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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Lost Illusions
By J. M. Barrie (1860–1937)
From ‘Sentimental Tommy’: Scribner’s Magazine

TO-MORROW came, and with it two eager little figures rose and gulped their porridge, and set off to see Thrums. They were dressed in the black clothes Aaron Latta had bought for them in London, and they had agreed just to walk, but when they reached the door and saw the tree-tops of the Den they—they ran. Would you not like to hold them back? It is a child’s tragedy.  1
  They went first into the Den, and the rocks were dripping wet, all the trees save the firs were bare, and the mud round a tiny spring pulled off one of Elspeth’s boots.  2
  “Tommy,” she cried, quaking, “that narsty puddle can’t not be the Cuttle Well, can it?”  3
  “No, it ain’t,” said Tommy, quickly, but he feared it was.  4
  “It’s c-c-colder here than London,” Elspeth said, shivering, and Tommy was shivering too, but he answered, “I’m—I’m—I’m warm.”  5
  The Den was strangely small, and soon they were on a shabby brae, where women in short gowns came to their doors and men in night-caps sat down on the shafts of their barrows to look at Jean Myles’s bairns.  6
  “What does yer think?” Elspeth whispered, very doubtfully.  7
  “They’re beauties,” Tommy answered, determinedly.  8
  Presently Elspeth cried, “Oh, Tommy, what a ugly stair! Where is the beauty stairs as it wore outside for show?”  9
  This was one of them, and Tommy knew it. “Wait till you see the west town end,” he said, bravely: “it’s grand.” But when they were in the west town end, and he had to admit it, “Wait till you see the square,” he said, and when they were in the square, “Wait,” he said, huskily, “till you see the town-house.” Alas, this was the town-house facing them, and when they knew it, he said, hurriedly, “Wait till you see the Auld Licht kirk.”  10
  They stood long in front of the Auld Licht kirk, which he had sworn was bigger and lovelier than St. Paul’s, but—well, it is a different style of architecture, and had Elspeth not been there with tears in waiting, Tommy would have blubbered. “It’s—it’s littler than I thought,” he said, desperately, “but—the minister, oh, what a wonderful big man he is!”  11
  “Are you sure?” Elspeth squeaked.  12
  “I swear he is.”  13
  The church door opened and a gentleman came out, a little man, boyish in the back, with the eager face of those who live too quickly. But it was not at him that Tommy pointed reassuringly; it was at the monster church key, half of which protruded from his tail pocket and waggled as he moved, like the hilt of a sword.  14
  Speaking like an old residenter, Tommy explained that he had brought his sister to see the church. “She’s ta’en aback,” he said, picking out Scotch words carefully, “because it’s littler than the London kirks, but I telled her—I telled her that the preaching is better.”  15
  This seemed to please the stranger, for he patted Tommy on the head while inquiring, “How do you know that the preaching is better?”  16
  “Tell him, Elspeth,” replied Tommy, modestly.  17
  “There ain’t nuthin’ as Tommy don’t know,” Elspeth explained. “He knows what the minister is like, too.”  18
  “He’s a noble sight,” said Tommy.  19
  “He can get anything from God he likes,” said Elspeth.  20
  “He’s a terrible big man,” said Tommy.  21
  This seemed to please the little gentleman less. “Big!” he exclaimed, irritably; “why should he be big?”  22
  “He is big,” Elspeth almost screamed, for the minister was her last hope.  23
  “Nonsense!” said the little gentleman. “He is—well, I am the minister.”  24
  “You!” roared Tommy, wrathfully.  25
  “Oh, oh, oh!” sobbed Elspeth.  26
  For a moment the Rev. Mr. Dishart looked as if he would like to knock two little heads together, but he walked away without doing it.  27
  “Never mind,” whispered Tommy hoarsely to Elspeth. “Never mind, Elspeth, you have me yet.”  28
  This consolation seldom failed to gladden her, but her disappointment was so sharp to-day that she would not even look up.  29
  “Come away to the cemetery, it’s grand,” he said; but still she would not be comforted.  30
  “And I’ll let you hold my hand—as soon as we’re past the houses,” he added.  31
  “I’ll let you hold it now,” he said, eventually; but even then Elspeth cried dismally, and her sobs were hurting him more than her.  32
  He knew all the ways of getting round Elspeth, and when next he spoke it was with a sorrowful dignity. “I didna think,” he said, “as yer wanted me never to be able to speak again; no, I didna think it, Elspeth.”  33
  She took her hands from her face and looked at him inquiringly.  34
  “One of the stories mamma telled me and Reddy,” he said, “were a man what saw such a beauty thing that he was struck dumb with admiration. Struck dumb is never to be able to speak again, and I wish I had been struck dumb when you wanted it.”  35
  “But I didn’t want it!” Elspeth cried.  36
  “If Thrums had been one little bit beautier than it is,” he went on, solemnly, “it would have struck me dumb. It would have hurt me sore, but what about that, if it pleased you!”  37
  Then did Elspeth see what a wicked girl she had been, and when next the two were seen by the curious (it was on the cemetery road), they were once more looking cheerful. At the smallest provocation they exchanged notes of admiration, such as, “O Tommy, what a bonny barrel!” or “O Elspeth, I tell yer that’s a dike, and there’s just walls in London;” but sometimes Elspeth would stoop hastily, pretending that she wanted to tie her boot-lace, but really to brush away a tear, and there were moments when Tommy hung very limp. Each was trying to deceive the other for the other’s sake, and one of them was never good at deception. They saw through each other, yet kept up the chilly game, because they could think of nothing better; and perhaps the game was worth playing, for love invented it.  38

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