Part 2 out of 8
old, and not able even yet to speak of her husband without an
apologetic look to the ladies who had none. And oh, how proud she was
of Tommy's fame! Her eyes were an offering to him.
"Don't take her as a sample of the place, though," Mr. McLean warned
him, "for Thrums does not catch fire so readily as London." It was
quite true. "I was at the school wi' him," they said up there, and
implied that this damned his book.
But there were two faithful souls, or, more strictly, one, for Corp
could never have carried it through without Gavinia's help. Tommy
called on them promptly at their house in the Bellies Brae (four
rooms, but a lodger), and said, almost before he had time to look,
that the baby had Corp's chin and Gavinia's eyes. He had made this up
on the way. He also wanted to say, so desirous was he of pleasing his
old friends, that he should like to hold the baby in his arms; but it
was such a thundering lie that even an author could not say it.
Tommy sat down in that house with a very warm heart for its inmates;
but they chilled him--Gavinia with her stiff words, and Corp by
looking miserable instead of joyous.
"I expected you to come to me first, Corp," said Tommy, reproachfully.
"I had scarcely a word with you at the station."
"He couldna hae presumed," replied Gavinia, primly.
"I couldna hae presumed," said Corp, with a groan.
"Fudge!" Tommy said. "You were my greatest friend, and I like you as
much as ever, Corp." Corp's face shone, but Gavinia said at once,
"You werena sic great friends as that; were you, man?"
"No," Corp replied gloomily.
"Whatever has come over you both?" asked Tommy, in surprise. "You will
be saying next, Gavinia, that we never played at Jacobites in the
"I dinna deny that Corp and me played," Gavinia answered determinedly,
"but you didna. You said to us, 'Think shame,' you said, 'to be
playing vulgar games when you could be reading superior books.' They
were his very words, were they no, man?" she demanded of her unhappy
husband, with a threatening look.
"They were," said Corp, in deepest gloom.
"I must get to the bottom of this," said Tommy, rising, "and as you
are too great a coward, Corp, to tell the truth with that shameless
woman glowering at you, out you go, Gavinia, and take your disgraced
bairn with you. Do as you are told, you besom, for I am Captain Stroke
Corp was choking with delight as Gavinia withdrew haughtily. "I was
sure you would sort her," he said, rubbing his hands, "I was sure you
wasna the kind to be ashamed o' auld friends."
"But what does it mean?"
"She has a notion," Corp explained, growing grave again, "that it
wouldna do for you to own the like o' us. 'We mauna cheapen him,' she
said. She wanted you to see that we hinna been cheapening you." He
said, in a sepulchral voice, "There has been leddies here, and they
want to ken what Thomas Sandys was like as a boy. It's me they speir
for, but Gavinia she just shoves me out o' sight, and says she, 'Leave
them to me.'"
Corp told Tommy some of the things Gavinia said about Thomas Sandys as
a boy: how he sat rapt in church, and, instead of going bird-nesting,
lay on the ground listening to the beautiful little warblers overhead,
and gave all his pennies to poorer children, and could repeat the
Shorter Catechism, beginning at either end, and was very respectful to
the aged and infirm, and of a yielding disposition, and said, from his
earliest years, "I don't want to be great; I just want to be good."
"How can she make them all up?" Tommy asked, with respectful homage to
Corp, with his eye on the door, produced from beneath the bed a little
book with coloured pictures. It was entitled "Great Boyhoods," by
"Aunt Martha." "She doesna make them up," he whispered; "she gets them
out o' this."
"And you back her up, Corp, even when she says I was not your friend!"
"It was like a t' knife intil me," replied loyal Corp; "every time I
forswore you it was like a t' knife, but I did it, ay, and I'll go on
doing it if you think my friendship cheapens you."
Tommy was much moved, and gripped his old lieutenant by the hand. He
also called Gavinia ben, and, before she could ward him off, the
masterful rogue had saluted her on the cheek. "That," said Tommy, "is
to show you that I am as fond of the old times and my old friends as
ever, and the moment you deny it I shall take you to mean, Gavinia,
that you want another kiss."
"He's just the same!" Corp remarked ecstatically, when Tommy had gone.
"I dinna deny," Gavinia said, "but what he's fell taking"; and for a
time they ruminated.
"Gavinia," said Corp, suddenly, "I wouldna wonder but what he's a gey
lad wi' the women!"
"What makes you think that?" she replied coldly, and he had the
prudence not to say. He should have followed his hero home to be
disabused of this monstrous notion, for even while it was being
propounded Tommy was sitting in such an agony of silence in a woman's
presence that she could not resist smiling a crooked smile at him. His
want of words did not displease Grizel; she was of opinion that young
men should always be a little awed by young ladies.
He had found her with Elspeth on his return home. Would Grizel call
and be friendly? he had asked himself many times since he saw her in
church yesterday, and Elspeth was as curious. Each wanted to know
what the other thought of her, but neither had the courage to inquire,
they both wanted to know so much. Her name had been mentioned but
casually, not a word to indicate that she had grown up since they saw
her last. The longer Tommy remained silent, the more, he knew, did
Elspeth suspect him. He would have liked to say, in a careless voice,
"Rather pretty, isn't she?" but he felt that this little Elspeth would
see through him at once.
For at the first glance he had seen what Grizel was, and a thrill of
joy passed through him as he drank her in; it was but the joy of the
eyes for the first moment, but it ran to his heart to say, "This is
the little hunted girl that was!" and Tommy was moved with a manly
gladness that the girl who once was so fearful of the future had grown
into this. The same unselfish delight in her for her own sake came
over him again when he shook hands with her in Aaron's parlor. This
glorious creature with the serene eyes and the noble shoulders had
been the hunted child of the Double Dykes! He would have liked to race
back into the past and bring little Grizel here to look. How many
boyish memories he recalled! and she was in every one of them. His
heart held nothing but honest joy in this meeting after so many years;
he longed to tell her how sincerely he was still her friend. Well, why
don't you tell her, Tommy? It is a thing you are good at, and you
have been polishing up the phrases ever since she passed down the
aisle with Master Shiach in her arms; you have even planned out a way
of putting Grizel at her ease, and behold, she is the only one of the
three who is at ease. What has come over you? Does the reader think it
was love? No, it was only that pall of shyness; he tried to fling it
off, but could not. Behold Tommy being buried alive!
Elspeth showed less contemptibly than her brother, but it was Grizel
who did most of the talking. She nodded her head and smiled crookedly
at Tommy, but she was watching him all the time. She wore a dress in
which brown and yellow mingled as in woods on an autumn day, and the
jacket had a high collar of fur, over which she watched him. Let us
say that she was watching to see whether any of the old Tommy was left
in him. Yet, with this problem confronting her, she also had time to
study the outer man, Tommy the dandy--his velvet jacket (a new one),
his brazen waistcoat, his poetic neckerchief, his spotless linen. His
velvet jacket was to become the derision of Thrums, but Tommy took his
bonneting haughtily, like one who was glad to suffer for a Cause.
There were to be meetings here and there where people told with awe
how many shirts he sent weekly to the wash. Grizel disdained his dandy
tastes; why did not Elspeth strip him of them? And oh, if he must
wear that absurd waistcoat, could she not see that it would look
another thing if the second button was put half an inch farther back?
How sinful of him to spoil the shape of his silly velvet jacket by
carrying so many letters in the pockets! She learned afterwards that
he carried all those letters because there was a check in one of them,
he did not know which, and her sense of orderliness was outraged.
Elspeth did not notice these things. She helped Tommy by her
helplessness. There is reason to believe that once in London, when she
had need of a new hat, but money there was none, Tommy, looking very
defiant, studied ladies' hats in the shop-windows, brought all his
intellect to bear on them, with the result that he did concoct out of
Elspeth's old hat a new one which was the admired of O.P. Pym and
friends, who never knew the name of the artist. But obviously he could
not take proper care of himself, and there is a kind of woman, of whom
Grizel was one, to whose breasts this helplessness makes an unfair
appeal. Oh, to dress him properly! She could not help liking to be a
mother to men; she wanted them to be the most noble characters, but
completely dependent on her.
Tommy walked home with her, and it seemed at first as if Elspeth's
absence was to be no help to him. He could not even plagiarize from
"Sandys on Woman." No one knew so well the kind of thing he should be
saying, and no one could have been more anxious to say it, but a
weight of shyness sat on the lid of Tommy. Having for half an hour
raged internally at his misfortune, he now sullenly embraced it. "If I
am this sort of an ass, let me be it in the superlative degree," he
may be conceived saying bitterly to himself. He addressed Grizel
coldly as "Miss McQueen," a name she had taken by the doctor's wish
soon after she went to live with him.
"There is no reason why you should call me that," she said. "Call me
Grizel, as you used to do."
"May I?" replied Tommy, idiotically. He knew it was idiotic, but that
mood now had grip of him.
"But I mean to call you Mr. Sandys," she said decisively.
He was really glad to hear it, for to be called Tommy by anyone was
now detestable to him (which is why I always call him Tommy in these
pages). So it was like him to say, with a sigh, "I had hoped to hear
you use the old name."
That sigh made her look at him sharply. He knew that he must be
careful with Grizel, and that she was irritated, but he had to go on.
"It is strange to me," said Sentimental Tommy, "to be back here after
all those years, walking this familiar road once more with you. I
thought it would make me feel myself a boy again, but, heigh-ho, it
has just the opposite effect: I never felt so old as I do to-day."
His voice trembled a little, I don't know why. Grizel frowned.
"But you never were as old as you are to-day, were you?" she inquired
politely. It whisked Tommy out of dangerous waters and laid him at her
feet. He laughed, not perceptibly or audibly, of course, but somewhere
inside him the bell rang. No one could laugh more heartily at himself
than Tommy, and none bore less malice to those who brought him to
"That, at any rate, makes me feel younger," he said candidly; and now
the shyness was in full flight.
"Why?" asked Grizel, still watchful.
"It is so like the kind of thing you used to say to me when we were
boy and girl. I used to enrage you very much, I fear," he said, half
"Yes," she admitted, with a smile, "you did."
"And then how you rocked your arms at me, Grizel! Do you remember?"
She remembered it all so well! This rocking of the arms, as they
called it, was a trick of hers that signified sudden joy or pain. They
hung rigid by her side, and then shook violently with emotion.
"Do you ever rock them now when people annoy you?" he asked.
"There has been no one to annoy me," she replied demurely, "since you
"But I have come back," Tommy said, looking hopefully at her arms.
"You see they take no notice of you."
"They don't remember me yet. As soon as they do they will cry out."
Grizel shook her head confidently, and in this she was pitting herself
against Tommy, always a bold thing to do.
"I have been to see Corp's baby," he said suddenly; and this was so
important that she stopped in the middle of the road.
"What do you think of him?" she asked, quite anxiously.
"I thought," replied Tommy, gravely, and making use of one of Grizel's
pet phrases, "I thought he was just sweet."
"Isn't he!" she cried; and then she knew that he was making fun of
her. Her arms rocked.
"Hurray!" cried Tommy, "they recognize me now! Don't be angry,
Grizel," he begged her. "You taught me, long ago, what was the right
thing to say about babies, and how could I be sure it was you until I
saw your arms rocking?"
"It was so like you," she said reproachfully, "to try to make me do
"It was so unlike you," he replied craftily, "to let me succeed. And,
after all, Grizel, if I was horrid in the old days I always
"Never!" she insisted.
"Well, then," said Tommy, handsomely, "I do so now"; and then they
both laughed gaily, and I think Grizel was not sorry that there was a
little of the boy who had been horrid left in Tommy--just enough to
know him by.
"He'll be vain," her aged maid, Maggy Ann, said curiously to her that
evening. They were all curious about Tommy.
"I don't know that he is vain," Grizel replied guardedly.
"If he's no vain," Maggy Ann retorted, "he's the first son of Adam it
could be said o'. I jalouse it's his bit book."
"He scarcely mentioned it."
"Ay, then, it's his beard."
Grizel was sure it was not that.
"Then it'll be the women," said Maggy Ann.
"Who knows!" said Grizel of the watchful eyes; but she smiled to
herself. She thought not incorrectly that she knew one woman of whom
Mr. Sandys was a little afraid.
About the same time Tommy and Elspeth were discussing her. Elspeth was
in bed, and Tommy had come into the room to kiss her good-night--he
had never once omitted doing it since they went to London, and he was
always to do it, for neither of them was ever to marry.
"What do you think of her?" Elspeth asked. This was their great time
"Of whom?" Tommy inquired lightly.
He must be careful.
"Rather pretty, don't you think?" he said, gazing at the ceiling.
She was looking at him keenly, but he managed to deceive her. She was
much relieved, and could say what was in her heart. "Tommy," she said,
"I think she is the most noble-looking girl I ever saw, and if she
were not so masterful in her manner she would be beautiful." It was
nice of Elspeth to say it, for she and Grizel were never very great
Tommy brought down his eyes. "Did you think as much of her as that?"
he said. "It struck me that her features were not quite classic. Her
nose is a little tilted, is it not?"
"Some people like that kind of nose," replied Elspeth. "It is not
classic," Tommy said sternly.
GHOSTS THAT HAUNT THE DEN
Looking through the Tommy papers of this period, like a conscientious
biographer, I find among them manuscripts that remind me how
diligently he set to work at his new book the moment he went North,
and also letters which, if printed, would show you what a wise and
good man Tommy was. But while I was fingering those, there floated
from them to the floor a loose page, and when I saw that it was a
chemist's bill for oil and liniment I remembered something I had nigh
forgotten. "Eureka!" I cried. "I shall tell the story of the chemist's
bill, and some other biographer may print the letters."
Well, well! but to think that this scrap of paper should flutter into
view to damn him after all those years!
The date is Saturday, May 28, by which time Tommy had been a week in
Thrums without doing anything very reprehensible, so far as Grizel
knew. She watched for telltales as for a mouse to show at its hole,
and at the worst, I think, she saw only its little head. That was when
Tommy was talking beautifully to her about her dear doctor. He would
have done wisely to avoid this subject; but he was so notoriously good
at condolences that he had to say it. He had thought it out, you may
remember, a year ago, but hesitated to post it; and since then it had
lain heavily within him, as if it knew it was a good thing and pined
to be up and strutting.
He said it with emotion; evidently Dr. McQueen had been very dear to
him, and any other girl would have been touched; but Grizel stiffened,
and when he had finished, this is what she said, quite snappily:
"He never liked you."
Tommy was taken aback, but replied, with gentle dignity, "Do you
think, Grizel, I would let that make any difference in my estimate of
"But you never liked him," said she; and now that he thought of it,
this was true also. It was useless to say anything about the artistic
instinct to her; she did not know what it was, and would have had
plain words for it as soon as he told her. Please to picture Tommy
picking up his beautiful speech and ramming it back into his pocket as
if it were a rejected manuscript.
"I am sorry you should think so meanly of me, Grizel," he said with
manly forbearance, and when she thought it all out carefully that
night she decided that she had been hasty. She could not help watching
Tommy for backslidings, but oh, it was sweet to her to decide that she
had not found any.
"It was I who was horrid," she announced to him frankly, and Tommy
forgave her at once. She offered him a present: "When the doctor died
I gave some of his things to his friends; it is the Scotch custom, you
know. He had a new overcoat; it had been worn but two or three times.
I should be so glad if you would let me give it to you for saying such
sweet things about him. I think it will need very little alteration."
Thus very simply came into Tommy's possession the coat that was to
play so odd a part in his history. "But oh, Grizel," said he, with
mock reproach, "you need not think that I don't see through you! Your
deep design is to cover me up. You despise my velvet jacket!"
"It does not--" Grizel began, and stopped.
"It is not in keeping with my doleful countenance," said Tommy,
candidly; "that was what you were to say. Let me tell you a secret,
Grizel: I wear it to spite my face. Sha'n't give up my velvet jacket
for anybody, Grizel; not even for you." He was in gay spirits, because
he knew she liked him again; and she saw that was the reason, and it
warmed her. She was least able to resist Tommy when he was most a
boy, and it was actually watchful Grizel who proposed that he and she
and Elspeth should revisit the Den together. How often since the days
of their childhood had Grizel wandered it alone, thinking of those
dear times, making up her mind that if ever Tommy asked her to go into
the Den again with him she would not go, the place was so much sweeter
to her than it could be to him. And yet it was Grizel herself who was
saying now, "Let us go back to the Den."
Tommy caught fire. "We sha'n't go back," he cried defiantly, "as men
and women. Let us be boy and girl again, Grizel. Let us have that
Saturday we missed long ago. I missed a Saturday on purpose, Grizel,
so that we should have it now."
She shook her head wistfully, but she was glad that Tommy would fain
have had one of the Saturdays back. Had he waxed sentimental she would
not have gone a step of the way with him into the past, but when he
was so full of glee she could take his hand and run back into it.
"But we must wait until evening," Tommy said, "until Corp is
unharnessed; we must not hurt the feelings of Corp by going back to
the Den without him."
"How mean of me not to think of Corp!" Grizel cried; but the next
moment she was glad she had not thought of him, it was so delicious to
have proof that Tommy was more loyal. "But we can't turn back the
clock, can we, Corp?" she said to the fourth of the conspirators, to
which Corp replied, with his old sublime confidence, "He'll find a
And at first it really seemed as if Tommy had found a way. They did
not go to the Den four in a line or two abreast--nothing so common as
that. In the wild spirits that mastered him he seemed to be the boy
incarnate, and it was always said of Tommy by those who knew him best
that if he leaped back into boyhood they had to jump with him. Those
who knew him best were with him now. He took command of them in the
old way. He whispered, as if Black Cathro were still on the prowl for
him. Corp of Corp had to steal upon the Den by way of the Silent Pool,
Grizel by the Queen's Bower, Elspeth up the burn-side, Captain Stroke
down the Reekie Brothpot. Grizel's arms rocked with delight in the
dark, and she was on her way to the Cuttle Well, the trysting-place,
before she came to and saw with consternation that Tommy had been
ordering her about.
She was quite a sedate young lady by the time she joined them at the
well, and Tommy was the first to feel the change. "Don't you think
this is all rather silly?" she said, when he addressed her as the Lady
Griselda, and it broke the spell. Two girls shot up into women, a
beard grew on Tommy's chin, and Corp became a father. Grizel had
blown Tommy's pretty project to dust just when he was most gleeful
over it; yet, instead of bearing resentment, he pretended not even to
know that she was the culprit.
"Corp," he said ruefully, "the game is up!" And "Listen," he said,
when they had sat down, crushed, by the old Cuttle Well, "do you hear
It was a very still evening. "I hear nocht," said Corp, "but the
trickle o' the burn. What did you hear?"
"I thought I heard a baby cry," replied Tommy, with a groan. "I think
it was your baby, Corp. Did you hear it, Grizel?"
She understood, and nodded.
"And you, Elspeth?"
"My bairn!" cried the astounded Corp.
"Yours," said Tommy, reproachfully; "and he has done for us. Ladies
and gentlemen, the game is up."
Yes, the game was up, and she was glad, Grizel said to herself, as
they made their melancholy pilgrimage of what had once been an
enchanted land. But she felt that Tommy had been very forbearing to
her, and that she did not deserve it. Undoubtedly he had ordered her
about, but in so doing had he not been making half-pathetic sport of
his old self--and was it with him that she was annoyed for ordering,
or with herself for obeying? And why should she not obey, when it was
all a jest? It was as if she still had some lingering fear of Tommy.
Oh, she was ashamed of herself. She must say something nice to him at
once. About what? About his book, of course. How base of her not to
have done so already! but how good of him to have overlooked her
silence on that great topic!
It was not ignorance of its contents that had kept her silent. To
confess the horrid truth, Grizel had read the book suspiciously,
looking as through a microscope for something wrong--hoping not to
find it, but peering minutely. The book, she knew, was beautiful; but
it was the writer of the book she was peering for--the Tommy she had
known so well, what had he grown into? In her heart she had exulted
from the first in his success, and she should have been still more
glad (should she not?) to learn that his subject was woman; but no,
that had irritated her. What was perhaps even worse, she had been
still more irritated on hearing that the work was rich in sublime
thoughts. As a boy, he had maddened her most in his grandest moments.
I can think of no other excuse for her.
She would not accept it as an excuse for herself now. What she saw
with scorn was that she was always suspecting the worst of Tommy.
Very probably there was not a thought in the book that had been put
in with his old complacent waggle of the head. "Oh, am I not a
wonder!" he used to cry, when he did anything big; but that was no
reason why she should suspect him of being conceited still. Very
probably he really and truly felt what he wrote--felt it not only at
the time, but also next morning. In his boyhood Mr. Cathro had
christened him Sentimental Tommy; but he was a man now, and surely the
sentimentalities in which he had dressed himself were flung aside for
ever, like old suits of clothes. So Grizel decided eagerly, and she
was on the point of telling him how proud she was of his book, when
Tommy, who had thus far behaved so well, of a sudden went to pieces.
He and Grizel were together. Elspeth was a little in front of them,
walking with a gentleman who still wondered what they meant by saying
that they had heard his baby cry. "For he's no here," Corp had said
earnestly to them all; "though I'm awid for the time to come when I'll
be able to bring him to the Den and let him see the Jacobites' Lair."
There was nothing startling in this remark, so far as Grizel could
discover; but she saw that it had an immediate and incomprehensible
effect on Tommy. First, he blundered in his talk as if he was thinking
deeply of something else; then his face shone as it had been wont to
light up in his boyhood when he was suddenly enraptured with himself;
and lastly, down his cheek and into his beard there stole a tear of
agony. Obviously, Tommy was in deep woe for somebody or something.
It was a chance for a true lady to show that womanly sympathy of which
such exquisite things are said in the first work of T. Sandys: but it
merely infuriated Grizel, who knew that Tommy did not feel nearly so
deeply as she this return to the Den, and, therefore, what was he in
such distress about? It was silly sentiment of some sort, she was sure
of that. In the old days she would have asked him imperiously to tell
her what was the matter with him; but she must not do that now--she
dare not even rock her indignant arms; she could only walk silently by
his side, longing fervently to shake him.
He had quite forgotten her presence; indeed, she was not really there,
for a number of years had passed, and he was Corp Shiach, walking the
Den alone. To-morrow he was to bring his boy to show him the old Lair
and other fondly remembered spots; to-night he must revisit them
alone. So he set out blithely, but, to his bewilderment, he could not
find the Lair. It had not been a tiny hollow where muddy water
gathered; he remembered an impregnable fortress full of men whose
armour rattled as they came and went; so this could not be the Lair.
He had taken the wrong way to it, for the way was across a lagoon, up
a deep-flowing river, then by horse till the rocky ledge terrified all
four-footed things; no, up a grassy slope had never been the way. He
came night after night, trying different ways; but he could not find
the golden ladder, though all the time he knew that the Lair lay
somewhere over there. When he stood still and listened he could hear
the friends of his youth at play, and they seemed to be calling: "Are
you coming, Corp? Why does not Corp come back?" but he could never see
them, and when he pressed forward their voices died away. Then at last
he said sadly to his boy: "I shall never be able to show you the Lair,
for I cannot find the way to it." And the boy was touched, and he
said: "Take my hand, father, and I will lead you to the Lair; I found
the way long ago for myself."
It took Tommy about two seconds to see all this, and perhaps another
half-minute was spent in sad but satisfactory contemplation of it.
Then he felt that, for the best effect, Corp's home life was too
comfortable; so Gavinia ran away with a soldier. He was now so sorry
for Corp that the tear rolled down. But at the same moment he saw how
the effect could be still further heightened by doing away with his
friend's rude state of health, and he immediately jammed him between
the buffers of two railway carriages, and gave him a wooden leg. It
was at this point that a lady who had kept her arms still too long
rocked them frantically, then said, with cutting satire: "Are you not
feeling well, or have you hurt yourself? You seem to be very lame."
And Tommy woke with a start, to see that he was hobbling as if one of
his legs were timber to the knee.
"It is nothing," he said modestly. "Something Corp said set me
thinking; that is all."
He had told the truth, and if what he imagined was twenty times more
real to him than what was really there, how could Tommy help it?
Indignant Grizel, however, who kept such a grip of facts, would make
no such excuse for him.
"Elspeth!" she called.
"There is no need to tell her," said Tommy. But Grizel was obdurate.
"Come here, Elspeth," she cried vindictively. "Something Corp said a
moment ago has made your brother lame."
Tommy was lame; that was all Elspeth and Corp heard or could think of
as they ran back to him. When did it happen? Was he in great pain? Had
he fallen? Oh, why had he not told Elspeth at once?
"It is nothing," Tommy insisted, a little fiercely.
"He says so," Grizel explained, "not to alarm us. But he is suffering
horribly. Just before I called to you his face was all drawn up in
This made the sufferer wince. "That was another twinge," she said
promptly. "What is to be done, Elspeth?"
"I think I could carry him," suggested Corp, with a forward movement
that made Tommy stamp his foot--the wooden one.
"I am all right," he told them testily, and looking uneasily at
"How brave of you to say so!" said she.
"It is just like him," Elspeth said, pleased with Grizel's remark.
"I am sure it is," Grizel said, so graciously.
It was very naughty of her. Had she given him a chance he would have
explained that it was all a mistake of Grizel's. That had been his
intention; but now a devil entered into Tommy and spoke for him.
"I must have slipped and sprained my ankle," he said. "It is slightly
painful; but I shall be able to walk home all right, Corp, if you let
me use you as a staff."
I think he was a little surprised to hear himself saying this; but, as
soon as it was said, he liked it. He was Captain Stroke playing in the
Den again, after all, and playing as well as ever. Nothing being so
real to Tommy as pretence, I daresay he even began to feel his ankle
hurting him. "Gently," he begged of Corp, with a gallant smile, and
clenching his teeth so that the pain should not make him cry out
before the ladies. Thus, with his lieutenant's help, did Stroke manage
to reach Aaron's house, making light of his mishap, assuring them
cheerily that he should be all right to-morrow, and carefully avoiding
Grizel's eye, though he wanted very much to know what she thought of
him (and of herself) now.
There were moments when she did not know what to think, and that
always distressed Grizel, though it was a state of mind with which
Tommy could keep on very friendly terms. The truth seemed too
monstrous for belief. Was it possible she had misjudged him? Perhaps
he really had sprained his ankle. But he had made no pretence of that
at first, and besides,--yes, she could not be mistaken,--it was the
She soon let him see what she was thinking. "I am afraid it is too
serious a case for me," she said, in answer to a suggestion from Corp,
who had a profound faith in her medical skill, "but, if you
like,"--she was addressing Tommy now,--"I shall call at Dr. Gemmell's,
on my way home, and ask him to come to you."
"There is no necessity; a night's rest is all I need," he answered
"Well, you know best," she said, and there was a look on her face
which Thomas Sandys could endure from no woman. "On second
thoughts," he said, "I think it would be advisable to have a doctor.
Thank you very much, Grizel. Corp, can you help me to lift my foot on
to that chair? Softly--ah!--ugh!"
His eyes did not fall before hers. "And would you mind asking him to
come at once, Grizel?" he said sweetly. She went straight to the
THE BEGINNING OF THE DUEL
It was among old Dr. McQueen's sayings that when he met a man who was
certified to be in no way remarkable he wanted to give three cheers.
There are few of them, even in a little place like Thrums; but David
Gemmell was one.
So McQueen had always said, but Grizel was not so sure. "He is very
good-looking, and he does not know it," she would point out. "Oh, what
a remarkable man!"
She had known him intimately for nearly six years now, ever since he
became the old doctor's assistant on the day when, in the tail of some
others, he came to Thrums, aged twenty-one, to apply for the post.
Grizel had even helped to choose him; she had a quaint recollection of
his being submitted to her by McQueen, who told her to look him over
and say whether he would do--an odd position in which to place a
fourteen-year-old girl, but Grizel had taken it most seriously, and,
indeed, of the two men only Gemmell dared to laugh.
"You should not laugh when it is so important," she said gravely; and
he stood abashed, although I believe he chuckled again when he retired
to his room for the night. She was in that room next morning as soon
as he had left it, to smell the curtains (he smoked), and see whether
he folded his things up neatly and used both the brush and the comb,
but did not use pomade, and slept with his window open, and really
took a bath instead of merely pouring the water into it and laying the
sponge on top (oh, she knew them!)--and her decision, after some days,
was that, though far from perfect, he would do, if he loved her dear
darling doctor sufficiently. By this time David was openly afraid of
her, which Grizel noticed, and took to be, in the circumstances, a
She watched him narrowly for the next year, and after that she ceased
to watch him at all. She was like a congregation become so sure of its
minister's soundness that it can risk going to sleep. To begin with,
he was quite incapable of pretending to be anything he was not. Oh,
how unlike a boy she had once known! His manner, like his voice, was
quiet. Being himself the son of a doctor, he did not dodder through
life amazed at the splendid eminence he had climbed to, which is the
weakness of Scottish students when they graduate, and often for fifty
years afterwards. How sweet he was to Dr. McQueen, never forgetting
the respect due to gray hairs, never hinting that the new school of
medicine knew many things that were hidden from the old, and always
having the sense to support McQueen when she was scolding him for his
numerous naughty ways. When the old doctor came home now on cold
nights it was not with his cravat in his pocket, and Grizel knew very
well who had put it round his neck. McQueen never had the humiliation,
so distressing to an old doctor, of being asked by patients to send
his assistant instead of coming himself. He thought they preferred
him, and twitted David about it; but Grizel knew that David had
sometimes to order them to prefer the old man. She knew that when he
said good-night and was supposed to have gone to his lodgings, he was
probably off to some poor house where, if not he, a tired woman must
sit the long night through by a sufferer's bedside, and she realized
with joy that his chief reason for not speaking of such things was
that he took them as part of his natural work and never even knew that
he was kind. He was not specially skilful, he had taken no honours
either at school or college, and he considered himself to be a very
ordinary young man. If you had said that on this point you disagreed
with him, his manner probably would have implied that he thought you
a bit of an ass.
When a new man arrives in Thrums, the women come to their doors to see
whether he is good-looking. They said No of Tommy when he came back,
but it had been an emphatic Yes for Dr. Gemmell. He was tall and very
slight, and at twenty-seven, as at twenty-one, despite the growth of a
heavy moustache, there was a boyishness about his appearance, which
is, I think, what women love in a man more than anything else. They
are drawn to him by it, and they love him out of pity when it goes. I
suppose it brings back to them some early, beautiful stage in the
world's history when men and women played together without fear.
Perhaps it lay in his smile, which was so winning that wrinkled old
dames spoke of it, who had never met the word before, smiles being
little known in Thrums, where in a workaday world we find it
sufficient either to laugh or to look thrawn. His dark curly hair was
what Grizel was most suspicious of; he must be vain of that, she
thought, until she discovered that he was quite sensitive to its being
mentioned, having ever detested his curls as an eyesore, and in his
boyhood clipped them savagely to the roots. He had such a firm chin,
if there had been another such chin going a-begging, I should have
liked to clap it on to Tommy Sandys.
Tommy Sandys! All this time we have been neglecting that brave
sufferer, and while we talk his ankle is swelling and swelling. Well,
Grizel was not so inconsiderate, for she walked very fast and with an
exceedingly determined mouth to Dr. Gemmell's lodgings. He was still
in lodgings, having refused to turn Grizel out of her house, though
she had offered to let it to him. She left word, the doctor not being
in, that he was wanted at once by Mr. Sandys, who had sprained his
Now, then, Tommy!
For an hour, perhaps until she went to bed, she remained merciless.
She saw the quiet doctor with the penetrating eyes examining that
ankle, asking a few questions, and looking curiously at his patient;
then she saw him lift his hat and walk out of the house.
It gave her pleasure; no, it did not. While she thought of this Tommy
she despised, there came in front of him a boy who had played with her
long ago when no other child would play with her, and now he said,
"You have grown cold to me, Grizel," and she nodded assent, and little
wells of water rose to her eyes and lay there because she had nodded
She had never liked Dr. Gemmell so little as when she saw him
approaching her house next morning. The surgery was still attached to
it, and very often he came from there, his visiting-book in his hand,
to tell her of his patients, even to consult her; indeed, to talk to
Grizel about his work without consulting her would have been
difficult, for it was natural to her to decide what was best for
everybody. These consultations were very unprofessional, but from her
first coming to the old doctor's house she had taken it as a matter of
course that in his practice, as in affairs relating to his boots and
buttons, she should tell him what to do and he should do it. McQueen
had introduced his assistant to this partnership half-shamefacedly and
with a cautious wink over the little girl's head; and Gemmell fell
into line at once, showing her his new stethoscope as gravely as if he
must abandon it at once should not she approve, which fine behaviour,
however, was quite thrown away on Grizel, who, had he conducted
himself otherwise, would merely have wondered what was the matter with
the man; and as she was eighteen or more before she saw that she had
exceeded her duties, it was then, of course, too late to cease doing
She knew now how good, how forbearing, he had been to the little girl,
and that it was partly because he was acquainted with her touching
history. The grave courtesy with which he had always treated her--and
which had sometimes given her as a girl a secret thrill of delight, it
was so sweet to Grizel to be respected--she knew now to be less his
natural manner to women than something that came to him in her
presence because he who knew her so well thought her worthy of
deference; and it helped her more, far more, than if she had seen it
turn to love. Yet as she received him in her parlor now--her too
spotless parlor, for not even the ashes in the grate were visible,
which is a mistake--she was not very friendly. He had discovered what
Tommy was, and as she had been the medium she could not blame him for
that, but how could he look as calm as ever when such a deplorable
thing had happened?
"What you say is true; I knew it before I asked you to go to him, and
I knew you would find it out; but please to remember that he is a man
of genius, whom it is not for such as you to judge."
That was the sort of haughty remark she held ready for him while they
talked of other cases; but it was never uttered, for by and by he
"And then, there is Mr. Sandys's ankle. A nasty accident, I am
Was he jesting? She looked at him sharply. "Have you not been to see
him yet?" she asked.
He thought she had misunderstood him. He had been to see Mr. Sandys
twice, both last night and this morning.
And he was sure it was a sprain?
Unfortunately it was something worse--dislocation; further mischief
might show itself presently.
"Haemorrhage into the neighbouring joint on inflammation?" she asked
scientifically and with scorn.
Grizel turned away from him. "I think not," she said.
Well, possibly not, if Mr. Sandys was careful and kept his foot from
the ground for the next week. The doctor did not know that she was
despising him, and he proceeded to pay Tommy a compliment. "I had to
reduce the dislocation, of course," he told her, "and he bore the
wrench splendidly, though there is almost no pain more acute."
"Did he ask you to tell me that?" Grizel was thirsting to inquire, but
she forbore. Unwittingly, however, the doctor answered the question.
"I could see," he said, "that Mr. Sandys made light of his sufferings
to save his sister pain. I cannot recall ever having seen a brother
and sister so attached."
That was quite true, Grizel admitted to herself. In all her
recollections of Tommy she could not remember one critical moment in
which Elspeth had not been foremost in his thoughts. It passed through
her head, "Even now he must make sure that Elspeth is in peace of mind
before he can care to triumph over me," and she would perhaps have
felt less bitter had he put his triumph first.
His triumph! Oh, she would show him whether it was a triumph. He had
destroyed for ever her faith in David Gemmell. The quiet, observant
doctor, who had such an eye for the false, had been deceived as easily
as all the others, and it made her feel very lonely. But never mind;
Tommy should find out, and that within the hour, that there was one
whom he could not cheat. Her first impulse, always her first impulse,
was to go straight to his side and tell him what she thought of him.
Her second, which was neater, was to send by messenger her compliments
to Mr. and Miss Sandys, and would they, if not otherwise engaged, come
and have tea with her that afternoon? Not a word in the note about the
ankle, but a careful sentence to the effect that she had seen Dr.
Gemmell to-day, and proposed asking him to meet them.
Maggy Ann, who had conveyed the message, came back with the reply.
Elspeth regretted that they could not accept Grizel's invitation,
owing to the accident to her brother being _very much more_ serious
than Grizel seemed to think. "I can't understand," Elspeth added, "why
Dr. Gemmell did not tell you this when he saw you."
"Is it a polite letter?" asked inquisitive Maggy Ann, and Grizel
assured her that it was most polite. "I hardly expected it," said the
plain-spoken dame, "for I'm thinking by their manner it's more than
can be said of yours."
"I merely invited them to come to tea."
"And him wi' his leg broke! Did you no ken he was lying on chairs?"
"I did not know it was so bad as that, Maggy Ann. So my letter seemed
to annoy him, did it?" said Grizel, eagerly, and, I fear, well
"It angered her most terrible," said Maggy Ann, "but no him. He gave a
sort of a laugh when he read it."
"Ay, and syne she says, 'It is most heartless of Grizel; she does not
even ask how you are to-day; one would think she did not know of the
accident'; and she says, 'I have a good mind to write her a very stiff
letter.' And says he in a noble, melancholic voice, 'We must not hurt
Grizel's feelings,' he says. And she says, 'Grizel thinks it was
nothing because you bore it so cheerfully; oh, how little she knows
you!' she says; and 'You are too forgiving,' she says. And says he,
'If I have anything to forgive Grizel for, I forgive her willingly.'
And syne she quieted down and wrote the letter."
Forgive her! Oh, how it enraged Grizel! How like the Tommy of old to
put it in that way. There never had been a boy so good at forgiving
people for his own crimes, and he always looked so modest when he did
it. He was reclining on his chairs at this moment, she was sure he
was, forgiving her in every sentence. She could have endured it more
easily had she felt sure that he was seeing himself as he was; but she
remembered him too well to have any hope of that.
She put on her bonnet, and took it off again; a terrible thing,
remember, for Grizel to be in a state of indecision. For the remainder
of that day she was not wholly inactive. Meeting Dr. Gemmell in the
street, she impressed upon him the advisability of not allowing Mr.
Sandys to move for at least a week.
"He might take a drive in a day or two," the doctor thought, "with his
"He would be sure to use his foot," Grizel maintained, "if you once
let him rise from his chair; you know they all do." And Gemmell agreed
that she was right. So she managed to give Tommy as irksome a time as
But next day she called. To go through another day without letting him
see how despicable she thought him was beyond her endurance. Elspeth
was a little stiff at first, but Tommy received her heartily and with
nothing in his manner to show that she had hurt his finer feelings.
His leg (the wrong leg, as Grizel remembered at once) was extended on
a chair in front of him; but instead of nursing it ostentatiously as
so many would have done, he made humourous remarks at its expense.
"The fact is," he said cheerily, "that so long as I don't move I never
felt better in my life. And I daresay I could walk almost as well as
either of you, only my tyrant of a doctor won't let me try." "He
told me you had behaved splendidly," said Grizel, "while he was
reducing the dislocation. How brave you are! You could not have
endured more stoically though there had been nothing the matter with
"It was soon over," Tommy replied lightly. "I think Elspeth suffered
more than I."
Elspeth told the story of his heroism. "I could not stay in the room,"
she said; "it was too terrible." And Grizel despised too
tender-hearted Elspeth for that; she was so courageous at facing pain
herself. But Tommy had guessed that Elspeth was trembling behind the
door, and he had called out, "Don't cry, Elspeth; I am all right; it
is nothing at all."
"How noble!" was Grizel's comment, when she heard of this; and then
Elspeth was her friend again, insisted on her staying to tea, and went
into the kitchen to prepare it. Aaron was out.
The two were alone now, and in the circumstances some men would have
given the lady the opportunity to apologize, if such was her desire.
But Tommy's was a more generous nature; his manner was that of one
less sorry to be misjudged than anxious that Grizel should not suffer
too much from remorse. If she had asked his pardon then and there, I
am sure he would have replied, "Right willingly, Grizel," and begged
her not to give another thought to the matter. What is of more
importance, Grizel was sure of this also, and it was the magnanimity
of him that especially annoyed her. There seemed to be no disturbing
it. Even when she said, "Which foot is it?" he answered, "The one on
the chair," quite graciously, as if she had asked a natural question.
Grizel pointed out that the other foot must be tired of being a foot
in waiting. It had got a little exercise, Tommy replied lightly, last
night and again this morning, when it had helped to convey him to and
from his bed.
Had he hopped? she asked brutally.
No, he said; he had shuffled along. Half rising, he attempted to show
her humourously how he walked nowadays--tried not to wince, but had
to. Ugh, that was a twinge! Grizel sarcastically offered her
assistance, and he took her shoulder gratefully. They crossed the
room--a tedious journey. "Now let me see if you can manage alone," she
says, and suddenly deserts him.
He looked rather helplessly across the room. Few sights are so
pathetic as the strong man of yesterday feeling that the chair by the
fire is a distant object to-day. Tommy knew how pathetic it was, but
Grizel did not seem to know.
"Try it," she said encouragingly; "it will do you good."
[Illustration: And clung to it, his teeth set.]
He got as far as the table, and clung to it, his teeth set. Grizel
clapped her hands. "Excellently done!" she said, with fell meaning,
and recommended him to move up and down the room for a little; he
would feel ever so much the better for it afterwards.
The pain--was--considerable, he said. Oh, she saw that, but he had
already proved himself so good at bearing pain, and the new school of
surgeons held that it was wise to exercise an injured limb.
Even then it was not a reproachful glance that Tommy gave her, though
there was some sadness in it. He moved across the room several times,
a groan occasionally escaping him. "Admirable!" said his critic.
"Bravo! Would you like to stop now?"
"Not until you tell me to," he said determinedly, but with a gasp.
"It must be dreadfully painful," she replied coldly, "but I should
like you to go on." And he went on until suddenly he seemed to have
lost the power to lift his feet. His body swayed; there was an
appealing look on his face. "Don't be afraid; you won't fall," said
Grizel. But she had scarcely said it when he fainted dead away, and
went down at her feet.
"Oh, how dare you!" she cried in sudden flame, and she drew back from
him. But after a moment she knew that he was shamming no longer--or
she knew it and yet could not quite believe it; for, hurrying out of
the room for water, she had no sooner passed the door than she swiftly
put back her head as if to catch him unawares; but he lay motionless.
The sight of her dear brother on the floor paralyzed Elspeth, who
could only weep for him, and call to him to look at her and speak to
her. But in such an emergency Grizel was as useful as any doctor, and
by the time Gemmell arrived in haste the invalid was being brought to.
The doctor was a practical man who did not ask questions while there
was something better to do. Had he asked any as he came in, Grizel
would certainly have said: "He wanted to faint to make me believe he
really has a bad ankle, and somehow he managed to do it." And if the
doctor had replied that people can't faint by wishing, she would have
said that he did not know Mr. Sandys.
But, with few words, Gemmell got his patient back to the chairs, and
proceeded to undo the bandages that were round his ankle. Grizel stood
by, assisting silently. She had often assisted the doctors, but never
before with that scornful curl of her lip. So the bandages were
removed and the ankle laid bare. It was very much swollen and
discoloured, and when Grizel saw this she gave a little cry, and the
ointment she was holding slipped from her hand. For the first time
since he came to Thrums, she had failed Gemmell at a patient's side.
"I had not expected it to be--like this," she said in a quivering
voice, when he looked at her in surprise.
"It will look much worse to-morrow," he assured them, grimly. "I can't
understand, Miss Sandys, how this came about."
"Miss Sandys was not in the room," said Grizel, abjectly, "but I was,
Tommy's face was begging her to stop. He was still faint and in pain,
but all thought of himself left him in his desire to screen her. "I
owe you an apology, doctor," he said quickly, "for disregarding your
instructions. It was entirely my own fault; I would try to walk."
"Every step must have been agony," the doctor rapped out; and Grizel
"Not nearly so bad as that," Tommy said, for her sake.
"Agony," insisted the doctor, as if, for once, he enjoyed the word.
"It was a mad thing to do, as surely you could guess, Grizel. Why did
you not prevent him?"
"She certainly did her best to stop me," Tommy said hastily; "but I
suppose I had some insane fit on me, for do it I would. I am very
His face was wincing with pain, and he spoke jerkily; but the doctor
was still angry. He felt that there was something between these two
which he did not understand, and it was strange to him, and
unpleasant, to find Grizel unable to speak for herself. I think he
doubted Tommy from that hour. All he said in reply, however, was: "It
is unnecessary to apologize to me; you yourself are the only
But was Tommy the only sufferer? Gemmell left, and Elspeth followed
him to listen to those precious words which doctors drop, as from a
vial, on the other side of a patient's door; and then Grizel, who had
been standing at the window with head averted, turned slowly round and
looked at the man she had wronged. Her arms, which had been hanging
rigid, the fists closed, went out to him to implore forgiveness. I
don't know how she held herself up and remained dry-eyed, her whole
being wanted so much to sink by the side of his poor, tortured foot,
and bathe it in her tears.
So, you see, he had won; nothing to do now but forgive her
beautifully. Go on, Tommy; you are good at it.
But the unexpected only came out of Tommy. Never was there a softer
heart. In London the old lady who sold matches at the street corner
had got all his pence; had he heard her, or any other, mourning a son
sentenced to the gallows, he would immediately have wondered whether
he might take the condemned one's place. (What a speech Tommy could
have delivered from the scaffold!) There was nothing he would not jump
at doing for a woman in distress, except, perhaps, destroy his
note-book. And Grizel was in anguish. She was his suppliant, his
brave, lonely little playmate of the past, the noble girl of to-day,
Grizel whom he liked so much. As through a magnifying-glass he saw her
top-heavy with remorse for life, unable to sleep of nights, crushed
He was not made of the stuff that could endure it. The truth must out.
"Grizel," he said impulsively, "you have nothing to be sorry for. You
were quite right. I did not hurt my foot that night in the Den, but
afterwards, when I was alone, before the doctor came. I wricked it
here intentionally in the door. It sounds incredible; but I set my
teeth and did it, Grizel, because you had challenged me to a duel, and
I would not give in."
As soon as it was out he was proud of himself for having the
generosity to confess it. He looked at Grizel expectantly.
Yes, it sounded incredible, and yet she saw that it was true. As
Elspeth returned at that moment, Grizel could say nothing. She stood
looking at him only over her high collar of fur. Tommy actually
thought that she was admiring him.
WHAT GRIZEL'S EYES SAID
To be the admired of women--how Tommy had fought for it since first he
drank of them in Pym's sparkling pages! To some it seems to be easy,
but to him it was a labour of Sisyphus. Everything had been against
him. But he concentrated. No labour was too Herculean; he was
prepared, if necessary, to walk round the world to get to the other
side of the wall across which some men can step. And he did take a
roundabout way. It is my opinion, for instance, that he wrote his book
in order to make a beginning with the ladies.
That as it may be, at all events he is on the right side of the wall
now, and here is even Grizel looking wistfully at him. Had she admired
him for something he was not (and a good many of them did that) he
would have been ill satisfied. He wanted her to think him splendid
because he was splendid, and the more he reflected the more clearly
he saw that he had done a big thing. How many men would have had the
courage to wrick their foot as he had done? (He shivered when he
thought of it.) And even of these Spartans how many would have let the
reward slip through their fingers rather than wound the feelings of a
girl? These had not been his thoughts when he made confession; he had
spoken on an impulse; but now that he could step out and have a look
at himself, he saw that this made it a still bigger thing. He was
modestly pleased that he had not only got Grizel's admiration, but
earned it, and he was very kind to her when next she came to see him.
No one could be more kind to them than he when they admired him. He
had the most grateful heart, had our Tommy.
When next she came to see him! That was while his ankle still nailed
him to the chair, a fortnight or so during which Tommy was at his
best, sending gracious messages by Elspeth to the many who called to
inquire, and writing hard at his new work, pad on knee, so like a
brave soul whom no unmerited misfortune could subdue that it would
have done you good merely to peep at him through the window. Grizel
came several times, and the three talked very ordinary things, mostly
reminiscences; she was as much a plain-spoken princess as ever, but
often he found her eyes fixed on him wistfully, and he knew what they
were saying; they spoke so eloquently that he was a little nervous
lest Elspeth should notice. It was delicious to Tommy to feel that
there was this little unspoken something between him and Grizel; he
half regretted that the time could not be far distant when she must
put it into words--as soon, say, as Elspeth left the room; an
exquisite moment, no doubt, but it would be the plucking of the
Don't think that Tommy conceived Grizel to be in love with him. On my
sacred honour, that would have horrified him.
Curiously enough, she did not take the first opportunity Elspeth gave
her of telling him in words how much she admired his brave confession.
She was so honest that he expected her to begin the moment the door
closed, and now that the artistic time had come for it, he wanted it;
but no. He was not hurt, but he wondered at her shyness, and cast
about for the reason. He cast far back into the past, and caught a
little girl who had worn this same wistful face when she admired him
most. He compared those two faces of the anxious girl and the serene
woman, and in the wistfulness that sometimes lay on them both they
looked alike. Was it possible that the fear of him which the years had
driven out of the girl still lived a ghost's life to haunt the woman?
At once he overflowed with pity. As a boy he had exulted in Grizel's
fear of him; as a man he could feel only the pain of it. There was no
one, he thought, less to be dreaded of a woman than he; oh, so sure
Tommy was of that! And he must lay this ghost; he gave his whole heart
to the laying of it.
Few men, and never a woman, could do a fine thing so delicately as he;
but of course it included a divergence from the truth, for to Tommy
afloat on a generous scheme the truth was a buoy marking sunken rocks.
She had feared him in her childhood, as he knew well; he therefore
proceeded to prove to her that she had never feared him. She had
thought him masterful, and all his reminiscences now went to show that
it was she who had been the masterful one.
"You must often laugh now," he said, "to remember how I feared you.
The memory of it makes me afraid of you still. I assure you, I joukit
back, as Corp would say, that day I saw you in church. It was the
instinct of self-preservation. 'Here comes Grizel to lord it over me
again,' I heard something inside me saying. You called me masterful,
and yet I had always to give in to you. That shows what a gentle,
yielding girl you were, and what a masterful character I was!"
His intention, you see, was, without letting Grizel know what he was
at, to make her think he had forgotten certain unpleasant incidents in
their past, so that, seeing they were no longer anything to him, they
might the sooner become nothing to her. And she believed that he had
forgotten, and she was glad. She smiled when he told her to go on
being masterful, for old acquaintance had made him like it. Hers,
indeed, was a masterful nature; she could not help it; and if the time
ever came when she must help it, the glee of living would be gone from
She did continue to be masterful--to a greater extent than Tommy, thus
nobly behaving, was prepared for; and his shock came to him at the
very moment when he was modestly expecting to receive the prize. She
had called when Elspeth happened to be out; and though now able to
move about the room with the help of a staff, he was still an
interesting object. He saw that she thought so, and perhaps it made
him hobble slightly more, not vaingloriously, but because he was such
an artist. He ceased to be an artist suddenly, however, when Grizel
made this unexpected remark:
"How vain you are!"
Tommy sat down, quite pale. "Did you come here to say that to me,
Grizel?" he inquired, and she nodded frankly over her high collar of
fur. He knew it was true as Grizel said it, but though taken aback, he
could bear it, for she was looking wistfully at him, and he knew well
what Grizel's wistful look meant; so long as women admired him Tommy
could bear anything from them. "God knows I have little to be vain
of," he said humbly.
"Those are the people who are most vain," she replied; and he laughed
a short laugh, which surprised her, she was so very serious.
"Your methods are so direct," he explained. "But of what am I vain,
Grizel? Is it my book?"
"No," she answered, "not about your book, but about meaner things.
What else could have made you dislocate your ankle rather than admit
that you had been rather silly?"
Now "silly" is no word to apply to a gentleman, and, despite his
forgiving nature, Tommy was a little disappointed in Grizel.
"I suppose it was a silly thing to do," he said, with just a touch of
"It was an ignoble thing," said she, sadly.
"I see. And I myself am the meaner thing than the book, am I?"
"Are you not?" she asked, so eagerly that he laughed again.
"It is the first compliment you have paid my book," he pointed out.
"I like the book very much," she answered gravely. "No one can be more
proud of your fame than I. You are hurting me very much by pretending
to think that it is a pleasure to me to find fault with you." There
was no getting past the honesty of her, and he was touched by it.
Besides, she did admire him, and that, after all, is the great thing.
"Then why say such things, Grizel?" he replied good-naturedly.
"But if they are true?"
"Still let us avoid them," said he; and at that she was most
"It is so like what you used to say when you were a boy!" she cried.
"You are so anxious to have me grow up," he replied, with proper
dolefulness. "If you like the book, Grizel, you must have patience
with the kind of thing that produced it. That night in the Den, when I
won your scorn, I was in the preliminary stages of composition. At
such times an author should be locked up; but I had got out, you see.
I was so enamoured of my little fancies that I forgot I was with you.
No wonder you were angry."
"I was not angry with you for forgetting me," she said sharply. (There
was no catching Grizel, however artful you were.) "But you were
sighing to yourself, you were looking as tragic as if some dreadful
calamity had occurred--"
"The idea that had suddenly come to me was a touching one," he said.
"But you looked triumphant, too."
"That was because I saw I could make something of it." "Why did you
walk as if you were lame?"
"The man I was thinking of," Tommy explained, "had broken his leg. I
don't mind telling you that it was Corp."
He ought to have minded telling her, for it could only add to her
indignation; but he was too conceited to give weight to that.
"Corp's leg was not broken," said practical Grizel.
"I broke it for him," replied Tommy; and when he had explained, her
eyes accused him of heartlessness.
"If it had been my own," he said, in self-defence, "it should have
gone crack just the same."
"Poor Gavinia! Had you no feeling for her?"
"Gavinia was not there," Tommy replied triumphantly. "She had run off
with a soldier."
"You dared to conceive that?"
Grizel stamped her foot. "You could take away dear Gavinia's character
with a smile!"
"On the contrary," said Tommy, "my heart bled for her. Did you not
notice that I was crying?" But he could not make Grizel smile; so, to
please her, he said, with a smile that was not very sincere: "I wish I
were different, but that is how ideas come to me--at least, all those
that are of any value."
"Surely you could fight against them and drive them away?"
This to Tommy, who held out sugar to them to lure them to him! But
still he treated her with consideration.
"That would mean my giving up writing altogether, Grizel," he said
"Then why not give it up?"
Really! But she admired him, and still he bore with her.
"I don't like the book," she said, "if it is written at such a cost."
"People say the book has done them good, Grizel."
"What does that matter, if it does you harm?" In her eagerness to
persuade him, her words came pell-mell. "If writing makes you live in
such an unreal world, it must do you harm. I see now what Mr. Cathro
meant, long ago, when he called you Senti----"
Tommy winced. "I remember what Mr. Cathro called me," he said, with
surprising hauteur for such a good-natured man. "But he does not call
me that now. No one calls me that now, except you, Grizel."
"What does that matter," she replied distressfully, "if it is true? In
the definition of sentimentality in the dictionary--"
He rose indignantly. "You have been looking me up in the dictionary,
have you, Grizel?"
"Yes, the night you told me you had hurt your ankle intentionally."
He laughed, without mirth now. "I thought you had put that down to
"I think," she said, "it was vanity that gave you the courage to do
it." And he liked one word in this remark.
"Then you do give me credit for a little courage?"
"I think you could do the most courageous things," she told him, "so
long as there was no real reason why you should do them."
It was a shot that rang the bell. Oh, our Tommy heard it ringing. But,
to do him justice, he bore no malice; he was proud, rather, of
Grizel's marksmanship. "At least," he said meekly, "it was courageous
of me to tell you the truth in the end?" But, to his surprise, she
shook her head.
"No," she replied; "it was sweet of you. You did it impulsively,
because you were sorry for me, and I think it was sweet. But impulse
is not courage."
So now Tommy knew all about it. His plain-spoken critic had been
examining him with a candle, and had paid particular attention to his
defects; but against them she set the fact that he had done something
chivalrous for her, and it held her heart, though the others were in
possession of the head. "How like a woman!" he thought, with a
pleased smile. He knew them!
Still he was chagrined that she made so little of his courage, and it
was to stab her that he said, with subdued bitterness: "I always had a
suspicion that I was that sort of person, and it is pleasant to have
it pointed out by one's oldest friend. No one will ever accuse you of
want of courage, Grizel."
She was looking straight at him, and her eyes did not drop, but they
looked still more wistful. Tommy did not understand the courage that
made her say what she had said, but he knew he was hurting her; he
knew that if she was too plain-spoken it was out of loyalty, and that
to wound Grizel because she had to speak her mind was a shame--yes, he
always knew that.
But he could do it; he could even go on: "And it is satisfactory that
you have thought me out so thoroughly, because you will not need to
think me out any more. You know me now, Grizel, and can have no more
fear of me."
"When was I ever afraid of you?" she demanded. She was looking at him
"Never as a girl?" he asked. It jumped out of him. He was sorry as
soon as he had said it.
There was a long pause. "So you remembered it all the time," she said
quietly. "You have been making pretence--again!" He asked her to
forgive him, and she nodded her head at once. "But why did you pretend
to have forgotten?"
"I thought it would please you, Grizel."
"Why should pretence please me?" She rose suddenly, in a white heat.
"You don't mean to say that you think I am afraid of you still?"
He said No a moment too late. He knew it was too late.
"Don't be angry with me, Grizel," he begged her, earnestly. "I am so
glad I was mistaken. It made me miserable. I have been a terrible
blunderer, but I mean well; I misread your eyes."
"They have always seemed to be watching me, and often there was such a
wistful look in them--it reminded me of the past."
"You thought I was still afraid of you! Say it," said Grizel, stamping
her foot. But he would not say it. It was not merely fear that he
thought he had seen in her eyes, you remember. This was still his
comfort, and, I suppose, it gave the touch of complacency to his face
that made Grizel merciless. She did not mean to be merciless, but only
to tell the truth. If some of her words were scornful, there was
sadness in her voice all the time, instead of triumph. "For years and
years," she said, standing straight as an elvint, "I have been able to
laugh at all the ignorant fears of my childhood; and if you don't
know why I have watched you and been unable to help watching you since
you came back, I shall tell you. But I think you might have guessed,
you who write books about women. It is because I liked you when you
were a boy. You were often horrid, but you were my first friend when
every other person was against me. You let me play with you when no
other boy or girl would let me play. And so, all the time you have
been away, I have been hoping that you were growing into a noble man;
and when you came back, I watched to see whether you were the noble
man I wanted you so much to be, and you are not. Do you see now why my
eyes look wistful? It is because I wanted to admire you, and I can't."
She went away, and the great authority on women raged about the room.
Oh, but he was galled! There had been five feet nine of him, but he
was shrinking. By and by the red light came into his eyes.
GALLANT BEHAVIOUR OF T. SANDYS
There were now no fewer than three men engaged, each in his own way,
in the siege of Grizel, nothing in common between them except insulted
vanity. One was a broken fellow who took for granted that she
preferred to pass him by in the street. His bow was also an apology to
her for his existence. He not only knew that she thought him wholly
despicable, but agreed with her. In the long ago (yesterday, for
instance) he had been happy, courted, esteemed; he had even esteemed
himself, and so done useful work in the world. But she had flung him
to earth so heavily that he had made a hole in it out of which he
could never climb. There he lay damned, hers the glory of destroying
him--he hoped she was proud of her handiwork. That was one Thomas
Sandys, the one, perhaps, who put on the velvet jacket in the morning.
But it might be number two who took that jacket off at night. He was
a good-natured cynic, vastly amused by the airs this little girl put
on before a man of note, and he took a malicious pleasure in letting
her see that they entertained him. He goaded her intentionally into
expressions of temper, because she looked prettiest then, and trifled
with her hair (but this was in imagination only), and called her a
quaint child (but this was beneath his breath). The third--he might be
the one who wore the jacket--was a haughty boy who was not only done
with her for ever, but meant to let her see it. (His soul cried, Oh,
oh, for a conservatory and some of society's darlings, and Grizel at
the window to watch how he got on with them!) And now that I think of
it, there was also a fourth: Sandys, the grave author, whose life (in
two vols. 8vo.) I ought at this moment to be writing, without a word
about the other Tommies. They amused him a good deal. When they were
doing something big he would suddenly appear and take a note of it.
The boy, who was stiffly polite to her (when Tommy was angry he became
very polite), told her that he had been invited to the Spittal, the
seat of the Rintoul family, and that he understood there were some
charming girls there.
"I hope you will like them," Grizel said pleasantly.
"If you could see how they will like me!" he wanted to reply; but of
course he could not, and unfortunately there was no one by to say it
for him. Tommy often felt this want of a secretary.
The abject one found a glove of Grizel's, that she did not know she
had lost, and put it in his pocket. There it lay, unknown to her. He
knew that he must not even ask them to bury it with him in his grave.
This was a little thing to ask, but too much for him. He saw his
effects being examined after all that was mortal of T. Sandys had been
consigned to earth, and this pathetic little glove coming to light.
Ah, then, then Grizel would know! By the way, what would she have
known? I am sure I cannot tell you. Nor could Tommy, forced to face
the question in this vulgar way, have told you. Yet, whatever it was,
it gave him some moist moments. If Grizel saw him in this mood, her
reproachful look implied that he was sentimentalizing again. How
little this chit understood him!
The man of the world sometimes came upon the glove in his pocket, and
laughed at it, as such men do when they recall their callow youth. He
took walks with Grizel without her knowing that she accompanied him;
or rather, he let her come, she was so eager. In his imagination (for
bright were the dreams of Thomas!) he saw her looking longingly after
him, just as the dog looks; and then, not being really a cruel man, he
would call over his shoulder, "Put on your hat, little woman; you can
come." Then he conceived her wandering with him through the Den and
Caddam Wood, clinging to his arm and looking up adoringly at him.
"What a loving little soul it is!" he said, and pinched her ear,
whereat she glowed with pleasure. "But I forgot," he would add,
bantering her; "you don't admire me. Heigh-ho! Grizel wants to admire
me, but she can't!" He got some satisfaction out of these flights of
fancy, but it had a scurvy way of deserting him in the hour of
greatest need; where was it, for instance, when the real Grizel
appeared and fixed that inquiring eye on him?
He went to the Spittal several times, Elspeth with him when she cared
to go; for Lady Rintoul and all the others had to learn and remember
that, unless they made much of Elspeth, there could be no T. Sandys
for them. He glared at anyone, male or female, who, on being
introduced to Elspeth, did not remain, obviously impressed, by her
side. "Give pleasure to Elspeth or away I go," was written all over
him. And it had to be the right kind of pleasure, too. The ladies must
feel that she was more innocent than they, and talk accordingly. He
would walk the flower-garden with none of them until he knew for
certain that the man walking it with little Elspeth was a person to be
trusted. Once he was convinced of this, however, he was very much at
their service, and so little to be trusted himself that perhaps they
should have had careful brothers also. He told them, one at a time,
that they were strangely unlike all the other women he had known, and
held their hands a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, and
then went away, leaving them and him a prey to conflicting and
Lord Rintoul, whose hair was so like his skin that in the family
portraits he might have been painted in one colour, could never rid
himself of the feeling that it must be a great thing to a writing chap
to get a good dinner; but her ladyship always explained him away with
an apologetic smile which went over his remarks like a piece of
india-rubber, so that in the end he had never said anything. She was a
slight, pretty woman of nearly forty, and liked Tommy because he
remembered so vividly her coming to the Spittal as a bride. He even
remembered how she had been dressed--her white bonnet, for instance.
"For long," Tommy said, musing, "I resented other women in white
bonnets; it seemed profanation."
"How absurd!" she told him, laughing. "You must have been quite a
small boy at the time."
"But with a lonely boy's passionate admiration for beautiful things,"
he answered; and his gravity was a gentle rebuke to her. "It was all a
long time ago," he said, taking both her hands in his, "but I never
forget, and, dear lady, I have often wanted to thank you." What he was
thanking her for is not precisely clear, but she knew that the
artistic temperament is an odd sort of thing, and from this time Lady
Rintoul liked Tommy, and even tried to find the right wife for him
among the families of the surrounding clergy. His step was sometimes
quite springy when he left the Spittal; but Grizel's shadow was always
waiting for him somewhere on the way home, to take the life out of
him, and after that it was again, oh, sorrowful disillusion! oh, world
gone gray! Grizel did not admire him. T. Sandys was no longer a wonder
to Grizel. He went home to that as surely as the labourer to his
And now we come to the affair of the Slugs. Corp had got a holiday,
and they were off together fishing the Drumly Water, by Lord Rintoul's
permission. They had fished the Drumly many a time without it, and
this was to be another such day as those of old. The one who woke at
four was to rouse the other. Never had either waked at four; but one
of them was married now, and any woman can wake at any hour she
chooses, so at four Corp was pushed out of bed, and soon thereafter
they took the road. Grizel's blinds were already up. "Do you mind,"
Corp said, "how often, when we had boasted we were to start at four
and didna get roaded till six, we wriggled by that window so that
Grizel shouldna see us?"
"She usually did see us," Tommy replied ruefully. "Grizel always
spotted us, Corp, when we had anything to hide, and missed us when we
were anxious to be seen."
"There was no jouking her," said Corp. "Do you mind how that used to
bother you?" a senseless remark to a man whom it was bothering
still--or shall we say to a boy? For the boy came back to Tommy when
he heard the Drumly singing; it was as if he had suddenly seen his
mother looking young again. There had been a thunder-shower as they
drew near, followed by a rush of wind that pinned them to a dike,
swept the road bare, banged every door in the glen, and then sank
suddenly as if it had never been, like a mole in the sand. But now the
sun was out, every fence and farm-yard rope was a string of diamond
drops. There was one to every blade of grass; they lurked among the
wild roses; larks, drunken with song, shook them from their wings. The
whole earth shone so gloriously with them that for a time Tommy ceased
to care whether he was admired. We can pay nature no higher
But when they came to the Slugs! The Slugs of Kenny is a wild crevice
through which the Drumly cuts its way, black and treacherous, into a
lovely glade where it gambols for the rest of its short life; you
would not believe, to see it laughing, that it had so lately escaped
from prison. To the Slugs they made their way--not to fish, for any
trout that are there are thinking for ever of the way out and of
nothing else, but to eat their luncheon, and they ate it sitting on
the mossy stones their persons had long ago helped to smooth, and
looking at a roan-branch, which now, as then, was trailing in the
There were no fish to catch, but there was a boy trying to catch them.
He was on the opposite bank; had crawled down it, only other boys can
tell how, a barefooted urchin of ten or twelve, with an enormous
bagful of worms hanging from his jacket button. To put a new worm on
the hook without coming to destruction, he first twisted his legs
about a young birch, and put his arms round it. He was after a big
one, he informed Corp, though he might as well have been fishing in a
treatise on the art of angling.
Corp exchanged pleasantries with him; told him that Tommy was Captain
Ure, and that he was his faithful servant Alexander Bett, both of
Edinburgh. Since the birth of his child, Corp had become something of
a humourist. Tommy was not listening. As he lolled in the sun he was
turning, without his knowledge, into one of the other Tommies. Let us
watch the process.
He had found a half-fledged mavis lying dead in the grass. Remember
also how the larks had sung after rain.
Tommy lost sight and sound of Corp and the boy. What he seemed to see
was a baby lark that had got out of its nest sideways, a fall of half
a foot only, but a dreadful drop for a baby. "You can get back this
way," its mother said, and showed it the way, which was quite easy,
but when the baby tried to leap, it fell on its back. Then the mother
marked out lines on the ground, from one to the other of which it was
to practise hopping, and soon it could hop beautifully so long as its
mother was there to say every moment, "How beautifully you hop!" "Now
teach me to hop up," the little lark said, meaning that it wanted to
fly; and the mother tried to do that also, but in vain; she could soar
up, up, up bravely, but could not explain how she did it. This
distressed her very much, and she thought hard about how she had
learned to fly long ago last year, but all she could recall for
certain was that you suddenly do it. "Wait till the sun comes out
after rain," she said, half remembering. "What is sun? What is rain?"
the little bird asked. "If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to
sing." "When the sun comes out after rain," the mother replied, "then
you will know how to sing." The rain came, and glued the little bird's
wings together. "I shall never be able to fly nor to sing," it wailed.
Then, of a sudden, it had to blink its eyes; for a glorious light had
spread over the world, catching every leaf and twig and blade of grass
in tears, and putting a smile into every tear. The baby bird's breast
swelled, it did not know why; and it fluttered from the ground, it did
not know how. "The sun has come out after the rain," it trilled.
"Thank you, sun; thank you, thank you! Oh, mother, did you hear me? I
can sing!" And it floated up, up, up, crying, "Thank you, thank you,
thank you!" to the sun. "Oh, mother, do you see me? I am flying!" And
being but a baby, it soon was gasping, but still it trilled the same
ecstasy, and when it fell panting to earth it still trilled, and the
distracted mother called to it to take breath or it would die, but it
could not stop. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" it sang to the sun
till its little heart burst.
With filmy eyes Tommy searched himself for the little pocket-book in
which he took notes of such sad thoughts as these, and in place of the
book he found a glove wrapped in silk paper. He sat there with it in
his hand, nodding his head over it so broken-heartedly you could not
have believed that he had forgotten it for several days.
Death was still his subject; but it was no longer a bird he saw: it
was a very noble young man, and his white, dead face stared at the sky
from the bottom of a deep pool. I don't know how he got there, but a
woman who would not admire him had something to do with it. No sun
after rain had come into that tragic life. To the water that had ended
it his white face seemed to be saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank
you." It was the old story of a faithless woman. He had given her his
heart, and she had played with it. For her sake he had striven to be
famous; for her alone had he toiled through dreary years in London,
the goal her lap, in which he should one day place his book--a poor,
trivial little work, he knew (yet much admired by the best critics).
Never had his thoughts wandered for one instant of that time to
another woman; he had been as faithful in life as in death; and now
she came to the edge of the pool and peered down at his staring eyes
He had got thus far when a shout from Corp brought him, dazed, to his
feet. It had been preceded by another cry, as the boy and the sapling
he was twisted round toppled into the river together, uprooted stones
and clods pounding after them and discolouring the pool into which the
torrent rushes between rocks, to swirl frantically before it dives
down a narrow channel and leaps into another caldron.
There was no climbing down those precipitous rocks. Corp was shouting,
gesticulating, impotent. "How can you stand so still?" he roared.
For Tommy was standing quite still, like one not yet thoroughly
awake. The boy's head was visible now and again as he was carried
round in the seething water; when he came to the outer ring down that
channel he must infallibly go, and every second or two he was in a
Tommy was awake now, and he could not stand still and see a boy drown
before his eyes. He knew that to attempt to save him was to face a
terrible danger, especially as he could not swim; but he kicked off
his boots. There was some gallantry in the man.
"You wouldna dare!" Corp cried, aghast.
Tommy hesitated for a moment, but he had abundance of physical
courage. He clenched his teeth and jumped. But before he jumped he
pushed the glove into Corp's hand, saying, "Give her that, and tell
her it never left my heart." He did not say who she was; he scarcely
knew that he was saying it. It was his dream intruding on reality, as
a wheel may revolve for a moment longer after the spring breaks.
Corp saw him strike the water and disappear. He tore along the bank as
he had never run before, until he got to the water's edge below the
Slugs, and climbed and fought his way to the scene of the disaster.
Before he reached it, however, we should have had no hero had not the
sapling, the cause of all this pother, made amends by barring the way
down the narrow channel. Tommy was clinging to it, and the boy to
him, and, at some risk, Corp got them both ashore, where they lay
gasping like fish in a creel.
The boy was the first to rise to look for his fishing-rod, and he was
surprised to find no six-pounder at the end of it. "She has broke the
line again!" he said; for he was sure then and ever afterwards that a
big one had pulled him in.
Corp slapped him for his ingratitude; but the man who had saved this
boy's life wanted no thanks. "Off to your home with you, wherever it
is," he said to the boy, who obeyed silently; and then to Corp: "He is
a little fool, Corp, but not such a fool as I am." He lay on his face,
shivering, not from cold, not from shock, but in a horror of himself.
I think it may fairly be said that he had done a brave if foolhardy
thing; it was certainly to save the boy that he had jumped, and he had
given himself a moment's time in which to draw back if he chose, which
vastly enhances the merit of the deed. But sentimentality had been
there also, and he was now shivering with a presentiment of the length
to which it might one day carry him.
They lit a fire among the rocks, at which he dried his clothes, and
then they set out for home, Corp doing all the talking. "What a town
there will be about this in Thrums!" was his text; and he was
surprised when Tommy at last broke silence by saying passionately:
"Never speak about this to me again, Corp, as long as you live.
Promise me that. Promise never to mention it to anyone. I want no one
to know what I did to-day, and no one will ever know unless you tell;
the boy can't tell, for we are strangers to him."
"He thinks you are a Captain Ure, and that I'm Alexander Bett, his
servant," said Corp. "I telled him that for a divert."
"Then let him continue to think that."
Of course Corp promised. "And I'll go to the stake afore I break my
promise," he swore, happily remembering one of the Jacobite oaths. But
he was puzzled. They would make so much of Tommy if they knew. They
would think him a wonder. Did he not want that?
"No," Tommy replied.
"You used to like it; you used to like it most michty."
"I have changed."
"Ay, you have; but since when? Since you took to making printed
Tommy did not say, but it was more recently than that. What he was
surrendering no one could have needed to be told less than he; the
magnitude of the sacrifice was what enabled him to make it. He was
always at home among the superlatives; it was the little things that
bothered him. In his present fear of the ride that sentimentality
might yet goad him to, he craved for mastery over self; he knew that
his struggles with his Familiar usually ended in an embrace, and he
had made a passionate vow that it should be so no longer. The best
beginning of the new man was to deny himself the glory that would be
his if his deed were advertised to the world. Even Grizel must never
know of it--Grizel, whose admiration was so dear to him. Thus he
punished himself, and again I think he deserves respect.
GAVINIA ON THE TRACK
Corp, you remember, had said that he would go to the stake rather than
break his promise; and he meant it, too, though what the stake was,
and why such a pother about going to it, he did not know. He was to
learn now, however, for to the stake he had to go. This was because
Gavinia, when folding up his clothes, found in one of the pockets a
glove wrapped in silk paper.
Tommy had forgotten it until too late, for when he asked Corp for the
glove it was already in Gavinia's possession, and she had declined to
return it without an explanation. "You must tell her nothing," Tommy
said sternly. He was uneasy, but relieved to find that Corp did not
know whose glove it was, nor even why gentlemen carry a lady's glove
in their pocket.
At first Gavinia was mildly curious only, but her husband's refusal to
answer any questions roused her dander. She tried cajolery, fried his
take of trout deliciously for him, and he sat down to them sniffing.
They were small, and the remainder of their brief career was in two
parts. First he lifted them by the tail, then he laid down the tail.
But not a word about the glove.
She tried tears. "Dinna greet, woman," he said in distress. "What
would the bairn say if he kent I made you greet?"
Gavinia went on greeting, and the baby, waking up, promptly took her
"D----n the thing!" said Corp.
"Your ain bairn!"
"I meant the glove!" he roared.
It was curiosity only that troubled Gavinia. A reader of romance, as
you may remember, she had encountered in the printed page a score of
ladies who, on finding such parcels in their husbands' pockets, left
their homes at once and for ever, and she had never doubted but that
it was the only course to follow; such is the power of the writer of
fiction. But when the case was her own she was merely curious; such
are the limitations of the writer of fiction. That there was a woman
in it she did not believe for a moment. This, of course, did not
prevent her saying, with a sob, "Wha is the woman?"
With great earnestness Corp assured her that there was no woman. He
even proved it: "Just listen to reason, Gavinia. If I was sich a
black as to be chief wi' ony woman, and she wanted to gie me a
present, weel, she might gie me a pair o' gloves, but one glove, what
use would one glove be to me? I tell you, if a woman had the impidence
to gie me one glove, I would fling it in her face."
Nothing could have been clearer, and he had put it thus considerately
because when a woman, even the shrewdest of them, is excited (any man
knows this), one has to explain matters to her as simply and patiently
as if she were a four-year-old; yet Gavinia affected to be
unconvinced, and for several days she led Corp the life of a lodger in
his own house.
"Hands off that poor innocent," she said when he approached the baby.
If he reproved her, she replied meekly, "What can you expect frae a
woman that doesna wear gloves?"
To the baby she said: "He despises you, my bonny, because you hae no
gloves. Ay, that's what maks him turn up his nose at you. But your
mother is fond o' you, gloves or no gloves."
She told the baby the story of the glove daily, with many monstrous
When Corp came home from his work, she said that a poor, love-lorn
female had called with a boot for him, and a request that he should
carry it in the pocket of his Sabbath breeks.
Worst of all, she listened to what he said in the night. Corp had a
habit of talking in his sleep. He was usually taking tickets at such
times, and it had been her custom to stop him violently; but now she
changed her tactics: she encouraged him. "I would be lying in my bed,"
he said to Tommy, "dreaming that a man had fallen into the Slugs, and
instead o' trying to save him I cried out, 'Tickets there, all tickets
ready,' and first he hands me a glove and neist he hands me a boot and
havers o' that kind sich as onybody dreams. But in the middle o' my
dream it comes ower me that I had better waken up to see what
Gavinia's doing, and I open my een, and there she is, sitting up,
hearkening avidly to my every word, and putting sly questions to me
about the glove."
"What glove?" Tommy asked coldly.
"The glove in silk paper."
"I never heard of it," said Tommy.
Corp sighed. "No," he said loyally, "neither did I"; and he went back
to the station and sat gloomily in a wagon. He got no help from Tommy,
not even when rumours of the incident at the Slugs became noised
"A'body kens about the laddie now," he said.
"What laddie?" Tommy inquired.
"Him that fell into the Slugs."
"Ah, yes," Tommy said; "I have just been reading about it in the
paper. A plucky fellow, this Captain Ure who saved him. I wonder who
"I wonder!" Corp said with a groan.
"There was an Alexander Bett with him, according to the papers," Tommy
went on. "Do you know any Bett?"
"It's no a Thrums name," Corp replied thankfully. "I just made it up."
"What do you mean?" Tommy asked blankly.
Corp sighed, and went back again to the wagon. He was particularly
truculent that evening when the six-o'clock train came in. "Tickets,
there; look slippy wi' your tickets." His head bobbed up at the window
of another compartment. "Tick----" he began, and then he ducked.
The compartment contained a boy looking as scared as if he had just
had his face washed, and an old woman who was clutching a large linen
bag as if expecting some scoundrel to appear through the floor and
grip it. With her other hand she held on to the boy, and being unused
to travel, they were both sitting very self-conscious, humble, and
defiant, like persons in church who have forgotten to bring their
Bible. The general effect, however, was lost on Corp, for whom it was
enough that in one of them he recognized the boy of the Slugs. He
thought he had seen the old lady before, also, but he could not give
her a name. It was quite a relief to him to notice that she was not
He heard her inquiring for one Alexander Bett, and being told that
there was no such person in Thrums, "He's married on a woman of the
name of Gavinia," said the old lady; and then they directed her to the
house of the only Gavinia in the place. With dark forebodings Corp
skulked after her. He remembered who she was now. She was the old
woman with the nut-cracker face on whom he had cried in, more than a
year ago, to say that Gavinia was to have him. Her mud cottage had
been near the Slugs. Yes, and this was the boy who had been supping
porridge with her. Corp guessed rightly that the boy had remembered
his unlucky visit. "I'm doomed!" Corp muttered to himself--pronouncing
it in another way.
The woman, the boy, and the bag entered the house of Gavinia, and
presently she came out with them. She was looking very important and
terrible. They went straight to Ailie's cottage, and Corp was
wondering why, when he suddenly remembered that Tommy was to be there
at tea to-day.
It was quite a large tea-party, and was held in what had been the
school-room; nothing there now, however, to recall an academic past,
for even the space against which a map of the world (Mercator's
projection) had once hung was gone the colour of the rest of the
walls, and with it had faded away the last relic of the Hanky School.
"It will not fade so quickly from my memory," Tommy said, to please
Mrs. McLean. His affection for his old schoolmistress was as sincere
as hers for him. I could tell you of scores of pretty things he had
done to give her pleasure since his return, all carried out, too, with
a delicacy which few men could rival, and never a woman; but they
might make you like him, so we shall pass them by.
Ailie said, blushing, that she had taught him very little. "Everything
I know," he replied, and then, with a courteous bow to the gentleman
opposite, "except what I learned from Mr. Cathro."
"Thank you," Cathro said shortly. Tommy had behaved splendidly to him,
and called him his dear preceptor, and yet the Dominie still itched to
be at him with the tawse as of old. "And fine he knows I'm itching,"
he reflected, which made him itch the more.
It should have been a most successful party, for in the rehearsals
between the hostess and her maid Christina every conceivable
difficulty had been ironed out. Ailie was wearing her black silk, but
without the Honiton lace, so that Miss Sophia Innes need not become
depressed; and she had herself taken the chair with the weak back. Mr.
Cathro, who, though a lean man, needed a great deal of room at table,
had been seated far away from the spinet, to allow Christina to pass
him without climbing. Miss Sophia and Grizel had the doctor between
them, and there was also a bachelor, but an older one, for Elspeth.
Mr. McLean, as stout and humoursome as of yore, had solemnly promised
his wife to be jocular but not too jocular. Neither minister could
complain, for if Mr. Dishart had been asked to say grace, Mr. Gloag
knew that he was to be called on for the benediction. Christina,
obeying strict orders, glided round the table leisurely, as if she
were not in the least excited, though she could be heard rushing