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Grandmother Dear Part 20

--"'With Mr. Sawyer for a while. Shall he return in an hour, Berkeley?'

"'Thank you, yes,' said Jack, and then he found himself alone with his old master.

"'You said you tried to trace me after I left Ryeburn,' said Sawyer.

'Will you tell me why? There was no special reason for it, was there? I know I was disliked, but the sort of enmity I incurred must soon have died out. I was too insignificant for it to last. And the one great endeavour I made was to injure no one. That was why I left hurriedly--before I should be forced to make any complaints.'

"He stopped--exhausted already by what he had said. 'And I have so much to say to him,' he whispered regretfully to himself.

"'I know,' said Jack sadly. 'I understood it all before you had left many months.'

"Mr. Sawyer looked pleased but surprised.

"'It is very kind of you to speak so,' he said. 'I remember that dear little brother of yours when he came to see me off that last morning--I remember his saying, 'I'm sure Jack would have come if he had thought of it.' You don't know what a comfort the remembrance of that boy has been to me sometimes. You must tell him so. Dear me--he must be nearly grown up. Is he too in the army?'

"'No, oh no,' said Jack. 'He--he died the year after you knew him.'

"Sawyer's eyes looked up wistfully in Jack's face. 'Dead?' he said. 'That dear boy?'

"'Yes,' Jack went on. 'It was of scarlet fever. It was very bad at Ryeburn that half. We both had it, but I was soon well again. It was not till Carlo was ill that he told me of having run over to wish you good-bye that morning--he had been afraid I would laugh at him for being soft-hearted--what a young brute I was--forgive my speaking so, Sawyer, but I can't look back to that time without shame. What a life we led you, and how you bore it! You were too good for us.'

"Sawyer smiled. 'No,' he said. 'I cannot see it that way. I had not the knack of it--I was not fit for the position. The boys were very good boys, as boys go. It would have been inexcusable of me to have made them suffer for what, after all, was an unfortunate circumstance only. I had attempted what I could not manage. And Carlo--he is dead--somehow, perhaps because I am so near death myself, it does not shock or startle me. Dear little fellow that he was!'

"'And while he was ill he was constantly talking about you. It seemed the only thing on his conscience, poor little chap, that he had joined at all in our treatment of you. And he begged me--I would have promised him anything, but by that time I saw it plainly enough for myself--to try to find you and ask you to forgive us both. But I little thought it would have been like this--I had fancied sometimes----' Jack hesitated, and the colour deepened in his sunburnt cheeks.

"'What?' said Mr. Sawyer. 'Do not be afraid of my misunderstanding anything you say.'

"'I had hoped perhaps that if I found you again I might be able to be of some use to you. And now it is too late. For you see we owe you some reparation for indirectly forcing you to leave Ryeburn--you might have risen there--who knows? I can see now what a capital teacher you were.'

"Mr. Sawyer shook his head.

"'I know I could teach,' he said, 'but that was all. I did not understand boys' ways. I never was a boy myself. But put all this out of your mind, Berkeley, for ever. In spite of all the disappointment, I was very happy at Ryeburn. The living among so many healthy-minded happy human beings was a new and pleasant experience to me. Short as it was, no part of my life has left a pleasanter remembrance. You say you would like to do something for me. Will you write to my mother after I am gone, and tell her? Tell her how little I suffered, and how good every one was to me, a perfect stranger. Will you do this?'

"Jack bent his head. 'Willingly,' he said.

"'You will find her address in this book,' he went on, handing a thick leather pocket-book to Jack. 'Also a sort of will--roughly drawn up, but correctly--leaving her all I have, and the amount of that, and the Bank it is in--all is noted. I have knocked about so--since I was at Ryeburn I have tried so many things and been in so many places, I have learnt to face all eventualities. I was so pleased to get the chance of coming out here----'

"He stopped again.

"'You must not tire yourself so,' said Jack.

"'What does it matter? I can die so much more easily if I leave things clear--for, trifling as they are, my poor mother's comfort depends on them. And I am so glad too for you to understand about me, Berkeley. That day--it went to my heart to have to refuse you about the subscription for the fireworks.'

"'Don't speak of it. I know you had some good motive,' said Jack.

"'Necessity--sheer, hard necessity,' said poor Sawyer. 'The money I had got that morning was only just in time to save my younger brother from life-long disgrace, perhaps imprisonment.'

"Then painfully--in short and broken sentences--he related to Jack the history of his hard, sad, but heroic life. _He_ did not think it heroic--it seemed to him, in his single-minded conscientiousness, that he had done no more than his duty, and that but imperfectly. He had given his life for others, and, hardest of all, for others who had little appreciated his devotion.

"'My father died when I was only about twelve,' he said. 'He had been a clergyman, but his health failed, and he had to leave England and take a small charge in Switzerland. There he met my mother--a Swiss, and there I was partly brought up. When he died he told me I must take his place as head of the family. I was not so attractive as my brother and sister; I was shy and reserved. Naturally my mother cared most for them. I fear she was too indulgent. My sister married badly, and I had to try to help her.

My poor brother, he was always in trouble and yet he meant well----'

"And so he told Jack the whole melancholy history, entering into details which I have forgotten, and which, even if I remembered them, it would be only painful to relate. His brother was now in America--doing well he hoped, thanks of course to him; his sister's circumstances too had improved. For the first time in his life Sawyer had begun to feel his burdens lessening, when he was brought face to face with the knowledge that all in this world was over for him. Uncomplainingly he had, through all these long years, borne the heat and burden of the day; rest for him was to be elsewhere, not here. But as he had met life, so he now met death--calmly and unrepiningly, certain that hard as it had been hard as it seemed now, it must yet be for the best--the solving of the riddle he left to God.

"And his last thought was for others--for the mother who had so little appreciated him, who required to lose him, perhaps, to bring home to her his whole value.

"'I have always foreseen the possibility of this,' he said, 'and prepared for it as best I could. Besides the money I have confided to you, I insured my life, most fortunately, last year. She will have enough to get on pretty comfortably--and tell her,' he hesitated, 'I don't think she will miss me very much. I have never had the knack of drawing much affection to myself. But tell her I was quite satisfied that it is all for the best, and Louis may yet return to cheer her old age.'

"Jack stayed till he could stay no longer. Then, with a grasp of the hand which meant more than many words, he left his new, yet old friend, promising to be down again at Kadikoi first thing in the morning. 'But take the papers with you, Berkeley, the papers and the pocket-book, in case, you know----' were Sawyer's last words to him.

"Jack was even earlier the next day than he had expected. But when he got to the tent the canvas door was drawn to.

"'Asleep?' he said to the doctor of the 25th Hussars, who came up at that moment, recognizing him.

"'Yes,' said the doctor, bending his head reverently, as he said the word.

"He unfastened the door, and signed to Jack to follow him. Jack understood--yes, asleep indeed. There he lay--all the pain and anxiety over, and as the two men gazed at the peaceful face, there came into Jack's mind the same words which his mother had whispered over the dead face of his little brother,

"'Of such is the kingdom of Heaven'."

CHAPTER XII.

A CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE.

"With bolted doors and windows wedged, The care was all in vain; For there were noises in the night Which nothing could explain."

GRANDMAMMA AND THE FAIRIES

The children had gone quietly to bed the evening before when grandmother had finished the reading of her story. They just kissed her and said, "Thank you, _dear_ grandmother," and that was all. But it was all she wanted.

"I felt, you know," said Molly to Sylvia when they were dressing the next morning, "I felt a sort of feeling as if I'd been in church when the music was _awfully_ lovely. A beautiful feeling, but strange too, you know, Sylvia? _Particularly_ as Uncle Jack died too. When did he die? Do you know, Sylvia? Was it at that place?"

"What place?" said Sylvia curtly. When her feelings were touched she had a way of growing curt and terse, sometimes even snappish.

"That hot place--without trees, and all so dusty and dirty--Kadi--Kadi--I forget."

"Oh! you stupid girl Kadikoi was only one little wee village. You mean the Crimea--the Crimea is the name of all the country about there--where the war was."

"Yes, of course. I _am_ stupid," said Molly, but not at all as if she had any reason to be ashamed of the fact. "Did he never come home from the Crimea?"

"No," said Sylvia, curtly again, "he never came home."

For an instant Molly was silent. Then she began again.

"Well, I wonder how the old lady, that poor nice man's mother, I mean--I wonder how she got the money and all that, that Uncle Jack was to settle for her. Shall we ask grandmother, Sylvia?"

Chapter end

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