"And yet you won't be his wife?"
"Would you,—if you had promised another man?"
"Have you promised another man?"
"Who is he, Lady Anna?"
"They have not told you, then?"
"No;—nobody has told me. I know they all want you to marry Lord Lovel,—and I know he wants it. I know he is quite in love with you."
"Ah;—I do not think that. But if he were, it could make no difference. If you had once given your word to another man, would you go back because a lord asked you?"
"I don't think I would ever give my word without asking mamma."
"If he had been good to you, and you had loved him always, and he had been your best friend,—what would you do then?"
"Who is he, Lady Anna?"
"Do not call me Lady Anna, or I shall not like you. I will tell you, but you must not say that I told you. Only I thought everybody knew. I told Lord Lovel, and he, I think, has told all the world. It is Mr. Daniel Thwaite."
"Mr. Daniel Thwaite!" said Alice, who had heard enough of the case to know who the Thwaites were. "He is a tailor!"
"Yes," said Lady Anna proudly; "he is a tailor."
"Surely that cannot be good," said Alice, who, having long since felt what it was to be the daughter of a serjeant, had made up her mind that she would marry nothing lower than a barrister.
"It is what you call bad, I dare say."
"I don't think a tailor can be a gentleman."
"I don't know. Perhaps I wasn't a lady when I promised him. But I did promise. You can never know what he and his father did for us. I think we should have died only for them. You don't know how we lived;—in a little cottage, with hardly any money, with nobody to come near us but they. Everybody else thought that we were vile and wicked. It is true. But they always were good to us. Would not you have loved him?"
"I should have loved him in a kind of way."
"When one takes so much, one must give in return what one has to give," said Lady Anna.
"Do you love him still?"
"Of course I love him."
"And you wish to be his wife?"
"Sometimes I think I don't. It is not that I am ashamed for myself. What would it have signified if I had gone away with him straight from Cumberland, before I had ever seen my cousins? Supposing that mamma hadn't been the Countess—"
"But she is."
"So they say now;—but if they had said that she was not, nobody would have thought it wrong then for me to marry Mr. Thwaite."
"Don't you think it wrong yourself?"
"It would be best for me to say that I would never marry any one at all. He would be very angry with me."
"Oh no;—not Lord Lovel. Daniel would be very angry, because he really loves me. But it would not be so bad to him as though I became Lord Lovel's wife. I will tell you the truth, dear. I am ashamed to marry Mr. Thwaite,—not for myself, but because I am Lord Lovel's cousin and mamma's daughter. And I should be ashamed to marry Lord Lovel."
"Because I should be false and ungrateful! I should be afraid to stand before him if he looked at me. You do not know how he can look. He, too, can command. He, too, is noble. They believe it is the money he wants, and when they call him a tailor, they think that he must be mean. He is not mean. He is clever, and can talk about things better than my cousin. He can work hard and give away all that he earns. And so could his father. They gave all they had to us, and have never asked it again. I kissed him once,—and then he said I had paid all my mother's debt." Alice Bluestone shrank within herself when she was told by this daughter of a countess of such a deed. It was horrid to her mind that a tailor should be kissed by a Lady Anna Lovel. But she herself had perhaps been as generous to the black-browed young barrister, and had thought no harm. "They think I do not understand,—but I do. They all want this money, and then they accuse him, and say he does it that he may become rich. He would give up all the money,—just for me. How would you feel if it were like that with you?"
"I think that a girl who is a lady, should never marry a man who is not a gentleman. You know the story of the rich man who could not get to Abraham's bosom because there was a gulf fixed. That is how it should be;—just as there is with royal people as to marrying royalty. Otherwise everything would get mingled, and there would soon be no difference. If there are to be differences, there should be differences. That is the meaning of being a gentleman,—or a lady." So spoke the young female Conservative with wisdom beyond her years;—nor did she speak quite in vain.
"I believe what I had better do would be to die," said Lady Anna. "Everything would come right then."
Some day or two after this Serjeant Bluestone sent a message up to Lady Anna, on his return home from the courts, with a request that she would have the great kindness to come down to him in his study. The Serjeant had treated her with more than all the deference due to her rank since she had been in his house, striving to teach her what it was to be the daughter of an Earl and probable owner of twenty thousand a year. The Serjeant, to give him his due, cared as little as most men for the peerage. He vailed his bonnet to no one but a judge,—and not always that with much ceremonious observance. But now his conduct was a part of his duty to a client whom he was determined to see established in her rights. He would have handed her her cup of tea on his knees every morning, if by doing so he could have made clear to her eyes how deep would be her degradation were she to marry the tailor. The message was now brought to her by Mrs. Bluestone, who almost apologized for asking her to trouble herself to walk down-stairs to the back parlour. "My dear Lady Anna," said the Serjeant, "may I ask you to sit down for a moment or two while I speak to you? I have just left your mother."
"How is dear mamma?" The Serjeant assured her that the Countess was well in health. At this time Lady Anna had not visited her mother since she had left Keppel Street, and had been told that Lady Lovel had refused to see her till she had pledged herself never to marry Daniel Thwaite. "I do so wish I might go to mamma!"
"With all my heart I wish you could, Lady Anna. Nothing makes such heart-burning sorrow as a family quarrel. But what can I say? You know what your mother thinks?"
"Couldn't you manage that she should let me go there just once?"
"I hope that we can manage it;—but I want you to listen to me first. Lord Lovel is back in London." She pressed her lips together and fastened one hand firmly on the other. If the assurance that was required from her was ever to be exacted, it should not be exacted by Serjeant Bluestone. "I have seen his lordship to-day," continued the Serjeant, "and he has done me the honour to promise that he will dine here to-morrow."
"Yes;—your cousin, Earl Lovel. There is no reason, I suppose, why you should not meet him? He has not offended you?"
"Oh no.—But I have offended him."
"I think not, Lady Anna. He does not speak of you as though there were offence."
"When we parted he would hardly look at me, because I told him—. You know what I told him."
"A gentleman is not necessarily offended because a lady does not accept his first offer. Many gentlemen would be offended if that were so;—and very many happy marriages would never have a chance of being made. At any rate he is coming, and I thought that perhaps you would excuse me if I endeavoured to explain how very much may depend on the manner in which you may receive him. You must feel that things are not going on quite happily now."
"I am so unhappy, Serjeant Bluestone!"
"Yes, indeed. It must be so. You are likely to be placed,—I think I may say you certainly will be placed,—in such a position that the whole prosperity of a noble and ancient family must depend on what you may do. With one word you can make once more bright a fair name that has long been beneath a cloud. Here in England the welfare of the State depends on the conduct of our aristocracy!" Oh, Serjeant Bluestone, Serjeant Bluestone! how could you so far belie your opinion as to give expression to a sentiment utterly opposed to your own convictions! But what is there that a counsel will not do for a client? "If they whom Fate and Fortune have exalted, forget what the country has a right to demand from them, farewell, alas, to the glory of old England!" He had found this kind of thing very effective with twelve men, and surely it might prevail with one poor girl. "It is not for me, Lady Anna, to dictate to you the choice of a husband. But it has become my duty to point out to you the importance of your own choice, and to explain to you, if it may be possible, that you are not like other young ladies. You have in your hands the marring or the making of the whole family of Lovel. As for that suggestion of a marriage to which you were induced to give ear by feelings of gratitude, it would, if carried out, spread desolation in the bosom of every relative to whom you are bound by the close ties of noble blood." He finished his speech, and Lady Anna retired without a word.
The Earl, without asking any question on the subject, had found that the Solicitor-General thought nothing of that objection which had weighed so heavily on his own mind, as to carrying on his suit with a girl who had been wooed successfully by a tailor. His own spirit rebelled for a while against such condescension. When Lady Anna had first told him that she had pledged her word to a lover low in the scale of men, the thing had seemed to him to be over. What struggle might be made to prevent the accomplishment of so base a marriage must be effected for the sake of the family, and not on his own special behoof. Not even for twenty thousand a year, not even for Lady Anna Lovel, not for all the Lovels, would he take to his bosom as his bride, the girl who had leaned with loving fondness on the shoulders of Daniel Thwaite. But when he found that others did not feel it as he felt it, he turned the matter over again in his mind,—and by degrees relented. There had doubtless been much in the whole affair which had placed it outside the pale of things which are subject to the ordinary judgment of men. Lady Anna's position in the world had been very singular. A debt of gratitude was due by her to the tailor, which had seemed to exact from her some great payment. As she had said herself, she had given the only thing which she had to give. Now there would be much to give. The man doubtless deserved his reward and should have it, but that reward must not be the hand of the heiress of the Lovels. He, the Earl, would once again claim that as his own.
He had hurried out of town after seeing Sir William, but had not returned to Yoxham. He went again to Scotland, and wrote no further letter to the rectory after those three lines which the reader has seen. Then he heard from Mr. Flick that Lady Anna was staying with the Serjeant in Bedford Square, and he returned to London at the lawyer's instance. It was so expedient that if possible something should be settled before November!
The only guests asked to meet the Earl at Serjeant Bluestone's, were Sir William and Lady Patterson, and the black-browed young barrister. The whole proceeding was very irregular,—as Mr. Flick, who knew what was going on, said more than once to his old partner, Mr. Norton. That the Solicitor-General should dine with the Serjeant might be all very well,—though, as school boys say, they had never known each other at home before. But that they should meet in this way the then two opposing clients,—the two claimants to the vast property as to which a cause was to come on for trial in a few weeks,—did bewilder Mr. Flick. "I suppose the Solicitor-General sees his way, but he may be in a mess yet," said Mr. Flick. Mr. Norton only scratched his head. It was no work of his.
Sir William, who arrived before the Earl, was introduced for the first time to the young lady. "Lady Anna," he said, "for some months past I have heard much of you. And now I have great pleasure in meeting you." She smiled, and strove to look pleased, but she had not a word to say to him. "You know I ought to be your enemy," he continued laughing, "but I hope that is well nigh over. I should not like to have to fight so fair a foe." Then the young lord arrived, and the lawyers of course gave way to the lover.
Lady Anna, from the moment in which she was told that he was to come, had thought of nothing but the manner of their greeting. It was not that she was uneasy as to her own fashion of receiving him. She could smile and be silent, and give him her hand or leave it ungiven, as he might demand. But in what manner would he accost her? She had felt sure that he had despised her from the moment in which she had told him of her engagement. Of course he had despised her. Those fine sentiments about ladies and gentlemen, and the gulf which had been fixed, had occurred to her before she heard them from the mouth of Miss Alice Bluestone. She understood, as well as did her young friend, what was the difference between her cousin the Earl, and her lover the tailor. Of course it would be sweet to be able to love such a one as her cousin. They all talked to her as though she was simply obstinate and a fool, not perceiving, as she did herself, that the untowardness of her fortune had prescribed this destiny for her. Good as Daniel Thwaite might be,—as she knew that he was,—she felt herself to be degraded in having promised to be his wife. The lessons they had taught her had not been in vain. And she had been specially degraded in the eyes of him, who was to her imagination the brightest of human beings. They told her that she might still be his wife if only she would consent to hold out her hand when he should ask for it. She did not believe it. Were it true, it could make no difference,—but she did not believe it. He had scorned her when she told him the tale at Bolton Abbey. He had scorned her when he hurried away from Yoxham. Now he was coming to the Serjeant's house, with the express intention of meeting her again. Why should he come? Alas, alas! She was sure that he would never speak to her again in that bright sunny manner, with those dulcet honey words, which he had used when first they saw each other in Wyndham Street.
Nor was he less uneasy as to this meeting. He had not intended to scorn her when he parted from her, but he had intended that she should understand that there was an end of his suit. He had loved her dearly, but there are obstacles to which love must yield. Had she already married this tailor, how would it have been with him then? That which had appeared to him to be most fit for him to do, had suddenly become altogether unfit,—and he had told himself at the moment that he must take back his love to himself as best he might. He could not sue for that which had once been given to a tailor. But now all that was changed, and he did intend to sue again. She was very beautiful,—to his thinking the very pink of feminine grace, and replete with charms;—soft in voice, soft in manner, with just enough of spirit to give her character. What a happy chance it had been, what marvellous fortune, that he should have been able to love this girl whom it was so necessary that he should marry;—what a happy chance, had it not been for this wretched tailor! But now, in spite of the tailor, he would try his fate with her once again. He had not intended to scorn her when he left her, but he knew that his manner to her must have told her that his suit was over. How should he renew it again in the presence of Serjeant and Mrs. Bluestone and of Sir William and Lady Patterson?
He was first introduced to the wives of the two lawyers while Lady Anna was sitting silent on the corner of a sofa. Mrs. Bluestone, foreseeing how it would be, had endeavoured with much prudence to establish her young friend at some distance from the other guests, in order that the Earl might have the power of saying some word; but the young barrister had taken this opportunity of making himself agreeable, and stood opposite to her talking nothings about the emptiness of London, and the glories of the season when it should come. Lady Anna did not hear a word that the young barrister said. Lady Anna's ear was straining itself to hear what Lord Lovel might say, and her eye, though not quite turned towards him, was watching his every motion. Of course he must speak to her. "Lady Anna is on the sofa," said Mrs. Bluestone. Of course he knew that she was there. He had seen her dear face the moment that he entered the room. He walked up to her and gave her his hand, and smiled upon her.
She had made up her little speech. "I hope they are quite well at Yoxham," she said, in that low, soft, silver voice which he had told himself would so well befit the future Countess Lovel.
"Oh yes;—I believe so. I am a truant there, for I do not answer aunt Julia's letters as punctually as I ought to do. I shall be down there for the hunting I suppose next month." Then dinner was announced; and as it was necessary that the Earl should take down Mrs. Bluestone and the Serjeant Lady Anna,—so that the young barrister absolutely went down to dinner with the wife of the Solicitor-General,—the conversation was brought to an end. Nor was it possible that they should be made to sit next each other at dinner. And then, when at last the late evening came and they were all together in the drawing-room, other things intervened and the half hour so passed that hardly a word was spoken between them. But there was just one word as he went away. "I shall call and see you," he said.
"I don't think he means it," the Serjeant said to his wife that evening, almost in anger.
"Why not, my dear?"
"He did not speak to her."
"People can't speak at dinner-parties when there is anything particular to say. If he didn't mean it, he wouldn't have come. And if you'll all have a little patience she'll mean it too. I can't forgive her mother for being so hard to her. She's one of the sweetest creatures I ever came across."
A little patience, and here was November coming! The Earl who had now been dining in his house, meeting his own client there, must again become the Serjeant's enemy in November, unless this matter were settled. The Serjeant at present could see no other way of proceeding. The Earl might no doubt retire from the suit, but a jury must then decide whether the Italian woman had any just claim. And against the claim of the Italian woman the Earl would again come forward. The Serjeant as he thought of it, was almost sorry that he had asked the Earl and the Solicitor-General to his house.
On the very next morning,—early in the day,—the Earl was announced in Bedford Square. The Serjeant was of course away at his chambers. Lady Anna was in her room and Mrs. Bluestone was sitting with her daughter. "I have come to see my cousin," said the Earl boldly.
"I am so glad that you have come, Lord Lovel."
"Thank you,—well; yes. I know you will not mind my saying so outright. Though the papers say that we are enemies, we have many things in common between us."
"I will send her to you. My dear, we will go into the dining-room. You will find lunch ready when you come down, Lord Lovel." Then she left him, and he stood looking for a while at the books that were laid about the table.
It seemed to him to be an age, but at last the door was opened and his cousin crept into the room. When he had parted from her at Yoxham he had called her Lady Anna; but he was determined that she should at any rate be again his cousin. "I could hardly speak to you yesterday," he said, while he held her hand.
"People never can, I think, at small parties like that. Dear Anna, you surprised me so much by what you told me on the banks of the Wharfe!" She did not know how to answer him even a word. "I know that I was unkind to you."
"I did not think so, my lord."
"I will tell you just the plain truth. Even though it may be bitter, the truth will be best between us, dearest. When first I heard what you said, I believed that all must be over between you and me."
"Oh, yes," she said.
"But I have thought about it since, and I will not have it so. I have not come to reproach you."
"You may if you will."
"I have no right to do so, and would not if I had. I can understand your feelings of deep gratitude and can respect them."
"But I love him, my lord," said Lady Anna, holding her head on high and speaking with much dignity. She could hardly herself understand the feeling which induced her so to address him. When she was alone thinking of him and of her other lover, her heart was inclined to regret in that she had not known her cousin in her early days,—as she had known Daniel Thwaite. She could tell herself, though she could not tell any other human being, that when she had thought that she was giving her heart to the young tailor, she had not quite known what it was to have a heart to give. The young lord was as a god to her; whereas Daniel was but a man,—to whom she owed so deep a debt of gratitude that she must sacrifice herself, if needs, be, on his behalf. And yet when the Earl spoke to her of her gratitude to this man,—praising it, and professing that he also understood those very feelings which had governed her conduct,—she blazed up almost in wrath, and swore that she loved the tailor.
The Earl's task was certainly difficult. It was his first impulse to rush away again, as he had rushed away before. To rush away and leave the country, and let the lawyers settle it all as they would. Could it be possible that such a girl as this should love a journeyman tailor, and should be proud of her love! He turned from her and walked to the door and back again, during which time she had almost repented of her audacity.
"It is right that you should love him—as a friend," he said.
"But I have sworn to be his wife."
"And must you keep your oath?" As she did not answer him he pressed on with his suit. "If he loves you I am sure he cannot wish to hurt you, and you know that such a marriage as that would be very hurtful. Can it be right that you should descend from your position to pay a debt of gratitude, and that you should do it at the expense of all those who belong to you? Would you break your mother's heart, and mine, and bring disgrace upon your family merely because he was good to you?"
"He was good to my mother as well as me."
"Will it not break her heart? Has she not told you so? But perhaps you do not believe it, my love."
"I do not know," she said.
"Ah, dearest, you may believe. To my eyes you are the sweetest of all God's creatures. Perhaps you think I say so only for the money's sake."
"No, my lord, I do not think that."
"Of course much is due to him."
"He wants nothing but that I should be his wife. He has said so, and he is never false. I can trust him at any rate, even though I should betray him. But I will not betray him. I will go away with him and they shall not hear of me, and nobody will remember that I was my father's daughter."
"You are doubting even now, dear."
"But I ought not to doubt. If I doubt it is because I am weak."
"Then still be weak. Surely such weakness will be good when it will please all those who must be dearest to you."
"It will not please him, Lord Lovel."
"Will you do this, dearest;—will you take one week to consider and then write to me? You cannot refuse me that, knowing that the happiness and the honour and the welfare of every Lovel depends upon your answer."
She felt that she could not refuse, and she gave him the promise. On that day week she would write to him, and tell him then to what resolve she should have brought herself. He came up close to her, meaning to kiss her if she would let him; but she stood aloof, and merely touched his hand. She would obey her betrothed,—at any rate till she should have made up her mind that she would be untrue to him. Lord Lovel could not press his wish, and left the house unmindful of Mrs. Bluestone's luncheon.
THE DOG IN THE MANGER.
During all this time Daniel Thwaite had been living alone, working day after day and hour after hour among the men in Wigmore Street, trusted by his employer, disliked by those over whom he was set in some sort of authority, and befriended by none. He had too heavy a weight on his spirits to be light of heart, even had his nature been given to lightness. How could he even hope that the girl would resist all the temptation that would be thrown in her way, all the arguments that would be used to her, the natural entreaties that would be showered upon her from all her friends? Nor did he so think of himself, as to believe that his own personal gifts would bind her to him when opposed by those other personal gifts which he knew belonged to the lord. Measuring himself by his own standard, regarding that man to be most manly who could be most useful in the world, he did think himself to be infinitely superior to the Earl. He was the working bee, whereas the Earl was the drone. And he was one who used to the best of his abilities the mental faculties which had been given to him; whereas the Earl,—so he believed,—was himself hardly conscious of having had mental faculties bestowed upon him. The Earl was, to his thinking, as were all earls, an excrescence upon society, which had been produced by the evil habits and tendencies of mankind; a thing to be got rid of before any near approach could be made to that social perfection in the future coming of which he fully believed. But, though useless, the Earl was beautiful to the eye. Though purposeless, as regarded any true purpose of speech, his voice was of silver and sweet to the ears. His hands, which could never help him to a morsel of bread, were soft to the touch. He was sweet with perfumes and idleness, and never reeked of the sweat of labour. Was it possible that such a girl as Anna Lovel should resist the popinjay, backed as he would be by her own instincts and by the prayers of every one of her race? And then from time to time another thought would strike him. Using his judgment as best he might on her behalf, ought he to wish that she should do so? The idleness of an earl might be bad, and equally bad the idleness of a countess. To be the busy wife of a busy man, to be the mother of many children who should be all taught to be busy on behalf of mankind, was, to his thinking, the highest lot of woman. But there was a question with him whether the accidents of her birth and fortune had not removed her from the possibility of such joy as that. How would it be with her, and him too, if, in after life, she should rebuke him because he had not allowed her to be the wife of a nobleman? And how would it be with him if hereafter men said of him that he held her to an oath extracted from her in her childhood because of her wealth? He had been able to answer Mr. Flick on that head, but he had more difficulty in answering himself.
He had written to his father after the Countess had left the house in which he lodged, and his father had answered him. The old man was not much given to the writing of letters. "About Lady Lovel and her daughter," said he, "I won't take no more trouble, nor shouldn't you. She and you is different, and must be." And that was all he said. Yes;—he and Lady Anna were different, and must remain so. Of a morning, when he went fresh to his work, he would resolve that he would send her word that she was entirely free from him, and would bid her do according to the nature of the Lovels. But in the evening, as he would wander back, slowly, all alone, tired of his work, tired of the black solitude of the life he was leading, longing for some softness to break the harsh monotony of his labour, he would remember all her prettinesses, and would, above all, remember the pretty oaths with which she had sworn that she, Anna Lovel, loved him, Daniel Thwaite, with all the woman's love which a woman could give. He would remember the warm kiss which had seemed to make fresh for hours his dry lips, and would try to believe that the bliss of which he had thought so much might still be his own. Had she abandoned him, had she assented to a marriage with the Earl, he would assuredly have heard of it. He also knew well the day fixed for the trial, and understood the importance which would be attached to an early marriage, should that be possible,—or at least to a public declaration of an engagement. At any rate she had not as yet been false to him.
One day he received at his place of work the following note;—
DEAR MR. THWAITE,
I wish to speak to you on most important business. Could you call on me to-morrow at eight o'clock in the evening,—here?
Yours very faithfully and always grateful,
And then the Countess had added her address in Keppel Street;—the very address which, about a month back, she had refused to give him. Of course he went to the Countess,—fully believing that Lady Anna would also be at the house, though believing also that he would not be allowed to see her. But at this time Lady Anna was still staying with Mrs. Bluestone in Bedford Square.
It was no doubt natural that every advantage should be taken of the strong position which Lord Lovel held. When he had extracted a promise from Lady Anna that she would write to him at the end of a week, he told Sir William, Sir William told his wife, Lady Patterson told Mrs. Bluestone, and Mrs. Bluestone told the Countess. They were all now in league against the tailor. If they could only get a promise from the girl before the cause came on,—anything that they could even call a promise,—then the thing might be easy. United together they would not be afraid of what the Italian woman might do. And this undertaking to write to Lord Lovel was almost as good as a promise. When a girl once hesitates with a lover, she has as good as surrendered. To say even that she will think of it, is to accept the man. Then Mrs. Bluestone and the Countess, putting their heads together, determined that an appeal should be made to the tailor. Had Sir William or the Serjeant been consulted, either would have been probably strong against the measure. But the ladies acted on their own judgment, and Daniel Thwaite presented himself in Keppel Street. "It is very kind of you to come," said the Countess.
"There is no great kindness in that," said Daniel, thinking perhaps of those twenty years of service which had been given by him and by his father.
"I know you think that I have been ungrateful for all that you have done for me." He did think so, and was silent. "But you would hardly wish me to repay you for helping me in my struggle by giving up all for which I have struggled."
"I have asked for nothing, Lady Lovel."
"Have you not?"
"I have asked you for nothing."
"But my daughter is all that I have in the world. Have you asked nothing of her?"
"Yes, Lady Lovel. I have asked much from her, and she has given me all that I have asked. But I have asked nothing, and now claim nothing, as payment for service done. If Lady Anna thinks she is in my debt after such fashion as that, I will soon make her free."
"She does think so, Mr. Thwaite."
"Let her tell me so with her own lips."
"You will not think that I am lying to you."
"And yet men do lie, and women too, without remorse, when the stakes are high. I will believe no one but herself in this. Let her come down and stand before me and look me in the face and tell me that it is so,—and I promise you that there shall be no further difficulty. I will not even ask to be alone with her. I will speak but a dozen words to her, and you shall hear them."
"She is not here, Mr. Thwaite. She is not living in this house."
"Where is she then?"
"She is staying with friends."
"With the Lovels,—in Yorkshire?"
"I do not think that good can be done by my telling you where she is."
"Do you mean me to understand that she is engaged to the Earl?"
"I tell you this,—that she acknowledges herself to be bound to you, but bound to you simply by gratitude. It seems that there was a promise."
"Oh yes,—there was a promise, Lady Lovel; a promise as firmly spoken as when you told the late lord that you would be his wife."
"I know that there was a promise,—though I, her mother, living with her at the time, had no dream of such wickedness. There was a promise, and by that she feels herself to be in some measure bound."
"She should do so,—if words can ever mean anything."
"I say she does,—but it is only by a feeling of gratitude. What;—is it probable that she should wish to mate so much below her degree, if she were now left to her own choice? Does it seem natural to you? She loves the young Earl,—as why should she not? She has been thrown into his company on purpose that she might learn to love him,—when no one knew of this horrid promise which had been exacted from her before she had seen any in the world from whom to choose."
"She has seen two now, him and me, and she can choose as she pleases. Let us both agree to take her at her word, and let us both be present when that word is spoken. If she goes to him and offers him her hand in my presence, I would not take it then though she were a princess, in lieu of being Lady Anna Lovel. Will he treat me as fairly? Will he be as bold to abide by her choice?"
"You can never marry her, Mr. Thwaite."
"Why can I never marry her? Would not my ring be as binding on her finger as his? Would not the parson's word make me and her one flesh and one bone as irretrievably as though I were ten times an earl? I am a man and she a woman. What law of God, or of man,—what law of nature can prevent us from being man and wife? I say that I can marry her,—and with her consent, I will."
"Never! You shall never live to call yourself the husband of my daughter. I have striven and suffered,—as never woman strove and suffered before, to give to my child the name and the rank which belong to her. I did not do so that she might throw them away on such a one as you. If you will deal honestly by us—"
"I have dealt by you more than honestly."
"If you will at once free her from this thraldom in which you hold her, and allow her to act in accordance with the dictates of her own heart—"
"That she shall do."
"If you will not hinder us in building up again the honour of the family, which was nigh ruined by the iniquities of my husband, we will bless you."
"I want but one blessing, Lady Lovel."
"And in regard to her money—"
"I do not expect you to believe me, Countess; but her money counts as nothing with me. If it becomes hers and she becomes my wife, as her husband I will protect it for her. But there shall be no dealing between you and me in regard to money."
"There is money due to your father, Mr. Thwaite."
"If so, that can be paid when you come by your own. It was not lent for the sake of a reward."
"And you will not liberate that poor girl from her thraldom."
"She can liberate herself if she will. I have told you what I will do. Let her tell me to my face what she wishes."
"That she shall never do, Mr. Thwaite;—no, by heavens. It is not necessary that she should have your consent to make such an alliance as her friends think proper for her. You have entangled her by a promise, foolish on her part, and very wicked on yours, and you may work us much trouble. You may delay the settlement of all this question,—perhaps for years; and half ruin the estate by prolonged lawsuits; you may make it impossible for me to pay your father what I owe him till he, and I also, shall be no more; but you cannot, and shall not, have access to my daughter."
Daniel Thwaite, as he returned home, tried to think it all over dispassionately. Was it as the Countess had represented? Was he acting the part of the dog in the manger, robbing others of happiness without the power of achieving his own? He loved the girl, and was he making her miserable by his love? He was almost inclined to think that the Countess had spoken truth in this respect.
END OF VOL. I.
Printed by Virtue and Co., City Road, London.
* * * * * *
In Two Volumes.
London: Chapman and Hall, 193, Piccadilly. 1874.
[All rights reserved.]
London: Printed by Virtue and Co., City Road.
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
XXV. DANIEL THWAITE'S LETTER. XXVI. THE KESWICK POET. XXVII. LADY ANNA'S LETTER. XXVIIII. LOVEL V. MURRAY AND ANOTHER. XXIX. DANIEL THWAITE ALONE. XXX. JUSTICE IS TO BE DONE. XXXI. THE VERDICT. XXXII. WILL YOU PROMISE? XXXIII. DANIEL THWAITE RECEIVES HIS MONEY. XXXIV. I WILL TAKE YOUR WORD FOR NOTHING. XXXV. THE SERJEANT AND MRS. BLUESTONE AT HOME. XXXVI. IT IS STILL TRUE. XXXVII. LET HER DIE. XXXVIII. LADY ANNA'S BEDSIDE. XXXIX. LADY ANNA'S OFFER. XL. NO DISGRACE AT ALL. XLI. NEARER AND NEARER. XLII. DANIEL THWAITE COMES TO KEPPEL STREET. XLIII. DANIEL THWAITE COMES AGAIN. XLIV. THE ATTEMPT AND NOT THE DEED CONFOUNDS US. XLV. THE LAWYERS AGREE. XLVI. HARD LINES. XLVII. THINGS ARRANGE THEMSELVES. XLVIII. THE MARRIAGE.
DANIEL THWAITE'S LETTER.
On the day following that on which Daniel Thwaite had visited Lady Lovel in Keppel Street, the Countess received from him a packet containing a short note to herself, and the following letter addressed to Lady Anna. The enclosure was open, and in the letter addressed to the Countess the tailor simply asked her to read and to send on to her daughter that which he had written, adding that if she would do so he would promise to abide by any answer which might come to him in Lady Anna's own handwriting. Daniel Thwaite when he made this offer felt that he was giving up everything. Even though the words might be written by the girl, they would be dictated by the girl's mother, or by those lawyers who were now leagued together to force her into a marriage with the Earl. But it was right, he thought,—and upon the whole best for all parties,—that he should give up everything. He could not bring himself to say so to the Countess or to any of those lawyers, when he was sent for and told that because of the lowliness of his position a marriage between him and the highly born heiress was impossible. On such occasions he revolted from the authority of those who endeavoured to extinguish him. But, when alone, he could see at any rate as clearly as they did, the difficulties which lay in his way. He also knew that there was a great gulf fixed, as Miss Alice Bluestone had said,—though he differed from the young lady as to the side of the gulf on which lay heaven, and on which heaven's opposite. The letter to Lady Anna was as follows;—
This letter if it reaches you at all will be given to you by your mother, who will have read it. It is sent to her open that she may see what I say to you. She sent for me and I went to her this evening, and she told me that it was impossible that I should ever be your husband. I was so bold as to tell her ladyship that there could be no impossibility. When you are of age you can walk out from your mother's house and marry me, as can I you; and no one can hinder us. There is nothing in the law, either of God or man, that can prevent you from becoming my wife,—if it be your wish to be so. But your mother also said that it was not your wish, and she went on to say that were you not bound to me by ties of gratitude you would willingly marry your cousin, Lord Lovel. Then I offered to meet you in the presence of your mother,—and in the presence too of Lord Lovel,—and to ask you then before all of us to which of us two your heart was given. And I promised that if in my presence you would stretch out your right hand to the Earl neither you nor your mother should be troubled further by Daniel Thwaite. But her ladyship swore to me, with an oath, that I should never be allowed to see you again.
I therefore write to you, and bid you think much of what I say to you before you answer me. You know well that I love you. You do not suspect that I am trying to win you because you are rich. You will remember that I loved you when no one thought that you would be rich. I do love you in my heart of hearts. I think of you in my dreams and fancy then that all the world has become bright to me, because we are walking together, hand-in-hand, where none can come between to separate us. But I would not wish you to be my wife, just because you have promised. If you do not love me,—above all, if you love this other man,—say so, and I will have done with it. Your mother says that you are bound to me by gratitude. I do not wish you to be my wife unless you are bound to me by love. Tell me then how it is;—but, as you value my happiness and your own, tell me the truth.
I will not say that I shall think well of you, if you have been carried away by this young man's nobility. I would have you give me a fair chance. Ask yourself what has brought him as a lover to your feet. How it came to pass that I was your lover you cannot but remember. But, for you, it is your first duty not to marry a man unless you love him. If you go to him because he can make you a countess you will be vile indeed. If you go to him because you find that he is in truth dearer to you than I am, because you prefer his arm to mine, because he has wound himself into your heart of hearts,—I shall think your heart indeed hardly worth the having; but according to your lights you will be doing right. In that case you shall have no further word from me to trouble you.
But I desire that I may have an answer to this in your own handwriting.
Your own sincere lover,
In composing and copying and recopying this letter the tailor sat up half the night, and then very early in the morning he himself carried it to Keppel Street, thus adding nearly three miles to his usual walk to Wigmore Street. The servant at the lodging-house was not up, and could hardly be made to rise by the modest appeals which Daniel made to the bell; but at last the delivery was effected, and the forlorn lover hurried back to his work.
The Countess as she sat at breakfast read the letter over and over again, and could not bring herself to decide whether it was right that it should be given to her daughter. She had not yet seen Lady Anna since she had sent the poor offender away from the house in anger, and had more than once repeated her assurance through Mrs. Bluestone that she would not do so till a promise had been given that the tailor should be repudiated. Should she make this letter an excuse for going to the house in Bedford Square, and of seeing her child, towards whom her very bowels were yearning? At this time, though she was a countess, with the prospect of great wealth, her condition was not enviable. From morning to night she was alone, unless when she would sit for an hour in Mr. Goffe's office, or on the rarer occasions of a visit to the chambers of Serjeant Bluestone. She had no acquaintances in London whatever. She knew that she was unfitted for London society even if it should be open to her. She had spent her life in struggling with poverty and powerful enemies,—almost alone,—taking comfort in her happiest moments in the strength and goodness of her old friend Thomas Thwaite. She now found that those old days had been happier than these later days. Her girl had been with her and had been,—or had at any rate seemed to be,—true to her. She had something then to hope, something to expect, some happiness of glory to which she could look forward. But now she was beginning to learn,—nay had already learned, that there was nothing for her to expect. Her rank was allowed to her. She no longer suffered from want of money. Her cause was about to triumph,—as the lawyers on both sides had seemed to say. But in what respect would the triumph be sweet to her? Even should her girl become the Countess Lovel, she would not be the less isolated. None of the Lovels wanted her society. She had banished her daughter to Bedford Square, and the only effect of the banishment was that her daughter was less miserable in Bedford Square than she would have been with her mother in Keppel Street.
She did not dare to act without advice, and therefore she took the letter to Mr. Goffe. Had it not been for a few words towards the end of the letter she would have sent it to her daughter at once. But the man had said that her girl would be vile indeed if she married the Earl for the sake of becoming a countess, and the widow of the late Earl did not like to put such doctrine into the hands of Lady Anna. If she delivered the letter of course she would endeavour to dictate the answer;—but her girl could be stubborn as her mother; and how would it be with them if quite another letter should be written than that which the Countess would have dictated?
Mr. Goffe read the letter and said that he would like to consider it for a day. The letter was left with Mr. Goffe, and Mr. Goffe consulted the Serjeant. The Serjeant took the letter home to Mrs. Bluestone, and then another consultation was held. It found its way to the very house in which the girl was living for whom it was intended, but was not at last allowed to reach her hand. "It's a fine manly letter," said the Serjeant.
"Then the less proper to give it to her," said Mrs. Bluestone, whose heart was all softness towards Lady Anna, but as hard as a millstone towards the tailor.
"If she does like this young lord the best, why shouldn't she tell the man the truth?" said the Serjeant.
"Of course she likes the young lord the best,—as is natural."
"Then in God's name let her say so, and put an end to all this trouble."
"You see, my dear, it isn't always easy to understand a girl's mind in such matters. I haven't a doubt which she likes best. She is not at all the girl to have a vitiated taste about young men. But you see this other man came first, and had the advantage of being her only friend at the time. She has felt very grateful to him, and as yet she is only beginning to learn the difference between gratitude and love. I don't at all agree with her mother as to being severe with her. I can't bear severity to young people, who ought to be made happy. But I am quite sure that this tailor should be kept away from her altogether. She must not see him or his handwriting. What would she say to herself if she got that letter? 'If he is generous, I can be generous too;' and if she ever wrote him a letter, pledging herself to him, all would be over. As it is, she has promised to write to Lord Lovel. We will hold her to that; and then, when she has given a sort of a promise to the Earl, we will take care that the tailor shall know it. It will be best for all parties. What we have got to do is to save her from this man, who has been both her best friend and her worst enemy." Mrs. Bluestone was an excellent woman, and in this emergency was endeavouring to do her duty at considerable trouble to herself and with no hope of any reward. The future Countess when she should become a Countess would be nothing to her. She was a good woman;—but she did not care what evil she inflicted on the tailor, in her endeavours to befriend the daughter of the Countess.
The tailor's letter, unseen and undreamt of by Lady Anna, was sent back through the Serjeant and Mr. Goffe to Lady Lovel, with strong advice from Mr. Goffe that Lady Anna should not be allowed to see it. "I don't hesitate to tell you, Lady Lovel, that I have consulted the Serjeant, and that we are both of opinion that no intercourse whatever should be permitted between Lady Anna Lovel and Mr. Daniel Thwaite." The unfortunate letter was therefore sent back to the writer with the following note;—"The Countess Lovel presents her compliments to Mr. Daniel Thwaite, and thinks it best to return the enclosed. The Countess is of opinion that no intercourse whatever should take place between her daughter and Mr. Daniel Thwaite."
Then Daniel swore an oath to himself that the intercourse between them should not thus be made to cease. He had acted as he thought not only fairly but very honourably. Nay;—he was by no means sure that that which had been intended for fairness and honour might not have been sheer simplicity. He had purposely abstained from any clandestine communication with the girl he loved,—even though she was one to whom he had had access all his life, with whom he had been allowed to grow up together;—who had eaten of his bread and drank of his cup. Now her new friends,—and his own old friend the Countess,—would keep no measures with him. There was to be no intercourse whatever! But, by the God of heaven, there should be intercourse!
THE KESWICK POET.
Infinite difficulties were now complicating themselves on the head of poor Daniel Thwaite. The packet which the Countess addressed to him did not reach him in London, but was forwarded after him down to Cumberland, whither he had hurried on receipt of news from Keswick that his father was like to die. The old man had fallen in a fit, and when the message was sent it was not thought likely that he would ever see his son again. Daniel went down to the north as quickly as his means would allow him, going by steamer to Whitehaven, and thence by coach to Keswick. His entire wages were but thirty-five shillings a week, and on that he could not afford to travel by the mail to Keswick. But he did reach home in time to see his father alive, and to stand by the bedside when the old man died.
Though there was not time for many words between them, and though the apathy of coming death had already clouded the mind of Thomas Thwaite, so that he, for the most part, disregarded,—as dying men do disregard,—those things which had been fullest of interest to him; still something was said about the Countess and Lady Anna. "Just don't mind them any further, Dan," said the father.
"Indeed that will be best," said Daniel.
"Yes, in truth. What can they be to the likes o' you? Give me a drop of brandy, Dan." The drop of brandy was more to him now than the Countess; but though he thought but little of this last word, his son thought much of it. What could such as the Countess and her titled daughter be to him, Daniel Thwaite, the broken tailor? For, in truth, his father was dying, a broken man. There was as much owed by him in Keswick as all the remaining property would pay; and as for the business, it had come to that, that the business was not worth preserving.
The old tailor died and was buried, and all Keswick knew that he had left nothing behind him, except the debt that was due to him by the Countess, as to which, opinion in the world of Keswick varied very much. There were those who said that the two Thwaites, father and son, had known very well on which side their bread was buttered, and that Daniel Thwaite would now, at his father's death, become the owner of bonds to a vast amount on the Lovel property. It was generally understood in Keswick that the Earl's claim was to be abandoned, that the rights of the Countess and her daughter were to be acknowledged, and that the Earl and his cousin were to become man and wife. If so the bonds would be paid, and Daniel Thwaite would become a rich man. Such was the creed of those who believed in the debt. But there were others who did not believe in the existence of any such bonds, and who ridiculed the idea of advances of money having been made. The old tailor had, no doubt, relieved the immediate wants of the Countess by giving her shelter and food, and had wasted his substance in making journeys, and neglecting his business; but that was supposed to be all. For such services on behalf of the father, it was not probable that much money would be paid to the son; and the less so, as it was known in Keswick that Daniel Thwaite had quarrelled with the Countess. As this latter opinion preponderated Daniel did not find that he was treated with any marked respect in his native town.
The old man did leave a will;—a very simple document, by which everything that he had was left to his son. And there was this paragraph in it; "I expect that the Countess Lovel will repay to my son Daniel all moneys that I have advanced on her behalf." As for bonds,—or any single bond,—Daniel could find none. There was an account of certain small items due by the Countess, of long date, and there was her ladyship's receipt for a sum of L500, which had apparently been lent at the time of the trial for bigamy. Beyond this he could find no record of any details whatever, and it seemed to him that his claim was reduced to something less than L600. Nevertheless, he had understood from his father that the whole of the old man's savings had been spent on behalf of the two ladies, and he believed that some time since he had heard a sum named exceeding L6,000. In his difficulty he asked a local attorney, and the attorney advised him to throw himself on the generosity of the Countess. He paid the attorney some small fee, and made up his mind at once that he would not take the lawyer's advice. He would not throw himself on the generosity of the Countess.
There was then still living in that neighbourhood a great man, a poet, who had nearly carried to its close a life of great honour and of many afflictions. He was one who, in these, his latter days, eschewed all society, and cared to see no faces but those of the surviving few whom he had loved in early life. And as those few survivors lived far away, and as he was but little given to move from home, his life was that of a recluse. Of the inhabitants of the place around him, who for the most part had congregated there since he had come among them, he saw but little, and his neighbours said that he was sullen and melancholic. But, according to their degrees, he had been a friend to Thomas Thwaite, and now, in his emergency, the son called upon the poet. Indifferent visitors, who might be and often were intruders, were but seldom admitted at that modest gate; but Daniel Thwaite was at once shown into the presence of the man of letters. They had not seen each other since Daniel was a youth, and neither would have known the other. The poet was hardly yet an old man, but he had all the characteristics of age. His shoulders were bent, and his eyes were deep set in his head, and his lips were thin and fast closed. But the beautiful oval of his face was still there, in spite of the ravages of years, of labours, and of sorrow; and the special brightness of his eye had not yet been dimmed. "I have been sorry, Mr. Thwaite, to hear of your father's death," said the poet. "I knew him well, but it was some years since, and I valued him as a man of singular probity and spirit." Then Daniel craved permission to tell his story;—and he told it all from the beginning to the end,—how his father and he had worked for the Countess and her girl, how their time and then their money had been spent for her; how he had learned to love the girl, and how, as he believed, the girl had loved him. And he told with absolute truth the whole story, as far as he knew it, of what had been done in London during the last nine months. He exaggerated nothing, and did not scruple to speak openly of his own hopes. He showed his letter to the Countess, and her note to him, and while doing so hid none of his own feelings. Did the poet think that there was any reason why, in such circumstances, a tailor should not marry the daughter of a Countess? And then he gave, as far as he knew it, the history of the money that had been advanced, and produced a copy of his father's will. "And now, sir, what would you have me do?"
"When you first spoke to the girl of love, should you not have spoken to the mother also, Mr. Thwaite?"
"Would you, sir, have done so?"
"I will not say that;—but I think that I ought. Her girl was all that she had."
"It may be that I was wrong. But if the girl loves me now—"
"I would not hurt your feelings for the world, Mr. Thwaite."
"Do not spare them, sir. I did not come to you that soft things might be said to me."
"I do not think it of your father's son. Seeing what is your own degree in life and what is theirs, that they are noble and of an old nobility, among the few hot-house plants of the nation, and that you are one of the people,—a blade of corn out of the open field, if I may say so,—born to eat your bread in the sweat of your brow, can you think that such a marriage would be other than distressing to them?"
"Is the hot-house plant stronger or better, or of higher use, than the ear of corn?"
"Have I said that it was, my friend? I will not say that either is higher in God's sight than the other, or better, or of a nobler use. But they are different; and though the differences may verge together without evil when the limits are near, I do not believe in graftings so violent as this."
"You mean, sir, that one so low as a tailor should not seek to marry so infinitely above himself as with the daughter of an Earl."
"Yes, Mr. Thwaite, that is what I mean; though I hope that in coming to me you knew me well enough to be sure that I would not willingly offend you."
"There is no offence;—there can be no offence. I am a tailor, and am in no sort ashamed of my trade. But I did not think, sir, that you believed in lords so absolutely as that."
"I believe but in one Lord," said the poet. "In Him who, in His wisdom and for His own purposes, made men of different degrees."
"Has it been His doing, sir,—or the devil's?"
"Nay, I will not discuss with you a question such as that. I will not at any rate discuss it now."
"I have read, sir, in your earlier books—"
"Do not quote my books to me, either early or late. You ask me for advice, and I give it according to my ability. The time may come too, Mr. Thwaite,"—and this he said laughing,—"when you also will be less hot in your abhorrence of a nobility than you are now."
"Ah;—'tis so that young men always make assurances to themselves of their own present wisdom."
"You think then that I should give her up entirely?"
"I would leave her to herself, and to her mother,—and to this young lord, if he be her lover."
"But if she loves me! Oh, sir, she did love me once. If she loves me, should I leave her to think, as time goes on, that I have forgotten her? What chance can she have if I do not interfere to let her know that I am true to her?"
"She will have the chance of becoming Lady Lovel, and of loving her husband."
"Then, sir, you do not believe in vows of love?"
"How am I to answer that?" said the poet. "Surely I do believe in vows of love. I have written much of love, and have ever meant to write the truth, as I knew it, or thought that I knew it. But the love of which we poets sing is not the love of the outer world. It is more ecstatic, but far less serviceable. It is the picture of that which exists, but grand with imaginary attributes, as are the portraits of ladies painted by artists who have thought rather of their art than of their models. We tell of a constancy in love which is hardly compatible with the usages of this as yet imperfect world. Look abroad, and see whether girls do not love twice, and young men thrice. They come together, and rub their feathers like birds, and fancy that each has found in the other an eternity of weal or woe. Then come the causes of their parting. Their fathers perhaps are Capulets and Montagues, but their children, God be thanked, are not Romeos and Juliets. Or money does not serve, or distance intervenes, or simply a new face has the poor merit of novelty. The constancy of which the poets sing is the unreal,—I may almost say the unnecessary,—constancy of a Juliet. The constancy on which our nature should pride itself is that of an Imogen. You read Shakespeare, I hope, Mr. Thwaite."
"I know the plays you quote, sir. Imogen was a king's daughter, and married a simple gentleman."
"I would not say that early vows should mean nothing," continued the poet, unwilling to take notice of the point made against him. "I like to hear that a girl has been true to her first kiss. But this girl will have the warrant of all the world to justify a second choice. And can you think that because your company was pleasant to her here among your native mountains, when she knew none but you, that she will be indifferent to the charms of such a one as you tell me this Lord Lovel is? She will have regrets,—remorse even; she will sorrow, because she knows that you have been good to her. But she will yield, and her life will be happier with him,—unless he be a bad man, which I do not know,—than it would be with you. Would there be no regrets, think you, no remorse, when she found that as your wife she had separated herself from all that she had been taught to regard as delightful in this world? Would she be happy in quarrelling with her mother and her new-found relatives? You think little of noble blood, and perhaps I think as little of it in matters relating to myself. But she is noble, and she will think of it. As for your money, Mr. Thwaite, I should make it a matter of mere business with the Countess, as though there was no question relating to her daughter. She probably has an account of the money, and doubtless will pay you when she has means at her disposal."
Daniel left his Mentor without another word on his own behalf, expressing thanks for the counsel that had been given to him, and assuring the poet that he would endeavour to profit by it. Then he walked away, over the very paths on which he had been accustomed to stray with Anna Lovel, and endeavoured to digest the words that he had heard. He could not bring himself to see their truth. That he should not force the girl to marry him, if she loved another better than she loved him, simply by the strength of her own obligation to him, he could understand. But that it was natural that she should transfer to another the affection that she had once bestowed upon him, because that other was a lord, he would not allow. Not only his heart but all his intellect rebelled against such a decision. A transfer so violent would, he thought, show that she was incapable of loving. And yet this doctrine had come to him from one who, as he himself had said, had written much of love.
But, though he argued after this fashion with himself, the words of the old poet had had their efficacy. Whether the fault might be with the girl, or with himself, or with the untoward circumstances of the case, he determined to teach himself that he had lost her. He would never love another woman. Though the Earl's daughter could not be true to him, he, the suitor, would be true to the Earl's daughter. There might no longer be Romeos among the noble Capulets and the noble Montagues,—whom indeed he believed to be dead to faith; but the salt of truth had not therefore perished from the world. He would get what he could from this wretched wreck of his father's property,—obtain payment if it might be possible of that poor L500 for which he held the receipt,—and then go to some distant land in which the wisest of counsellors would not counsel him that he was unfit because of his trade to mate himself with noble blood.
When he had proved his father's will he sent a copy of it up to the Countess with the following letter;—
Keswick, November 4, 183—.
I do not know whether your ladyship will yet have heard of my father's death. He died here on the 24th of last month. He was taken with apoplexy on the 15th, and never recovered from the fit. I think you will be sorry for him.
I find myself bound to send your ladyship a copy of his will. Your ladyship perhaps may have some account of what money has passed between you and him. I have none except a receipt for L500 given to you by him many years ago. There is also a bill against your ladyship for L71 18s. 9d. It may be that no more is due than this, but you will know. I shall be happy to hear from your ladyship on the subject, and am,
But he still was resolved that before he departed for the far western land he would obtain from Anna Lovel herself an expression of her determination to renounce him.
LADY ANNA'S LETTER.
In the mean time the week had gone round, and Lady Anna's letter to the Earl had not yet been written. An army was arrayed against the girl to induce her to write such a letter as might make it almost impossible for her afterwards to deny that she was engaged to the lord, but the army had not as yet succeeded. The Countess had not seen her daughter,—had been persistent in her refusal to let her daughter come to her till she had at any rate repudiated her other suitor; but she had written a strongly worded but short letter, urging it as a great duty that Lady Anna Lovel was bound to support her family and to defend her rank. Mrs. Bluestone, from day to day, with soft loving words taught the same lesson. Alice Bluestone in their daily conversations spoke of the tailor, or rather of this promise to the tailor, with a horror which at any rate was not affected. The Serjeant, almost with tears in his eyes, implored her to put an end to the lawsuit. Even the Solicitor-General sent her tender messages,—expressing his great hope that she might enable them to have this matter adjusted early in November. All the details of the case as it now stood had been explained to her over and over again. If, when the day fixed for the trial should come round, it could be said that she and the young Earl were engaged to each other, the Earl would altogether abandon his claim,—and no further statement would be made. The fact of the marriage in Cumberland would then be proved,—the circumstances of the trial for bigamy would be given in evidence,—and all the persons concerned would be together anxious that the demands of the two ladies should be admitted in full. It was the opinion of the united lawyers that were this done, the rank of the Countess would be allowed, and that the property left behind him by the old lord would be at once given up to those who would inherit it under the order of things as thus established. The Countess would receive that to which she would be entitled as widow, the daughter would be the heir-at-law to the bulk of the personal property, and the Earl would merely claim any real estate, if,—as was very doubtful,—any real estate had been left in question. In this case the disposition of the property would be just what they would all desire, and the question of rank would be settled for ever. But if the young lady should not have then agreed to this very pleasant compromise, the Earl indeed would make no further endeavours to invalidate the Cumberland marriage, and would retire from the suit. But it would then be stated that there was a claimant in Sicily,—or at least evidence in Italy, which if sifted might possibly bar the claim of the Countess. The Solicitor-General did not hesitate to say that he believed the living woman to be a weak impostor, who had been first used by the Earl and had then put forward a falsehood to get an income out of the property; but he was by no means convinced that the other foreign woman, whom the Earl had undoubtedly made his first wife, might not have been alive when the second marriage was contracted. If it were so, the Countess would be no Countess, Anna Lovel would simply be Anna Murray, penniless, baseborn, and a fit wife for the tailor, should the tailor think fit to take her. "If it be so," said Lady Anna through her tears, "let it be so; and he will take me."
It may have been that the army was too strong for its own purpose,—too much of an army to gain a victory on that field,—that a weaker combination of forces would have prevailed when all this array failed. No one had a word to say for the tailor; no one admitted that he had been a generous friend; no feeling was expressed for him. It seemed to be taken for granted that he, from the beginning, had laid his plans for obtaining possession of an enormous income in the event of the Countess being proved to be a Countess. There was no admission that he had done aught for love. Now, in all these matters, Lady Anna was sure of but one thing alone, and that was of the tailor's truth. Had they acknowledged that he was good and noble, they might perhaps have persuaded her,—as the poet had almost persuaded her lover,—that the fitness of things demanded that they should be separated.
But she had promised that she would write the letter by the end of the week, and when the end of a fortnight had come she knew that it must be written. She had declared over and over again to Mrs. Bluestone that she must go away from Bedford Square. She could not live there always, she said. She knew that she was in the way of everybody. Why should she not go back to her own mother? "Does mamma mean to say that I am never to live with her any more?" Mrs. Bluestone promised that if she would write her letter and tell her cousin that she would try to love him, she should go back to her mother at once. "But I cannot live here always," persisted Lady Anna. Mrs. Bluestone would not admit that there was any reason why her visitor should not continue to live in Bedford Square as long as the arrangement suited Lady Lovel.
Various letters were written for her. The Countess wrote one which was an unqualified acceptance of the Earl's offer, and which was very short. Alice Bluestone wrote one which was full of poetry. Mrs. Bluestone wrote a third, in which a great many ambiguous words were used,—in which there was no definite promise, and no poetry. But had this letter been sent it would have been almost impossible for the girl afterwards to extricate herself from its obligations. The Serjeant, perhaps, had lent a word or two, for the letter was undoubtedly very clever. In this letter Lady Anna was made to say that she would always have the greatest pleasure in receiving her cousin's visits, and that she trusted that she might be able to co-operate with her cousins in bringing the lawsuit to a close;—that she certainly would not marry any one without her mother's consent, but that she did not find herself able at the present to say more than that. "It won't stop the Solicitor-General, you know," the Serjeant had remarked, as he read it. "Bother the Solicitor-General!" Mrs. Bluestone had answered, and had then gone on to show that it would lead to that which would stop the learned gentleman. The Serjeant had added a word or two, and great persuasion was used to induce Lady Anna to use this epistle.
But she would have none of it. "Oh, I couldn't, Mrs. Bluestone;—he would know that I hadn't written all that."
"You have promised to write, and you are bound to keep your promise," said Mrs. Bluestone.
"I believe I am bound to keep all my promises," said Lady Anna, thinking of those which she had made to Daniel Thwaite.
But at last she sat down and did write a letter for herself, specially premising that no one should see it. When she had made her promise, she certainly had not intended to write that which should be shown to all the world. Mrs. Bluestone had begged that at any rate the Countess might see it. "If mamma will let me go to her, of course I will show it her," said Lady Anna. At last it was thought best to allow her to write her own letter and to send it unseen. After many struggles and with many tears she wrote her letter as follows;—
Bedford Square, Tuesday.
MY DEAR COUSIN,
I am sorry that I have been so long in doing what I said I would do. I don't think I ought to have promised, for I find it very difficult to say anything, and I think that it is wrong that I should write at all. It is not my fault that there should be a lawsuit. I do not want to take anything away from anybody, or to get anything for myself. I think papa was very wicked when he said that mamma was not his wife, and of course I wish it may all go as she wishes. But I don't think anybody ought to ask me to do what I feel to be wrong.
Mr. Daniel Thwaite is not at all such a person as they say. He and his father have been mamma's best friends, and I shall never forget that. Old Mr. Thwaite is dead, and I am very sorry to hear it. If you had known them as we did you would understand what I feel. Of course he is not your friend; but he is my friend, and I dare say that makes me unfit to be friends with you. You are a nobleman and he is a tradesman; but when we knew him first he was quite as good as we, and I believe we owe him a great deal of money, which mamma can't pay him. I have heard mamma say before she was angry with him, that she would have been in the workhouse, but for them, and that Mr. Daniel Thwaite might now be very well off, and not a working tailor at all as Mrs. Bluestone calls him, if they hadn't given all they had to help us. I cannot bear after that to hear them speak of him as they do.
Of course I should like to do what mamma wants; but how would you feel if you had promised somebody else? I do so wish that all this might be stopped altogether. My dear mamma will not allow me to see her; and though everybody is very kind, I feel that I ought not to be here with Mrs. Bluestone. Mamma talked of going abroad somewhere. I wish she would, and take me away. I should see nobody then, and there would be no trouble. But I suppose she hasn't got enough money. This is a very poor letter, but I do not know what else I can say.
Believe me to be, My dear cousin, Yours affectionately,
Then came, in a postscript, the one thing that she had to say,—"I think that I ought to be allowed to see Mr. Daniel Thwaite."
Lord Lovel after receiving this letter called in Bedford Square and saw Mrs. Bluestone,—but he did not show the letter. His cousin was out with the girls and he did not wait to see her. He merely said that he had received a letter which had not given him much comfort. "But I shall answer it," he said,—and the reader who has seen the one letter shall see also the other.
Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street, 4th November, 183—.
I have received your letter and am obliged to you for it, though there is so little in it to flatter or to satisfy me. I will begin by assuring you that, as far as I am concerned, I do not wish to keep you from seeing Mr. Daniel Thwaite. I believe in my heart of hearts that if you were now to see him often you would feel aware that a union between you and him could not make either of you happy. You do not even say that you think it would do so.
You defend him, as though I had accused him. I grant all that you say in his favour. I do not doubt that his father behaved to you and to your mother with true friendship. But that will not make him fit to be the husband of Anna Lovel. You do not even say that you think that he would be fit. I fancy I understand it all, and I love you better for the pride with which you cling to so firm a friend.
But, dearest, it is different when we talk of marriage. I imagine that you hardly dare now to think of becoming his wife. I doubt whether you say even to yourself that you love him with that kind of love. Do not suppose me vain enough to believe that therefore you must love me. It is not that. But if you would once tell yourself that he is unfit to be your husband, then you might come to love me, and would not be the less willing to do so, because all your friends wish it. It must be something to you that you should be able to put an end to all this trouble.
Yours, dearest Anna, Most affectionately,
I called in Bedford Square this morning, but you were not at home!
"But I do dare," she said to herself, when she had read the letter. "Why should I not dare? And I do say to myself that I love him. Why should I not love him now, when I was not ashamed to love him before?" She was being persecuted; and as the step of the wayfarer brings out the sweet scent of the herb which he crushes with his heel, so did persecution with her extract from her heart that strength of character which had hitherto been latent. Had they left her at Yoxham, and said never a word to her about the tailor; had the rector and the two aunts showered soft courtesies on her head,—they might have vanquished her. But now the spirit of opposition was stronger within her than ever.
LOVEL V. MURRAY AND ANOTHER.
Monday, the 9th of November, was the day set down for the trial of the case which had assumed the name of "Lovel versus Murray and Another." This denomination had been adopted many months ago, when it had been held to be practicable by the Lovel party to prove that the lady who was now always called the Countess, was not entitled to bear the name of Lovel, but was simply Josephine Murray, and her daughter simply Anna Murray. Had there been another wife alive when the mother was married that name and that name only could have been hers, whether she had been the victim of the old Earl's fraud,—or had herself been a party to it. The reader will have understood that as the case went on the opinions of those who acted for the young Earl, and more especially the opinion of the young Earl himself, had been changed. Prompted to do so by various motives, they, who had undertaken to prove that the Countess was no Countess, had freely accorded to her her title, and had themselves entertained her daughter with all due acknowledgment of rank and birth. Nevertheless the name of the case remained and had become common in people's mouths. The very persons who would always speak of the Countess Lovel spoke also very familiarly of the coming trial in "Lovel v. Murray," and now the 9th of November had come round and the case of "Lovel v. Murray and Another" was to be tried. The nature of the case was this. The two ladies, mother and daughter, had claimed the personal property of the late lord as his widow and daughter. Against that claim Earl Lovel made his claim, as heir-at-law, alleging that there was no widow, and no legitimate child. The case had become infinitely complicated by the alleged existence of the first wife,—in which case she as widow would have inherited. But still the case went on as Lovel v. Murray,—the Lovel so named being the Earl, and not the alleged Italian widow.
Such being the question presumably at issue, it became the duty of the Solicitor-General to open the pleadings. In the ordinary course of proceeding it would have been his task to begin by explaining the state of the family, and by assuming that he could prove the former marriage and the existence of the former wife at the time of the latter marriage. His evidence would have been subject to cross-examination, and then another counter-statement would have been made on behalf of the Countess, and her witnesses would have been brought forward. When all this had been done the judge would have charged the jury, and with the jury would have rested the decision. This would have taken many days, and all the joys and sorrows, all the mingled hopes and anxieties of a long trial had been expected. Bets had been freely made, odds being given at first on behalf of Lord Lovel, and afterwards odds on behalf of the Countess. Interest had been made to get places in the court, and the clubs had resounded now with this fact and now with that which had just been brought home from Sicily as certain. Then had come suddenly upon the world the tidings that there would absolutely be no trial, that the great case of "Lovel v. Murray and Another" was to be set at rest for ever by the marriage of "Lovel" with "Another," and by the acceptance by "Lovel" of "Murray" as his mother-in-law. But the quidnuncs would not accept this solution. No doubt Lord Lovel might marry the second party in the defence, and it was admitted on all hands that he probably would do so;—but that would not stop the case. If there were an Italian widow living, that widow was the heir to the property. Another Lovel would take the place of Lord Lovel,—and the cause of Lovel v. Murray must still be continued. The first marriage could not be annulled, simply by the fact that it would suit the young Earl that it should be annulled. Then, while this dispute was in progress, it was told at all the clubs that there was to be no marriage,—that the girl had got herself engaged to a tailor, and that the tailor's mastery over her was so strong that she did not dare to shake him off. Dreadful things were told about the tailor and poor Lady Anna. There had been a secret marriage; there was going to be a child;—the latter fact was known as a certain fact to a great many men at the clubs;—the tailor had made everything safe in twenty different ways. He was powerful over the girl equally by love, by fear, and by written bond. The Countess had repelled her daughter from her house by turning her out into the street by night, and had threatened both murder and suicide. Half the fortune had been offered to the tailor, in vain. The romance of the story had increased greatly during the last few days preceding the trial,—but it was admitted by all that the trial as a trial would be nothing. There would probably be simply an adjournment.
It would be hard to say how the story of the tailor leaked out, and became at last public and notorious. It had been agreed among all the lawyers that it should be kept secret,—but it may perhaps have been from some one attached to them that it was first told abroad. No doubt all Norton and Flick knew it, and all Goffe and Goffe. Mr. Mainsail and his clerk, Mr. Hardy and his clerk, Serjeant Bluestone and his clerk, all knew it; but they had all promised secrecy. The clerk of the Solicitor-General was of course beyond suspicion. The two Miss Bluestones had known the story, but they had solemnly undertaken to be silent as the grave. Mrs. Bluestone was a lady with most intimately confidential friends,—but she was sworn to secrecy. It might have come from Sarah, the lady's-maid, whom the Countess had unfortunately attached to her daughter when the first gleam of prosperity had come upon them.
Among the last who heard the story of the tailor,—the last of any who professed the slightest interest in the events of the Lovel family,—were the Lovels of Yoxham. The Earl had told them nothing. In answer to his aunt's letters, and then in answer to a very urgent appeal from his uncle, the young nobleman had sent only the most curt and most ambiguous replies. When there was really something to tell he would tell everything, but at present he could only say that he hoped that everything would be well. That had been the extent of the information given by the Earl to his relations, and the rector had waxed wrathful. Nor was his wrath lessened, or the sorrow of the two aunts mitigated, when the truth reached them by the mouth of that very Lady Fitzwarren who had been made to walk out of the room after—Anna Murray, as Lady Fitzwarren persisted in calling the "young person" after she had heard the story of the tailor. She told the story at Yoxham parsonage to the two aunts, and brought with her a printed paragraph from a newspaper to prove the truth of it. As it is necessary that we should now hurry into the court to hear what the Solicitor-General had to say about the case, we cannot stop to sympathize with the grief of the Lovels at Yoxham. We may, however, pause for a moment to tell the burden of the poor rector's song for that evening. "I knew how it would be from the beginning. I told you so. I was sure of it. But nobody would believe me."
The Court of Queen's Bench at Westminster was crowded on the 9th of November. The case was to be heard before the Lord Chief Justice, and it was known that at any rate Sir William Patterson would have something to tell. If nothing else came of it, the telling of that story would be worth the hearing. All the preliminaries of the trial went on, as though every one believed that it was to be carried through to the bitter end,—as though evidence were to be adduced and rebutted, and further contradicted by other evidence, which would again be rebutted with that pleasing animosity between rival lawyers, which is so gratifying to the outside world, and apparently to themselves also. The jurors were sworn in,—a special jury,—and long was the time taken, and many the threats made by the Chief Justice, before twelve gentlemen would consent to go into the box. Crowds were round the doors of the court, of which every individual man would have paid largely for standing-room to hear the trial; but when they were wanted for use, men would not come forward to accept a seat, with all that honour which belongs to a special juryman. And yet it was supposed that at last there would be no question to submit to a jury.
About noon the Solicitor began his statement. He was full of smiles and nods and pleasant talk, gestures indicative of a man who had a piece of work before him in which he could take delight. It is always satisfactory to see the assurance of a cock crowing in his own farm-yard, and to admire his easy familiarity with things that are awful to a stranger bird. If you, O reader, or I were bound to stand up in that court, dressed in wig and gown, and to tell a story that would take six hours in the telling, the one or the other of us knowing it to be his special duty so to tell it that judge, and counsellors, and jury, should all catch clearly every point that was to be made,—how ill would that story be told, how would those points escape the memory of the teller, and never come near the intellect of the hearers! And how would the knowledge that it would be so, confuse your tongue or mine,—and make exquisitely miserable that moment of rising before the audience! But our Solicitor-General rose to his legs a happy man, with all that grace of motion, that easy slowness, that unassumed confidence which belongs to the ordinary doings of our familiar life. Surely he must have known that he looked well in his wig and gown, as with low voice and bent neck, with only half-suppressed laughter, he whispered into the ears of the gentleman who sat next to him some pleasant joke that had just occurred to him. He could do that, though the eyes of all the court were upon him; so great was the man! And then he began with a sweet low voice, almost modest in its tones. For a few moments it might have been thought that some young woman was addressing the court, so gentle, so dulcet were the tones.
"My lord, it is my intention on this occasion to do that which an advocate can seldom do,—to make a clean breast of it, to tell the court and the jury all that I know of this case, all that I think of it, and all that I believe,—and in short to state a case as much in the interest of my opponents as of my clients. The story with which I must occupy the time of the court, I fear, for the whole remainder of the day, with reference to the Lovel family, is replete with marvels and romance. I shall tell you of great crimes and of singular virtues, of sorrows that have been endured and conquered, and of hopes that have been nearly realised; but the noble client on whose behalf I am here called upon to address you, is not in any manner the hero of this story. His heroism will be shown to consist in this,—unless I mar the story in telling it,—that he is only anxious to establish the truth, whether that truth be for him or against him. We have now to deal with an ancient and noble family, of which my client, the present Earl Lovel, is at this time the head and chief. On the question now before us depends the possession of immense wealth. Should this trial be carried to its natural conclusion it will be for you to decide whether this wealth belongs to him as the heir-at-law of the late Earl, or whether there was left some nearer heir when that Earl died, whose rightful claim would bar that of my client. But there is more to be tried than this,—and on that more depends the right of two ladies to bear the name of Lovel. Such right, or the absence of such right, would in this country of itself be sufficient to justify, nay, to render absolutely necessary, some trial before a jury in any case of well-founded doubt. Our titles of honour bear so high a value among us, are so justly regarded as the outward emblem of splendour and noble conduct, are recognised so universally as passports to all society, that we are naturally prone to watch their assumption with a caution most exact and scrupulous. When the demand for such honour is made on behalf of a man it generally includes the claim to some parliamentary privilege, the right to which has to be decided not by a jury, but by the body to which that privilege belongs. The claim to a peerage must be tried before the House of Lords,—if made by a woman as by a man, because the son of the heiress would be a peer of Parliament. In the case with which we are now concerned no such right is in question. The lady who claims to be the Countess Lovel, and her daughter who claims to be Lady Anna Lovel, make no demand which renders necessary other decision than that of a jury. It is as though any female commoner in the land claimed to have been the wife of an alleged husband. But not the less is the claim made to a great and a noble name; and as a grave doubt has been thrown upon the justice of the demand made by these ladies, it has become the duty of my client as the head of the Lovels, as being himself, without any doubt, the Earl Lovel of the day, to investigate the claim made, and to see that no false pretenders are allowed to wear the highly prized honours of his family. Independently of the great property which is at stake, the nature of which it will be my duty to explain to you, the question at issue whether the elder lady be or be not Countess Lovel, and whether the younger lady be or be not Lady Anna Lovel, has demanded the investigation which could not adequately have been made without this judicial array. I will now state frankly to you our belief that these two ladies are fully entitled to the names which they claim to bear; and I will add to that statement a stronger assurance of my own personal conviction and that of my client that they themselves are fully assured of the truth and justice of their demand. I think it right also to let you know that since these inquiries were first commenced, since the day for this trial was fixed, the younger of these ladies has been residing with the uncle of my client, under the same roof with my client, as an honoured and most welcome guest, and there, in the face of the whole country, has received that appellation of nobility from all the assembled members of my client's family, to dispute which I apparently now stand before you on that client's behalf." The rector of Yoxham, who was in court, shook his head vehemently when the statement was made that Lady Anna had been his welcome guest; but nobody was then regarding the rector of Yoxham, and he shook his head in vain.
"You will at once ask why, if this be so, should the trial be continued. 'As all is thus conceded,' you will say, 'that these two ladies claim, whom in your indictment you have misnamed Murray, why not, in God's name, give them their privileges, and the wealth which should appertain to them, and release them from the persecution of judicial proceedings?' In the first place I must answer that neither my belief, nor that of my friends who are acting with me, nor even that of my noble client himself, is sufficient to justify us in abstaining from seeking a decision which shall be final as against further claimants. If the young Earl should die, then would there be another Earl, and that other Earl might also say, with grounds as just as those on which we have acted, that the lady, whom I shall henceforward call the Countess Lovel, is no Countess. We think that she is,—but it will be for you to decide whether she is or is not, after hearing the evidence which will, no doubt, be adduced of her marriage,—and any evidence to the contrary which other parties may bring before you. We shall adduce no evidence to the contrary, nor do I think it probable that we shall ask a single question to shake that with which my learned friend opposite is no doubt prepared. In fact, there is no reason why my learned friend and I should not sit together, having our briefs and our evidence in common. And then, as the singular facts of this story become clear to you,—as I trust that I may be able to make them clear,—you will learn that there are other interests at stake beyond those of my client and of the two ladies who appear here as his opponents. Two statements have been made tending to invalidate the rights of Countess Lovel,—both having originated with one who appears to have been the basest and blackest human being with whose iniquities my experience as a lawyer has made me conversant. I speak of the late Earl. It was asserted by him, almost from the date of his marriage with the lady who is now his widow,—falsely stated, as I myself do not doubt,—that when he married her he had a former wife living. But it is, I understand, capable of absolute proof that he also stated that this former wife died soon after that second marriage,—which in such event would have been but a mock marriage. Were such the truth,—should you come to the belief that the late Earl spoke truth in so saying,—the whole property at issue would become the undisputed possession of my client. The late Earl died intestate, the will which he did leave having been already set aside by my client as having been made when the Earl was mad. The real wife, according to this story, would be dead. The second wife, according to this story, would be no wife,—and no widow. The daughter, according to this story, would be no daughter in the eye of the law,—would, at any rate, be no heiress. The Earl would be the undisputed heir to the personal property, as he is to the real property and to the title. But we disbelieve this story utterly,—we intend to offer no evidence to show that the first wife,—for there was such a wife,—was living when the second marriage was contracted. We have no such evidence, and believe that none such can be found. Then that recreant nobleman, in whose breast there was no touch of nobility, in whose heart was no spark of mercy, made a second statement,—to this effect—that his first wife had not died at all. His reason for this it is hardly for us to seek. He may have done so, as affording a reason why he should not go through a second marriage ceremony with the lady whom he had so ill used. But that he did make this statement is certain,—and it is also certain that he allowed an income to a certain woman as though to a wife, that he allowed her to be called the Countess, though he was then living with another Italian woman; and it is also certain that this woman is still living,—or at least that she was living some week or two ago. We believe her to have been an elder sister of her who was the first wife, and whose death occurred before the second marriage. Should it be proved that this living woman was the legitimate wife of the late Earl, not only would the right be barred of those two English ladies to whom all our sympathies are now given, but no portion of the property in dispute would go either to them or to my client. I am told that before his lordship, the Chief Justice, shall have left the case in your hands, an application will be made to the court on behalf of that living lady. I do not know how that may be, but I am so informed. If such application be made,—if there be any attempt to prove that she should inherit as widow,—then will my client again contest the case. We believe that the Countess Lovel, the English Countess, is the widow, and that Lady Anna Lovel is Lady Anna Lovel, and is the heiress. Against them we will not struggle. As was our bounden duty, we have sent not once only, but twice and thrice, to Italy and to Sicily in search of evidence which, if true, would prove that the English Countess was no Countess. We have failed, and have no evidence which we think it right to ask a jury to believe. We think that a mass of falsehood has been heaped together among various persons in a remote part of a foreign country, with the view of obtaining money, all of which was grounded on the previous falsehoods of the late Earl. We will not use these falsehoods with the object of disputing a right in the justice of which we have ourselves the strongest confidence. We withdraw from any such attempt.