And I do think it. I believe that Elspeth, despite her timidity and her dependence on you, is like other girls at heart, and not more difficult to win.
"And even if it all comes to nothing," she told him, a little faintly, "I shall not be unhappy. You don't really know me if you think I should love to be married so--so much as all that."
"It is you, Grizel," he replied, "who don't see that it is myself I am pitying. It is I who want to be married as much as all that."
Her eyes shone with a soft light, for of course it was what she wanted him to say. These two seemed to have changed places. That people could love each other, and there the end, had been his fond philosophy and her torment. Now, it was she who argued for it and Tommy who shook his head.
"They can be very, very happy."
"No," he said.
"But one of them is."
"Not the other," he insisted; and of course it was again what she wanted him to say.
And he was not always despairing. He tried hard to find a way of bringing David to Elspeth's feet, and once, at least, the apparently reluctant suitor almost succumbed. Tommy had met him near Aaron's house, and invited him to come in and hear Elspeth singing. "I did not know she sang," David said, hesitating.
"She is so shy about it," Tommy replied lightly, "that we can hear her by stealth only. Aaron and I listen at the door. Come and listen at the door."
And David had yielded and listened at the door, and afterwards gone in and remained like one who could not tear himself away. What was more, he and Elspeth had touched upon the subject of love in their conversation, Tommy sitting at the window so engrossed in a letter to Pym that he seemed to hear nothing, though he could repeat everything afterwards to Grizel.
Elspeth had said, in her shrinking way, that if she were a man she could love only a woman who was strong and courageous and helpful--such a woman as Grizel, she had said.
"And yet," David replied, "women have been loved who had none of those qualities."
"In spite of the want of them?" Elspeth asked.
"Perhaps because of it," said he.
"They are noble qualities," Elspeth maintained a little sadly, and he assented. "And one of them, at least, is essential," she said. "A woman has no right to be loved who is not helpful."
"She is helpful to the man who loves her," David replied.
"He would have to do for her," Elspeth said, "the very things she should be doing for him."
"He may want very much to do them," said David.
"Then it is her weakness that appeals to him. Is not that loving her for the wrong thing?"
"It may be the right thing," David insisted, "for him."
"And at that point," Tommy said, boyishly, to Grizel, "I ceased to hear them, I was so elated; I felt that everything was coming right. I could not give another thought to their future, I was so busy mapping out my own. I heard a hammering. Do you know what it was? It was our house going up--your house and mine; our home, Grizel! It was not here, nor in London. It was near the Thames. I wanted it to be upon the bank, but you said No, you were afraid of floods. I wanted to superintend the building, but you conducted me contemptuously to my desk. You intimated that I did not know how to build--that no one knew except yourself. You instructed the architect, and bullied the workmen, and cried for more store-closets. Grizel, I saw the house go up; I saw you the adoration and terror of your servants; I heard you singing from room to room."
He was touched by this; all beautiful thoughts touched him.
But as a rule, though Tommy tried to be brave for her sake, it was usually she who was the comforter now, and he the comforted, and this was the arrangement that suited Grizel best. Her one thought need no longer be that she loved him too much, but how much he loved her. It was not her self-respect that must be humoured back, but his. If hers lagged, what did it matter? What are her own troubles to a woman when there is something to do for the man she loves?
"You are too anxious about the future," she said to him, if he had grown gloomy again.