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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"Well, why should he? There's nothing to say.
That's a good cannon. Mark me two up. Especially
when she's going to leave you all her money."

" I don't know that she is."

" Well 7 you said she was when I asked you before."

" People have told me so at home, but I never thought
much about it. Father has never said so. He only
told me that she was going to send me to Rugby and

" I wish she'd send me to Eton and Cambridge."

" Why, you said you were going there, anyhow."

" Well, so I was. But my father said yesterday
that he was afraid he couldn't afford it as things are at
present. I must say it was a bit of a jar, but he was
so awfully nice about it that it didn't seem so bad when
he told me. He said he should feel it more than I should
if it couldn't be managed. Still, of course, I've got
relations who might help. But my father says they've
paid up such a lot for him that he doesn't think they

" I'm very sorry," said Richard. " I was very sorry


last night when your father said he couldn't afford to
live in his beautiful house and do what he wanted. I
think the nation ought to give him some money. He's
been a brave soldier."

" Oh, he's got his pension, and it isn't a bad one,
only I expect he's anticipated a good deal of it."

" What's that? "

" Why, run into debt over it. You don't know much
about money affairs, or what smart, popular men like
my father do. His uncle left him a fine property and
he ran through it when he was a subaltern. He lived
at a tremendous pace, and kept lots of racehorses. He
nearly won the Derby once, and you can't go in for
that on nothing. Then he married and got another
start, for my mother had some money, but that soon
went too. Of course, there's the place in Yorkshire.
But it doesn't bring in anything now, and it's heavily
mortgaged. I shall have it when he dies, but it won't
be much good to me."

" Have you ever lived there ? "

" Not since I can remember. It's been shut up for
years. But it's a jolly place, I can tell you. This is
nothing to it. I go about to different relations in the
holidays, and sometimes my father has me for a few
days in his chambers. I enjoy that, for he takes me to
see all sorts of things and people. There aren't many
fathers, I can tell you, who take such trouble about
their sons' education as he does."

" Do you go to the British Museum? "

" British Museum ! Fancy my father at the British
Museum ! I don't mean that sort of education. He
says he is going to make a man of the world of me, and
wants me to begin early. Most people, he says, haven't
an idea of how to amuse themselves properly. We've


only got one life, and it's a pity to waste an hour of
it. It goes soon enough."

This philosophy of life was so unlike that into which
Richard had been initiated at home that its expres-
sion interested him. He thought that on the whole
it had something to recommend it, although Lau-
rence's manner of setting it forth erred on the side
of crudity.

At luncheon Laurence took advantage of his educa-
tion as a man of the world and carried on with no
little resource and self-possession an entertaining con-
versation with his hostess. Mrs. Moggeridge was

" I think you shall come driving with me this after-
noon," she said ; " I have to pay some calls. Richard,
you will not mind being left to yourself, will you? I
must have the brougham, as it is wet, and there is not
room for more than two."

Richard, who had sat almost completely silent during
the progress of the meal, did not mind being left to
himself in the least, and said so, perhaps with more
energy than the occasion warranted, for his aunt looked
at him critically. " I suppose it is hardly to be ex-
pected that a boy should like to go driving in a closed
carriage," she said. " Laurence, I do not wish to take
you if you prefer to remain behind."

" Indeed, I would much rather come with you," re-
plied Laurence, fervently. " I shall enjoy it, and it
is very kind of you to ask me." But when the boys
were alone he expressed himself in a different manner.

" What a bore ! " he said. " If there is one thing I
do hate it is pottering along in a brougham."

Honest Richard opened his eyes. " Why, you said
you would enjoy it!" he exclaimed.


" Of course I did to her. She wouldn't have liked ii:'
if I had said I didn't want to go."

" She said it would please her best if we enjoyed our-
selves in our own way."

" Well, if you think you're pleasing her better than
I am, you're welcome to your opinion. Blow the beastly
brougham ! "



RICHARD stood at the door while Mrs. Moggeridge and
Laurence were packed into the brougham with great
ceremony. Laurence had apparently recovered his good
humour, for he laughed and joked with his companion
as Mr. Bliss tucked a fur rug round his knees and
otherwise arranged for their comfort, and altogether
behaved as if the entertainment arranged for him were
the very one above all others he would have chosen if
he had been left to himself. Richard felt a trifle forlorn
as they drove away, for his aunt had not even given
him a nod of farewell, and the still falling rain exer-
cised a depressing influence. He was used to being
alone, but this afternoon he felt inclined for company.
Mr. Bliss stood for a moment or two on the steps of
the doorway watching the retreating carriage. Rich-
ard, after his experience of the day before, was inclined
to regard him as an intimate friend in spite of the con-
strained air he adopted in the presence of his mistress.
" I say," he said, in a friendly manner, " what are you
going to do this afternoon? "

Mr. Bliss turned upon him a look compounded of
stateliness and respect. " I have my work to do, sir,"
he replied.

" Oh," said Richard, somewhat taken aback. " I
thought you might like to come and have a game at
something in the schoolroom."

" I should not think of such a thing, sir," replied Mr.
Bliss, and receded with dignity.



Richard, thus repulsed, wandered aimlessly into the
schoolroom, and stood at the window watching the drip-
ping branches of the cedars and the soaked beds of
daffodils. He felt homesick. The ways of great houses
such as this and of their inhabitants were strange to
him, and he wished himself back in his father's rectory,
and above all in the forest. " I shouldn't mind the
rain a bit there," he said to himself. " I should have
something to do indoors, or if I wanted to I should go
out." Then it occurred to him that there was nothing
to stop him going out now if he wished to, and with a
returning sense of freedom not altogether unmixed with
guilt, he took his cap and ran out into the garden and
thence into the woods which surrounded the house on
two sides. Here he roamed happy and contented for an
hour, and in surroundings so familiar recovered his
equanimity. He met a keeper, who first shouted threats
at him for trespassing and then apologized when he
disclosed his identity. They had some agreeable conver-
sation together, and the keeper expressed himself sur-
prised at the extent of Richard's knowledge. " The
other young gentleman, he 'ardly knows a rabbit from
a hare," said the keeper, and Richard was pleased at
the implied compliment.

When he thought it time to go back to the house the
rain had ceased. The afternoon sun streamed out on to
dripping trees and bushes. The scent of the soil rose
up strong and sweet, and the birds woke into joyous
clamour. Passing through a shrubbery which lay be-
tween the wood and the garden, Richard was surprised
to meet Mr. Bliss, with a deerstalker cap on his head
and a light overcoat over his butler's attire, smoking a
cigar in placid contentment. He was about to pass him
with a mere sign of recognition, when Mr. Bliss sur-


prised him by coming to a halt in the shrubbery path
and taking a large coloured handkerchief from his
pocket, from which, after a few of those flourishes and
passes employed by all conjurers, he produced first one
billiard ball, then a second, and then a third, the whole
operation being performed in complete silence and with
a solemnity beyond description.

Never been able to get that right before," said Mr.
Bliss, with great satisfaction, as he returned the hand-
kerchief and billiard balls to his pocket. " It was first
class, wasn't it? Never a rattle or as much as a clock,
and the folds as natural as if you was going to blow
your nose. That's art, that is."

" I never saw anything better done hi my life," said
Richard. " I wish you'd do it again."

"No," said Mr. Bliss. "It was just a flash of
genius. I'm a long way from getting it so perfect that
I could do it every time for certain. If I was to try
it again now I should bungle it. You practise for weeks
together and you think you're never going to succeed.
Then there comes a little bit of light like that, and
you're encouraged to go on again till you get perfect.
That's how all great things are done in the world.
Now you see these billiard balls ? " Mr. Bliss took
them again out of his pocket. " What do they repre-
sent? First of all months, and perhaps years, of steady
practice on a table I bought 'em off a marker in
Stoke Newington. They was his own and he'd used
'em sc; much that they wasn't quite true. But they
served his turn. He'd got so good by practising with
these very balls that he could beat 'most anybody that
come along, and he'll be champion before he dies, you
mark my words. I've had 'em three years now and I've
kept 'em no more idle than they w before. There


was very little their former owner couldn't do with
'em in his time, and there's very little I can't do with
'em in mine. Steady hard work, that's what they repre-
sent, day after day, month after month, and year after
year. It's a lesson ; and whenever you feel downcast
over what you're doing it may not be juggling, it may
not be billiard-playing I don't care what it is you
remember John Bliss and his billiard balls, and take

Richard expressed his gratitude for this lesson, which
he thought might possibly prove of value to him in the
future, and asked for an exhibition of skill. This was
given to him, and Mr. Bliss certainly achieved some
surprising feats which showed that he had practised
with his brains as well as his hands. Richard thought
it all most remarkable, and the agreeable relations that
had existed between them during their previous day's
outing together seemed to be fully restored. Mr. Bliss
made no reference to his change of attitude, but Rich-
ard now fully understood that inside the house he wished
to be regarded as a superior servant, a very superior
and dignified servant, while in his hours of leisure he
was a man and a juggler, very well disposed towards
the world at large and towards himself in particular.
His disposition, indeed, towards Richard received a
striking proof when the exhibition of jugglery had been
completed and admired. Mr. Bliss leaned towards him
and put a finger on his shoulder. " A word of warn-
ing," he said, confidentially. " I can put it to you out
here where I employ my leisure and throw off the cares
of office. Take notice of what I say, but don't repeat
it. If you ain't careful you're liable to be screwed out
screwed out." Mr. Bliss illustrated his meaning by
the manipulation of an imaginary corkscrew. " There's


them as wish you well," he continued, " and those as'd
like to take your place. You watch it, and remember
afterwards as it was John Bliss who gave you warning."

So innocent and inexperienced was Richard that he
stared at his adviser without the remotest idea as to
what his mysterious words betokened. He was about
to ask for an explanation when the creak of carriage
wheels was heard on the wet gravel of the drive not so
far off. Mr. Bliss turned on his heel immediately and
hurried towards the house, whither Richard presently
followed him.

Mrs. Moggeridge and Laurence had just alighted
from the carriage, assisted by Mr. Bliss and his satel-
lites, the butler shaping to the eye so vividly as the very
type and essence of all butlerhood that it was impos-
sible to imagine him having the slightest affinity with
the arts of the juggler, or with any other relaxation
whatever. Richard came round the corner of the house
and stood by the door as Mrs. Moggeridge went into the
hall. He was very wet and his boots were covered with
mud. Such a condition was as common as dryness to
him at home. He was accustomed to go out in all
weathers, and had never possessed an umbrella in his
life. He would dry his own clothes and boots before
the kitchen fire, and not even his father would reproach
him for getting them wet. But when Mrs. Moggeridge
beheld him her hands went up in horror.

" Where on earth have you been? " she cried.

" In the woods," faltered Richard.

" Well, now, that is really too bad," exclaimed Mrs.
Moggeridge. " The clothes that I bought you only
yesterday ruined absolutely ruined ! Here is Lau-
rence looking clean and tidy, like a gentleman, and you
whom I hoped to make the same like a little tramp.


I am very displeased. Go upstairs and change your
things at once, and do not go out again without asking
my permission."

Richard hung his head as she swept into the house,
and blushed hotly. This public reprimand hurt him to
the core. He looked up and saw Laurence's eyes fixed
on him half in contempt, half as it seemed in triumph.
He did not understand the look, but it made him

" It's nonsense to say I look like a tramp," he said.
" And I haven't spoilt my clothes. They've only just
got to be dried."

" You'd better tell Mrs. Moggeridge so," said Lau-
rence. " It's nothing to do with me. I don't know what
you're staring at me for as if you wanted to quarrel."

" Then what do you look at me like that for? " asked
Richard, not at all appeased. " You're glad she's vexed
with me."

Laurence laughed. "No, I'm not, old chap," he said.
" Don't get waxy. Go and change your clothes and
come down and have a game."

He turned away towards the sitting-room, and Rich-
ard went upstairs, half ashamed of himself. If Lau-
rence had retorted angrily, as most boys of his age
would have done, there would have been a royal quarrel
which would have eased Richard's spirits immensely.
As it was he was oppressed with a sense of his own
inferiority. He might despise the other boy's taste for
dress and his clever drawing-room manners. He could
not despise this easy self-control, ignoring occasions of
offence. It put its owner above him. He hardly knew
whether he admired Laurence or disliked him. Towards
his aunt his feelings were entirely different. He had
regarded her before as an amiable affectionate lady, so


easy-going as almost to approach folly. She had now-
put herself into the category of grown-up people with-
out any genuine sympathy with the ways of boyhood,
a person to be propitiated when met, but if possible to
be avoided. The realization of her true character was a
blow to Richard. He felt he would never really be
happy with her, and the sooner he went home the

To his intense surprise, however, when he went down-
stairs to the schoolroom, Mrs. Moggeridge was en-
sconced behind the tea-urn and greeted him without a
trace of the confusion she might have been expected to
feel at meeting again with one upon whom she had put
an affront. " Come along, Richard," she said. " Come
to my tea-party. Or, rather, come and help entertain
me as a guest at yours. Laurence has given me a
cordial invitation which I hope you will endorse."

Really, his aunt was rather a remarkable woman.
Richard eyed her questioningly, as she rattled on with
Laurence in the highest of spirits, but was soon affected
by her gaiety, and lost all but an uncomfortable sub-
consciousness of her late anger. After all he was not
unaccustomed to reprimands at home. It was the way
of the grown-up world to ride roughshod over your
more sensitive feelings. Perhaps it was not necessary
to take her severity seriously, as she did not appear
inclined to do so herself. She was nice enough to him
now. But she was still nicer to Laurence, who seemed
to have flown straight to the pinnacle of her favour.

As the boys were at breakfast the next morning a
message was brought in from the head keeper, Richard's
friend of the day before, that he was going to shoot
some rabbits and that the young gentlemen might like
to accompany him. They did so, and spent a mot


enjoyable morning. The keeper allowed them one shot
each with his own gun, and though neither of them hit
anything, for he would not allow them to shoot a sit-
ting rabbit, it was enough to fire them both with a
burning desire to take further part in this fascinating
sport. " You can't shoot no more without a licence,"
he said. " I should get into trouble. And my guns is
too heavy for you. Ask the mistress to get you a gun
licence each and a little gun, and you can come out
with me again. I'll learn you to hold straight. You
can't do better than begin with rabbits, so long as you
aim at 'em running."

" You ask Mrs. Moggeridge," said Laurence, as they
returned to the house.

" I don't like to," said Richard. " She has given us
such a lot already. It seems ungrateful."

" She'll be only too pleased. She has said lots of
times we could ask her for anything we wanted."

" Then why don't you ask her? She likes you better
than me."

" No, she doesn't. It's only because you don't take
the trouble to amuse her. Besides, you're her nephew.
You can ask her for things when I can't."

" I don't think I shall ask her. I don't like to."

" Bah ! You're a funk."

"No, I'm not. And if I am, you're just as bad."

" Well, all right, then, we can't shoot. Flitch won't
let us use his gun any more."

" Of course, she has said several times that we are
to ask her for anything we want."

" That's just what I told you. I suppose she want*
to be taken at her word."

" Still two guns and a gun licence each, that's
another pound. It's a good lot."


" Not to her. It's nothing at all."

" Well, I don't mind asking her if you come and back
me up."

" No. You must do it by yourself."

"Who's the funk now?"

" It's not funk. You're her nephew and I'm only her
guest. Of course you're the one to ask her. You
needn't ask her straight out. You can work up to it."

" If I ask her at all I shall ask her straight out. I
should be a funk if I did the other thing."

Mrs. Moggeridge was writing in her boudoir. " Now
what is it?" she said, when Richard presented himself
before her. " I am very busy. I hope you are enjoy-
ing yourselves, you and Laurence. You may have
everything you want, but you must not disturb me
when I'm busy."

The fates seemed propitious.

" Thank you very much, Aunt Henrietta," said Rich-
ard. " We have been shooting rabbits with Flitch.
But he won't let us shoot any more unless we have
licences and guns of our own. May we ? "

Mrs. Moggeridge looked at him. " May you what ? "
she asked.

" May we have a gun each and a gun licence ? "

" You mean will I buy you each a gun ? "

" Yes."

"Then you should say so. May you have a gun
might mean anything. I have done a good deal for
your pleasure. I must confess I am a little disap-
pointed that you are not satisfied."

" Oh, Aunt Henrietta ! " cried Richard, cut to the
heart. " Indeed I am. But you told us to ask and I
didn't think you would mind. But if you would rather
not, we shall be just as happy without."


" That is nonsense. If you want to shoot you will
naturally be disappointed if you can't. Does Laurence
want to as much as you do? "

" Yes."

" Then why cannot he come and ask too ? Go and
fetch him."

Laurence was not very far off. " Will she? " he
asked, when he was summoned.

"I don't know," said Richard. "She didn't quite
like my asking. I wish I hadn't."

" Do you want to go shooting with Flitch, Lau-
rence? " asked Mrs. Moggeridge when the boys came
into the room.

" Oh, I should love to," cried Laurence, enthusi-

" Very well, then, I will send for Flitch and tell him
to buy you a gun each this afternoon, and to take out
licences. The guns are my presents to you both, and
I hope you will get a great deal of enjoyment out of
them. They shall be good ones, so that you may use
them until you are grown up."

Laurence went up and kissed her. " You really are
too awfully kind to us, Mrs. Moggeridge," he said.
" But you have done such a lot already. I've never
had such a good time anywhere."

Mrs. Moggeridge, who loved to play the lady bounti-
ful, and to be thanked for doing so, beamed upon him.
" It is a pleasure to do anything for you, dear boy,"
she said. " And I am sure you are grateful, although
there is nothing to be grateful for. Well, Richard, you
have got your wish, and if you want anything further
I have no doubt you will ask for it. Indeed, I desire
you to do so. Now go and find Flitch and tell him to
come to me."


The guns were bought that afternoon and arrived at
Paradine Park at the same time as Sir Franklin Syde,
who had been in London for the past two days. The
boys, eager to behold their new treasures, were in the
hall. The guns, each in a new leather case, and two
boxes of cartridges, were laid on the table.

" Hullo ! " said Sir Franklin. " What is this? "

Laurence looked at his father, slightly askance.
" Mrs. Moggeridge has given us each a gun," he said.
" We are going out to-morrow to shoot rabbits."

" How did she know you wanted a gun ? " inquired Sir
Franklin. " Did you ask her? "

Laurence was silent. " I did," said Richard.

" And you backed him up, I suppose," said Sir
Franklin to his son. " I won't have it. Mrs. Mog-
geridge has done everything she could think of to amuse
you, and you reward her by asking for valuable pres-
ents. No gentleman behaves like that. I say again I
won't have it. Come with me."

He marchefl off to Mrs. Moggeridge's room followed
by Laurence. Richard, stricken with shame, remained

" Mrs. Moggeridge," said Sir Franklin, " I am
ashamed to hear that a son of mine has forgotten him-
self so far as to ask for and to accept a valuable pres-
ent from you. I am deeply annoyed quite ashamed
that all your generous kindness should be rewarded in
this way."

Mrs. Moggeridge looked bewildered for a moment.
" Oh, the gun," she said. " My dear Sir Franklin, it is
a mere trifle. It is nothing but a pleasure to give him
one. I like to see boys learn to shoot and that sort
of thing early."

" Of course," replied Sir Franklin. " And I should


have let him begin this next season and given him a gun.
I have no objection to his beginning here with the rab-
bits, but it is his asking you, who have been so kind to
him, that I am ashamed of. I would not have believed
that he could so far have forgotten himself."

"Oh, but he did not ask," said Mrs. Moggeridge.
" Not at all. It was Richard who asked for himself.
I said I would give him a gun, and then I wished to
treat Laurence in the same way and sent for him. He
was very grateful, and behaved charmingly, I assure
you. Ask no, nothing of the sort.'*

" Oh," said Sir Franklin.

" It was Richard who asked," said Mrs. Moggeridge
again. " He came in by himself. It was not until I
sent for Laurence that he knew anything about it."

" That makes a difference," said Sir Franklin. " Of
course, your nephew has a right perhaps though I
think after what you have done for their enjoyment
but that is no concern of mine. At any rate, I should
have been very angry if I had thought Laurence had
behaved in that way."

" With regard to Laurence you may set your mind
quite at rest, General," said Mrs. Moggeridge. " He,
at any rate, made no sort of suggestion or hint, and the
small present came to him as a complete surprise. It
was so, was it not, Laurence? "

Laurence hesitated and grew red.

" Was it so, or not ? " asked his father, sharply.

" Richard did say " he began.

" Richard told you he was going to ask," inter-
rupted Mrs. Moggeridge. " That is very likely. But
you did not come in and ask with him. No doubt you
felt you would rather not, and I appreciate your
delicacy, though there was no occasion for it. I think

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 8 of 29)