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Chapter 23

GRIZEL PAYS THREE VISITS


Less alarming but more irritating was the attempt of the youth of
Monypenny and the West town end, to establish a rival firm of Jacobites
(without even being sure of the name). They started business (Francie
Crabb leader, because he had a kilt) on a flagon of porter and an
ounce of twist, which they carried on a stick through the Den, saying
"Bowf!" like dogs, when they met anyone, and then laughing doubtfully.
The twist and porter were seized by Tommy and his followers, and
Haggerty-Taggerty, Major, arrived home with his head so firmly secured
in the flagon that the solder had to be melted before he saw the world
again. Francie was in still worse plight, for during the remainder of
the evening he had to hide in shame among the brackens, and Tommy wore a
kilt.

One cruel revenge the beaten rivals had. They waylaid Grizel, when she
was alone, and thus assailed her, she answering not a word.

"What's a father?"

"She'll soon no have a mither either!"

"The Painted Lady needs to paint her cheeks no longer!"

"Na, the red spots comes themsels now."

"Have you heard her hoasting?"

"Ay, it's the hoast o' a dying woman."

"The joiner heard it, and gave her a look, measuring her wi' his eye for
the coffin. 'Five and a half by one and a half would hold her snod,' he
says to himsel'."

"Ronny-On's auld wife heard it, and says she, 'Dinna think, my leddy, as
you'll be buried in consecrated ground.'"

"Na, a'body kens she'll just be hauled at the end o' a rope to the hole
where the witches was shooled in."

"Wi' a paling spar through her, to keep her down on the day o'
judgment."

Well, well, these children became men and women in time, one of them
even a bit of a hero, though he never knew it.

Are you angry with them? If so, put the cheap thing aside, or think only
of Grizel, and perhaps God will turn your anger into love for her.

Great-hearted, solitary child! She walked away from them without
flinching, but on reaching the Den, where no one could see her--she lay
down on the ground, and her cheeks were dry, but little wells of water
stood in her eyes.

She would not be the Lady Grizel that night. She went home instead, but
there was something she wanted to ask Tommy now, and the next time she
saw him she began at once. Grizel always began at once, often in the
middle, she saw what she was making for so clearly.

"Do you know what it means when there are red spots in your cheeks, that
used not to be there?"

Tommy knew at once to whom she was referring, for he had heard the
gossip of the youth of Monypenny, and he hesitated to answer.

"And if, when you cough, you bring up a tiny speck of blood?"

"I would get a bottle frae the doctor," said Tommy, evasively.

"She won't have the doctor," answered Grizel, unguardedly, and then with
a look dared Tommy to say that she spoke of her mother.

"Does it mean you are dying?"

"I--I--oh, no, they soon get better."

He said this because he was so sorry for Grizel. There never was a more
sympathetic nature than Tommy's. At every time of his life his pity was
easily roused for persons in distress, and he sought to comfort them by
shutting their eyes to the truth as long as possible. This sometimes
brought relief to them, but it was useless to Grizel, who must face her
troubles.

"Why don't you answer truthfully?" she cried, with vehemence. "It is so
easy to be truthful!"

"Well, then," said Tommy, reluctantly, "I think they generally die."

Elspeth often carried in her pocket a little Testament, presented to her
by the Rev. Mr. Dishart for learning by heart one of the noblest of
books, the Shorter Catechism, as Scottish children do or did, not
understanding it at the time, but its meaning comes long afterwards and
suddenly, when you have most need of it. Sometimes Elspeth read aloud
from her Testament to Grizel, who made no comment, but this same
evening, when the two were alone, she said abruptly:

"Have you your Testament?"

"Yes," Elspeth said, producing it.

"Which is the page about saving sinners?"

"It's all about that."

"But the page when you are in a hurry?"

Elspeth read aloud the story of the Crucifixion, and Grizel listened
sharply until she heard what Jesus said to the malefactor: "To-day shalt
thou be with me in Paradise."

"And was he?"

"Of course."

"But he had been wicked all his life, and I believe he was only good,
just that minute, because they were crucifying him. If they had let him
come down.--"

"No, he repented, you know. That means he had faith, and if you have
faith you are saved. It doesna matter how bad you have been. You have
just to say 'I believe' before you die, and God lets you in. It's so
easy, Grizel," cried Elspeth, with shining eyes.

Grizel pondered. "I don't believe it is so easy as that," she said,
decisively.

Nevertheless she asked presently what the Testament cost, and when
Elspeth answered "Fourpence," offered her the money.

"I don't want to sell it," Elspeth remonstrated.

"If you don't give it to me, I shall take it from you," said Grizel,
determinedly.

"You can buy one."

"No, the shop people would guess."

"Guess what?"

"I won't tell you."

"I'll lend it to you."

"I won't take it that way." So Elspeth had to part with her Testament,
saying wonderingly, "Can you read?"

"Yes, and write too. Mamma taught me."

"But I thought she was daft," Elspeth blurted out.

"She is only daft now and then," Grizel replied, without her usual
spirit. "Generally she is not daft at all, but only timid."

Next morning the Painted Lady's child paid three calls, one in town, two
in the country. The adorable thing is that, once having made up her
mind, she never flinched, not even when her hand was on the knocker.

The first gentleman received her in his lobby. For a moment he did not
remember her; then suddenly the color deepened on his face, and he went
back and shut the parlor-door.

"Did anybody see you coming here?" he asked, quickly.

"I don't know."

"What does she want?"

"She did not send me, I came myself."

"Well?"

"When you come to our house--"

"I never come to your house."

"That is a lie."

"Speak lower!"

"When you come to our house you tell me to go out and play. But I don't.
I go and cry."

No doubt he was listening, but his eyes were on the parlor-door.

"I don't know why I cry, but you know, you wicked man! Why is it?"

"Why is it?" she demanded again, like a queen-child, but he could only
fidget with his gold chain and shuffle uneasily in his parnella shoes.

"You are not coming to see my mamma again."

The gentleman gave her an ugly look.

"If you do," she said at once, "I shall come straight here and open that
door you are looking at, and tell your wife."

He dared not swear. His hand--

"If you offer me money," said Grizel, "I shall tell her now."

He muttered something to himself.

"Is it true?" she asked, "that mamma is dying?"

This was a genuine shock to him, for he had not been at Double Dykes
since winter, and then the Painted Lady was quite well.

"Nonsense!" he said, and his obvious disbelief brought some comfort to
the girl. But she asked, "Why are there red spots on her cheeks, then?"

"Paint," he answered.

"No," cried Grizel, rocking her arms, "it is not paint now. I thought it
might be and I tried to rub it off while she was sleeping, but it will
not come off. And when she coughs there is blood on her handkerchief."

He looked alarmed now, and Grizel's fears came back. "If mamma dies,"
she said determinedly, "she must be buried in the cemetery."

"She is not dying, I tell you."

"And you must come to the funeral."

"Are you gyte?"

"With crape on your hat."

His mouth formed an emphatic "No."

"You must," said Grizel, firmly, "you shall! If you don't--" She pointed
to the parlor-door.

Her remaining two visits were to a similar effect, and one of the
gentlemen came out of the ordeal somewhat less shamefully than the
first, the other worse, for he blubbered and wanted to kiss her. It is
questionable whether many young ladies have made such a profound
impression in a series of morning calls.

The names of these gentlemen are not known, but you shall be told
presently where they may be found. Every person in Thrums used to know
the place, and many itched to get at the names, but as yet no one has
had the nerve to look for them.

Not at this time did Grizel say a word of these interviews to her
friends, though Tommy had to be told of them later, and she never again
referred to her mother at the Saturday evenings in the Den. But the
others began to know a queer thing, nothing less than this, that in
their absence the lair was sometimes visited by a person or persons
unknown, who made use of their stock of firewood. It was a startling
discovery, but when they discussed it in council, Grizel never
contributed a word. The affair remained a mystery until one Saturday
evening, when Tommy and Elspeth, reaching the lair first, found in it a
delicate white shawl. They both recognized in it the pretty thing the
Painted Lady had pinned across her shoulders on the night they saw her
steal out of Double Dykes, to meet the man of long ago.

Even while their eyes were saying this, Grizel climbed in without giving
the password, and they knew from her quick glance around that she had
come for the shawl. She snatched it out of Tommy's hand with a look
that prohibited questions.

"It's the pair o' them," Tommy said to Elspeth at the first opportunity,
"that sometimes comes here at nights and kindles the fire and warms
themsels at the gloze. And the last time they came they forgot the
shawl."

"I dinna like to think the Painted Lady has been up here, Tommy."

"But she has. You ken how, when she has a daft fit, she wanders the Den
trysting the man that never comes. Has she no been seen at all hours o'
the night, Grizel following a wee bit ahint, like as if to take tent o
her?"

"They say that, and that Grizel canna get her to go home till the daft
fit has passed."

"Well, she has that kechering hoast and spit now, and so Grizel brings
her up here out o' the blasts."

"But how could she be got to come here, if she winna go home?"

"Because frae here she can watch for the man."

Elspeth shuddered. "Do you think she's here often, Tommy?" she asked.

"Just when she has a daft fit on, and they say she's wise sax days in
seven."

This made the Jacobite meetings eerie events for Elspeth, but Tommy
liked them the better; and what were they not to Grizel, who ran to them
with passionate fondness every Saturday night? Sometimes she even
outdistanced her haunting dreads, for she knew that her mother did not
think herself seriously ill; and had not the three gentlemen made light
of that curious cough? So there were nights when the lair saw Grizel go
riotous with glee, laughing, dancing, and shouting over-much, like one
trying to make up for a lost childhood. But it was also noticed that
when the time came to leave the Den she was very loath, and kissed her
hands to the places where she had been happiest, saying, wistfully, and
with pretty gestures that were foreign to Thrums, "Good-night, dear
Cuttle Well! Good-by, sweet, sweet Lair!" as if she knew it could not
last. These weekly risings in the Den were most real to Tommy, but it
was Grizel who loved them best.

James M. Barrie