and
remind him that riches came only as a reward for
virtue, in which commodity he was singularly lacking.

And yet the result of her imaginative excursions
was to leave him with the impression that great riches
would certainly be within his grasp in that distant time
when he would be grown up. Job would also add some-
thing to the impression by supposing that when Master
Richard was full of money he wouldn't be able to find
a comfortable little crib with a cow and a few pigs
and a pony and a bit of garden for an old man who
had provided strawberries and apples for him in early
youth and had come in the course of years to be past
work; or that there wouldn't likely be room for a
withered old man among all the flunkeys who'd sit
down to a good dinner of beef and beer in the servants'
hall, every day in the week and every week in the year.
Richard, of course, promised comforts innumerable for
the declining years of his childhood's friend, and never
doubted but that he would be in a position to supply
them.

Then there was Mrs. Meaking. Mrs. Mcaking also
had proposals to put forward contingent on great
wealth to be possessed by Richard, and a somewhat



64 RICHARD BALDOCK

exaggerated gratitude on his part towards herself for
services rendered to him in youth. Mrs. Meaking was
to be accommodated with a genteel residence with a
portico door and steps leading up to it, where she
was to be waited on by two maids. She was to have a
neat pony carriage and a groom-gardener in livery,
and her expectations apparently included a permanent
claim on her patron's liberality whenever ladies of title
should be entertained at his hospitable board. " For,"
said Mrs. Meaking, " I should have an evening dress of
rich black silk with lace and a cameo brooch, and should
not disgrace any table either in dress or manners."

Richard fell in amicably with all these various sug-
gestions and even amended them for the benefit of his
would-be pensioners, and in spite of his preference for
the more humble career of bell-ringer and sexton, or
general carrier, or in more expansive moments for that
of "agister " in the forest, acquired the impression that
the line of life marked out for him was that of luxurious
independence.

It was not until he reached the age of ten that any
light was thrown on the subject by his father. The
future then opened itself out to him in a way to set him
casting forward. He had borrowed " Tom Brown's
Schooldays " from the village library, and had been
fascinated with the picture shown in that book of the
common life of work and play led by boys not much
older than himself. Life at a public school, or, rather,
life at Rugby for he scarcely knew the names of any
others seemed to him the only life worth leading, and
he trembled with desire to possess it, only to be sad-
dened by the thought that it was not for him, for the
status of Squire Brown had taken hold of his imagi-
nation as an exalted one, and that of his own father



RICHES INNUMERABLE 65

seemed far beneath it. Then the impression of his
own future as somewhat exalted, too, came to encour-
age him with a hope that it might even include such
delights as those he had been reading of, and he deter-
mined to put a question to his father.

This was a rather daring undertaking, for John
Baldock did not welcome questions unless they had
some bearing on religious matters, when they were
taken as possible indications of the striving of the
Spirit. With the guile bred in the most transparent
child's nature by constant association with unnatural
standards of life, Richard would sometimes seek to
bend his father's mind toward amiability by affecting
an interest in things he cared as little about as most
children, using words and glib expressions which had a
meaning to those from whom he heard them, although
none to him. He did so on this occasion, putting a
profound question about the universality of grace,
which had cost him much anxious mental preparation
and had already been experimentally propounded to
Sarah, who had waded far out of her depth in en-
deavouring to fish up an answer to it. It was so far
successful in that it did not bring down upon him a
stern rebuke for the light handling of holy things, and
the vicar answered it gravely and categorically, leav-
ing Richard at leisure to project his mind in a pleasant
wandering among the cloud-buildings of an imaginary
Rugby Close. When the subject had been discussed a
little further, Richard being very careful not to dis-
sipate the good impression he had made by venturing on
to ground he had not sufficiently explored, his father
said :

" I am glad you have opened up your heart to me
on these matters, Richard, It is my only wish for



66 RICHARD BALDOCK

you that you should regard them as all-important.
Hitherto I have seen little in you but lightness and
frivolity, and I own that I had begun to fear that it
was not God's will that you should come to a knowl-
edge of Him whose awful vengeance you are so heed-
lessly laying up for yourself." (This to a child of ten
years old of the Being who had given him life!) "I
now have a faint hope that this may not be so, and
that you may yet undergo that complete change of heart
without which all earthly prosperity is dust and ashes."

It appeared that Richard had learned his lesson too
well, and he was somewhat ashamed of his success, for
he was not a hypocrite at heart, and had a tender con-
science, though his father would have been surprised to
hear it. He became, moreover, a little anxious as to
whether he possessed enough skill to turn the conversa-
tion from these deep channels towards an inquiry di-
rected to so mundane an object as a school career. But
to his surprise his father continued:

" Your attitude encourages me to allude to something
I should not otherwise have touched on at present, al-
though the time is coming when something must be
said. You are perhaps aware, Richard, that I am a
poor man a very poor man as far as worldly goods are
concerned, although rich beyond counting in the treas-
ure that is incorruptible. I could not even afford to
give you the education I had myself, nor do anything
towards what would be called starting you in life. I
could only go on teaching you myself, as I am doing
to the best of my ability now, and place you in some
occupation which demanded neither money nor an ex-
pensive education for entrance. It is true that you
could serve God in whatever position in life you might
be placed, and the majority of your fellow creatures



RICHES INNUMERABLE 67

would still not be so well off in their upbringing as
yourself. But I believe it to be the duty of a parent,
however little store he may set upon worldly advance-
ment, not to reject it for his children if it appears to
be the will of God that it should come to them; and,
as far as you are concerned, the wealth that has not
been granted to me will be provided for you from
another quarter."

This might have been interesting to Richard if he
had been ten or fifteen years older ; but he had no wish
at that time to possess the sort of wealth that is spoken
of as his father was speaking of it then. A silver coin,
however small, presented to him with pleasing sudden-
ness, would have caused him great delight, but he was
old enough to know that, however much money was to
be provided for him in the future, it would be from,
quite a different mint from that in which were coined the
occasional coppers he knew so well how to deal with
in the present. His father's information had so far
left him cold, but he listened with eagerness for an
improbable mention of the word school, which he had
not as yet, in his youthful inexperience, connected with
the word education. His father went on:

" You know, I suppose, that your Aunt Henrietta,
who is also your godmother, has taken a great interest
in you ever since your birth ? "

Richard assented, but the statement was news to
him. He had never set conscious eyes on his Aunt
Henrietta, and she, so far as he knew, had never taken
the smallest trouble to become acquainted with him.
She had, it is true, presented him at his christening
with a heavy silver mug, which had been described to
him by Sarah, but which he had actually never seen.
She had followed this up a few years later with an



68 RICHARD BALDOCK

expensively bound Bible and Prayer Book, which his
father had also impounded not so much, probably,
because he thought they were too good to use, as on
account of the silver cross which formed part of the
decoration of both a symbol upon which John Bal-
dock looked with profound suspicion. Sometimes too,
although not invariably at Christmas, or about the
date of his birthday, his father would show him a piece
of crackly white paper, with the curt announcement,
" This is for you from your Aunt Henrietta " ; when
he would put it away with no further words said, leav-
ing Richard with the conviction that if his Aunt Hen-
rietta could not do better than that as a dispenser of
gifts she must be a singularly mean and unimagina-
tive person. In fact, in spite of her spasmodic calling
to remembrance of his existence, Richard's Aunt Hen-
rietta had not hitherto been the means of providing
him with a single moment of pleasure, or, indeed, of
interest in her, and he was consequently not a little
surprised to hear of the interest she was now alleged to
have taken in him.

Also a little incredulous; but his incredulity was
immediately swept away by his father's next statement,
which was to the effect that when he was of a proper
age he was to be sent to a public school at her ex-
pense, and after that to the University. The University
meant nothing to him, and he did not even connect it
with Oxford or Cambridge, whose inhabitants he be-
lieved to have no other purpose in life than to row boat-
races, dressed in dark blue and light blue respectively.
But his delight may be imagined when he learnt that
the school selected for him was none other than the
paradise of his late dreams, and that he was to be sent
there in about three years' time.



RICHES INNUMERABLE 69

Well, if his Aunt Henrietta had it in her power to
bring about such miracles as these, it struck Richard
that she might be a person worth learning something
about, although he had not hitherto suspected it. His
father having completed a short excursus on the temp-
tations of school and college life, and dismissed him, he
sought out Sarah, whom he found engaged in " count-
ing the wash." As she was quite unapproachable on
such an occasion, he left her with " one, two, three
p'r of ," and went into the garden. Here he dis-
covered Job pruning a young apple tree, and not dis-
inclined for conversation.

" Job," he said. " Do you know what my Aunt Hen-
rietta is going to do for me? "

"Do for 'ee?" replied Job. "No, that I don't.
But whatever it be I reckon it won't bring her to
poverty a day sooner."

Richard was too excited to endeavour to disengage
the meaning underlying this utterance. " She's going
to send me to school," he said, " to Rugby. Have you
ever heard of Rugby, Job? "

" Have I ever heerd of Rugby ? " echoed Job, who
obviously had not. " Ah, you may well ask. And
that's where she's agoing for to send 'ee? "

" Yes," said Richard. " And she has taken an inter-
est in me ever since I was born."

" Have she now? " replied Job in his most interested
manner. " We live from year to year and rise up and
lay down, and what we don't know to-day we shall learn
to-morrow."

"Have you ever seen my Aunt Henrietta, Job?"

" She came to this house of mirth and gladness once
in my experience. She didn't come again. The reli
gious dooties was too light. It didn't soot 'er."



70 RICHARD BALDOCK

" Is she a very religious woman, then ? " inquired
Richard.

"Religious?" repeated Job. "There's a question."

" How old is my Aunt Henrietta ? When did she
come here? How long did she stop? What is she like?
Did she talk to you much ? "

Job stooped down to pick up the shoots he had cut
off, put them into his garden basket, and walked on
to the next tree. He acted with extreme deliberation
and an unmistakable air of offence. Richard selected
one from his batch of questions and offered it again
in the form of an observation.

" I expect she would like to come out in the garden
and talk to you." The tightness of Job's lips relaxed,
and he settled once more to speech.

" The giddiness of converse in the house lyin' some-
times heavy on her conscience, it is the truth that she
did refresh herself occasional by sensible talk along o'
me. There is one what ornaments the upstairs floors
inside she might 'a spoke with, but the amazement of it
was she didn't take kindly to the party alluded to. A
dratted old fool was the observation made at the time,
or as near as I can get to the language of palaces.
There must have been a mistake somewhere, for it is
well beknown that the party in question is wonderful
wise and bound straight for a higher place. So she
do say herself, and who should know better."

" What did you talk about? " asked Richard, anxious
that the conversation should not be shunted on to the
side track of a diatribe against Sarah, entertaining
as he knew that subject could be made under Job's
manipulation.

" Our converse was varied. It was carried on with
a view to improving ourselves. I was asked questions.



RICHES INNUMERABLE 71

Anyone might think you was fairly up to the mark in
putting queries. But, bless you, where you'd dig up a
spadeful, she'd fill a barrow. Sometimes I was per-
mitted to answer one. More gen'ly I'd only got to
say nothink, and hear 'er answerin' of 'em 'erself. Oh,
we was wonderful good friends. You might 'a thought
we'd growed on the same tree all our lives."

" I expect she liked you, Job," said Richard, diplo-
matically, " or she wouldn't have wanted to come and
talk to you so much."

" Like me! I tell you, don't I? We might 'a bin a
couple of hob cherries growed on the same stalk. I
was a character, she said. There's somethink it don't
fall to the lot of every man to be told about 'imself.
And I don't ask nothing extra in wages for it, neither.
She could stand for hours hearing me talk. So she
said, and I dessay she could 'ave if she'd ever come to
the end of what she 'ad to say herself. But I goes to
bed at half-past eight reg'lar, and she seldom come out
before four o'clock in the arternoon. Why, I was to
give notice here, and go and be her head-gardener where
she lives, at wages what a lord might envy, and a cot-
tage an' lights an' coals an' garden produce an' all,
same as the fine gentleman up at the Manor, only
better, and my holding was to be bought for golden
money, and put in the bank. Bless you, we fixed it up
most amiable. She was going to write to me the mo-
ment she got back 'ome."

"And did she?" asked Richard, innocently.

Job turned on him. " Now look 'ere, Master Rich-
ard," he said in quite a different tone. " If you think
I got nothing better to do than to stand 'ere with my
'ands in my pockets and answer a pack of nonsensical
questions aimed at me as if I was a Aunt Sally at a



72 RICHARD BALDOCK

fair, you're mistook. Just you turn round an' show
me the patch on the back of your breeches, and walk
off without no more ado."

There was no patch on the garments mentioned, but
this was one of Job's figures of speech, and Richard
took it without offence and removed himself to another
part of the garden. He had something to think about.
There seemed to be a hint of unreliability in his Aunt
Henrietta according to Job's experience of her, and an
unpleasant thought assailed him, that it would be very
terrible if he were to hear nothing more about the
schemes for his welfare than he gathered Job had heard
about those proposed for him. But the thought did
not trouble him long. His father had stood sponsor
for her in the matter and that made it a certainty.

Richard's appetite was now whetted by what he had
heard from Job, for further news about his Aunt Hen-
rietta. He lay in wait for an amiable mood on the
part of Sarah, confirmed it by the small arts he was
accustomed to practise on her, and led her into a dis-
cussion on the situation. She was at her needlework,
seated at the table underneath the window of the
nursery, and Richard was in a chair by the fire with
a book on his knee and exercising a strong control
over himself not to kick the high fender, a misde-
meanour to which his youthful restlessness rendered
him liable and which on this occasion might disastrously
have stopped the flow of Sarah's tongue.

" Ah ! " she said, holding up her needle to the light
and, after poking her thread once or twice into cir-
cumambient space, fitting it home through the eye,
" it's a great thing is schooling, though it won't make
up for a stony heart, and them as are without it can
partake of grace full and free, thanks be. Never you



RICHES INNUMERABLE 73

forget that, Master Richard, and remember as a proud
look and a high stomach is not acceptable and tempta-
tions to such sent to resist."

This small dose of powder having been administered
the jam followed in the shape of much interesting light
thrown upon Aunt Henrietta's character and appear-
ance, for Sarah was fond of a gossip and when thor-
oughly set only interrupted herself occasionally to
bring her conversation into line with her sense of re-
ligious propriety. She also cleared up the situation
somewhat with regard to Richard's expectations, of
which she had given many a previous hint, as has been
explained.

"Pray, don't think," she said, "that this is the
first I've heard of the schooling and what's to come
after, though my place to acquaint you before you'd
heard it otherwise it was not. You must know that
your aunt only came here once when yer poor dear

mother was exp leastways when you was born.

Being rich beyond the dreams of average, the Christian
simplicity of the 'ome was not what she'd bin accus-
tomed to, and I'm not saying but what there was some
words between us, nor that I was used to being spoke to
as if I was dirt and didn't know my duties, which albeit
is a thing known as well as I do. But we're told to
forgive, and forgive I have and make excuses too, for
them as is high in the world has no cause to hide their
feelings and opinions same as the lowly, and it will all
be made up by and by."

" Is my aunt very high in the world ? " asked
Richard.

" Riches innumerable," replied Sarah, " and horses
and carriages and building barns in plenty, but apt to
forget that this night shall her soul be required of



74 RICHARD BALDOCK

thee, and neither chick nor child of 'er own to leave it to
'cept her only sister's what she loved with a love sur-
passing the love of women."

" My mother was her only sister, wasn't she? " asked
Richard.

" I heard myself," pursued Sarah, without replying
directly to the question, " the arrangements made
when she acquainted yer father with what her inten-
tions was. It was after the funeral but there, I never
have and never will 'old conversation with you about
those sorrowful days, you being a weak infant and de-
pendent on me for bringing up, which well I knew what
was required of me though told otherwise to my face.
I had occasion to pass the dining-room door, and
though listening to words not meant for my ears is
what I'd never stoop to, being sensibly converted an'
settin' loose to idle vanities, part of the conversation
obtruded itself on me. ' Mind, I make myself respon-
sible for the child, John,' she was saying. * He's all



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 5 of 29)