Part 5 out of 8
He remembered that her face had brightened. "How could that have
helped you?" he asked.
She saw that she had but to tell him, and for her sake he would do it
at once. But she could not be so selfish.
"We need not speak of that now," she said.
"We must speak of it," he answered. "Grizel, it is but fair to me. It
may be so important to me."
"You have shown that you don't care for her, David, and that ends it."
"Who is it?" He was much stirred.
"If you don't know----"
"Is it Elspeth?"
The question came out of him like a confession, and hope turned Grizel
"Do you love her, David?" she cried.
But he hesitated. "Is what you have told me true, that it would help
you?" he asked, looking her full in the eyes.
"Do you love her?" she implored, but he was determined to have her
"Is it, Grizel?"
"Yes, yes. Do you, David?"
And then he admitted that he did, and she rocked her arms in joy.
"But oh, David, to say such things to me when you were not a free man!
How badly you have treated Elspeth to-day!"
"She does not care for me," he said.
"Have you asked her?"--in alarm.
"No; but could she?"
"How could she help it?" She would not tell him what Tommy thought.
Oh, she must do everything to encourage David.
"And still," said he, puzzling, "I don't see how it can affect you."
"And I can't tell you," she moaned. "Oh, David, do, do find out. Why
are you so blind?" She could have shaken him. "Don't you see that once
Elspeth was willing to be taken care of by some other person----I must
not tell you!"
"Then he would marry you?"
She cried in anxiety: "Have I told you, or did you find out?"
"I found out," he said. "Is it possible he is so fond of her as that?"
"There never was such a brother," she answered. She could not help
adding, "But he is still fonder of me."
The doctor pulled his arm over his eyes and sat down again. Presently
he was saying with a long face: "I came here to denounce the cause of
your unhappiness, and I begin to see it is myself."
"Of course it is, you stupid David," she said gleefully. She was very
kind to the man who had been willing to do so much for her; but as the
door closed on him she forgot him. She even ceased to hear the warning
voice he had brought with him from the dead. She was re-reading the
letter that began by calling her wife.
THE ATTEMPT TO CARRY ELSPETH BY NUMBERS
That was one of Grizel's beautiful days, but there were others to
follow as sweet, if not so exciting; she could travel back through the
long length of them without coming once to a moment when she had held
her breath in sudden fear; and this was so delicious that she
sometimes thought these were the best days of all.
Of course she had little anxieties, but they were nearly all about
David. He was often at Aaron's house now, and what exercised her was
this--that she could not be certain that he was approaching Elspeth in
the right way. The masterful Grizel seemed to have come to life again,
for, evidently, she was convinced that she alone knew the right way.
"Oh, David, I would not have said that to her!" she told him, when he
reported progress; and now she would warn him, "You are too humble,"
and again, "You were over-bold." The doctor, to his bewilderment,
frequently discovered, on laying results before her, that what he had
looked upon as encouraging signs were really bad, and that, on the
other hand, he had often left the cottage disconsolately when he ought
to have been strutting. The issue was that he lost all faith in his
own judgment, and if Grizel said that he was getting on well, his face
became foolishly triumphant, but if she frowned, it cried, "All is
Of the proposal Tommy did not know; it seemed to her that she had no
right to tell even him of that; but the rest she did tell him: that
David, by his own confession, was in love with Elspeth; and so pleased
was Tommy that his delight made another day for her to cherish.
So now everything depended on Elspeth. "Oh, if she only would!" Grizel
cried, and for her sake Tommy tried to look bright, but his head shook
in spite of him.
"Do you mean that we should discourage David?" she asked dolefully;
but he said No to that.
"I was afraid," she confessed, "that as you are so hopeless, you might
think it your duty to discourage him so as to save him the pain of a
"Not at all," Tommy said, with some hastiness.
"Then you do really have a tiny bit of hope?"
"While there is life there is hope," he answered.
She said: "I have been thinking it over, for it is so important to us,
and I see various ways in which you could help David, if you would."
"What would I not do, Grizel! You have to name them only."
"Well, for instance, you might show her that you have a very high
opinion of him."
"Agreed. But she knows that already."
"Then, David is an only child. Don't you think you could say that men
who have never had a sister are peculiarly gentle and considerate to
"Oh, Grizel! But I think I can say that."
"And--and that having been so long accustomed to doing everything for
themselves, they don't need managing wives as men brought up among
women need them."
"Yes. But how cunning you are, Grizel! Who would have believed it?"
"And then----" She hesitated.
"Go on. I see by your manner that this is to be a big one."
"It would be such a help," she said eagerly, "if you could be just a
little less attentive to her. I know you do ever so much of the
housework because she is not fond of it; and if she has a headache you
sit with her all day; and you beg her to play and sing to you, though
you really dislike music. Oh, there are scores of things you do for
her, and if you were to do them a little less willingly, in such a way
as to show her that they interrupt your work and are a slight trial to
you, I--I am sure that would help!"
"She would see through me, Grizel. Elspeth is sharper than you think
"Not if you did it very skilfully."
"Then she would believe I had grown cold to her, and it would break
"One of your failings," replied Grizel, giving him her hand for a
moment as recompense for what she was about to say, "is that you think
women's hearts break so easily. If, at the slightest sign that she
notices any change in you, you think her heart is breaking, and seize
her in your arms, crying, 'Elspeth, dear little Elspeth!'--and that is
what your first impulse would be----"
"How well you know me, Grizel!" groaned Sentimental Tommy.
"If that would be the result," she went on, "better not do it at all.
But if you were to restrain yourself, then she could not but reflect
that many of the things you did for her with a sigh David did for
pleasure, and she would compare him and you--"
"To my disadvantage?" Tommy exclaimed, with sad incredulity. "Do you
really think she could, Grizel?"
"Give her the chance," Grizel continued, "and if you find it hard, you
must remember that what you are doing is for her good."
"And for ours," Tommy cried fervently.
Every promise he made her at this time he fulfilled, and more; he was
hopeless, but all a man could do to make Elspeth love David he did.
The doctor was quite unaware of it. "Fortunately, her brother had a
headache yesterday and was lying down," he told Grizel, with calm
brutality, "so I saw her alone for a few minutes."
"The fibs I have to invent," said Tommy, to the same confidante, "to
get myself out of their way!"
"Luckily he does not care for music," David said, "so when she is at
the piano he sometimes remains in the kitchen talking to Aaron."
Tommy and Aaron left together! Tommy described those scenes with much
good humour. "I was amazed at first," he said to Grizel, "to find
Aaron determinedly enduring me, but now I understand. He wants what we
want. He says not a word about it, but he is watching those two
courting like a born match-maker. Aaron has several reasons for hoping
that Elspeth will get our friend (as he would express it): one, that
this would keep her in Thrums; another, that to be the wife of a
doctor is second only in worldly grandeur to marrying the manse; and
thirdly and lastly, because he is convinced that it would be such a
staggerer to me. For he thinks I have not a notion of what is going
on, and that, if I had, I would whisk her away to London."
He gave Grizel the most graphic, solemn pictures of those evenings in
the cottage. "Conceive the four of us gathered round the kitchen
fire--three men and a maid; the three men yearning to know what is in
the maid's mind, and each concealing his anxiety from the others.
Elspeth gives the doctor a look which may mean much or nothing, and he
glares at me as if I were in the way, and I glance at Aaron, and he is
on tenterhooks lest I have noticed anything. Next minute, perhaps,
David gives utterance to a plaintive sigh, and Aaron and I pounce upon
Elspeth (with our eyes) to observe its effect on her, and Elspeth
wonders why Aaron is staring, and he looks apprehensively at me, and I
am gazing absent-mindedly at the fender.
"You may smile, Grizel," Tommy would say, "and now that I think of it,
I can smile myself, but we are an eerie quartet at the time. When the
strain becomes unendurable, one of us rises and mends the fire with
his foot, and then I think the rest of us could say 'Thank you.' We
talk desperately for a little after that, but soon again the awful
pall creeps down."
"If I were there," cried Grizel, "I would not have the parlour
standing empty all this time."
"We are coming to the parlour," Tommy replies impressively. "The
parlour, Grizel, now begins to stir. Elspeth has disappeared from the
kitchen, we three men know not whither. We did not notice her go; we
don't even observe that she has gone--we are too busy looking at the
fire. By and by the tremulous tinkling of an aged piano reaches us
from an adjoining chamber, and Aaron looks at me through his fingers,
and I take a lightning glance at Mr. David, and he uncrosses his legs
and rises, and sits down again. Aaron, in the most unconcerned way,
proceeds to cut tobacco and rub it between his fingers, and I stretch
out my legs and contemplate them with passionate approval. While we
are thus occupied David has risen, and he is so thoroughly at his ease
that he has begun to hum. He strolls round the kitchen, looking with
sudden interest at the mantelpiece ornaments; he reads, for the
hundredth time, the sampler on the wall. Next the clock engages his
attention; it is ticking, and that seems to impress him as novel and
curious. By this time he has reached the door; it opens to his touch,
and in a fit of abstraction he leaves the room."
"You don't follow him into the parlour?" asks Grizel, anxiously.
"Follow whom?" Tommy replies severely. "I don't even know that he has
gone to the parlour; now that I think of it, I have not even noticed
that he has left the kitchen; nor has Aaron noticed it. Aaron and I
are not in a condition to notice such things; we are conscious only
that at last we have the opportunity for the quiet social chat we so
much enjoy in each other's company. That, at least, is Aaron's way of
looking at it, and he keeps me there with talk of the most varied and
absorbing character; one topic down, another up; when very hard put to
it, he even questions me about my next book, as if he would like to
read the proof-sheets, and when I seem to be listening, a little
restively, for sounds from the parlour (the piano has stopped), he has
the face of one who would bar the door rather than lose my society.
Aaron appreciates me at my true value at last, Grizel. I had begun to
despair almost of ever bringing him under my charm."
"I should be very angry with you," Grizel said warningly, "if I
thought you teased the poor old man."
"Tease him! The consideration I show that poor old man, Grizel, while
I know all the time that he is plotting to diddle me! You should see
me when it is he who is fidgeting to know why the piano has stopped.
He stretches his head to listen, and does something to his ear that
sends it another inch nearer the door; he chuckles and groans on the
sly; and I--I notice nothing. Oh, he is becoming quite fond of me; he
thinks me an idiot."
"Why not tell him that you want it as much as he?"
"He would not believe me. Aaron is firmly convinced that I am too
jealous of Elspeth's affection to give away a thimbleful of it. He
blames me for preventing her caring much even for him."
"At any rate," said Grizel, "he is on our side, and it is because he
sees it would be so much the best thing for her."
"And, at the same time, such a shock to me. That poor old man, Grizel!
I have seen him rubbing his hands together with glee and looking quite
leery as he thought of what was coming to me."
But Grizel could not laugh now. When Tommy saw so well through Aaron
and David, through everyone he came in contact with, indeed, what hope
could there be that he was deceived in Elspeth?
"And yet she knows what takes him there; she must know it!" she cried.
"A woman," Tommy said, "is never sure that a man is in love with her
until he proposes. She may fancy--but it is never safe to fancy, as so
many have discovered."
"She has no right," declared Grizel, "to wait until she is sure, if
she does not care for him. If she fears that he is falling in love
with her, she knows how to discourage him; there are surely a hundred
easy, kind ways of doing that."
"Fears he is falling in love with her!" Tommy repeated. "Is any woman
ever afraid of that?"
He really bewildered her. "No woman would like it," Grizel answered
promptly for them all, because she would not have liked it. "She must
see that it would result only in pain to him."
"Still----" said Tommy.
"Oh, but how dense you are!" she said, in surprise. "Don't you
understand that she would stop him, though it were for no better
reasons than selfish ones? Consider her shame if, in thinking it over
afterwards, she saw that she might have stopped him sooner! Why," she
cried, with a sudden smile, "it is in your book! You say: 'Every
maiden carries secretly in her heart an idea of love so pure and
sacred that, if by any act she is once false to that conception, her
punishment is that she never dares to look at it again.' And this is
one of the acts you mean."
"I had not thought of it, though," he said humbly. He was never
prouder of Grizel than at that moment. "If Elspeth's outlook," he went
on, "is different----"
"It can't be different."
"If it is, the fault is mine; yes, though I wrote the passage that you
interpret so nobly, Grizel. Shall I tell you," he said gently, "what I
believe is Elspeth's outlook exactly, just now? She knows that the
doctor is attracted by her, and it gives her little thrills of
exultation; but that it can be love--she puts that question in such a
low voice, as if to prevent herself hearing it. And yet she listens,
Grizel, like one who would like to know! Elspeth is pitifully
distrustful of anyone's really loving her, and she will never admit to
herself that he does until he tells her."
Tommy had to droop his head.
"I see you have still no hope!" she said.
"It would be so easy to pretend I have," he replied, with longing, "in
order to cheer you for the moment. Oh, it would even be easy to me to
deceive myself; but should I do it?"
"No, no," she said; "anything but that; I can bear anything but that,"
and she shuddered. "But we seem to be treating David cruelly."
"I don't think so," he assured her. "Men like to have these things to
look back to. But, if you want it, Grizel, I have to say only a word
to Elspeth to bring it to an end. She is as tender as she is innocent,
and--but it would be a hard task to me," he admitted, his heart
suddenly going out to Elspeth; he had never deprived her of any
gratification before. "Still, I am willing to do it."
"No!" Grizel cried, restraining him with her hand. "I am a coward, I
suppose, but I can't help wanting to hope for a little longer, and
David won't grudge it to me."
It was but a very little longer that they had to wait. Tommy,
returning home one day from a walk with his old school-friend, Gav
Dishart (now M.A.), found Aaron suspiciously near the parlour keyhole.
"There's a better fire in the other end," Aaron said, luring him into
the kitchen. So desirous was he of keeping Tommy there, fixed down on
a stool, that "I'll play you at the dambrod," he said briskly.
"Anyone with Elspeth?"
"Some women-folk you dinna like," replied Aaron.
Tommy rose. Aaron, with a subdued snarl, got between him and the door.
"I was wondering, merely," Tommy said, pointing pleasantly to
something on the dresser, "why one of them wore the doctor's hat."
"I forgot; he's there, too," Aaron said promptly; but he looked at
Tommy with misgivings. They sat down to their game.
"You begin," said Tommy; "you're black." And Aaron opened with the
Double Corner; but so preoccupied was he that it became a variation of
the Ayrshire lassie, without his knowing. His suspicions had to find
vent in words: "You dinna speir wha the women-folk are?"
"Do you think I'm just pretending they're there?" Aaron asked
"Not at all," said Tommy, with much politeness, "but I thought you
might be mistaken." He could have "blown" Aaron immediately
thereafter, but, with great consideration, forbore. The old man was so
troubled that he could not lift a king without its falling in two. His
sleeve got in the way of his fingers. At last he sat back in his
chair. "Do you ken what is going on, man?" he demanded, "or do you no
ken? I can stand this doubt no longer."
A less soft-hearted person might have affected not to understand, but
that was not Tommy's way. "I know, Aaron," he admitted. "I have known
all the time." It was said in the kindliest manner, but its effect on
Aaron was not soothing.
"Curse you!" he cried, with extraordinary vehemence, "you have been
playing wi' me a' the time, ay, and wi' him and wi' her!"
What had Aaron been doing with Tommy? But Tommy did not ask that.
"I am sorry you think so badly of me," he said quietly. "I have known
all the time, Aaron, but have I interfered?"
"Because you ken she winna take him. I see it plain enough now. You
ken your power over her; the honest man that thinks he could take her
frae you is to you but a divert."
He took a step nearer Tommy. "Listen," he said. "When you came back he
was on the point o' speiring her; I saw it in his face as she was
playing the piano, and she saw it, too, for her hands began to trem'le
and the tune wouldna play. I daursay you think I was keeking, but if I
was I stoppit it when the piano stoppit; it was a hard thing to me to
do, and it would hae been an easy thing no to do, but I wouldna spy
upon Elspeth in her great hour."
"I like you for that, Aaron," Tommy said; but Aaron waved his likes
"The reason I stood at the door," he continued, "was to keep you out
o' that room. I offered to play you at the dambrod to keep you out.
Ay, you ken that without my telling you, but do you ken what makes me
tell you now? It's to see whether you'll go in and stop him; let's see
you do that, and I'll hae some hope yet." He waited eagerly.
"You do puzzle me now," Tommy said.
"Ay," replied the old man, bitterly, "you're dull in the uptak' when
you like! I dinna ken, I suppose, and you dinna ken, that if you had
the least dread o' her taking him you would be into that room full
bend to stop it; but you're so sure o' her, you're so michty sure,
that you can sit here and lauch instead."
"Am I laughing, Aaron? If you but knew, Elspeth's marriage would be a
far more joyful thing to me than it could ever be to you."
The old warper laughed unpleasantly at that. "And I'se uphaud," he
said, "you're none sure but what shell tak' him! You're no as sure
she'll refuse him as that there's a sun in the heavens, and I'm a
For a moment sympathy nigh compelled Tommy to say a hopeful thing, but
he mastered himself. "It would be weakness," was what he did say, "to
pretend that there is any hope."
Aaron gave him an ugly look, and was about to leave the house; but
Tommy would not have it. "If one of us must go, Aaron," he said, with
much gentleness, "let it be me"; and he went out, passing the parlour
door softly, so that he might not disturb poor David. The warper sat
on by the fire, his head sunk miserably in his shoulders. The
vehemence had passed out of him; you would have hesitated to believe
that such a listless, shrunken man could have been vehement that same
year. It is a hardy proof of his faith in Tommy that he did not even
think it worth while to look up when, by and by, the parlour door
opened and the doctor came in for his hat. Elspeth was with him.
[Illustration: They told Aaron something.]
They told Aaron something.
It lifted him off his feet and bore him out at the door. When he made
up on himself he knew he was searching everywhere for Tommy. A terror
seized him, lest he should not be the first to convey the news.
Had he been left a fortune? neighbours asked, amazed at this unwonted
sight; and he replied, as he ran, "I have, and I want to share it wi'
It was his only joke. People came to their doors to see Aaron Latta
GRIZEL'S GLORIOUS HOUR
Elspeth was to be his wife! David had carried the wondrous promise
straight to Grizel, and now he was gone and she was alone again.
Oh, foolish Grizel, are you crying, and I thought it was so hard to
you to cry!
"Me crying! Oh, no!"
Put your hand to your cheeks, Grizel. Are they not wet?
"They are wet, and I did not know it! It is hard to me to cry in
sorrow, but I can cry for joy. I am crying because it has all come
right, and I was so much afraid that it never would."
Ah, Grizel, I think you said you wanted nothing else so long as you
had his love!
"But God has let it all come right, just the same, and I am thanking
Him. That is why I did not know that I was crying."
She was by the fireplace, on the stool that had always been her
favourite seat, and of course she sat very straight. When Grizel
walked or stood her strong, round figure took a hundred beautiful
poses, but when she sat it had but one. The old doctor, in
experimenting moods, had sometimes compelled her to recline, and then
watched to see her body spring erect the moment he released his hold.
"What a dreadful patient I should make!" she said contritely. "I would
chloroform you, miss," said he.
She sat thus for a long time; she had so much for which to thank God,
though not with her lips, for how could they keep pace with her heart?
Her heart was very full; chiefly, I think, with the tears that rolled
down unknown to her.
She thanked God, in the name of the little hunted girl who had not
been taught how to pray, and so did it standing. "I do so want to be
good; oh, how sweet it would be to be good!" she had said in that long
ago. She had said it out loud when she was alone on the chance of His
hearing, but she had not addressed Him by name because she was not
sure that he was really called God. She had not even known that you
should end by saying "Amen," which Tommy afterwards told her is the
most solemn part of it.
How sweet it would be to be good, but how much sweeter it is to be
good! The woman that girl had grown into knew that she was good, and
she thanked God for that. She thanked Him for letting her help. If He
had said that she had not helped, she would have rocked her arms and
replied almost hotly: "You know I have." And He did know: He had seen
her many times in the grip of inherited passions, and watched her
fighting with them and subduing them; He had seen ugly thoughts
stealing upon her, as they crawl towards every child of man; ah, He
had seen them leap into the heart of the Painted Lady's daughter, as
if a nest already made for them must be there, and still she had
driven them away. Grizel had helped. The tears came more quickly now.
She thanked God that she had never worn the ring. But why had she
never worn it, when she wanted so much to do so, and it was hers? Why
had she watched herself more carefully than ever of late, and forced
happiness to her face when it was not in her heart, and denied
herself, at fierce moments, the luxuries of grief and despair, and
even of rebellion? For she had carried about with her the capacity to
rebel, but she had hidden it, and the reason was that she thought God
was testing her. If she fell He would not give her the thing she
coveted. Unworthy reason for being good, as she knew, but God
overlooked it, and she thanked Him for that.
Her hands pressed each other impulsively, as if at the shock of a
sudden beautiful thought, and then perhaps she was thanking God for
making her the one woman who could be the right wife for Tommy. She
was so certain that no other woman could help him as she could; none
knew his virtues as she knew them. Had it not been for her, his showy
parts only would have been loved; the dear, quiet ones would never
have heard how dear they were: the showy ones were open to all the
world, but the quiet ones were her private garden. His faults as well
as his virtues passed before her, and it is strange to know that it
was about this time that Grizel ceased to cry and began to smile
instead. I know why she smiled; it was because sentimentality was one
of the little monsters that came skipping into her view, and Tommy was
so confident that he had got rid at last of it! Grizel knew better!
But she could look at it and smile. Perhaps she was not sorry that it
was still there with the others, it had so long led the procession. I
daresay she saw herself taking the leering, distorted thing in hand
and making something gallant of it. She thought that she was too
practical, too much given to seeing but one side to a question, too
lacking in consideration for others, too impatient, too relentlessly
just, and she humbly thanked God for all these faults, because Tommy's
excesses were in the opposite direction, and she could thus restore
the balance. She was full of humility while she saw how useful she
could be to him, but her face did not show this; she had forgotten her
face, and elation had spread over it without her knowing. Perhaps God
accepted the elation as part of the thanks.
She thanked God for giving Tommy what he wanted so much--herself. Ah,
she had thanked Him for that before, but she did it again. And then
she went on her knees by her dear doctor's chair, and prayed that she
might be a good wife to Tommy.
When she rose the blood was not surging through her veins. Instead of
a passion of joy it was a beautiful calm that possessed her, and on
noticing this she regarded herself with sudden suspicion, as we put
our ear to a watch to see if it has stopped. She found that she was
still going, but no longer either fast or slow, and she saw what had
happened: her old serene self had come back to her. I think she
thanked God for that most of all.
And then she caught sight of her face--oh, oh! Her first practical act
as an engaged woman was to wash her face.
Engaged! But was she? Grizel laughed. It is not usually a laughing
matter, but she could not help that. Consider her predicament. She
could be engaged at once, if she liked, even before she wiped the
water from her face, or she might postpone it, to let Tommy share. The
careful reader will have noticed that this problem presented itself to
her at an awkward moment. She laughed, in short, while her face was
still in the basin, with the very proper result that she had to grope
for the towel with her eyes shut.
It was still a cold, damp face (Grizel was always in such a hurry)
when she opened her most precious drawer and took from it a certain
glove which was wrapped in silk paper, but was not perhaps quite so
conceited as it had been, for, alas and alack! it was now used as a
wrapper itself. The ring was inside it. If Grizel wanted to be
engaged, absolutely and at once, all she had to do was to slip that
ring upon her finger.
It had been hers for a week or more. Tommy had bought it in a certain
Scottish town whose merchant princes are so many, and have risen
splendidly from such small beginnings, that after you have been there
a short time you beg to be introduced to someone who has not got on.
When you look at them they slap their trouser pockets. When they look
at you they are wondering if you know how much they are worth. Tommy,
one day, roaming their streets (in which he was worth incredibly
little), and thinking sadly of what could never be, saw the modest
little garnet ring in a jeweller's window, and attached to it was a
pathetic story. No other person could have seen the story, but it was
as plain to him as though it had been beautifully written on the tag
of paper which really contained the price. With his hand on the door
he paused, overcome by that horror of entering shops without a lady to
do the talking, which all men of genius feel (it is the one sure
test), hurried away, came back, went to and fro shyly, until he saw
that he was yielding once more to the indecision he thought he had so
completely mastered, whereupon he entered bravely (though it was one
of those detestable doors that ring a bell as they open), and sternly
ordered the jeweller, who could have bought and sold our Tommy with
one slap on the trouser leg, to hand the ring over to him.
He had no intention of giving it to Grizel. That, indeed, was part of
its great tragedy, for this is the story Tommy read into the ring:
There was once a sorrowful man of twenty-three, and forty, and sixty.
Ah, how gray the beard has grown as we speak! How thin the locks! But
still we know him for the same by that garnet ring. Since it became
his no other eye has seen it, and yet it is her engagement ring. Never
can he give it to her, but must always carry it about with him as the
piteous memory of what had never been. How innocent it looked in his
hand, and with an innocence that never wore off, not even when he had
reached his threescore years. As it aged it took on another kind of
innocence only. It looked pitiable now, for there is but a dishonoured
age for a lonely little ring which can never see the finger it was
made to span.
A hair-shirt! Such it was to him, and he put it on willingly, knowing
it could be nothing else. Every smart it gave him pleased, even while
it pained. If ever his mind roamed again to the world of make-believe,
that ring would jerk him back to facts.
Grizel remembered well her finding of it. She had been in his pockets.
She loved to rifle them; to pull out his watch herself, instead of
asking him for the time; to exclaim "Oh!" at the many things she found
there, when they should have been neatly docketed or in the fire, and
from his waistcoat pocket she drew the ring. She seemed to understand
all about it at once. She was far ahead while he was explaining. It
seemed quite strange to her that there had ever been a time when she
did not know of her garnet ring.
How her arms rocked! It was delicious to her to remember now with what
agony her arms had rocked. She kissed it; she had not been the first
to kiss it.
It was "Oh, how I wish I could have saved you this pain!"
"But I love it," she cried, "and I love the pain."
It was "Am I not to see it on your finger once?"
"No, no; we must not."
"Let me, Grizel!"
"Is it right, oh, is it right?"
"Only this once!"
"I dare not, Grizel, I can't! What are we to do with it now?"
"Give it to me. It is mine. I will keep it, beside my glove."
"Let me keep it, Grizel."
"No; it is mine."
"Shall I fling it away?"
"How can you be so cruel? It is mine."
"Let me bury it."
"It is mine."
And of course she had got her way. Could he resist her in anything?
They had never spoken of it since, it was such a sad little ring. Sad!
It was not in the least little bit sad. Grizel wondered as she looked
at it now how she could ever have thought it sad.
The object with which she put on her hat was to go to Aaron's cottage,
to congratulate Elspeth. So she said to herself. Oh, Grizel!
But first she opened two drawers. They were in a great press and full
of beautiful linen woven in Thrums, that had come to Dr. McQueen as a
"bad debt." "Your marriage portion, young lady," he had said to
Grizel, then but a slip of a girl, whereupon, without waiting to
lengthen her frock, she rushed rapturously at her work-basket. "Not at
all, miss," he cried ferociously; "you are here to look after this
house, not to be preparing for another, and until you are respectably
bespoken by some rash crittur of a man, into the drawers with your
linen and down with those murderous shears." And she had obeyed; no
scissors, the most relentless things in nature when in Grizel's hand,
had ever cleaved their way through that snowy expanse; never a stitch
had she put into her linen except with her eyes, which became horribly
like needles as she looked at it.
And now at last she could begin! Oh, but she was anxious to begin; it
is almost a fact that, as she looked at those drawers, she grudged the
time that must be given to-day to Tommy and his ring.
Do you see her now, ready to start? She was wearing her brown jacket
with the fur collar, over which she used to look so searchingly at
Tommy. To think there was a time when that serene face had to look
searchingly at him! It nearly made her sad again. She paused to bring
out the ring and take another exultant look at it. It was attached now
to a ribbon round her neck. Sweet ring! She put it to her eyes. That
was her way of letting her eyes kiss it Then she rubbed them and it,
in case the one had left a tear upon the other.
And then she went out, joy surging in her heart For this was Grizel's
glorious hour, the end of it.
TOMMY LOSES GRIZEL
It was not Aaron's good fortune to find Tommy. He should have looked
for him in the Den.
In that haunt of happier lovers than he, Tommy walked slowly,
pondering. He scarce noticed that he had the Den to himself, or that,
since he was last here, autumn had slipped away, leaving all her
garments on the ground. By this time, undoubtedly, Elspeth had said
her gentle No; but he was not railing against Fate, not even for
striking the final blow at him through that innocent medium. He had
still too much to do for that--to help others. There were three of
them at present, and by some sort of sympathetic jugglery he had an
arm for each.
"Lean on me, Grizel--dear sister Elspeth, you little know the harm you
have done--David, old friend, your hand."
Thus loaded, he bravely returned at the fitting time to the cottage.
His head was not even bent.
Had you asked Tommy what Elspeth would probably do when she dismissed
David, he might have replied that she would go up to his room and lock
herself into it, so that no one should disturb her for a time. And
this he discovered, on returning home, was actually what had happened.
How well he knew her! How distinctly he heard every beat of her tender
heart, and how easy to him to tell why it was beating! He did not go
up; he waited for little Elspeth to come to him, all in her own good
time. And when she came, looking just as he knew she would look, he
had a brave, bright face for her.
She was shaking after her excitement, or perhaps she had ceased to
shake and begun again as she came down to him. He pretended not to
notice it; he would notice it the moment he was sure she wanted him
to, but perhaps that would not be until she was in bed and he had come
to say good-night and put out her light, for, as we know, she often
kept her great confidences till then, when she discovered that he
already knew them.
"The doctor has been in."
She began almost at once, and in a quaking voice and from a distance,
as if in hope that the bullet might be spent before it reached her
"I am sorry I missed him," he replied cautiously. "What a fine fellow
"You always liked him," said Elspeth, clinging eagerly to that.
"No one could help liking him, Elspeth, he has such winning ways,"
said Tommy, perhaps a little in the voice with which at funerals we
refer to the departed. She loved his words, but she knew she had a
surprise for him this time, and she tried to blurt it out.
"He said something to me. He--oh, what a high opinion he has of you!"
(She really thought he had.)
"Was that the something?" Tommy asked, with a smile that helped her,
as it was meant to do.
"You understand, don't you?" she said, almost in a whisper.
"Of course I do, Elspeth," he answered reassuringly; but somehow she
still thought he didn't.
"No one could have been more manly and gentle and humble," she said
"I am sure of it," said Tommy.
"He thinks nothing of himself," she said.
"We shall always think a great deal of him," replied Tommy.
"Yes, but----" Elspeth found the strangest difficulty in continuing,
for, though it would have surprised him to be told so, Tommy was not
helping her nearly as much as he imagined.
"I told him," she said, shaking, "that no one could be to me what you
were. I told him----" and then timid Elspeth altogether broke down.
Tommy drew her to him, as he had so often done since she was the
smallest child, and pressed her head against his breast, and waited.
So often he had waited thus upon Elspeth.
"There is nothing to cry about, dear," he said tenderly, when the time
to speak came. "You have, instead, the right to be proud that so good
a man loves you. I am very proud of it, Elspeth."
"If I could be sure of that!" she gasped.
"Don't you believe me, dear?"
"Yes, but--that is not what makes me cry. Tommy, don't you see?"
"Yes," he assured her, "I see. You are crying because you feel so
sorry for him. But I don't feel sorry for him, Elspeth. If I know
anything at all, it is this: that no man needs pity who sincerely
loves; whether that love be returned or not, he walks in a new and
more beautiful world for evermore."
She clutched his hand. "I don't understand how you know those things,"
Please God, was Tommy's reflection, she should never know. He saw most
vividly the pathos of his case, but he did not break down under it; it
helped him, rather, to proceed.
"It will be the test of Gemmell," he said, "how he bears this. No man,
I am very sure, was ever told that his dream could not come true more
kindly and tenderly than you told it to him." He was in the middle of
the next sentence (a fine one) before her distress stopped him.
"Tommy," she cried, "you don't understand. That is not what I told him
It was one of the few occasions on which the expression on the face of
T. Sandys perceptibly changed.
"What did you tell him?" he asked, almost sharply.
"I accepted him," she said guiltily, backing away from this alarming
"If you only knew how manly and gentle and humble he was," she cried
quickly, as if something dire might happen if Tommy were not assured
of this at once.
"You--said you would marry him, Elspeth?"
"And leave me?"
"Oh, oh!" She flung her arms around his neck.
"Yes, but that is what you are prepared to do!" said he, and he held
her away from him and stared at her, as if he had never seen Elspeth
before. "Were you not afraid?" he exclaimed, in amazement.
"I am not the least bit afraid," she answered. "Oh Tommy, if you knew
how manly----" And then she remembered that she had said that already.
"You did not even say that you would--consult me?"
"Why didn't you, Elspeth?"
"I--I forgot!" she moaned. "Tommy, you are angry!" She hugged him, and
he let her do it, but all the time he was looking over her head
fixedly, with his mouth open.
"And I was always so sure of you!" were the words that came to him at
last, with a hard little laugh at the end of them.
"Can you think it makes me love you less," she sobbed, "because I love
him, too? Oh, Tommy, I thought you would be so glad!"
He kissed her; he put his hand fondly upon her head.
"I am glad," he said, with emotion. "When that which you want has come
to you, Elspeth, how can I but be glad? But it takes me aback, and if
for a moment I felt forlorn, if, when I should have been rejoicing
only in your happiness, the selfish thought passed through my mind,
'What is to become of me?' I hope--I hope--" Then he sat down and
buried his face in the table.
And he might have been telling her about Grizel! Has the shock stunned
you, Tommy? Elspeth thinks it has been a shock of pain. May we lift
your head to show her your joyous face?
"I am so proud," she was saying, "that at last, after you have done so
much for me, I can do a little thing for you. For it is something to
free you, Tommy. You have always pretended, for my sake, that we could
not do without each other, but we both knew all the time that it was
only I who was unable to do without you. You can't deny it."
He might deny it, but it was true. Ah, Tommy, you bore with her with
infinite patience, but did it never strike you that she kept you to
the earth? If Elspeth could be happy without you! You were sure she
could not, but if she could!--had that thought never made you flap
"I often had a pain at my heart," she told him, "which I kept from
you. It was a feeling that your solicitude for me, perhaps, prevented
your caring for any other woman. It seemed terrible and unnatural that
I should be a bar to that. I felt that I was starving you, and not you
only, but an unknown woman as well."
"So long as I had you, Elspeth," he said reproachfully, "was not that
"It seemed to be enough," she answered gravely, "but even while I
comforted myself with that, I knew that it should not be enough, and
still I feared that if it was, the blame was mine. Now I am no longer
in the way, and I hope, so ardently, that you will fall in love, like
other people. If you never do, I shall always have the fear that I am
the cause, that you lost the capacity in the days when I let you
devote yourself too much to me."
Oh, blind Elspeth! Now is the time to tell her, Tommy, and fill her
cup of happiness to the brim.
But it is she who is speaking still, almost gaily now, yet with a full
heart. "What a time you have had with me, Tommy! I told David all
about it, and what he has to look forward to, but he says he is not
afraid. And when you find someone you can love," she continued
sweetly, though she had a sigh to stifle, "I hope she will be someone
quite unlike me, for oh, my dear, good brother, I know you need a
Not a word said Tommy.
She said, timidly, that she had begun to hope of late that Grizel
might be the woman, and still he did not speak. He drew Elspeth closer
to him, that she might not see his face and the horror of himself that
surely sat on it. To the very marrow of him he was in such cold misery
that I wonder his arms did not chill her.
This poor devil of a Sentimental Tommy! He had wakened up in the world
of facts, where he thought he had been dwelling of late, to discover
that he had not been here for weeks, except at meal-times. During
those weeks he had most honestly thought that he was in a passion to
be married. What do you say to pitying instead of cursing him? It is a
sudden idea of mine, and we must be quick, for joyous Grizel is
drawing near, and this, you know, is the chapter in which her heart
* * * * *
It was Elspeth who opened the door to Grizel. "Does she know?" said
Elspeth to herself, before either of them spoke.
"Does she know?" It was what Grizel was saying also.
"Oh, Elspeth, I am so glad! David has told me."
"She does know," Elspeth told herself, and she thought it was kind of
Grizel to come so quickly. She said so.
"She doesn't know!" thought Grizel, and then these two kissed for the
first time. It was a kiss of thanks from each.
"But why does she not know?" Grizel wondered a little as they entered
the parlour, where Tommy was; he had been standing with his teeth knit
since he heard the knock. As if in answer to the question, Elspeth
said: "I have just broken it to Tommy. He has been in a few minutes
only, and he is so surprised he can scarcely speak."
Grizel laughed happily, for that explained it. Tommy had not had time
to tell her yet. She laughed again at Elspeth, who had thought she had
so much to tell and did not know half the story.
Elspeth begged Tommy to listen to the beautiful things Grizel was
saying about David, but, truth to tell, Grizel scarcely heard them
herself. She had given Tommy a shy, rapturous glance. She was
wondering when he would begin. What a delicious opening when he shook
hands! Suppose he had kissed her instead! Or, suppose he casually
addressed her as darling! He might do it at any moment now! Just for
once she would not mind though he did it in public. Perhaps as soon as
this new remark of Elspeth's was finished, he meant to say: "You are
not the only engaged person in the room, Miss Elspeth; I think I see
another two!" Grizel laughed as if she had heard him say it. And then
she ceased laughing suddenly, for some little duty had called Elspeth
into the other room, and as she went out she stopped the movement of
These two were alone with their great joy.
Elspeth had said that she would be back in two minutes. Was Grizel
wasting a moment when she looked only at him, her eyes filmy with
love, the crooked smile upon her face so happy that it could not stand
still? Her arms made a slight gesture towards him; her hands were
open; she was giving herself to him. She could not see. For a fraction
of time the space between them seemed to be annihilated. His arms were
closing round her. Then she knew that neither of them had moved.
He tried to be true to her by deceiving her. It was the only way. "At
last, Grizel," he cried, "at last!" and he put joyousness into his
voice. "It has all come right, dear one!" he cried like an ecstatic
lover. Never in his life had he tried so hard to deceive at the
sacrifice of himself. But he was fighting something as strong as the
instinct of self-preservation, and his usually expressionless face
gave the lie to his joyous words. Loud above his voice his ashen face
was speaking to her, and she cried in terror, "What is wrong?" Even
then he attempted to deceive her, but suddenly she knew the truth.
"You don't want to be married!"
I think the room swam round with her. When it was steady again, "You
did not say that, did you?" she asked. She was sure he had not said
it. She was smiling again tremulously to show him that he had not said
"I want to be married above all else on earth," he said imploringly;
but his face betrayed him still, and she demanded the truth, and he
was forced to tell it.
A little shiver passed through her, that was all.
"Do you mean that you don't love me?" she said. "You must tell me what
"That is how others would put it, I suppose," he replied. "I believe
they would be wrong. I think I love you in my own way; but I thought I
loved you in their way, and it is the only way that counts in this
world of theirs. It does not seem to be my world. I was given wings, I
think, but I am never to know that I have left the earth until I come
flop upon it with an arrow through them. I crawl and wriggle here, and
yet"--he laughed harshly--"I believe I am rather a fine fellow when I
She nodded. "You mean you want me to let you off?" she asked. "You
must tell me what you mean." And as he did not answer instantly,
"Because I think I have some little claim upon you," she said, with a
"I am as pitiful a puzzle to myself as I can be to you," he replied.
"All I know is that I don't want to marry anyone. And yet I am sure I
could die for you, Grizel."
It was quite true. A burning house and Grizel among the flames, and he
would have been the first on the ladder. But there is no such luck for
"You are free," was what she said. "Don't look so tragic," she added,
again with the pleasant smile. "It must be very distressing to you,
but--you will soon fly again." Her lips twitched tremulously. "I can't
fly," she said.
She took the ring from her neck. She took it off its ribbon.
"I brought it," she said, "to let you put it on my finger. I thought
you would want to do that," she said.
"Grizel," he cried, "can we not be as we have been?"
"No," she answered.
"It would all come right, Grizel. I am sure it would. I don't know why
I am as I am; but I shall try to change myself. You have borne with me
since we were children. Won't you bear with me for a little longer?"
She shook her head, but did not trust herself to speak.
"I have lost you," he said, and she nodded.
"Then I am lost indeed!" said he, and he knew it, too; but with a
gesture of the hand she begged him not to say that.
"Without your love to help me----" he began.
"You shall always have that," she told him with shining eyes, "always,
always." And what could he do but look at her with the wonder and the
awe that come to every man who, for one moment in his life, knows a
"You can love me still, Grizel!" His voice was shaky.
"Just the same," she answered, and I suppose he looked uplifted. "But
you should be sorry," she said gravely, and it was then that Elspeth
came back. She had not much exceeded her two minutes.
It was always terrible to Tommy not to have the feelings of a hero. At
that moment he could not endure it. In a splendid burst of
self-sacrifice he suddenly startled both Grizel and himself by crying,
"Elspeth, I love Grizel, and I have just asked her to be my wife."
Yes, the nobility of it amazed himself, but bewitched him, too, and he
turned gloriously to Grizel, never doubting but that she would have
He need not have spoken so impulsively, nor looked so grand. She
swayed for an instant and then was erect again. "You must forgive me,
Elspeth," she said, "but I have refused him"; and that was the biggest
surprise Tommy ever got in his life.
"You don't care for him!" Elspeth blurted out.
"Not in the way he cares for me," Grizel replied quietly, and when
Elspeth would have said more she begged her to desist. "The only thing
for me to do now, Elspeth," she said, smiling, "is to run away, but I
want you first to accept a little wedding-gift from me. I wish you and
David so much happiness; you won't refuse it, will you?"
Elspeth, still astounded, took the gift. It was a little garnet ring.
"It will have to be cut," Grizel said. "It was meant, I think, for a
larger finger. I have had it some time, but I never wore it."
Elspeth said she would always treasure her ring, and that it was
"I used to think it--rather sweet," Grizel admitted, and then she said
good-bye to them both and went away.
Tommy's new character was that of a monster. He always liked the big
Concealed, as usual, in the garments that clung so oddly to him,
modesty, generosity, indifference to applause and all the nobler
impulses, he could not strip himself of them, try as he would, and so
he found, to his scornful amusement, that he still escaped the public
fury. In the two months that preceded Elspeth's marriage there was
positively scarce a soul in Thrums who did not think rather well of
him. "If they knew what I really am," he cried with splendid
bitterness, "how they would run from me!"
Even David could no longer withhold the hand of fellowship, for Grizel
would tell him nothing, except that, after all, and for reasons
sufficient to herself, she had declined to become Mrs. Sandys. He
sought in vain to discover how Tommy could be to blame. "And now,"
Tommy said grimly to Grizel, "our doctor thinks you have used me
badly, and that I am a fine fellow to bear no resentment! Elspeth told
me that he admires the gentle and manly dignity with which I submit to
the blow, and I have no doubt that, as soon as I heard that, I made it
more gentle and manly than ever!
"I have forbidden Elspeth," he told her, "to upbraid you for not
accepting me, with the result that she thinks me too good to live! Ha,
ha! what do you think, Grizel?"
It became known in the town that she had refused him. Everybody was on
Tommy's side. They said she had treated him badly. Even Aaron was
staggered at the sight of Tommy accepting his double defeat in such
good part. "And all the time I am the greatest cur unhung," says
Tommy. "Why don't you laugh, Grizel?"
Never, they said, had there been such a generous brother. The town was
astir about this poor man's gifts to the lucky bride. There were
rumours that among the articles was a silver coal-scuttle, but it
proved to be a sugar-bowl in that pattern. Three bandboxes came for
her to select from; somebody discovered who was on the watch, but may
I be struck dead if more than one went back. Yesterday it was bonnets;
to-day she is at Tilliedrum again, trying on her going-away dress. And
she really was to go away in it, a noticeable thing, for in Thrums
society, though they usually get a going-away dress, they are too
canny to go away in it The local shops were not ignored, but the best
of the trousseau came from London. "That makes the second box this
week, as I'm a living sinner," cries the lady on the watch again. When
boxes arrived at the station Corp wheeled them up to Elspeth without
so much as looking at the label.
Ah, what a brother! They said it openly to their own brothers, and to
Tommy in the way they looked at him.
"There has been nothing like it," he assured Grizel, "since Red
Riding-hood and the wolf. Why can't I fling off my disguise and cry,
'The better to eat you with!'"
He always spoke to her now in this vein of magnificent bitterness, but
Grizel seldom rewarded him by crying, "Oh, oh!" She might, however,
give him a patient, reproachful glance instead, and it had the
irritating effect of making him feel that perhaps he was under
life-size, instead of over it.
"I daresay you are right," says Tommy, savagely.
"I said nothing."
"You don't need to say it. What a grand capacity you have for knocking
me off my horse, Grizel!"
"Are you angry with me for that?"
"No; it is delicious to pick one's self out of the mud, especially
when you find it is a baby you are picking up, instead of a brute. Am
I a baby only, Grizel?"
"I think it is childish of you," she replied, "to say you are a
"There is not to be even that satisfaction left to me! You are hard on
"I am trying to help you. How can you be angry with me?"
"The instinct of self-preservation, I suppose. I see myself dwindling
so rapidly under your treatment that soon there will be nothing of me
It was said cruelly, for he knew that the one thing Grizel could not
bear now was the implication that she saw his faults only. She always
went down under that blow with pitiful surrender, showing the woman
suddenly, as if under a physical knouting.
He apologized contritely. "But, after all, it proves my case," he
said, "for I could not hurt you in this way, Grizel, if I were not a
pretty well-grown specimen of a monster."
"Don't," she said; but she did not seek to help him by drawing him
away to other subjects, which would have been his way. "What is there
monstrous," she asked, "in your being so good to Elspeth? It is very
kind of you to give her all these things."
"Especially when by rights they are yours, Grizel!"
"No, not when you did not want to give them to me."
He dared say nothing to that; there were some matters on which he must
not contradict Grizel now.
"It is nice of you," she said, "not to complain, though Elspeth is
deserting you. It must have been a blow."
"You and I only know why," he answered. "But for her, Grizel, I might
be whining sentiment to you at this moment."
"That," she said, "would be the monstrous thing."
"And it is not monstrous, I suppose, that I should let Gemmell press
my hand under the conviction that, after all, I am a trump."
"You don't pose as one."
"That makes them think the more highly of me! Nothing monstrous,
Grizel, in my standing quietly by while you are showing Elspeth how to
furnish her house--I, who know why you have the subject at your
For Grizel had given all her sweet ideas to Elspeth. Heigh-ho! how she
had guarded them once, confiding them half reluctantly even to Tommy;
half reluctantly, that is, at the start, because they were her very
own, but once she was embarked on the subject talking with such
rapture that every minute or two he had to beg her to be calm. She was
the first person in that part of the world to think that old furniture
need not be kept in the dark corners, and she knew where there was an
oak bedstead that was looked upon as a disgrace, and where to obtain
the dearest cupboards, one of them in use as the retiring-chamber of a
rabbit-hutch, and stately clocks made in the town a hundred years ago,
and quaint old-farrant lamps and cogeys and sand-glasses that
apologized if you looked at them, and yet were as willing to be loved
again as any old lady in a mutch. You will not buy them easily now,
the people will not chuckle at you when you bid for them now. We have
become so cute in Thrums that when the fender breaks we think it may
have increased in value, and we preserve any old board lest the worms
have made it artistic. Grizel, however, was in advance of her time.
She could lay her hands on all she wanted, and she did, but it was for
"And the table-cloths and the towels and the sheets," said Tommy.
"Nothing monstrous in my letting you give Elspeth them?"
The linen, you see, was no longer in Grizel's press.
"I could not help making them," she answered, "they were so longing to
be made. I did not mean to give them to her. I think I meant to put
them back in the press, but when they were made it was natural that
they should want to have something to do. So I gave them to Elspeth."
"With how many tears on them?"
"Not many. But with some kisses."
"All which," says Tommy, "goes to prove that I have nothing with which
to reproach myself!"
"No, I never said that," she told him. "You have to reproach yourself
with wanting me to love you."
She paused a moment to let him say, if he dared, that he had not done
that, when she would have replied instantly, "You know you did." He
could have disabused her, but it would have been cruel, and so on this
subject, as ever, he remained silent.
"But that is not what I have been trying to prove," she continued.
"You know as well as I that the cause of this unhappiness has
been--what you call your wings."
He was about to thank her for her delicacy in avoiding its real name,
when she added, "I mean your sentiment," and he laughed instead.
"I flatter myself that I no longer fly, at all events," he said. "I
know what I am at last, Grizel"
"It is flattery only," she replied with her old directness. "This
thing you are regarding with a morbid satisfaction is not you at all."
He groaned. "Which of them all is me, Grizel?" he asked gloomily.
"We shall see," she said, "when we have got the wings off."
"They will have to come off a feather at a time."
"That," she declared, "is what I have been trying to prove."
"It will be a weary task, Grizel."
"I won't weary at it," she said, smiling.
Her cheerfulness was a continual surprise to him. "You bear up
wonderfully well yourself," he sometimes said to her, almost
reproachfully, and she never replied that, perhaps, that was one of
her ways of trying to help him.
She is not so heartbroken, after all, you may be saying, and I had
promised to break her heart. But, honestly, I don't know how to do it
more thoroughly, and you must remember that we have not seen her alone
She tried to be very little alone. She helped David in his work more
than ever; not a person, for instance, managed to escape the bath
because Grizel's heart was broken. You could never say that she was
alone when her needle was going, and the linen became sheets and the
like, in what was probably record time. Yet they could have been sewn
more quickly; for at times the needle stopped and she did not know it.
Once a bedridden old woman, with whom she had been sitting up, lay
watching her instead of sleeping, and finally said: "What makes you
sit staring at a cauld fire, and speaking to yourself?" And there was
a strange day when she had been too long in the Den. When she started
for home she went in the direction of Double Dykes, her old home,
She could bear everything except doubt. She had told him so, when he
wondered at her calmness; she often said it to herself. She could
tread any path, however drearily it stretched before her, so long as
she knew whither it led, but there could be no more doubt. Oh, he must
never again disturb her mind with hope! How clearly she showed him
that, and yet they had perhaps no more than parted when it seemed
impossible to bear for the next hour the desolation she was sentenced
to for life. She lay quivering and tossing on the hearth-rug of the
parlour, beating it with her fists, rocking her arms, and calling to
him to give her doubt again, that she might get through the days.
"Let me doubt again!" Here was Grizel starting to beg it of him. More
than once she got half-way to Aaron's house before she could turn; but
she always did turn, with the words unspoken; never did Tommy hear her
say them, but always that she was tranquil now. Was it pride that
supported her in the trying hour? Oh, no, it was not pride. That is an
old garment, which once became Grizel well, but she does not wear it
now; she takes it out of the closet, perhaps, at times to look at it.
What gave her strength when he was by was her promise to help him. It
was not by asking for leave to dream herself that she could make him
dream the less. All done for you, Tommy! It might have helped you to
loosen a few of the feathers.
Sometimes she thought it might not be Tommy, but herself, who was so
unlike other people; that it was not he who was unable to love, but
she who could not be loved. This idea did not agitate her as a
terrible thing; she could almost welcome it. But she did not go to him
with it. While it might be but a fancy, that was no way to help a man
who was overfull of them. It was the bare truth only that she wanted
him to see, and so she made elaborate inquiries into herself, to
discover whether she was quite unlovable. I suppose it would have been
quaint, had she not been quite so much in earnest. She examined
herself in the long mirror most conscientiously, and with a
determinedly open mind, to see whether she was too ugly for any man to
love. Our beautiful Grizel really did.
She had always thought that she was a nice girl, but was she? No one
had ever loved her, except the old doctor, and he began when she was
so young that perhaps he had been inveigled into it, like a father.
Even David had not loved her. Was it because he knew her so well? What
was it in women that made men love them? She asked it of David in such
a way that he never knew she was putting him to the question. He
merely thought that he and she were having a pleasant chat about
Elspeth, and, as a result, she decided that he loved Elspeth because
she was so helpless. His head sat with uncommon pride on his shoulders
while he talked of Elspeth's timidity. There was a ring of
boastfulness in his voice as he paraded the large number of useful
things that Elspeth could not do. And yet David was a sensible and
Was it helplessness that man loved in woman, then? It seemed to be
Elspeth's helplessness that had made Tommy such a brother, and how it
had always appealed to Aaron! No woman could be less helpless than
herself, Grizel knew. She thought back and back, and she could not
come to a time when she was not managing somebody. Women, she
reflected, fall more or less deeply in love with every baby they see,
while men, even the best of them, can look calmly at other people's
babies. But when the helplessness of the child is in the woman, then
other women are unmoved; but the great heart of man is stirred--woman
is his baby. She remembered that the language of love is in two
sexes--for the woman superlatives, for the man diminutives. The more
she loves the bigger he grows, but in an ecstasy he could put her in
his pocket. Had not Tommy taught her this? His little one, his child!
Perhaps he really had loved her in the days when they both made
believe that she was infantile; but soon she had shown with fatal
clearness that she was not. Instead of needing to be taken care of,
she had obviously wanted to take care of him: their positions were
reversed. Perhaps, said Grizel to herself, I should have been a man.
If this was the true explanation, then, though Tommy, who had tried so
hard, could not love her, he might be able to love--what is the
phrase?--a more womanly woman, or, more popular phrase still, a very
woman. Some other woman might be the right wife for him. She did not
shrink from considering this theory, and she considered so long that
I, for one, cannot smile at her for deciding ultimately, as she did,
that there was nothing in it.
The strong like to be leaned upon and the weak to lean, and this
irrespective of sex. This was the solution she woke up with one
morning, and it seemed to explain not only David's and Elspeth's love,
but her own, so clearly that in her desire to help she put it before
Tommy. It implied that she cared for him because he was weak, and he
drew a very long face.
"You don't know how the feathers hurt as they come out," he explained.
"But so long as we do get them out!" she said.
"Every other person who knows me thinks that strength is my great
characteristic," he maintained, rather querulously.
"But when you know it is not," said Grizel. "You do know, don't you?"
she asked anxiously. "To know the truth about one's self, that is the
beginning of being strong."
"You seem determined," he retorted, "to prevent my loving you."
"Why?" she asked.
"You are to make me strong in spite of myself, I understand. But,
according to your theory, the strong love the weak only. Are you to
grow weak, Grizel, as I grow strong?"
She had not thought of that, and she would have liked to rock her
arms. But she was able to reply: "I am not trying to help you in order
to make you love me; you know, quite well, that all that is over and
done with. I am trying only to help you to be what a man should be."
She could say that to him, but to herself? Was she prepared to make a
man of him at the cost of his possible love? This faced her when she
was alone with her passionate nature, and she fought it, and with her
fists clenched she cried: "Yes, yes, yes!"
Do we know all that Grizel had to fight? There were times when Tommy's
mind wandered to excuses for himself; he knew what men were, and he
shuddered to think of the might have been, had a girl who could love
as Grizel did loved such a man as her father. He thanked his Maker,
did Tommy, that he, who was made as those other men, had avoided
raising passions in her. I wonder how he was so sure. Do we know all
that Grizel had to fight?
* * * * *
They spoke much during those days of the coming parting, and she
always said that she could bear it if she saw him go away more of a
man than he had come.
"Then anything I have suffered or may suffer," she told him, "will
have been done to help you, and perhaps in time that will make me
proud of my poor little love-story. It would be rather pitiful, would
it not, if I have gone through so much for no end at all?"
She spoke, he said, almost reproachfully, as if she thought he might
go away on his wings, after all.
"We can't be sure," she murmured, she was so eager to make him
"Yes," he said, humbly but firmly, "I may be a scoundrel, Grizel, I am
a scoundrel, but one thing you may be sure of, I am done with
sentiment." But even as he said it, even as he felt that he could tear
himself asunder for being untrue to Grizel, a bird was singing at his
heart because he was free again, free to go out into the world and
play as if it were but a larger den. Ah, if only Tommy could always
have remained a boy!
Elspeth's marriage day came round, and I should like to linger in it,
and show you Elspeth in her wedding-gown, and Tommy standing behind to
catch her if she fainted, and Ailie weeping, and Aaron Latta rubbing
his gleeful hands, and a smiling bridesmaid who had once thought she
might be a bride. But that was a day in Elspeth's story, not in
Tommy's and Grizel's. Only one incident in their story crept into that
happy day. There were speeches at the feast, and the Rev. Mr. Dishart
referred to Tommy in the kindliest way, called him "my young friend,"
quoted (inaccurately) from his book, and expressed an opinion, formed,
he might say, when Mr. Sandys was a lad at school (cheers), that he
had a career before him. Tommy bore it well, all except the quotation,
which he was burning to correct, but sighed to find that it had set
the dominies on his left talking about precocity. "To produce such a
graybeard of a book at two and twenty, Mr. Sandys," said Cathro, "is
amazing. It partakes, sir, of the nature of the miraculous; it's
onchancey, by which we mean a deviation from the normal." And so on.
To escape this kind of flattery (he had so often heard it said by
ladies, who could say it so much better), Tommy turned to his
neighbours on the right.
Oddly enough, they also were discussing deviations from the normal. On
the table was a plant in full flower, and Ailie, who had lent it, was
expressing surprise that it should bloom so late in the season.
"So early in its life, I should rather say," the doctor remarked after
examining it. "It is a young plant, and in the ordinary course would
not have come to flower before next year. But it is afraid that it
will never see next year. It is one of those poor little plants that
bloom prematurely because they are diseased."
Tommy was a little startled. He had often marvelled over his own
precocity, but never guessed that this might be the explanation why he
was in flower at twenty-two. "Is that a scientific fact?" he asked.
"It is a law of nature," the doctor replied gravely, and if anything
more was said on the subject our Tommy did not hear it. What did he
hear? He was a child again, in miserable lodgings, and it was sometime
in the long middle of the night, and what he heard from his bed was
his mother coughing away her life in hers. There was an angry knock,
knock, knock, from somewhere near, and he crept out of bed to tell his
mother that the people through the wall were complaining because she
would not die more quietly; but when he reached her bed it was not his
mother he saw lying there, but himself, aged twenty-four or
thereabouts. For Tommy had inherited his mother's cough; he had known
it every winter, but he remembered it as if for the first time now.
Did he hear anything else? I think he heard his wings slipping to the
He asked Ailie to give him the plant, and he kept it in his room very
lovingly, though he forgot to water it. He sat for long periods
looking at it, and his thoughts were very deep, but all he actually
said aloud was, "There are two of us." Aaron sometimes saw them
together, and thought they were an odd pair, and perhaps they were.
Tommy did not tell Grizel of the tragedy that was hanging over him. He
was determined to save her that pain. He knew that most men in his
position would have told her, and was glad to find that he could keep
it so gallantly to himself. She was brave; perhaps some day she would
discover that he had been brave also. When she talked of wings now,
what he seemed to see was a green grave. His eyes were moist, but he
held his head high. All this helped him.
Ah, well, but the world must jog along though you and I be damned.
Elspeth was happily married, and there came the day when Tommy and
Grizel must say good-bye. He was returning to London. His luggage was
already in Corp's barrow, all but the insignificant part of it, which
yet made a bulky package in its author's pocket, for it was his new
manuscript, for which he would have fought a regiment, yes, and beaten
them. Little cared Tommy what became of the rest of his luggage so
long as that palpitating package was safe.
"And little you care," Grizel said, in a moment of sudden bitterness,
"whom you leave behind, so long as you take it with you."
He forgave her with a sad smile. She did not know, you see, that this
manuscript might be his last.
And it was the only bitter thing she said. Even when he looked very
sorry for her, she took advantage of his emotion to help him only.
"Don't be too sorry for me," she said calmly; "remember, rather, that
there is one episode in a woman's life to which she must always cling
in memory, whether it was a pride to her or a shame, and that it rests
with you to make mine proud or shameful."
In other words, he was to get rid of his wings. How she harped on
He wanted to kiss her on the brow, but she would not have it. He was
about to do it, not to gratify any selfish desire, but of a beautiful
impulse that if anything happened she would have this to remember as
the last of him. But she drew back almost angrily. Positively, she was
putting it down to sentiment, and he forgave her even that.
But she kissed the manuscript. "Wish it luck," he had begged of her;
"you were always so fond of babies, and this is my baby." So Grizel
kissed Tommy's baby, and then she turned away her face.
MR. T. SANDYS HAS RETURNED TO TOWN
It is disquieting to reflect that we have devoted so much paper (this
is the third shilling's worth) to telling what a real biographer would
almost certainly have summed up in a few pages. "Caring nothing for
glory, engrossed in his work alone, Mr. Sandys, soon after the
publication of the 'Letters,' sought the peace of his mother's native
village, and there, alike undisturbing and undisturbed, he gave his
life, as ever, to laborious days and quiet contemplation. The one
vital fact in these six months of lofty endeavour is that he was
making progress with the new book. Fishing and other distractions were
occasionally indulged in, but merely that he might rise fresher next
morning to a book which absorbed," etc.
One can see exactly how it should be done, it has been done so often
before. And there is a deal to be said for this method. His book was
what he had been at during nearly the whole of that time;
comparatively speaking, the fishing and "other distractions" (a neat
phrase) had got an occasional hour only. But while we admire, we can't
do it in that way. We seem fated to go on taking it for granted that
you know the "vital facts" about Tommy, and devoting our attention to
the things that the real biographer leaves out.
Tommy arrived in London with little more than ten pounds in his
pockets. All the rest he had spent on Elspeth.
He looked for furnished chambers in a fashionable quarter, and they
were much too expensive. But the young lady who showed them to him
asked if it was _the_ Mr. Sandys, and he at once took the rooms. Her
mother subsequently said that she understood he wrote books, and would
he deposit five pounds?
Such are the ups and downs of the literary calling.
The book, of course, was "Unrequited Love," and the true story of how
it was not given to the world by his first publishers has never been
told. They had the chance, but they weighed the manuscript in their
hands as if it were butter, and said it was very small.
"If you knew how much time I have spent in making it smaller," replied
The madmen asked if he could not add a few chapters, whereupon, with a
shudder, he tucked baby under his wing and flew away. That is how
Goldie & Goldie got the book.
For one who had left London a glittering star, it was wonderful how
little he brightened it by returning. At the club they did not know
that he had been away. In society they seemed to have forgotten to
expect him back.
He had an eye for them--with a touch of red in it; but he bided his
time. It was one of the terrible things about Tommy that he could bide
his time. Pym was the only person he called upon. He took Pym out to
dinner and conducted him home again. His kindness to Pym, the delicacy
with which he pretended not to see that poor old Pym was degraded and
done for--they would have been pretty even in a woman, and we treat
Tommy unfairly in passing them by with a bow.
Pym had the manuscript to read, and you may be as sure he kept sober
that night as that Tommy lay awake. For when literature had to be
judged, who could be so grim a critic as this usually lenient toper?
He could forgive much, could Pym. You had run away without paying your
rent, was it? Well, well, come in and have a drink. Broken your wife's
heart, have you? Poor chap, but you will soon get over it. But if it
was a split infinitive, "Go to the devil, sir."
"Into a cocked hat," was the verdict of Pym, meaning thereby that thus
did Tommy's second work beat his first. Tommy broke down and wept.
Presently Pym waxed sentimental and confided to Tommy that he, too,
had once loved in vain. The sad case of those who love in vain, you
remember, is the subject of the book. The saddest of autobiographies,
it has been called.
An odd thing, this, I think. Tearing home (for the more he was
engrossed in mind the quicker he walked), Tommy was not revelling in
Pym's praise; he was neither blanching nor smiling at the thought that
he of all people had written as one who was unloved; he was not
wondering what Grizel would say to it; he had even forgotten to sigh
over his own coming dissolution (indeed, about this time the
flower-pot began to fade from his memory). What made him cut his way
so excitedly through the streets was this: Pym had questioned his use
of the word "untimely" in chapter eight. And Tommy had always been
uneasy about that word.
He glared at every person he passed, and ran into perambulators. He
rushed past his chambers like one who no longer had a home. He was in
the park now, and did not even notice that the Row was empty, that
mighty round a deserted circus; management, riders, clowns, all the
performers gone on their provincial tour, or nearly all, for a lady on
horseback sees him, remembers to some extent who he is, and gives
chase. It is our dear Mrs. Jerry.
"You wretch," she said, "to compel me to pursue you! Nothing could
have induced me to do anything so unwomanly except that you are the
only man in town."
She shook her whip so prettily at him that it was as seductive as a
smile. It was also a way of gaining time while she tried to remember
what it was he was famous for.
"I believe you don't know me!" she said, with a little shriek, for
Tommy had looked bewildered. "That would be too mortifying. Please
pretend you do!"
Her look of appeal, the way in which she put her plump little hands
together, as if about to say her prayers, brought it all back to
Tommy. The one thing he was not certain of was whether he had proposed
It was the one thing of which she was certain.
"You think I can forget so soon," he replied reproachfully, but
"Then tell me my name," said she; she thought it might lead to his
mentioning his own.
"I don't know what it is now. It was Mrs. Jerry once."
"It is Mrs. Jerry still."
"Then you did not marry him, after all?"
No wild joy had surged to his face, but when she answered yes, he
nodded his head with gentle melancholy three times. He had not the
smallest desire to deceive the lady; he was simply an actor who had
got his cue and liked his part.
[Illustration: "But my friends still call me Mrs. Jerry," she said
"But my friends still call me Mrs. Jerry," she said softly. "I suppose
it suits me somehow."
"You will always be Mrs. Jerry to me," he replied huskily. Ah, those
meetings with old loves!
"If you minded so much," Mrs. Jerry said, a little tremulously (she
had the softest heart, though her memory was a trifle defective), "you
might have discovered whether I had married him or not."
"Was there no reason why I should not seek to discover it?" Tommy
asked with tremendous irony, but not knowing in the least what he
It confused Mrs. Jerry. They always confused her when they were
fierce, and yet she liked them to be fierce when she re-met them, so
few of them were.
But she said the proper thing. "I am glad you have got over it."
Tommy maintained a masterly silence. No wonder he was a power with
"I say I am glad you have got over it," murmured Mrs. Jerry again. Has
it ever been noticed that the proper remark does not always gain in
propriety with repetition?
It is splendid to know that right feeling still kept Tommy silent.
Yet she went on briskly as if he had told her something: "Am I
detaining you? You were walking so quickly that I thought you were in
pursuit of someone."
It brought Tommy back to earth, and he could accept her now as an old
friend he was glad to meet again. "You could not guess what I was in
pursuit of, Mrs. Jerry," he assured her, and with confidence, for
words are not usually chased down the Row.
But, though he made the sound of laughter, that terrible face which
Mrs. Jerry remembered so well, but could not give a name to, took no
part in the revelry; he was as puzzling to her as those irritating
authors who print their jokes without a note of exclamation at the end
of them. Poor Mrs. Jerry thought it must be a laugh of horrid
bitterness, and that he was referring to his dead self or something
dreadful of that sort, for which she was responsible.
"Please don't tell me," she said, in such obvious alarm that again he
laughed that awful laugh. He promised, with a profound sigh, to carry
his secret unspoken to the grave, also to come to her "At Home" if she
sent him a card.
He told her his address, but not his name, and she could not send the
card to "Occupier."
"Now tell me about yourself," said Mrs. Jerry, with charming cunning.
"Did you go away?"
"I came back a few days ago only."
"Had you any shooting?" (They nearly always threatened to make for a
distant land where there was big game.)
Tommy smiled. He had never "had any shooting" except once in his
boyhood, when he and Corp acted as beaters, and he had wept
passionately over the first bird killed, and harangued the murderer.
"No," he replied; "I was at work all the time."
This, at least, told her that his work was of a kind which could be
done out of London. An inventor?
"When are we to see the result?" asked artful Mrs. Jerry.
"Very soon. Everything comes out about this time. It is our season,
Mrs. Jerry pondered while she said: "How too entrancing!" What did
come out this month? Oh, plays! And whose season was it? The actor's,
of course! He could not be an actor with that beard, but--ah, she
"Are they really clever this time?" she asked roguishly--"for you must
admit that they are usually sticks."
Tommy blinked at this. "I really believe, Mrs. Jerry," he said slowly,
"it is you who don't know who I am!"
"You prepare the aristocracy for the stage, don't you?" she said
"I!" he thundered.
"He had a beard," she said, in self-defence.
"Oh, I don't know! Please forgive me! I do remember, of course, who
you are--I remember too well!" said Mrs. Jerry, generously.
"What is my name?" Tommy demanded.
She put her hands together again, beseechingly. "Please, please!" she
said. "I have such a dreadful memory for names, but--oh, please!"
"What am I?" he insisted.
"You are the--the man who invents those delightful thingumbobs," she
cried with an inspiration.
"I never invented anything, except two books," said Tommy, looking at
"I know them by heart," she cried.
"One of them is not published yet," he informed her.
"I am looking forward to it so excitedly," she said at once.
"And my name is Sandys," said he.
"Thomas Sandys," she said, correcting him triumphantly. "How is that
dear, darling little Agnes--Elspeth?"
"You have me at last," he admitted.
"'Sandys on Woman!'" exclaimed Mrs. Jerry, all rippling smiles once
more. "Can I ever forget it!"
"I shall never pretend to know anything about women again," Tommy
answered dolefully, but with a creditable absence of vindictiveness.
"Please, please!" said the little hands again.
"It is a nasty jar, Mrs. Jerry."
"Oh that I could forget so quickly!"
"I forgive you, if that is what you want."
She waved her whip. "And you will come and see me?"
"When I have got over this. It needs--a little time." He really said
this to please her.
"You shall talk to me of the new book," she said, confident that this
would fetch him, for he was not her first author. "By the way, what is
"Can you ask, Mrs. Jerry?" replied Tommy, passionately. "Oh, woman,
woman, can you ask?"
This puzzled her at the time, but she understood what he had meant
when the book came out, dedicated to Pym. "Goodness gracious!" she
said to herself as she went from chapter to chapter, and she was very
self-conscious when she heard the book discussed in society, which was
not quite as soon as it came out, for at first the ladies seemed to
have forgotten their Tommy.
But the journals made ample amends. He had invented, they said,
something new in literature, a story that was yet not a story, told in
the form of essays which were no mere essays. There was no character
mentioned by name, there was not a line of dialogue, essays only, they
might say, were the net result, yet a human heart was laid bare, and
surely that was fiction in its highest form. Fiction founded on fact,
no doubt (for it would be ostrich-like to deny that such a work must
be the outcome of a painful personal experience), but in those wise
and penetrating pages Mr. Sandys called no one's attention to himself;
his subject was an experience common to humanity, to be borne this way
or that; and without vainglory he showed how it should be borne, so
that those looking into the deep waters of the book (made clear by his
pellucid style) might see, not the author, but themselves.
A few of the critics said that if the book added nothing to his
reputation, it detracted nothing from it, but probably their pen added
this mechanically when they were away. What annoyed him more was the
two or three who stated that, much as they liked "Unrequited Love,"
they liked the "Letters" still better. He could not endure hearing a
good word said for the "Letters" now.
The great public, I believe, always preferred the "Letters," but among
important sections of it the new book was a delight, and for various
reasons. For instance, it was no mere story. That got the thoughtful
public. Its style, again, got the public which knows it is the only
public that counts.
Society still held aloof (there was an African traveller on view that
year), but otherwise everything was going on well, when the bolt came,
as ever, from the quarter whence it was least expected. It came in a
letter from Grizel, so direct as to be almost as direct as this: "I
think it is a horrid book. The more beautifully it is written the more
horrid it seems. No one was ever loved more truly than you. You can
know nothing about unrequited love. Then why do you pretend to know? I
see why you always avoided telling me anything about the book, even
its title. It was because you knew what I should say. It is nothing
but sentiment. You were on your wings all the time you were writing
it. That is why you could treat me as you did. Even to the last moment
you deceived me. I suppose you deceived yourself also. Had I known
what was in the manuscript I would not have kissed it, I would have
asked you to burn it. Had you not had the strength, and you would not,
I should have burned it for you. It would have been a proof of my
love. I have ceased to care whether you are a famous man or not. I
want you to be a real man. But you will not let me help you. I have
cried all day. GRIZEL."
Fury. Dejection. The heroic. They came in that order.
"This is too much!" he cried at first, "I can stand a good deal,
Grizel, but there was once a worm that turned at last, you know. Take
care, madam, take care. Oh, but you are a charming lady; you can
decide everything for everybody, can't you! What delicious letters you
write, something unexpected in everyone of them! There are poor dogs
of men, Grizel, who open their letters from their loves knowing
exactly what will be inside--words of cheer, words of love, of
confidence, of admiration, which help them as they sit into the night
at their work, fighting for fame that they may lay it at their loved
one's feet. Discouragement, obloquy, scorn, they get in plenty from
others, but they are always sure of her,--do you hear, my original
Grizel?--those other dogs are always sure of her. Hurrah! Grizel, I
was happy, I was actually honoured, it was helping me to do better and
better, when you quickly put an end to all that. Hurrah, hurrah!"
I feel rather sorry for him. If he had not told her about his book it
was because she did not and never could understand what compels a man
to write one book instead of another. "I had no say in the matter; the
thing demanded of me that I should do it, and I had to do it. Some
must write from their own experience, they can make nothing of
anything else; but it is to me like a chariot that won't budge; I have
to assume a character, Grizel, and then away we go. I don't attempt to
explain how I write, I hate to discuss it; all I know is that those
who know how it should be done can never do it. London is overrun with
such, and everyone of them is as cock-sure as you. You have taken
everything else, Grizel; surely you might leave me my books."
Yes, everything else, or nearly so. He put upon the table all the
feathers he had extracted since his return to London, and they did