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Chapter 33

THERE IS SOME ONE TO LOVE GRIZEL AT LAST


Corp was sitting on the Monypenny dyke, spitting on a candlestick and
then rubbing it briskly against his orange-colored trousers. The doctor
passing in his gig, both of them streaked, till they blended, with the
mud of Look-about-you road (through which you should drive winking
rapidly all the way), saw him and drew up.

"Well, how is Grizel?" he asked. He had avoided Double Dykes since the
funeral, but vain had been his attempts to turn its little inmate out of
his mind; there she was, against his will, and there, he now admitted to
himself angrily or with a rueful sigh, she seemed likely to remain until
someone gave her a home. It was an almost ludicrous distrust of himself
that kept him away from her; he feared that if he went to Double Dykes
her lonely face would complete his conquest. For oh, he was reluctant to
be got the better of, as he expressed it to himself. Maggy Ann, his
maid, was the ideal woman for a bachelor's house. When she saw him
coming she fled, guiltily concealing the hated duster; when he roared
at her for announcing that dinner was ready, she left him to eat it half
cold; when he spilled matches on the floor and then stepped upon them
and set the rug on fire, she let him tell her that she should be more
careful; she did not carry off his favorite boots to the cobbler because
they were down at heel; she did not fling up her arms in horror and cry
that she had brushed that coat just five minutes ago; nor did she count
the treasured "dottels" on the mantelpiece to discover how many pipes he
had smoked since morning; nor point out that he had stepped over the
door-mat; nor line her shelves with the new _Mentor_; nor give him up
his foot for sitting half the night with patients who could not pay--in
short, he knew the ways of the limmers, and Maggy Ann was a jewel. But
it had taken him a dozen years to bring her to this perfection, and well
he knew that the curse of Eve, as he called the rage for the duster,
slumbered in her rather than was extinguished. With the volcanic Grizel
in the house, Maggy Ann would once more burst into flame, and the
horrified doctor looked to right of him, to left of him, before him and
behind him, and everywhere he seemed to see two new brooms bearing down.
No, the brat, he would not have her; the besom, why did she bother him;
the witches take her, for putting the idea into his head, nailing it
into his head indeed. But nevertheless he was forever urging other
people to adopt her, assuring them that they would find her a treasure,
and even shaking his staff at them when they refused; and he was so
uneasy if he did not hear of her several times a day that he made
Monypenny the way to and from everywhere, so that he might drop into
artful talk with those who had seen her last. Corp, accordingly, was not
surprised at his "How is Grizel?" now, and he answered, between two
spits, "She's fine; she gave me this."

It was one of the Painted Lady's silver candlesticks, and the doctor
asked sharply why Grizel had given it to him.

"She said because she liked me," Corp replied, wonderingly. "She brought
it to my auntie's door soon after I loused, and put it into my hand: ay,
and she had a blue shawl, and she telled me to give it to Gavinia,
because she liked her too."

"What else did she say?"

Corp tried to think. "I said, 'This cows, Grizel, but thank you
kindly,'" he answered, much pleased with his effort of memory, but the
doctor interrupted him rudely. "Nobody wants to hear what you said, you
dottrel; what more did she say?" And thus encouraged Corp remembered
that she had said she hoped he would not forget her. "What for should I
forget her when I see her ilka day?" he asked, and was probably about to
divulge that this was his reply to her, but without waiting for more,
McQueen turned his beast's head and drove to the entrance to the Double
Dykes. Here he alighted and hastened up the path on foot, but before he
reached the house he met Dite Deuchars taking his ease beneath a tree,
and Dite could tell him that Grizel was not at home. "But there's
somebody in Double Dykes," he said, "though I kenna wha could be there
unless it's the ghost of the Painted Lady hersel'. About an hour syne I
saw Grizel come out o' the house, carrying a bundle, but she hadna gone
many yards when she turned round and waved her hand to the east window.
I couldna see wha was at it, but there maun have been somebody, for
first the crittur waved to the window and next she kissed her hand to
it, and syne she went on a bit, and syne she ran back close to the
window and nodded and flung more kisses, and back and forrit she went a
curran times as if she could hardly tear hersel' awa'. 'Wha's that
you're so chief wi'?' I speired when she came by me at last, but she
just said, 'I won't tell you,' in her dour wy, and she hasna come back
yet."

Whom could she have been saying good-by to so demonstratively, and
whither had she gone? With a curiosity that for the moment took the
place of his uneasiness, McQueen proceeded to the house, the door of
which was shut but not locked. Two glances convinced him that there was
no one here, the kitchen was as he had seen it last, except that the
long mirror had been placed on a chair close to the east window. The
doctor went to the outside of the window, and looked in, he could see
nothing but his own reflection in the mirror, and was completely
puzzled. But it was no time, he felt, for standing there scratching his
head, when there was reason to fear that the girl had gone. Gone where?
He saw his selfishness now, in a glaring light, and it fled out of him
pursued by curses.

He stopped at Aaron's door and called for Tommy, but Tommy had left the
house an hour ago. "Gone with her, the sacket; he very likely put her up
to this," the doctor muttered, and the surmise seemed justified when he
heard that Grizel and Tommy had been seen passing the Fens. That they
were running away had never struck those who saw them, and McQueen said
nothing of his suspicions, but off he went in his gig on their track and
ran them down within a mile of Tilliedrum. Grizel scurried on, thinking
it was undoubtedly her father, but in a few minutes the three were
conversing almost amicably, the doctor's first words had been so
"sweet."

Tommy explained that they were out for a walk, but Grizel could not lie,
and in a few passionate sentences she told McQueen the truth. He had
guessed the greater part of it, and while she spoke he looked so sorry
for her, such a sweet change had come over his manner, that she held his
hand.

"But you must go no farther," he told her, "I am to take you back with
me," and that alarmed her. "I won't go back," she said, determinedly,
"he might come."

"There's little fear of his coming," McQueen assured her, gently, "but
if he does come I give you my solemn word that I won't let him take you
away unless you want to go."

Even then she only wavered, but he got her altogether with this: "And
should he come, just think what a piece of your mind you could give him,
with me standing by holding your hand."

"Oh, would you do that?" she asked, brightening.

"I would do a good deal to get the chance," he said.

"I should just love it!" she cried. "I shall come now," and she stepped
light-heartedly into the gig, where the doctor joined her. Tommy, who
had been in the background all this time, was about to jump up beside
them, but McQueen waved him back, saying maliciously, "There's just room
for two, my man, so I won't interfere with your walk."

Tommy, in danger of being left, very hot and stout and sulky, whimpered,
"What have I done to anger you?"

"You were going with her, you blackguard," replied McQueen, not yet in
full possession of the facts, for whether Tommy was or was not going
with her no one can ever know.

"If I was," cried the injured boy, "it wasna because I wanted to go, it
was because it wouldna have been respectable for her to go by hersel'."

The doctor had already started his shalt, but at these astonishing
words he drew up sharply. "Say that again," ha said, as if thinking that
his ears must have deceived him, and Tommy repeated his remark,
wondering at its effect.

"And you tell me that you were going with her," the doctor repeated, "to
make her enterprise more respectable?" and he looked from one to the
other.

"Of course I was," replied Tommy, resenting his surprise at a thing so
obvious; and "That's why I wanted him to come," chimed in Grizel.

Still McQueen's glance wandered from the boy to the girl and from the
girl to the boy. "You are a pair!" he said at last, and he signed in
silence to Tommy to mount the gig. But his manner had alarmed Grizel,
ever watching herself lest she should stray into the ways of bad ones,
and she asked anxiously, "There was nothing wrong in it, was there?"

"No," the doctor answered gravely, laying his hand on hers, "no, it was
just sweet."

* * * * *

What McQueen had to say to her was not for Tommy's ears, and the
conversation was but a makeshift until they reached Thrums, where he
sent the boy home, recommending him to hold his tongue about the
escapade (and Tommy of course saw the advisability of keeping it from
Elspeth); but he took Grizel into his parlor and set her down on the
buffet stool by the fire, where he surveyed her in silence at his
leisure. Then he tried her in his old armchair, then on his sofa; then
he put the _Mentor_ into her hand and told her to hold it as if it were
a duster, then he sent her into the passage, with instructions to open
the door presently and announce "Dinner is ready;" then he told her to
put some coals on the fire; then he told her to sit at the window, first
with an open book in her hand, secondly as if she was busy knitting; and
all these things she did wondering exceedingly, for he gave no
explanation except the incomprehensible one, "I want to see what it
would be like."

She had told him in the gig why she had changed the position of the
mirror at Double Dykes, it was to let "that darling" wave good-by to her
from the window; and now having experimented with her in his parlor he
drew her toward his chair, so that she stood between his knees. And he
asked her if she understood why he had gone to Double Dykes.

"Was it to get me to tell you what were the names in the letter?" she
said, wistfully. "That is what everyone asks me, but I won't tell, no, I
won't;" and she closed her mouth hard.

He, too, would have liked to hear the names, and he sighed, it must be
admitted, at sight of that determined mouth, but he could say
truthfully, "Your refusal to break your promise is one of the things
that I admire in you."

Admire! Grizel could scarce believe that this gift was for her. "You
don't mean that you really like me?" she faltered, but she felt sure all
the time that he did, and she cried, "Oh, but why, oh, how can you!"

"For one reason," he said, "because you are so good."

"Good! Oh! oh! oh!" She clapped her hands joyously.

"And for another--because you are so brave."

"But I am not really brave," she said anxiously, yet resolved to hide
nothing, "I only pretend to be brave, I am often frightened, but I just
don't let on."

That, he told her, is the highest form of bravery, but Grizel was very,
very tired of being brave, and she insisted impetuously, "I don't want
to be brave, I want to be afraid, like other girls."

"Ay, it's your right, you little woman," he answered, tenderly, and then
again he became mysterious. He kicked off his shoes to show her that he
was wearing socks that did not match. "I just pull on the first that
come to hand," he said recklessly.

"Oh!" cried Grizel.

On his dusty book-shelves he wrote, with his finger, "Not dusted since
the year One."

"Oh! oh!" she cried.

He put his fingers through his gray, untidy hair. "That's the only comb
I have that is at hand when I want it," he went on, regardless of her
agony.

"All the stud-holes in my shirts," he said, "are now so frayed and
large that the studs fall out, and I find them in my socks at night."

Oh! oh! he was killing her, he was, but what cared he? "Look at my
clothes," said the cruel man, "I read when I'm eating, and I spill so
much gravy that--that we boil my waistcoat once a month, and make soup
of it!"

To Grizel this was the most tragic picture ever drawn by man, and he saw
that it was time to desist. "And it's all," he said, looking at her
sadly, "it's all because I am a lonely old bachelor with no womankind to
look after him, no little girl to brighten him when he comes home
dog-tired, no one to care whether his socks are in holes and his comb
behind the wash-stand, no soft hand to soothe his brow when it aches, no
one to work for, no one to love, many a one to close the old bachelor's
eyes when he dies, but none to drop a tear for him, no one to--"

"Oh! oh! oh! That is just like me. Oh! oh!" cried Grizel, and he pulled
her closer to him, saying, "The more reason we should join thegither;
Grizel, if you don't take pity on me, and come and bide with me and be
my little housekeeper, the Lord Almighty only knows what is to become of
the old doctor."

At this she broke away from him, and stood far back pressing her arms to
her sides, and she cried, "It is not out of charity you ask me, is it?"
and then she went a little nearer. "You would not say it if it wasn't
true, would you?"

"No, my dawtie, it's true," he told her, and if he had been pitying
himself a little, there was an end of that now.

She remembered something and cried joyously, "And you knew what was in
my blood before you asked me, so I don't need to tell you, do I? And you
are not afraid that I shall corrupt you, are you? And you don't think it
a pity I didn't die when I was a tiny baby, do you? Some people think
so, I heard them say it."

"What would have become of me?" was all he dared answer in words, but he
drew her to him again, and when she asked if it was true, as she had
heard some woman say, that in some matters men were all alike, and did
what that one man had done to her mamma, he could reply solemnly, "No,
it is not true; it's a lie that has done more harm than any war in any
century."

She sat on his knee, telling him many things that had come recently to
her knowledge but were not so new to him. The fall of woman was the
subject, a strange topic for a girl of thirteen and a man of sixty. They
don't become wicked in a moment, he learned; if they are good to begin
with, it takes quite a long time to make them bad. Her mamma was good to
begin with. "I know she was good, because when she thought she was the
girl she used to be, she looked sweet and said lovely things." The way
the men do is this, they put evil thoughts into the woman's head, and
say them often to her, till she gets accustomed to them, and thinks they
cannot be bad when the man she loves likes them, and it is called
corrupting the mind.

"And then a baby comes to them," Grizel said softly, "and it is called a
child of shame. I am a child of shame."

He made no reply, so she looked up, and his face was very old and sad.
"I am sorry too," she whispered, but still he said nothing, and then she
put her fingers on his eyes to discover if they were wet, and they were
wet. And so Grizel knew that there was someone who loved her at last.

The mirror was the only article of value that Grizel took with her to
her new home; everything else was rouped at the door of Double Dykes;
Tommy, who should have been at his books, acting as auctioneer's clerk
for sixpence. There are houses in Thrums where you may still be told who
got the bed and who the rocking-chair, and how Nether Drumgley's wife
dared him to come home without the spinet; but it is not by the sales
that the roup is best remembered. Curiosity took many persons into
Double Dykes that day, and in the room that had never been furnished
they saw a mournful stack of empty brandy bottles, piled there by the
auctioneer who had found them in every corner, beneath the bed, in
presses, in boxes, whither they had been thrust by Grizel's mamma, as
if to conceal their number from herself. The counting of these bottles
was a labor, but it is not even by them that the roup is remembered.
Among them some sacrilegious hands found a bundle of papers with a sad
blue ribbon round them. They were the Painted Lady's love-letters, the
letters she had written to the man. Why or how they had come back to her
no one knew.

Most of them were given to Grizel, but a dozen or more passed without
her leave into the kists of various people, where often since then they
have been consulted by swains in need of a pretty phrase; and Tommy's
school-fellows, the very boys and girls who hooted the Painted Lady,
were in time--so oddly do things turn out--to be among those whom her
letters taught how to woo. Where the kists did not let in the damp or
careless fingers, the paper long remained clean, the ink but little
faded. Some of the letters were creased, as if they had once been much
folded, perhaps for slipping into secret hiding-places, but none of them
bore any address or a date. "To my beloved," was sometimes written on
the cover, and inside he was darling or beloved again. So no one could
have arranged them in the order in which they were written, though there
was a three-cornered one which said it was the first. There was a violet
in it, clinging to the paper as if they were fond of each other, and
Grizel's mamma had written, "The violet is me, hiding in a corner
because I am so happy." The letters were in many moods, playful,
reflective, sad, despairing, arch, but all were written in an ecstasy of
the purest love, and most of them were cheerful, so that you seemed to
see the sun dancing on the paper while she wrote, the same sun that
afterwards showed up her painted cheeks. Why they came back to her no
one ever discovered, any more than how she who slipped the violet into
that three-cornered one and took it out to kiss again and wrote, "It is
my first love-letter, and I love it so much I am reluctant to let it
go," became in a few years the derision of the Double Dykes. Some of
these letters may be in old kists still, but whether that is so or not,
they alone have passed the Painted Lady's memory from one generation to
another, and they have purified it, so that what she was died with her
vile body, and what she might have been lived on, as if it were her true
self.

James M. Barrie