Part 8 out of 8
upon it as a form of that sentimentality which his soul abhorred."
He seems often to have warned ladies against this essentially womanish
tendency to the sentimental. "It is an odious onion, dear lady," he
would say, holding both her hands in his. If men in his presence
talked sentimentally to ladies he was so irritated that he soon found
a pretext for leaving the room. "Yet let it not be thought," says One
Who Knew Him Well, "that because he was so sternly practical himself
he was intolerant of the outpourings of the sentimental. The man, in
short, reflected the views on this subject which are so admirably
phrased in his books, works that seem to me to found one of their
chief claims to distinction on this, that at last we have a writer who
can treat intimately of human love without leaving one smear of the
onion upon his pages."
On the whole, it may be noticed, comparatively few ladies contribute
to the obituary reflections, "for the simple reason," says a simple
man, "that he went but little into female society. He who could write
so eloquently about women never seemed to know what to say to them.
Ordinary tittle-tattle from them disappointed him. I should say that
to him there was so much of the divine in women that he was depressed
when they hid their wings." This view is supported by Clubman, who
notes that Tommy would never join in the somewhat free talk about the
other sex in which many men indulge. "I remember," he says, "a man's
dinner at which two of those present, both persons of eminence,
started a theory that every man who is blessed or cursed with the
artistic instinct has at some period of his life wanted to marry a
barmaid. Mr. Sandys gave them such a look that they at once
apologized. Trivial, perhaps, but significant. On another occasion I
was in a club smoking-room when the talk was of a similar kind. Mr.
Sandys was not present. A member said, with a laugh, 'I wonder for how
long men can be together without talking gamesomely of women?' Before
any answer could be given Mr. Sandys strolled in, and immediately the
atmosphere cleared, as if someone had opened the windows. When he had
gone the member addressed turned to him who had propounded the problem
and said, 'There is your answer--as long as Sandys is in the room.'"
"A fitting epitaph, this, for Thomas Sandys," says the paper that
quotes it, "if we could not find a better. Mr. Sandys was from first
to last a man of character, but why when others falter was he always
so sure-footed? It is in the answer to this question that we find the
key to the books, and to the man who was greater than the books. He
was the Perfect Lover. As he died seeking flowers for her who had the
high honour to be his wife, so he had always lived. He gave his
affection to her, as our correspondent Miss (or Mrs.) Ailie McLean
shows, in his earliest boyhood, and from this, his one romance, he
never swerved. To the moment of his death all his beautiful thoughts
were flowers plucked for her; his books were bunches of them gathered
to place at her feet. No harm now in reading between the lines of his
books and culling what is the common knowledge of his friends in the
north, that he had to serve a long apprenticeship before he won her.
For long his attachment was unreciprocated, though she was ever his
loyal friend, and the volume called 'Unrequited Love' belongs to the
period when he thought his life must be lived alone. The circumstances
of their marriage are at once too beautiful and too painful to be
dwelt on here. Enough to say that, should the particulars ever be
given to the world, with the simple story of his life, a finer
memorial will have been raised to him than anything in stone, such as
we see a committee is already being formed to erect. We venture to
propose as a title for his biography, 'The Story of the Perfect
Yes, that memorial committee was formed; but so soon do people forget
the hero of yesterday's paper that only the secretary attended the
first meeting, and he never called another. But here, five and twenty
years later, is the biography, with the title changed. You may wonder
that I had the heart to write it. I do it, I have sometimes pretended
to myself, that we may all laugh at the stripling of a rogue, but that
was never my reason. Have I been too cunning, or have you seen through
me all the time? Have you discovered that I was really pitying the boy
who was so fond of boyhood that he could not with years become a man,
telling nothing about him that was not true, but doing it with
unnecessary scorn in the hope that I might goad you into crying:
"Come, come, you are too hard on him!"
Perhaps the manner in which he went to his death deprives him of these
words. Had the castle gone on fire that day while he was at tea, and
he perished in the flames in a splendid attempt to save the life of
his enemy (a very probable thing), then you might have felt a little
liking for him. Yet he would have been precisely the same person. I
don't blame you, but you are a Tommy.
Grizel knew how he died. She found Lady Pippinworth's letter to him,
and understood who the woman was; but it was only in hopes of
obtaining the lost manuscript that she went to see her. Then Lady
Pippinworth told her all. Are you sorry that Grizel knew? I am not
sorry--I am glad. As a child, as a girl, and as a wife, the truth had
been all she wanted, and she wanted it just the same when she was a
widow. We have a right to know the truth; no right to ask anything
else from God, but the right to ask that.
And to her latest breath she went on loving Tommy just the same. She
thought everything out calmly for herself; she saw that there is no
great man on this earth except the man who conquers self, and that in
some the accursed thing which is in all of us may be so strong that to
battle with it and be beaten is not altogether to fail. It is foolish
to demand complete success of those we want to love. We should rejoice
when they rise for a moment above themselves, and sympathize with them
when they fall. In their heyday young lovers think each other perfect;
but a nobler love comes when they see the failings also, and this
higher love is so much more worth attaining to that they need not cry
out though it has to be beaten into them with rods. So they learn
humanity's limitations, and that the accursed thing to me is not the
accursed thing to you; but all have it, and from this comes pity for
those who have sinned, and the desire to help each other springs, for
knowledge is sympathy, and sympathy is love, and to learn it the Son
of God became a man.
And Grizel also thought anxiously about herself, and how from the time
when she was the smallest girl she had longed to be a good woman and
feared that perhaps she never should. And as she looked back at the
road she had travelled, there came along it the little girl to judge
her. She came trembling, but determined to know the truth, and she
looked at Grizel until she saw into her soul, and then she smiled,
Grizel lived on at Double Dykes, helping David in the old way. She was
too strong and fine a nature to succumb. Even her brightness came back
to her. They sometimes wondered at the serenity of her face. Some
still thought her a little stand-offish, for, though the pride had
gone from her walk, a distinction of manner grew upon her and made her
seem a finer lady than before. There was no other noticeable change,
except that with the years she lost her beautiful contours and became
a little angular--the old maid's figure, I believe it is sometimes
No one would have dared to smile at Grizel become an old maid before
some of the young men of Thrums. They were people who would have
suffered much for her, and all because she had the courage to talk to
them of some things before their marriage-day came round. And for
their young wives who had tidings to whisper to her about the unborn
she had the pretty idea that they should live with beautiful thoughts,
so that these might become part of the child.
When Gavinia told this to Corp, he gulped and said, "I wonder God
could hae haen the heart."
"Life's a queerer thing," Gavinia replied, sadly enough, "than we used
to think it when we was bairns in the Den."
He spoke of it to Grizel. She let Corp speak of anything to her
because he was so loyal to Tommy.
"You've given away a' your bonny things, Grizel," he said, "one by
one, and this notion is the bonniest o' them a'. I'm thinking that
when it cam' into your head you meant it for yoursel'."
Grizel smiled at him.
"I mind," Corp went on, "how when you was little you couldna see a
bairn without rocking your arms in a waeful kind o' a way, and we
could never thole the meaning o't. It just comes over me this minute
as it meant that when you was a woman you would like terrible to hae
bairns o' your ain, and you doubted you never should."
She raised her hand to stop him. "You see, I was not meant to have
them, Corp," she said. "I think that when women are too fond of other
people's babies they never have any of their own."
But Corp shook his head. "I dinna understand it," he told her, "but
I'm sure you was meant to hae them. Something's gane wrang."
She was still smiling at him, but her eyes were wet now, and she drew
him on to talk of the days when Tommy was a boy. It was sweet to
Grizel to listen while Elspeth and David told her of the thousand
things Tommy had done for her when she was ill, but she loved best to
talk with Corp of the time when they were all children in the Den. The
days of childhood are the best.
She lived so long after Tommy that she was almost a middle-aged woman
when she died.
And so the Painted Lady's daughter has found a way of making Tommy's
life the story of a perfect lover, after all. The little girl she had
been comes stealing back into the book and rocks her arms joyfully,
and we see Grizel's crooked smile for the last time.