J.M. Barrie.

Tommy and Grizel online

. (page 7 of 27)
Online LibraryJ.M. BarrieTommy and Grizel → online text (page 7 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


earned it, and he was very kind to her when next she came to see him.
No one could be more kind to them than he when they admired him. He
had the most grateful heart, had our Tommy.

When next she came to see him! That was while his ankle still nailed
him to the chair, a fortnight or so during which Tommy was at his
best, sending gracious messages by Elspeth to the many who called to
inquire, and writing hard at his new work, pad on knee, so like a
brave soul whom no unmerited misfortune could subdue that it would
have done you good merely to peep at him through the window. Grizel
came several times, and the three talked very ordinary things, mostly
reminiscences; she was as much a plain-spoken princess as ever, but
often he found her eyes fixed on him wistfully, and he knew what they
were saying; they spoke so eloquently that he was a little nervous
lest Elspeth should notice. It was delicious to Tommy to feel that
there was this little unspoken something between him and Grizel; he
half regretted that the time could not be far distant when she must
put it into words - as soon, say, as Elspeth left the room; an
exquisite moment, no doubt, but it would be the plucking of the
flower.

Don't think that Tommy conceived Grizel to be in love with him. On my
sacred honour, that would have horrified him.

Curiously enough, she did not take the first opportunity Elspeth gave
her of telling him in words how much she admired his brave confession.
She was so honest that he expected her to begin the moment the door
closed, and now that the artistic time had come for it, he wanted it;
but no. He was not hurt, but he wondered at her shyness, and cast
about for the reason. He cast far back into the past, and caught a
little girl who had worn this same wistful face when she admired him
most. He compared those two faces of the anxious girl and the serene
woman, and in the wistfulness that sometimes lay on them both they
looked alike. Was it possible that the fear of him which the years had
driven out of the girl still lived a ghost's life to haunt the woman?

At once he overflowed with pity. As a boy he had exulted in Grizel's
fear of him; as a man he could feel only the pain of it. There was no
one, he thought, less to be dreaded of a woman than he; oh, so sure
Tommy was of that! And he must lay this ghost; he gave his whole heart
to the laying of it.

Few men, and never a woman, could do a fine thing so delicately as he;
but of course it included a divergence from the truth, for to Tommy
afloat on a generous scheme the truth was a buoy marking sunken rocks.
She had feared him in her childhood, as he knew well; he therefore
proceeded to prove to her that she had never feared him. She had
thought him masterful, and all his reminiscences now went to show that
it was she who had been the masterful one.

"You must often laugh now," he said, "to remember how I feared you.
The memory of it makes me afraid of you still. I assure you, I joukit
back, as Corp would say, that day I saw you in church. It was the
instinct of self-preservation. 'Here comes Grizel to lord it over me
again,' I heard something inside me saying. You called me masterful,
and yet I had always to give in to you. That shows what a gentle,
yielding girl you were, and what a masterful character I was!"

His intention, you see, was, without letting Grizel know what he was
at, to make her think he had forgotten certain unpleasant incidents in
their past, so that, seeing they were no longer anything to him, they
might the sooner become nothing to her. And she believed that he had
forgotten, and she was glad. She smiled when he told her to go on
being masterful, for old acquaintance had made him like it. Hers,
indeed, was a masterful nature; she could not help it; and if the time
ever came when she must help it, the glee of living would be gone from
her.

She did continue to be masterful - to a greater extent than Tommy, thus
nobly behaving, was prepared for; and his shock came to him at the
very moment when he was modestly expecting to receive the prize. She
had called when Elspeth happened to be out; and though now able to
move about the room with the help of a staff, he was still an
interesting object. He saw that she thought so, and perhaps it made
him hobble slightly more, not vaingloriously, but because he was such
an artist. He ceased to be an artist suddenly, however, when Grizel
made this unexpected remark:

"How vain you are!"

Tommy sat down, quite pale. "Did you come here to say that to me,
Grizel?" he inquired, and she nodded frankly over her high collar of
fur. He knew it was true as Grizel said it, but though taken aback, he
could bear it, for she was looking wistfully at him, and he knew well
what Grizel's wistful look meant; so long as women admired him Tommy
could bear anything from them. "God knows I have little to be vain
of," he said humbly.

"Those are the people who are most vain," she replied; and he laughed
a short laugh, which surprised her, she was so very serious.

"Your methods are so direct," he explained. "But of what am I vain,
Grizel? Is it my book?"

"No," she answered, "not about your book, but about meaner things.
What else could have made you dislocate your ankle rather than admit
that you had been rather silly?"

Now "silly" is no word to apply to a gentleman, and, despite his
forgiving nature, Tommy was a little disappointed in Grizel.

"I suppose it was a silly thing to do," he said, with just a touch of
stiffness.

"It was an ignoble thing," said she, sadly.

"I see. And I myself am the meaner thing than the book, am I?"

"Are you not?" she asked, so eagerly that he laughed again.

"It is the first compliment you have paid my book," he pointed out.

"I like the book very much," she answered gravely. "No one can be more
proud of your fame than I. You are hurting me very much by pretending
to think that it is a pleasure to me to find fault with you." There
was no getting past the honesty of her, and he was touched by it.
Besides, she did admire him, and that, after all, is the great thing.

"Then why say such things, Grizel?" he replied good-naturedly.

"But if they are true?"

"Still let us avoid them," said he; and at that she was most
distressed.

"It is so like what you used to say when you were a boy!" she cried.

"You are so anxious to have me grow up," he replied, with proper
dolefulness. "If you like the book, Grizel, you must have patience
with the kind of thing that produced it. That night in the Den, when I
won your scorn, I was in the preliminary stages of composition. At
such times an author should be locked up; but I had got out, you see.
I was so enamoured of my little fancies that I forgot I was with you.
No wonder you were angry."

"I was not angry with you for forgetting me," she said sharply. (There
was no catching Grizel, however artful you were.) "But you were
sighing to yourself, you were looking as tragic as if some dreadful
calamity had occurred - "

"The idea that had suddenly come to me was a touching one," he said.

"But you looked triumphant, too."

"That was because I saw I could make something of it." "Why did you
walk as if you were lame?"

"The man I was thinking of," Tommy explained, "had broken his leg. I
don't mind telling you that it was Corp."

He ought to have minded telling her, for it could only add to her
indignation; but he was too conceited to give weight to that.

"Corp's leg was not broken," said practical Grizel.

"I broke it for him," replied Tommy; and when he had explained, her
eyes accused him of heartlessness.

"If it had been my own," he said, in self-defence, "it should have
gone crack just the same."

"Poor Gavinia! Had you no feeling for her?"

"Gavinia was not there," Tommy replied triumphantly. "She had run off
with a soldier."

"You dared to conceive that?"

"It helped."

Grizel stamped her foot. "You could take away dear Gavinia's character
with a smile!"

"On the contrary," said Tommy, "my heart bled for her. Did you not
notice that I was crying?" But he could not make Grizel smile; so, to
please her, he said, with a smile that was not very sincere: "I wish I
were different, but that is how ideas come to me - at least, all those
that are of any value."

"Surely you could fight against them and drive them away?"

This to Tommy, who held out sugar to them to lure them to him! But
still he treated her with consideration.

"That would mean my giving up writing altogether, Grizel," he said
kindly.

"Then why not give it up?"

Really! But she admired him, and still he bore with her.

"I don't like the book," she said, "if it is written at such a cost."

"People say the book has done them good, Grizel."

"What does that matter, if it does you harm?" In her eagerness to
persuade him, her words came pell-mell. "If writing makes you live in
such an unreal world, it must do you harm. I see now what Mr. Cathro
meant, long ago, when he called you Senti - - "

Tommy winced. "I remember what Mr. Cathro called me," he said, with
surprising hauteur for such a good-natured man. "But he does not call
me that now. No one calls me that now, except you, Grizel."

"What does that matter," she replied distressfully, "if it is true? In
the definition of sentimentality in the dictionary - "

He rose indignantly. "You have been looking me up in the dictionary,
have you, Grizel?"

"Yes, the night you told me you had hurt your ankle intentionally."

He laughed, without mirth now. "I thought you had put that down to
vanity."

"I think," she said, "it was vanity that gave you the courage to do
it." And he liked one word in this remark.

"Then you do give me credit for a little courage?"

"I think you could do the most courageous things," she told him, "so
long as there was no real reason why you should do them."

It was a shot that rang the bell. Oh, our Tommy heard it ringing. But,
to do him justice, he bore no malice; he was proud, rather, of
Grizel's marksmanship. "At least," he said meekly, "it was courageous
of me to tell you the truth in the end?" But, to his surprise, she
shook her head.

"No," she replied; "it was sweet of you. You did it impulsively,
because you were sorry for me, and I think it was sweet. But impulse
is not courage."

So now Tommy knew all about it. His plain-spoken critic had been
examining him with a candle, and had paid particular attention to his
defects; but against them she set the fact that he had done something
chivalrous for her, and it held her heart, though the others were in
possession of the head. "How like a woman!" he thought, with a
pleased smile. He knew them!

Still he was chagrined that she made so little of his courage, and it
was to stab her that he said, with subdued bitterness: "I always had a
suspicion that I was that sort of person, and it is pleasant to have
it pointed out by one's oldest friend. No one will ever accuse you of
want of courage, Grizel."

She was looking straight at him, and her eyes did not drop, but they
looked still more wistful. Tommy did not understand the courage that
made her say what she had said, but he knew he was hurting her; he
knew that if she was too plain-spoken it was out of loyalty, and that
to wound Grizel because she had to speak her mind was a shame - yes, he
always knew that.

But he could do it; he could even go on: "And it is satisfactory that
you have thought me out so thoroughly, because you will not need to
think me out any more. You know me now, Grizel, and can have no more
fear of me."

"When was I ever afraid of you?" she demanded. She was looking at him
suspiciously now.

"Never as a girl?" he asked. It jumped out of him. He was sorry as
soon as he had said it.

There was a long pause. "So you remembered it all the time," she said
quietly. "You have been making pretence - again!" He asked her to
forgive him, and she nodded her head at once. "But why did you pretend
to have forgotten?"

"I thought it would please you, Grizel."

"Why should pretence please me?" She rose suddenly, in a white heat.
"You don't mean to say that you think I am afraid of you still?"

He said No a moment too late. He knew it was too late.

"Don't be angry with me, Grizel," he begged her, earnestly. "I am so
glad I was mistaken. It made me miserable. I have been a terrible
blunderer, but I mean well; I misread your eyes."

"My eyes?"

"They have always seemed to be watching me, and often there was such a
wistful look in them - it reminded me of the past."

"You thought I was still afraid of you! Say it," said Grizel, stamping
her foot. But he would not say it. It was not merely fear that he
thought he had seen in her eyes, you remember. This was still his
comfort, and, I suppose, it gave the touch of complacency to his face
that made Grizel merciless. She did not mean to be merciless, but only
to tell the truth. If some of her words were scornful, there was
sadness in her voice all the time, instead of triumph. "For years and
years," she said, standing straight as an elvint, "I have been able to
laugh at all the ignorant fears of my childhood; and if you don't
know why I have watched you and been unable to help watching you since
you came back, I shall tell you. But I think you might have guessed,
you who write books about women. It is because I liked you when you
were a boy. You were often horrid, but you were my first friend when
every other person was against me. You let me play with you when no
other boy or girl would let me play. And so, all the time you have
been away, I have been hoping that you were growing into a noble man;
and when you came back, I watched to see whether you were the noble
man I wanted you so much to be, and you are not. Do you see now why my
eyes look wistful? It is because I wanted to admire you, and I can't."

She went away, and the great authority on women raged about the room.
Oh, but he was galled! There had been five feet nine of him, but he
was shrinking. By and by the red light came into his eyes.




CHAPTER IX

GALLANT BEHAVIOUR OF T. SANDYS


There were now no fewer than three men engaged, each in his own way,
in the siege of Grizel, nothing in common between them except insulted
vanity. One was a broken fellow who took for granted that she
preferred to pass him by in the street. His bow was also an apology to
her for his existence. He not only knew that she thought him wholly
despicable, but agreed with her. In the long ago (yesterday, for
instance) he had been happy, courted, esteemed; he had even esteemed
himself, and so done useful work in the world. But she had flung him
to earth so heavily that he had made a hole in it out of which he
could never climb. There he lay damned, hers the glory of destroying
him - he hoped she was proud of her handiwork. That was one Thomas
Sandys, the one, perhaps, who put on the velvet jacket in the morning.
But it might be number two who took that jacket off at night. He was
a good-natured cynic, vastly amused by the airs this little girl put
on before a man of note, and he took a malicious pleasure in letting
her see that they entertained him. He goaded her intentionally into
expressions of temper, because she looked prettiest then, and trifled
with her hair (but this was in imagination only), and called her a
quaint child (but this was beneath his breath). The third - he might be
the one who wore the jacket - was a haughty boy who was not only done
with her for ever, but meant to let her see it. (His soul cried, Oh,
oh, for a conservatory and some of society's darlings, and Grizel at
the window to watch how he got on with them!) And now that I think of
it, there was also a fourth: Sandys, the grave author, whose life (in
two vols. 8vo.) I ought at this moment to be writing, without a word
about the other Tommies. They amused him a good deal. When they were
doing something big he would suddenly appear and take a note of it.

The boy, who was stiffly polite to her (when Tommy was angry he became
very polite), told her that he had been invited to the Spittal, the
seat of the Rintoul family, and that he understood there were some
charming girls there.

"I hope you will like them," Grizel said pleasantly.

"If you could see how they will like me!" he wanted to reply; but of
course he could not, and unfortunately there was no one by to say it
for him. Tommy often felt this want of a secretary.

The abject one found a glove of Grizel's, that she did not know she
had lost, and put it in his pocket. There it lay, unknown to her. He
knew that he must not even ask them to bury it with him in his grave.
This was a little thing to ask, but too much for him. He saw his
effects being examined after all that was mortal of T. Sandys had been
consigned to earth, and this pathetic little glove coming to light.
Ah, then, then Grizel would know! By the way, what would she have
known? I am sure I cannot tell you. Nor could Tommy, forced to face
the question in this vulgar way, have told you. Yet, whatever it was,
it gave him some moist moments. If Grizel saw him in this mood, her
reproachful look implied that he was sentimentalizing again. How
little this chit understood him!

The man of the world sometimes came upon the glove in his pocket, and
laughed at it, as such men do when they recall their callow youth. He
took walks with Grizel without her knowing that she accompanied him;
or rather, he let her come, she was so eager. In his imagination (for
bright were the dreams of Thomas!) he saw her looking longingly after
him, just as the dog looks; and then, not being really a cruel man, he
would call over his shoulder, "Put on your hat, little woman; you can
come." Then he conceived her wandering with him through the Den and
Caddam Wood, clinging to his arm and looking up adoringly at him.
"What a loving little soul it is!" he said, and pinched her ear,
whereat she glowed with pleasure. "But I forgot," he would add,
bantering her; "you don't admire me. Heigh-ho! Grizel wants to admire
me, but she can't!" He got some satisfaction out of these flights of
fancy, but it had a scurvy way of deserting him in the hour of
greatest need; where was it, for instance, when the real Grizel
appeared and fixed that inquiring eye on him?

He went to the Spittal several times, Elspeth with him when she cared
to go; for Lady Rintoul and all the others had to learn and remember
that, unless they made much of Elspeth, there could be no T. Sandys
for them. He glared at anyone, male or female, who, on being
introduced to Elspeth, did not remain, obviously impressed, by her
side. "Give pleasure to Elspeth or away I go," was written all over
him. And it had to be the right kind of pleasure, too. The ladies must
feel that she was more innocent than they, and talk accordingly. He
would walk the flower-garden with none of them until he knew for
certain that the man walking it with little Elspeth was a person to be
trusted. Once he was convinced of this, however, he was very much at
their service, and so little to be trusted himself that perhaps they
should have had careful brothers also. He told them, one at a time,
that they were strangely unlike all the other women he had known, and
held their hands a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, and
then went away, leaving them and him a prey to conflicting and
puzzling emotions.

Lord Rintoul, whose hair was so like his skin that in the family
portraits he might have been painted in one colour, could never rid
himself of the feeling that it must be a great thing to a writing chap
to get a good dinner; but her ladyship always explained him away with
an apologetic smile which went over his remarks like a piece of
india-rubber, so that in the end he had never said anything. She was a
slight, pretty woman of nearly forty, and liked Tommy because he
remembered so vividly her coming to the Spittal as a bride. He even
remembered how she had been dressed - her white bonnet, for instance.

"For long," Tommy said, musing, "I resented other women in white
bonnets; it seemed profanation."

"How absurd!" she told him, laughing. "You must have been quite a
small boy at the time."

"But with a lonely boy's passionate admiration for beautiful things,"
he answered; and his gravity was a gentle rebuke to her. "It was all a
long time ago," he said, taking both her hands in his, "but I never
forget, and, dear lady, I have often wanted to thank you." What he was
thanking her for is not precisely clear, but she knew that the
artistic temperament is an odd sort of thing, and from this time Lady
Rintoul liked Tommy, and even tried to find the right wife for him
among the families of the surrounding clergy. His step was sometimes
quite springy when he left the Spittal; but Grizel's shadow was always
waiting for him somewhere on the way home, to take the life out of
him, and after that it was again, oh, sorrowful disillusion! oh, world
gone gray! Grizel did not admire him. T. Sandys was no longer a wonder
to Grizel. He went home to that as surely as the labourer to his
evening platter.

And now we come to the affair of the Slugs. Corp had got a holiday,
and they were off together fishing the Drumly Water, by Lord Rintoul's
permission. They had fished the Drumly many a time without it, and
this was to be another such day as those of old. The one who woke at
four was to rouse the other. Never had either waked at four; but one
of them was married now, and any woman can wake at any hour she
chooses, so at four Corp was pushed out of bed, and soon thereafter
they took the road. Grizel's blinds were already up. "Do you mind,"
Corp said, "how often, when we had boasted we were to start at four
and didna get roaded till six, we wriggled by that window so that
Grizel shouldna see us?"

"She usually did see us," Tommy replied ruefully. "Grizel always
spotted us, Corp, when we had anything to hide, and missed us when we
were anxious to be seen."

"There was no jouking her," said Corp. "Do you mind how that used to
bother you?" a senseless remark to a man whom it was bothering
still - or shall we say to a boy? For the boy came back to Tommy when
he heard the Drumly singing; it was as if he had suddenly seen his
mother looking young again. There had been a thunder-shower as they
drew near, followed by a rush of wind that pinned them to a dike,
swept the road bare, banged every door in the glen, and then sank
suddenly as if it had never been, like a mole in the sand. But now the
sun was out, every fence and farm-yard rope was a string of diamond
drops. There was one to every blade of grass; they lurked among the
wild roses; larks, drunken with song, shook them from their wings. The
whole earth shone so gloriously with them that for a time Tommy ceased
to care whether he was admired. We can pay nature no higher
compliment.

But when they came to the Slugs! The Slugs of Kenny is a wild crevice
through which the Drumly cuts its way, black and treacherous, into a
lovely glade where it gambols for the rest of its short life; you
would not believe, to see it laughing, that it had so lately escaped
from prison. To the Slugs they made their way - not to fish, for any
trout that are there are thinking for ever of the way out and of
nothing else, but to eat their luncheon, and they ate it sitting on
the mossy stones their persons had long ago helped to smooth, and
looking at a roan-branch, which now, as then, was trailing in the
water.

There were no fish to catch, but there was a boy trying to catch them.
He was on the opposite bank; had crawled down it, only other boys can
tell how, a barefooted urchin of ten or twelve, with an enormous
bagful of worms hanging from his jacket button. To put a new worm on
the hook without coming to destruction, he first twisted his legs
about a young birch, and put his arms round it. He was after a big
one, he informed Corp, though he might as well have been fishing in a
treatise on the art of angling.

Corp exchanged pleasantries with him; told him that Tommy was Captain
Ure, and that he was his faithful servant Alexander Bett, both of
Edinburgh. Since the birth of his child, Corp had become something of
a humourist. Tommy was not listening. As he lolled in the sun he was
turning, without his knowledge, into one of the other Tommies. Let us
watch the process.

He had found a half-fledged mavis lying dead in the grass. Remember
also how the larks had sung after rain.

Tommy lost sight and sound of Corp and the boy. What he seemed to see
was a baby lark that had got out of its nest sideways, a fall of half



Online LibraryJ.M. BarrieTommy and Grizel → online text (page 7 of 27)