Grandmother Dear Part 18

"No thank you, sir,' he replied. 'I should be very sorry to take _any_ subscription from you, knowing what I do, and so would all my companions.

You're a master, sir, and I'm a boy, but I can tell you I wish you _were_ a boy that I might speak out. I couldn't help seeing what came to you by post this morning--you know I couldn't--and yet on the face of that you tell me you're too hard-up to do what I came to ask like a gentleman--and what would have been for your good in the end too. I'm not going to tell what came to my knowledge by accident; you needn't be afraid of that, but I'd be uncommonly sorry to take _anything_ from you for our fireworks.'

"And again Jack turned on his heel, and in hot wrath left the under-master, muttering again between his set teeth as he did so the one word 'cad.'

"'Jack,' Mr. Sawyer called after him, but either he did not call loud enough or Jack would not take any notice of his summons, for he did not return. What a pity! Had he done so, Mr. Sawyer, who understood him too well to feel the indignation a more superficial person would have done at his passionate outburst, had it in his heart to take the hasty, impulsive, generous-spirited lad into his confidence and what might not have been the result? What a different future for the poor under-master, had he then and there and for ever won from the boy the respect and sympathy he so well deserved!

"Jack returned to his companions gloomy but taciturn. He gave them to understand that his mission had failed, and that henceforth he would have nothing to say to Sawyer that he could help, and that was all. He entered into no particulars, but there are occasions on which silence says more than words, and from this time no voice was ever raised in the junior master's defence--throughout the school he was never referred to except as 'the cad,' or 'that cad Sawyer.'

"And alone in his own room, Mr. Sawyer, sorrowful but unresentful still, was making up his mind that his efforts had been all in vain. 'I must give it up,' he said. 'And both for myself and the boys the sooner the better, before there is any overt disrespect which would _have_ to be noticed. It is no use fighting on, I have not the knack of it. The boys will never like me, and I may do harm where I would wish to do good. I must try something else.'

"Two or three weeks later--a month perhaps--the boys were one day surprised by the appearance of a strange face at what had been Mr.

Sawyer's desk. And on inquiry the new comer proved to be a young curate accidentally in the neighbourhood, who had undertaken to fill for a few weeks the under-master's vacant place. The occurrence made some sensation--it was unusual for any change of the kind to take place during a term. 'Was Sawyer ill?' one or two of the boys asked, as there came before them the recollection of the young man's pale and careworn face, and they recalled with some compunction the Pariah-like life that for some time past had been his.

"No, he was not ill, they were informed, but he had requested the head-master to supply his place and let him leave, for private reasons, as soon as possible.

"What were the private reasons? The head-master and his colleagues had tried in vain to arrive at them. Not one syllable of complaint had fallen from the junior master's lips. He had simply repeated that, though sorry to cause any inconvenience, it was of importance to him to leave at once.

"'At least,' he said to himself, 'I shall say nothing to get any of them into trouble after I am gone.'

"And he had begged, too, that no public intimation of his resignation should be given.

"But one or two of the boys had known it before it actually occurred--and among them the Berkeley brothers. Late one cold evening, for winter had set in very early that year, Mr. Sawyer had stopped them on their way across the courtyard to their own rooms.

"'Berkeley,' he had said, 'I am leaving early to-morrow morning. I should like to say good-bye and shake hands with you before I go. I have not taken a good way with you boys, somehow, and--and the prejudice against me has been very strong. But some day--when you are older perhaps, you may come to think it possible you have misunderstood me. Be that as it may, there is not and never has been any but good feeling towards you on my part.'

"He held out his hand, but a spirit of evil had taken possession of Jack--a spirit of hard, unforgiving prejudice.

"'Good-bye, Mr. Sawyer,' he said, but he stalked on without taking any notice of the out-stretched hand, and Carlo, echoing the cold 'Good-bye, Mr. Sawyer,' followed his example.

"But little Carlo's heart was very tender. He slept ill that night and early, very early the next morning he was up and on the watch. There was snow on the ground, snow, though December had scarcely set in, and it was very cold.

"Carlo shivered as he hung about the door leading to Mr. Sawyer's room, and he wondered why the fly which always came for passengers by the early London train had not yet made its appearance, little imagining that not by the comfortable express, but third class in a slow 'parliamentary' Mr.

Sawyer's journey was to be accomplished. And, when at last the thin figure of the under-master emerged from the doorway, it went to the boy's heart to see that he himself was carrying the small black bag which held his possessions.

"'I have come to wish you good-bye again, sir,' said Carlo, 'and I am sorry I didn't shake hands last night. And--and--I believe Jack would have come too, if he'd thought of it.'

"Mr. Sawyer's eyes glistened as he shook the small hand held out to him.

"'Thank you, my boy,' he said earnestly, how much I thank you you will never know.'

"'And is that all your luggage?' asked Carlo, half out of curiosity, half by way of breaking the melancholy of the parting, which somehow gave him a choky feeling about the throat.

"'Oh no,' said Mr. Sawyer, entering into the boy's shrinking from anything like a scene, 'oh no, I sent on my box by the carrier last Saturday. It would have been _rather_ too big to carry.' He spoke in his usual commonplace tone, more cheerful, less nervous perhaps than its wont. Then once more, with a second hearty shake of the hand,

"'Good-bye again, my boy, and God bless you." And Carlo, his eyes dim in spite of his intense determination to be above such weakness, stood watching the dark figure, conspicuous against the white-sheeted ground and steel-blue early morning winter sky.

"'I wonder if we've been right about him,' he said to himself. 'I'm glad I came, any way.'

"And there came a day when others beside little Carlo himself were glad, oh so glad, that he had 'come' that snowy morning to bid the solitary traveller Godspeed."




"Did the road wind uphill all the way?

Yes to the very end."


Grandmother's voice had faltered a little now and then during the latter part of her reading. The children looked at each other significantly.

"Uncle Carlo _died_ you know," whispered Sylvia again to Ralph and Molly.

"And uncle Jack too," said Ralph.

"Yes, but much longer after. Uncle _Carlo_ was only a boy when he died,"

said Molly, as if the fact infinitely aggravated the sorrow in his case.

Their whispering did not interrupt their grandmother this time. She had already paused.

"I think, dears," she said, "I had better read the rest to-morrow evening. There is a good deal more of it, and my voice gets tired after a while."

"Couldn't I read it for you, mother dear?" said aunty.

Grandmother smiled a little roguishly. "No, my dear, thank you," she said. "I think I like best to read myself what I have written myself. And you, according to that, will have your turn soon, Laura."

"_Mother!_ how did you find out what I was doing?" exclaimed aunty.

"A little bird told me, of course," said grandmother, smiling. "You know how clever my little birds are."

During this mysterious conversation the children had sat with wide open eyes and puzzled faces. Suddenly a light broke upon Sylvia.

"I know, I know," she cried. "_Aunty's_ writing a story for us too. Oh, you delightful aunty!"

"Oh you beautiful aunty! oh you delicious aunty!" echoed Molly. "Why don't you say something too, Ralph?" she exclaimed, turning reproachfully to her brother. "You like stories just as much as we do--you know you do."

"But you and Sylvia have used up all the adjectives," said Ralph. "What _can_ I call aunty, unless I say she's a very jolly fellow?"

"Reserve your raptures, my dears," said aunty, "'The proof of the pudding's in the eating,' remember. Perhaps you may not care for my story when you hear it. I am quite willing to wait for your thanks till you have heard it."

"But any way, aunty dear, we'll thank you for having _tried_," said Molly encouragingly. "I daresay it won't be _quite_ as nice as grandmother's.

You see you're so much younger, and then I don't think anybody _could_ tell stories like her, could they? But, grandmother dear," she went on, "would you mind telling me one thing? When people write stories how do they know all the things they tell? How do you know what poor Mr. Sawyer said to himself when he was alone in his room that day? Did he ever tell anybody? I know the story's true, because uncle Jack told it you himself, only I can't make out how you got to know all those bits of it, like."

Chapter end

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