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Lady Anna
by Anthony Trollope
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But if the opinion of the Solicitor-General had not prevailed with her, it prevailed still less when it reached her brother second-hand. She had been shaken, but Mr. Lovel at first was not shaken at all. Sir William was a Whig and a traitor. He had never known a Whig who was not a traitor. Sir William was throwing them over. The Murray people, who were all Whigs, had got hold of him. He, Mr. Lovel, would go at once to Mr. Hardy, and tell Mr. Hardy what he thought. The case should be immediately taken out of the hands of Messrs. Norton and Flick. Did not all the world know that these impostors were impostors? Sir William should be exposed and degraded,—though, in regard to this threatened degradation, Mr. Lovel was almost of opinion that his party would like their Solicitor-General better for having shown himself to be a traitor, and therefore proved himself to be a good Whig. He stormed and flew about the room, using language which hardly became his cloth. If his nephew married the girl, he would never own his nephew again. If that swindle was to prevail, let his nephew be poor and honest. He would give half of all he had towards supporting the peerage, and was sure that his boys would thank him for what he had done. But they should never call that woman cousin; and as for himself, might his tongue be blistered if ever he spoke of either of those women as Countess Lovel. He was inclined to think that the whole case should immediately be taken out of the hands of Norton and Flick, without further notice, and another solicitor employed. But at last he consented to call on Mr. Norton on the following morning.

Mr. Norton was a heavy, honest old man, who attended to simple conveyancing, and sat amidst the tin boxes of his broad-acred clients. He had no alternative but to send for Mr. Flick, and Mr. Flick came. When Mr. Lovel showed his anger, Mr. Flick became somewhat indignant. Mr. Flick knew how to assert himself, and Mr. Lovel was not quite the same man in the lawyer's chambers that he had been in his own parlour at the hotel. Mr. Flick was of opinion that no better counsel was to be had in England than the Solicitor-General, and no opinion more worthy of trust than his. If the Earl chose to put his case into other hands, of course he could do so, but it would behove his lordship to be very careful lest he should prejudice most important interests by showing his own weakness to his opponents. Mr. Flick spoke in the interests of his client,—so he said,—and not in his own. Mr. Flick was clearly of opinion that a compromise should be arranged; and having given that opinion, could say nothing more on the present occasion. On the next day the young Earl saw Mr. Flick, and also saw Sir William, and was then told by his aunt of the proposition which had been made. The parson retired to Yoxham, and Miss Lovel remained in London with her nephew. By the end of the week Miss Lovel was brought round to think that some compromise was expedient. All this took place in May. The cause had been fixed for trial in the following November, the long interval having been allowed because of the difficulty expected in producing the evidence necessary for rebutting the claims of the late Earl's daughter.

By the middle of June all the Lovels were again in London,—the parson, his sister, the parson's wife, and the Earl. "I never saw the young woman in my life," said the Earl to his aunt.

"As for that," said his aunt, "no doubt you could see her if you thought it wise to do so."

"I suppose she might be asked to the rectory?" said Mrs. Lovel.

"That would be giving up altogether," said the rector.

"Sir William said that it would not be against us at all," said Aunt Julia.

"You would have to call her Lady Anna," said Mrs. Lovel.

"I couldn't do it," said the rector. "It would be much better to give her half."

"But why should she take the half if the whole belongs to her?" said the young lord. "And why should I ask even for the half if nothing belongs to me?" At this time the young lord had become almost despondent as to his alleged rights, and now and again had made everybody belonging to him miserable by talking of withdrawing from his claim. He had come to understand that Sir William believed that the daughter was the real heir, and he thought that Sir William must know better than others. He was down-hearted and low in spirits, but not the less determined to be just in all that he did.

"I have made inquiry," said Aunt Julia, "and I do believe that the stories which we heard against the girl were untrue."

"The tailor and his son have been their most intimate friends," said Mr. Lovel.

"Because they had none others," said Mrs. Lovel.

It had been settled that by the 24th of June the lord was to say whether he would or would not take Sir William's advice. If he would do so, Sir William was to suggest what step should next be taken as to making the necessary overtures to the two ladies. If he would not, then Sir William was to advise how best the case might be carried on. They were all again at Yoxham that day, and the necessary communication was to be made to Mr. Flick by post. The young man had been alone the whole morning thinking of his condition, and undoubtedly the desire for the money had grown on him strongly. Why should it not have done so? Is there a nobleman in Great Britain who can say that he could lose the fortune which he possesses or the fortune which he expects without an agony that would almost break his heart? Young Lord Lovel sighed for the wealth without which his title would only be to him a terrible burden, and yet he was resolved that he would take no part in anything that was unjust. This girl, he heard, was beautiful and soft and pleasant, and now they told him that the evil things which had been reported against her had been slanders. He was assured that she was neither coarse, nor vulgar, nor unmaidenly. Two or three old men, of equal rank with his own,—men who had been his father's friends and were allied to the Lovels, and had been taken into confidence by Sir William,—told him that the proper way out of the difficulty had been suggested to him. There could be nothing, they said, more fitting than that two cousins so situated should marry. With such an acknowledgment of her rank and birth everybody would visit his wife. There was not a countess or a duchess in London who would not be willing to take her by the hand. His two aunts had gradually given way, and it was clear to him that his uncle would give way,—even his uncle,—if he would but yield himself. It was explained to him that if the girl came to Yoxham, with the privilege of being called Lady Anna by the inhabitants of the rectory, she would of course do so on the understanding that she should accept her cousin's hand. "But she might not like me," said the young Earl to his aunt.

"Not like you!" said Mrs. Lovel, putting her hand up to his brow and pushing away his hair. Was it possible that any girl should not like such a man as that, and he an earl?

"And if I did not like her, Aunt Lovel?"

"Then I would not ask her to be my wife." He thought that there was an injustice in this, and yet before the day was over he had assented.

"I do not think that I can call her Lady Anna," said the rector. "I don't think I can bring my tongue to do it."



CHAPTER VII.

THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL PERSEVERES.

There was considerable difficulty in making the overture to the two ladies,—or rather in making it to the elder lady; for the suggestion, if made to the daughter, must of course come to her from her mother. It had been decided at last that the Lady Anna could not be invited to the rectory till it had been positively settled that she should be the Lady Anna without further opposition; and that all opposition to the claim should be withdrawn, at any rate till it was found that the young people were not inclined to be engaged to each other. "How can I call her Lady Anna before I have made up my mind to think that she is Lady Anna?" said the parson, almost in tears. As to the rest of the family, it may be said that they had come silently to think that the Countess was the Countess and that the Lady Anna was the Lady Anna;—silently in reference to each other, for not one of them except the young lord had positively owned to such a conviction. Sir William Patterson had been too strong for them. It was true that he was a Whig. It was possible that he was a traitor. But he was a man of might, and his opinion had domineered over theirs. To make things as straight as they could be made it would be well that the young people should be married. What would be the Earldom of Lovel without the wealth which the old mad Earl had amassed?

Sir William and Mr. Flick were strongly in favour of the marriage, and Mr. Hardy at last assented. The worst of it was that something of all this doubt on the part of the Earl and his friends was sure to reach the opposite party. "They are shaking in their shoes," Serjeant Bluestone said to his junior counsel, Mr. Mainsail. "I do believe they are not going to fight at all," he said to Mr. Goffe, the attorney for the Countess. Mr. Mainsail rubbed his hands. Mr. Goffe shook his head. Mr. Goffe was sure that they would fight. Mr. Mainsail, who had worked like a horse in getting up and arranging all the evidence on behalf of the Countess, and in sifting, as best he might, the Italian documents, was delighted. All this Sir William feared, and he felt that it was quite possible that the Earl's overture might be rejected because the Earl would not be thought to be worth having. "We must count upon his coronet," said Sir William to Mr. Flick. "She could not do better even if the property were undoubtedly her own."

But how was the first suggestion to be made? Mr. Hardy was anxious that everything should be straightforward,—and Sir William assented, with a certain inward peevishness at Mr. Hardy's stiff-necked propriety. Sir William was anxious to settle the thing comfortably for all parties. Mr. Hardy was determined not only that right should be done, but also that it should be done in a righteous manner. The great question now was whether they could approach the widow and her daughter otherwise than through Serjeant Bluestone. "The Serjeant is such a blunderbuss," said the Solicitor-General. But the Serjeant was counsel for these ladies, and it was at last settled that there should be a general conference at Sir William's chambers. A very short note was written by Mr. Flick to Mr. Goffe, stating that the Solicitor-General thought that a meeting might be for the advantage of all parties;—and the meeting was arranged. There were present the two barristers and the one attorney for each side, and many an anxious thought was given to the manner in which the meeting should be conducted. Serjeant Bluestone was fully resolved that he would hold his own against the Solicitor-General, and would speak his mind freely. Mr. Mainsail got up little telling questions. Mr. Goffe and Mr. Flick both felt that it would behove them to hold their peace, unless questioned, but were equally determined to hang fast by their clients. Mr. Hardy in his heart of hearts thought that his learned friend was about to fling away his case. Sir William had quite made up his mind as to his line of action. He seated them all most courteously, giving them place according to their rank,—a great arm-chair for Serjeant Bluestone, from which the Serjeant would hardly be able to use his arms with his accustomed energy,—and then he began at once. "Gentlemen," said he, "it would be a great pity that this property should be wasted."

"No fear of that, Mr. Solicitor," said the Serjeant.

"It would be a great pity that this property should be wasted," repeated Sir William, bowing to the Serjeant, "and I am disposed to think that the best thing the two young people can do is to marry each other." Then he paused, and the three gentlemen opposite sat erect, the barristers as speechless as the attorneys. But the Solicitor-General had nothing to add. He had made his proposition, and was desirous of seeing what effect it might have before he spoke another word.

"Then you acknowledge the Countess's marriage, of course," said the Serjeant.

"Pardon me, Serjeant, we acknowledge nothing. As a matter of course she is the Countess till it be proved that another wife was living when she was married."

"Quite as a matter of course," said the Serjeant.

"Quite as a matter of course, if that will make the case stronger," continued Sir William. "Her marriage was formal and regular. That she believed her marriage to be a righteous marriage before God, I have never doubted. God forbid that I should have a harsh thought against a poor lady who has suffered so much cruel treatment."

"Why have things been said then?" asked the Serjeant, beginning to throw about his left arm.

"If I am not mistaken," said Mr. Mainsail, "evidence has been prepared to show that the Countess is a party to a contemplated fraud."

"Then you are mistaken, Mr. Mainsail," said Sir William. "I admit at once and clearly that the lady is not suspected of any fraud. Whether she be actually the Countess Lovel or not it may,—I fear it must,—take years to prove, if the law be allowed to take its course."

"We think that we can dispose of any counter-claim in much less time than that," said the Serjeant.

"It may be so. I myself think that it would not be so. Our evidence in favour of the lady, who is now living some two leagues out of Palermo, is very strong. She is a poor creature, old, ignorant,—fairly well off through the bounty of the late Earl, but always craving for some trifle more,—unwilling to come to this country,—childless, and altogether indifferent to the second marriage, except in so far as might interfere with her hopes of getting some further subsidy from the Lovel family. One is not very anxious on her behalf. One is only anxious,—can only be anxious,—that the vast property at stake should not get into improper hands."

"And that justice should be done," said Mr. Hardy.

"And that justice should be done of course, as my friend observes. Here is a young man who is undoubtedly Earl of Lovel, and who claims a property as heir to the late Earl. And here is a young lady, I am told very beautiful and highly educated, who is the daughter of the late Earl, and who claims that property believing herself to be his legitimate heiress. The question between them is most intricate."

"The onus probandi lies with you, Mr. Solicitor," said the Serjeant.

"We acknowledge that it does, but the case on that account is none the less intricate. With the view of avoiding litigation and expense, and in the certainty that by such an arrangement the enjoyment of the property will fall to the right owner, we propose that steps shall be taken to bring these two young people together. The lady, whom for the occasion I am quite willing to call the Countess, the mother of the lady whom I hope the young Earl will make his own Countess, has not been sounded on this subject."

"I should hope not," said the Serjeant.

"My excellent friend takes me up a little short," said Sir William, laughing. "You gentlemen will probably consult together on the subject, and whatever may be the advice which you shall consider it to be your duty to give to the mother,—and I am sure that you will feel bound to let her know the proposition that has been made; I do not hesitate to say that we have a right to expect that it shall be made known to her,—I need hardly remark that were the young lady to accept the young lord's hand we should all be in a boat together in reference to the mother's rank, and to the widow's claim upon the personal property left behind him by her late husband."

And so the Solicitor-General had made his proposition, and the conference was broken up with a promise that Mr. Flick should hear from Mr. Goffe upon the subject. But the Serjeant had at once made up his mind against the compromise now proposed. He desired the danger and the dust and the glory of the battle. He was true to his clients' interests, no doubt,—intended to be intensely true; but the personal, doggish love of fighting prevailed in the man, and he was clear as to the necessity of going on. "They know they are beat," he said to Mr. Goffe. "Mr. Solicitor knows as well as I do that he has not an inch of ground under his feet." Therefore Mr. Goffe wrote the following letter to Messrs. Norton and Flick:—

Raymond's Buildings, Gray's Inn, 1st July, 183—.

DEAR SIRS,

In reference to the interview which took place at the chambers of the Solicitor-General on the 27th ult., we are to inform you that we are not disposed, as acting for our clients, the Countess of Lovel and her daughter the Lady Anna Lovel, to listen to the proposition then made. Apart from the very strong feeling we entertain as to the certainty of our client's success,—which certainly was not weakened by what we heard on that occasion,—we are of opinion that we could not interfere with propriety in suggesting the marriage of two young persons who have not as yet had any opportunity of becoming acquainted with each other. Should the Earl of Lovel seek the hand of his cousin, the Lady Anna Lovel, and marry her with the consent of the Countess, we should be delighted at such a family arrangement; but we do not think that we, as lawyers,—or, if we may be allowed to say so, that you as lawyers,—have anything to do with such a matter.

We are, dear Sirs, Yours very faithfully,

GOFFE AND GOFFE.

Messrs. Norton and Flick.

"Balderdash!" said Sir William, when he had read the letter. "We are not going to be done in that way. It was all very well going to that Serjeant as he has the case in hand, though a worse messenger in an affair of love—"

"Not love, as yet, Mr. Solicitor," said Mr. Flick.

"I mean it to be love, and I'm not going to be put off by Serjeant Bluestone. We must get to the lady by some other means. Do you write to that tailor down at Keswick, and say that you want to see him."

"Will that be regular, Sir William?"

"I'll stand the racket, Mr. Flick." Mr. Flick did write to Thomas Thwaite, and Thomas Thwaite came up to London and called at Mr. Flick's chambers.

When Thomas Thwaite received his commission he was much rejoiced. Injustice would be done him unless so much were owned on his behalf. But, nevertheless, some feeling of disappointment which he could not analyze crept across his heart. If once the girl were married to Earl Lovel there would be an end of his services and of his son's. He had never really entertained an idea that his son would marry the girl. As the reader will perhaps remember, he had warned his son that he must seek a sweetheart elsewhere. He had told himself over and over again that when the Countess came to her own there must be an end of this intimacy,—that there could be nothing in common between him, the radical tailor of Keswick, and a really established Countess. The Countess, while not yet really established, had already begged that his son might be instructed not to call her daughter simply by her Christian name. Old Thwaite on receiving this intimation of the difference of their positions, though he had acknowledged its truth, had felt himself bitterly aggrieved, and now the moment had come. Of course the Countess would grasp at such an offer. Of course it would give her all that she had desired, and much more than she expected. In adjusting his feelings on the occasion the tailor thought but little of the girl herself. Why should she not be satisfied? Of the young Earl he had only heard that he was a handsome, modest, gallant lad, who only wanted a fortune to make him one of the most popular of the golden youth of England. Why should not the girl rejoice at the prospect of winning such a husband? To have a husband must necessarily be in her heart, whether she were the Lady Anna Lovel, or plain Anna Murray. And what espousals could be so auspicious as these? Feeling all this, without much of calculation, the tailor said that he would do as he was bidden. "We have sent for you because we know that you have been so old a friend," said Mr. Flick, who did not quite approve of the emissary whom he had been instructed by Sir William to employ.

"I will do my best, sir," said Mr. Thwaite, making his bow. Thomas Thwaite, as he went along the streets alone, determined that he would perform this new duty imposed upon him without any reference to his son.



CHAPTER VIII.

IMPOSSIBLE!

"They sent for me, Lady Lovel, to bid me come to your ladyship and ask your ladyship whether you would consent to a marriage between the two young people." It was thus that the tailor repeated for the second time the message which had been confided to him, showing the gall and also the pride which were at work about his heart by the repeated titles which he gave to his old friend.

"They desire that Anna should marry the young lord!"

"Yes, my lady. That's the meaning of it."

"And what am I to be?"

"Just the Countess Lovel,—with a third of the property as your own. I suppose it would be a third; but you might trust the lawyers to settle that properly. When once they take your daughter among them they won't scrimp you in your honours. They'll all swear that the marriage was good enough then. They know that already, and have made this offer because they know it. Your ladyship needn't fear now but what all the world will own you as the Countess Lovel. I don't suppose I'll be troubled to come up to London any more."

"Oh, my friend!" The ejaculation she made feeling the necessity of saying something to soothe the tailor's pride; but her heart was fixed upon the fruition of that for which she had spent so many years in struggling. Was it to come to her at last? Could it be that now, now at once, people throughout the world would call her the Countess Lovel, and would own her daughter to be the Lady Anna,—till she also should become a countess? Of the young man she had heard nothing but good, and it was impossible that she should have fear in that direction, even had she been timorous by nature. But she was bold and eager, hopeful in spite of all that she had suffered, full of ambition, and not prone to feminine scruples. She had been fighting all her life in order that she and her daughter might be acknowledged to be among the aristocrats of her country. She was so far a loving, devoted mother that in all her battles she thought more of her child than of herself. She would have consented to carry on the battle in poverty to the last gasp of her own breath, could she thereby have insured success for her surviving daughter. But she was not a woman likely to be dismayed at the idea of giving her girl in marriage to an absolute stranger, when that stranger was such a one as the young Earl Lovel. She herself had been a countess, but a wretched, unacknowledged, poverty-stricken countess, for the last half of her eventful life. This marriage would make her daughter a countess, prosperous, accepted by all, and very wealthy. What better end could there be to her long struggles? Of course she would assent.

"I don't know why they should have troubled themselves to send for me," said the tailor.

"Because you are the best friend that I have in the world. Whom else could I have trusted as I do you? Has the Earl agreed to it?"

"They didn't tell me that, my lady."

"They would hardly have sent, unless he had agreed. Don't you think so, Mr. Thwaite?"

"I don't know much about such things, my lady."

"You have told—Daniel?"

"No, my lady."

"Oh, Mr. Thwaite, do not talk to me in that way. It sounds as though you were deserting me."

"There'll be no reason for not deserting now. You'll have friends by the score more fit to see you through this than old Thomas Thwaite. And, to own the truth, now that the matter is coming to an end, I am getting weary of it. I'm not so young as I was, and I'd be better left at home to my business."

"I hope that you may disregard your business now without imprudence, Mr. Thwaite."

"No, my lady;—a man should always stick to his business. I hope that Daniel will do so better than his father before him,—so that his son may never have to go out to be servant to another man."

"You are speaking daggers to me."

"I have not meant it then. I am rough by nature, I know, and perhaps a little low just at present. There is something sad in the parting of old friends."

"Old friends needn't be parted, Mr. Thwaite."

"When your ladyship was good enough to point out to me my boy's improper manner of speech to Lady Anna, I knew how it must be. You were quite right, my lady. There can be no becoming friendship between the future Lady Lovel and a journeyman tailor. I was wrong from the beginning."

"Oh, Mr. Thwaite! without such wrong where should we have been?"

"There can be no holding ground of friendship between such as you and such as we. Lords and ladies, earls and countesses, are our enemies, and we are theirs. We may make their robes and take their money, and deal with them as the Jew dealt with the Christians in the play; but we cannot eat with them or drink with them."

"How often have I eaten and drank at your table, when no other table was spread for me?"

"You were a Jew almost as ourselves then. We cannot now well stand shoulder to shoulder and arm to arm as friends should do."

"How often has my child lain in your arms when she was a baby, and been quieter there than she would be even in her mother's?"

"That has all gone by. Other arms will be open to receive her." As the tailor said this he remembered how his boy used to take the little child out to the mountain side, and how the two would ramble away together through the long summer evenings; and he reflected that the memory of those days was no doubt still strong in the heart of his son. Some shadow of the grief which would surely fall upon the young man now fell upon the father, and caused him almost to repent of the work of his life. "Tailors should consort with tailors," he said, "and lords and ladies should consort together."

Something of the same feeling struck the Countess also. If it were not for the son, the father, after all that he had done for them, might be almost as near and as dear to them as ever. He might have called the Lady Anna by her Christian name, at any rate till she had been carried away as a bride by the Earl. But, though all this was so exquisitely painful, it had been absolutely necessary to check the son. "Ah, well," she said; "it is hardly to be hoped that so many crooked things should be made straight without much pain. If you knew, Mr. Thwaite, how little it is that I expect for myself!"

"It is because I have known it that I am here."

"It will be well for her,—will it not,—to be the wife of her cousin?"

"If he be a good man. A woman will not always make herself happy by marrying an Earl."

"How many daggers you can use, Mr. Thwaite! But this young man is good. You yourself have said that you have heard so."

"I have heard nothing to the contrary, my lady."

"And what shall I do?"

"Just explain it all to Lady Anna. I think it will be clear then."

"You believe that she will be so easily pleased?"

"Why should she not be pleased? She'll have some maiden scruples, doubtless. What maid would not? But she'll exult at such an end to all her troubles;—and what maid would not? Let them meet as soon as may be and have it over. When he shall have placed the ring on her finger, your battle will have been won."

Then the tailor felt that his commission was done and he might take his leave. It had been arranged that in the event of the Countess consenting to the proposed marriage, he should call upon Mr. Flick to explain that it was so. Had she dissented, a short note would have been sufficient. Had such been the case, the Solicitor-General would have instigated the young lord to go and try what he himself could do with the Countess and her daughter. The tailor had suggested to the mother that she should at once make the proposition known to Lady Anna, but the Countess felt that one other word was necessary as her old friend left her. "Will you go back at once to Keswick, Mr. Thwaite?"

"To-morrow morning, my lady."

"Perhaps you will not tell your son of this,—yet?"

"No, my lady. I will not tell my son of this,—yet. My son is high-minded and stiff-necked, and of great heart. If he saw aught to object to in this marriage, it might be that he would express himself loudly." Then the tailor took his leave without even shaking hands with the Countess.

The woman sat alone for the next two hours, thinking of what had passed. There had sprung up in these days a sort of friendship between Mrs. Bluestone and the two Miss Bluestones and the Lady Anna, arising rather from the forlorn condition of the young lady than from any positive choice of affection. Mrs. Bluestone was kind and motherly. The girls were girlish and good. The father was the Jupiter Tonans of the household,—as was of course proper,—and was worshipped in everything. To the world at large Serjeant Bluestone was a thundering, blundering, sanguine, energetic lawyer, whom nobody disliked very much though he was so big and noisy. But at home Serjeant Bluestone was all the judges of the land rolled into one. But he was a kind-hearted man, and he had sent his wife and girls to call upon the disconsolate Countess. The disconsolate Lady Anna having no other friends, had found the companionship of the Bluestone girls to be pleasant to her, and she was now with them at the Serjeant's house in Bedford Square. Mrs. Bluestone talked of the wrongs and coming rights of the Countess Lovel wherever she went, and the Bluestone girls had all the case at their fingers' ends. To doubt that the Serjeant would succeed, or to doubt that the success of the Countess and her daughter would have had any other source than the Serjeant's eloquence and the Serjeant's zeal, would have been heresy in Bedford Square. The grand idea that young Jack Bluestone, who was up at Brasenose, should marry the Lady Anna, had occurred only to the mother.

Lady Anna was away with her friends as the Countess sat brooding over the new hopes that had been opened to her. At first, she could not tear her mind away from the position which she herself would occupy as soon as her daughter should have been married and taken away from her. The young Earl would not want his mother-in-law,—a mother-in-law who had spent the best years of her life in the society of a tailor. And the daughter, who would still be young enough to begin a new life in a new sphere, would no longer want her mother to help her. As regarded herself, the Countess was aware that the life she had led so long, and the condition of agonizing struggling to which she had been brought, had unfitted her for smiling, happy, prosperous, aristocratic luxury. There was but one joy left for her, and that was to be the joy of success. When that cup should have been drained, there would be nothing left to her. She would have her rank, of course,—and money enough to support it. She no longer feared that any one would do her material injury. Her daughter's husband no doubt would see that she had a fitting home, with all the appanages and paraphernalia suited to a dowager Countess. But who would share her home with her, and where should she find her friends? Even now the two Miss Bluestones were more to her daughter than she was. When she should be established in her new luxurious home, with servants calling her my lady, with none to contradict her right, she would no longer be enabled to sit late into the night discussing matters with her friend the tailor. As regarded herself, it would have been better for her, perhaps, if the fight had been carried on.

But the fight had been, not for herself, but for her child; and the victory for her girl would have been won by her own perseverance. Her whole life had been devoted to establishing the rights of her daughter, and it should be so devoted to the end. It had been her great resolve that the world should acknowledge the rank of her girl, and now it would be acknowledged. Not only would she become the Countess Lovel by marriage, but the name which had been assumed for her amidst the ridicule of many, and in opposition to the belief of nearly all, would be proved to have been her just and proper title. And then, at last, it would be known by all men that she herself, the ill-used, suffering mother, had gone to the house of that wicked man, not as his mistress, but as his true wife!

Hardly a thought troubled her, then, as to the acquiescence of her daughter. She had no faintest idea that the girl's heart had been touched by the young tailor. She had so lived that she knew but little of lovers and their love, and in her fear regarding Daniel Thwaite she had not conceived danger such as that. It had to her simply been unfitting that there should be close familiarity between the two. She expected that her daughter would be ambitious, as she was ambitious, and would rejoice greatly at such perfect success. She herself had been preaching ambition and practising ambition all her life. It had been the necessity of her career that she should think more of her right to a noble name than of any other good thing under the sun. It was only natural that she should believe that her daughter shared the feeling.

And then Lady Anna came in. "They wanted me to stay and dine, mamma, but I did not like to think that you should be left alone."

"I must get used to that, my dear."

"Why, mamma? Wherever we have been, we have always been together. Mrs. Bluestone was quite unhappy because you would not come. They are so good-natured! I wish you would go there."

"I am better here, my dear." Then there was a pause for a few moments. "But I am glad that you have come home this evening."

"Of course, I should come home."

"I have something special to say to you."

"To me, mamma! What is it, mamma?"

"I think we will wait till after dinner. The things are here now. Go up-stairs and take off your hat, and I will tell you after dinner."

"Mamma," Lady Anna said, as soon as the maid had left the room, "has old Mr. Thwaite been here?"

"Yes, my dear, he was here."

"I thought so, because you have something to tell me. It is something from him?"

"Not from himself, Anna;—though he was the messenger. Come and sit here, my dear,—close to me. Have you ever thought, Anna, that it would be good for you to be married?"

"No, mamma; why should I?" But that surely was a lie! How often had she thought that it would be good to be married to Daniel Thwaite and to have done with this weary searching after rank! And now what could her mother mean? Thomas Thwaite had been there, but it was impossible that her mother should think that Daniel Thwaite would be a fit husband for her daughter. "No, mamma;—why should I?"

"It must be thought of, my dearest."

"Why now?" She could understand perfectly that there was some special cause for her mother's manner of speech.

"After all that we have gone through, we are about to succeed at last. They are willing to own everything, to give us all our rights,—on one condition."

"What condition, mamma?"

"Come nearer to me, dearest. It would not make you unhappy to think that you were going to be the wife of a man you could love?"

"No;—not if I really loved him."

"You have heard of your cousin,—the young Earl?"

"Yes, mamma;—I have heard of him."

"They say that he is everything that is good. What should you think of having him for your husband?"

"That would be impossible, mamma."

"Impossible!—why impossible? What could be more fitting? Your rank is equal to his;—higher even in this, that your father was himself the Earl. In fortune you will be much more than his equal. In age you are exactly suited. Why should it be impossible?"

"Oh, mamma, it is impossible!"

"What makes you say so, Anna?"

"We have never seen each other."

"Tush! my child. Why should you not see each other?"

"And then we are his enemies."

"We are no longer enemies, dearest. They have sent to say that if we,—you and I,—will consent to this marriage, then will they consent to it also. It is their wish, and it comes from them. There can be no more proper ending to all this weary lawsuit. It is quite right that the title and the name should be supported. It is quite right that the fortune which your father left should, in this way, go to support your father's family. You will be the Countess Lovel; and all will have been conceded to us. There cannot possibly be any fitter way out of our difficulties." Lady Anna sat looking at her mother in dismay, but could say nothing. "You need have no fear about the young man. Every one tells me that he is just the man that a mother would welcome as a husband for her daughter. Will you not be glad to see him?" But the Lady Anna would only say that it was impossible. "Why impossible, my dear;—what do you mean by impossible?"

"Oh, mamma, it is impossible!"

The Countess found that she was obliged to give the subject up for that night, and could only comfort herself by endeavouring to believe that the suddenness of the tidings had confused her child.



CHAPTER IX.

IT ISN'T LAW.

On the next morning Lady Anna was ill, and would not leave her bed. When her mother spoke to her, she declared that her head ached wretchedly, and she could not be persuaded to dress herself.

"Is it what I said to you last night?" asked the Countess.

"Oh, mamma, that is impossible," she said.

It seemed to the mother that the mention of the young lord's name had produced a horror in the daughter's mind which nothing could for the present subdue. Before the day was over, however, the girl had acknowledged that she was bound in duty, at any rate, to meet her cousin; and the Countess, forced to satisfy herself with so much of concession, and acting upon that, fixed herself in her purpose to go on with the project. The lawyers on both sides would assist her. It was for the advantage of them all that there should be such a marriage. She determined, therefore, that she would at once see Mr. Goffe, her own attorney, and give him to understand in general terms that the case might be proceeded with on this new matrimonial basis.

But there was a grievous doubt on her mind,—a fear, a spark of suspicion, of which she had unintentionally given notice to Thomas Thwaite when she asked him whether he had as yet spoken of the proposed marriage to his son. He had understood what was passing in her mind when she exacted from him a promise that nothing should as yet be said to Daniel Thwaite upon the matter. And yet she assured herself over and over again that her girl could not be so weak, so vain, so foolish, so wicked as that! It could not be that, after all the struggles of her life,—when at last success, perfect success, was within their grasp, when all had been done and all well done, when the great reward was then coming up to their very lips with a full tide,—it could not be that in the very moment of victory all should be lost through the base weakness of a young girl! Was it possible that her daughter,—the daughter of one who had spent the very marrow of her life in fighting for the position that was due to her,—should spoil all by preferring a journeyman tailor to a young nobleman of high rank, of ancient lineage, and one, too, who by his marriage with herself would endow her with wealth sufficient to make that rank splendid as well as illustrious? But if it were not so, what had the girl meant by saying that it was impossible? That the word should have been used once or twice in maidenly scruple, the Countess could understand; but it had been repeated with a vehemence beyond that which such natural timidity might have produced. And now the girl professed herself to be ill in bed, and when the subject was broached would only weep, and repeat the one word with which she had expressed her repugnance to the match.

Hitherto she had not been like this. She had, in her own quiet way, shared her mother's aspirations, and had always sympathised with her mother's sufferings; and she had been dutiful through it all, carrying herself as one who was bound to special obedience by the peculiarity of her parent's position. She had been keenly alive to the wrongs that her mother endured, and had in every respect been a loving child. But now she protested that she would not do the one thing necessary to complete their triumph, and would give no reason for not doing so. As the Countess thought of all this, she swore to herself that she would prefer to divest her bosom of all soft motherly feeling than be vanquished in this matter by her own child. Her daughter should find that she could be stern and rough enough if she were really thwarted. What would her life be worth to her if her child, Lady Anna Lovel, the heiress and only legitimate offspring of the late Earl Lovel, were to marry a—tailor?

And then, again, she told herself that there was no sufficient excuse for such alarm. Her daughter's demeanour had ever been modest. She had never been given to easy friendship, or to that propensity to men's acquaintance which the world calls flirting. It might be that the very absence of such propensity,—the very fact that hitherto she had never been thrust into society among her equals,—had produced that feeling almost of horror which she had expressed. But she had been driven, at any rate, to say that she would meet the young man; and the Countess, acting upon that, called on Mr. Goffe in his chambers, and explained to that gentleman that she proposed to settle the whole question in dispute by giving her daughter to the young Earl in marriage. Mr. Goffe, who had been present at the conference among the lawyers, understood it all in a moment. The overture had been made from the other side to his client.

"Indeed, my lady!" said Mr. Goffe.

"Do you not think it will be an excellent arrangement?"

In his heart of hearts Mr. Goffe thought that it would be an excellent arrangement; but he could not commit himself to such an opinion. Serjeant Bluestone thought that the matter should be fought out, and Mr. Goffe was not prepared to separate himself from his legal adviser. As Serjeant Bluestone had said after the conference, with much argumentative vehemence,—"If we were to agree to this, how would it be if the marriage should not come off? The court can't agree to a marriage. The court must direct to whom the property belongs. They profess that they can prove that our marriage was no marriage. They must do so, or else they must withdraw the allegation. Suppose the Italian woman were to come forward afterwards with her claim as the widow, where then would be my client's position, and her title as dowager countess, and her claim upon her husband's personal estate? I never heard anything more irregular in my life. It is just like Patterson, who always thinks he can make laws according to the light of his own reason." So Serjeant Bluestone had said to the lawyers who were acting with him; and Mr. Goffe, though he did himself think that this marriage would be the best thing in the world, could not differ from the Serjeant.

No doubt there might even yet be very great difficulties, even though the young Earl and Lady Anna Lovel should agree to be married. Mr. Goffe on that occasion said very little to the Countess, and she left him with a feeling that a certain quantity of cold water had been thrown upon the scheme. But she would not allow herself to be disturbed by that. The marriage could go on without any consent on the part of the lawyers, and the Countess was quite satisfied that, should the marriage be once completed, the money and the titles would all go as she desired. She had already begun to have more faith in the Solicitor-General than in Mr. Goffe or in Serjeant Bluestone.

But Serjeant Bluestone was not a man to bear such treatment and be quiet under it. He heard that very day from Mr. Goffe what had been done, and was loud in the expression of his displeasure. It was the most irregular thing that he had ever known. No other man except Patterson in the whole profession would have done it! The counsel on the other side—probably Patterson himself—had been to his client, and given advice to his client, and had done so after her own counsel had decided that no such advice should be given! He would see the Attorney-General, and ask the Attorney-General what he thought about it. Now, it was supposed in legal circles, just at this period, that the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General were not the best friends in the world; and the latter was wont to call the former an old fogey, and the former to say of the latter that he might be a very clever philosopher, but certainly no lawyer. And so by degrees the thing got much talked about in the profession; and there was perhaps a balance of opinion that the Solicitor-General had done wrong.

But this was certain,—that no one could be put into possession of the property till the court had decided to whom it belonged. If the Earl withdrew from his claim, the widow would simply be called on to prove her own marriage,—which had in truth been proved more than once already,—and the right of her legitimate child would follow as a matter of course. It was by no means probable that the woman over in Italy would make any claim on her own behalf,—and even, should she do so, she could not find the means of supporting it. "They must be asses," said the Solicitor-General, "not to see that I am fighting their battle for them, and that I am doing so because I can best secure my own client's interests by securing theirs also." But even he became nervous after a day or two, and was anxious to learn that the marriage scheme was progressing. He told his client, Lord Lovel, that it would be well that the marriage should take place before the court sat in November. "In that case settlements will, of course, have been made, and we shall simply withdraw. We shall state the fact of this new marriage, and assert ourselves to be convinced that the old marriage was good and valid. But you should lose no time in the wooing, my lord." At this time the Earl had not seen his cousin, and it had not yet been decided when they should meet.

"It is my duty to explain to you, Lady Lovel, as my client," said Serjeant Bluestone to the Countess, "that this arrangement cannot afford a satisfactory mode to you of establishing your own position."

"It would be so happy for the whole family!"

"As to that I can know nothing, Lady Lovel. If your daughter and the Earl are attached to each other, there can be no reason on earth why they should not be married. But it should be a separate thing. Your position should not be made to depend upon hers."

"But they will withdraw, Serjeant Bluestone."

"How do you know that they will withdraw? Supposing at the last moment Lady Anna were to decline the alliance, would they withdraw then? Not a bit of it. The matter would be further delayed, and referred over to next year. You and your daughter would be kept out of your money, and there would still be danger."

"I should not care for that;—if they were married."

"And they have set up this Italian countess,—who never was a countess,—any more than I am. Now they have put her up, they are bound to dispose of her. If she came forward afterwards, on her own behalf, where would you all be then?"

"My daughter would, at any rate, be safe."

The Serjeant did not like it at all. He felt that he was being thrown over, not only by his client the Countess,—as to which he might have been indifferent, knowing that the world at large, the laity as distinguished from the lawyers, the children of the world as all who were not lawyers seemed to him to be, will do and must be expected to do, foolish things continually. They cannot be persuaded to subject themselves to lawyers in all their doings, and, of course, go wrong when they do not do so. The infinite simplicity and silliness of mankind and womankind at large were too well known to the Serjeant to cause him dismay, let them be shown in ever so egregious a fashion. But in this case the fault came from another lawyer, who had tampered with his clients, and who seemed to be himself as ignorant as though he belonged to the outside world. And this man had been made Solicitor-General,—over the heads of half the profession,—simply because he could make a speech in Parliament!

But the Solicitor-General was himself becoming uneasy when at the end of a fortnight he learned that the young people,—as he had come to call them on all occasions,—had not as yet seen each other. He would not like to have it said of him that he had thrown over his client. And there were some who still believed that the Italian marriage had been a real marriage, and the Italian wife alive at the time of the Cumberland marriage,—though the Italian woman now living had never been the countess. Mr. Hardy so believed, and, in his private opinion, thought that the Solicitor-General had been very indiscreet.

"I don't think that we could ever dare to face a jury," said Sir William to Mr. Hardy when they discussed the matter, about a fortnight after the proposition had been made.

"Why did the Earl always say that the Italian woman was his wife?"

"Because the Earl was a very devil."

"Mr. Flick does not think so."

"Yes, he does; but Mr. Flick, like all attorneys with a bad case, does not choose to say quite what he thinks, even to his own counsel. Mr. Flick does not like to throw his client over, nor do I, nor do you. But with such a case we have no right to create increased expenses, and all the agony of prolonged fallacious hope. The girl is her father's heir. Do you suppose I would not stick to my brief if I did not feel sure that it is so?"

"Then let the Earl be told, and let the girl have her rights."

"Ah! there you have me. It may be that such would be the juster course; but then, Hardy, cannot you understand that though I am sure, I am not quite sure; that though the case is a bad one, it may not be quite bad enough to be thrown up? It is just the case in which a compromise is expedient. If but a quarter, or but an eighth of a probability be with you, take your proportion of the thing at stake. But here is a compromise that gives all to each. Who would wish to rob the girl of her noble name and great inheritance if she be the heiress? Not I, though the Earl be my client. And yet how sad would it be to have to tell that young man that there was nothing for him but to submit to lose all the wealth belonging to the family of which he has been born the head! If we can bring them together there will be nothing to make sore the hearts of any of us."

Mr. Hardy acknowledged to himself that the Solicitor-General pleaded his own case very well; but yet he felt that it wasn't law.



CHAPTER X.

THE FIRST INTERVIEW.

For some days after the intimation of her mother's purpose, Lady Anna kept her bed. She begged that she might not see a doctor. She had a headache,—nothing but a headache. But it was quite impossible that she should ever marry Earl Lovel. This she said whenever her mother would revert to that subject,—"I have not seen him, mamma; I do not know him. I am sure it would be impossible." Then, when at last she was induced to dress herself, she was still unwilling to be forced to undergo the interview to which she had acknowledged that she must be subjected. At last she consented to spend a day in Bedford Square; to dine there, and to be brought home in the evening. The Countess was at this time not very full of trust in the Serjeant, having learned that he was opposed to the marriage scheme, but she was glad that her daughter should be induced to go out, even to the Serjeant's house, as after that visit the girl could have no ground on which to oppose the meeting which was to be arranged. She could hardly plead that she was too ill to see her cousin when she had dined with Mrs. Bluestone.

During this time many plans had been proposed for the meeting. The Solicitor-General, discussing the matter with the young lord, had thought it best that Lady Anna should at once be asked down to Yoxham,—as the Lady Anna; and the young lord would have been quite satisfied with such an arrangement. He could have gone about his obligatory wooing among his own friends, in the house to which he had been accustomed, with much more ease than in a London lodging. But his uncle, who had corresponded on the subject with Mr. Hardy, still objected. "We should be giving up everything," he said, "if we were once to call her Lady Anna. Where should we be then if they didn't hit it off together? I don't believe, and I never shall believe, that she is really Lady Anna Lovel." The Solicitor-General, when he heard of this objection, shook his head, finding himself almost provoked to anger. What asses were these people not to understand that he could see further into the matter than they could do, and that their best way out of their difficulty would be frankly to open their arms to the heiress! Should they continue to be pig-headed and prejudiced, everything would soon be gone.

Then he had a scheme for inviting the girl to his own house, and to that scheme he obtained his wife's consent. But here his courage failed him; or, it might be fairer to say, that his prudence prevailed. He was very anxious, intensely eager, so to arrange this great family dispute that all should be benefited,—believing, nay feeling positively certain that all concerned in the matter were honest; but he must not go so far as to do himself an absolute and grievous damage, should it at last turn out that he was wrong in any of his surmises. So that plan was abandoned.

There was nothing left for it but that the young Earl should himself face the difficulty, and be introduced to the girl at the lodging in Wyndham Street. But, as a prelude to this, a meeting was arranged at Mr. Flick's chambers between the Countess and her proposed son-in-law. That the Earl should go to his own attorney's chambers was all in rule. While he was there the Countess came,—which was not in rule, and almost induced the Serjeant to declare, when he heard it, that he would have nothing more to do with the case. "My lord," said the Countess, "I am glad to meet you, and I hope that we may be friends." The young man was less collected, and stammered out a few words that were intended to be civil.

"It is a pity that you should have conflicting interests," said the attorney.

"I hope it need not continue to be so," said the Countess. "My heart, Lord Lovel, is all in the welfare of our joint family. We will begrudge you nothing if you will not begrudge us the names which are our own, and without which we cannot live honourably before the world." Then some other few words were muttered, and the Earl promised to come to Wyndham Street at a certain hour. Not a word was then said about the marriage. Even the Countess, with all her resolution and all her courage, did not find herself able in set terms to ask the young man to marry her daughter.

"She is a very handsome woman," said the lord to the attorney, when the Countess had left them.

"Yes, indeed."

"And like a lady."

"Quite like a lady. She herself was of a good family."

"I suppose she certainly was the late Earl's wife, Mr. Flick?"

"Who can say, my lord? That is just the question. The Solicitor-General thinks that she would prove her right, and I do not know that I have ever found him to be wrong when he has had a steadfast opinion."

"Why should we not give it up to her at once?"

"I couldn't recommend that, my lord. Why should we give it up? The interests at stake are very great. I couldn't for a moment think of suggesting to you to give it up."

"I want nothing, Mr. Flick, that does not belong to me."

"Just so. But then perhaps it does belong to you. We can never be sure. No doubt the safest way will be for you to contract an alliance with this lady. Of course we should give it up then, but the settlements would make the property all right." The young Earl did not quite like it. He would rather have commenced his wooing after the girl had been established in her own right, and when she would have had no obligation on her to accept him. But he had consented, and it was too late for him now to recede. It had been already arranged that he should call in Wyndham Street at noon on the following day, in order that he might be introduced to his cousin.

On that evening the Countess sat late with her daughter, purposing that on the morrow nothing should be said before the interview calculated to disturb the girl's mind. But as they sat together through the twilight and into the darkness of night, close by the open window, through which the heavily laden air of the metropolis came to them, hot with all the heat of a London July day, very many words were spoken by the Countess. "It will be for you, to-morrow, to make or to mar all that I have been doing since the day on which you were born."

"Oh! mamma, that is so terrible a thing to say!"

"But terrible things must be said if they are true. It is so. It is for you to decide whether we shall triumph, or be utterly and for ever crushed."

"I cannot understand it. Why should we be crushed? He would not wish to marry me if this fortune were not mine. He is not coming, mamma, because he loves me."

"You say that because you do not understand. Do you suppose that my name will be allowed to me if you should refuse your cousin's suit? If so, you are very much mistaken. The fight will go on, and as we have not money, we shall certainly go to the wall at last. Why should you not love him? There is no one else that you care for."

"No, mamma," she said slowly.

"Then, what more can you want?"

"I do not know him, mamma."

"But you will know him. According to that, no girl would ever get married. Is it not a great thing that you should be asked to assume and to enjoy the rank which has belonged to your mother, but which she has never been able to enjoy?"

"I do not think, mamma, that I care much about rank."

"Anna!" The mother's mind as she heard this flew off to the young tailor. Had misery so great as this overtaken her after all?

"I mean that I don't care so much about it. It has never done us any good."

"But if it is a thing that is your own, that you are born to, you must bear it, whether it be in sorrow or in joy; whether it be a blessing or a curse. If it be yours, you cannot fling it away from you. You may disgrace it, but you must still have it. Though you were to throw yourself away upon a chimney-sweeper, you must still be Lady Anna, the daughter of Earl Lovel."

"I needn't call myself so."

"Others must call you so. It is your name, and you cannot be rid of it. It is yours of right, as my name has been mine of right; and not to assert it, not to live up to it, not to be proud of it, would argue incredible baseness. 'Noblesse oblige.' You have heard that motto, and know what it means. And then would you throw away from you in some childish phantasy all that I have been struggling to win for you during my whole life? Have you ever thought of what my life has been, Anna?"

"Yes, mamma."

"Would you have the heart to disappoint me, now that the victory is won;—now that it may be made our own by your help? And what is it that I am asking you to do? If this man were bad,—if he were such a one as your father, if he were drunken, cruel, ill-conditioned, or even heavy, foolish, or deformed; had you been told stories to set you against him, as that he had been false with other women, I could understand it. In that case we would at any rate find out the truth before we went on. But of this man we hear that he is good, and pleasant; an excellent young man, who has endeared himself to all who know him. Such a one that all the girls of his own standing in the world would give their eyes to win him."

"Let some girl win him then who cares for him."

"But he wishes to win you, dearest."

"Not because he loves me. How can he love me when he never saw me? How can I love him when I never saw him?"

"He wishes to win you because he has heard what you are, and because he knows that by doing so he can set things right which for many years have been wrong."

"It is because he would get all this money."

"You would both get it. He desires nothing unfair. Whatever he takes from you, so much he will give. And it is not only for this generation. Is it nothing to you that the chiefs of your own family who shall come after you shall be able to hold their heads up among other British peers? Would you not wish that your own son should come to be Earl Lovel, with wealth sufficient to support the dignity?"

"I don't think it would make him happy, mamma."

"There is something more in this, Anna, than I can understand. You used not to be so. When we talked of these things in past years you used not to be indifferent."

"I was not asked then to—to—marry a man I did not care for."

"There is something else, Anna."

"No, mamma."

"If there be nothing else you will learn to care for him. You will see him to-morrow, and will be left alone with him. I will sit with you for a time, and then I will leave you. All that I ask of you is to receive him to-morrow without any prejudice against him. You must remember how much depends on you, and that you are not as other girls are." After that Lady Anna was allowed to go to her bed, and to weep in solitude over the wretchedness of her condition. It was not only that she loved Daniel Thwaite with all her heart,—loved him with a love that had grown with every year of her growth;—but that she feared him also. The man had become her master; and even could she have brought herself to be false, she would have lacked the courage to declare her falsehood to the man to whom she had vowed her love.

On the following morning Lady Anna did not come down to breakfast, and the Countess began to fear that she would be unable to induce her girl to rise in time to receive their visitor. But the poor child had resolved to receive the man's visit, and contemplated no such escape as that. At eleven o'clock she slowly dressed herself, and before twelve crept down into the one sitting-room which they occupied. The Countess glanced round at her, anxious to see that she was looking her best. Certain instructions had been given as to her dress, and the garniture of her hair, and the disposal of her ribbons. All these had been fairly well obeyed; but there was a fixed, determined hardness in her face which made her mother fear that the Earl might be dismayed. The mother knew that her child had never looked like that before.

Punctually at twelve the Earl was announced. The Countess received him very pleasantly, and with great composure. She shook hands with him as though they had known each other all their lives, and then introduced him to her daughter with a sweet smile. "I hope you will acknowledge her as your far-away cousin, my lord. Blood, they say, is thicker than water; and, if so, you two ought to be friends."

"I am sure I hope we may be," said the Earl.

"I hope so too,—my lord," said the girl, as she left her hand quite motionless in his.

"We heard of you down in Cumberland," said the Countess. "It is long since I have seen the old place, but I shall never forget it. There is not a bush among the mountains there that I shall not remember,—ay, into the next world, if aught of our memories are left to us."

"I love the mountains; but the house is very gloomy."

"Gloomy indeed. If you found it sad, what must it have been to me? I hope that I may tell you some day of all that I suffered there. There are things to tell of which I have never yet spoken to human being. She, poor child, has been too young and too tender to be troubled by such a tale. I sometimes think that no tragedy ever written, no story of horrors ever told, can have exceeded in description the things which I endured in that one year of my married life." Then she went on at length, not telling the details of that terrible year, but speaking generally of the hardships of her life. "I have never wondered, Lord Lovel, that you and your nearest relations should have questioned my position. A bad man had surrounded me with such art in his wickedness, that it has been almost beyond my strength to rid myself of his toils." All this she had planned beforehand, having resolved that she would rush into the midst of things at once, and if possible enlist his sympathies on her side.

"I hope it may be over now," he said.

"Yes," she replied, rising slowly from her seat, "I hope it may be over now." The moment had come in which she had to play the most difficult stroke of her whole game, and much might depend on the way in which she played it. She could not leave them together, walking abruptly out of the room, without giving some excuse for so unusual a proceeding. "Indeed, I hope it may be over now, both for us and for you, Lord Lovel. That wicked man, in leaving behind such cause of quarrel, has injured you almost as deeply as us. I pray God that you and that dear girl there may so look into each other's hearts and trust each other's purposes, that you may be able to set right the ill which your predecessor did. If so, the family of Lovel for centuries to come may be able to bless your names." Then with slow steps she left the room.

Lady Anna had spoken one word, and that was all. It certainly was not for her now to speak. She sat leaning on the table, with her eyes fixed upon the ground, not daring to look at the man who had been brought to her as her future husband. A single glance she had taken as he entered the room, and she had seen at once that he was fair and handsome, that he still had that sweet winsome boyishness of face which makes a girl feel that she need not fear a man,—that the man has something of her own weakness, and need not be treated as one who is wise, grand, or heroic. And she saw too in one glance how different he was from Daniel Thwaite, the man to whom she had absolutely given herself;—and she understood at the moment something of the charm of luxurious softness and aristocratic luxury. Daniel Thwaite was swarthy, hard-handed, blackbearded,—with a noble fire in his eyes, but with an innate coarseness about his mouth which betokened roughness as well as strength. Had it been otherwise with her than it was, she might, she thought, have found it easy enough to love this young earl. As it was, there was nothing for her to do but to wait and answer him as best she might.

"Lady Anna," he said.

"My lord!"

"Will it not be well that we should be friends?"

"Oh,—friends;—yes, my lord."

"I will tell you all and everything;—that is, about myself. I was brought up to believe that you and your mother were just—impostors."

"My lord, we are not impostors."

"No;—I believe it. I am sure you are not. Mistakes have been made, but it has not been of my doing. As a boy, what could I believe but what I was told? I know now that you are and always have been as you have called yourself. If nothing else comes of it, I will at any rate say so much. The estate which your father left is no doubt yours. If I could hinder it, there should be no more law."

"Thank you, my lord."

"Your mother says that she has suffered much. I am sure she has suffered. I trust that all that is over now. I have come here to-day more to say that on my own behalf than anything else." A shadow of a shade of disappointment, the slightest semblance of a cloud, passed across her heart as she heard this. But it was well. She could not have married him, even if he had wished it, and now, as it seemed, that difficulty was over. Her mother and those lawyers had been mistaken, and it was well that he should tell her so at once.

"It is very good of you, my lord."

"I would not have you think of me that I could come to you hoping that you would promise me your love before I had shown you whether I had loved you or not."

"No, my lord." She hardly understood him now,—whether he intended to propose himself as a suitor for her hand or not.

"You, Lady Anna, are your father's heir. I am your cousin, Earl Lovel, as poor a peer as there is in England. They tell me that we should marry because you are rich and I am an earl."

"So they tell me;—but that will not make it right."

"I would not have it so, even if I dared to think that you would agree to it."

"Oh, no, my lord; nor would I."

"But if you could learn to love me—"

"No, my lord;—no."

"Do not answer me yet, my cousin. If I swore that I loved you,—loved you so soon after seeing you,—and loved you, too, knowing you to be so wealthy an heiress—"

"Ah, do not talk of that."

"Well;—not of that. But if I said that I loved you, you would not believe me."

"It would not be true, my lord."

"But I know that I shall love you. You will let me try? You are very lovely, and they tell me you are sweet-humoured. I can believe well that you are sweet and pleasant. You will let me try to love you, Anna?"

"No, my lord."

"Must it be so, so soon?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Why that? Is it because we are strangers to each other? That may be cured;—if not quickly, as I would have it cured, slowly and by degrees; slowly as you can wish, if only I may come where you shall be. You have said that we may be friends."

"Oh yes,—friends, I hope."

"Friends at least. We are born cousins."

"Yes, my lord."

"Cannot you call me by my name? Cousins, you know, do so. And remember this, you will have and can have no nearer cousin than I am. I am bound at least to be a brother to you."

"Oh, be my brother!"

"That,—or more than that. I would fain be more than that. But I will be that, at least. As I came to you, before I saw you, I felt that whenever we knew each other I could not be less to you than that. If I am your friend, I must be your best friend,—as being, though poor, the head of your family. The Lovels should at least love each other; and cousins may love, even though they should not love enough to be man and wife."

"I will love you so always."

"Enough to be my wife?"

"Enough to be your dear cousin,—your loving sister."

"So it shall be,—unless it can be more. I would not ask you for more now. I would not wish you to give more now. But think of me, and ask yourself whether you can dare to give yourself to me altogether."

"I cannot dare, my lord."

"You would not call your brother, lord. My name is Frederic. But Anna, dear Anna,"—and then he took her unresisting hand,—"you shall not be asked for more now. But cousins, new-found cousins, who love each other, and will stand by each other for help and aid against the world, may surely kiss,—as would a brother and a sister. You will not grudge me a kiss." Then she put up her cheek innocently, and he kissed it gently,—hardly with a lover's kiss. "I will leave you now," he said, still holding her hand. "But tell your mother thus:—that she shall no longer be troubled by lawyers at the suit of her cousin Frederic. She is to me the Countess Lovel, and she shall be treated by me with the honour suited to her rank." And so he left the house without seeing the Countess again.



CHAPTER XI.

IT IS TOO LATE.

The Countess had resolved that she would let their visitor depart without saying a word to him. Whatever might be the result of the interview, she was aware that she could not improve it by asking any question from the young lord, or by hearing any account of it from him. The ice had been broken, and it would now be her object to have her daughter invited down to Yoxham as soon as possible. If once the Earl's friends could be brought to be eager for the match on his account, as was she on her daughter's behalf, then probably the thing might be done. For herself, she expected no invitation, no immediate comfort, no tender treatment, no intimate familiar cousinship. She had endured hitherto, and would be contented to endure, so that triumph might come at last. Nor did she question her daughter very closely, anxious as she was to learn the truth.

Could she have heard every word that had been spoken she would have been sure of success. Could Daniel Thwaite have heard every word he would have been sure that the girl was about to be false to him. But the girl herself believed herself to have been true. The man had been so soft with her, so tender, so pleasant,—so loving with his sweet cousinly offers of affection, that she could not turn herself against him. He had been to her eyes beautiful, noble,—almost divine. She knew of herself that she could not be his wife,—that she was not fit to be his wife,—because she had given her troth to the tailor's son. When her cousin touched her check with his lips she remembered that she had submitted to be kissed by one with whom her noble relative could hold no fellowship whatever. A feeling of degradation came upon her, as though by contact with this young man she was suddenly awakened to a sense of what her own rank demanded from her. When her mother had spoken to her of what she owed to her family, she had thought only of all the friendship that she and her mother had received from her lover and his father. But when Lord Lovel told her what she was,—how she should ever be regarded by him as a dear cousin,—how her mother should be accounted a countess, and receive from him the respect due to her rank,—then she could understand how unfitting were a union between the Lady Anna Lovel and Daniel Thwaite, the journeyman tailor. Hitherto Daniel's face had been noble in her eyes,—the face of a man who was manly, generous, and strong. But after looking into the eyes of the young Earl, seeing how soft was the down upon his lips, how ruddy the colour of his cheek, how beautiful was his mouth with its pearl-white teeth, how noble the curve of his nostrils, after feeling the softness of his hand, and catching the sweetness of his breath, she came to know what it might have been to be wooed by such a one as he.

But not on that account did she meditate falseness. It was settled firm as fate. The dominion of the tailor over her spirit had lasted in truth for years. The sweet, perfumed graces of the young nobleman had touched her senses but for a moment. Had she been false-minded she had not courage to be false. But in truth she was not false-minded. It was to her, as that sunny moment passed across her, as to some hard-toiling youth who, while roaming listlessly among the houses of the wealthy, hears, as he lingers on the pavement of a summer night, the melodies which float upon the air from the open balconies above him. A vague sense of unknown sweetness comes upon him, mingled with an irritating feeling of envy that some favoured son of Fortune should be able to stand over the shoulders of that singing syren, while he can only listen with intrusive ears from the street below. And so he lingers and is envious, and for a moment curses his fate,—not knowing how weary may be the youth who stands, how false the girl who sings. But he does not dream that his life is to be altered for him, because he has chanced to hear the daughter of a duchess warble through a window. And so it was with this girl. The youth was very sweet to her, intensely sweet when he told her that he would be a brother, perilously sweet when he bade her not to grudge him one kiss. But she knew that she was not as he was. That she had lost the right, could she ever have had the right, to live his life, to drink of his cup, and to lie on his breast. So she passed on, as the young man does in the street, and consoled herself with the consciousness that strength after all may be preferable to sweetness.

And she was an honest girl from her heart, and prone to truth, with a strong glimmer of common sense in her character, of which her mother hitherto had been altogether unaware. What right had her mother to think that she could be fit to be this young lord's wife, having brought her up in the companionship of small traders in Cumberland? She never blamed her mother. She knew well that her mother had done all that was possible on her behalf. But for that small trader they would not even have had a roof to shelter them. But still there was the fact, and she understood it. She was as her bringing up had made her, and it was too late now to effect a change. Ah yes;—it was indeed too late. It was all very well that lawyers should look upon her as an instrument, as a piece of goods that might now, from the accident of her ascertained birth, be made of great service to the Lovel family. Let her be the lord's wife, and everything would be right for everybody. It had been very easy to say that! But she had a heart of her own,—a heart to be touched, and won, and given away,—and lost. The man who had been so good to them had sought for his reward, and had got it, and could not now be defrauded. Had she been dishonest she would not have dared to defraud him; had she dared, she would not have been so dishonest.

"Did you like him?" asked the mother, not immediately after the interview, but when the evening came.

"Oh yes,—how should one not like him?"

"How indeed! He is the finest, noblest youth that ever my eyes rested on, and so like the Lovels."

"Was my father like that?"

"Yes indeed, in the shape of his face, and the tone of his voice, and the movement of his eyes; though the sweetness of the countenance was all gone in the Devil's training to which he had submitted himself. And you too are like him, though darker, and with something of the Murrays' greater breadth of face. But I can remember portraits at Lovel Grange,—every one of them,—and all of them were alike. There never was a Lovel but had that natural grace of appearance. You will gaze at those portraits, dear, oftener even than I have done; and you will be happy where I was,—oh—so miserable!"

"I shall never see them, mamma."

"Why not?"

"I do not want to see them."

"You say you like him?"

"Yes; I like him."

"And why should you not love him well enough to make him your husband?"

"I am not fit to be his wife."

"You are fit;—none could be fitter; none others so fit. You are as well born as he, and you have the wealth which he wants. You must have it, if, as you tell me, he says that he will cease to claim it as his own. There can be no question of fitness."

"Money will not make a girl fit, mamma."

"You have been brought up as a lady,—and are a lady. I swear I do not know what you mean. If he thinks you fit, and you can like him,—as you say you do,—what more can be wanted? Does he not wish it?"

"I do not know. He said he did not, and then,—I think he said he did."

"Is that it?"

"No, mamma. It is not that; not that only. It is too late!"

"Too late! How too late? Anna, you must tell me what you mean. I insist upon it that you tell me what you mean. Why is it too late?" But Lady Anna was not prepared to tell her meaning. She had certainly not intended to say anything to her mother of her solemn promise to Daniel Thwaite. It had been arranged between him and her that nothing was to be said of it till this law business should be all over. He had sworn to her that to him it made no difference, whether she should be proclaimed to be the Lady Anna, the undoubted owner of thousands a year, or Anna Murray, the illegitimate daughter of the late Earl's mistress, a girl without a penny, and a nobody in the world's esteem. No doubt they must shape their life very differently in this event or in that. How he might demean himself should this fortune be adjudged to the Earl, as he thought would be the case when he first made the girl promise to be his wife, he knew well enough. He would do as his father had done before him, and, he did not doubt,—with better result. What might be his fate should the wealth of the Lovels become the wealth of his intended wife, he did not yet quite foreshadow to himself. How he should face and fight the world when he came to be accused of having plotted to get all this wealth for himself he did not know. He had dreams of distributing the greater part among the Lovels and the Countess, and taking himself and his wife with one-third of it to some new country in which they would not in derision call his wife the Lady Anna, and in which he would be as good a man as any earl. But let all that be as it might, the girl was to keep her secret till the thing should be settled. Now, in these latter days, it had come to be believed by him, as by nearly everybody else, that the thing was well-nigh settled. The Solicitor-General had thrown up the sponge. So said the bystanders. And now there was beginning to be a rumour that everything was to be set right by a family marriage. The Solicitor-General would not have thrown up the sponge,—so said they who knew him best,—without seeing a reason for doing so. Serjeant Bluestone was still indignant, and Mr. Hardy was silent and moody. But the world at large were beginning to observe that in this, as in all difficult cases, the Solicitor-General tempered the innocence of the dove with the wisdom of the serpent. In the meantime Lady Anna by no means intended to allow the secret to pass her lips. Whether she ever could tell her mother, she doubted; but she certainly would not do so an hour too soon. "Why is it too late?" demanded the Countess, repeating her question with stern severity of voice.

"I mean that I have not lived all my life as his wife should live."

"Trash! It is trash. What has there been in your life to disgrace you. We have been poor and we have lived as poor people do live. We have not been disgraced."

"No, mamma."

"I will not hear such nonsense. It is a reproach to me."

"Oh, mamma, do not say that. I know how good you have been,—how you have thought of me in every thing. Pray do not say that I reproach you!" And she came and knelt at her mother's lap.

"I will not, darling; but do not vex me by saying that you are unfit. There is nothing else, dearest?"

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