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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I have in the next generation,' she says, * an' for the
sake of 'er who's gone he shall come after me same as
if he was my own. You and me knows each other now,'
she says she was one to speak her mind straight out
* an' we're not likely to get on together, an' needn't
see more of one another nor we can help. But the boy
shall go to school an' college,' she says, * and when I
die, which I don't intend to, not for many years yet '
forgetting that immortality is not conferred along o'
this world's goods, but we brought nothing into this
world and the same we shall carry out * when I die,'
she says, * he shall inherit the earth,' as it might be.
Soon after that she left, and took her traypsin' over-
dressed hussy of a maid, with all the airs of Jezebel
and not much better in character as I'll be bound,


along with her. The pleasures of the world drew her.
Our feet was too firm set on the heavenly road for her
to keep us company, for them as is blessed with riches
is apt to take life light, not thinking but what things'll
be the same to all eternity, instead of hell fire as their
everlasting portion."

" Then wasn't she good? " asked Richard 1 , inno-

" Good," repeated Sarah. " How you do talk to be
sure! Who said she wasn't good? I hope I know my
place better, Christian though I be, to say any such
thing of a lady in her station. And haven't you learnt
by this time that being good won't save you from
hell fire? If you haven't you had ought, that's all I
can say."

This curious theological paradox had been dinned
into Richard with some insistence, though the way of
stating it was Sarah's own. " She wasn't saved then? "
he amended his question.

" Drat the child ! " exclaimed Sarah impatiently.
" Haven't you heard me say ' Judge not, that ye be
not judged,' times without number? "

" But you judge me," retorted Richard. " You
say often enough that I am not saved."

" No more you ain't," replied Sarah tartly, " and
won't be if you go on the way you're going now."

The way he was going seemed at any rate unlikely
to lead to further disclosures from Sarah, and Richard
relinquished the subject for the present, but turned
over in his mind what he had heard as he sat by the
fire with " Tom Brown's Schooldays " on his knee, mix-
ing up in his dreams of the places and characters dealt
with in those pages the figure of his aunt and her ap-
parent inconsistencies.



PARADINE PARK, the seat of the late Joseph Mog-
geridge, Esq. (J.P., D.L., in his leisure hours, and
railway contractor in his more strenuous moments),
and now in the uncontrolled possession of his widow,
was situated within fifteen miles of the Bank of England,
and its lodge gates within three of the town of Sandley.
Sandley, of which Mr. Moggeridge had been thrice
mayor in his earlier days when he was already a rich
man but had not yet attained the golden dreams of his
youth or the delights of landed possessions, was so con-
veniently placed with regard to London that the great
city had stretched out greedy tentacles of brick and
slate and pavement towards it and was gradually draw-
ing it into the ring of its outer suburbs. But Paradine
Park itself was in beautiful and as yet untouched coun-
try, and Mr. Moggeridge had been able to play the
landed proprietor every morning and evening, on Sun-
days and sometimes on Saturdays, and, with the loss of
only three quarters of an hour spent in travelling twice
a day, carry on his great business operations in the
city of London during the rest of his time.

Mr. Moggeridge had been wont to expatiate on the
rural remoteness which he enjoyed when he had cast off
for the day or for the week the cares of his business
operations, but to Richard Baldock, rolling along in
state in his aunt's barouche behind a pair of high step-
ping Thays, with the blue backs of a coachman and a



footman high above and in front of him, the country
which he was passing through appeared quite shame-
fully sullied and unworthy of the name of country at
all. There were lamp-posts and kerbstones, trim
hedges and villa walls. The din of London, which he
had lately passed through for the first time in his life,
still rang in his ears, attuned to the great silences of
the forest, and could by no means be shaken off in
these frequented roads, smugly aping the ways of coun-
try lanes, as the late Mr. Moggeridge, in broadcloth
and thin-soled boots, had aped the ways of a country
gentleman after business hours.

Richard was now thirteen years of age. A com-
munication, more in the nature of a peremptory sum-
mons than an invitation, had reached Beechurst
Vicarage two days before, in consequence of which he
had been sent off to make the acquaintance of his aunt
and godmother, who was to do so much for him in the
future, but had done so little in the past that he may
be forgiven for feeling no small qualms of uncertainty
as to his coming reception. Already, his unaccustomed
position was breeding uneasiness, and, country-bred
mouse as he was, his thoughts were homing back to the
quiet amplitude of the forest which had grown to be
part of his life.

But after a three-mile drive along roads half suburb
and half country, the carriage drew up at a little rustic
lodge standing among pines and beeches, and an unpre-
tentious gate opening into a sandy road. The gate
was unlocked to admit it, and instantly the disturbance
of spirit cast by the shadow of town and crowd was
changed into the contentment of nature in which the
boy had been nurtured. The carriage rolled between
high banks of rhododendron down into a hollow and up


again, past a pond, guarded by white posts, on which
an angry swan was sailing, protecting his lady, who
was hatching her eggs somewhere out of sight under
the bushes. It was springtime, and the larches were
showing tassels of vivid green against the dark back-
ground of pines, and here and there an early rhododen-
dron was a blaze of colour. They came out by and by
into the open, and the horses trotted up a gentle rise
between undulating stretches of green sward where the
rabbits were feeding. They drove for nearly a mile
and at last reached the top of a hill crowned by a clump
of tall beeches towards which the wood-pigeons were
swinging home to roost. The road dropped sharply
again, and at the foot of the hill, still at some distance,
could be seen a large plain house of white stone, front-
ing a broad gravel sweep and the grassy rise beyond it.
On the farther side of the long line of roof the hills
rose again in field and woodland, and at their foot lay
the village, with the red roof and square tower of its
church and groups of cottage chimneys showing
among the trees. Mr. Moggeridge had been justified
in his choice of a country house. None within such
easy reach of London and business could have been
more pleasantly situated.

The carriage drew up in front of the hall door, and
with the assistance of the footman from the box, a
butler, and another footman who appeared from within
the house, Richard was extracted from the carriage
and introduced into a large square hall, where he stood,
a small shy figure in rough country-made clothes, his
cap in his hand, wondering what in the world he was
to do next.

There appeared from one of the many doors opening
out of the hall another boy, a year or so older than


himself and a good deal taller. He was a good-looking
boy, dark as to eyes, hair, and skin, and carried him-
self with an easy self-assurance, as if he were quite
aware of his good looks and rather expected them to
be noticed. He was very well dressed, and altogether
showed as great a contrast to Richard in appearance
and manner as it would have been possible to find.

" Hullo, Baldock," he said, coming forward to shake
hands. " I'm Laurence Syde. I'm staying here with
my father. Mrs. Moggeridge has gone up to rest or
something. She asked me to look after you. Tea's
ready. Would you like to go and wash your hands or
will you come and have your grub now? "

Richard selected the latter alternative, and Lau-
rence led him into a large pleasant room facing the
gardens on the other side of the house, where a repast
that would have been called sumptuous by a novelist
of the period and not without reason was spread
out on a round table.

" Jolly room, this," said Laurence. " You and I
are to have it to ourselves to do what we like in, and
we'll have some good larks here. Hullo ! stale bread
again ! I'm not going to stand it." He went up to the
fireplace and rang the bell. " John is the name of the
fellow who is to look after you and me," he said.
" Don't you stand any nonsense from him ; it never
does with servants they get careless. Look here ! "
(this to a footman who had entered the room), " what's
the meaning of this? I told you I wouldn't have stale
bread yesterday. Take this awav and bring another

" There's no new bread in the house, sir," said

" Oh, nonsense ! That's what you said yesterday.


You just go and find some, and don't come back with-
out it."

The footman left the room with the condemned loaf
to inform the cook that " young me lord was at his
antics again," but to return with a fresh loaf as new
and indigestible as could be desired. Laurence kept up
an easy flow of conversation as he poured out tea,
carved a chicken as cleverly as if he had been a surgeon,
and played the host with great tact and assurance.
Richard, gradually coming into possession of his scat-
tered senses, felt his spirits rising. This was a delight-
ful companion; and surely a house that afforded
promise of great entertainment, where everything was
conducted on such a scale of luxury and profusion.
The forest and the shabby vicarage began to retire into
the background of his consciousness.

" There's a pony each for us," said Laurence, " and
a jolly little cart. I should have driven in to meet
you, only the carriage was taking my father to the
station, and I thought we might have the ponies for a
ride after tea. Can you ride, by the bye?"

" Yes," said Richard ; " I ride a lot at home."

The older boy, leaning back easily in his chair, his
hospitable labours over, allowed himself a critical ex-
amination of his companion. His eyes were cold,
but the affability of his manner underwent no

" Got a pony? " he asked.

" Yes ; I've got two," answered Richard.

Laurence's eyes expressed interest, perhaps a shade
of incredulity. " How many horses has your father
got in his stable? " he asked.

" Oh, there's only one old forest pony," said Richard,
" and she's generally turned out. And so are mine.


They're very rough, but one of them won't be bad
when I've finished breaking him."

"Can you break ponies?"

" Yes ; I do it a good deal. That's how I got these
two colts breaking ponies in for other people. They
thought they weren't worth much and let me have
them; but I think one of them won't be bad."

" We'll see how you get on with these here. One of
them's rather a little devil. Grant, the coachman,
wanted me to ride the other, but I wouldn't have it.
I took him out his name's Ginger and gave him a
walloping. He nearly had me off two or three times,
but I managed to stick on; and I tell you I gave him
snuff. Now I've shown him I'm his master I don't
mind taking the other this evening, and you can see
what you can make of him. Come on, let's go and
change. I told them to be ready at a quarter to six,
and it's half-past five now. Your room's next to mine.
I'll show you. I expect John has put out your things ;
if not, we'll ring and make him."

Laurence led the way upstairs. Richard followed
him, at a loss how to explain that his only riding
clothes were those in which he also walked and sat
and pursued the various avocations of a day which
began at five or six o'clock in the morning, or even
earlier, and ended at about nine, without any change
of costume.

" I've got a pair of gaiters," he said, diffidently,
" but I didn't bring them."

" What a pity ! Didn't you bring any breeches,

" No."

" I could have lent you a pair of gaiters. I'm
going to wear boots. But you wouldn't like to wear


them with trousers ; they look so beastly. You'll have
to ride as you are, and you can send for your things
to-morrow. In fact, we'll ride to the post office and
send a telegram. Come into my room while I change."

Richard followed him into a spacious bedroom and
seated himself in a chair by the window while his new
friend completed an elaborate toilet, which included
cord breeches, high boots of patent leather and silver-
plated spurs, talking all the time; while Richard, not
called upon to take any very important part in the
conversation, looked on with amazement, wondering in
his simple mind that such things could be.

" Now I'm ready," said the young dandy at last,
drawing on a pair of neat dogskin gloves. " Come

Richard felt a kind of shame such as he had never
before experienced and could not analyse; but some-
thing warned him that it was not a feeling to be en-
couraged. He mentally gave himself a little shake.

" Got your gloves? " inquired Laurence as they went
down the broad staircase.

" I haven't got any gloves," replied Richard,
promptly ; " and it's no good riding to a post office
to telegraph for my riding clothes, because I haven't
got any. I don't mind what clothes I ride in."

The other boy stared at him. Richard met his look,
and for an instant they measured one another.

" Well, I like to look like a gentleman, whatever
I'm doing," said Laurence.

" I don't suppose it will make much difference to
the ponies," replied Richard.

A chestnut pony and a black one rather tall were
being led up and down the drive in front of the hall


" Norah for me to-day," said Laurence to the groom.
" This gentleman is going to ride Ginger if he can "
(this under his breath). "You'd better take his stir-
rups in a couple of holes and let mine out."

Richard was making friends with the black pony.

" What a little beauty ! " he said. " I've never ridden
a pony like this before."

Laurence's lip took on the least little curve. " You
can have the chestnut if you like," he said ; " she's

" No, thank you," said Richard. " You said I could
have this one."

" Oh, you can if you like, but he'll probably kick
you off. He wouldn't try it on with me again. I've
got the better of him."

They mounted and rode off up the hill on the grass,
Laurence spurring his pony to a wild gallop regard-
less of rabbit-holes, Richard holding his in hand, not
without great difficulty. The groom looked after him
from under his hand.

" That's a pretty way to treat horseflesh," he said to
John, who was standing at the door. " He's got no
more idea of what he's up to than a circus-rider."

" 'E don't 'alf brag, neither, do 'e? " said John, re-
lapsing for the moment into his native vernacular.
" 'E was full up of 'ow 'e'd lathered 'is pony when 'e
came back yesterday."

" It's either their own neck or the 'orse's spirit that's
broke with that sort," said the groom. " 'Go's the
little 'un? It ain't the first time he's been on a pony's

* c The missus's nephew," replied John. " 'E'll come
after 'er, so they say."

The groom laughed a sardonic laugh, and went back


to the stable-yard. " They're blamed clever," he threw
over his shoulder.

Laurence pulled up his pony under the beeches at the
top of the rise and turned around. Richard was com-
ing up to him, leaning well back, trying with all his
might to get control over his excited mount.

" Why did you go off like that? " he spoke up when
he had reached the top, still hard at work with his
fretting pony. He was a different creature from the
shy boy of the last half-hour sitting silent under the
weight of his companion's assumptions. Even Lau-
rence's unaccustomed eye admitted his horsemanship.

" Just to give them a breather," he said, half apolo-

" A breather," echoed Richard, scornfully. " I've
never seen anybody ride like that, except once on the
sands at Brigmouth on a hired screw."

Laurence's face flushed ; but true to the code of
boyhood, he took second place under obvious superior-
ity, and learnt more as to the proper handling of ponies
during the rest of the evening's ride than he had ever
known before. Richard was in his element. His diffi-
dence had vanished ; he was leader for the time being,
and held the advantage he had gained quite naturally.
" You ought to ride very well," he said, as they were
nearing home. " You've got a pretty good seat, and
I should think you might have good hands when you've
learnt how to use them."

Laurence's spirit asserted itself. " I've got the
pluck, anyhow," he said. " I took on Ginger the first
day I came here."

" Oh, pluck ! " said Richard ; " that was ignorance."

When they dismounted before the house their posi-
^tions were instantly reversed. Laurence strode into the


hall with the air of a cavalry officer, and threw down
his hat and gloves and hunting crop on to a table.
Richard followed him meekly.

" We'll go and see if Mrs. Moggeridge is in the
morning-room," said Laurence.

Mrs. Moggeridge was writing letters in a room the
embodiment of the taste of the age, or, rather, of that
small part of society which had come under the influ-
ence of what was known as the aesthetic movement. It
was the era of lankness and yearning, of dadoes and art
shades, of lilies and sunflowers and peacocks' feathers ;
of furniture more objectionable .even than the solid pre-
tentious ugliness of the mid-Victorian years; and Mrs.
Moggeridge's morning-room reflected its ultimate ex-
pression. The cult, however, as far as she was con-
cerned, ended with her surroundings and stopped short
at the point at which she would have offered up herself
as a sacrifice. She was still the plump, active woman
she had been thirteen years before looked, indeed, very
little older, and knew better than to dress herself in
trailing garments of colours which would not have
suited her complexion, or to adopt a languor of deport-
ment which was far from representing her attitude of

" Ah, so here you both are," she said as the boys
entered the room. " And you are Richard, my dear
little sister's boy. Come here and let me look at you.
Yes, you are like her, but not very like; and I do not
see much of your father in you. He and I are not
very good friends, and I cannot pretend to be sorry.
Kiss me. You are a good-looking boy ; but, good
gracious, child, what clothes You look like a yokel.
No, that is not so. You look like a gentleman; but
gentlemen should be well dressed. Look at Laurence


really a little beau. You must be turned out in the
same way. I will see to it. You must make yourself
happy here. You can have everything you want to
amuse yourself with ; you have only to ask for it. Now
run away, both of you. I must finish these notes, and
then go and dress. You will both come in to dessert."

" We've got an hour before we need dress," said
Laurence, when the boys had retired. " Let's go and
have a game of billiards. Can you play?"

" No ; but I should like to learn, if you'll teach me."

" I'll teach you ; but you'll have to be careful not to
cut the cloth."

The magnificent Laurence summoned a footman to
light the lamps and take the cloth off the table, and
would probably have kept him to mark for them if the
game had been an ordinary one. When the first con-
centrative minutes of the lesson were over the boys
began to talk.

" Where do you go to school ? " asked Laurence.

" I haven't been to school yet. I'm going to Rugby
next year."

" I'm going to Eton next half. It's a much better

Richard opened his eyes. " Better than Rugby ! " he

" Yes, of course ; everybody knows that."

"Have you read 'Tom Brown's Schooldays'?"

" Yes. It isn't a bad book, and I dare say it isn't
a bad place. But nobody would choose to go there if
they had a chance of going to Eton."

" Well, I would. I'd rather go there than any other

" What do you know about other schools ? Do you
know any Eton fellows ? "


" No."

" Well, then, how can you possibly tell? I know lots.
My father was there and my grandfather and my
uncles, and most of the fellows at my private school
go there. Eton is the school for gentlemen. The
others are all much rougher."

" Tom Brown's father was a gentleman, and old
Brooke, oh, and all of them."

" Oh, yes, gentlemen of a sort. But most of the
really big people go to Eton most of the peers' sons
and that sort. It's much more expensive than any other

" I'm glad I'm not going there, then. I'd rather go
to a school where they are rougher. And I think
Rugby's the first school in England."

" It's no good arguing with you. You don't know
anything about it. You said so just now. You talk
as if you'd never heard of Eton, and everybody knows
it's the first school in England. Winchester and Har-
row come next. Rugby's a long way behind. But I
don't want to quarrel about it. You can think your
own way if you like till you find out better. I sup-
pose your pater was there, wasn't he? "

" No. But my grandfather was. Aunt Henrietta is
going to send me there and to Oxford afterwards."

" I'm going to Cambridge just for a year or so,
because all my family goes there. I'm going into the
Guards, so I shan't stay there long. But Oxford's
all right. Lots of good people go there. Who is Aunt
Henrietta? Mrs. Moggeridge? "

" Yes."

" That's rather rum. I suppose your father isn't
very well off."

" No. He's a clergyman."


" Is Mrs. Moggeridge going to leave you her
money ? "


Poor little Richard, a young child in years and a
baby in knowledge of the world of men, giving his
answer in all innocence and good faith, how could he
tell the meanings it would convey to the sophisticated
young worldling who was interrogating him?

" Phew ! " whistled Laurence. " You're not going to
do badly for yourself. Are you quite sure? Is it
all coming to you ? "

" Oh, I don't know. I haven't thought about it.
But she's going to send me to Rugby and to Oxford."

" Well, you're a lucky young dog if it's true. Come
on, we must bunk. It's time to dress."

Richard went upstairs, rather unwillingly. He sup-
posed his Sunday suit of pepper and salt would meet
the requirements of the case, although he was not quite
comfortable about it, remembering Laurence's late
elaborate toilet. However, it was the best he could do,
and he was somewhat relieved to get into his bedroom
where a bright fire was burning, in itself an experience,
to find it laid out on his bed. He went into Laurence's
room when he had effected the change and found that
young gentleman in the stage of having his boots pulled
off by the accommodating John.

" You're surely not going down like that," said
Laurence. " There are a lot of people dining. Haven't
you got any evening clothes ? "

" No," said Richard, defiantly. " I'm not used to
such a lot of dressing up."

Laurence faced round on him. The footman had just
left the room. " Look here, young Baldock," he said.
" Just you stop it. You're better than me at horses,


I don't mind saying. But in everything else you're
just an ignorant young country bumpkin. You've not
got the least idea how gentlemen behave or dress or
what schools they go to or anything about them. If
you like to go down to dinner in a country house
dressed like a ploughboy in his Sunday suit it's your
own lookout. But it's a bit too much to come and crow
over me about it as if you were doing the right thing
and I wasn't."

" I'm not crowing over you," replied Richard. " It's
you that's trying to crow over me about clothes and
being rich and things like that, which don't matter."

" Well, you'll soon see if they matter or not. You
just take a hint, my coxy young friend, and keep your
ploughboy notions to yourself, or you'll get into
trouble over them. I should think even at Rugby
they expect you to look more like a gentleman than
you do."

Indeed there was some foundation for the young
dandy's strictures. Richard was an attractive-looking
boy, with fair curly hair, honest blue eyes and a
freckled face, but his ready-made clothes an ill-fitting

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 6 of 29)