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   Chapter 39 HARVEST

The Hermit of Far End By Margaret Pedler Characters: 8049

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live

as before;

The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;

What was good, shall be good, with, for evil,

So much good more . . ."

BROWNING.

"How can you prove it, Garth-Maurice, I mean?"-Selwyn corrected himself with a smile. "You'll need more than Mrs. Durward's confession to secure official reinstatement by the powers that be."

The clamour of joyful excitement and wonder and congratulation had spent itself at last, the Lavender Lady had shed a few legitimate tears, and now Selwyn voiced the more serious aspect of the matter.

It was Herrick who made answer.

"I have the necessary proofs," he said quietly. He had crossed to a bureau in the corner of the room, and now returned with a packet of papers in his hand.

"These," he pursued, "are from my brother Colin, who is farming in Australia. He was a good many years my senior-and I've always understood that he was a bit of a ne'er-do-well in his younger days. Ultimately, he enlisted in the Army as a Tommy, and in that scrap on the Indian Frontier he was close behind Maurice and saw the whole thing. He got badly wounded then, and was dangerously ill for some time afterwards, so it happened that he knew nothing about the court-martial till it was all over. When he recovered, he wrote to Maurice, offering his evidence, and"-smiling whimsically across at Kennedy-"received a haughty letter in reply, assuring him that he was mistaken in the facts and that the writer did not dispute the verdict of the court. My brother rather suspected some wild-cat business, so before he went to Australia, some years later, he placed in my hands properly witnessed documents containing the true facts of the matter, and it was only when, through Mrs. Durward, we learned that Maurice had been cashiered from the Army, that the connection between that and the Frontier incident flashed into my mind as a possibility. I had heard that the Durwards' name had been originally Lovell-and I began to wonder if Garth Trent's name had not been originally"-with a glint of humour in his eyes-"Maurice Kennedy! Here's my brother's letter"-passing it to Sara, who was standing next him-"and here's the document which he left in my care. I've had 'em both locked away since I was seventeen."

Sara's eyes flew down the few brief lines of the letter.

"Evidently the young fool wishes to be thought guilty," Colin Herrick had written. "Shielding his pal Lovell, I suppose. Well, it's his funeral, not mine! But one never knows how things may pan out, and some day it might mean all the difference between heaven and hell to Kennedy to be able to prove his innocence-so I am enclosing herewith a properly attested record of the facts, Miles, in case I should send in my checks while I'm at the other side of the world."

As a matter of fact, however, Colin still lived and prospered in Australia, so that there would be no difficulty in proving Maurice's innocence down to the last detail.

"Do you mean," Sara appealed to Miles incredulously, "do you mean-that there were these proofs-all the time? And you-you knew?"

"Herrick wasn't to blame," interposed Maurice hastily, sensing the horrified accusation in her tones. "I forbade him to use those papers."

"But why-why--"

Miles looked at her and a light kindled in his eyes.

"My dear, you're marrying a chivalrous, quixotic fool. Maurice refused to let me show these proofs because, on the strength of his promise to shield Geoffrey Lovell, Elisabeth had married and borne a son. Not even though it meant smashing up his whole life would he go back on his word."

"Garth! Garth!" The name by which she had always known him sprang spontaneously from Sara's lips. Her voice was shaking, but her eyes, likes Herrick's, held a glory of quiet shining. "How could you, dear? What madness! What idiotic, glorious madness!"

"I don't see how I could have done anything else," said Maurice simply. "Elisabeth's whole scheme o

f existence was fashioned on her trust in my promise. I couldn't-afterwards, after her marriage and Tim's birth-suddenly pull away the very foundation on which she had built up her life."

Impulsively Sara slipped her hand into his.

"I'm glad-glad you couldn't, dear," she whispered. "It would not have been my Garth if you could have done."

He pressed her hand in silence. A curious lassitude was stealing over him. He had borne the heat and burden of the day, and now that the work was done and there was nothing further to fight for, nothing left to struggle and contend against, he was conscious of a strange feeling of frustration.

It seemed almost as though the long agony of those years of self-immolation had been in vain-a useless sacrifice, made meaningless and of no account by the destined march of events.

He felt vaguely baulked and disillusioned-bewildered that a man's aim and purpose, which in its accomplishing had cost so immeasurable a price-crushing the whole beauty and savour out of life-should suddenly be destroyed and nullified. In the light of the present, the past seemed futile-years that the locust had eaten.

It was a relief when presently some one broke in upon the confused turmoil of his thoughts with a message from Tim. He was asking to see both Sara and Maurice-would they go to him?

Together they went up to his room-Maurice still with that look of grave perplexity upon his face which his somewhat bitter reflections had engendered.

The eager, boyish face on the pillow flushed a little as they entered.

"Mother has told me everything," he said simply, going straight to the point. "It's-it's been rather a facer."

Maurice pointed to the narrow ribbon-the white, purple, white of the Military Cross-upon the breast of the khaki tunic flung across a chair-back-a rather disheveled tunic, rescued with other odds and ends from the wreckage of Tim's room at Sunnyside.

"It needn't be, Tim," he said, "with that to your credit."

Tim's eyes glowed.

"That's just it-that's what I wanted to see you for," he said. "I hope you won't think it cheek," he went on rather shyly, "but I wanted you to know that-that what you did for my mother-assuming the disgrace, I mean, that wasn't yours-hasn't been all wasted. What little I've done-well, it would never have been done had I known what I know now."

"I think it would," Maurice dissented quietly.

Tim shook his head.

"No. Had my father been cashiered-for cowardice"-he stumbled a little over the words-"the knowledge of it would have knocked all the initiative out of me. I should have been afraid of showing the white feather. . . . The fear of being afraid would have been always at the back of me." He paused, then went on quickly: "And I think it would have been the same with Dad. It-it would have broken him. He could never have fought as he did with that behind him. You've . . . you've given two men to the country. . . ."

He broke off, boyishly embarrassed, a little overwhelmed by his own big thoughts.

And suddenly to Maurice, all that had been dark and obscure grew clear in the white shining of the light that gleamed down the track of those lost years.

A beautiful and ordered issue was revealed. Out of the ruin and bleak suffering of the past had sprung the flaming splendour of heroic life and death-a glory of achievement that, but for those arid years of silence, had been thwarted and frustrated by the deadening knowledge of the truth.

Kindling to the recognition of new and wonderful significances, his eyes sought those of the woman who loved him, and in their quiet radiance he read that she, too, had understood.

For her, as for him, the dark places had been made light, and with quickened vision she perceived, in all that had befallen, the fulfilling of the Divine law.

"Sara--"

Her hands went out to him, and the grave happiness deepened in her eyes.

"Oh, my dear, no love-no sacrifice is ever wasted!"

She spoke very simply, very confidently.

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