Tommy and Grizel
Part 3 out of 8
along the passage like one who had entered for a race. And, lastly,
there was, as chief guest, the celebrated Thomas Sandys. It should
have been a triumph of a tea-party, and yet it was not. Mrs. McLean
could not tell why.
Grizel could have told why; her eyes told why every time they rested
scornfully on Mr. Sandys. It was he, they said, who was spoiling the
entertainment, and for the pitiful reason that the company were not
making enough of him. He was the guest of the evening, but they were
talking admiringly of another man, and so he sulked. Oh, how she
That other man was, of course, the unknown Captain Ure, gallant
rescuer of boys, hero of all who admire brave actions except the
jealous Sandys. Tommy had pooh-poohed him from the first, to Grizel's
"Have you not one word of praise for such a splendid deed?" she had
asked in despair.
"I see nothing splendid about it," he replied coldly.
"I advise you in your own interests not to talk in that way to
others," she said. "Don't you see what they will say?"
"I can't help that," answered Tommy the just. "If they ask my opinion,
I must give them the truth. I thought you were fond of the truth,
Grizel." To that she could only wring her hands and say nothing; but
it had never struck her that the truth could be so bitter.
And now he was giving his opinion at Mrs. McLean's party, and they
were all against him, except, in a measure, Elspeth's bachelor, who
said cheerily, "We should all have done it if we had been in Captain
Ure's place; I would have done it myself, Miss Elspeth, though not
fond of the water." He addressed all single ladies by their Christian
name with a Miss in front of it. This is the mark of the confirmed
bachelor, and comes upon him at one-and-twenty.
"I could not have done it," Grizel replied decisively, though she was
much the bravest person present, and he explained that he meant the
men only. His name was James Bonthron; let us call him Mr. James.
"Men are so brave!" she responded, with her eyes on Tommy, and he
received the stab in silence. Had the blood spouted from the wound, it
would have been an additional gratification to him. Tommy was like
those superb characters of romance who bare their breast to the enemy
and say, "Strike!"
"Well, well," Mr. Cathro observed, "none of us was on the spot, and so
we had no opportunity of showing our heroism. But you were near by,
Mr. Sandys, and if you had fished up the water that day, instead of
down, you might have been called upon. I wonder what you would have
Yes, Tommy was exasperating to him still as in the long ago, and
Cathro said this maliciously, yet feeling that he did a risky thing,
so convinced was he by old experience that you were getting in the way
of a road-machine when you opposed Thomas Sandys.
"I wonder," Tommy replied quietly.
The answer made a poor impression, and Cathro longed to go on. "But he
was always most dangerous when he was quiet," he reflected uneasily,
and checked himself in sheer funk.
Mr. Gloag came, as he thought, to Tommy's defence. "If Mr. Sandys
questions," he said heavily, "whether courage would have been
vouchsafed to him at that trying hour, it is right and fitting that he
should admit it with Christian humility."
"Quite so, quite so," Mr. James agreed, with heartiness. He had begun
to look solemn at the word "vouchsafed."
"For we are differently gifted," continued Mr. Gloag, now addressing
his congregation. "To some is given courage, to some learning, to some
grace. Each has his strong point," he ended abruptly, and tucked
reverently into the jam, which seemed to be his.
"If he would not have risked his life to save the boy," Elspeth
interposed hotly, "it would have been because he was thinking of me."
"I should like to believe that thought of you would have checked me,"
"I am sure it would," said Grizel.
Mr. Cathro was rubbing his hands together covertly, yet half wishing
he could take her aside and whisper: "Be canny; it's grand to hear
you, but be canny; he is looking most extraordinar meek, and unless he
has cast his skin since he was a laddie, it's not chancey to meddle
with him when he is meek."
The doctor also noticed that Grizel was pressing Tommy too hard, and
though he did not like the man, he was surprised--he had always
thought her so fair-minded.
"For my part," he said, "I don't admire the unknown half so much for
what he did as for his behaviour afterwards. To risk his life was
something, but to disappear quietly without taking any credit for it
was finer and I should say much more difficult."
"I think it was sweet of him," Grizel said.
"I don't see it," said Tommy, and the silence that followed should
have been unpleasant to him; but he went on calmly: "Doubtless it was
a mere impulse that made him jump into the pool, and impulse is not
courage." He was quoting Grizel now, you observe, and though he did
not look at her, he knew her eyes were fixed on him reproachfully.
"And so," he concluded, "I suppose Captain Ure knew he had done no
great thing, and preferred to avoid exaggerated applause."
Even Elspeth was troubled; but she must defend her dear brother. "He
would have avoided it himself," she explained quickly. "He dislikes
praise so much that he does not understand how sweet it is to smaller
This made Tommy wince. He was always distressed when timid Elspeth
blurted out things of this sort in company, and not the least of his
merits was that he usually forbore from chiding her for it afterwards,
so reluctant was he to hurt her. In a world where there were no women
except Elspeths, Tommy would have been a saint. He saw the doctor
smiling now, and at once his annoyance with her changed to wrath
against him for daring to smile at little Elspeth. She saw the smile,
too, and blushed; but she was not angry: she knew that the people who
smiled at her liked her, and that no one smiled so much at her as Dr.
The Dominie said fearfully: "I have no doubt that explains it, Miss
Sandys. Even as a boy I remember your brother had a horror of vulgar
"Now," he said to himself, "he will rise up and smite me." But no;
Tommy replied quietly;
"I am afraid that was not my character, Mr. Cathro; but I hope I have
changed since then, and that I could pull a boy out of the water
without wanting to be extolled for it."
That he could say such things before her was terrible to Grizel. It
was perhaps conceivable that he might pull the boy out of the water,
as he so ungenerously expressed it; but that he could refrain from
basking in the glory thereof, that, she knew, was quite impossible.
Her eyes begged him to take back those shameful words, but he bravely
declined; not even to please Grizel could he pretend that what was not
was. No more sentiment for T. Sandys.
"The spirit has all gone out of him; what am I afraid of?" reflected
the Dominie, and he rose suddenly to make a speech, tea-cup in hand.
"Cathro, Cathro, you tattie-doolie, you are riding to destruction,"
said a warning voice within him, but against his better judgment he
stifled it and began. He begged to propose the health of Captain Ure.
He was sure they would all join with him cordially in drinking it,
including Mr. Sandys, who unfortunately differed from them in his
estimation of the hero; that was only, however, as had been
conclusively shown, because he was a hero himself, and so could make
light of heroic deeds--with other sly hits at Mr. Sandys. But when all
the others rose to drink the toast, Tommy remained seated. The Dominie
coughed. "Perhaps Mr. Sandys means to reply," Grizel suggested
icily. And it was at this uncomfortable moment that Christina appeared
suddenly, and in a state of suppressed excitement requested her
mistress to speak with her behind the door. All the knowing ones were
aware that something terrible must have happened in the kitchen. Miss
Sophia thought it might be the china tea-pot. She smiled reassuringly
to signify that, whatever it was, she would help Mrs. McLean through,
and so did Mr. James. He was a perfect lady.
How dramatic it all was, as Ailie said frequently afterwards. She was
back in a moment, with her hand on her heart. "Mr. Sandys," were her
astounding words, "a lady wants to see you."
Tommy rose in surprise, as did several of the others.
"Was it really you?" Ailie cried. "She says it was you!"
"I don't understand, Mrs. McLean," he answered; "I have done nothing."
"But she says--and she is at the door!"
All eyes turned on the door so longingly that it opened under their
pressure, and a boy who had been at the keyhole stumbled forward.
"That's him!" he announced, pointing a stern finger at Mr. Sandys.
"But he says he did not do it," Ailie said.
"He's a liar," said the boy. His manner was that of the police, and
it had come so sharply upon Tommy that he looked not unlike a detected
Most of them thought he was being accused of something vile, and the
Dominie demanded, with a light heart, "Who is the woman?" while Mr.
James had a pleasant feeling that the ladies should be requested to
retire. But just then the woman came in, and she was much older than
they had expected.
"That's him, granny," the boy said, still severely; "that's the man as
saved my life at the Slugs." And then, when the truth was dawning on
them all, and there were exclamations of wonder, a pretty scene
suddenly presented itself, for the old lady, who had entered with the
timidest courtesy, slipped down on her knees before Tommy and kissed
his hand. That young rascal of a boy was all she had.
They were all moved by her simplicity, but none quite so much as
Tommy. He gulped with genuine emotion, and saw her through a maze of
beautiful thoughts that delayed all sense of triumph and even made him
forget, for a little while, to wonder what Grizel was thinking of him
now. As the old lady poured out her thanks tremblingly, he was
excitedly planning her future. He was a poor man, but she was to be
brought by him into Thrums to a little cottage overgrown with roses.
No more hard work for these dear old hands. She could sell scones,
perhaps. She should have a cow. He would send the boy to college and
make a minister of him; she should yet hear her grandson preach in the
church to which as a boy--
But here the old lady somewhat imperilled the picture by rising
actively and dumping upon the table the contents of the bag--a fowl
She was as poor an old lady as ever put a halfpenny into the church
plate on Sundays; but that she should present a hen to the preserver
of her grandson, her mind had been made up from the moment she had
reason to think she could find him, and it was to be the finest hen in
all the country round. She was an old lady of infinite spirit, and
daily, dragging the boy with her lest he again went a-fishing, she
trudged to farms near and far to examine and feel their hens. She was
a brittle old lady who creaked as she walked, and cracked like a
whin-pod in the heat, but she did her dozen miles or more a day, and
passed all the fowls in review, and could not be deceived by the
craftiest of farmers' wives; and in the tail of the day she became
possessor, and did herself thraw the neck of the stoutest and toughest
hen that ever entered a linen bag head foremost. By this time the boy
had given way in the legs, and hence the railway journey, its cost
defrayed by admiring friends.
With careful handling he should get a week out of her gift, she
explained complacently, besides two makes of broth; and she and the
boy looked as if they would like dearly to sit opposite Tommy during
those seven days and watch him gorging.
If you look at the matter aright it was a handsomer present than many
a tiara, but if you are of the same stuff as Mr. James it was only a
hen. Mr. James tittered, and one or two others made ready to titter.
It was a moment to try Tommy, for there are doubtless heroes as
gallant as he who do not know how to receive a present of a hen.
Grizel, who had been holding back, moved a little nearer. If he hurt
that sweet old woman's feelings, she could never forgive him--never!
He heard the titter, and ridicule was terrible to him; but he also
knew why Grizel had come closer, and what she wanted of him. Our
Tommy, in short, had emerged from his emotion, and once more knew what
was what. It was not his fault that he stood revealed a hero: the
little gods had done it; therefore let him do credit to the chosen of
the little gods. The way he took that old lady's wrinkled hand, and
bowed over it, and thanked her, was an ode to manhood. Everyone was
touched. Those who had been about to titter wondered what on earth Mr.
James had seen to titter at, and Grizel almost clapped her hands with
joy; she would have done it altogether had not Tommy just then made
the mistake of looking at her for approval. She fell back, and,
intoxicated with himself, he thought it was because her heart was too
full for utterance. Tommy was now splendid, and described the affair
at the Slugs with an adorable modesty.
"I assure you, it was a much smaller thing to do than you imagine; it
was all over in a few minutes; I knew that in your good nature you
would make too much of it, and so--foolishly, I can see now--I tried
to keep it from you. As for the name Captain Ure, it was an invention
of that humourous dog, Corp."
And so on, with the most considerate remarks when they insisted on
shaking hands with him: "I beseech you, don't apologize to me; I see
clearly that the fault was entirely my own. Had I been in your place,
Mr. James, I should have behaved precisely as you have done, and had
you been at the Slugs you would have jumped in as I did. Mr. Cathro,
you pain me by holding back; I assure you I esteem my old Dominie more
than ever for the way in which you stuck up for Captain Ure, though
you must see why I could not drink that gentleman's health."
And Mr. Cathro made the best of it, wringing Tommy's hand effusively,
while muttering, "Fool, donnard stirk, gowk!" He was addressing
himself and any other person who might be so presumptuous as to try to
get the better of Thomas Sandys. Cathro never tried it again. Had
Tommy died that week his old Dominie would have been very chary of
what he said at the funeral.
They were in the garden now, the gentlemen without their hats. "Have
you made your peace with him?" Cathro asked Grizel, in a cautious
voice. "He is a devil's buckie, and I advise you to follow my example,
Miss McQueen, and capitulate. I have always found him reasonable so
long as you bend the knee to him."
"I am not his enemy," replied Grizel, loftily, "and if he has done a
noble thing I am proud of him and will tell him so."
"I would tell him so," said the Dominie, "whether he had done it or
"Do you mean," she asked indignantly, "that you think he did not do
"No, no, no," he answered hurriedly; "or mercy's sake, don't tell him
I think that." And then, as Tommy was out of ear-shot: "But I see
there is no necessity for my warning you against standing in his way
again, Miss McQueen, for you are up in arms for him now."
"I admire brave men," she replied, "and he is one, is he not?"
"You'll find him reasonable," said the Dominie, drily.
But though it was thus that she defended Tommy when others hinted
doubts, she had not yet said she was proud of him to the man who
wanted most to hear it. For one brief moment Grizel had exulted on
learning that he and Captain Ure were one, and then suddenly, to all
the emotions now running within her, a voice seemed to cry, "Halt!"
and she fell to watching sharply the doer of noble deeds. Her eyes
were not wistful, nor were they contemptuous, but had Tommy been less
elated with himself he might have seen that they were puzzled and
suspicious. To mistrust him in face of such evidence seemed half a
shame; she was indignant with herself even while she did it; but she
could not help doing it, the truth about Tommy was such a vital thing
to Grizel. She had known him so well, too well, up to a minute ago,
and this was not the man she had known.
How unfair she was to Tommy while she watched! When the old lady was
on her knees thanking him, and every other lady was impressed by the
feeling he showed, it seemed to Grizel that he was again in the arms
of some such absurd sentiment as had mastered him in the Den. When he
behaved so charmingly about the gift she was almost sure he looked at
her as he had looked in the old days before striding his legs and
screaming out, "Oh, am I not a wonder? I see by your face that you
think me a wonder!" All the time he was so considerately putting those
who had misjudged him at their ease she believed he did it
considerately that they might say to each other, "How considerate he
is!" When she misread Tommy in such comparative trifles as these, is
it to be wondered that she went into the garden still tortured by a
doubt about the essential? It was nothing less than torture to her;
when you discover what is in her mind, Tommy, you may console yourself
He discovered what was in her mind as Mr. Cathro left her. She felt
shy, he thought, of coming to him after what had taken place, and,
with the generous intention of showing that she was forgiven, he
crossed good-naturedly to her.
"You were very severe, Grizel," he said, "but don't let that distress
you for a moment; it served me right for not telling the truth at
She did not flinch. "Do we know the truth now?" she asked, looking at
him steadfastly. "I don't want to hurt you--you know that; but please
tell me, did you really do it? I mean, did you do it in the way we
have been led to suppose?"
It was a great shock to Tommy. He had not forgotten his vows to change
his nature, and had she been sympathetic now he would have confessed
to her the real reason of his silence. He wanted boyishly to tell her,
though of course without mention of the glove; but her words hardened
"Grizel!" he cried reproachfully, and then in a husky voice: "Can you
really think so badly of me as that?"
"I don't know what to think," she answered, pressing her hands
together, "I know you are very clever."
He bowed slightly.
"Did you?" she asked again. She was no longer chiding herself for
being over-careful; she must know the truth.
He was silent for a moment. Then, "Grizel," he said, "I am about to
pain you very much, but you give me no option. I did do it precisely
as you have heard. And may God forgive you for doubting me," he added
with a quiver, "as freely as I do."
You will scarcely believe this, but a few minutes afterwards, Grizel
having been the first to leave, he saw her from the garden going, not
home, but in the direction of Corp's house, obviously to ask him
whether Tommy had done it. Tommy guessed her intention at once, and he
laughed a bitter ho-ho-ha, and wiped her from his memory.
"Farewell, woman; I am done with you," are the terrible words you may
conceive Tommy saying. Next moment, however, he was hurriedly bidding
his hostess good-night, could not even wait for Elspeth, clapped his
hat on his head, and was off after Grizel. It had suddenly struck him
that, now the rest of the story was out, Corp might tell her about the
glove. Suppose Gavinia showed it to her!
Sometimes he had kissed that glove passionately, sometimes pressed his
lips upon it with the long tenderness that is less intoxicating but
makes you a better man; but now, for the first time, he asked himself
bluntly why he had done those things, with the result that he was
striding to Corp's house. It was not only for his own sake that he
hurried; let us do him that justice. It was chiefly to save Grizel the
pain of thinking that he whom she had been flouting loved her, as she
must think if she heard the story of the glove. That it could be
nothing but pain to her he was boyishly certain, for assuredly this
scornful girl wanted none of his love. And though she was scornful,
she was still the dear companion of his boyhood. Tommy was honestly
anxious to save Grizel the pain of thinking that she had flouted a man
who loved her.
He took a different road from hers, but, to his annoyance, they met at
Couthie's corner. He would have passed her with a distant bow, but she
would have none of that. "You have followed me," said Grizel, with
the hateful directness that was no part of Tommy's character.
"You followed me to see whether I was going to question Corp. You were
afraid he would tell me what really happened. You wanted to see him
first to tell him what to say."
"Is it not true?"
There are no questions so offensive to the artistic nature as those
that demand a Yes or No for answer. "It is useless for me to say it is
not true," he replied haughtily, "for you won't believe me."
"Say it and I shall believe you," said she.
Tommy tried standing on the other foot, but it was no help. "I presume
I may have reasons for wanting to see Corp that you are unacquainted
with," he said.
"Oh, I am sure of it!" replied Grizel, scornfully. She had been hoping
until now, but there was no more hope left in her.
"May I ask what it is that my oldest friend accuses me of? Perhaps you
don't even believe that I was Captain Ure?"
"I am no longer sure of it."
"How you read me, Grizel! I could hoodwink the others, but never you.
I suppose it is because you have such an eye for the worst in
It was not the first time he had said something of this kind to her;
for he knew that she suspected herself of being too ready to find
blemishes in others, to the neglect of their better qualities, and
that this made her uneasy and also very sensitive to the charge.
To-day, however, her own imperfections did not matter to her; she was
as nothing to herself just now, and scarcely felt his insinuations.
"I think you were Captain Ure," she said slowly, "and I think you did
it, but not as the boy imagines."
"You may be quite sure," he replied, "that I would not have done it
had there been the least risk. That, I flatter myself, is how you
reason it out."
"It does not explain," she said, "why you kept the matter secret."
"Thank you, Grizel! Well, at least I have not boasted of it."
"No, and that is what makes me----" She paused.
"Go on," said he, "though I can guess what agreeable thing you were
going to say."
But she said something else: "You may have noticed that I took the boy
aside and questioned him privately."
"I little thought then, Grizel, that you suspected me of being an
She clenched her hands again; it was all so hard to say, and yet she
must say it! "I did not. I saw he believed his story. I was asking him
whether you had planned his coming with it to Mrs. McLean's house at
that dramatic moment."
"You actually thought me capable of that!"
"It makes me horrid to myself," she replied wofully, "but if I thought
you had done that I could more readily believe the rest."
"Very well, Grizel," he said, "go on thinking the worst of me; I would
not deprive you of that pleasure if I could."
"Oh, cruel, cruel!" she could have replied; "you know it is no
pleasure; you know it is a great pain." But she did not speak.
"I have already told you that the boy's story is true," he said, "and
now you ask me why I did not shout it from the housetops myself.
Perhaps it was for your sake, Grizel; perhaps it was to save you the
distress of knowing that in a momentary impulse I could so far forget
myself as to act the part of a man."
She pressed her hands more tightly. "I may be wronging you," she
answered; "I should love to think so; but--you have something you want
to say to Corp before I see him."
"Not at all," Tommy said; "if you still want to see Corp, let us go
together." She hesitated, but she knew how clever he was. "I prefer
to go alone," she replied. "Forgive me if I ask you to turn back."
"Don't go," he entreated her. "Grizel, I give you my word of honour it
is to save you acute pain that I want to see Corp first." She smiled
wanly at that, for though, as we know, it was true, she misunderstood
him. He had to let her go on alone.
IN WHICH A COMEDIAN CHALLENGES TRAGEDY TO BOWLS
When Grizel opened the door of Corp's house she found husband and wife
at home, the baby in his father's arms; what is more, Gavinia was
looking on smiling and saying, "You bonny litlin, you're windy to have
him dandling you; and no wonder, for he's a father to be proud o'."
Corp was accepting it all with a complacent smirk. Oh, agreeable
change since last we were in this house! oh, happy picture of domestic
bliss! oh--but no, these are not the words; what we meant to say was,
"Gavinia, you limmer, so you have got the better of that man of yours
How had she contrived it? We have seen her escorting the old lady to
the Dovecot, Corp skulking behind. Our next peep at them shows Gavinia
back at her house, Corp peering through the window and wondering
whether he dare venture in. Gavinia was still bothered, for though she
knew now the story of Tommy's heroism, there was no glove in it, and
it was the glove that maddened her.
"No, I ken nothing about a glove," the old lady had assured her.
"Not a sylup was said about a glove," maintained Christina, who had
given her a highly coloured narrative of what took place in Mrs.
"And yet there's a glove in't as sure as there's a quirk in't,"
Gavinia kept muttering to herself. She rose to have another look at
the hoddy-place in which she had concealed the glove from her husband,
and as she did so she caught sight of him at the window. He bobbed at
once, but she hastened to the door to scarify him. The clock had given
only two ticks when she was upon him, but in that time she had
completely changed her plan of action. She welcomed him with smiles of
pride. Thus is the nimbleness of women's wit measured once and for
all. They need two seconds if they are to do the thing comfortably.
"Never to have telled me, and you behaved so grandly!" she cried, with
adoring glances that were as a carpet on which he strode pompously
into the house.
"It wasna me that did it; it was him," said Corp, and even then he
feared that he had told too much. "I kenna what you're speaking
about," he added loyally.
"Corp," she answered, "you needna be so canny, for the laddie is in
the town, and Mr. Sandys has confessed all."
"The whole o't?"
"About the glove, too?"
"Glove and all," said wicked Gavinia, and she continued to feast her
eyes so admiringly on her deceived husband that he passed quickly from
the gratified to the dictatorial.
"Let this be a lesson to you, woman," he said sternly; and Gavinia
intimated with humility that she hoped to profit by it.
"Having got the glove in so solemn a way," he went on, "it would have
been ill done of me to blab to you about it. Do you see that now,
She said it was as clear as day to her. "And a solemn way it was," she
added, and then waited eagerly.
"My opinion," continued Corp, lowering his voice as if this were not
matter for the child, "is that it's a love-token frae some London
"Behear's!" cried Gavinia.
"Else what," he asked, "would make him hand it to me so solemn-like,
and tell me to pass it on to her if he was drowned? I didna think o'
that at the time, but it has come to me, Gavinia; it has come."
This was a mouthful indeed to Gavinia. So the glove was the property
of Mr. Sandys, and he was in love with a London lady, and--no, this is
too slow for Gavinia; she saw these things in passing, as one who
jumps from the top of a house may have lightning glimpses through many
windows on the way down. What she jumped to was the vital question,
Who was the woman?
But she was too cunning to ask a leading question.
"Ay, she's his lady-love," she said, controlling herself, "but I
forget her name. It was a very wise-like thing o' you to speir the
"But I didna."
"He was in the water in a klink."
Had Gavinia been in Corp's place she would have had the name out of
Tommy, water or no water; but she did not tell her husband what she
thought of him.
"Ay, of course," she said pleasantly. "It was after you helped him out
that he telled you her name."
"Did he say he telled me her name?"
"Well, then, I've fair forgot it."
Instead of boxing his ears she begged him to reflect. Result of
reflection, that if the name had been mentioned to Corp, which he
doubted, it began with M.
Was it Mary?
That was the name.
Or was it Martha?
It had a taste of Martha about it.
It was not Margaret?
It might have been Margaret.
It was fell like Matilda.
And so on. "But wi' a' your wheedling," Corp reminded his wife,
bantering her from aloft, "you couldna get a scraping out o' me till I
was free to speak."
He thought it a good opportunity for showing Gavinia her place once
and for all. "In small matters," he said, "I gie you your ain way, for
though you may be wrang, thinks I to mysel', 'She's but a woman'; but
in important things, Gavinia, if I humoured you I would spoil you, so
let this be a telling to you that there's no diddling a determined
man"; to which she replied by informing the baby that he had a father
to be proud of.
A father to be proud of! They were the words heard by Grizel as she
entered. She also saw Gavinia looking admiringly at her man, and in
that doleful moment she thought she understood all. It was Corp who
had done it, and Tommy had been the looker-on. He had sought to keep
the incident secret because, though he was in it, the glory had been
won by another (oh, how base!), and now, profiting by the boy's
mistake, he was swaggering in that other's clothes (oh, baser still!).
Everything was revealed to her in a flash, and she stooped over the
baby to hide a sudden tear. She did not want to hear any more.
The baby cried. Babies are aware that they can't do very much; but all
of them who knew Grizel were almost contemptuously confident of their
power over her, and when this one saw (they are very sharp) that in
his presence she could actually think of something else, he was so
hurt that he cried.
Was she to be blamed for thinking so meanly of Tommy? You can blame
her with that tear in her eye if you choose; but I can think only of
the gladness that came afterwards when she knew she had been unjust to
him. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" the bird sang to its Creator
when the sun came out after rain, and it was Grizel's song as she
listened to Corp's story of heroic Tommy. There was no room in her
exultant heart for remorse. It would have shown littleness to be able
to think of herself at all when she could think so gloriously of him.
She was more than beautiful now; she was radiant; and it was because
Tommy was the man she wanted him to be. As those who are cold hold
out their hands to the fire did she warm her heart at what Corp had to
tell, and the great joy that was lit within her made her radiant. Now
the baby was in her lap, smiling back to her. He thought he had done
it all. "So you thought you could resist me!" the baby crowed.
The glove had not been mentioned yet. "The sweetest thing of all to
me," Grizel said, "is that he did not want me to hear the story from
you, Corp, because he knew you would sing his praise so loudly."
"I'm thinking," said Gavinia, archly, "he had another reason for no
wanting you to question Corp. Maybe he didna want you to ken about the
London lady and her glove. Will you tell her, man, or will I?"
They told her together, and what had been conjectures were now put
forward as facts. Tommy had certainly said a London lady, and as
certainly he had given her name, but what it was Corp could not
remember. But "Give her this and tell her it never left my heart"--he
could swear to these words.
"And no words could be stronger," Gavinia said triumphantly. She
produced the glove, and was about to take off its paper wrapping when
Grizel stopped her.
"We have no right, Gavinia." "I suppose we hinna, and I'm thinking
the pocket it came out o' is feeling gey toom without it. Will you
take it back to him?"
"It was very wrong of you to keep it," Grizel answered, "but I can't
take it to him, for I see now that his reason for wanting me not to
come here was to prevent my hearing about it. I am sorry you told me.
Corp must take it back." But when she saw it being crushed in Corp's
rough hand, a pity for the helpless glove came over her. She said:
"After all, I do know about it, so I can't pretend to him that I
don't. I will give it to him, Corp"; and she put the little package in
her pocket with a brave smile.
Do you think the radiance had gone from her face now? Do you think the
joy that had been lit in her heart was dead? Oh, no, no! Grizel had
never asked that Tommy should love her; she had asked only that he
should be a fine man. She did not ask it for herself, only for him.
She could not think of herself now, only of him. She did not think she
loved him. She thought a woman should not love any man until she knew
he wanted her to love him.
But if Tommy had wanted it she would have been very glad. She knew,
oh, she knew so well, that she could have helped him best. Many a
noble woman has known it as she stood aside.
In the meantime Tommy had gone home in several states of
mind--reckless, humble, sentimental, most practical, defiant,
apprehensive. At one moment he was crying, "Now, Grizel, now, when it
is too late, you will see what you have lost." At the next he quaked
and implored the gods to help him out of his predicament. It was
apprehension that, on the whole, played most of the tunes, for he was
by no means sure that Grizel would not look upon the affair of the
glove as an offer of his hand, and accept him. They would show her the
glove, and she would, of course, know it to be her own. "Give her this
and tell her it never left my heart." The words thumped within him
now. How was Grizel to understand that he had meant nothing in
particular by them?
I wonder if you misread him so utterly as to believe that he thought
himself something of a prize? That is a vulgar way of looking at
things of which our fastidious Tommy was incapable. As much as Grizel
herself, he loathed the notion that women have a thirsty eye on man;
when he saw them cheapening themselves before the sex that should hold
them beyond price, he turned his head and would not let his mind dwell
on the subject. He was a sort of gentleman, was Tommy. And he knew
Grizel so well that had all the other women in the world been of this
kind, it would not have persuaded him that there was a drop of such
blood in her. Then, if he feared that she was willing to be his, it
must have been because he thought she loved him? Not a bit of it. As
already stated, he thought he had abundant reason to think otherwise.
It was remorse that he feared might bring her to his feet, the
discovery that while she had been gibing at him he had been a heroic
figure, suffering in silence, eating his heart for love of her.
Undoubtedly that was how Grizel must see things now; he must seem to
her to be an angel rather than a mere man; and in sheer remorse she
might cry, "I am yours!" Vain though Tommy was, the picture gave him
not a moment's pleasure. Alarm was what he felt.
Of course he was exaggerating Grizel's feelings. She had too much
self-respect and too little sentiment to be willing to marry any man
because she had unintentionally wronged him. But this was how Tommy
would have acted had he happened to be a lady. Remorse, pity, no one
was so good at them as Tommy.
In his perturbation he was also good at maidenly reserve. He felt
strongly that the proper course for Grizel was not to refer to the
glove--to treat that incident as closed, unless he chose to reopen it.
This was so obviously the correct procedure that he seemed to see her
adopting it like a sensible girl, and relief would have come to him
had he not remembered that Grizel usually took her own way, and that
it was seldom his way.
There were other ways of escape. For instance, if she would only let
him love her hopelessly. Oh, Grizel had but to tell him there was no
hope, and then how finely he would behave! It would bring out all that
was best in him. He saw himself passing through life as her very
perfect knight. "Is there no hope for me?" He heard himself begging
for hope, and he heard also her firm answer: "None!" How he had always
admired the outspokenness of Grizel. Her "None!" was as splendidly
decisive as of yore.
The conversation thus begun ran on in him, Tommy doing the speaking
for both (though his lips never moved), and feeling the scene as
vividly as if Grizel had really been present and Elspeth was not.
Elspeth was sitting opposite him.
"At least let me wait, Grizel," he implored. "I don't care for how
long; fix a time yourself, and I shall keep to it, and I promise never
to speak one word of love to you until that time comes, and then if
you bid me go I shall go. Give me something to live for. It binds you
to nothing, and oh, it would make such a difference to me."
Then Grizel seemed to reply gently, but with the firmness he adored:
"I know I cannot change, and it would be mistaken kindness to do as
you suggest. No, I can give you no hope; but though I can never marry
you, I will watch your future with warm regard, for you have to-day
paid me the highest compliment a man can pay a woman."
(How charmingly it was all working out!)
Tommy bowed with dignity and touched her hand with his lips. What is
it they do next in Pym and even more expensive authors? Oh, yes! "If
at any time in your life, dear Grizel," he said, "you are in need of a
friend, I hope you will turn first to me. It does not matter where
your message reaches me, I will come to you without delay."
In his enthusiasm he saw the letter being delivered to him in Central
Africa, and immediately he wheeled round on his way to Thrums.
"There is one other little request I should like to make of you," he
said huskily. "Perhaps I ask too much, but it is this: may I keep your
She nodded her head; she was so touched that she could scarcely trust
herself to speak. "But you will soon get over this," she said at last;
"another glove will take the place of mine; the time will come when
you will be glad that I said I could not marry you."
"Grizel!" he cried in agony. He was so carried away by his feelings
that he said the word aloud.
"Where?" asked Elspeth, looking at the window.
"Was it not she who passed just now?" he replied promptly; and they
were still discussing his mistake when Grizel did pass, but only to
stop at the door. She came in.
"My brother must have the second sight," declared Elspeth, gaily, "for
he saw you coming before you came"; and she told what had happened,
while Grizel looked happily at Tommy, and Tommy looked apprehensively
at her. Grizel, he might have seen, was not wearing the tragic face of
sacrifice; it was a face shining with gladness, a girl still too happy
in his nobility to think remorsefully of her own misdeeds. To let him
know that she was proud of him, that was what she had come for
chiefly, and she was even glad that Elspeth was there to hear. It was
an excuse to her to repeat Corp's story, and she told it with defiant
looks at Tommy that said, "You are so modest, you want to stop me, but
Elspeth will listen; it is nearly as sweet to Elspeth as it is to me,
and I shall tell her every word, yes, and tell her a great deal of it
It was not modesty which made Tommy so anxious that she should think
less of him, but naturally it had that appearance. The most heroic
fellows, I am told, can endure being extolled by pretty girls, but
here seemed to be one who could not stand it.
"You need not think it is of you we are proud," she assured him
light-heartedly; "it is really of ourselves. I am proud of being your
friend. To-morrow, when I hear the town ringing your praises, I shall
not say, 'Yes, isn't he wonderful?' I shall say, 'Talk of me; I, too,
am an object of interest, for I am his friend.'"
"I have often been pointed out as his sister," said Elspeth,
"He did not choose his sister," replied Grizel, "but he chose his
For a time he could suck no sweetness from it. She avoided the glove,
he was sure, only because of Elspeth's presence. But anon there
arrived to cheer him a fond hope that she had not heard of it, and as
this became conviction, exit the Tommy who could not abide himself,
and enter another who was highly charmed therewith. Tommy had a notion
that certain whimsical little gods protected him in return for the
sport he gave them, and he often kissed his hand to them when they
came to the rescue. He would have liked to kiss it now, but gave a
grateful glance instead to the corner in the ceiling where they sat
chuckling at him. Grizel admired him at last. Tra, la, la! What a dear
girl she was! Into his manner there crept a certain masterfulness, and
instead of resisting it she beamed. Rum-ti-tum!
"If you want to spoil me," he said lazily, "you will bring me that
footstool to rest my heroic feet upon." She smiled and brought it.
She even brought a cushion for his heroic head. Adoring little thing
that she was, he must be good to her.
He was now looking forward eagerly to walking home with her. I can't
tell you how delicious he meant to be. When she said she must go, he
skipped upstairs for his hat, and wafted the gods their kiss. But it
was always the unexpected that lay in wait for Tommy. He and she were
no sooner out of the house than Grizel said, "I did not mention the
glove, as I was not sure whether Elspeth knew of it."
He had turned stone-cold.
"Corp and Gavinia told me," she went on quietly, "before I had time to
stop them. Of course I should have preferred not to know until I heard
it from yourself."
Oh, how cold he was!
"But as I do know, I want to tell you that it makes me very happy."
They had stopped, for his legs would carry him no farther. "Get us out
of this," every bit of him was crying, but not one word could Tommy
"I knew you would want to have it again," Grizel said brightly,
producing the little parcel from her pocket, "so I brought it to you."
The frozen man took it and held it passively in his hand. His gods had
No, they were actually giving him another chance. What was this
Grizel was saying? "I have not looked at it, for to take it out of its
wrapping would have been profanation. Corp told me she was a London
girl; but I know nothing more, not even her name. You are not angry
with me for speaking of her, are you? Surely I may wish you and her
He was saved. The breath came back quickly to him. He filled like a
released ball. Had ever a heart better right to expand? Grizel,
looking so bright and pleased, had snatched him from the Slugs. Surely
you will be nice to your preserver, Tommy. You will not be less
grateful than a country boy?
Ah me! not even yet have we plumed his vanity. But we are to do it
now. He could not have believed it of himself, but in the midst of his
rejoicings he grew bitter, and for no better reason than that Grizel's
face was bright.
"I am glad," he said quite stiffly, "that it is such pleasant news to
His tone surprised her; but she was in a humble mood, and answered,
without being offended: "It is sweet news to me. How could you think
So it was sweet to her to think that he was another's! He who had been
modestly flattering himself a few moments ago that he must take care
not to go too far with this admiring little girl! O woman, woman, how
difficult it is to know you, and how often, when we think we know you
at last, have we to begin again at the beginning! He had never asked
an enduring love from her; but surely, after all that had passed
between them, he had a right to expect a little more than this. Was it
maidenly to bring the glove and hand it to him without a tremor? If
she could do no more, she might at least have turned a little pale
when Corp told her of it, and then have walked quietly away. Next day
she could have referred to it, with just the slightest break in her
voice. But to come straight to him, looking delighted--
"And, after all, I am entitled to know first," Grizel said, "for I am
your oldest friend."
Friend! He could not help repeating the word with bitter emphasis. For
her sake, as it seemed to him now, he had flung himself into the black
waters of the Drumly. He had worn her glove upon his heart. It had
been the world to him. And she could stand there and call herself his
friend. The cup was full. Tommy nodded his head sorrowfully three
"So be it, Grizel," he said huskily; "so be it!" Sentiment could now
carry him where it willed. The reins were broken.
"I don't understand."
Neither did he; but, "Why should you? What is it to you!" he cried
wildly. "Better not to understand, for it might give you five
minutes' pain, Grizel, a whole five minutes, and I should be sorry to
give you that."
"What have I said! What have I done!"
"Nothing," he answered her, "nothing. You have been most exemplary;
you have not even got any entertainment out of it. The thing never
struck you as possible. It was too ludicrous!"
He laughed harshly at the package, which was still in his hand. "Poor
little glove," he said; "and she did not even take the trouble to look
at you. You might have looked at it, Grizel. I have looked at it a
good deal. It meant something to me once upon a time when I was a vain
fool. Take it and look at it before you fling it away. It will make
Now she knew, and her arms rocked convulsively. Joy surged to her
face, and she drove it back. She looked at him steadfastly over the
collar of her jacket; she looked long, as if trying to be suspicious
of him for the last time. Ah, Grizel, you are saying good-bye to your
As she looked at him thus there was a mournfulness in her brave face
that went to Tommy's heart and almost made a man of him. It was as if
he knew that she was doomed.
"Grizel," he cried, "don't look at me in that way!" And he would have
taken the package from her, but she pressed it to her heart.
"Don't come with me," she said almost in a whisper, and went away.
He did not go back to the house. He wandered into the country, quite
objectless when he was walking fastest, seeing nothing when he stood
still and stared. Elation and dread were his companions. What elation
whispered he could not yet believe; no, he could not believe it. While
he listened he knew that he must be making up the words. By and by he
found himself among the shadows of the Den. If he had loved Grizel he
would have known that it was here she would come, to the sweet Den
where he and she had played as children, the spot where she had loved
him first. She had always loved him--always, always. He did not know
what figure it was by the Cuttle Well until he was quite close to
her. She was kissing the glove passionately, and on her eyes lay
little wells of gladness.
LITTLE WELLS OF GLADNESS
It was dusk, and she had not seen him. In the silent Den he stood
motionless within a few feet of her, so amazed to find that Grizel
really loved him that for the moment self was blotted out of his mind.
He remembered he was there only when he heard his heavy breathing, and
then he tried to check it that he might steal away undiscovered.
Divers emotions fought for the possession of him. He was in the
meeting of many waters, each capable of whirling him where it chose,
but two only imperious: the one the fierce joy of being loved; the
other an agonizing remorse. He would fain have stolen away to think
this tremendous thing over, but it tossed him forward. "Grizel," he
said in a husky whisper, "Grizel!"
She did not start; she was scarcely surprised to hear his voice: she
had been talking to him, and he had answered. Had he not been there
she would still have heard him answer. She could not see him more
clearly now than she had been seeing him through those little wells of
gladness. Her love for him was the whole of her. He came to her with
the opening and the shutting of her eyes; he was the wind that bit her
and the sun that nourished her; he was the lowliest object by the
Cuttle Well, and he was the wings on which her thoughts soared to
eternity. He could never leave her while her mortal frame endured.
When he whispered her name she turned her swimming eyes to him, and a
strange birth had come into her face. Her eyes said so openly they
were his, and her mouth said it was his, her whole being went out to
him; in the radiance of her face could be read immortal designs: the
maid kissing her farewell to innocence was there, and the reason why
it must be, and the fate of the unborn; it was the first stirring for
weal or woe of a movement that has no end on earth, but must roll on,
growing lusty on beauty or dishonour till the crack of time. This
birth which comes to every woman at that hour is God's gift to her in
exchange for what He has taken away, and when He has given it He
stands back and watches the man.
To this man she was a woman transformed. The new bloom upon her face
entranced him. He knew what it meant. He was looking on the face of
love at last, and it was love coming out smiling from its hiding-place
because it thought it had heard him call. The artist in him who had
done this thing was entranced, as if he had written an immortal page.
But the man was appalled. He knew that he had reached the critical
moment in her life and his, and that if he took one step farther
forward he could never again draw back. It would be comparatively easy
to draw back now. To remain a free man he had but to tell her the
truth; and he had a passionate desire to remain free. He heard the
voices of his little gods screaming to him to draw back. But it could
be done only at her expense, and it seemed to him that to tell this
noble girl, who was waiting for him, that he did not need her, would
be to spill for ever the happiness with which she overflowed, and sap
the pride that had been the marrow of her during her twenty years of
life. Not thus would Grizel have argued in his place; but he could not
change his nature, and it was Sentimental Tommy, in an agony of
remorse for having brought dear Grizel to this pass, who had to decide
her future and his in the time you may take to walk up a garden path.
Either her mistake must be righted now or kept hidden from her for
ever. He was a sentimentalist, but in that hard moment he was trying
to be a man. He took her in his arms and kissed her reverently,
knowing that after this there could be no drawing back. In that act he
gave himself loyally to her as a husband. He knew he was not worthy of
her, but he was determined to try to be a little less unworthy; and as
he drew her to him a slight quiver went through her, so that for a
second she seemed to be holding back--for a second only, and the
quiver was the rustle of wings on which some part of the Grizel we
have known so long was taking flight from her. Then she pressed close
to him passionately, as if she grudged that pause. I love her more
than ever, far more; but she is never again quite the Grizel we have
He was not unhappy; in the near hereafter he might be as miserable as
the damned--the little gods were waiting to catch him alone and
terrify him; but for the time, having sacrificed himself, Tommy was
aglow with the passion he had inspired. He so loved the thing he had
created that in his exultation he mistook it for her. He believed all
he was saying. He looked at her long and adoringly, not, as he
thought, because he adored her, but because it was thus that look
should answer look; he pressed her wet eyes reverently because thus it
was written in his delicious part; his heart throbbed with hers that
they might beat in time. He did not love, but he was the perfect
lover; he was the artist trying in a mad moment to be as well as to
do. Love was their theme; but how to know what was said when between
lovers it is only the loose change of conversation that gets into
words? The important matters cannot wait so slow a messenger; while
the tongue is being charged with them, a look, a twitch of the mouth,
a movement of a finger, transmits the story, and the words arrive,
like Bluecher, when the engagement is over.
With a sudden pretty gesture--ah, so like her mother's!--she held the
glove to his lips. "It is sad because you have forgotten it."
"I have kissed it so often, Grizel, long before I thought I should
ever kiss you!"
She pressed it to her innocent breast at that. And had he really done
so? and which was the first time, and the second, and the third? Oh,
dear glove, you know so much, and your partner lies at home in a
drawer knowing nothing. Grizel felt sorry for the other glove. She
whispered to Tommy as a terrible thing, "I think I love this glove
even more than I love you--just a tiny bit more." She could not part
with it. "It told me before you did," she explained, begging him to
give it back to her.
"If you knew what it was to me in those unhappy days, Grizel!"
"I want it to tell me," she whispered.
And did he really love her? Yes, she knew he did, but how could he?
"Oh, Grizel, how could I help it!"
He had to say it, for it is the best answer; but he said it with a
sigh, for it sounded like a quotation.
But how could she love him? I think her reply disappointed him.
"Because you wanted me to," she said, with shining eyes. It is
probably the commonest reason why women love, and perhaps it is the
best; but his vanity was wounded--he had expected to hear that he was
possessed of an irresistible power.
"Not until I wanted you to?"
"I think I always wanted you to want me to," she replied, naively;
"but I would never have let myself love you," she continued very
seriously, "until I was sure you loved me."
"You could have helped it, Grizel!" He drew a blank face.
"I did help it," she answered. "I was always fighting the desire to
love you,--I can see that plainly,--and I always won. I thought God
had made a sort of compact with me that I should always be the kind of
woman I wanted to be if I resisted the desire to love you until you
"But you always had the desire!" he said eagerly.
"Always, but it never won. You see, even you did not know of it. You
thought I did not even like you! That was why you wanted to prevent
Corp's telling me about the glove, was it not? You thought it would
pain me only! Do you remember what you said: 'It is to save you acute
pain that I want to see Corp first'?"
All that seemed so long ago to Tommy now!
"How could you think it would be a pain to me!" she cried.
"You concealed your feelings so well, Grizel."
"Did I not?" she said joyously. "Oh, I wanted to be so careful, and I
was careful. That is why I am so happy now." Her face was glowing. She
was full of odd, delightful fancies to-night. She kissed her hand to
the gloaming; no, not to the gloaming--to the little hunted, anxious
girl she had been.
[Illustration: "She is standing behind that tree looking at us."]
"She is looking at us," she said. "She is standing behind that tree
looking at us. She wanted so much to grow into a dear, good woman that
she often comes and looks at me eagerly. Sometimes her face is so
fearful! I think she was a little alarmed when she heard you were
"She never liked me, Grizel."
"Hush!" said Grizel, in a low voice. "She always liked you; she always
thought you a wonder. But she would be distressed if she heard me
telling you. She thought it would not be safe for you to know. I must
tell him now, dearest, darlingest," she suddenly called out boldly to
the little self she had been so quaintly fond of because there was no
other to love her. "I must tell him everything now, for you are no
longer your own. You are his."
"She has gone away rocking her arms," she said to Tommy.
"No," he replied. "I can hear her. She is singing because you are so
"She never knew how to sing."
"She has learned suddenly. Everybody can sing who has anything to sing
about. And do you know what she said about your dear wet eyes, Grizel?
She said they were just sweet. And do you know why she left us so
suddenly? She ran home gleefully to stitch and dust and beat carpets,
and get baths ready, and look after the affairs of everybody, which
she is sure must be going to rack and ruin because she has been away
for half an hour!"
At his words there sparkled in her face the fond delight with which a
woman assures herself that the beloved one knows her little
weaknesses, for she does not truly love unless she thirsts to have him
understand the whole of her, and to love her in spite of the foibles
and for them. If he does not love you a little for the foibles, madam,
God help you from the day of the wedding.
But though Grizel was pleased, she was not to be cajoled. She
wandered with him through the Den, stopping at the Lair, and the
Queen's Bower, and many other places where the little girl used to
watch Tommy suspiciously; and she called, half merrily, half
plaintively: "Are you there, you foolish girl, and are you wringing
your hands over me? I believe you are jealous because I love him
"We have loved each other so long, she and I," she said apologetically
to Tommy. "Ah," she said impulsively, when he seemed to be hurt,
"don't you see it is because she doubts you that I am so sorry for the
"Dearest, darlingest," she called to the child she had been, "don't
think that you can come to me when he is away, and whisper things
against him to me. Do you think I will listen to your croakings, you
poor, wet-faced thing!"
"You child!" said Tommy.
"Do you think me a child because I blow kisses to her?"
"Do you like me to think you one?" he replied.
"I like you to call me child," she said, "but not to think me one."
"Then I shall think you one," said he, triumphantly. He was so perfect
an instrument for love to play upon that he let it play on and on, and
listened in a fever of delight. How could Grizel have doubted Tommy?
The god of love himself would have sworn that there were a score of
arrows in him. He wanted to tell Elspeth and the others at once that
he and Grizel were engaged. I am glad to remember that it was he who
urged this, and Grizel who insisted on its being deferred. He even
pretended to believe that Elspeth would exult in the news; but Grizel
smiled at him for saying this to please her. She had never been a
great friend of Elspeth's, they were so dissimilar; and she blamed
herself for it now, and said she wanted to try to make Elspeth love
her before they told her. Tommy begged her to let him tell his sister
at once; but she remained obdurate, so anxious was she that her
happiness, when revealed, should bring only happiness to others. There
had not come to Grizel yet the longing to be recognized as his by the
world. This love was so beautiful and precious to her that there was
an added joy in sharing the dear secret with him alone; it was a live
thing that might escape if she let anyone but him look between the
fingers that held it.
The crowning glory of loving and being loved is that the pair make no
real progress; however far they have advanced into the enchanted land
during the day, they must start again from the frontier next morning.
Last night they had dredged the lovers' lexicon for superlatives and
not even blushed; to-day is that the heavens cracking or merely
someone whispering "dear"? All this was very strange and wonderful to
Grizel. She had never been so young in the days when she was a little
"I can never be quite so happy again!" she had said, with a wistful
smile, on the night of nights; but early morn, the time of the day
that loves maidens best, retold her the delicious secret as it kissed
her on the eyes, and her first impulse was to hurry to Tommy. When joy
or sorrow came to her now, her first impulse was to hurry with it to
Was he still the same, quite the same? She, whom love had made a child
of, asked it fearfully, as if to gaze upon him openly just at first
might be blinding; and he pretended not to understand. "The same as
"Are you still--what I think you?"
"Ah, Grizel, not at all what you think me."
"But you do?"
"Coward! You are afraid to say the word. But I do!"
"You don't ask whether I do!"
"Why? Is it because you are so sure of me?"
He nodded, and she said it was cruel of him.
"You don't mean that, Grizel."
"Don't I?" She was delighted that he knew it.
"No; you mean that you like me to be sure of it."
"But I want to be sure of it myself." "You are. That was why you
asked me if I loved you. Had you not been sure of it you would not
"How clever you are!" she said gleefully, and caressed a button of his
velvet coat. "But you don't know what that means! It does not mean
that I love you--not merely that."
"No; it means that you are glad I know you so well. It is an ecstasy
to you, is it not, to feel that I know you so well?"
"It is sweet," she said. She asked curiously: "What did you do last
night, after you left me? I can't guess, though I daresay you can
guess what I did."
"You put the glove under your pillow, Grizel." (She had got the
"However could you guess!"
"It has often lain under my own."
"Oh!" said Grizel, breathless.
"Could you not guess even that?"
"I wanted to be sure. Did it do anything strange when you had it
"I used to hear its heart beating."
"Yes, exactly! But this is still more remarkable. I put it away at
last in my sweetest drawer, and when I woke in the morning it was
under my pillow again. You could never have guessed that."
"Easily. It often did the same thing with me." "Story-teller! But
what did you do when you went home?"
He could not have answered that exhaustively, even if he would, for
his actions had been as contradictory as his emotions. He had feared
even while he exulted, and exulted when plunged deep in fears. There
had been quite a procession of Tommies all through the night; one of
them had been a very miserable man, and the only thing he had been
sure of was that he must be true to Grizel. But in so far as he did
answer he told the truth.
"I went for a stroll among the stars," he said. "I don't know when I
got to bed. I have found a way of reaching the stars. I have to say
only, 'Grizel loves me,' and I am there."
"I took you with me."
"What did we see? What did we do?"
"You spoiled everything by thinking the stars were badly managed. You
wanted to take the supreme control. They turned you out."
"And when we got back to earth?"
"Then I happened to catch sight of myself in a looking-glass, and I
was scared. I did not see how you could possibly love me. A terror
came over me that in the Den you must have mistaken me for someone
else. It was a darkish night, you know." "You are wanting me to say
you are handsome."
"No, no; I am wanting you to say I am very, very handsome. Tell me you
love me, Grizel, because I am beautiful."
"Perhaps," she replied, "I love you because your book is beautiful."
"Then good-bye for ever," he said sternly.
"Would not that please you?"
"It would break my heart."
"But I thought all authors--"
"It is the commonest mistake in the world. We are simple creatures,
Grizel, and yearn to be loved for our face alone."
"But I do love the book," she said, when they became more serious,
"because it is part of you."
"Rather that," he told her, "than that you should love me because I am
part of it. But it is only a little part of me, Grizel; only the best
part. It is Tommy on tiptoes. The other part, the part that does not
deserve your love, is what needs it most."
"I am so glad!" she said eagerly. "I want to think you need me."
"How I need you!"
"Yes, I think you do--I am sure you do; and it makes me so happy."
"Ah," he said, "now I know why Grizel loves me." And perhaps he did
know now. She loved to think that she was more to him than the new
book, but was not always sure of it; and sometimes this saddened her,
and again she decided that it was right and fitting. She would hasten
to him to say that this saddened her. She would go just as impulsively
to say that she thought it right.
Her discoveries about herself were many.
"What is it to-day?" he would say, smiling fondly at her. "I see it is
something dreadful by your face."
"It is something that struck me suddenly when I was thinking of you,
and I don't know whether to be glad or sorry."
"Then be glad, you child."
"It is this: I used to think a good deal of myself; the people here
thought me haughty; they said I had a proud walk."
"You have it still," he assured her; the vitality in her as she moved
was ever a delicious thing to him to look upon.
"Yes, I feel I have," she admitted, "but that is only because I am
yours; and it used to be because I was nobody's!"
"Do you expect my face to fall at that?"
"No, but I thought so much of myself once, and now I am nobody at all.
At first it distressed me, and then I was glad, for it makes you
everything and me nothing. Yes, I am glad, but I am just a little bit
sorry that I should be so glad!" "Poor Grizel!" said he.
"Poor Grizel!" she echoed. "You are not angry with me, are you, for
being almost sorry for her? She used to be so different. 'Where is
your independence, Grizel?' I say to her, and she shakes her sorrowful
head. The little girl I used to be need not look for me any more; if
we were to meet in the Den she would not know me now."
Ah, if only Tommy could have loved in this way! He would have done it
if he could. If we could love by trying, no one would ever have been
more loved than Grizel. "Am I to be condemned because I cannot?" he
sometimes said to himself in terrible anguish; for though pretty
thoughts came to him to say to her when she was with him, he suffered
anguish for her when he was alone. He knew it was tragic that such
love as hers should be given to him, but what more could he do than he
Ever since the beginning of the book we have been neglecting Elspeth
so pointedly that were she not the most forgiving creature we should
be afraid to face her now. You are not angry with us, are you,
Elspeth? We have been sitting with you, talking with you, thinking of
you between the chapters, and the only reason why you have so seldom
got into them is that our pen insisted on running after your
(That is the way to get round her.)
Tommy, it need not be said, never neglected her. The mere fact of his
having an affair of his own at present is a sure sign that she is
comfortable, for, unless all were well with Elspeth, no venture could
have lured him from her side. "Now I am ready for you," he said to the
world when Elspeth had been, figuratively speaking, put to sleep; but
until she was nicely tucked up the world had to wait. He was still as
in his boyhood, when he had to see her with a good book in her hand
before he could set off on deeds of darkness. If this was but the
story of a brother and sister, there were matter for it that would
make the ladies want to kiss Tommy on the brow.
That Dr. Gemmell disliked or at least distrusted him, Tommy knew
before their acquaintance was an hour old; yet that same evening he
had said cordially to Elspeth:
"This young doctor has a strong face."
She was evidently glad that Tommy had noticed it. "Do you think him
handsome?" she inquired.
"Decidedly so," he replied, very handsomely, for it is an indiscreet
question to ask of a plain man.
There was nothing small about Tommy, was there? He spoke thus
magnanimously because he had seen that the doctor liked Elspeth, and
that she liked him for liking her. Elspeth never spoke to him of such
things, but he was aware that an extra pleasure in life came to her
when she was admired; it gave her a little of the self-confidence she
so wofully lacked; the woman in her was stirred. Take such presents as
these to Elspeth, and Tommy would let you cast stones at himself for
the rest of the day, and shake your hand warmly on parting. In
London Elspeth had always known quickly, almost at the first clash of
eyes, whether Tommy's friends were attracted by her, but she had not
known sooner than he. Those acquaintanceships had seldom ripened; but
perhaps this was because, though he and she avoided talking of them,
he was all the time taking such terrifying care of her. She was always
little Elspeth to him, for whom he had done everything since the
beginning of her, a frail little female counterpart of himself that
would never have dared to grow up had he not always been there to show
her the way, like a stronger plant in the same pot. It was even
pathetic to him that Elspeth should have to become a woman while he
was a man, and he set to, undaunted, to help her in this matter also.
To be admired of men is a woman's right, and he knew it gratified
Elspeth; therefore he brought them in to admire her. But beyond
profound respect they could not presume to go, he was watching them so
vigilantly. He had done everything for her so far, and it was evident
that he was now ready to do the love-making also, or at least to sift
it before it reached her. Elspeth saw this, and perhaps it annoyed her
once or twice, though on the whole she was deeply touched; and the
young gentlemen saw it also: they saw that he would not leave them
alone with her for a moment, and that behind his cordial manner sat a
Tommy who had his eye on them. Subjects suitable for conversation
before Elspeth seemed in presence of this strict brother to be
limited. You had just begun to tell her the plot of the new novel when
T. Sandys fixed you with his gleaming orb. You were in the middle of
the rumour about Mrs. Golightly when he let the poker fall. If the
newsboys were yelling the latest horror he quickly closed the window.
He made all visitors self-conscious. If she was not in the room few of
them dared to ask if she was quite well. They paled before expressing
the hope that she would feel stronger to-morrow. Yet when Tommy went
up to sit beside her, which was the moment the front door closed, he
took care to mention, incidentally, that they had been inquiring after
her. One of them ventured on her birthday to bring her flowers, but
could not present them, Tommy looked so alarming. A still more daring
spirit once went the length of addressing her by her Christian name.
She did not start up haughtily (the most timid of women are a surprise
at times), but the poker fell with a crash.
He knew Elspeth so well that he could tell exactly how these poor
young men should approach her. As an artist as well as a brother, he
frowned when they blundered. He would have liked to be the medium
through which they talked, so that he could give looks and words their
proper force. He had thought it all out so thoroughly for Elspeth's
benefit that in an hour he could have drawn out a complete guide for
"At the first meeting look at her wistfully when she does not see you.
She will see you." It might have been Rule One.
Rule Two: "Don't talk so glibly." How often that was what the poker
Being herself a timid creature, Elspeth showed best among the timid,
because her sympathetic heart immediately desired to put them at their
ease. The more glibly they could talk, the less, she knew, were they
impressed by her. Even a little boorishness was more complimentary
than chatter. Sometimes when she played on the piano which Tommy had
hired for her, the visitor was so shy that he could not even mutter
"Thank you" to his hat; yet she might play to him again, and not to
the gallant who remarked briskly: "How very charming! What is that
To talk disparagingly of other women is so common a way among men of
penetrating into the favour of one that, of course, some tried it with
Elspeth. Tommy could not excuse such blundering, for they were making
her despise them. He got them out of the house, and then he and she
had a long talk, not about them, but about men and women in general,
from which she gathered once again that there was nobody like Tommy.
When they bade each other good-night, she would say to him: "I think
you are the one perfect gentleman in the world."
Or he might say: "You expect so much of men, Elspeth."
To which her reply: "You have taught me to do it, and now I expect
others to be like you." Sometimes she would even say: "When I see you
so fond of me, and taking such care of me, I am ashamed. You think me
so much better than I am. You consider me so pure and good, while I
know that I am often mean, and even have wicked thoughts. It makes me
ashamed, but so proud of you, for I see that you are judging me by
And then this Tommy would put the gas out softly and go to his own
room, and, let us hope, blush a little.
One stripling had proposed to Elspeth, and on her agitatedly declining
him, had flung out of the room in a pet. It spoiled all her
after-thoughts on the subject, and so roused her brother's indignation
with the fellow. If the great baby had only left all the arrangements
to Tommy, he could so easily have made that final scene one which
Elspeth would remember with gratification for the remainder of her
days; for, of course, pride in the offer could not be great unless she
retained her respect for the man who made it. From the tremulous
proposal and the manly acceptance of his fate to his dignified exit
("Don't grieve for me, Miss Sandys; you never gave me the least
encouragement, and to have loved you will always make me a better
man"), even to a touching way of closing the door with one long, last,
lingering look, Tommy could have fitted him like a tailor.
From all which it will be seen that our splendid brother thought
exclusively of what was best for Elspeth, and was willing that the
gentlemen, having served their purpose, should, if it pleased them, go
hang. Also, though he thought out every other possible move for the
suitor, it never struck him to compose a successful proposal, for the
simple reason that he was quite certain Elspeth would have none of
them. Their attentions pleased her; but exchange Tommy for one of
them--never! He knew it from her confessions at all stages of her
life; he had felt it from the days when he began to be father and
mother to her as well as brother. In his heart he believed there was
something of his own odd character in Elspeth which made her as
incapable of loving as himself, and some of his devotion to her was
due to this belief; for perhaps nothing touches us to the quick more
than the feeling that another suffers under our own curse; certainly
nothing draws two souls so close together in a lonely comradeship. But
though Tommy had reflected about these things, he did not trouble
Elspeth with his conclusions. He merely gave her to understand that he
loved her and she loved him so much that neither of them had any love
to give to another. It was very beautiful, Elspeth thought, and a
"You are quite sure that you mean that," she might ask timidly, "and
that you are not flinging away your life on me?"
"You are all I need," he answered cheerily, and he believed it. Or, if
he was in another mood, he might reflect that perhaps he was
abstaining from love for Elspeth's sake, and that made him cheery
And now David Gemmell was the man, and Tommy genially forgave him all
else for liking Elspeth. He invited the doctor, who so obviously
distrusted him, to drop in of an evening for a game at the dambrod
(which they both abominated, but it was an easy excuse); he asked him
confidentially to come in and see Aaron, who had been coughing last
night; he put on all the airs of a hail-fellow-well-met, though they
never became him, and sat awkwardly on his face. David always seemed
eager to come, and tried to rise above his suspicions of Tommy, as
Tommy saw, and failed, as Tommy saw again. Elspeth dosed the doctor
with stories of her brother's lovely qualities, and Tommy, the
forgiving, honestly pitied the poor man for having to listen to them.
He knew that if all went well Gemmell would presently propose, and
find that Elspeth (tearful at having to strike a blow) could not
accept him; but he did not look forward maliciously to this as his
revenge on the doctor; he was thinking merely of what was good for
There was no open talk about David between the brother and sister.
Some day, Tommy presumed, she would announce that the doctor had asked
her to marry him; and oh, how sorry she was; and oh, what a good man
he was; and oh, Tommy knew she had never encouraged him; and oh, she
could never leave Tommy! But until that day arrived they avoided
talking directly about what brought Gemmell there. That he came to see
Elspeth neither of them seemed to conceive as possible. Did Tommy
chuckle when he saw David's eyes following her? No; solemn as a cat
blinking at the fire; noticed nothing. The most worldly chaperon, the
most loving mother, could not have done more for Elspeth. Yet it was
not done to find her a husband, but quite the reverse, as we have
seen. On reflection Tommy must smile at what he has been doing, but
not while he is working the figures. The artist never smiles at
himself until afterwards.
And now he not only wondered at times how Elspeth and David were
getting on, but whether she noticed how he was getting on with Grizel;
for in matters relating to Tommy Elspeth was almost as sharp as he in
matters that related to her, and he knew it. When he proposed to
Elspeth that they should ask Gemmell to go fishing with them on the
morrow ("He has been overworked of late and it would do him good") he
wanted to add, in a careless voice, "We might invite Grizel also," but
could not; his lips suddenly went dry. And when Elspeth said the words
that were so difficult to him, he wondered, "Did she say that because
she knew I wished it?" But he decided that she did not, for she was
evidently looking forward to to-morrow, and he knew she would be
shuddering if she thought her Tommy was slipping.
"I am so glad it was she who asked me," Grizel said to him when he
told her. "Don't you see what it means? It means that she wants to get
you out of the way! You are not everything to her now as you used to
be. Are you glad, glad?"
"If I could believe it!" Tommy said.
"What else could make her want to be alone with him?"
Nothing else could have made Grizel want to be alone with him, and
she must always judge others by herself. But Tommy knew that Elspeth
was different, and that a girl with some of himself in her might want
to be alone with a man who admired her without wanting to marry him.
BY PROSEN WATER
That day by the banks of Prosen Water was one of Grizel's beautiful
memories. All the days when she thought he loved her became beautiful
It was the time of reds and whites, for the glory of the broom had
passed, except at great heights, and the wild roses were trooping in.
When the broom is in flame there seems to be no colour but yellow; but
when the wild roses come we remember that the broom was flaunting. It
was not quite a lady, for it insisted on being looked at; while these
light-hearted things are too innocent to know that there is anyone to
look. Grizel was sitting by the side of the stream, adorning her hat
fantastically with roses red and white and some that were neither.
They were those that cannot decide whether they look best in white or
red, and so waver for the whole of their little lives between the two
colours; there are many of them, and it is the pathetic thing about
wild roses. She did not pay much heed to her handiwork. What she was
saying to herself was that in another minute he and she would be
alone. Nothing else in the world mattered very much. Every bit of her
was conscious of it as the supreme event. Her fingers pressed it upon
the flowers. It was in her eyes as much as in her heart. He went on
casting his line, moving from stone to stone, dropping down the bank,
ascending it, as if the hooking of a trout was something to him. Was
he feeling to his marrow that as soon as those other two figures
rounded the bend in the stream he and she would have the world to
themselves? Ah, of course he felt it, but was it quite as much to him
as it was to her?
"Not quite so much," she said bravely to herself. "I don't want it to
be quite so much--but nearly."
[Illustration: She did not look up, she waited.]
And now they were alone as no two can be except those who love; for
when the third person leaves them they have a universe to themselves,
and it is closed in by the heavens, and the air of it is the
consciousness of each other's presence. She sat motionless
now--trembling, exulting. She could no longer hear the talking of the
water, but she heard his step. He was coming slowly towards her. She
did not look up--she waited; and while she waited time was
He was coming to her to treat her as if she were a fond child; that
she, of all women, could permit it was still delicious to him, and a
marvel. She had let him do it yesterday, but perhaps she had regained
her independence in the night. As he hesitated he became another
person. In a flood of feeling he had a fierce desire to tell her the
truth about himself. But he did not know what it was. He put aside his
rod, and sat down very miserably beside her.
"Grizel, I suppose I am a knave." His lips parted to say it, but no
words came. She had given him an adorable look that stopped them as if
her dear hand had been placed upon his mouth.
Was he a knave? He wanted honestly to know. He had not tried to make
her love him. Had he known in time he would even have warned her
against it. He would never have said he loved her had she not first,
as she thought, found it out; to tell her the truth then would have
been brutal. He had made believe in order that she might remain happy.
Was it even make-belief? Assuredly he did love her in his own way, in
the only way he was capable of. She was far more to him than any
other person except Elspeth. He delighted in her, and would have
fought till he dropped rather than let any human being injure her. All
his feelings for her were pure. He was prepared to marry her; but if
she had not made that mistake, oh, what a delight it would have been
to him never to marry anyone! He felt keenly miserable.
"Grizel, I seem to be different from all other men. There seems to be
some curse upon me that makes me unable to love as they do. I want to
love you, dear one; you are the only woman I ever wanted to love; but
apparently I can't. I have decided to go on with this thing because it
seems best for you; but is it? I would tell you all and leave the
decision to you, were it not that I fear you would think I wanted you
to let me off."
It would have been an honest speech, and he might have said it had he
begun at once, for it was in a passion to be out, so desirous was he
that dear Grizel should not be deceived; but he tried its effect first
upon himself, and as he went on the tragedy he saw mastered him. He
forgot that she was there, except as a figure needed to complete the
picture of the man who could not love. He saw himself a splendidly
haggard creature with burning eyes standing aside while all the world
rolled by in pursuit of the one thing needful. It was a river, and he
must stand parched on the bank for ever and ever. Should he keep that
sorrowful figure a man or turn it into a woman? He tried a woman. She
was on the bank now, her arms outstretched to the flood. Ah! she would
be so glad to drink, though she must drown.
Grizel saw how mournful he had become as he gazed upon her. In his
face she had been seeing all the glories that can be given to mortals.
Thoughts had come to her that drew her nearer to her God. Her trust in
him stretched to eternity. All that was given to her at that moment
she thought was also given to him. She seemed to know why, with love
lighting up their souls to each other, he could yet grow mournful.
"Oh," she cried, with a movement that was a passionate caress, "do you
indeed love me so much as that? I never wanted you to love me quite so
much as that!"
It brought him back to himself, but without a start. Those sudden
returns to fact had ceased to bewilder him; they were grown so common
that he passed between dreams and reality as through tissue-paper.
"I did not mean," she said at last, in a tremor, "that I wanted you to
love me less, but I am almost sorry that you love me quite so much."
He dared say nothing, for he did not altogether understand. "I have
those fears, too, sometimes," she went on; "I have had them when I was
with you, but more often when I was alone. They come to me suddenly,
and I have such eager longings to run to you and tell you of them, and
ask you to drive them away. But I never did it; I kept them to
"You could keep something back from me, Grizel?"
"Forgive me," she implored; "I thought they would distress you, and I
had such a desire to bring you nothing but happiness. To bear them by
myself seemed to be helping you, and I was glad, I was proud, to feel
myself of use to you even to that little extent. I did not know you
had the same fears; I thought that perhaps they came only to women;
have you had them before? Fears," she continued, so wistfully, "that
it is too beautiful to end happily? Oh, have you heard a voice crying,
'It is too beautiful; it can never be'?"
He saw clearly now; he saw so clearly that he was torn with emotion.
"It is more than I can bear!" he said hoarsely. Surely he loved her.
"Did you see me die?" she asked, in a whisper. "I have seen you die."
"Don't, Grizel!" he cried.
But she had to go on. "Tell me," she begged; "I have told you."
"No, no, never that," he answered her. "At the worst I have had only
the feeling that you could never be mine."
She smiled at that. "I am yours," she said softly; "nothing can take
away that--nothing, nothing. I say it to myself a hundred times a day,
it is so sweet. Nothing can separate us but death; I have thought of
all the other possible things, and none of them is strong enough. But
when I think of your dying, oh, when I think of my being left without
She rocked her arms in a frenzy, and called him dearest, darlingest.
All the sweet names that had been the child Grizel's and the old
doctor's were Tommy's now. He soothed her, ah, surely as only a lover
could soothe. She was his Grizel, she was his beloved. No mortal could
have been more impassioned than Tommy. He must have loved her. It
could not have been merely sympathy, or an exquisite delight in being
the man, or the desire to make her happy again in the quickest way, or
all three combined? Whatever it was, he did not know; all he knew was
that he felt every word he said, or seemed to feel it.
"It is a punishment to me," Grizel said, setting her teeth, "for
loving you too much. I know I love you too much. I think I love you
more than God."
She felt him shudder.
"But if I feel it," she said, shuddering also, yet unable to deceive
herself, "what difference do I make by saying it? He must know it is
so, whether I say it or not."
There was a tremendous difference to Tommy, but not of a kind he could
explain, and she went on; she must tell him everything now.
"I pray every night and morning; but that is nothing--everyone does
it. I know I thank God sincerely; I thank Him again and again and
again. Do you remember how, when I was a child, you used to be
horrified because I prayed standing? I often say little prayers
standing now; I am always thanking Him for giving me you. But all the
time it is a bargain with Him. So long as you are well I love Him, but
if you were to die I would never pray again. I have never said it in
words until to-day, but He must know it, for it is behind all my
prayers. If He does not know, there cannot be a God."
She was watching his face, half wofully, half stubbornly, as if,
whatever might be the issue of those words, she had to say them. She
saw how pained he was. To admit the possible non-existence of a God
when you can so easily leave the subject alone was horrible to Tommy.
"I don't doubt Him," she continued. "I have believed in Him ever since
the time when I was such a lonely child that I did not know His name.
I shall always believe in Him so long as He does not take you from me.
But if He does, then I shall not believe in Him any more. It may be
wrong, but that is what I feel.
"It makes you care less for me!" she cried in anguish.
"No, no, dear."
"I don't think it makes God care less for me," she said, very
seriously. "I think He is pleased that I don't try to cheat Him."
Somehow Tommy felt uncomfortable at that.
"There are people," he said vaguely, like one who thought it best to
mention no names, who would be afraid to challenge God in that way."
"He would not be worth believing in," she answered, "if He could be
revengeful. He is too strong, and too loving, and too pitiful for
that." But she took hold of Tommy as if to protect him. Had they been
in physical danger, her first impulse would have been to get in front
of him to protect him. The noblest women probably always love in this
way, and yet it is those who would hide behind them that men seem to
love the best.
"I always feel--oh, I never can help feeling," she said, "that nothing
could happen to you, that God Himself could not take you from me,
while I had hold of you."
"I mean only that He could not have the heart," she said hastily.
"No, I don't," she had to add. "I meant what you thought I meant. That
is why I feel it would be so sweet to be married, so that I could be
close to you every moment, and then no harm could come to you. I would
keep such a grip of you, I should be such a part of you, that you
could not die without my dying also.
"Oh, do you care less for me now?" she cried. "I can't see things as
clearly as you do, dearest, darlingest. I have not a beautiful nature
like yours. I am naturally rebellious. I have to struggle even to be
as good as I am. There are evil things in my blood. You remember how
we found out that. God knew it, too, and He is compassionate. I think
He makes many pitying allowances for me. It is not wicked, is it, to
"You used to know me too well, Grizel, to speak of my beautiful
nature," he said humbly.
"I did think you vain," she replied. "How odd to remember that!"
"But I was, and am."
"I love to hear you proving you are not," said she, beaming upon him.
"Do you think," she asked, with a sudden change of manner to the
childish, like one trying to coax a compliment out of him, "that I
have improved at all during those last days? I think I am not quite
such a horrid girl as I used to be; and if I am not, I owe it to you.
I am so glad to owe it to you." She told him that she was trying to
make herself a tiny bit more like him by studying his book. "It is not
exactly the things you say of women that help me, for though they are
lovely I am not sure that they are quite true. I almost hope they are
not true; for if they are, then I am not even an average woman." She
buried her face in his coat. "You say women are naturally purer than
men, but I don't know. Perhaps we are more cunning only. Perhaps it is
not even a thing to wish; for if we were, it would mean that we are
good because there is less evil in us to fight against. Dear, forgive
me for saying that; it may be all wrong; but I think it is what nearly
all women feel in their hearts, though they keep it locked up till
they die. I don't even want you to believe me. You think otherwise of
us, and it is so sweet of you that we try to be better than we are--to
undeceive you would hurt so. It is not the book that makes me a better
woman--it is the man I see behind it."
He was too much moved to be able to reply--too much humbled. He vowed
to himself that, whether he could love or not, he would be a good
husband to this dear woman.
"Ah, Grizel," he declared, by and by, "what a delicious book you are,
and how I wish I had written you! With every word you say, something
within me is shouting, 'Am I not a wonder!' I warned you it would be
so as soon as I felt that I had done anything really big, and I have.
I have somehow made you love me. Ladies and gentlemen," he exclaimed,
addressing the river and the trees and the roses, "I have somehow made
her love me! Am I not a wonder?"
Grizel clapped her hands gaily; she was merry again. She could always
be what Tommy wanted her to be. "Ladies and gentlemen," she cried,
"how could I help it?"
David had been coming back for his fly-book, and though he did not
hear their words, he saw a light in Grizel's face that suddenly set
him thinking. For the rest of the day he paid little attention to
Elspeth; some of his answers showed her that he was not even listening
"HOW COULD YOU HURT YOUR GRIZEL SO!"
To concentrate on Elspeth so that he might find out what was in her
mind was, as we have seen, seldom necessary to Tommy; for he had
learned her by heart long ago. Yet a time was now come when he had to
concentrate, and even then he was doubtful of the result. So often he
had put that mind of hers to rights that it was an open box to him, or
had been until he conceived the odd notion that perhaps it contained a
secret drawer. This would have been resented by most brothers, but
Tommy's chagrin was nothing compared to the exhilaration with which he
perceived that he might be about to discover something new about
woman. He was like the digger whose hand is on the point of closing on
a diamond--a certain holiness added.
What puzzled him was the state of affairs now existing between Elspeth
and the doctor. A week had elapsed since the fishing excursion, and
David had not visited them. Too busy? Tommy knew that it is the busy
people who can find time. Could it be that David had proposed to her
at the waterside?
No, he could not read that in Elspeth's face. He knew that she would
be in distress lest her refusal should darken the doctor's life for
too long a time; but yet (shake your fist at him, ladies, for so
misunderstanding you!) he expected also to note in that sympathetic
face a look of subdued triumph, and as it was not there, David could
not have proposed.
The fact of her not having told him about it at once did not prove to
Tommy that there had been no proposal. His feeling was that she would
consider it too sacred a thing to tell even to him, but that it would
force its way out in a week or two.
On the other hand, she could not have resisted dropping shyly such
remarks as these: "I think Dr. Gemmell is a noble man," or, "How
wonderfully good Dr. Gemmell is to the poor!"
Also she would sometimes have given Tommy a glance that said, "I
wonder if you guess." Had they quarrelled? Tommy smiled. If it was
but a quarrel he was not merely appeased--he was pleased. Had he had
the ordering of the affair, he would certainly have included a lovers'
quarrel in it, and had it not been that he wanted to give her the
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