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Chapter 32

AN ELOPEMENT


The solitary child remained at Double Dykes, awaiting the arrival of her
father, for the Painted Lady's manner of leaving the world had made such
a stir that the neighbors said he must have heard of it, even though he
were in London, and if he had the heart of a stone he could not desert
his bairn. They argued thus among themselves, less as people who were
sure of it than to escape the perplexing question, what to do with
Grizel if the man never claimed her? and before her they spoke of his
coming as a certainty, because it would be so obviously the best thing
for her. In the meantime they overwhelmed her with offers of everything
she could need, which was kindly but not essential, for after the
funeral expenses had been paid (Grizel insisted on paying them herself)
she had still several gold pieces, found in her mamma's beautiful
tortoise-shell purse, and there were nearly twenty pounds in the bank.

But day after day passed, and the man had not come. Perhaps he resented
the Painted Lady's ostentatious death; which, if he was nicely strung,
must have jarred upon his nerves. He could hardly have acknowledged
Grizel now without publicity being given to his private concerns. Or he
may never have heard of the Painted Lady's death, or if he read of it,
he may not have known which painted lady in particular she was. Or he
may have married, and told his wife all and she had forgiven him, which
somehow, according to the plays and the novels, cuts the past adrift
from a man and enables him to begin again at yesterday. Whatever the
reason, Grizel's father was in no hurry to reveal himself, and though
not to her, among themselves the people talked of the probability of his
not coming at all. She could not remain alone at Double Dykes, they all
admitted, but where, then, should she go? No fine lady in need of a
handmaid seemed to think a painted lady's child would suit; indeed,
Grizel at first sight had not the manner that attracts philanthropists.
Once only did the problem approach solution; a woman in the Den-head was
willing to take the child because (she expressed it) as she had seven
she might as well have eight, but her man said no, he would not have his
bairns fil't. Others would have taken her cordially for a few weeks or
months, had they not known that at the end of this time they would be
blamed, even by themselves, if they let her go. All, in short, were
eager to show her kindness if one would give her a home, but where was
that one to be found?

Much of this talk came to Grizel through Tommy, and she told him in the
house of Double Dykes that people need not trouble themselves about her,
for she had no wish to stay with them. It was only charity they brought
her; no one wanted her for herself. "It is because I am a child of
shame," she told him, dry-eyed.

He fidgeted on his chair, and asked, "What's that?" not very honestly.

"I don't know," she said, "no one will tell me, but it is something you
can't love."

"You have a terrible wish to be loved," he said in wonder, and she
nodded her head wistfully. "That is not what I wish for most of all,
though," she told him, and when he asked what she wished for most of
all, she said, "To love somebody; oh, it would be sweet!"

To Tommy, most sympathetic of mortals, she seemed a very pathetic little
figure, and tears came to his eyes as he surveyed her; he could always
cry very easily.

"If it wasna for Elspeth," he began, stammering, "I could love you, but
you winna let a body do onything on the sly."

It was a vague offer, but she understood, and became the old Grizel at
once. "I don't want you to love me," she said indignantly; "I don't
think you know how to love."

"Neither can you know, then," retorted Tommy, huffily, "for there's
nobody for you to love."

"Yes, there is," she said, "and I do love her and she loves me."

"But wha is she?"

"That girl." To his amazement she pointed to her own reflection in the
famous mirror the size of which had scandalized Thrums. Tommy thought
this affection for herself barely respectable, but he dared not say so
lest he should be put to the door. "I love her ever so much," Grizel
went on, "and she is so fond of me, she hates to see me unhappy. Don't
look so sad, dearest, darlingest," she cried vehemently; "I love you,
you know, oh, you sweet!" and with each epithet she kissed her
reflection and looked defiantly at the boy.

"But you canna put your arms round her and hug her," he pointed out
triumphantly, and so he had the last word after all. Unfortunately
Grizel kept this side of her, new even to Tommy, hidden from all others,
and her unresponsiveness lost her many possible friends. Even Miss
Ailie, who now had a dressmaker in the blue-and-white room, sitting on a
bedroom chair and sewing for her life (oh, the agony--or is it the
rapture?--of having to decide whether to marry in gray with beads or
brown plain to the throat), even sympathetic Miss Ailie, having met with
several rebuffs, said that Grizel had a most unaffectionate nature, and,
"Ay, she's hardy," agreed the town, "but it's better, maybe, for
hersel'." There are none so unpopular as the silent ones.

If only Miss Ailie, or others like her, could have slipped noiselessly
into Double Dykes at night, they would have found Grizel's pillow wet.
But she would have heard them long before they reached the door, and
jumped to the floor in terror, thinking it was her father's step at
last. For, unknown to anyone, his coming, which the town so anxiously
desired, was her one dread. She had told Tommy what she should say to
him if he came, and Tommy had been awed and delighted, they were such
scathing things; probably, had the necessity arisen, she would have
found courage to say them, but they were made up in the daytime, and at
night they brought less comfort. Then she listened fearfully and longed
for the morning, wild ideas coursing through her head of flying before
he could seize her; but when morning came it brought other thoughts, as
of the strange remarks she had heard about her mamma and herself during
the past few days. To brood over these was the most unhealthy occupation
she could find, but it was her only birthright. Many of the remarks came
unguardedly from lips that had no desire to pain her, others fell in a
rage because she would not tell what were the names in her letter to
God. The words that troubled her most, perhaps, were the doctor's, "She
is a brave lass, but it must be in her blood." They were not intended
for her ears, but she heard. "What did he mean?" she asked Miss Ailie,
Mrs. Dishart, and others who came to see her, and they replied
awkwardly, that it had only been a doctor's remark, of no importance to
people who were well. "Then why are you crying?" she demanded, looking
them full in the face with eyes there was no deceiving.

"Oh, why is everyone afraid to tell me the truth!" she would cry,
beating her palms in anguish.

She walked into McQueen's surgery and said, "Could you not cut it out?"
so abruptly that he wondered what she was speaking about.

"The bad thing that is in my blood," she explained. "Do cut it out, I
sha'n't scream. I promise not to scream."

He sighed and answered, "If it could be cut out, lassie, I would try to
do it, though it was the most dangerous of operations."

She looked in anguish at him. "There are cleverer doctors than you,
aren't there?" she asked, and he was not offended.

"Ay, a hantle cleverer," he told her, "but none so clever as that. God
help you, bairn, if you have to do it yourself some day."

"Can I do it myself?" she cried, brightening. "I shall do it now. Is it
done with a knife?"

"With a sharper knife than a surgeon's," he answered, and then,
regretting he had said so much, he tried to cheer her. But that he could
not do. "You are afraid to tell me the truth too," she said, and when
she went away he was very sorry for her, but not so sorry as she was
for herself. "When I am grown up," she announced dolefully, to Tommy, "I
shall be a bad woman, just like mamma."

"Not if you try to be good," he said.

"Yes, I shall. There is something in my blood that will make me bad, and
I so wanted to be good. Oh! oh! oh!"

She told him of the things she had heard people say, but though they
perplexed him almost as much as her, he was not so hopeless of learning
their meaning, for here was just the kind of difficulty he liked to
overcome. "I'll get it out o' Blinder," he said, with confidence in his
ingenuity, "and then I'll tell you what he says." But however much he
might strive to do so, Tommy could never repeat anything without giving
it frills and other adornment of his own making, and Grizel knew this.
"I must hear what he says myself," she insisted.

"But he winna speak plain afore you."

"Yes, he will, if he does not know I am there."

The plot succeeded, though only partially, for so quick was the blind
man's sense of hearing that in the middle of the conversation he said,
sharply, "Somebody's ahint the dyke!" and he caught Grizel by the
shoulder. "It's the Painted Lady's lassie," he said when she screamed,
and he stormed against Tommy for taking such advantage of his blindness.
But to her he said, gently, "I daresay you egged him on to this,
meaning well, but you maun forget most of what I've said, especially
about being in the blood. I spoke in haste, it doesna apply to the like
of you."

"Yes, it does," replied Grizel, and all that had been revealed to her
she carried hot to the surgery, Tommy stopping at the door in as great
perturbation as herself. "I know what being in the blood is now," she
said, tragically, to McQueen, "there is something about it in the Bible.
I am the child of evil passions, and that means that I was born with
wickedness in my blood. It is lying sleeping in me just now because I am
only thirteen, and if I can prevent its waking when I am grown up I
shall always be good, but a very little thing will waken it; it wants so
much to be wakened, and if it is once wakened it will run all through
me, and soon I shall be like mamma."

It was all horribly clear to her, and she would not wait for words of
comfort that could only obscure the truth. Accompanied by Tommy, who
said nothing, but often glanced at her fascinated yet alarmed, as if
expecting to see the ghastly change come over her at any moment--for he
was as convinced as she, and had the livelier imagination--she returned
to Monypenny to beg of Blinder to tell her one thing more. And he told
her, not speaking lightly, but because his words contained a solemn
warning to a girl who, he thought, might need it.

"What sort of thing would be likeliest to waken the wickedness?" she
asked, holding her breath for the answer.

"Keeping company wi' ill men," said Blinder, gravely.

"Like the man who made mamma wicked, like my father?"

"Ay," Blinder replied, "fly from the like of him, my lass, though it
should be to the other end of the world."

She stood quite still, with a most sorrowful face, and then ran away,
ran so swiftly that when Tommy, who had lingered for a moment, came to
the door she was already out of sight. Scarcely less excited than she,
he set off for Double Dykes, his imagination in such a blaze that he
looked fearfully in the pools of the burn for a black frock. But Grizel
had not drowned herself; she was standing erect in her home, like one at
bay, her arms rigid, her hands clenched, and when he pushed open the
door she screamed.

"Grizel," said the distressed boy, "did you think I was him come for
you?"

"Yes!"

"Maybe he'll no come. The folk think he winna come."

"But if he does, if he does!"

"Maybe you needna go wi' him unless you're willing?"

"I must, he can compel me, because he is my father. Oh! oh! oh!" She
lay down on the bed, and on her eyes there slowly formed the little
wells of water Tommy was to know so well in time. He stood by her side
in anguish; for though his own tears came at the first call, he could
never face them in others.


"Grizel," he said impulsively, "there's just one thing for you to do.
You have money, and you maun run away afore he comes!"

She jumped up at that. "I have thought of it," she answered "I am always
thinking about it, but how can I, oh, now can I? It would not be
respectable."

"To run away?"

"To go by myself," said the poor girl, "and I do want to be respectable,
it would be sweet."

In some ways Tommy was as innocent as she, and her reasoning seemed to
him to be sound. She was looking at him woefully, and entreaty was on
her face; all at once he felt what a lonely little crittur she was, and,
in a burst of manhood,--

"But, dinna prig wi' me to go with you," he said, struggling.

"I have not!" she answered, panting, and she had not in words, but the
mute appeal was still on her face.

"Grizel," he cried, "I'll come!"

Then she seized his hand and pressed it to her breast, saying, "Oh,
Tommy, I am so fond of you!"

It was the first time she had admitted it, and his head wagged well
content, as if saying for him, "I knew you would understand me some
day." But next moment the haunting shadow that so often overtook him in
the act of soaring fell cold upon his mind, and "I maun take Elspeth!"
he announced, as if Elspeth had him by the leg.

"You sha'n't!" said Grizel's face.

"She winna let go," said Tommy's.

Grizel quivered from top to toe. "I hate Elspeth!" she cried, with
curious passion, and the more moral Tommy was ashamed of her.

"You dinna ken how fond o' her I am," he said.

"Yes, I do."

"Then you shouldna want me to leave her and go wi' you."

"That is why I want it," Grizel blurted out, and now we are all ashamed
of her. But fortunately Tommy did not see how much she had admitted in
that hasty cry, and as neither would give way to the other they parted
stiffly, his last words being "Mind, it wouldna be respectable to go by
yoursel'," and hers "I don't care, I'm going." Nevertheless it was she
who slept easily that night, and he who tossed about almost until
cockcrow. She had only one ugly dream, of herself wandering from door to
door in a strange town, asking for lodgings, but the woman who answered
her weary knocks--there were many doors but it was invariably the same
woman--always asked, suspiciously, "Is Tommy with you?" and Grizel shook
her head, and then the woman drove her away, perceiving that she was
not respectable. This woke her, and she feared the dream would come
true, but she clenched her fists in the darkness, saying, "I can't help
it, I am going, and I won't have Elspeth," and after that she slept in
peace. In the meantime Tommy the imaginative--but that night he was not
Tommy, rather was he Grizel, for he saw her as we can only see
ourselves. Now she--or he, if you will--had been caught by her father
and brought back, and she turned into a painted thing like her mother.
She brandished a brandy bottle and a stream of foul words ran lightly
from her mouth and suddenly stopped, because she was wailing "I wanted
so to be good, it is sweet to be good!" Now a man with a beard was
whipping her, and Tommy felt each lash on his own body, so that he had
to strike out, and he started up in bed, and the horrible thing was that
he had never been asleep. Thus it went on until early morning, when his
eyes were red and his body was damp with sweat.

But now again he was Tommy, and at first even to think of leaving
Elspeth was absurd. Yet it would be pleasant to leave Aaron, who
disliked him so much. To disappear without a word would be a fine
revenge, for the people would say that Aaron must have ill-treated him,
and while they searched the pools of the burn for his body, Aaron would
be looking on trembling, perhaps with a policeman's hand on his
shoulder. Tommy saw the commotion as vividly as if the searchers were
already out and he in a tree looking down at them; but in a second he
also heard Elspeth skirling, and down he flung himself from the tree,
crying, "I'm here, Elspeth, dinna greet; oh, what a brute I've been!"
No, he could not leave Elspeth, how wicked of Grizel to expect it of
him; she was a bad one, Grizel.

But having now decided not to go, his sympathy with the girl who was to
lose him returned in a rush, and before he went to school he besought
her to--it amounted to this, to be more like himself; that is, he begged
her to postpone her departure indefinitely, not to make up her mind
until to-morrow--or the day after--or the day after that. He produced
reasons, as that she had only four pounds and some shillings now, while
by and by she might get the Painted Lady's money, at present in the
bank; also she ought to wait for the money that would come to her from
the roup of the furniture. But Grizel waived all argument aside; secure
in her four pounds and shillings she was determined to go to-night, for
her father might be here to-morrow; she was going to London because it
was so big that no one could ever find her there, and she would never,
never write to Tommy to tell him how she fared, lest the letter put her
father on her track. He implored her to write once, so that the money
owing her might be forwarded, but even this bribe did not move her, and
he set off for school most gloomily.

Cathro was specially aggravating that day, nagged him, said before the
whole school that he was a numskull, even fell upon him with the tawse,
and for no earthly reason except that Tommy would not bother his head
with the _oratio obliqua_. If there is any kind of dominie more
maddening than another, it is the one who will not leave you alone (ask
any thoughtful boy). How wretched the lot of him whose life is cast
among fools not capable of understanding him; what was that saying about
entertaining angels unawares? London! Grizel had more than sufficient
money to take two there, and once in London, a wonder such as himself
was bound to do wondrous things. Now that he thought of it, to become a
minister was abhorrent to him; to preach would be rather nice, oh, what
things he should say (he began to make them up, and they were so grand
that he almost wept), but to be good after the sermon was over, always
to be good (even when Elspeth was out of the way), never to think queer
unsayable things, never to say Stroke, never, in short, to "find a
way"--he was appalled. If it had not been for Elspeth--

So even Elspeth did not need him. When he went home from school,
thinking only of her, he found that she had gone to the Auld Licht manse
to play with little Margaret. Very well, if such was her wish, he would
go. Nobody wanted him except Grizel. Perhaps when news came from London
of his greatness, they would think more of him. He would send a letter
to Thrums, asking Mr. McLean to transfer his kindness to Elspeth. That
would show them what a noble fellow he was. Elspeth would really benefit
by his disappearance; he was running away for Elspeth's sake. And when
he was great, which would be in a few years, he would come back for her.

But no, he--. The dash represents Tommy swithering once more, and he was
at one or other end of the swither all day. When he acted sharply it was
always on impulse, and as soon as the die was cast he was a philosopher
with no regrets. But when he had time to reflect, he jumped miserably
back and forward. So when Grizel was ready to start, he did not know in
the least what he meant to do.

She was to pass by the Cuttle Well, on her way to Tilliedrum, where she
would get the London train, he had been told coldly, and he could be
there at the time--if he liked. The time was seven o'clock in the
evening on a week-day, when the lovers are not in the Den, and Tommy
arrived first. When he stole through the small field that separates
Monypenny from the Den, his decision was--but on reaching the Cuttle
Well, its nearness to the uncanny Lair chilled his courage, and now he
had only come to bid her good-by. She was very late, and it suddenly
struck him that she had already set off. "After getting me to promise to
go wi' her!" he said to himself at once.

But Grizel came; she was only late because it had taken her such a long
time to say good-by to the girl in the glass. She was wearing her black
dress and lustre jacket, and carried in a bundle the few treasures she
was taking with her, and though she did not ask Tommy if he was coming,
she cast a quick look round to see if he had a bundle anywhere, and he
had none. That told her his decision, and she would have liked to sit
down for a minute and cry, but of course she had too much pride, and she
bade him farewell so promptly that he thought he had a grievance. "I'm
coming as far as the toll-house wi' you," he said, sulkily, and so they
started together.

At the toll-house Grizel stopped. "It's a fine night," said Tommy,
almost apologetically, "I'll go as far as the quarry o' Benshee."

When they came to the quarry he said, "We're no half-roads yet, I'll go
wi' you as far as Padanarum." Now she began to wonder and to glance at
him sideways, which made him more uncomfortable than ever. To prevent
her asking him a question for which he had no answer, he said, "What
makes you look so little the day?"

"I am not looking little," she replied, greatly annoyed, "I am looking
taller than usual. I have let down my frock three inches so as to look
taller--and older."

"You look younger than ever," he said cruelly.

"I don't! I look fifteen, and when you are fifteen you grow up very
quickly. Do say I look older!" she entreated anxiously. "It would make
me feel more respectable."

But he shook his head with surprising obstinacy, and then she began to
remark on his clothes, which had been exercising her curiosity ever
since they left the Den.

"How is it that you are looking so stout?" she asked.

"I feel cold, but you are wiping the sweat off your face every minute."

It was true, but he would have preferred not to answer. Grizel's
questions, however, were all so straight in the face, that there was no
dodging them. "I have on twa suits o' clothes, and a' my sarks," he had
to admit, sticky and sullen.

She stopped, but he trudged on doggedly. She ran after him and gave his
arm an impulsive squeeze with both hands, "Oh, you sweet!" she said.

"No, I'm not," he answered in alarm.

"Yes you are! You are coming with me."

"I'm not!"

"Then why did you put on so many clothes?"

Tommy swithered wretchedly on one foot. "I didna put them on to come wi'
you," he explained, "I just put them on in case I should come wi' you."

"And are you not coming?"

"How can I ken?"

"But you must decide," Grizel almost screamed.

"I needna," he stammered, "till we're at Tilliedrum. Let's speak about
some other thing."

She rocked her arms, crying, "It is so easy to make up one's mind."

"It's easy to you that has just one mind," he retorted with spirit, "but
if you had as many minds as I have--!"

On they went.

James M. Barrie