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Chapter 34

WHO TOLD TOMMY TO SPEAK


"Miss Alison Cray presents her compliments to--and requests the favor of
their company at her marriage with Mr. Ivie McLean, on January 8th, at
six o'clock."

Tommy in his Sabbath clothes, with a rose from the Dovecot hot-house for
buttonhole (which he slipped into his pocket when he saw other boys
approaching), delivered them at the doors of the aristocracy, where, by
the way, he had been a few weeks earlier, with another circular.

"Miss Alison Cray being about to give up school, has pleasure in stating
that she has disposed of the good-will of her establishment to Miss
Jessy Langlands and Miss S. Oram, who will enter upon their scholastic
duties on January 9th, at Hoods Cottage, where she most cordially," and
so on.

Here if the writer dared (but you would be so angry) he would introduce
at the length of a chapter two brand-new characters, the Misses
Langlands and Oram, who suddenly present themselves to him in the most
sympathetic light. Miss Ailie has been safely stowed to port, but their
little boat is only setting sail, and they are such young ones, neither
out of her teens, that he would fain turn for a time from her to them.
Twelve pounds they paid for the good-will, and, oh, the exciting
discussions, oh, the scraping to get the money together! If little Miss
Langlands had not been so bold, big Miss Oram must have drawn back, but
if Miss Oram had not had that idea about a paper partition, of what
avail the boldness of Miss Langlands? How these two trumps of girls
succeeded in hiring the Painted Lady's spinet from Nether Drumgley--in
the absence of his wife, who on her way home from buying a cochin-china
met the spinet in a cart--how the mother of one of them, realizing in a
klink that she was common no more, henceforth wore black caps instead of
mutches (but the father dandered on in the old plebeian way), what the
enterprise meant to a young man in distant Newcastle, whose favorite
name was Jessy, how the news travelled to still more distant Canada,
where a family of emigrants which had left its Sarah behind in Thrums,
could talk of nothing else for weeks--it is hard to have to pass on
without dwelling on these things, and indeed--but pass on we must.

The chief figure at the wedding of Miss Ailie was undoubtedly Mr. T.
Sandys. When one remembers his prominence, it is difficult to think that
the wedding could have taken place without him. It was he (in his
Sabbath clothes again, and now flaunting his buttonhole brazenly) who
in insulting language ordered the rabble to stand back there. It was he
who dashed out to the 'Sosh to get a hundred ha'pennies for the fifty
pennies Mr. McLean had brought to toss into the air. It was he who went
round in the carriage to pick up the guests and whisked them in and out,
and slammed the door, and saw to it that the minister was not kept
waiting, and warned Miss Ailie that if she did not come now they should
begin without her. It was he who stood near her with a handkerchief
ready in his hand lest she took to crying on her new brown silk (Miss
Ailie was married in brown silk after all). As a crown to his audacity,
it was he who told Mr. Dishart, in the middle of a noble passage, to
mind the lamp.

These duties were Dr. McQueen's, the best man, but either demoralized by
the bridegroom, who went all to pieces at the critical moment and was
much more nervous than the bride, or in terror lest Grizel, who had sent
him to the wedding speckless and most beautifully starched, should
suddenly appear at the door and cry, "Oh, oh, take your fingers off your
shirt!" he was through other till the knot was tied, and then it was too
late, for Tommy had made his mark. It was Tommy who led the way to the
school-room, where the feast was ready, it was Tommy who put the guests
in their places (even the banker cringed to him), it was. Tommy who
winked to Mr. Dishart as a sign to say grace. As you will readily
believe, Miss Ailie could not endure the thought of excluding her
pupils from the festivities, and they began to arrive as soon as the
tables had been cleared of all save oranges and tarts and raisins.
Tommy, waving Gavinia aside, showed them in, and one of them, curious to
tell, was Corp, in borrowed blacks, and Tommy shook hands with him and
called him Mr. Shiach, both new experiences to Corp, who knocked over a
table in his anxiety to behave himself, and roared at intervals "Do you
see the little deevil!" and bit his warts and then politely swallowed
the blood.

As if oranges and tarts and raisins were not enough, came the Punch and
Judy show, Tommy's culminating triumph. All the way to Redlintie had Mr.
McLean sent for the Punch and Judy show, and nevertheless there was a
probability of no performance, for Miss Ailie considered the show
immoral. Most anxious was she to give pleasure to her pupils, and this
she knew was the best way, but how could she countenance an
entertainment which was an encouragement to every form of vice and
crime? To send these children to the Misses Langlands and Oram, fresh
from an introduction to the comic view of murder! It could not be done,
now could it? Mr. McLean could make no suggestion. Mr. Dishart thought
it would be advisable to substitute another entertainment; was there not
a game called "The Minister's Cat"? Mrs. Dishart thought they should
have the show and risk the consequences. So also thought Dr. McQueen.
The banker was consulted, but saw no way out of the difficulty, nor did
the lawyer, nor did the Misses Finlayson. Then Tommy appeared on the
scene, and presently retired to find a way.

He found it. The performance took place, and none of the fun was
omitted, yet neither Miss Ailie--tuts, tuts Mrs. McLean--nor Mr. Dishart
could disapprove. Punch did chuck his baby out at the window (roars of
laughter) in his jovial time-honored way, _but_ immediately thereafter
up popped the showman to say, "Ah, my dear boys and girls, let this be a
lesson to you never to destroy your offsprings. Oh, shame on Punch, for
to do the wicked deed; he will be catched in the end and serve him
right." Then when Mr. Punch had wolloped his wife with the stick, amid
thunders of applause, up again bobbed the showman, "Ah, my dear boys and
girls, what a lesson is this we sees, what goings on is this? He have
bashed the head of her as should ha' been the apple of his eye, and he
does not care a--he does not care; but mark my words, his home it will
now be desolate, no more shall she meet him at his door with kindly
smile, he have done for her quite, and now he is a hunted man. Oh, be
warned by his sad igsample, and do not bash the head of your loving
wife." And there was a great deal more of the same, and simple Mrs.
McLean almost wept tears of joy because her favorite's good heart had
suggested these improvements.

Grizel was not at the wedding; she was invited, but could not go
because she was in mourning. But only her parramatty frock was in
mourning, for already she had been the doctor's housekeeper for two full
months, and her father had not appeared to plague her (he never did
appear, it may be told at once), and so how could her face be woeful
when her heart leapt with gladness? Never had prisoner pined for the
fields more than this reticent girl to be frank, and she poured out her
inmost self to the doctor, so that daily he discovered something
beautiful (and exasperating) about womanhood. And it was his love for
her that had changed her. "You do love me, don't you?" she would say,
and his answer might be "I have told you that fifty times already;" to
which she would reply, gleefully, "That is not often, I say it all day
to myself."

Exasperating? Yes, that was the word. Long before summer came, the
doctor knew that he had given himself into the hands of a tyrant. It was
idle his saying that this irregularity and that carelessness were habits
that had become part of him; she only rocked her arms impatiently, and
if he would not stand still to be put to rights, then she would follow
him along the street, brushing him as he walked, a sight that was
witnessed several times while he was in the mutinous stage.

"Talk about masterfulness," he would say, when she whipped off his coat
or made a dart at the mud on his trousers; "you are the most masterful
little besom I ever clapped eyes on."

But as he said it he perhaps crossed his legs, and she immediately
cried, "You have missed two holes in lacing your boots!"

Of a morning he would ask her sarcastically to examine him from top to
toe and see if he would do, and examine him she did, turning him round,
pointing out that he had been sitting "again" on his tails, that oh, oh,
he must have cut that buttonhole with his knife. He became most artful
in hiding deficiencies from her, but her suspicions once roused would
not sleep, and all subterfuge was vain. "Why have you buttoned your coat
up tight to the throat to-day?" she would demand sternly.

"It is such a cold morning," he said.

"That is not the reason," she replied at once (she could see through
broadcloth at a glance), "I believe you have on the old necktie again,
and you promised to buy a new one."

"I always forget about it when I'm out," he said humbly, and next
evening he found on his table a new tie, made by Grizel herself out of
her mamma's rokelay.

It was related by one who had dropped in at the doctor's house
unexpectedly, that he found Grizel making a new shirt, and forcing the
doctor to try on the sleeves while they were still in the pin stage.

She soon knew his every want, and just as he was beginning to want it,
there it was at his elbow. He realized what a study she had made of him
when he heard her talking of his favorite dishes and his favorite seat,
and his way of biting his underlip when in thought, and how hard he was
on his left cuff. It had been one of his boasts that he had no favorite
dishes, etc., but he saw now that he had been a slave to them for years
without knowing it.

She discussed him with other mothers as if he were her little boy, and
he denounced her for it. But all the time she was spoiling him. Formerly
he had got on very well when nothing was in its place. Now he roared
helplessly if he mislaid his razor.

He was determined to make a lady of her, which necessitated her being
sent to school; she preferred hemming, baking and rubbing things till
they shone, and not both could have had their way (which sounds fatal
for the man), had they not arranged a compromise, Grizel, for instance,
to study geography for an hour in the evening with Miss Langlands (go to
school in the daytime she would not) so long as the doctor shaved every
morning, but if no shave no geography; the doctor to wipe his pen on the
blot-sheet instead of on the lining of his coat if she took three
lessons a week from Miss Oram on the spinet. How happy and proud she
was! Her glee was a constant source of wonder to McQueen. Perhaps she
put on airs a little, her walk, said the critical, had become a strut;
but how could she help that when the new joyousness of living was
dancing and singing within her?

Had all her fears for the future rolled away like clouds that leave no
mark behind? The doctor thought so at times, she so seldom spoke of them
to him; he did not see that when they came she hid them from him because
she had discovered that they saddened him. And she had so little time to
brood, being convinced of the sinfulness of sitting still, that if the
clouds came suddenly, they never stayed long save once, and then it was,
mayhap, as well. The thunderclap was caused by Tommy, who brought it on
unintentionally and was almost as much scared by his handiwork as Grizel
herself. She and he had been very friendly of late, partly because they
shared with McQueen the secret of the frustrated elopement, partly
because they both thought that in that curious incident Tommy had
behaved in a most disinterested and splendid way. Grizel had not been
sure of it at first, but it had grown on Tommy, he had so thoroughly
convinced himself of his intention to get into the train with her at
Tilliedrum that her doubts were dispelled--easily dispelled, you say,
but the truth must be told, Grizel was very anxious to be rid of them.
And Tommy's were honest convictions, born full grown of a desire for
happiness to all. Had Elspeth discovered how nearly he had deserted her,
the same sentiment would have made him swear to her with tears that
never should he have gone farther than Tilliedrum, and while he was
persuading her he would have persuaded himself. Then again, when he met
Grizel--well, to get him in doubt it would have been necessary to catch
him on the way between these two girls.

So Tommy and Grizel were friends, and finding that it hurt the doctor to
speak on a certain subject to him, Grizel gave her confidences to Tommy.
She had a fear, which he shared on its being explained to him, that she
might meet a man of the stamp of her father, and grow fond of him before
she knew the kind he was, and as even Tommy could not suggest an
infallible test which would lay them bare at the first glance, he
consented to consult Blinder once more. He found the blind man by his
fire-side, very difficult to coax into words on the important topic, but
Tommy's "You've said ower much no to tell a bit more," seemed to impress
him, and he answered the question,--

"You said a woman should fly frae the like o' Grizel's father though it
should be to the other end of the world, but how is she to ken that he's
that kind?"

"She'll ken," Blinder answered after thinking it over, "if she likes him
and fears him at one breath, and has a sort of secret dread that he's
getting a power ower her that she canna resist."

These words were a flash of light on a neglected corner to Tommy. "Now I
see, now I ken," he exclaimed, amazed; "now I ken what my mother meant!
Blinder, is that no the kind of man that's called masterful?"

"It's what poor women find them and call them to their cost," said
Blinder.

Tommy's excitement was prodigious. "Now I ken, now I see!" he cried,
slapping his leg and stamping up and down the room.

"Sit down!" roared his host.

"I canna," retorted the boy. "Oh, to think o't, to think I came to speir
that question at you, to think her and me has wondered what kind he was,
and I kent a' the time!" Without staying to tell Blinder what he was
blethering about, he hurried off to Grizel, who was waiting for him in
the Den, and to her he poured out his astonishing news.

"I ken all about them, I've kent since afore I came to Thrums, but
though I generally say the prayer, I've forgot to think o' what it
means." In a stampede of words he told her all he could remember of his
mother's story as related to him on a grim night in London so long ago,
and she listened eagerly. And when that was over, he repeated first his
prayer and then Elspeth's, "O God, whatever is to be my fate, may I
never be one of them that bow the knee to masterful man, and if I was
born like that and canna help it, O take me up to heaven afore I'm
fil't." Grizel repeated it after him until she had it by heart, and even
as she said it a strange thing happened, for she began to draw back
from Tommy, with a look of terror on her face.

"What makes you look at me like that?" he cried.

"I believe--I think--you are masterful," she gasped.

"Me!" he retorted indignantly.

"Now," she went on, waving him back, "now I know why I would not give in
to you when you wanted me to be Stroke's wife. I was afraid you were
masterful!"

"Was that it?" cried Tommy.

"Now," she proceeded, too excited to heed his interruptions, "now I know
why I would not kiss your hand, now I know why I would not say I liked
you. I was afraid of you, I--"

"Were you?" His eyes began to sparkle, and something very like rapture
was pushing the indignation from his face. "Oh, Grizel, have I a power
ower you?"

"No, you have not," she cried passionately. "I was just frightened that
you might have. Oh, oh, I know you now!"

"To think o't, to think o't!" he crowed, wagging his head, and then she
clenched her fist, crying, "Oh, you wicked, you should cry with shame!"

But he had his answer ready, "It canna be my wite, for I never kent o't
till you telled me. Grizel, it has just come about without either of us
kenning!"

She shuddered at this, and then seized him by the shoulders. "It has
not come about at all," she said, "I was only frightened that it might
come, and now it can't come, for I won't let it."

"But can you help yoursel'?"

"Yes, I can. I shall never be friends with you again."

She had such a capacity for keeping her word that this alarmed him, and
he did his best to extinguish his lights. "I'm no masterful, Grizel," he
said, "and I dinna want to be, it was just for a minute that I liked the
thought." She shook her head, but his next words had more effect. "If I
had been that kind, would I have teached you Elspeth's prayer?"

"N-no, I don't think so," she said slowly, and perhaps he would have
succeeded in soothing her, had not a sudden thought brought back the
terror to her face.

"What is 't now?" he asked.

"Oh, oh, oh!" she cried, "and I nearly went away with you!" and without
another word she fled from the Den. She never told the doctor of this
incident, and in time it became a mere shadow in the background, so that
she was again his happy housekeeper, but that was because she had found
strength to break with Tommy. She was only an eager little girl,
pathetically ignorant about what she wanted most to understand, but she
saw how an instinct had been fighting for her, and now it should not
have to fight alone. How careful she became! All Tommy's wiles were
vain, she would scarcely answer if he spoke to her; if he had ever
possessed a power over her it was gone, Elspeth's prayer had saved her.

Jean Myles had told Tommy to teach that prayer to Elspeth; but who had
told him to repeat it to Grizel?

James M. Barrie