Part 4 out of 8
pleasure of finding these things out for herself, he would have taken
her aside and addressed her thus: "No need to look tragic, Elspeth;
for to a woman this must be really one of the most charming moments in
the comedy. You feel that he would not have quarrelled had he had any
real caring for you, and yet in your heart you know it is a proof that
he has. To a woman, I who know assure you that nothing can be more
delicious. Your feeling for him, as you and I well know, is but a
sentiment of attraction because he loves you as you are unable to love
him, and as you are so pained by this quarrel, consider how much more
painful it must be to him. You think you have been slighted; that when
a man has seemed to like you so much you have a right to be told so by
him, that you may help him with your sympathy. Oh, Elspeth, you think
yourself unhappy just now when you are really in the middle of one of
the pleasantest bits of it! Love is a series of thrills, the one
leading to the other, and, as your careful guardian, I would not have
you miss one of them. You will come to the final bang quickly enough,
and find it the finest thrill of all, but it is soon over. When you
have had to tell him that you are not for him, there are left only the
pleasures of memory, and the more of them there were, the more there
will be to look back to. I beg you, Elspeth, not to hurry; loiter
rather, smelling the flowers and plucking them, for you may never be
this way again."
All these things he might have pointed out to Elspeth had he wanted
her to look at the matter rationally, but he had no such wish. He
wanted her to enjoy herself as the blessed do, without knowing why. No
pity for the man, you see, but no ill will to him. David was having
his thrills also, and though the last of them would seem a staggerer
to him at the time, it would gradually become a sunny memory. The only
tragedy is not to have known love. So long as you have the
experiences, it does not greatly matter whether your suit was a
failure or successful.
So Tommy decided, but he feared at the same time that there had been
no quarrel--that David had simply drawn back.
How he saw through Elspeth's brave attempts to show that she had never
for a moment thought of David's having any feeling for her save
ordinary friendship--yes, they were brave, but not brave enough for
Tommy. At times she would say something bitter about life (not about
the doctor, for he was never mentioned), and it was painful to her
brother to see gentle Elspeth grown cynical. He suffered even more
when her manner indicated that she knew she was too poor a creature to
be loved by any man. Tommy was in great woe about Elspeth at this
time. He was thinking much more about her than about Grizel; but do
not blame him unreservedly for that: the two women who were his dears
were pulling him different ways, and he could not accompany both. He
had made up his mind to be loyal to Grizel, and so all his pity could
go to Elspeth. On the day he had his talk with the doctor, therefore,
he had, as it were, put Grizel aside only because she was happy just
now, and so had not Elspeth's need of him.
The doctor and he had met on the hill, whence the few who look may see
one of the fairest views in Scotland. Tommy was strolling up and down,
and the few other persons on the hill were glancing with good-humoured
suspicion at him, as we all look at celebrated characters. Had he been
happy he would have known that they were watching him, and perhaps
have put his hands behind his back to give them more for their money,
as the saying is; but he was miserable. His one consolation was that
the blow he must strike Elspeth when he told her of his engagement
need not be struck just yet. David could not have chosen a worse
moment, therefore, for saying so bluntly what he said: "I hear you are
to be married. If so, I should like to congratulate you."
Tommy winced like one charged with open cruelty to his sister--charged
with it, too, by the real criminal.
"It is not true?" David asked quietly, and Tommy turned from him
glaring. "I am sorry I spoke of it, as it is not true," the doctor
said after a pause, the crow's-feet showing round his eyes as always
when he was in mental pain; and presently he went away, after giving
Tommy a contemptuous look. Did Tommy deserve that look? We must
remember that he had wanted to make the engagement public at once; if
he shrank from admitting it for the present, it was because of
Elspeth's plight. "Grizel, you might have given her a little time to
recover from this man's faithlessness," was what his heart cried. He
believed that Grizel had told David, and for the last time in his life
he was angry with her. He strode down the hill savagely towards Caddam
Wood, where he knew he should find her.
Soon he saw her. She was on one of the many tiny paths that lead the
stranger into the middle of the wood and then leave him there
maliciously or because they dare not venture any farther themselves.
They could play no tricks on Grizel, however, for she knew and was
fond of them all. Tommy had said that she loved them because they were
such little paths, that they appealed to her like babies; and perhaps
there was something in it.
She came up the path with the swing of one who was gleefully happy.
Some of the Thrums people, you remember, said that Grizel strutted
because she was so satisfied with herself, and if you like an ugly
word, we may say that she strutted to-day. It was her whole being
giving utterance to the joy within her that love had brought. As
Grizel came up the path on that bright afternoon, she could no more
have helped strutting than the bud to open on the appointed day. She
was obeying one of Nature's laws. I think I promised long ago to tell
you of the day when Grizel would strut no more. Well, this is the day.
Observe her strutting for the last time. It was very strange and
touching to her to remember in the after years that she had once
strutted, but it was still more strange and touching to Tommy.
She was like one overfilled with delight when she saw him. How could
she know that he was to strike her?
He did not speak. She was not displeased. When anything so tremendous
happened as the meeting of these two, how could they find words at
She bent and pressed her lips to his sleeve; but he drew away with a
gesture that startled her.
"You are not angry?" she said, stopping.
"Yes," he replied doggedly.
"Not with me?" Her hand went to her heart. "With me!" A wounded animal
could not have uttered a cry more pathetic. "Not with me!" She
clutched his arm.
"Have I no cause to be angry?" he said.
She looked at him in bewilderment. Could this be he? Oh, could it be
"Cause? How could I give you cause?"
It seemed unanswerable to her. How could Grizel do anything that would
give him the right to be angry with her? Oh, men, men! will you never
understand how absolutely all of her a woman's love can be? If she
gives you everything, how can she give you more? She is not another
person; she is part of you. Does one finger of your hand plot against
He told her sullenly of his scene with the doctor.
"I am very sorry," she said; but her eyes were still searching for the
reason why Tommy could be angry with her.
"You made me promise to tell no one," he said, "and I have kept my
promise: but you----"
The anguish that was Grizel's then! "You can't think that I told him!"
she cried, and she held out her arms as if to remind him of who she
was. "You can believe that of your Grizel?"
"I daresay you have not done it wittingly; but this man has guessed,
and he could never have guessed it from look or word of mine."
"It must have been I!" she said slowly. "Tell me," she cried like a
suppliant, "how have I done it?"
"Your manner, your face," he answered; "it must have been that. I
don't blame you. Grizel, but--yes, it must have been that, and it is
hard on me."
He was in misery, and these words leaped out. They meant only that it
was hard on him if Elspeth had to be told of his engagement in the
hour of her dejection. He did not mean to hurt Grizel to the quick.
However terrible the loss of his freedom might be to the man who could
not love, he always intended to be true to her. But she gave the words
a deeper meaning.
She stood so still she seemed to be pondering, and at last she said
quietly, as if they had been discussing some problem outside
themselves: "Yes, I think it must have been that." She looked long at
him. "It is very hard on you," she said.
"I feel sure it was that," she went on; and now her figure was erect,
and again it broke, and sometimes there was a noble scorn in her
voice, but more often there was only pitiful humility. "I feel sure it
was that, for I have often wondered how everybody did not know. I have
broken my promise. I used always to be able to keep a promise. I had
every other fault,--I was hard and proud and intolerant,--but I was
true. I think I was vain of that, though I see now it was only
something I could not help; from the moment when I had a difficulty in
keeping a promise, I ceased to keep it. I love you so much that I
carry my love in my face for all to read. They cannot see me meet you
without knowing the truth; they cannot hear me say your name but I
betray myself; I show how I love you in every movement; I am full of
you. How can anyone look at me and not see you? I should have been
more careful--oh, I could have been so much more careful had I loved
you a little less! It is very hard on you."
The note of satire had died out of her voice; her every look and
gesture carried in it nothing but love for him; but all the unhappy
dog could say was something about self-respect.
Her mouth opened as if for bitterness; but no sound came. "How much
self-respect do you think is left for me after to-day?" she said
mournfully at last; and then she quickly took a step nearer her dear
one, as if to caress the spot where these words had struck him. But
she stopped, and for a moment she was the Grizel of old. "Have no
fear," she said, with a trembling, crooked smile; "there is only one
thing to be done now, and I shall do it. All the blame is mine. You
shall not be deprived of your self-respect."
He had not been asking for his freedom; but he heard it running to him
now, and he knew that if he answered nothing he would be whistling it
back for ever. A madness to be free at any cost swept over him. He let
go his hold on self-respect, and clapped his hand on freedom.
He answered nothing, and the one thing for her to do was to go; and
she did it. But it was only for a moment that she could be altogether
the Grizel of old. She turned to take a long, last look at him; but
the wofulness of herself was what she saw. She cried, with infinite
pathos, "Oh, how could you hurt your Grizel so!"
He controlled himself and let her go. His freedom was fawning on him,
licking his hands and face, and in that madness he actually let Grizel
go. It was not until she was out of sight that he gave utterance to a
harsh laugh. He knew what he was at that moment, as you and I shall
never be able to know him, eavesdrop how we may.
He flung himself down in a blaeberry-bed, and lay there doggedly, his
weak mouth tightly closed. A great silence reigned; no, not a great
silence, for he continued to hear the cry: "Oh, how could you hurt
your Grizel so!" She scarcely knew that she had said it; but to him
who knew what she had been, and what he had changed her into, and for
what alone she was to blame, there was an unconscious pathos in it
that was terrible. It was the epitome of all that was Grizel, all that
was adorable and all that was pitiful in her. It rang in his mind like
a bell of doom. He believed its echo would not be quite gone from his
ears when he died. If all the wise men in the world had met to
consider how Grizel could most effectively say farewell to Tommy, they
could not have thought out a better sentence. However completely he
had put himself emotionally in her place with this same object, he
would have been inspired by nothing quite so good.
But they were love's dying words. He knew he could never again, though
he tried, be to Grizel what he had been. The water was spilled on the
ground. She had thought him all that was glorious in man--that was
what her love had meant; and it was spilled. There was only one way in
which he could wound her more cruelly than she was already hurt, and
that was by daring to ask her to love him still. To imply that he
thought her pride so broken, her independence, her maidenly modesty,
all that make up the loveliness of a girl, so lost that by entreaties
he could persuade her to forgive him, would destroy her altogether. It
would reveal to her how low he thought her capable of falling.
I suppose we should all like to think that it would have been thus
with Grizel, but our wishes are of small account. It was not many
minutes since she left Tommy, to be his no more, his knife still in
her heart; but she had not reached the end of the wood when all in
front of her seemed a world of goblins, and a future without him not
to be faced. He might beat her or scorn her, but not for an hour could
she exist without him. She wrung her arms in woe; the horror of what
she was doing tore her in pieces; but not all this prevented her
turning back. It could not even make her go slowly. She did not walk
back; she stole back in little runs. She knew it was her destruction,
but her arms were outstretched to the spot where she had left him.
He was no longer there, and he saw her between the firs before she
could see him. As he realized what her coming back meant, his frame
shook with pity for her. All the dignity had gone from her. She looked
as shamed as a dog stealing back after it had been whipped. She knew
she was shamed. He saw she knew it: the despairing rocking of her arms
proved it; yet she was coming back to him in little runs.
Pity, chivalry, oh, surely love itself, lifted him to his feet, and
all else passed out of him save an imperious desire to save her as
much humiliation as he could--to give her back a few of those garments
of pride and self-respect that had fallen from her. At least she
should not think that she had to come all the way to him. With a
stifled sob, he rose and ran up the path towards her.
"Grizel! it is you! My beloved! how could you leave me! Oh, Grizel, my
love, how could you misunderstand me so!"
She gave a glad cry. She sought feebly to hold him at arm's length, to
look at him watchfully, to read him as in the old days; but the old
days were gone. He strained her to him. Oh, surely it was love at
last! He thanked God that he loved at last.
HOW TOMMY SAVED THE FLAG
He loved at last, but had no time to exult just now, for he could not
rejoice with Tommy while his dear one drooped in shame. Ah, so well he
understood that she believed she had done the unpardonable thing in
woman, and that while she thought so she must remain a broken column.
It was a great task he saw before him--nothing less than to make her
think that what she had done was not shameful, but exquisite; that she
had not tarnished the flag of love, but glorified it. Artfulness, you
will see, was needed; but, remember, he was now using all his arts in
behalf of the woman he loved.
"You were so long in coming back to me, Grizel. The agony of it!"
"Did it seem long?" She spoke in a trembling voice, hiding her face in
him. She listened like one anxious to seize his answer as it left his
"So long," he answered, "that it seemed to me we must be old when we
met again. I saw a future without you stretching before me to the
grave, and I turned and ran from it."
"That is how I felt," she whispered.
"You!" Tommy cried, in excellent amazement.
"What else could have made me come?"
"I thought it was pity that had brought you--pity for me, Grizel. I
thought you had perhaps come back to be angry with me--"
"How could I be!" she cried.
"How could you help it, rather?" said he. "I was cruel, Grizel; I
spoke like a fool as well as like a dastard. But it was only anxiety
for Elspeth that made me do it. Dear one, be angry with me as often as
you choose, and whether I deserve it or not; but don't go away from
me; never send me from you again. Anything but that."
It was how she had felt again, and her hold on him tightened with
sudden joy. So well he knew what that grip meant! He did not tell her
that he had not loved her fully until now. He would have liked to tell
her how true love had been born in him as he saw her stealing back to
him, but it was surely best for her not to know that any
transformation had been needed. "I don't say that I love you more now
than ever before," he said carefully, "but one thing I do know: that I
never admired you quite so much."
She looked up in surprise.
"I mean your character," he said determinedly. "I have always known
how strong and noble it was, but I never quite thought you could do
anything so beautiful as this."
"Beautiful!" She could only echo the word.
"Many women, even of the best," he told her, "would have resorted to
little feminine ways of humbling such a blunderer as I have been: they
would have spurned him for weeks; made him come to them on his knees;
perhaps have thought that his brutality of a moment outweighed all his
love. When I saw you coming to meet me half-way--oh, Grizel, tell me
that you were doing that?"
"Yes, yes, yes!" she answered eagerly, so that she might not detain
him a moment.
"When I saw you I realized that you were willing to forgive me; that
you were coming to say so; that no thought of lowering me first was in
your mind; that yours was a love above the littleness of ordinary
people: and the adorableness of it filled me with a glorious joy; I
saw in that moment what woman in her highest development is capable
of, and that the noblest is the most womanly."
She said "Womanly?" with a little cry. It had always been such a sweet
word to her, and she thought it could never be hers again!
"It is by watching you," he replied, "that I know the meaning of the
word. I thought I knew long ago, but every day you give it a nobler
If she could have believed it! For a second or two she tried to
believe it, and then she shook her head.
"How dear of you to think that of me!" she answered. She looked up at
him with exquisite approval in her eyes. She had always felt that men
should have high ideas about women.
"But it was not to save you pain that I came back," she said bravely.
There was something pathetic in the way the truth had always to come
out of her. "I did not think you wanted me to come back. I never
expected you to be looking for me, and when I saw you doing it, my
heart nearly stopped for gladness. I thought you were wearied of me,
and would be annoyed when you saw me coming back. I said to myself,
'If I go back I shall be a disgrace to womanhood,' But I came; and now
do you know what my heart is saying, and always will be saying? It is
that pride and honour and self-respect are gone. And the terrible
thing is that I don't seem to care; I, who used to value them so
much, am willing to let them go if you don't send me away from you.
Oh, if you can't love me any longer, let me still love you! That is
what I came back to say."
"Grizel, Grizel!" he cried. It was she who was wielding the knife now.
"But it is true," she said.
"We could so easily pretend that it isn't." That was not what he said,
though it was at his heart. He sat down, saying:
"This is a terrible blow, but better you should tell it to me than
leave me to find it out." He was determined to save the flag for
Grizel, though he had to try all the Tommy ways, one by one.
"Have I hurt you?" she asked anxiously. She could not bear to hurt him
for a moment. "What did I say?"
"It amounts to this," he replied huskily: "you love me, but you wish
you did not; that is what it means."
He expected her to be appalled by this; but she stood still, thinking
it over. There was something pitiful in a Grizel grown undecided.
"Do I wish I did not?" she said helplessly. "I don't know. Perhaps
that is what I do wish. Ah, but what are wishes! I know now that they
don't matter at all."
"Yes, they matter," he assured her, in the voice of one looking upon
death. "If you no longer want to love me, you will cease to do it
soon enough." His manner changed to bitterness. "So don't be cast
down, Grizel, for the day of your deliverance is at hand."
But again she disappointed him, and as the flag must be saved at
whatever cost, he said.
"It has come already. I see you no longer love me as you did." Her
arms rose in anguish; but he went on ruthlessly: "You will never
persuade me that you do; I shall never believe it again."
I suppose it was a pitiable thing about Grizel--it was something he
had discovered weeks ago and marvelled over--that nothing distressed
her so much as the implication that she could love him less. She knew
she could not; but that he should think it possible was the strangest
woe to her. It seemed to her to be love's only tragedy. We have seen
how difficult it was for Grizel to cry. When she said "How could you
hurt your Grizel so!" she had not cried, nor when she knew that if she
went back to him her self-respect must remain behind. But a painful
tear came to her eyes when he said that she loved him less. It almost
unmanned him, but he proceeded, for her good:
"I daresay you still care for me a little, as the rank and file of
people love. What right had I, of all people, to expect a love so rare
and beautiful as yours to last? It had to burn out, like a great fire,
as such love always does. The experience of the world has proved it."
"Oh!" she cried, and her body was rocking. If he did not stop, she
would weep herself to death.
"Yes, it seems sad," Tommy continued; "but if ever man knew that it
served him right, I know it. And they maintain, the wiseacres who have
analyzed love, that there is much to be said in favour of a calm
affection. The glory has gone, but the material comforts are greater,
and in the end--"
She sank upon the ground. He was bleeding for her, was Tommy. He went
on his knees beside her, and it was terrible to him to feel that every
part of her was alive with anguish. He called her many sweet names,
and she listened for them between her sobs; but still she sobbed. He
could bear it no longer; he cried, and called upon God to smite him.
She did not look up, but her poor hands pulled him back. "You said I
do not love you the same!" she moaned.
"Grizel!" he answered, as if in sad reproof; "it was not I who said
that--it was you. I put into words only what you have been telling me
for the last ten minutes."
"No, no," she cried. "Oh, how could I!"
He flung up his arms in despair. "Is this only pity for me, Grizel,"
he implored, looking into her face as if to learn his fate, "or is it
"You know it is love--you know!"
"But what kind of love?" he demanded fiercely. "Is it the same love
that it was? Quick, tell me. I can't have less. If it is but a little
less, you will kill me."
The first gleam of sunshine swept across her face (and oh, how he was
looking for it!). "Do you want it to be the same--do you really want
it? Oh, it is, it is!"
"And you would not cease to love me if you could?"
"No, no, no!" She would have come closer to him, but he held her back.
"One moment, Grizel," he said in a hard voice that filled her with
apprehension. "There must be no second mistake. In saying that love,
and love alone, brought you back, you are admitting, are you not, that
you were talking wildly about loss of pride and honour? You did the
loveliest thing you have ever done when you came back. If I were you,
my character would be ruined from this hour--I should feel so proud of
She smiled at that, and fondled his hand. "If you think so," she said,
"all is well."
But he would not leave it thus. "You must think so also," he insisted;
and when she still shook her head, "Then I am proud of your love no
longer," said he, doggedly. "How proud of it I have been! A man
cannot love a woman without reverencing her, without being touched to
the quick a score of times a day by the revelations she gives of
herself--revelations of such beauty and purity that he is abashed in
her presence. The unspoken prayers he offers up to God at those times
he gives to her to carry. And when such a one returns his love, he is
proud indeed. To me you are the embodiment of all that is fair in
woman, and it is love that has made you so, that has taken away your
little imperfections--love for me. Ah, Grizel, I was so proud to think
that somehow I had done it; but even now, in the moment when your love
has manifested itself most splendidly, you are ashamed of it, and what
I respect and reverence you for most are changes that have come about
against your will. If your love makes you sorrowful, how can I be
proud of it? Henceforth it will be my greatest curse."
She started up, wringing her hands. It was something to have got her
to her feet.
"Surely," he said, like one puzzled as well as pained by her
obtuseness, "you see clearly that it must be so. True love, as I
conceive it, must be something passing all knowledge, irresistible;
something not to be resented for its power, but worshipped for it;
something not to fight against, but to glory in. And such is your
love; but you give the proof of it with shame, because your ideal of
love is a humdrum sort of affection. That is all you would like to
feel, Grizel, and because you feel something deeper and nobler you say
you have lost your self-respect. I am the man who has taken it from
you. Can I ever be proud of your love again?"
He paused, overcome with emotion. "What it has been to me!" he cried.
"I walked among my fellows as if I were a colossus. It inspired me at
my work. I felt that there was nothing great I was not capable of, and
all because Grizel loved me."
She stood trembling with delight at what he said, and with
apprehension at what he seemed to threaten. His head being bent, he
could not see her, and amid his grief he wondered a little what she
was doing now.
"But you spoke"--she said it timidly, as if to refer to the matter at
all was cruel of her--"you spoke as if I was disgracing you because I
could not conceal my love. You said it was hard on you." She pressed
her hands together. "Yes, that is what you said."
This was awkward for Tommy. "She believes I meant that," he cried
hoarsely. "Grizel believes that of me! I have behaved since then as if
that was what I meant, have I? I meant only that it would be hard on
me if Elspeth learned of our love at the very moment when this man is
treating her basely. I look as if I had meant something worse, do I? I
know myself at last! Grizel has shown me what I am."
He covered his face with his hands. Strong man as he was, he could not
conceal his agony.
"Don't!" she cried. "If I was wrong--"
"If you were wrong!"
"I was wrong! I know I was wrong. Somehow it was a mistake. I don't
know how it arose. But you love me and you want me to love you still.
That is all I know. I thought you did not, but you do. If you wanted
me to come back----"
"If I wanted it!"
"I know you wanted it now, and I am no longer ashamed to have come. I
am glad I came, and if you can still be proud of my love and respect
"Oh, Grizel, if!"
"Then I have got back my pride and my self-respect again. I cannot
reason about it, but they have come back again."
It was she who was trying to comfort him by this time, caressing his
hair and his hands. But he would not be appeased at once; it was good
for her to have something to do.
"You are sure you are happy again, Grizel? You are not pretending in
order to please me?"
"But your eyes are still wet."
"That is because I have hurt you so. Oh, how happy I should be if I
could see you smile again!"
"How I would smile if I saw you looking happy!"
"Then smile at once, sir," she could say presently, "for see how happy
I am looking." And as she beamed on him once more he smiled as well as
he was able to. Grizel loved him so much that she actually knew when
that face of his was smiling, and soon she was saying gaily to his
eyes: "Oh, silly eyes that won't sparkle, what is the use of you?" and
she pressed her own upon them; and to his mouth she said: "Mouth that
does not know how to laugh--poor, tragic mouth!" He let her do nearly
all the talking. She sat there crooning over him as if he were her
And so the flag was saved. He begged her to let him tell their little
world of his love for her, and especially was he eager to go straight
with it to the doctor. But she would not have this. "David and Elspeth
shall know in good time," she said, very nobly. "I am sure they are
fond of each other, and they shall know of our happiness on the day
when they tell us of their own." And until that great day came she was
not to look upon herself as engaged to Tommy, and he must never kiss
her again until they were engaged. I think it was a pleasure to her to
insist on this. It was her punishment to herself for ever having
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE GIRL SHE HAD BEEN
As they sat amid the smell of rosin on that summer day, she told him,
with a glance that said, "Now you will laugh at me," what had brought
her into Caddam Wood.
"I came to rub something out."
He reflected. "A memory?"
"An unhappy memory?"
"Not to me," she replied, leaning on him. "I have no memory of you I
would rub out, no, not the unhappiest one, for it was you, and that
makes it dear. All memories, however sad, of loved ones become sweet,
don't they, when we get far enough away from them?"
"But to whom, then, is this memory painful, Grizel?"
Again she cast that glance at him. "To her," she whispered.
"'That little girl'!"
"Yes; the child I used to be. You see, she never grew up, and so they
are not distant memories to her. I try to rub them out of her mind by
giving her prettier things to think of. I go to the places where she
was most unhappy, and tell her sweet things about you. I am not
morbid, am I, in thinking of her still as some one apart from myself?
You know how it began, in the lonely days when I used to look at her
in mamma's mirror, and pity her, and fancy that she was pitying me and
entreating me to be careful. Always when I think I see her now, she
seems to be looking anxiously at me and saying, 'Oh, do be careful!'
And the sweet things I tell her about you are meant to show her how
careful I have become. Are you laughing at me for this? I sometimes
laugh at it myself."
"No, it is delicious," he answered her, speaking more lightly than he
felt. "What a numskull you make, Grizel, of any man who presumes to
write about women! I am at school again, and you are Miss Ailie
teaching me the alphabet. But I thought you lost that serious little
girl on the doleful day when she heard you say that you loved me
"She came back. She has no one but me."
"And she still warns you against me?"
Grizel laughed gleefully. "I am too clever for her," she said. "I do
all the talking. I allow her to listen only. And you must not blame
her for distrusting you; I have said such things against you to her!
Oh, the things I said! On the first day I saw you, for instance, after
you came back to Thrums. It was in church. Do you remember?"
"I should like to know what you said to her about me that day."
"Would you?" Grizel asked merrily. "Well, let me see. She was not at
church--she never went there, you remember; but of course she was
curious to hear about you, and I had no sooner got home than she came
to me and said, 'Was he there?' 'Yes,' I said. 'Is he much changed?'
she asked. 'He has a beard,' I said. 'You know that is not what I
really mean,' she said, and then I said, 'I don't think he is so much
changed that it is impossible to recognize him again.'"
Tommy interrupted her: "Now what did you mean by that?"
"I meant that I thought you were a little annoyed to find the
congregation looking at Gavinia's baby more than at you!"
"Grizel, you are a wretch, but perhaps you were right. Well, what more
did the little inquisitor want to know?"
"She asked me if I felt any of my old fear of you, and I said No, and
then she clapped her hands with joy. And she asked whether you looked
at me as if you were begging me to say I still thought you a wonder,
and I said I thought you did----"
"Oh, I told her ever so many dreadful things as soon as I found them
out. I told her the whole story of your ankle, sir, for instance."
"On my word, Grizel, you seem to have omitted nothing!"
"Ah, but I did," she cried. "I never told her how much I wanted you to
be admirable; I pretended that I despised you merely, and in reality I
was wringing my hands with woe every time you did not behave like a
"They will be worn away, Grizel, if you go on doing that."
"I don't think so," she replied, "nor can she think so if she believes
half of what I have told her about you since. She knows how you saved
the boy's life. I told her that in the old Lair because she had some
harsh memories of you there; and it was at the Cuttle Well that I told
her about the glove."
"And where," asked Tommy, severely, "did you tell her that you had
been mistaken in thinking me jealous of a baby and anxious to be
considered a wonder?"
She hid her face for a moment, and then looked up roguishly into his.
"I have not told her that yet!" she replied. It was so audacious of
her that he took her by the ears.
"If I were vain," Tommy said reflectively, "I would certainly shake
you now. You show a painful want of tact, Grizel, in implying that I
am not perfect. Nothing annoys men so much. We can stand anything
His merriness gladdened her. "They are only little things," she said,
"and I have grown to love them. I know they are flaws; but I love them
"Say because they are mine. You owe me that."
"No; but because they are weaknesses I don't have. I have others, but
not those, and it is sweet to me to know that you are weak in some
matters in which I am strong. It makes me feel that I can be of use to
"Are you insinuating that there are more of them?" Tommy demanded,
"You are not very practical," she responded, "and I am."
"And you are--just a little--inclined to be senti----"
"Hush! I don't allow that word; but you may say, if you choose, that I
am sometimes carried away by a too generous impulse."
"And that it will be my part," said she, "to seize you by the arm and
hold you back. Oh, you will give me a great deal to do! That is one of
the things I love you for. It was one of the things I loved my dear
Dr. McQueen for." She looked up suddenly. "I have told him also about
"Yes, in my parlour. It was his parlour, you know, and I had kept
nothing from him while he was alive; that is to say, he always knew
what I was thinking of, and I like to fancy that he knows still. In
the evenings he used to sit in the arm-chair by the fire, and I sat
talking or knitting at his feet, and if I ceased to do anything except
sit still, looking straight before me, he knew I was thinking the
morbid thoughts that had troubled me in the old days at Double Dykes.
Without knowing it I sometimes shuddered at those times, and he was
distressed. It reminded him of my mamma."
"I understand," Tommy said hurriedly. He meant: "Let us avoid painful
[Illustration: "I sit still by his arm-chair and tell him what is
happening to his Grizel."]
"It is years," she went on, "since those thoughts have troubled me,
and it was he who drove them away. He was so kind! He thought so much
of my future that I still sit by his arm-chair and tell him what is
happening to his Grizel. I don't speak aloud, of course; I scarcely
say the words to myself even; and yet we seem to have long talks
together. I told him I had given you his coat."
"Well, I don't think he was pleased at that, Grizel. I have had a
feeling for some time that the coat dislikes me. It scratched my hand
the first time I put it on. My hand caught in the hook of the collar,
you will say; but no, that is not what I think. In my opinion, the
deed was maliciously done. McQueen always distrusted me, you know, and
I expect his coat was saying, 'Hands off my Grizel.'"
She took it as quite a jest. "He does not distrust you now," she said,
smiling. "I have told him what I think of you, and though he was
surprised at first, in the end his opinion was the same as mine."
"Ah, you saw to that, Grizel!"
"I had nothing to do with it. I merely told him everything, and he had
to agree with me. How could he doubt when he saw that you had made me
so happy! Even mamma does not doubt."
"You have told her! All this is rather eerie, Grizel."
"You are not sorry, are you?" she asked, looking at him anxiously.
"Dr. McQueen wanted me to forget her. He thought that would be best
for me. It was the only matter on which we differed. I gave up
speaking of her to him. You are the only person I have mentioned her
to since I became a woman; but I often think of her. I am sure there
was a time, before I was old enough to understand, when she was very
fond of me. I was her baby, and women can't help being fond of their
babies, even though they should never have had them. I think she often
hugged me tight."
"Need we speak of this, Grizel?"
"For this once," she entreated. "You must remember that mamma often
looked at me with hatred, and said I was the cause of all her woe; but
sometimes in her last months she would give me such sad looks that I
trembled, and I felt that she was picturing me growing into the kind
of woman she wished so much she had not become herself, and that she
longed to save me. That is why I have told her that a good man loves
me. She is so glad, my poor dear mamma, that I tell her again and
again, and she loves to hear it as much as I to tell it. What she
loves to hear most is that you really do want to marry me. She is so
fond of hearing that because it is what my father would never say to
Tommy was so much moved that he could not speak, but in his heart he
gave thanks that what Grizel said of him to her mamma was true at
"It makes her so happy," Grizel said, "that when I seem to see her now
she looks as sweet and pure as she must have been in the days when she
was an innocent girl. I think she can enter into my feelings more than
any other person could ever do. Is that because she was my mother? She
understands how I feel just as I can understand how in the end she was
willing to be bad because he wanted it so much."
"No, no, Grizel," Tommy cried passionately, "you don't understand
She rocked her arms. "Yes, I do," she said; "I do. I could never have
cared for such a man; but I can understand how mamma yielded to him,
and I have no feeling for her except pity, and I have told her so, and
it is what she loves to hear her daughter tell her best of all."
They put the subject from them, and she told him what it was that she
had come to rub out in Caddam. If you have read of Tommy's boyhood you
may remember the day it ended with his departure for the farm, and
that he and Elspeth walked through Caddam to the cart that was to take
him from her, and how, to comfort her, he swore that he loved her with
his whole heart, and Grizel not at all, and that Grizel was in the
wood and heard. And how Elspeth had promised to wave to Tommy in the
cart as long as it was visible, but broke down and went home sobbing,
and how Grizel took her place and waved, pretending to be Elspeth, so
that he might think she was bearing up bravely. Tommy had not known
what Grizel did for him that day, and when he heard it now for the
first time from her own lips, he realized afresh what a glorious girl
she was and had always been.
"You may try to rub that memory out of little Grizel's head," he
declared, looking very proudly at her, "but you shall never rub it out
It was by his wish that they went together to the spot where she had
heard him say that he loved Elspeth only--"if you can find it," Tommy
said, "after all these years"; and she smiled at his mannish
words--she had found it so often since! There was the very clump of
And here was the boy to match. Oh, who by striving could make himself
a boy again as Tommy could! I tell you he was always irresistible
then. What is genius? It is the power to be a boy again at will. When
I think of him flinging off the years and whistling childhood back,
not to himself only, but to all who heard, distributing it among them
gaily, imperiously calling on them to dance, dance, for they are boys
and girls again until they stop--when to recall him in those wild
moods is to myself to grasp for a moment at the dear dead days that
were so much the best, I cannot wonder that Grizel loved him. I am his
slave myself; I see that all that was wrong with Tommy was that he
could not always be a boy.
"Hide there again, Grizel," he cried to her, little Tommy cried to
her, Stroke the Jacobite, her captain, cried to the Lady Griselda; and
he disappeared, and presently marched down the path with an imaginary
Elspeth by his side. "I love you both, Elspeth," he was going to say,
"and my love for the one does not make me love the other less"; but he
glanced at Grizel, and she was leaning forward to catch his words as
if this were no play, but life or death, and he knew what she longed
to hear him say, and he said it: "I love you very much, Elspeth, but
however much I love you, it would be idle to pretend that I don't love
A stifled cry of joy came from a clump of whin hard by, and they were
man and woman again.
"Did you not know it, Grizel?"
"No, no; you never told me."
"I never dreamed it was necessary to tell you."
"Oh, if you knew how I have longed that it might be so, yes, and
sometimes hated Elspeth because I feared it could not be! I have tried
so hard to be content with second place. I have thought it all out,
and said to myself it was natural that Elspeth should be first."
"My tragic love," he said, "I can see you arguing in that way, but I
don't see you convincing yourself. My passionate Grizel is not the
girl to accept second place from anyone. If I know anything of her, I
To his surprise, she answered softly: "You are wrong. I wonder at it
myself, but I had made up my mind to be content with second place, and
to be grateful for it."
"I could not have believed it!" he cried.
"I could not have believed it myself," said she.
"Are you the Grizel----" he began.
"No," she said, "I have changed a little," and she looked pathetically
"It stabs me," he said, "to see you so humble."
"I am humbler than I was," she answered huskily, but she was looking
at him with the fondest love.
"Don't look at me so, Grizel," he implored. "I am unworthy of it. I am
the man who has made you so humble."
"Yes," she answered, and still she looked at him with the fondest
love. A film came over his eyes, and she touched them softly with her
"Those eyes that but a little while ago were looking so coldly at
you!" he said.
"Dear eyes!" said she.
"Though I were to strike you----" he cried, raising his hand.
She took the hand in hers and kissed it.
"Has it come to this!" he said, and as she could not speak, she
nodded. He fell upon his knees before her.
"I am glad you are a little sorry," she said; "I am a little sorry
OF THE CHANGE IN THOMAS
To find ways of making David propose to Elspeth, of making Elspeth
willing to exchange her brother for David--they were heavy tasks, but
Tommy yoked himself to them gallantly and tugged like an Arab steed in
the plough. It should be almost as pleasant to us as to him to think
that love was what made him do it, for he was sure he loved Grizel at
last, and that the one longing of his heart was to marry her; the one
marvel to him was that he had ever longed ardently for anything else.
Well, as you know, she longed for it also, but she was firm in her
resolve that until Elspeth was engaged Tommy should be a single man.
She even made him promise not to kiss her again so long as their love
had to be kept secret. "It will be so sweet to wait," she said
bravely. As we shall see presently, his efforts to put Elspeth into
the hands of David were apparently of no avail, but though this would
have embittered many men, it drew only to the surface some of Tommy's
noblest attributes; as he suffered in silence he became gentler, more
considerate, and acquired a new command over himself. To conquer self
for her sake (this is in the "Letters to a Young Man") is the highest
tribute a man can pay to a woman; it is the only real greatness, and
Tommy had done it now. I could give you a score of proofs. Let us take
his treatment of Aaron Latta.
One day about this time Tommy found himself alone in the house with
Aaron, and had he been the old Tommy he would have waited but a moment
to let Aaron decide which of them should go elsewhere. It was thus
that these two, ever so uncomfortable in each other's presence,
contrived to keep the peace. Now note the change.
"Aaron," said Tommy, in the hush that had fallen on that house since
quiet Elspeth left it, "I have never thanked you in words for all that
you have done for me and Elspeth."
"Dinna do it now, then," replied the warper, fidgeting.
"I must," Tommy said cheerily, "I must"; and he did, while Aaron
"It was never done for you," Aaron informed him, "nor for the father
you are the marrows o'."
"It was done for my mother," said Tommy, reverently.
"I'm none so sure o't," Aaron rapped out. "I think I brocht you twa
here as bairns, that the reminder of my shame should ever stand before
But Tommy shook his head, and sat down sympathetically beside the
warper. "You loved her, Aaron," he said simply. "It was an undying
love that made you adopt her orphan children." A charming thought came
to him. "When you brought us here," he said, with some elation,
"Elspeth used to cry at nights because our mother's spirit did not
come to us to comfort us, and I invented boyish explanations to
appease her. But I have learned since why we did not see that spirit;
for though it hovered round this house, its first thought was not for
us, but for him who succoured us."
He could have made it much better had he been able to revise it, but
surely it was touching, and Aaron need not have said "Damn," which was
what he did say.
One knows how most men would have received so harsh an answer to such
gentle words, and we can conceive how a very holy man, say a monk,
would have bowed to it. Even as the monk did Tommy submit, or say
rather with the meekness of a nun.
"I wish I could help you in any way, Aaron," he said, with a sigh.
"You can," replied Aaron, promptly, "by taking yourself off to London,
and leaving Elspeth here wi' me. I never made pretence that I wanted
you, except because she wouldna come without you. Laddie and man, as
weel you ken, you were aye a scunner to me."
"And yet," said Tommy, looking at him admiringly, "you fed and housed
and educated us. Ah, Aaron, do you not see that your dislike gives me
the more reason only to esteem you?" Carried away by desire to help
the old man, he put his hand kindly on his shoulder. "You have never
respected yourself," he said, "since the night you and my mother
parted at the Cuttle Well, and my heart bleeds to think of it. Many a
year ago, by your kindness to two forlorn children, you expiated that
sin, and it is blotted out from your account. Forget it, Aaron, as
every other person has forgotten it, and let the spirit of Jean Myles
see you tranquil once again."
He patted Aaron affectionately; he seemed to be the older of the two.
"Tak' your hand off my shuther," Aaron cried fiercely.
Tommy removed his hand, but he continued to look yearningly at the
warper. Another beautiful thought came to him.
"What are you looking so holy about?" asked Aaron, with misgivings.
"Aaron," cried Tommy, suddenly inspired, "you are not always the
gloomy man you pass for being. You have glorious moments still. You
wake in the morning, and for a second of time you are in the heyday of
your youth, and you and Jean Myles are to walk out to-night. As you
sit by this fire you think you hear her hand on the latch of the door;
as you pass down the street you seem to see her coming towards you. It
is for a moment only, and then you are a gray-haired man again, and
she has been in her grave for many a year; but you have that moment."
Aaron rose, amazed and wrathful. "The de'il tak' you," he cried, "how
did you find out that?"
Perhaps Tommy's nose turned up rapturously in reply, for the best of
us cannot command ourselves altogether at great moments, but when he
spoke he was modest again.
"It was sympathy that told me," he explained; "and, Aaron, if you will
only believe me, it tells me also that a little of the man you were
still clings to you. Come out of the moroseness in which you have
enveloped yourself so long. Think what a joy it would be to Elspeth."
"It's little she would care."
"If you want to hurt her, tell her so."
"I'm no denying but what she's fell fond o' me."
"Then for her sake," Tommy pleaded.
But the warper turned on him with baleful eyes. "She likes me," he
said in a grating voice, "and yet I'm as nothing to her; we are all as
nothing to her beside you. If there hadna been you I should hae become
the father to her I craved to be; but you had mesmerized her; she had
eyes for none but you. I sent you to the herding, meaning to break
your power over her, and all she could think o' was my cruelty in
sindering you. Syne you ran aff wi' her to London, stealing her frae
me. I was without her while she was growing frae lassie to woman, the
years when maybe she could hae made o' me what she willed. Magerful
Tam took the mother frae me, and he lived again in you to tak' the
"You really think me masterful--me!" Tommy said, smiling.
"I suppose you never were!" Aaron replied ironically.
"Yes," Tommy admitted frankly, "I was masterful as a boy, ah, and even
quite lately. How we change!" he said musingly.
"How we dinna change!" retorted Aaron, bitterly. He had learned the
"Man," he continued, looking Tommy over, "there's times when I see
mair o' your mother than your father in you. She was a wonder at
making believe. The letters about her grandeur that she wrote to
Thrums when she was starving! Even you couldna hae wrote them better.
But she never managed to cheat hersel'. That's whaur you sail away
"I used to make believe, Aaron, as you say," Tommy replied sadly. "If
you knew how I feel the folly of it now, perhaps even you would wish
that I felt it less.
"But we must each of us dree his own weird," he proceeded, with
wonderful sweetness, when Aaron did not answer. "And so far, at least,
as Elspeth is concerned, surely I have done my duty. I had the
bringing up of her from the days when she was learning to speak."
"She got into the way o' letting you do everything for her," the
warper responded sourly. "You thought for her, you acted for her, frae
the first; you toomed her, and then filled her up wi' yoursel'."
"She always needed some one to lean on."
"Ay, because you had maimed her. She grew up in the notion that you
were all the earth and the wonder o' the world."
"Could I help that?"
"Help it! Did you try? It was the one thing you were sure o' yoursel';
it was the one thing you thought worth anybody's learning. You stood
before her crowing the whole day. I said the now I wished you would go
and leave her wi' me: but I wouldna dare to keep her; she's helpless
without you; if you took your arm awa frae her now, she would tumble
to the ground."
"I fear it is true, Aaron," Tommy said, with bent head. "Whether she
is so by nature, or whether I have made her so, I cannot tell, but I
fear that what you say is true."
"It's true," said Aaron, "and yours is the wite. There's no life for
her now except what you mak'; she canna see beyond you. Go on thinking
yoursel' a wonder if you like, but mind this: if you were to cast her
off frae you now, she would die like an amputated hand."
To Tommy it was like listening to his doom. Ah, Aaron, even you could
not withhold your pity, did you know how this man is being punished
now for having made Elspeth so dependent on him! Some such thought
passed through Tommy's head, but he was too brave to appeal for pity.
"If that is so," he said firmly, "I take the responsibility for it.
But I began this talk, Aaron, not to intrude my troubles on you, but
hoping to lighten yours. If I could see you smile, Aaron----"
"Drop it!" cried the warper; and then, going closer to him: "You would
hae seen me smile, ay, and heard me laugh, gin you had been here when
Mrs. McLean came yont to read your book to me. She fair insistit on
reading the terrible noble bits to me, and she grat they were so
sublime; but the sublimer they were, the mair I laughed, for I ken
you, Tommy, my man, I ken you."
He spoke with much vehemence, and, after all, our hero was not
perfect. He withdrew stiffly to the other room. I think it was the use
of the word Tommy that enraged him.
But in a very few minutes he scorned himself, and was possessed by a
pensive wonder that one so tragically fated as he could resent an old
man's gibe. Aaron misunderstood him. Was that any reason why he should
not feel sorry for Aaron? He crossed the hallan to the kitchen door,
and stopped there, overcome with pity. The warper was still crouching
by the fire, but his head rested on his chest; he was a weary,
desolate figure, and at the other side of the hearth stood an empty
chair. The picture was the epitome of his life, or so it seemed to the
sympathetic soul at the door, who saw him passing from youth to old
age, staring at the chair that must always be empty. At the same
moment Tommy saw his own future, and in it, too, an empty chair. Yet,
hard as was his own case, at least he knew that he was loved; if her
chair must be empty, the fault was as little hers as his, while
A noble compassion drew him forward, and he put his hand determinedly
on the dear old man's shoulder.
"Aaron," he said, in a tremble of pity, "I know what is the real
sorrow of your life, and I rejoice because I can put an end to it. You
think that Jean Myles never cared for you; but you are strangely
wrong. I was with my mother to the last, Aaron, and I can tell you,
she asked me with her dying breath to say to you that she loved you
all the time."
Aaron tried to rise, but was pushed back into his chair. "Love cannot
die," cried Tommy, triumphantly, like the fairy in the pantomime;
"love is always young----"
He stopped in mid-career at sight of Aaron's disappointing face. "Are
you done?" the warper inquired. "When you and me are alane in this
house there's no room for the both o' us, and as I'll never hae it
said that I made Jean Myles's bairn munt, I'll go out mysel'."
And out he went, and sat on the dyke till Elspeth came home. It did
not turn Tommy sulky. He nodded kindly to Aaron from the window in
token of forgiveness, and next day he spent a valuable hour in making
a cushion for the old man's chair. "He must be left with the
impression that you made it," Tommy explained to Elspeth, "for he
would not take it from me."
"Oh, Tommy, how good you are!"
"I am far from it, Elspeth."
"There is a serenity about you nowadays," she said, "that I don't seem
to have noticed before," and indeed this was true; it was the serenity
that comes to those who, having a mortal wound, can no more be
troubled by the pinpricks.
"There has been nothing to cause it, has there?" Elspeth asked
"Only the feeling that I have much to be grateful for," he replied. "I
have you, Elspeth."
"And I have you," she said, "and I want no more. I could never care
for anyone as I care for you, Tommy."
She was speaking unselfishly; she meant to imply delicately that the
doctor's defection need not make Tommy think her unhappy. "Are you
glad?" she asked.
He said Yes bravely. Elspeth, he was determined, should never have the
distress of knowing that for her sake he was giving up the one great
joy which life contains. He was a grander character than most. Men
have often in the world's history made a splendid sacrifice for women,
but if you turn up the annals you will find that the woman nearly
always knew of it.
He told Grizel what Aaron had said and what Elspeth had said. He could
keep nothing from her now; he was done with the world of make-believe
for ever. And it seemed wicked of him to hope, he declared, or to let
her hope. "I ought to give you up, Grizel," he said, with a groan.
"I won't let you," she replied adorably.
"Gemmell has not come near us for a week. I ask him in, but he avoids
"I don't understand it," Grizel had to admit; "but I think he is fond
of her, I do indeed."
"Even if that were so, I fear she would not accept him. I know Elspeth
so well that I feel I am deceiving you if I say there is any hope."
"Nevertheless you must say it," she answered brightly; "you must say
it and leave me to think it. And I do think it. I believe that
Elspeth, despite her timidity and her dependence on you, is like other
girls at heart, and not more difficult to win.
"And even if it all comes to nothing," she told him, a little faintly,
"I shall not be unhappy. You don't really know me if you think I
should love to be married so--so much as all that."
"It is you, Grizel," he replied, "who don't see that it is myself I am
pitying. It is I who want to be married as much as all that."
Her eyes shone with a soft light, for of course it was what she wanted
him to say. These two seemed to have changed places. That people could
love each other, and there the end, had been his fond philosophy and
her torment. Now, it was she who argued for it and Tommy who shook his
"They can be very, very happy."
"No," he said.
"But one of them is."
"Not the other," he insisted; and of course it was again what she
wanted him to say.
And he was not always despairing. He tried hard to find a way of
bringing David to Elspeth's feet, and once, at least, the apparently
reluctant suitor almost succumbed. Tommy had met him near Aaron's
house, and invited him to come in and hear Elspeth singing. "I did not
know she sang," David said, hesitating.
"She is so shy about it," Tommy replied lightly, "that we can hear her
by stealth only. Aaron and I listen at the door. Come and listen at
And David had yielded and listened at the door, and afterwards gone in
and remained like one who could not tear himself away. What was more,
he and Elspeth had touched upon the subject of love in their
conversation, Tommy sitting at the window so engrossed in a letter to
Pym that he seemed to hear nothing, though he could repeat everything
afterwards to Grizel.
Elspeth had said, in her shrinking way, that if she were a man she
could love only a woman who was strong and courageous and
helpful--such a woman as Grizel, she had said.
"And yet," David replied, "women have been loved who had none of those
"In spite of the want of them?" Elspeth asked.
"Perhaps because of it," said he.
"They are noble qualities," Elspeth maintained a little sadly, and he
assented. "And one of them, at least, is essential," she said. "A
woman has no right to be loved who is not helpful."
"She is helpful to the man who loves her," David replied.
"He would have to do for her," Elspeth said, "the very things she
should be doing for him."
"He may want very much to do them," said David.
"Then it is her weakness that appeals to him. Is not that loving her
for the wrong thing?"
"It may be the right thing," David insisted, "for him."
"And at that point," Tommy said, boyishly, to Grizel, "I ceased to
hear them, I was so elated; I felt that everything was coming right. I
could not give another thought to their future, I was so busy mapping
out my own. I heard a hammering. Do you know what it was? It was our
house going up--your house and mine; our home, Grizel! It was not
here, nor in London. It was near the Thames. I wanted it to be upon
the bank, but you said No, you were afraid of floods. I wanted to
superintend the building, but you conducted me contemptuously to my
desk. You intimated that I did not know how to build--that no one knew
except yourself. You instructed the architect, and bullied the
workmen, and cried for more store-closets. Grizel, I saw the house go
up; I saw you the adoration and terror of your servants; I heard you
singing from room to room."
He was touched by this; all beautiful thoughts touched him.
But as a rule, though Tommy tried to be brave for her sake, it was
usually she who was the comforter now, and he the comforted, and this
was the arrangement that suited Grizel best. Her one thought need no
longer be that she loved him too much, but how much he loved her. It
was not her self-respect that must be humoured back, but his. If hers
lagged, what did it matter? What are her own troubles to a woman when
there is something to do for the man she loves?
"You are too anxious about the future," she said to him, if he had
grown gloomy again. "Can we not be happy in the present, and leave the
future to take care of itself?" How strange to know that it was Grizel
who said this to Tommy, and not Tommy who said it to Grizel!
She delighted in playing the mother to him. "Now you must go back to
your desk," she would say masterfully. "You have three hours' work to
do to-night yet."
"It can wait. Let me stay a little longer with you, Grizel," he
answered humbly. Ha! it was Tommy who was humble now. Not so long ago
he would not have allowed his work to wait for anyone, and Grizel knew
it, and exulted.
"To work, sir," she ordered. "And you must put on your old coat before
you sit down to write, and pull up your cuffs so that they don't
scrape on the desk. Also, you must not think too much about me."
She tried to look businesslike, but she could scarce resist rocking
her arms with delight when she heard herself saying such things to
him. It was as if she had the old doctor once more in her hands.
"What more, Grizel? I like you to order me about."
"Only this. Good afternoon."
"But I am to walk home with you," he entreated.
"No," she said decisively; but she smiled: once upon a time it had
been she who asked for this.
"If you are good," she said, "you shall perhaps see me to-morrow."
"Perhaps only?" He was scared; but she smiled happily again: it had
once been she who had to beg that there should be no perhaps.
"If you are good," she replied,--"and you are not good when you have
such a long face. Smile, you silly boy; smile when I order you. If you
don't I shall not so much as look out at my window to-morrow."
He was the man who had caused her so much agony, and she was looking
at him with the eternally forgiving smile of the mother. "Ah, Grizel,"
Tommy cried passionately, "how brave and unselfish and noble you are,
and what a glorious wife God intended you to be!"
She broke from him with a little cry, but when she turned round again
it was to nod and smile to him.
Some beautiful days followed, so beautiful to Grizel that as they
passed away she kissed her hand to them. Do you see her standing on
tiptoe to see the last of them? They lit a fire in the chamber of her
soul which is the home of all pure maids, and the fagots that warmed
Grizel were every fond look that had been on her lover's face and
every sweet word he had let fall. She counted and fondled them, and
pretended that one was lost that she might hug it more than all the
others when it was found. To sit by that fire was almost better than
having the days that lit it; sometimes she could scarcely wait for the
day to go.
Tommy's fond looks and sweet words! There was also a letter in those
days, and, now that I remember, a little garnet ring; and there were a
few other fagots, but all so trifling it must seem incredible to you
that they could have made so great a blaze--nothing else in it, on my
honour, except a girl's heart added by herself that the fire might
burn a moment longer.
And now, what so chilly as the fire that has gone out! Gone out long
ago, dear Grizel, while you crouched over it. You may put your hand in
the ashes; they will not burn you now. Ah, Grizel, why do you sit
there in the cold?
The day of the letter! It began in dread, but ended so joyfully, do
you think Grizel grudged the dread? It became dear to her; she loved
to return to it and gaze at the joy it glorified, as one sees the
sunshine from a murky room. When she heard the postman's knock she was
not even curious; so few letters came to her, she thought this must be
Maggy Ann's monthly one from Aberdeen, and went on placidly dusting.
At last she lifted it from the floor, for it had been slipped beneath
the door, and then Grizel was standing in her little lobby, panting as
if at the end of a race. The letter lay in both her hands, and they
rose slowly until they were pressed against her breast.
She uttered some faint cries (it was the only moment in which I have
known Grizel to be hysterical), and then she ran to her room and
locked herself in--herself and it. Do you know why that look of
elation had come suddenly to her face? It was because he had not even
written the address in a disguised hand to deceive the postmistress.
So much of the old Grizel was gone that the pathos of her elation over
this was lost to her.
Several times she almost opened it. Why did she pause? why had that
frightened look come into her eyes? She put the letter on her table
and drew away from it. If she took a step nearer, her hands went
behind her back as if saying, "Grizel, don't ask us to open it; we are
Perhaps it really did say the dear things that love writes. Perhaps it
was aghast at the way she was treating it. Dear letter! Her mouth
smiled to it, but her hands remained afraid. As she stood irresolute,
smiling, and afraid, she was a little like her mother. I have put off
as long as possible saying that Grizel was ever like her mother. The
Painted Lady had never got any letters while she was in Thrums, but
she looked wistfully at those of other people. "They are so pretty,"
she had said; "but don't open them: when you open them they break your
heart." Grizel remembered what her mother had said.
Had the old Grizel feared what might be inside, it would have made her
open the letter more quickly. Two minds to one person were unendurable
to her. But she seemed to be a coward now. It was pitiable.
Perhaps it was quite a common little letter, beginning "Dear Grizel,"
and saying nothing more delicious or more terrible than that he wanted
her to lend him one of the doctor's books. She thought of a score of
trivialities it might be about; but the letter was still unopened when
David Gemmell called to talk over some cases in which he required her
counsel. He found her sitting listlessly, something in her lap which
she at once concealed. She failed to follow his arguments, and he went
away puckering his brows, some of the old doctor's sayings about her
ringing loud in his ears.
One of them was: "Things will be far wrong with Grizel when she is
able to sit idle with her hands in her lap."
Another: "She is almost pitifully straightforward, man. Everything
that is in Grizel must out. She can hide nothing."
Yet how cunningly she had concealed what was in her hands. Cunning
applied to Grizel! David shuddered. He thought of Tommy, and shut his
mouth tight. He could do this easily. Tommy could not do it without
feeling breathless. They were types of two kinds of men.
David also remembered a promise he had given McQueen, and wondered, as
he had wondered a good deal of late, whether the time had come to keep
But Grizel sat on with her unopened letter. She was to meet Tommy
presently on the croquet lawn of the Dovecot, when Ailie was to play
Mr. James (the champion), and she decided that she must wait till
then. She would know what sort of letter it was the moment she saw his
face. And then! She pressed her hands together.
Oh, how base of her to doubt him! She said it to herself then and
often afterwards. She looked mournfully in her mother's long mirror at
this disloyal Grizel, as if the capacity to doubt him was the saddest
of all the changes that had come to her. He had been so true
yesterday; oh, how could she tremble to-day? Beautiful yesterday! but
yesterday may seem so long ago. How little a time had passed between
the moment when she was greeting him joyously in Caddam Wood and that
cry of the heart, "How could you hurt your Grizel so!" No, she could
not open her letter. She could kiss it, but she could not open it.
Foolish fears! for before she had shaken hands with Tommy in Mrs.
McLean's garden she knew he loved her still, and that the letter
proved it. She was properly punished, yet surely in excess, for when
she might have been reading her first love-letter, she had to join in
discussions with various ladies about Berlin wool and the like, and to
applaud the prowess of Mr. James with the loathly croquet mallet. It
seemed quite a long time before Tommy could get a private word with
her. Then he began about the letter at once.
"You are not angry with me for writing it?" he asked anxiously. "I
should not have done it; I had no right: but such a desire to do it
came over me, I had to; it was such a glory to me to say in writing
what you are to me."
She smiled happily. Oh, exquisite day! "I have so long wanted to have
a letter from you," she said. "I have almost wished you would go away
for a little time, so that I might have a letter from you."
He had guessed this. He had written to give her delight.
"Did you like the first words of it, Grizel?" he asked eagerly.
The lover and the artist spoke together.
Could she admit that the letter was unopened, and why? Oh, the pain to
him! She nodded assent. It was not really an untruth, she told
herself. She did like them--oh, how she liked them, though she did not
know what they were!
"I nearly began 'My beloved,'" he said solemnly.
Somehow she had expected it to be this. "Why didn't you?" she asked, a
"I like the other so much better," he replied. "To write it was so
delicious to me, I thought you would not mind."
"I don't mind," she said hastily. (What could it be?)
"But you would have preferred 'beloved'?"
"It is such a sweet name."
"Surely not so sweet as the other, Grizel?"
"No," she said, "no." (Oh, what could it be!)
"Have you destroyed it?" he asked, and the question was a shock to
her. Her hand rose instinctively to defend something that lay near her
"I could not," she whispered.
"Do you mean you wanted to?" he asked dolefully.
"I thought you wanted it," she murmured.
"I!" he cried, aghast, and she was joyous again.
"Can't you guess where it is?" she said.
He understood. "Grizel! You carry my letter there!"
She was full of glee; but she puzzled him presently.
"Do you think I could go now?" she inquired eagerly.
"And leave me?"
It was dreadful of her, but she nodded.
"I want to go home."
"Is it not home, Grizel, when you are with me?"
"I want to go away from home, then." She said it as if she loved to
"I won't tell you." She was looking wistfully at the door. "I have
something to do."
"It can wait."
"It has waited too long." He might have heard an assenting rustle from
beneath her bodice.
"Do let me go," she said coaxingly, as if he held her.
"I can't understand----" he began, and broke off. She was facing him
demurely but exultantly, challenging him, he could see, to read her
now. "Just when I am flattering myself that I know everything about
you, Grizel," he said, with a long face, "I suddenly wonder whether I
She would have liked to clap her hands. "You must remember that we
have changed places," she told him. "It is I who understand you now."
"And I am devoutly glad," he made answer, with humble thankfulness.
"And I must ask you, Grizel, why you want to run away from me."
"But you think you know," she retorted smartly. "You think I want to
read my letter again!"
Her cleverness staggered him. "But I am right, am I not, Grizel?"
"No," she said triumphantly, "you are quite wrong. Oh, if you knew how
wrong you are!" And having thus again unhorsed him, she made her
excuses to Ailie and slipped away. Dr. Gemmell, who was present and
had been watching her narrowly, misread the flush on her face and her
restless desire to be gone.
"Is there anything between those two, do you think?" Mrs. McLean had
said in a twitter to him while Tommy and Grizel were talking, and he
had answered No almost sharply.
"People are beginning to think there is," she said in self-defence.
"They are mistaken," he told her curtly, and it was about this time
that Grizel left. David followed her to her home soon afterwards, and
Maggy Ann, who answered his summons, did not accompany him upstairs.
He was in the house daily, and she left him to find Grizel for
himself. He opened the parlour door almost as he knocked, and she was
there, but had not heard him. He stopped short, like one who had
blundered unawares on what was not for him.
She was on her knees on the hearth-rug, with her head buried in what
had been Dr. McQueen's chair. Ragged had been the seat of it on the
day when she first went to live with him, but very early on the
following morning, or, to be precise, five minutes after daybreak, he
had risen to see if there were burglars in the parlour, and behold, it
was his grateful little maid repadding the old arm-chair. How a
situation repeats itself! Without disturbing her, the old doctor had
slipped away with a full heart. It was what the young doctor did now.
But the situation was not quite the same. She had been bubbling over
with glee then; she was sobbing now. David could not know that it was
a sob of joy; he knew only that he had never seen her crying before,
and that it was the letter in her hands that had brought tears at last
to those once tranquil and steadfast eyes.
In an odd conversation which had once taken place in that room between
the two doctors, Gemmell had said: "But the time may come without my
knowing it." And McQueen's reply was: "I don't think so, for she is so
open; but I'll tell you this, David, as a guide. I never saw her eyes
wet. It is one of the touching things about her that she has the eyes
of a man, to whom it is a shame to cry. If you ever see her greeting,
David, I'm sore doubting that the time will have come."
As David Gemmell let himself softly out of the house, to return to it
presently, he thought the time had come. What he conceived he had to
do was a hard thing, but he never thought of not doing it. He had kept
himself in readiness to do it for many days now, and he walked to it
as firmly as if he were on his professional rounds. He did not know
that the skin round his eyes had contracted, giving them the look of
pain which always came there when he was sorry or pitiful or
indignant. He was not well acquainted with his eyes, and, had he
glanced at them now in a glass, would have presumed that this was
their usual expression.
Grizel herself opened the door to him this time, and "Maggy Ann, he is
found!" she cried victoriously. Evidently she had heard of his
previous visit. "We have searched every room in the house for you,"
she said gaily, "and had you disappeared for much longer, Maggy Ann
would have had the carpets up."
He excused himself on the ground that he had forgotten something, and
she chided him merrily for being forgetful. As he sat with her David
could have groaned aloud. How vivacious she had become! but she was
sparkling in false colours. After what he knew had been her distress
of a few minutes ago, it was a painted face to him. She was trying to
deceive him. Perhaps she suspected that he had seen her crying, and
now, attired in all a woman's wiles, she was defying him to believe
Grizel garbed in wiles! Alack the day! She was shielding the man, and
Gemmell could have driven her away roughly to get at him. But she was
also standing over her own pride, lest anyone should see that it had
fallen; and do you think that David would have made her budge an inch?
Of course she saw that he had something on his mind. She knew those
puckered eyes so well, and had so often smoothed them for him.
"What is it, David?" she asked sympathetically. "I see you have come
as a patient to-night."
"As one of those patients," he rejoined, "who feel better at mere
sight of the doctor."
"Fear of the prescription?" said she.
"Not if you prescribe yourself, Grizel."
"David!" she cried. He had been paying compliments!
"I mean it."
"So I can see by your face. Oh, David, how stern you look!"
"Dr. McQueen and I," he retorted, "used to hold private meetings after
you had gone to bed, at which we agreed that you should no longer be
allowed to make fun of us. They came to nothing. Do you know why?"
"Because I continued to do it?"
"No; but because we missed it so much if you stopped."
"You are nice to-night, David," she said, dropping him a courtesy.
"We liked all your bullying ways," he went on. "We were children in
your masterful hands."
"I was a tyrant, David," she said, looking properly ashamed. "I wonder
you did not marry, just to get rid of me."
"Have you ever seriously wondered why I don't marry?" he asked
"Oh, David," she exclaimed, "what else do you think your patients and
I talk of when I am trying to nurse them? It has agitated the town
ever since you first walked up the Marrywellbrae, and we can't get on
with our work for thinking of it."
She became grave at once. "If you could find the right woman," she
"I have found her," he answered; and then she pressed her hands
together, too excited to speak.
"If she would only care a little for me," he said.
Grizel rocked her arms. "I am sure she does," she cried. "David, I am
He saw what her mistake was, but pretended not to know that she had
made one. "Are you really glad that I love you, Grizel?" he asked.
It seemed to daze her for a moment. "Not me, David," she said softly,
as if correcting him. "You don't mean that it is me?" she said
coaxingly. "David," she cried, "say it is not me!"
He drooped his head, but not before he had seen all the brightness die
out of her face. "Is it so painful to you even to hear me say it?" he
Her joy had been selfish as her sorrow was. For nigh a minute she had
been thinking of herself alone, it meant so much to her; but now she
jumped up and took his hand in hers.
"Poor David!" she said, making much of his hand as if she had hurt it.
But David Gemmell's was too simple a face to oppose to her pitying
eyes, and presently she let his hand slip from her and stood regarding
him curiously. He had to look another way, and then she even smiled, a
"Do you mind talking it over with me, Grizel?" he asked. "I have
always been well aware that you did not care for me in that way, but
nevertheless I believe you might do worse."
"No woman could do better," she answered gravely. "I should like you
to talk it over, David, if you begin at the beginning"; and she sat
down with her hands crossed.
"I won't say what a good thing it would be for me," was his beginning;
"we may take that for granted."
"I don't think we can," she remarked; "but it scarcely matters at
present. That is not the beginning, David."
He was very anxious to make it the beginning.
"I am weary of living in lodgings," he said. "The practice suffers by
my not being married. Many patients dislike being attended by a single
man. I ought to be in McQueen's house; it has been so long known as
the doctor's house. And you should be a doctor's wife--you who could
almost be the doctor. It would be a shame, Grizel, if you who are so
much to patients were to marry out of the profession. Don't you follow
"I follow you," she replied; "but what does it matter? You have not
begun at the beginning." He looked at her inquiringly. "You must
begin," she informed him, "by saying why you ask me to marry you when
you don't love me." She added, in answer to another look from him:
"You know you don't." There was a little reproach in it. "Oh, David,
what made you think I could be so easily taken in!"
He looked so miserable that by and by she smiled, not so tremulously
"How bad at it you are, David!" she said.
And how good at it she was! he thought gloomily.
"Shall I help you out?" she asked gently, but speaking with dignity.
"You think I am unhappy; you believe I am in the position in which you
placed yourself, of caring for someone who does not care for me."
"Grizel, I mistrust him."
She flushed; she was not quite so gentle now. "And so you offer me
your hand to save me! It was a great self-sacrifice, David, but you
used not to be fond of doing showy things."
"I did not mean it to be showy," he answered.
She was well aware of that, but--"Oh, David," she cried, "that you
should believe I needed it! How little you must think of me!"
"Does it look as if I thought little of you?" he said.
"Little of my strength, David, little of my pride."
"I think so much of them that how could I stand by silently and watch
"You think you have seen that!" She was agitated now.
He hesitated. "Yes," he said courageously.
Her eyes cried, "David, how could you be so cruel!" but they did not
"Have you not seen it yourself, Grizel?" he said.
She pressed her hands together. "I was so happy," she said, "until you
"Have you not seen it yourself?" he asked again.
"There may be better things," she retorted, "than those you rate so
"Not for you," he said.
"If they are gone," she told him, with a flush of resentment, "it is
not you who can bring them back."
"But let me try, Grizel," said he.
"David, can I not even make you angry with me?"
"No, Grizel, you can't. I am very sorry that I can make you angry with
"I am not," she said dispiritedly. "It would be contemptible in me."
And then, eagerly: "But, David, you have made a great mistake, indeed
you have. You--you are a dreadful bungler, sir!" She was trying to
make his face relax, with a tremulous smile from herself to encourage
him; but the effort was not successful. "You see, I can't even bully
you now!" she said. "Did that capacity go with the others, David?"
"Try a little harder," he replied. "I think you will find that I
submit to it still"
"Very well." She forced some gaiety to her aid. After all, how could
she let his monstrous stupidity wound a heart protected by such a
"You have been a very foolish and presumptuous boy," she began. She
was standing up, smiling, wagging a reproachful but nervous finger at
him. "If it were not that I have a weakness for seeing medical men
making themselves ridiculous so that I may put them right, I should be
very indignant with you, sir."
"Put me right, Grizel," he said. He was sure she was trying to blind
"Know, then, David, that I am not the poor-spirited, humble creature
you seem to have come here in search of--"
"But you admitted--"
"How dare you interrupt me, sir! Yes, I admit that I am not quite as I
was, but I glory in it. I used to be ostentatiously independent; now I
am only independent enough. My pride made me walk on air; now I walk
on the earth, where there is less chance of falling. I have still
confidence in myself; but I begin to see that ways are not necessarily
right because they are my ways. In short, David, I am evidently on the
road to being a model character!"
They were gay words, but she ended somewhat faintly.
"I was satisfied with you as you were," was the doctor's comment.
"I wanted to excel!"
"You explain nothing, Grizel," he said reproachfully. "Why have you
"Because I am so happy. Do you remember how, in the old days, I
sometimes danced for joy? I could do it now."
"Are you engaged to be married, Grizel?"
She took a quiet breath. "You have no right to question me in this
way," she said. "I think I have been very good in bearing with you so
But she laid aside her indignation at once; he was so old a friend,
the sincerity of him had been so often tried. "If you must know,
David," she said, with a girlish frankness that became her better, "I
am not engaged to be married. And I must tell you nothing more," she
added, shutting her mouth decisively. She must be faithful to her
"He forbids it?" Gemmell asked mercilessly.
She stamped her foot, not in rage, but in hopelessness. "How incapable
you are of doing him justice!" she cried. "If you only knew----"
"Tell me. I want to do him justice."
She sat down again, sighing. "My attempt to regain my old power over
you has not been very successful, has it, David? We must not quarrel,
though"--holding out her hand, which he grasped. "And you won't
question me any more?" She said it appealingly.
"Never again," he answered. "I never wanted to question you, Grizel. I
wanted only to marry you."
"And that can't be."
"I don't see it," he said, so stoutly that she was almost amused. But
he would not be pushed aside. He had something more to say.
"Dr. McQueen wished it," he said; "above all else in the world he
wished it. He often told me so."
"He never said that to me," Grizel replied quickly.
"Because he thought that to press you was no way to make you care for
me. He hoped that it would come about."
"It has not come about, David, with either of us," she said gently. "I
am sure that would have been sufficient answer to him."
"No, Grizel, it would not, not now."
He had risen, and his face was whiter than she had ever seen it.
"I am going to hurt you, Grizel," he said, and every word was a pang
to him. "I see no other way. It has got to be done. Dr. McQueen often
talked to me about the things that troubled you when you were a little
girl--the morbid fears you had then, and that had all been swept away
years before I knew you. But though they had been long gone, you were
so much to him that he tried to think of everything that might happen
to you in the future, and he foresaw that they might possibly come
back. 'If she were ever to care for some false loon!' he has said to
me, and then, Grizel, he could not go on."
Grizel beat her hands. "If he could not go on," she said, "it was not
because he feared what I should do."
"No, no," David answered eagerly, "he never feared for that, but for
your happiness. He told me of a boy who used to torment you, oh, all
so long ago, and of such little account that he had forgotten his
name. But that boy has come back, and you care for him, and he is a
false loon, Grizel."
She had risen too, and was flashing fire on David; but he went on.
"'If the time ever comes,' he said to me, 'when you see her in torture
from such a cause, speak to her openly about it. Tell her it is I who
am speaking through you. It will be a hard task to you, but wrestle
through with it, David, in memory of any little kindness I may have
done you, and the great love I bore my Grizel.'"
She was standing rigid now. "Is there any more, David?" she said in a
"Only this. I admired you then as I admire you now. I may not love
you, Grizel, but of this I am very sure"--he was speaking steadily, he
was forgetting no one--"that you are the noblest and bravest woman I
have ever known, and I promised--he did not draw the promise from me,
I gave it to him--that if I was a free man and could help you in any
way without paining you by telling you these things, I would try that
"And this is the way?"
"I could think of no other. Is it of no avail?"
She shook her head. "You have made such a dreadful mistake," she cried
miserably, "and you won't see it. Oh, how you wrong him! I am the
happiest girl in the world, and it is he who makes me so happy. But I
can't explain. You need not ask me; I promised, and I won't."
"You used not to be so fond of mystery, Grizel."
"I am not fond of it now."
"Ah, it is he," David said bitterly, and he lifted his hat. "Is there
nothing you will let me do for you, Grizel?" he cried.
"I thought you were to do so much for me when you came into this
room," she admitted wistfully, "and said that you were in love. I
thought it was with another woman."