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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jacket worn over a low collar, knickerbockers ending
some little way below the knee and not strapped, a
flannel shirt ill-disguised at the neck by a wisp of
black ribbon, coarse black stockings and cheap patent
leather slippers did not show him to advantage. He
felt his own deficiencies as Laurence led the way down-
stairs in his neat Eton suit and broad white collar, and
was by no means at his ease as he entered the dining-
room, where a dozen or more people, dressed as it
seemed to him in every variety of unfamiliar splendour,
were sitting at table, eating and drinking, talking and
laughing all at the same time. The spacious room,


whose interest was centred in the brightly lit flower-
laden table, the servants moving quietly but busily
sbout their duties, the chattering diners, commonplace
as they were to everyone present but himself, struck
Richard with wonder and deep shyness. He would al-
most have given up his dreams of Rugby to find himself
back again in his poorly furnished nursery at home,
eating his supper of bread and cheese, with only Sarah
in her most uncompromising mood to bear him company.
But there was no drawing back. He followed Lau-
rence up the room.

Mrs. Moggeridge was sitting at the head of the
table, resplendent in a dress of pink silk, bediamonded
and otherwise bedecked. She had on her right an eld-
erly man of immense spruceness, like enough in feature
to Laurence to enable Richard at one frightened glance
to recognize him as his father. Laurence was detained
at the foot of the table by a shrill, admiring lady.
Richard crept quaking to the side of his aunt and
stood by an empty chair till he was ordered to occupy it.
A spasm went over Mrs. Moggeridge's face as she took
in his appearance and bade him sit down, but she said
nothing further for the moment.

" So this is the nephew, is it? " remarked her neigh-
bour, pleasantly. " Dug out of the forest wilds, eh?"
His keen eye, surrounded by innumerable crow's-feet,
seemed to take in everything, and made Richard, sen-
sitized by Laurence's diatribe, wince.

" What an oversight ! " said Mrs. Moggeridge, her
head turned from him, but her words quite plainly
heard. " I might have known he would be sent to me
like this. It is deplorable. I ought to have seen to it.'*
Then to Richard, under her breath, " You must not
come into the drawing-room to-night. Slip off quietly


when the ladies leave the room. You shall have some
proper clothes to-morrow."

No one took any further notice of him. His left-
hand neighbour, after a glance of surprise, devoted him-
self to his fruit and claret. He was a heavy man, with
a massive jowl and black side whiskers, and seemed to
be of opinion that the dinner table was a place for eat-
ing and drinking, for the tide of talk and laughter
flowed past him and left him unmoved, placidly munch-
ing. Mrs. Moggeridge sparkled and effervesced with a
decisive brilliance. The grey-haired, military-looking
man on her right paid easy court to her. Richard, his
soul blank and sore within him, yet observant, felt a dis-
like to him, although he admitted to himself that he was
the finest-looking man present and a contrast to the
others round the table, who were mostly of the large
and prosperous mercantile variety. Laurence, farther
down the table, was holding his own with self-assurance,
taking as large a part in the conversation that went on
around him as anybody. Richard felt more out of his
element than he had ever done in his life before, and
unaccountably unhappy, as he sat silent, nibbling at
his supply of almonds and raisins, which he had selected
from among the fruits offered to him as presenting
fewest problems in the manner of consumption.

By and by Mrs. Moggeridge gave the signal to retire.
Richard, obedient to command, slipped out in her wake.
Laurence was holding the door, posing for notice, which
was given him in unstinted measure. His glance rested
triumphantly on Richard as he crept past him, but he
made no remark, shutting the door and going back to
his place at table and his unfinished glass of wine.

The surge of skirts swept across the hall to the
drawing-room. Richard detached himself from it with-


out notice and made his way upstairs to his bedroom.
It was already half-past nine and past his usual bed-
time. He drew back the heavy curtains of his window,
pulled up the blind, and opened the window.

There was a bright moon. The cedar-bordered lawn
and the parklike sloping meadow beyond the low wall
which bounded it were in silver. The air was quite still,
and from the dark wood to the left of the house the voice
of a nightingale came trilling. The boy was very un-
happy. The life around him was something entirely
outside his range of experience, and he had had his
first lesson in hitherto unimagined social conditions.
He felt himself shorn of respect, standing lower in the
world than he had known, and although he rebelled
against a judgment which condemned him for imma-
terial deficiencies it hurt him none the less. He longed
desperately for the familiarities of the home which he
felt he had valued too little, and laid his head on the
window-sill and cried from home-sickness.

But presently the stillness and beauty of the night
and the quiet country soothed him. He braced up his
mind, left the window, undressed himself, said his
prayers and got into bed, where he fell asleep instantly
and did not awake when Laurence came into his room
an hour later and held a candle to his face.



MR. Buss, who condescended to reside in Mrs. Mog-
geridge's house under the style of butler, but really
fulfilled the duties of steward and confidential adviser,
had spent his former years in the service of so exalted
a society that his frequent boast that he knew what was
what as well as any man living was no more than justi-
fied. Having been taken into consultation with his mis-
tress before she retired to rest, he appeared at Rich-
ard's bedside early the next morning and informed him
that he was to accompany him to London for the pur-
pose of procuring a complete new outfit, and that his
breakfast would be ready in half an hour, immediately
after which they would start.

Richard jumped out of bed with alacrity. He had
already been awake for over an hour, but had not been
able to dress himself and go out because he had not liked
to put on his offending Sunday suit again and his only
other one had disappeared. It now came in neatly
folded in the hands of John, together with a can of hot
water, and he dressed himself quickly. He had slept off
his misery of the night before, and felt exhilarated at
the idea of the new life he was about to explore further.
A day in London with Mr. Bliss commended itself to
him as a pleasant interlude, for the butler, although
pompous and unapproachable in his professional capa-
city, seemed to promise well as a companion. He had
appeared in a light suit of a gentlemanly cut, and



there was a hint of jauntiness about him which struck
Richard as an agreeable trait in his character. They
set off in a light spring cart, driven by the head coach-
man himself, all three sitting together, Richard in the
middle, and beguiled the three-mile drive by propound-
ing riddles to one another, in which exercise Richard
shone, and by a discussion of the political situation, to
which he listened with respect, inclining rather to the
Conservative views of the coachman than to those of
Mr. Bliss, which were of an unexpectedly Radical

In the train Mr. Bliss came out still further. They
travelled in a third-class carriage full of clerks and
others going to their work in the city, and the butler,
now free from all trace of servitude, his butlerdom hav-
ing slipped from him so completely as to have made it
impossible for anyone to guess his calling in life,
started a general conversation, and succeeded so well in
drawing everyone into it that the time passed most
pleasantly. He was so evidently considered a man of
standing, with opinions worth listening to and no non-
sense about him, that Richard was quite proud of his
companion, and did not feel in the least ashamed when a
fellow passenger alluded to him as his father, although
he corrected the mistake. Mr. Bliss wound up the jour-
ney by exhibiting a few simple conjuring tricks, with
the help of some coppers, a handkerchief and a bor-
rowed silk hat, and stated that if any of the company
could have produced a pack of cards he would have
surprised them.

The morning was spent in the region of Oxford
Street, and in the course of an hour or so Richard be-
came possessed of a larger supply of clothes than he
had previously owned during the course of his life,


" I should have took you to Bond Street and there-
abouts," said Mr. Bliss, " if the occasion hadn't been
so pressing. But fortunately you're stock size
medium boy's so it don't so much signify. You'll be
a match for young Master Syde now, and don't you
give in to him."

Luncheon at Frascati's was marked by the consump-
tion of three ices on the part of Richard, and dressed
crab on that of Mr. Bliss, after which they visited
Madame Tussaud's, and paid a flying visit to the Zoo-
logical Gardens, reaching home about seven o'clock after
a thoroughly satisfactory and enjoyable day. They
were driven from the station in the spring cart as before,
but not by the coachman. Mr. Bliss was as chatty and
entertaining as ever during the first part of the drive,
but became less so after they had passed the lodge
gates. By the time they had reached the house his
features had assumed a cast of respectable hauteur,
and when he helped Richard to alight at the front door
he addressed him as " sir."

Upon entering the house Richard was summoned into
the presence of his aunt. He was wearing a new Eton
suit which he had exchanged for his old one. " Ah ! "
said Mrs. Moggeridge. " Now you look like a little
gentleman, and I shall not be ashamed of you any

Richard hung his head. " It is very kind of you,
Aunt Henrietta, to give me all these clothes," he said.
" I am sorry I hadn't proper things when I came, but
I couldn't help it."

"Bless the child," said Mrs. Moggeridge. " Of course
you couldn't help it. Come and give me a kiss. And
you needn't thank me for anything I do for you. You
are my only living relation. I will do more for you


yet, if you are a good boy and I am pleased with you.
But I think you are a good boy, and I am sure a very
nice one, though there are things But it is not your
fault, and we needn't go into them. You must enjoy
yourself as much as possible during your visit here. I
asked Laurence on purpose to keep you company, and
to teach you how to behave, and so on. For he is a very
well-behaved boy, as he ought to be, for he comes of a
very aristocratic family. His grandfather was the Earl
of Wrotham and his father, whom you have seen, is
Major-General the Honourable Sir Franklin Syde,
K.C.B., a most distinguished soldier and a man of per-
fect breeding. And his mother, who died some years
ago, was Lady Anne Syde, a daughter of the Earl of
Shaston. So, you see, you have a playmate whom
any boy might be proud of. Living as you do in a
small country village you hardly know what is expected
of boys of high position, and I wish you to learn that.
It is quite possible that you may hold a high position
yourself some day, though I do not say that it will be

The occasion seemed to Richard to warrant allusion
to the subject of his dreams. " I'll learn everything
you want me to, Aunt Henrietta," he said. " I want to
do well when I go to Rugby. I am looking forward to
it so much."

" My dear father and your mother's was at Rugby,"
said Mrs. Moggeridge. " Was that your father's
school? "

" No. I don't think so."

" Well, I think it would be a very good thing for
you to go there. I will write to Mr. Baldock about it.
Though if he has settled the question, perhaps How-
ever ! Now I must go and dress for dinner, and you and


Laurence are to dine with us to-night. Bliss will tell
you what to wear. You had better go and dress now.
And remember you are to have a happy time here.
Anything you want for your pleasure you and Lau-
rence you have only got to ask for."

Richard expressed his thanks, and left the room with
a vague feeling of dissatisfaction troubling him. Could
it be possible that his father had made a mistake? Cer-
tainly his aunt had not spoken of his going to Rugby
as if it had been her own wish and plan. But here Lau-
rence, coming through the hall in his riding clothes, met
him, and the further consideration of a disturbing idea
was postponed.

" Hullo!" said Laurence. " Had a jolly time? I've
been riding with father." He spoke perfunctorily, and
without his usual vivacity. His face was grave, and he
eyed Richard somewhat askance.

Sir Franklin Syde came into the hall. He was very
smartly dressed, and his spare figure and upright car-
riage gave him the appearance of a young man, in spite
of his white hair and tired blue eyes. " Well, my young
cave-dweller," he said, " been to get a new suit of skins,
eh? I hear you've been showing Laurence what you
can do on horseback. You and I will ride together and
have a talk about your forest. I've hunted there and
enjoyed it. Now we must go and make ourselves
tidy." He spoke kindly and with courtesy, and Richard
felt an impulse of admiration and gratitude towards
him. Laurence's face cleared. The two boys went up-
stairs together. " He's a fine man, my father, isn't
he? " said Laurence. " He can do anything he likes,
and he's seen lots of service and been wounded. He's a
splendid soldier, or has been, for he's retired now."

" And he's kind to boys," added Richard.


" He doesn't treat me like a boy," said Laurence.
" He tells me things. He says he wants me to be a man
of the world. I don't suppose many fathers would
consult their sons about things as he does me. Does
your father tell you his plans and ask your advice
about them?"

" No," said Richard.

" Ah, well I'll do all I can to help him and for
my own sake, too." He gave a little laugh, not alto-
gether agreeable, as he went into his room.

" The fact is," said Mrs. Moggeridge at dinner that
evening, " that I lead a very dull life. I am an ener-
getic woman, and what I find to do I do with all my
might. But I find so little to do that interests me. I
wish it were otherwise."

" My complaint is a very different one," said Sir
Franklin. " There are a thousand and one things that
interest and amuse me, but they all cost such a con-
founded lot of money that I am able to do less and less
of them every year. Very soon I shall be able to
afford to do nothing at all, and then I suppose I shall
die from inanition."

" But what are the things to do? " asked Mrs. Mog-
geridge. " I have got plenty of money. I say it in no
boastful spirit in fact, I do not see that it is a thing
to boast about at all, for I did not make it myself
and everybody knows it. I could do anything I wished.
I have redecorated and refurnished this house from
top to bottom lately, and that gave me great pleasure.
It cost a great deal of money, and I think you will agree,
Sir Franklin, that the general effect is good."

Sir Franklin bowed politely.

" Well, as I say, that gave me great pleasure. And
I am very sorry that the work is over. I don't enjoy


living here half as much as I enjoyed making the house
beautiful and comfortable to live in. But what is to
be done next? The house takes some looking after,
and I like doing that, but there is nothing outside, only
one farm, and it does not give me enough scope."

" How different again from my situation ! " said Sir
Franklin. " There is my fine old house in Yorkshire
almost tumbling down because I can't afford to put it in
order, and nobody will take it in its present condition
and do it for me ; and ten thousand acres of good land
badly farmed because I can't spend money on them."

" I wish it were mine," said Mrs. Moggeridge.
" Then I am fond of society. But what there is hre is
dull, I must confess it. It suited my husband, but I
cannot say that it suits me."

" My dear lady ! " exclaimed Sir Franklin. " You
are within a few miles of London and the best society
in the world."

" But I don't know the right sort of people," said
Mrs. Moggeridge. " I am perfectly frank about it. I
see no reason to be anything else. I am ambitious
and it would give me great pleasure to be a somebody.
But I am not a somebody. My father was a poor
clergyman, and my husband was a selfmade business
man. I am very rich, and that is all."

" But what an all ! " said Sir Franklin. " My dear
lady, you don't know your power. You should not be
content to live quietly here. You have the world at
your feet. Why not make it give you everything you

" But what do I want ? Now tell me, Sir Franklin,
what would you do if you were in my case? "

" I will tell you," said Sir Franklin. A slight flush
came over his cheekbones, and a slight glitter into his


eyes. " But you must let me imagine myself still as I
am. I could not consent to change personalities, even
where the exchange would be so much to my advantage."
He bowed gracefully towards his hostess. " I should
first of all make my beautiful but dilapidated house one
of the most perfect in England. That would take both
time and money, and both would be most delightfully
employed. The house is historic, and would repay the
outlay as well as any in the country."

*' That would certainly be a delightful undertaking,"
said Mrs. Moggeridge, " but when it was over? "

" There would be the estate. Farms to put into
order, buildings to repair, tenants to find. The outlay
would be remunerative. At present things go on any-
how. There can be no outgoings, and consequently in-
comings have reduced themselves to vanishing point.
Then there is the shooting. That is let now, but I
should take it back into my own hands. There is a
moor, and some excellent coverts. In my uncle's time
it was renowned, and would be again."

" A great deal to do," said Mrs. Moggeridge, " but
it would all come to an end in time."

" One's enjoyment of it would never come to an end.
One would fill the old place with pleasant people. The
shooting would attract anybody, and the hunting is
not bad. Besides, I should revive my modest stud. I
used to train horses there in the old days. But that
is long since over. The stables have been empty these
twenty years. And I should not live there all the
year round. I should exchange my modest chambers
in the Albany for a good house where I could see my
friends. I own I am fond of good cooking and good
wine. Pardon the confession of an old man's self-
indulgence. I should not mention such a thing to you,


if you did not treat me so much en prince in this respect
yourself. And, indeed, there is no lady I have ever
met whose cook and whose cellars are so irreproach-

" I take pains over both," admitted Mrs. Moggeridge.
" I like to set the best before my friends."

" Our tastes are one in that matter, as in many
others. I am fond of music and should have a box at
the opera. I should have a yacht. In fact, I should
have everything that could make the remainder of my
years happy and free from care. I have no doubt my
ambitions may be called selfish. I admit it. But I
have finished my work. I am an old useless fellow, re-
tired from the serious business of life, and if good
fortune were ever to come my way again I should
take it frankly as a means of providing myself with
amusement amusement which I should take very good
care others should join in as well as myself."

"I think you are quite right," said Mrs. Mog-
geridge. " The people we all of us like are the people
who enjoy things themselves and give enjoyment to
others. Your sour-faced philanthropist may gain
some satisfaction from regarding his own virtue, but I
doubt whether he much increases the happiness of the
world, and I am sure he loses a lot himself. And what
would you do, Laurence, if you had command of a
great deal of money? "

" I should do all the things that father does," re-
plied Laurence, promptly. " Lots of horses and lots
of friends. That's my idea of pleasure."

" Very well put, my boy," said Sir Franklin, ap-
provingly. " But pleasure isn't everything, you know.
You would serve your Queen and country first, as I
have done in my humble way. I've done my work. I'm


like the boy going home for his holidays. He has a
right to think of his play. You are like the boy begin-
ning the half. He may play and enjoy his play, but
his work must come first."

" Yes, that's all right, father," said Laurence. " But
you get four months' leave a year in the Guards."

Sir Franklin turned to Richard, who had been listen-
ing to this conversation with considerable wonder-
ment. " And what are you going to do, young man,
when you come into your fortune?" he inquired

Richard blushed and stammered. " I don't know,"
he said. " I I shall buy some ponies and and some

" Good lad ! " said Sir Franklin. " Your tastes are
modest. Mine and Laurence's I fear are not. And
that is always the way. The people who have the ex-
pensive tastes have not the money to gratify them.
The people with the money are generally without the
tastes. My dear lady, I congratulate you. There are
no spendthrift tendencies here. I fear I can hardly
say the same for my successor, but perhaps Master
Laurence has not been brought up in the best of schools
for the purpose of that lesson."

" You are taking too much for granted, Sir Frank-
lin," said Mrs. Moggeridge. " I do not know whether
others do the same." She glanced aside with a hint of
disfavour at Richard, who was peeling an orange in all
innocence. " At any rate, there is no occasion to con-
sider such questions yet awhile."

" May it be many years before it becomes necessary,"
said Sir Franklin, with a bow. " To me, an old man
with a young mind, they are bound to occur, but they
occur painfully. There is no reason why they should


occur at all in your case. Forgive me for raising

After dinner Sir Franklin suggested that Mrs. Mog-
geridge should hear Laurence sing. Laurence brought
a sheaf of music and she played accompaniments. He
had a true and fresh boy's voice, and sang delightfully.
Mrs. Moggeridge was enchanted and could not have
enough. " I wish you could sing like that, Richard," she
said, when the concert was at last over.

" I should like to be able to," replied Richard, who
had not been given an opportunity of showing whether
he could or not.

" We must give the rival songster a trial another
time," said Sir Franklin. " Now I will say good night,
and go and smoke my cigar. Laurence, you may come
and talk to me for half an hour, and then you must go
to bed."

The next day was wet. Sir Franklin went up to
town by an early train and returned in time for din-
ner. Mrs. Moggeridge kept to her own rooms until
luncheon time, and the boys were thrown on their own
resources. Richard wanted to read, but Laurence sug-
gested billiards, and he gave in.

" Now I'll give you forty in a hundred, and play you
for a shilling," said Laurence.

Richard looked rather shocked. " I don't want to
play for money," he said.

" Money ! " echoed Laurence. " You talk as if we
were going to play for a fiver. Father and I always
play for a shilling and he takes it if I lose. He says
it makes me a better sportsman if I pay up. You
don't think it's wrong, do you?"

" I dare say not," said Richard, " if your father
lets you do it. But mine wouldn't like me to."


" Well, all right. I don't care. Come on, string for
break. I say, what sort of a man's your father? "

" He's very clever," said Richard. " He writes
things in papers and magazines, and he's a fine scholar."

"Rather religious, ain't he?"

" Well, he's a clergyman."

" And I suppose they've got to be. But Mrs. Mog-
geridge told me that he was well a terror. She said
she was going to give you a good time here because you
had such a bad time at home."

" I don't have a bad time at all. And Aunt Henri-
etta oughtn't to say such things about my father.
I've never heard him say anything against her."

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 7 of 29)