"Has the consent of Lady Anna been asked?" demanded the tailor, in a voice which was low, but which the Serjeant felt at the moment to be dangerous.
"You may take my word that it shall be forthcoming," said the Serjeant.
"I will take your word for nothing, Serjeant Bluestone. I do not think that among you all, you would dare to make such a proposition to Lady Anna Lovel, and I wonder that you should dare to make it to me. What have you seen in me to lead you to suppose that I would sell myself for a bribe? And how can you have been so unwise as to offer it after I have told you that she shall be free,—if she chooses to be free? But it is all one. You deal in subterfuges till you think it impossible that a man should be honest. You mine underground, till your eyes see nothing in the open daylight. You walk crookedly, till a straight path is an abomination to you. Four hundred a year is nothing to me for such a purpose as this,—would have been nothing to me even though no penny had been paid to me of the money which is my own. I can easily understand what it is that makes the Earl so devoted a lover. His devotion began when he had been told that the money was hers and not his,—and that in no other way could he get it. Mine began when no one believed that she would ever have a shilling for her fortune,—when all who bore her name and her mother's ridiculed their claim. Mine was growing when my father first asked me whether I grudged that he should spend all that he had in their behalf. Mine came from giving. His springs from the desire to get. Make the four hundred, four thousand;—make it eight thousand, Serjeant Bluestone, and offer it to him. I also will agree. With him you may succeed. Good morning, Serjeant Bluestone. On Monday next I will not be worse than my word,—even though you have offered me a bribe."
The Serjeant let the tailor go without a word further,—not, indeed, having a word to say. He had been insulted in his own chambers,—told that his word was worthless, and his honesty questionable. But he had been so told, that at the moment he had been unable to stop the speaker. He had sat, and smiled, and stroked his chin, and looked at the tailor as though he had been endeavouring to comfort himself with the idea that the man addressing him was merely an ignorant, half-mad, enthusiastic tailor, from whom decent conduct could not be expected. He was still smiling when Daniel Thwaite closed the door, and he almost laughed as he asked his clerk whether that energetic gentleman had taken himself down-stairs. "Oh, yes, sir; he glared at me when I opened the door, and rushed down four steps at a time." But, on the whole, the Serjeant was contented with the interview. It would, no doubt, have been better had he said nothing of the four hundred a year. But in the offering of bribes there is always that danger. One can never be sure who will swallow his douceur at an easy gulp, so as hardly to betray an effort, and who will refuse even to open his lips. And then the latter man has the briber so much at advantage. When the luscious morsel has been refused, it is so easy to be indignant, so pleasant to be enthusiastically virtuous! The bribe had been refused, and so far the Serjeant had failed;—but the desired promise had been made, and the Serjeant felt certain that it would be kept. He did not doubt but that Daniel Thwaite would himself offer the girl her freedom. But there was something in the man, though he was a tailor. He had an eye and a voice, and it might be that freedom offered, as he could offer it, would not be accepted.
Daniel, as he went out into the court from the lawyer's presence, was less satisfied than the lawyer. He had told the lawyer that his word was worth nothing, and yet he had believed much that the lawyer had said to him. The lawyer had told him that the girl loved her cousin, and only wanted his permission to be free that she might give her hand and her heart together to the young lord. Was it not natural that she should wish to do so? Within each hour, almost within each minute, he regarded the matter in lights that were perfectly antagonistic to each other. It was natural that she should wish to be a Countess, and that she should love a young lord who was gentle and beautiful;—and she should have his permission accorded freely. But then, again, it was most unnatural, bestial, and almost monstrous, that a girl should change her love for a man, going from one man to another, simply because the latter man was gilt with gold, and decked with jewels, and sweet with perfume from a hairdresser's. The poet must have been wrong there. If love be anything but a dream, surely it must adhere to the person, and not be liable to change at every offered vantage of name or birth, of rank or wealth.
But she should have the offer. She should certainly have the offer.
THE SERJEANT AND MRS. BLUESTONE AT HOME.
Lady Anna was not told till the Saturday that she was to meet her lover, the tailor, on the following Monday. She was living at this time, as it were, in chains, though the chains were gilded. It was possible that she might be off at any moment with Daniel Thwaite,—and now the more possible because he had money at his command. If this should occur, then would the game which the Countess and her friends were playing, be altogether lost. Then would the checkmate have been absolute. The reader will have known that such a step had never been contemplated by the man, and will also have perceived that it would have been altogether opposed to the girl's character; but it is hoped that the reader has looked more closely into the man's motives and the girl's character than even her mother was able to do. The Countess had thought that she had known her daughter. She had been mistaken, and now there was hardly anything of which she could not suspect her girl to be capable. Lady Anna was watched, therefore, during every minute of the four and twenty hours. A policeman was told off to protect the house at night from rope ladders or any other less cumbrous ingenuity. The servants were set on guard. Sarah, the lady's-maid, followed her mistress almost like a ghost when the poor young lady went to her bedroom. Mrs. Bluestone, or one of the girls, was always with her, either indoors or out of doors. Out of doors, indeed, she never went without more guards than one. A carriage had been hired,—a luxury with which Mrs. Bluestone had hitherto dispensed,—and the carriage was always there when Lady Anna suggested that she should like to leave the house. She was warmly invited to go shopping, and made to understand that in the way of ordinary shopping she could buy what she pleased. But her life was inexpressibly miserable. "What does mamma mean to do?" she said to Mrs. Bluestone on the Saturday morning.
"In what way, my dear?"
"Where does she mean to go? She won't live always in Keppel Street?"
"No,—I do not think that she will live always in Keppel Street. It depends a good deal upon you, I think."
"I will go wherever she pleases to take me. The lawsuit is over now, and I don't know why we should stay here. I am sure you can't like it."
To tell the truth, Mrs. Bluestone did not like it at all. Circumstances had made her a gaoler, but by nature she was very ill constituted for that office. The harshness of it was detestable to her, and then there was no reason whatever why she should sacrifice her domestic comfort for the Lovels. The thing had grown upon them, till the Lovels had become an incubus to her. Personally, she liked Lady Anna, but she was unable to treat Lady Anna as she would treat any other girl that she liked. She had told the Serjeant more than once that she could not endure it much longer. And the Serjeant did not like it better than did his wife. It was all a labour of love, and a most unpleasant labour. "The Countess must take her away," the Serjeant had said. And now the Serjeant had been told by the tailor, in his own chambers, that his word was worth nothing!
"To tell you the truth, Lady Anna, we none of us like it,—not because we do not like you, but because the whole thing is disagreeable. You are creating very great misery, my dear, because you are obstinate."
"Because I won't marry my cousin?"
"No, my dear; not because you won't marry your cousin. I have never advised you to marry your cousin, unless you could love him. I don't think girls should ever be told to marry this man or that. But it is very proper that they should be told not to marry this man or that. You are making everybody about you miserable, because you will not give up a most improper engagement, made with a man who is in every respect beneath you."
"I wish I were dead," said Lady Anna.
"It is very easy to say that, my dear; but what you ought to wish is, to do your duty."
"I do wish to do my duty, Mrs. Bluestone."
"It can't be dutiful to stand out against your mother in this way. You are breaking your mother's heart. And if you were to do this thing, you would soon find that you had broken your own. It is downright obstinacy. I don't like to be harsh, but as you are here, in my charge, I am bound to tell you the truth."
"I wish mamma would let me go away," said Lady Anna, bursting into tears.
"She will let you go at once, if you will only make the promise that she asks of you." In saying this, Mrs. Bluestone was hardly more upon the square than her husband had been, for she knew very well, at that moment, that Lady Anna was to go to Keppel Street early on the Monday morning, and she had quite made up her mind that her guest should not come back to Bedford Square. She had now been moved to the special severity which she had shown by certain annoyances of her own to which she had been subjected by the presence of Lady Anna in her house. She could neither entertain her friends nor go out to be entertained by them, and had told the Serjeant more than once that a great mistake had been made in having the girl there at all. But judgment had operated with her as well as feeling. It was necessary that Lady Anna should be made to understand before she saw the tailor that she could not be happy, could not be comfortable, could not be other than very wretched,—till she had altogether dismissed her low-born lover.
"I did not think you would be so unkind to me," sobbed Lady Anna through her tears.
"I do not mean to be unkind, but you must be told the truth. Every minute that you spend in thinking of that man is a disgrace to you."
"Then I shall be disgraced all my life," said Lady Anna, bursting out of the room.
On that day the Serjeant dined at his club, but came home about nine o'clock. It had all been planned so that the information might be given in the most solemn manner possible. The two girls were sitting up in the drawing-room with the guest who, since the conversation in the morning, had only seen Mrs. Bluestone during dinner. First there was the knock at the door, and then, after a quarter of an hour, which was spent up-stairs in perfect silence, there came a message. Would Lady Anna have the kindness to go to the Serjeant in the dining-room. In silence she left the room, and in silence descended the broad staircase. The Serjeant and Mrs. Bluestone were sitting on one side of the fireplace, the Serjeant in his own peculiar arm-chair, and the lady close to the fender, while a seat opposite to them had been placed for Lady Anna. The room was gloomy with dark red curtains and dark flock paper. On the table there burned two candles, and no more. The Serjeant got up and motioned Lady Anna to a chair. As soon as she had seated herself, he began his speech. "My dear young lady, you must be no doubt aware that you are at present causing a great deal of trouble to your best friends."
"I don't want to cause anybody trouble," said Lady Anna, thinking that the Serjeant in speaking of her best friends alluded to himself and his wife. "I only want to go away."
"I am coming to that directly, my dear. I cannot suppose that you do not understand the extent of the sorrow that you have inflicted on your parent by,—by the declaration which you made to Lord Lovel in regard to Mr. Daniel Thwaite." There is nothing, perhaps, in the way of exhortation and scolding which the ordinary daughter,—or son,—dislikes so much as to be told of her, or his, "parent." "My dear fellow, your father will be annoyed," is taken in good part. "What will mamma say?" is seldom received amiss. But when young people have their "parents" thrown at them, they feel themselves to be aggrieved, and become at once antagonistic. Lady Anna became strongly antagonistic. If her mother, who had always been to her her "own, own mamma," was going to be her parent, there must be an end of all hope of happiness. She said nothing, but compressed her lips together. She would not allow herself to be led an inch any way by a man who talked to her of her parent. "The very idea of such a marriage as this man had suggested to you under the guise of friendship was dreadful to her. It could be no more than an idea;—but that you should have entertained it was dreadful. She has since asked you again and again to repudiate the idea, and hitherto you have refused to obey."
"I can never know what mamma really wants till I go and live with her again."
"I am coming to that, Lady Anna. The Countess has informed Mrs. Bluestone that you had refused to give the desired promise unless you should be allowed to see Mr. Daniel Thwaite, intimating, I presume, that his permission would be necessary to free you from your imaginary bond to him."
"It would be necessary."
"Very well. The Countess naturally felt an abhorrence at allowing you again to be in the presence of one so much beneath you,—who had ventured to address you as he has done. It was a most natural feeling. But it has occurred to Mrs. Bluestone and myself, that as you entertain this idea of an obligation, you should be allowed to extricate yourself from it after your own fashion. You are to meet Mr. Thwaite,—on Monday,—at eleven o'clock,—in Keppel Street."
"And I am not to come back again?"
When one executes the office of gaoler without fee or reward, giving up to one's prisoner one's best bedroom, and having a company dinner, more or less, cooked for one's prisoner every day, one does not like to be told too plainly of the anticipated joys of enfranchisement. Mrs. Bluestone, who had done her best both for the mother and the girl, and had done it all from pure motherly sympathy, was a little hurt. "I am sure, Lady Anna, we shall not wish you to return," she said.
"Oh, Mrs. Bluestone, you don't understand me. I don't think you know how unhappy I am because of mamma."
Mrs. Bluestone relented at once. "If you will only do as your mamma wishes, everything will be made happy for you."
"Mr. Thwaite will be in Keppel Street at eleven o'clock on Monday," continued the Serjeant, "and an opportunity will then be given you of obtaining from him a release from that unfortunate promise which I believe you once made him. I may tell you that he has expressed himself willing to give you that release. The debt due to him, or rather to his late father, has now been paid by the estate, and I think you will find that he will make no difficulty. After that anything that he may require shall be done to forward his views."
"Am I to take my things?" she asked.
"Sarah shall pack them up, and they shall be sent after you if it be decided that you are to stay with Lady Lovel." They then went to bed.
In all this neither the Serjeant nor his wife had been "on the square." Neither of them had spoken truly to the girl. Mrs. Bluestone had let the Countess know that with all her desire to assist her ladyship, and her ladyship's daughter, she could not receive Lady Anna back in Bedford Square. As for that sending of her things upon certain conditions,—it was a simple falsehood. The things would certainly be sent. And the Serjeant, without uttering an actual lie, had endeavoured to make the girl think that the tailor was in pursuit of money,—and of money only, though he must have known that it was not so. The Serjeant no doubt hated a lie,—as most of us do hate lies; and had a strong conviction that the devil is the father of them. But then the lies which he hated, and as to the parentage of which he was quite certain, were lies told to him. Who yet ever met a man who did not in his heart of hearts despise an attempt made by others to deceive—himself? They whom we have found to be gentler in their judgment towards attempts made in another direction have been more than one or two. The object which the Serjeant had in view was so good that it seemed to him to warrant some slight deviation from parallelogrammatic squareness;—though he held it as one of his first rules of life that the end cannot justify the means.
IT IS STILL TRUE.
On Sunday they all went to church, and not a word was said about the tailor. Alice Bluestone was tender and valedictory; Mrs. Bluestone was courteous and careful; the Serjeant was solemn and civil. Before the day was over Lady Anna was quite sure that it was not intended that she should come back to Bedford Square. Words were said by the two girls, and by Sarah the waiting-maid, which made it certain that the packing up was to be a real packing up. No hindrance was offered to her when she busied herself about her own dresses and folded up her stock of gloves and ribbons. On Monday morning after breakfast, Mrs. Bluestone nearly broke down. "I am sure, my dear," she said, "we have liked you very much, and if there has been anything uncomfortable it has been from unfortunate circumstances." The Serjeant bade God bless her when he walked off half an hour before the carriage came to take her, and she knew that she was to sit no longer as a guest at the Serjeant's table. She kissed the girls, was kissed by Mrs. Bluestone, got into the carriage with the maid, and in her heart said good-bye to Bedford Square for ever.
It was but three minutes' drive from the Serjeant's house to that in which her mother lived, and in that moment of time she was hardly able to realise the fact that within half an hour she would be once more in the presence of Daniel Thwaite. She did not at present at all understand why this thing was to be done. When last she had seen her mother, the Countess had solemnly declared, had almost sworn, that they two should never see each other again. And now the meeting was so close at hand that the man must already be near her. She put up her face to the carriage window as though she almost expected to see him on the pavement. And how would the meeting be arranged? Would her mother be present? She took it for granted that her mother would be present. She certainly anticipated no pleasure from the meeting,—though she would be glad, very glad, to see Daniel Thwaite once again. Before she had time to answer herself a question the carriage had stopped, and she could see her mother at the drawing-room window. She trembled as she went up-stairs, and hardly could speak when she found herself in her mother's presence. If her mother had worn the old brown gown it would have been better, but there she was, arrayed in black silk,—in silk that was new and stiff and broad and solemn,—a parent rather than a mother, and every inch a Countess. "I am so glad to be with you again, mamma."
"I shall not be less glad to have you with me, Anna,—if you will behave yourself with propriety."
"Give me a kiss, mamma." Then the Countess bent her head and allowed her daughter's lips to touch her cheeks. In old days,—days that were not so very old,—she would kiss her child as though such embraces were the only food that nourished her.
"Come up-stairs, and I will show you your room." Then the daughter followed the mother in solemn silence. "You have heard that Mr. Daniel Thwaite is coming here, to see you, at your own request. It will not be many minutes before he is here. Take off your bonnet." Again Lady Anna silently did as she was bid. "It would have been better,—very much better,—that you should have done as you were desired without subjecting me to this indignity. But as you have taken into your head an idea that you cannot be absolved from an impossible engagement without his permission, I have submitted. Do not let it be long, and let me hear then that all this nonsense is over. He has got what he desires, as a very large sum of money has been paid to him." Then there came a knock at the door from Sarah, who just showed her face to say that Mr. Thwaite was in the room below. "Now go down. In ten minutes I shall expect to see you here again;—or, after that, I shall come down to you." Lady Anna took her mother by the hand, looking up with beseeching eyes into her mother's face. "Go, my dear, and let this be done as quickly as possible. I believe that you have too great a sense of propriety to let him do more than speak to you. Remember,—you are the daughter of an earl; and remember also all that I have done to establish your right for you."
"Mamma, I do not know what to do. I am afraid."
"Shall I go with you, Anna?"
"No, mamma;—it will be better without you. You do not know how good he is."
"If he will abandon this madness he shall be my friend of friends."
"Oh, mamma, I am afraid. But I had better go." Then, trembling she left the room and slowly descended the stairs. She had certainly spoken the truth in saying that she was afraid. Up to this moment she had not positively made up her mind whether she would or would not yield to the entreaties of her friends. She had decided upon nothing,—leaving in fact the arbitrament of her faith in the hands of the man who had now come to see her. Throughout all that had been said and done her sympathies had been with him, and had become the stronger the more her friends had reviled him. She knew that they had spoken evil of him, not because he was evil,—but with the unholy view of making her believe what was false. She had seen through all this, and had been aroused by it to a degree of firmness of which her mother had not imagined her to be capable. Had they confined themselves to the argument of present fitness, admitting the truth and honesty of the man,—and admitting also that his love for her and hers for him had been the natural growth of the familiar friendship of their childhood and youth, their chance of moulding her to their purposes would have been better. As it was they had never argued with her on the subject without putting forward some statement which she found herself bound to combat. She was told continually that she had degraded herself; and she could understand that another Lady Anna might degrade herself most thoroughly by listening to the suit of a tailor. But she had not disgraced herself. Of that she was sure, though she could not well explain to them her reasons when they accused her. Circumstances, and her mother's mode of living, had thrown her into intimacy with this man. For all practical purposes of life he had been her equal,—and being so had become her dearest friend. To take his hand, to lean on his arm, to ask his assistance, to go to him in her troubles, to listen to his words and to believe them, to think of him as one who might always be trusted, had become a second nature to her. Of course she loved him. And now the martyrdom through which she had passed in Bedford Square had changed,—unconsciously as regarded her own thoughts,—but still had changed her feelings in regard to her cousin. He was not to her now the bright and shining thing, the godlike Phoebus, which he had been in Wyndham Street and at Yoxham. In all their lectures to her about her title and grandeur they had succeeded in inculcating an idea of the solemnity of rank, but had robbed it in her eyes of all its grace. She had only been the more tormented because the fact of her being Lady Anna Lovel had been fully established. The feeling in her bosom which was most hostile to the tailor's claim upon her was her pity for her mother.
She entered the room very gently, and found him standing by the table, with his hands clasped together. "Sweetheart!" he said, as soon as he saw her, calling her by a name which he used to use when they were out in the fields together in Cumberland.
"Daniel!" Then he came to her and took her hand. "If you have anything to say, Daniel, you must be very quick, because mamma will come in ten minutes."
"Have you anything to say, sweetheart?" She had much to say if she only knew how to say it; but she was silent. "Do you love me, Anna?" Still she was silent. "If you have ceased to love me, pray tell me so,—in all honesty." But yet she was silent. "If you are true to me,—as I am to you, with all my heart,—will you not tell me so?"
"Yes," she murmured.
He heard her, though no other could have done so.
"A lover's ears will hear the lowest sound When the suspicious head of theft is stopped."
"If so," said he, again taking her hand, "this story they have told me is untrue."
"What story, Daniel?" But she withdrew her hand quickly as she asked him.
"Nay;—it is mine; it shall be mine if you love me, dear. I will tell you what story. They have said that you love your cousin, Earl Lovel."
"No;" said she scornfully, "I have never said so. It is not true."
"You cannot love us both." His eye was fixed upon hers, that eye to which in past years she had been accustomed to look for guidance, sometimes in joy and sometimes in fear, and which she had always obeyed. "Is not that true?"
"Oh yes;—that is true of course."
"You have never told him that you loved him."
"But you have told me so,—more than once; eh, sweetheart?"
"And it was true?"
She paused a moment, and then gave him the same answer, "Yes."
"And it is still true?"
She repeated the word a third time. "Yes." But she again so spoke that none but a lover's ear could have heard it.
"If it be so, nothing but the hand of God shall separate us. You know that they sent for me to come here." She nodded her head. "Do you know why? In order that I might abandon my claim to your hand. I will never give it up. But I made them a promise, and I will keep it. I told them that if you preferred Lord Lovel to me, I would at once make you free of your promise,—that I would offer to you such freedom, if it would be freedom. I do offer it to you;—or rather, Anna, I would have offered it, had you not already answered the question. How can I offer it now?" Then he paused, and stood regarding her with fixed eyes. "But there,—there; take back your word if you will. If you think that it is better to be the wife of a lord, because he is a lord, though you do not love him, than to lie upon the breast of the man you do love,—you are free from me." Now was the moment in which she must obey her mother, and satisfy her friends, and support her rank, and decide that she would be one of the noble ladies of England, if such decision were to be made at all. She looked up into his face, and thought that after all it was handsomer than that of the young Earl. He stood thus with dilated nostrils, and fire in his eyes, and his lips just parted, and his head erect,—a very man. Had she been so minded she would not have dared to take his offer. They surely had not known the man when they allowed him to have this interview. He repeated his words. "You are free if you will say so;—but you must answer me."
"I did answer you, Daniel."
"My noble girl! And now, my heart's only treasure, I may speak out and tell you what I think. It cannot be good that a woman should purchase rank and wealth by giving herself to a man she does not love. It must be bad,—monstrously bad. I never believed it when they told it me of you. And yet when I did not hear of you or see you for months—"
"It was not my fault."
"No, sweetheart;—and I tried to find comfort by so saying to myself. 'If she really loves me, she will be true,' I said. And yet who was I that I should think that you would suffer so much for me? But I will repay you,—if the truth and service of a life may repay such a debt as that. At any rate hear this from me;—I will never doubt again." And as he spoke he was moving towards her, thinking to take her in his arms, when the door was opened and Countess Lovel was within the room. The tailor was the first to speak. "Lady Lovel, I have asked your daughter, and I find that it is her wish to adhere to the engagement which she made with me in Cumberland. I need hardly say that it is my wish also."
"Anna! Is this true?"
"Mamma; mamma! Oh, mamma!"
"If it be so I will never speak word to you more."
"You will; you will! Do not look at me like that. You will speak to me!"
"You shall never again be child of mine." But in saying this she had forgotten herself, and now she remembered her proper cue. "I do not believe a word of it. The man has come here and has insulted and frightened you. He knows,—he must know,—that such a marriage is impossible. It can never take place. It shall never take place. Mr. Thwaite, as you are a living man, you shall never live to marry my daughter."
"My lady, in this matter of marriage your daughter must no doubt decide for herself. Even now, by all the laws of God,—and I believe of man too,—she is beyond your control either to give her in marriage or to withhold her. In a few months she will be as much her own mistress as you now are yours."
"Sir, I am not asking you about my child. You are insolent."
"I came here, Lady Lovel, because I was sent for."
"And now you had better leave us. You made a promise which you have broken."
"By heavens, no. I made a promise and I have kept it. I said that I would offer her freedom, and I have done so. I told her, and I tell her again now, that if she will say that she prefers her cousin to me, I will retire." The Countess looked at him and also recognised the strength of his face, almost feeling that the man had grown in personal dignity since he had received the money that was due to him. "She does not prefer the Earl. She has given her heart to me; and I hold it,—and will hold it. Look up, dear, and tell your mother whether what I say be true."
"It is true," said Lady Anna.
"Then may the blight of hell rest upon you both!" said the Countess, rushing to the door. But she returned. "Mr. Thwaite," she said, "I will trouble you at once to leave the house, and never more to return to it."
"I will leave it certainly. Good bye, my own love." He attempted again to take the girl by the hand, but the Countess, with violence, rushed at them and separated them. "If you but touch him, I will strike you," she said to her daughter. "As for you, it is her money that you want. If it be necessary, you shall have, not hers, but mine. Now go."
"That is a slander, Lady Lovel. I want no one's money. I want the girl I love,—whose heart I have won; and I will have her. Good morning, Lady Lovel. Dear, dear Anna, for this time good bye. Do not let any one make you think that I can ever be untrue to you." The girl only looked at him. Then he left the room; and the mother and the daughter were alone together. The Countess stood erect, looking at her child, while Lady Anna, standing also, kept her eyes fixed upon the ground. "Am I to believe it all,—as that man says?" asked the Countess.
"Do you mean to say that you have renewed your engagement to that low-born wretch?"
"Mamma,—he is not a wretch."
"Do you contradict me? After all, is it come to this?"
"Mamma,—you, you—cursed me."
"And you will be cursed. Do you think that you will do such wickedness as this, that you can destroy all that I have done for you, that you make yourself the cause of ruin to a whole family, and that you will not be punished for it? You say that you love me."
"You know that I love you, mamma."
"And yet you do not scruple to drive me mad."
"Mamma, it was you who brought us together."
"Ungrateful child! Where else could I take you then?"
"But I was there,—and of course I loved him. I could not cease to love him because,—because they say that I am a grand lady."
"Listen to me, Anna. You shall never marry him; never. With my own hands I will kill him first;—or you." The girl stood looking into her mother's face, and trembling. "Do you understand that?"
"You do not mean it, mamma."
"By the God above me, I do! Do you think that I will stop at anything now;—after having done so much? Do you think that I will live to see my daughter the wife of a foul, sweltering tailor? No, by heavens! He tells you that when you are twenty-one, you will not be subject to my control. I warn you to look to it. I will not lose my control, unless when I see you married to some husband fitting your condition in life. For the present you will live in your own room, as I will live in mine. I will hold no intercourse whatever with you, till I have constrained you to obey me."
LET HER DIE.
After the scene which was described in the last chapter there was a very sad time indeed in Keppel Street. The Countess had been advised by the Serjeant and Mrs. Bluestone to take her daughter immediately abroad, in the event of the interview with Daniel Thwaite being unsatisfactory. It was believed by all concerned, by the Bluestones, and the Goffes, by Sir William Patterson who had been told of the coming interview, and by the Countess herself, that this would not be the case. They had all thought that Lady Anna would come out from that meeting disengaged and free to marry whom she would,—and they thought also that within a very few weeks of her emancipation she would accept her cousin's hand. The Solicitor-General had communicated with the Earl, who was still in town, and the Earl again believed that he might win the heiress. But should the girl prove obstinate;—"take her away at once,—very far away;—to Rome, or some such place as that." Such had been Mrs. Bluestone's advice, and in those days Rome was much more distant than it is now. "And don't let anybody know where you are going," added the Serjeant,—"except Mr. Goffe." The Countess had assented;—but when the moment came, there were reasons against her sudden departure. Mr. Goffe told her that she must wait at any rate for another fortnight. The presence of herself and her daughter were necessary in London for the signing of deeds and for the completion of the now merely formal proofs of identity. And money was again scarce. A great deal of money had been spent lately, and unless money was borrowed without security, and at a great cost,—to which Mr. Goffe was averse,—the sum needed could hardly be provided at once. Mr. Goffe recommended that no day earlier than the 20th December should be fixed for their departure.
It was now the end of November; and it became a question how the intermediate time should be passed. The Countess was resolved that she would hold no pleasant intercourse at all with her daughter. She would not even tell the girl of her purpose of going abroad. From hour to hour she assured herself with still increasing obduracy that nothing but severity could avail anything. The girl must be cowed and frightened into absolute submission,—even though at the expense of her health. Even though it was to be effected by the absolute crushing of her spirits,—this must be done. Though at the cost of her life, it must be done. This woman had lived for the last twenty years with but one object before her eyes,—an object sometimes seeming to be near, more often distant, and not unfrequently altogether beyond her reach, but which had so grown upon her imagination as to become the heaven to which her very soul aspired. To be and to be known to be among the highly born, the so-called noble, the titled from old dates,—to be of those who were purely aristocratic, had been all the world to her. As a child,—the child of well-born but poor parents, she had received the idea. In following it out she had thrown all thoughts of love to the wind and had married a reprobate earl. Then had come her punishment,—or, as she had conceived it, her most unmerited misfortunes. For many years of her life her high courage and persistent demeanour had almost atoned for the vice of her youth. The love of rank was strong in her bosom as ever, but it was fostered for her child rather than for herself. Through long, tedious, friendless, poverty-stricken years she had endured all, still assuring herself that the day would come when the world should call the sweet plant that grew by her side by its proper name. The little children hooted after her daughter, calling her girl in derision The Lady Anna,—when Lady Anna had been more poorly clad and blessed with less of the comforts of home than any of them. Years would roll by, and they should live to know that the Lady Anna,—the sport of their infantine cruelty,—was Lady Anna indeed. And as the girl became a woman the dream was becoming a reality. The rank, the title, the general acknowledgment and the wealth would all be there. Then came the first great decisive triumph. Overtures of love and friendship were made from the other side. Would Lady Anna consent to become the Countess Lovel, all animosities might be buried, and everything be made pleasant, prosperous, noble, and triumphant!
It is easy to fill with air a half-inflated bladder. It is already so buoyant with its own lightness, that it yields itself with ease to receive the generous air. The imagination of the woman flew higher than ever it had flown when the proposition came home to her in all its bearings. Of course it had been in her mind that her daughter should marry well;—but there had been natural fears. Her child had not been educated, had not lived, had not been surrounded in her young days, as are those girls from whom the curled darlings are wont to choose their wives. She would too probably be rough in manner, ungentle in speech, ungifted in accomplishments, as compared with those who from their very cradles are encompassed by the blessings of wealth and high social standing. But when she looked at her child's beauty, she would hope. And then her child was soft, sweet-humoured, winning in all her little ways, pretty even in the poor duds which were supplied to her mainly by the generosity of the tailor. And so she would hope, and sometimes despair;—and then hope again. But she had never hoped for anything so good as this. Such a marriage would not only put her daughter as high as a Lovel ought to be, but would make it known in a remarkable manner to all coming ages that she, she herself, she the despised and slandered one,—who had been treated almost as woman had never been treated before,—was in very truth the Countess Lovel by whose income the family had been restored to its old splendour.
And so the longing grew upon her. Then, almost for the first time, did she begin to feel that it was necessary for the purposes of her life that the girl whom she loved so thoroughly, should be a creature in her hands, to be dealt with as she pleased. She would have had her daughter accede to the proposed marriage even before she had seen Lord Lovel, and was petulant when her daughter would not be as clay in the sculptor's hand. But still the girl's refusal had been but as the refusal of a girl. She should not have been as are other girls. She should have known better. She should have understood what the peculiarity of her position demanded. But it had not been so with her. She had not soared as she should have done, above the love-laden dreams of common maidens. And so the visit to Yoxham was permitted. Then came the great blow,—struck as it were by a third hand, and that the hand of an attorney. The Countess Lovel learned through Mr. Goffe,—who had heard the tale from other lawyers,—that her daughter Lady Anna Lovel had, with her own mouth, told her noble lover that she was betrothed to a tailor! She felt at the moment that she could have died,—cursing her child for this black ingratitude.
But there might still be hope. The trial was going on,—or the work which was progressing towards the trial, and she was surrounded by those who could advise her. Doubtless what had happened was a great misfortune. But there was room for hope;—room for most assured hope. The Earl was not disposed to abandon the match, though he had, of course, been greatly annoyed,—nay, disgusted and degraded by the girl's communication. But he had consented to see the matter in the proper light. The young tailor had got an influence over the girl when she was a child, was doubtless in pursuit of money, and must be paid. The folly of a child might be forgiven, and the Earl would persevere. No one would know what had occurred, and the thing would be forgotten as a freak of childhood. The Countess had succumbed to the policy of all this;—but she was not deceived by the benevolent falsehood. Lady Anna had been over twenty when she had been receiving lover's vows from this man, reeking from his tailor's board. And her girl, her daughter, had deceived her. That the girl had deceived her, saying there was no other lover, was much; but it was much more and worse and more damnable that there had been thorough deception as to the girl's own appreciation of her rank. The sympathy tendered through so many years must have been always pretended sympathy. With these feelings hot within her bosom, she could not bring herself to speak one kindly word to Lady Anna after the return from Yoxham. The girl was asked to abandon her odious lover with stern severity. It was demanded of her that she should do so with cruel threats. She would never quite yield, though she had then no strength of purpose sufficient to enable her to declare that she would not yield. We know how she was banished to Bedford Square, and transferred from the ruthless persistency of her mother, to the less stern but not less fixed manoeuvres of Mrs. Bluestone. At that moment of her existence she was herself in doubt. In Wyndham Street and at Yoxham she had almost more than doubted. The softness of the new Elysium had well nigh unnerved her. When that young man had caught her from stone to stone as she passed over the ford at Bolton, she was almost ready to give herself to him. But then had come upon her the sense of sickness, that faint, overdone flavour of sugared sweetness, which arises when sweet things become too luscious to the eater. She had struggled to be honest and strong, and had just not fallen into the pot of treacle.
But, notwithstanding all this, they who saw her and knew the story, were still sure that the lord must at last win the day. There was not one who believed that such a girl could be true to such a troth as she had made. Even the Solicitor-General, when he told the tale which the amorous steward had remembered to his own encouragement, did not think but what the girl and the girl's fortune would fall into the hands of his client. Human nature demanded that it should be so. That it should be as he wished it was so absolutely consonant with all nature as he had known it, that he had preferred trusting to this result, in his client's behalf, to leaving the case in a jury's hands. At this moment he was sure he was right in his judgment. And indeed he was right;—for no jury could have done anything for his client.
It went on till at last the wise men decided that the girl only wanted to be relieved by her old lover, that she might take a new lover with his permission. The girl was no doubt peculiar; but, as far as the wise ones could learn from her manner,—for with words she would say nothing,—that was her state of mind. So the interview was planned,—to the infinite disgust of the Countess, who, however, believed that it might avail; and we know what was the result. Lady Anna, who long had doubted,—who had at last almost begun to doubt whether Daniel Thwaite was true to her,—had renewed her pledges, strengthened her former promises, and was now more firmly betrothed than ever to him whom the Countess hated as a very fiend upon earth. But there certainly should be no marriage! Though she pistolled the man at the altar, there should be no marriage.
And then there came upon her the infinite disgust arising from the necessity of having to tell her sorrows to others,—who could not sympathize with her, though their wishes were as hers. It was hard upon her that no step could be taken by her in reference to her daughter without the knowledge of Mr. Goffe and Serjeant Bluestone,—and the consequent knowledge of Mr. Flick and the Solicitor-General. It was necessary, too, that Lord Lovel should know all. His conduct in many things must depend on the reception which might probably be accorded to a renewal of his suit. Of course he must be told. He had already been told that the tailor was to be admitted to see his love, in order that she might be absolved by the tailor from her first vow. It had not been pleasant,—but he had acceded. Mr. Flick had taken upon himself to say that he was sure that everything would be made pleasant. The Earl had frowned, and had been very short with Mr. Flick. These confidences with lawyers about his lovesuit, and his love's tone with her low-born lover, had not been pleasant to Lord Lovel. But he had endured it,—and now he must be told of the result. Oh, heavens;—what a hell of misery was this girl making for her high-born relatives! But the story of the tailor's visit to Keppel Street did not reach the unhappy ones at Yoxham till months had passed away.
Mr. Goffe was very injudicious in postponing the departure of the two ladies—as the Solicitor-General told Mr. Flick afterwards very plainly, when he heard of what had been done. "Money; she might have had any money. I would have advanced it. You would have advanced it!" "Oh certainly," said Mr. Flick, not, however, at all relishing the idea of advancing money to his client's adversary. "I never heard of such folly," continued Sir William. "That comes of trusting people who should not be trusted." But it was too late then. Lady Anna was lying ill in bed, in fever; and three doctors doubted whether she would ever get up again. "Would it not be better that she should die?" said her mother to herself, standing over her and looking at her. It would,—so thought the mother then,—be better that she should die than get up to become the wife of Daniel Thwaite. But how much better that she should live and become the Countess Lovel! She still loved her child, as only a mother can love her only child,—as only a mother can love who has no hope of joy in the world, but what is founded on her child. But the other passion had become so strong in her bosom that it almost conquered her mother's yearnings. Was she to fight for long years that she might be beaten at last when the prize was so near her,—when the cup was almost at her lips? Were the girl now to be taken to her grave, there would be an end at any rate of the fear which now most heavily oppressed her. But the three doctors were called in, one after another; and Lady Anna was tended as though her life was as precious as that of any other daughter.
These new tidings caused new perturbation among the lawyers. "They say that Clerke and Holland have given her over," said Mr. Flick to Sir William.
"I am sorry to hear it," said Mr. Solicitor; "but girls do live sometimes in spite of the doctors."
"Yes; very true, Sir William; very true. But if it should go in that way it might not perhaps be amiss for our client."
"God forbid that he should prosper by his cousin's death, Mr. Flick. But the Countess would be the heir."
"The Countess is devoted to the Earl. We ought to do something, Sir William. I don't think that we could claim above eight or ten thousand pounds at most as real property. He put his money everywhere, did that old man. There are shares in iron mines in the Alleghanies, worth ever so much."
"They are no good to us," said the Solicitor-General, alluding to his client's interests.
"Not worth a halfpenny to us, though they are paying twenty per cent. on the paid-up capital. He seems to have determined that the real heir should get nothing, even if there were no will. A wicked old man!"
"Very wicked, Mr. Flick."
"A horrible old man! But we really ought to do something, Mr. Solicitor. If the girl won't marry him there should be some compromise, after all that we have done."
"How can the girl marry any one, Mr. Flick,—if she's going to die?"
A few days after this, Sir William called in Keppel Street and saw the Countess, not with any idea of promoting a compromise,—for the doing which this would not have been the time, nor would he have been the fitting medium,—but in order that he might ask after Lady Anna's health. The whole matter was in truth now going very much against the Earl. Money had been allowed to the Countess and her daughter; and in truth all the money was now their own, to do with it as they listed, though there might be some delay before each was put into absolute possession of her own proportion; but no money had been allowed, or could be allowed, to the Earl. And, that the fact was so, was now becoming known to all men. Hitherto credit had at any rate been easy with the young lord. When the old Earl died, and when the will was set aside, it was thought that he would be the heir. When the lawsuit first came up, it was believed everywhere that some generous compromise would be the worst that could befall him. After that the marriage had been almost a certainty, and then it was known that he had something of his own, so that tradesmen need not fear that their bills would be paid. It can hardly be said that he had been extravagant; but a lord must live, and an earl can hardly live and maintain a house in the country on a thousand a year, even though he has an uncle to keep his hunters for him. Some prudent men in London were already beginning to ask for their money, and the young Earl was in trouble. As Mr. Flick had said, it was quite time that something should be done. Sir William still depended on the panacea of a marriage, if only the girl would live. The marriage might be delayed; but, if the cards were played prudently, might still make everything comfortable. Such girls do not marry tailors, and will always prefer lords to tradesmen!
"I hope that you do not think that my calling is intrusive," he said. The Countess, dressed all in black, with that funereal frown upon her brow which she always now wore, with deep-sunk eyes, and care legible in every feature of her handsome face, received him with a courtesy that was as full of woe as it was graceful. She was very glad to make his acquaintance. There was no intrusion. He would forgive her, she thought, if he perceived that circumstances had almost overwhelmed her with sorrow. "I have come to ask after your daughter," said he.
"She has been very ill, Sir William."
"Is she better now?"
"I hardly know; I cannot say. They seemed to think this morning that the fever was less violent."
"Then she will recover, Lady Lovel."
"They do not say so. But indeed I did not ask them. It is all in God's hands. I sometimes think that it would be better that she should die, and there be an end of it."
This was the first time that these two had been in each other's company, and the lawyer could not altogether repress the feeling of horror with which he heard the mother speak in such a way of her only child. "Oh, Lady Lovel, do not say that!"
"But I do say it. Why should I not say it to you, who know all? Of what good will her life be to herself, or to any one else, if she pollute herself and her family by this marriage? It would be better that she should be dead,—much better that she should be dead. She is all that I have, Sir William. It is for her sake that I have been struggling from the first moment in which I knew that I was to be a mother. The whole care of my life has been to prove her to be her father's daughter in the eye of the law. I doubt whether you can know what it is to pursue one object, and only one, through your whole life, with never-ending solicitude,—and to do it all on behalf of another. If you did, you would understand my feeling now. It would be better for her that she should die than become the wife of such a one as Daniel Thwaite."
"Lady Lovel, not only as a mother, but as a Christian, you should get the better of that feeling."
"Of course I should. No doubt every clergyman in England would tell me the same thing. It is easy to say all that, sir. Wait till you are tried. Wait till all your ambition is to be betrayed, every hope rolled in the dust, till all the honours you have won are to be soiled and degraded, till you are made a mark for general scorn and public pity,—and then tell me how you love the child by whom such evils are brought upon you!"
"I trust that I may never be so tried, Lady Lovel."
"I hope not; but think of all that before you preach to me. But I do love her; and it is because I love her that I would fain see her removed from the reproaches which her own madness will bring upon her. Let her die;—if it be God's will. I can follow her without one wish for a prolonged life. Then will a noble family be again established, and her sorrowful tale will be told among the Lovels with a tear and without a curse."
LADY ANNA'S BEDSIDE.
All December went by, and the neighbours in the houses round spent each his merry Christmas; and the snow and frost of January passed over them, and February had come and nearly gone, before the doctors dared to say that Lady Anna Lovel's life was not still in danger. During this long period the world had known all about her illness,—as it did know, or pretended to know, the whole history of her life. The world had been informed that she was dying, and had, upon the whole, been really very sorry for her. She had interested the world, and the world had heard much of her youth and beauty,—of the romance too of her story, of her fidelity to the tailor, and of her persecutions. During these months of her illness the world was disposed to think that the tailor was a fine fellow, and that he ought to be taken by the hand. He had money now, and it was thought that it would be a good thing to bring him into some club. There was a very strong feeling at the Beaufort that if he were properly proposed and seconded he would be elected,—not because he was going to marry an heiress, but because he was losing the heiress whom he was to have married. If the girl died, then Lord Lovel himself might bring him forward at the Beaufort. Of all this Daniel himself knew nothing; but he heard, as all the world heard, that Lady Anna was on her deathbed.
When the news first reached him,—after a fashion that seemed to him to be hardly worthy of credit,—he called at the house in Keppel Street and asked the question. Yes; Lady Anna was very ill; but, as it happened, Sarah the lady's-maid opened the door, and Sarah remembered the tailor. She had seen him when he was admitted to her young mistress, and knew enough of the story to be aware that he should be snubbed. Her first answer was given before she had bethought herself; then she snubbed him, and told no one but the Countess of his visit. After that Daniel went to one of the doctors, and waited at his door with patience till he could be seen. The unhappy man told his story plainly. He was Daniel Thwaite, late a tailor, the man from Keswick, to whom Lady Anna Lovel was engaged. In charity and loving kindness, would the doctor tell him of the state of his beloved one? The doctor took him by the hand and asked him in, and did tell him. His beloved one was then on the very point of death. Whereupon Daniel wrote to the Countess in humble strains, himself taking the letter, and waiting without in the street for any answer that might be vouchsafed. If it was, as he was told, that his beloved was dying, might he be allowed to stand once at her bedside and kiss her hand? In about an hour an answer was brought to him at the area gate. It consisted of his own letter, opened, and returned to him without a word. He went away too sad to curse, but he declared to himself that such cruelty in a woman's bosom could exist only in the bosom of a countess.
But as others heard early in February that Lady Anna was like to recover, so did Daniel Thwaite. Indeed, his authority was better than that which reached the clubs, for the doctor still stood his friend. Could the doctor take a message from him to Lady Anna;—but one word? No;—the doctor could take no message. That he would not do. But he did not object to give to the lover a bulletin of the health of his sweetheart. In this way Daniel knew sooner than most others when the change took place in the condition of his beloved one.
Lady Anna would be of age in May, and the plan of her betrothed was as follows. He would do nothing till that time, and then he would call upon her to allow their banns to be published in Bloomsbury Church after the manner of the Church of England. He himself had taken lodgings in Great Russell Street, thinking that his object might be aided by living in the same parish. If, as was probable, he would not be allowed to approach Lady Anna either in person, or by letter, then he would have recourse to the law, and would allege that the young lady was unduly kept a prisoner in custody. He was told that such complaint would be as idle wind, coming from him,—that no allegation of that kind could obtain any redress unless it came from the young lady herself; but he flattered himself that he could so make it that the young lady would at any rate obtain thereby the privilege of speaking for herself. Let some one ask her what were her wishes and he would be prepared to abide by her expression of them.
In the meantime Lord Lovel also had been anxious;—but his anxiety had been met in a very different fashion. For many days the Countess saw him daily, so that there grew up between them a close intimacy. When it was believed that the girl would die,—believed with that sad assurance which made those who were concerned speak of her death almost as a certainty, the Countess, sitting alone with the young Earl, had told him that all would be his if the girl left them. He had muttered something as to there being no reason for that. "Who else should have it?" said the Countess. "Where should it go? Your people, Lovel, have not understood me. It is for the family that I have been fighting, fighting, fighting,—and never ceasing. Though you have been my adversary,—it has been all for the Lovels. If she goes,—it shall be yours at once. There is no one knows how little I care for wealth myself." Then the girl had become better, and the Countess again began her plots, and her plans, and her strategy. She would take the girl abroad in May, in April if it might be possible. They would go,—not to Rome then, but to the south of France, and, as the weather became too warm for them, on to Switzerland and the Tyrol. Would he, Lord Lovel, follow them? Would he follow them and be constant in his suit, even though the frantic girl should still talk of her tailor lover? If he would do so, as far as money was concerned, all should be in common with them. For what was the money wanted but that the Lovels might be great and noble and splendid? He said that he would do so. He also loved the girl,—thought at least during the tenderness created by her illness that he loved her with all his heart. He sat hour after hour with the Countess in Keppel Street,—sometimes seeing the girl as she lay unconscious, or feigning that she was so; till at last he was daily at her bedside. "You had better not talk to him, Anna," her mother would say, "but of course he is anxious to see you." Then the Earl would kiss her hand, and in her mother's presence she had not the courage,—perhaps she had not the strength,—to withdraw it. In these days the Countess was not cruelly stern as she had been. Bedside nursing hardly admits of such cruelty of manner. But she never spoke to her child with little tender endearing words, never embraced her,—but was to her a careful nurse rather than a loving mother.
Then by degrees the girl got better, and was able to talk. "Mamma," she said one day, "won't you sit by me?"
"No, my dear; you should not be encouraged to talk."
"Sit by me, and let me hold your hand." For a moment the Countess gave way, and sat by her daughter, allowing her hand to remain pressed beneath the bedclothes;—but she rose abruptly, remembering her grievance, remembering that it would be better that her child should die, should die broken-hearted by unrelenting cruelty, than be encouraged to think it possible that she should do as she desired. So she rose abruptly and left the bedside without a word.
"Mamma," said Lady Anna; "will Lord Lovel be here to-day?"
"I suppose he will be here."
"Will you let me speak to him for a minute?"
"Surely you may speak to him."
"I am strong now, mamma, and I think that I shall be well again some day. I have so often wished that I might die."
"You had better not talk about it, my dear."
"But I should like to speak to him, mamma, without you."
"What to say,—Anna?"
"I hardly know;—but I should like to speak to him. I have something to say about money."
"Cannot I say it?"
"No, mamma. I must say it myself,—if you will let me." The Countess looked at her girl with suspicion, but she gave the permission demanded. Of course it would be right that this lover should see his love. The Countess was almost minded to require from Lady Anna an assurance that no allusion should be made to Daniel Thwaite; but the man's name had not been mentioned between them since the beginning of the illness, and she was loth to mention it now. Nor would it have been possible to prevent for long such an interview as that now proposed.
"He shall come in if he pleases," said the Countess; "but I hope you will remember who you are and to whom you are speaking."
"I will remember both, mamma," said Lady Anna. The Countess looked down on her daughter's face, and could not help thinking that her child was different from what she had been. There had been almost defiance in the words spoken, though they had been spoken with the voice of an invalid.
At three o'clock that afternoon, according to his custom, Lord Lovel came, and was at once told that he was to be spoken to by his cousin. "She says it is about money," said the Countess.
"Yes;—and if she confines herself to that, do as she bids you. If she is ever to be your wife it will be all right; and if not,—then it will be better in your hands than in hers. In three months time she can do as she pleases with it all." He was then taken into Lady Anna's room. "Here is your cousin," said the Countess. "You must not talk long or I shall interrupt you. If you wish to speak to him about the property,—as the head of your family,—that will be very right; but confine yourself to that for the present." Then the Countess left them and closed the door.
"It is not only about money, Lord Lovel."
"You might call me Frederic now," said he tenderly.
"No;—not now. If I am ever well again and we are then friends I will do so. They tell me that there is ever so much money,—hundreds of thousands of pounds. I forget how much."
"Do not trouble yourself about that."
"But I do trouble myself very much about it,—and I know that it ought to be yours. There is one thing I want to tell you, which you must believe. If I am ever any man's wife, I shall be the wife of Daniel Thwaite." That dark frown came upon his face which she had seen once before. "Pray believe that it is so," she continued. "Mamma does not believe it,—will not believe it; but it is so. I love him with all my heart. I think of him every minute. It is very very cruel that I may not hear from him or send one word to tell him how I am. There! My hand is on the Bible, and I swear to you that if I am ever the wife of any man, I will be his wife."
He looked down at her and saw that she was wan and thin and weak, and he did not dare to preach to her the old family sermon as to his rank and station. "But, Anna, why do you tell me this now?" he said.
"That you may believe it and not trouble yourself with me any more. You must believe it when I tell you so in this manner. I may perhaps never live to rise from my bed. If I get well, I shall send to him, or go. I will not be hindered. He is true to me, and I will be true to him. You may tell mamma if you think proper. She would not believe me, but perhaps she may believe you. But, Lord Lovel, it is not fit that he should have all this money. He does not want it, and he would not take it. Till I am married I may do what I please with it;—and it shall be yours."
"That cannot be."
"Yes, it can. I know that I can make it yours if I please. They tell me that—that you are not rich, as Lord Lovel should be, because all this has been taken from you. That was the reason why you came to me."
"By heaven, Anna, I love you most truly."
"It could not have been so when you had not seen me. Will you take a message from me to Daniel Thwaite?"
He thought awhile before he answered it. "No, I cannot do that."
"Then I must find another messenger. Mr. Goffe will do it perhaps. He shall tell me how much he wants to keep, and the rest shall be yours. That is all. If you tell mamma, ask her not to be hard to me." He stood over her and took her hand, but knew not how to speak a word to her. He attempted to kiss her hand; but she raised herself on her elbow, and shook her head and drew it from him. "It belongs to Daniel Thwaite," she said. Then he left her and did not speak another word.
"What has she said?" asked the Countess, with an attempt at smiling.
"I do not know that I should tell you."
"Surely, Lovel, you are bound to tell me."
"She has offered me all her property,—or most of it."
"She is right," said the Countess.
"But she has sworn to me, on the Bible, that she will never be my wife."
"Tush!—it means nothing."
"Ah yes;—it means much. It means all. She never loved me,—not for an instant. That other man has been before me, and she is too firm to be moved."
"Did she say so?"
He was silent for a moment and then replied, "Yes; she did say so."
"Then let her die!" said the Countess.
"Let her die. It will be better. Oh, God! that I should be brought to this. And what will you do, my lord? Do you mean to say that you will abandon her?"
"I cannot ask her to be my wife again."
"What;—because she has said this in her sickness,—when she is half delirious,—while she is dreaming of the words that man spoke to her? Have you no more strength than that? Are you so poor a creature?"
"I think I have been a poor creature to ask her a second time at all."
"No; not so. Your duty and mine are the same,—as should be hers. We must forget ourselves while we save the family. Do not I bear all? Have not I borne everything—contumely, solitude, ill words, poverty, and now this girl's unkindness? But even yet I will not give it up. Take the property,—as it is offered."
"I could not touch it."
"If not for you, then for your children. Take it all, so that we may be the stronger. But do not abandon us now, if you are a man."
He would not stay to hear her further exhortations, but hurried away from the house full of doubt and unhappiness.
LADY ANNA'S OFFER.
Early in March Lady Anna was convalescent, but had not yet left the house in Keppel Street,—and the confusion and dismay of the Countess were greater than ever. Lady Anna had declared that she would not leave England for the present. She was reminded that at any rate till the 10th of May she was subject to her mother's control. But by this time her mother's harshness to her had produced some corresponding hardness in her. "Yes, mamma;—but I will not go abroad. Things must be settled, and I am not well enough to go yet." The Countess asserted that everything could be arranged abroad, that papers could be sent after them, that Mr. Goffe could come out to them, and with much show of authority persisted. She would do anything by which she might be able to remove Lady Anna from the influence of Daniel Thwaite at the time at which the girl would cease to be subject to her. But in truth the girl had ceased to be subject to her. "No, mamma, I will not go. If you will ask Serjeant Bluestone, or Sir William Patterson, I am sure they will say that I ought not to be made to go." There were some terrible scenes in which the mother was driven almost to desperation. Lady Anna repeated to the Countess all that she had said to Lord Lovel,—and swore to her mother with the Bible in hand that if ever she became the wife of any man she would be the wife of Daniel Thwaite. Then the Countess with great violence knocked the book out of her daughter's grasp, and it was thrown to the other side of the room. "If this is to go on," said the Countess, "one of us must die."
"Mamma, I have done nothing to make you so unkind to me. You have not spoken one word of kindness to me since I came from Yoxham."
"If this goes on I shall never speak a word of kindness to you again," said the mother.
But in the midst of all this there was one point on which they were agreed,—on which they came sufficiently near together for action, though there was still a wide difference between them. Some large proportion of the property at stake was to be made over to Lord Lovel on the day that gave the girl the legal power of transferring her own possessions. The Countess began by presuming that the whole of Lady Anna's wealth was to be so transferred,—not from any lack of reverence for the great amount which was in question, but feeling that for all good purposes it would be safer in the hands of the Earl than in those of her own child. If it could be arranged that the tailor could get nothing with his bride, then it might still be possible that the tailor might refuse the match. At any rate a quarrel might be fostered and the evil might be staved off. But to this Lady Anna would not assent. If she might act in this business in concert with Mr. Thwaite she would be able, she thought, to do better by her cousin than she proposed. But as she was not allowed to learn what were Mr. Thwaite's wishes, she would halve her property with her cousin. As much as this she was willing to do,—and was determined to do, acting on her own judgment. More she would not do,—unless she could see Mr. Thwaite. As it stood, her proposition was one which would, if carried out, bestow something like L10,000 a year upon the Earl. Then Mr. Goffe was sent for, and Lady Anna was allowed to communicate her suggestion to the lawyer. "That should require a great deal of thought," said Mr. Goffe with solemnity. Lady Anna declared that she had been thinking of it all the time she had been ill. "But it should not be done in a hurry," said Mr. Goffe. Then Lady Anna remarked that in the meantime, her cousin, the Earl, the head of her family, would have nothing to support his title. Mr. Goffe took his leave, promising to consult his partner, and to see Mr. Flick.
Mr. Goffe did consult his partner and did see Mr. Flick, and then Serjeant Bluestone was asked his advice,—and the Solicitor-General. The Serjeant had become somewhat tired of the Lovels, and did not care to give any strong advice either in one direction or in the other. The young lady, he said, might of course do what she liked with her own when it was her own; but he thought that she should not be hurried. He pointed it out as a fact that the Earl had not the slightest claim upon any portion of the estate,—not more than he would have had if this money had come to Lady Anna from her mother's instead of from her father's relatives. He was still of opinion that the two cousins might ultimately become man and wife if matters were left tranquil and the girl were taken abroad for a year or two. Lady Anna, however, would be of age in a few weeks, and must of course do as she liked with her own.
But they all felt that everything would at last be ruled by what the Solicitor-General might say. The Solicitor-General was going out of town for a week or ten days,—having the management of a great case at the Spring Assizes. He would think over Lady Anna's proposition, and say what he had to say when he returned. Lord Lovel, however, had been his client, and he had said from first to last that more was to be done for his client by amicable arrangement than by hostile opposition. If the Earl could get L10,000 a year by amicable arrangement, the Solicitor-General would be shown to have been right in the eyes of all men, and it was probable,—as both Mr. Goffe and Mr. Flick felt,—that he would not repudiate a settlement of the family affairs by which he would be proved to have been a discreet counsellor.
In the meantime it behoved Lord Lovel himself to have an opinion. Mr. Flick of course had told him of the offer,—which had in truth been made directly to himself by his cousin. At this time his affairs were not in a happy condition. A young earl, handsome and well esteemed, may generally marry an heiress,—if not one heiress then another. Though he be himself a poor man, his rank and position will stand in lieu of wealth. And so would it have been with this young earl,—who was very handsome and excellently well esteemed,—had it not been that all the world knew that it was his especial business to marry one especial heiress. He could hardly go about looking for other honey, having, as he had, one particular hive devoted by public opinion to himself. After a year or two he might have looked elsewhere,—but what was he to do in the meantime? He was well nigh penniless, and in debt. So he wrote a letter to his uncle, the parson.
It may be remembered that when the uncle and nephew last parted in London there was not much love between them. From that day to this they had not seen each other, nor had there been any communication between them. The horses had been taken away and sold. The rector had spoken to the ladies of his household more than once with great bitterness of the young man's ingratitude; and they more than once had spoken to the rector, with a woman's piteous tenderness, of the young lord's poverty. But it was all sorrow and distress. For in truth the rector could not be happy while he was on bad terms with the head of his family. Then the young lord wrote as though there had been nothing amiss between them. It had in truth all passed away from his mind. This very liberal offer had been made to him. It amounted to wealth in lieu of poverty,—to what would be comfortable wealth even for an earl. Ten thousand a year was offered to him by his cousin. Might he accept it? The rector took the letter in good part, and begged his nephew to come at once to Yoxham. Whereupon the nephew went to Yoxham.
"What does Sir William say?" asked the rector, who, in spite of his disapproval of all that Sir William had done, felt that the Solicitor-General was the man whose influence in the matter would really prevail.
"He has said nothing as yet. He is out of town."
"Ten thousand a year! Who was it made the offer?"
"She made it herself."
"Yes;—Lady Anna. It is a noble offer."
"Yes, indeed. But then if she has no right to any of it, what does it amount to?"
"But she has a right to all of it;—she and her mother between them."
"I shall never believe it, Frederic—never; and not the less so because they now want to bind you to them by such a compromise as this."
"I think you look at it in a wrong light, uncle Charles."
"Well;—well. I will say nothing more about it. I don't see why you shouldn't take it,—I don't indeed. It ought all to have been yours. Everybody says that. You'll have to buy land, and it won't give you nearly so much then. I hope you'll buy land all the same, and I do hope it will be properly settled when you marry. As to marrying, you will be able to do much better than what you used to think of."
"We won't talk about that, uncle Charles," said the Earl.
As far as the rector's opinion went, it was clear that the offer might be accepted; but yet it was felt that very much must depend on what the Solicitor-General might say. Then Miss Lovel gave her opinion on the matter, which did not altogether agree with that of her brother. She believed in Lady Anna, whereas the rector professed that he did not. The rector and Lady Fitzwarren were perhaps the only two persons who, after all that had been said and done, still maintained that the Countess was an impostor, and that Lady Anna would only be Anna Murray, if everybody had his due. Miss Lovel was quite as anxious on behalf of the Earl as was her brother, but she clung to the hope of a marriage. "I still think it might all come right, if you would only wait," said aunt Julia.
"It's all very well talking of waiting, but how am I to live?"
"You could live here, Frederic. There is nothing my brother would like so much. I thought he would break his heart when the horses were taken away. It would only be for a year."
"What would come of it?"
"At the end of the year she would be your wife."
"Never!" said the Earl.
"Young men are so impatient."
"Never, under any circumstances, would I ask her again. You may make your mind up to that. As sure as you stand there, she will marry Daniel Thwaite, if she lives another twelvemonth."
"You really think so, Frederic?"
"I am sure of it. After what she said to me, it would be impossible I should doubt it."
"And she will be Lady Anna Thwaite! Oh dear, how horrible. I wish she had died when she was ill;—I do indeed. A journeyman tailor! But something will prevent it. I really think that Providence will interfere to prevent it!" But in reference to the money she gave in her adhesion. If the great lawyer said that it might be taken,—then it should be taken. At the end of a week the Earl hurried back to London to see the great lawyer.
NO DISGRACE AT ALL.
Before the Solicitor-General returned to town things had come to a worse pass than ever. Lady Lovel had ordered her daughter to be ready to start to Paris by a certain hour, on a certain day,—giving her three days for preparation,—and Lady Anna had refused to go. Whereupon the Countess had caused her own things to be packed up, and those of her daughter. Sarah was now altogether in the confidence of the Countess, so that Lady Anna had not even dominion over her own clothes. The things were stowed away, and all the arrangements were made for the journey; but Lady Anna refused to go, and when the hour came could not be induced to get into the carriage. The lodgings had been paid for to the day, and given up; so that the poor old woman in Keppel Street was beside herself. Then the Countess, of necessity, postponed her journey for twenty-four hours, telling her daughter that on the next day she would procure the assistance of magistrates and force the rebel to obedience.
Hardly a word had been spoken between the mother and daughter during those three days. There had been messages sent backwards and forwards, and once or twice the Countess had violently entered Lady Anna's bedroom, demanding submission. Lady Anna was always on the bed when her mother entered, and, there lying, would shake her head, and then with sobs accuse the Countess of unkindness. Lady Lovel had become furious in her wrath, hardly knowing what she herself did or said, always asserting her own authority, declaring her own power, and exclaiming against the wicked ingratitude of her child. This she did till the young waiting-woman was so frightened that she was almost determined to leave the house abruptly, though keenly alive to the profit and glory of serving a violent and rich countess. And the old lady who let the lodgings was intensely anxious to be rid of her lodgers, though her money was scrupulously paid, and no questions asked as to extra charges. Lady Anna was silent and sullen. When left to herself she spent her time at her writing-desk, of which she had managed to keep the key. What meals she took were brought up to her bedroom, so that a household more uncomfortable could hardly be gathered under a roof.
On the day fixed for that departure which did not take place, the Countess wrote to Mr. Goffe for assistance,—and Lady Anna, by the aid of the mistress of the house, wrote to Serjeant Bluestone. The letter to Mr. Goffe was the first step taken towards obtaining that assistance from civil authorities to which the Countess thought herself to be entitled in order that her legal dominion over her daughter might be enforced. Lady Anna wrote to the Serjeant, simply begging that he would come to see her, putting her letter open into the hands of the landlady. She implored him to come at once,—and, as it happened, he called in Keppel Street that night, whereas Mr. Goffe's visit was not made till the next morning. He asked for the Countess, and was shown into the drawing-room. The whole truth was soon made clear to him, for the Countess attempted to conceal nothing. Her child was rebelling against authority, and she was sure that the Serjeant would assist her in putting down and conquering such pernicious obstinacy. But she found at once that the Serjeant would not help her. "But Lady Anna will be herself of age in a day or two," he said.
"Not for nearly two months," said the Countess indignantly.
"My dear Lady Lovel, under such circumstances you can hardly put constraint upon her."
"Why not? She is of age, or she is not. Till she be of age she is bound to obey me."
"True;—she is bound to obey you after a fashion, and so indeed she would be had she been of age a month since. But such obligations here in England go for very little, unless they are supported by reason."
"The law is the law."
"Yes;—but the law would be all in her favour before you could get it to assist you,—even if you could get its assistance. In her peculiar position, it is rational that she should choose to wait till she be able to act for herself. Very great interests will be at her disposal, and she will of course wish to be near those who can advise her."
"I am her only guardian. I can advise her." The Serjeant shook his head. "You will not help me then?"
"I fear I cannot help you, Lady Lovel."
"Not though you know the reasons which induce me to take her away from England before she slips entirely out of my hands and ruins all our hopes?" But still the Serjeant shook his head. "Every one is leagued against me," said the Countess, throwing up her hands in despair.
Then the Serjeant asked permission to visit Lady Anna, but was told that he could not be allowed to do so. She was in bed, and there was nothing to make it necessary that she should receive a visit from a gentleman in her bedroom. "I am an old man," said the Serjeant, "and have endeavoured to be a true and honest friend to the young lady. I think, Lady Lovel, that you will do wrong to refuse my request. I tell you fairly that I shall be bound to interfere on her behalf. She has applied to me as her friend, and I feel myself constrained to attend to her application."
"She has applied to you?"
"Yes, Lady Lovel. There is her letter."
"She has deceived me again," said the Countess, tearing the letter into atoms. But the Serjeant so far frightened her that she was induced to promise that Mrs. Bluestone should see Lady Anna on the following morning,—stipulating, however, that Mrs. Bluestone should see herself before she went up-stairs.
On the following morning Mr. Goffe came early. But Mr. Goffe could give his client very little comfort. He was, however, less uncomfortable than the Serjeant had been. He was of opinion that Lady Anna certainly ought to go abroad, in obedience to her mother's instructions, and was willing to go to her and tell her so, with what solemnity of legal authority he might be able to assume; but he could not say that anything could be done absolutely to enforce obedience. Mr. Goffe suggested that perhaps a few gentle words might be successful. "Gentle words!" said the Countess, who had become quite unable to restrain herself. "The harshest words are only too gentle for her. If I had known what she was, Mr. Goffe, I would never have stirred in this business. They might have called me what they would, and it would have been better." When Mr. Goffe came downstairs he had not a word to say more as to the efficacy of gentleness. He simply remarked that he did not think the young lady could be induced to go, and suggested that everybody had better wait till the Solicitor-General returned to town.
Then Mrs. Bluestone came, almost on the heels of the attorney;—poor Mrs. Bluestone, who now felt that it was a dreadful grievance both to her and to her husband that they had had anything to do with the Lovel family! She was very formal in her manner,—and, to tell the truth for her, rather frightened. The Serjeant had asked her to call and see Lady Anna Lovel. Might she be permitted to do so? Then the Countess burst forth with a long story of all her wrongs,—with the history of her whole life. Not beginning with her marriage,—but working back to it from the intense misery, and equally intense ambition of the present hour. She told it all; how everybody had been against her,—how she had been all alone at the dreary Grange in Westmoreland,—how she had been betrayed by her husband, and turned out to poverty and scorn;—how she had borne it all for the sake of the one child who was, by God's laws and man's, the heiress to her father's name; how she had persevered,—intermingling it all with a certain worship of high honours and hereditary position with which Mrs. Bluestone was able in some degree to sympathise. She was clever, and words came to her freely. It was almost impossible that any hearer should refuse to sympathise with her,—any hearer who knew that her words were true. And all that she told was true. The things which she narrated had been done;—the wrongs had been endured;—and the end of it all which she feared, was imminent. And the hearer thought as did the speaker as to the baseness of this marriage with the tailor,—thought as did the speaker of the excellence of the marriage with the lord. But still there was something in the woman's eye,—something in the tone of her voice, something in the very motion of her hands as she told her story, which made Mrs. Bluestone feel that Lady Anna should not be left under her mother's control. It would be very well that the Lovel family should be supported, and that Lady Anna should be kept within the pale of her own rank. But there might be things worse than Lady Anna's defection,—and worse even than the very downfall of the Lovels.
After sitting for nearly two hours with the Countess, Mrs. Bluestone was taken up-stairs. "Mrs. Bluestone has come to see you," said the Countess, not entering the room, and retreating again immediately as she closed the door.
"This is very kind of you, Mrs. Bluestone," said Lady Anna, who was sitting crouching in her dressing-gown over the fire. "But I thought that perhaps the Serjeant would come." The lady, taken off her guard, immediately said that the Serjeant had been there on the preceding evening. "And mamma would not let me see him! But you will help me!"
In this interview, as in that below, a long history was told to the visitor, and was told with an eloquent energy which she certainly had not expected. "They talk to me of ladies," said Lady Anna. "I was not a lady. I knew nothing of ladies and their doings. I was a poor girl, friendless but for my mother, sometimes almost without shoes to my feet, often ragged, solitary, knowing nothing of ladies. Then there came one lad, who played with me;—and it was mamma who brought us together. He was good to me, when all others were bad. He played with me, and gave me things, and taught me,—and loved me. Then when he asked me to love him again, and to love him always, was I to think that I could not,—because I was a lady! You despise him because he is a tailor. A tailor was good to me, when no one else was good. How could I despise him because he was a tailor? I did not despise him, but I loved him with all my heart."
"But when you came to know who you were, Lady Anna—"
"Yes;—yes. I came to know who I was, and they brought my cousin to me, and told me to love him, and bade me be a lady indeed. I felt it too, for a time. I thought it would be pleasant to be a Countess, and to go among great people; and he was pleasant, and I thought that I could love him too, and do as they bade me. But when I thought of it much,—when I thought of it alone,—I hated myself. In my heart of hearts I loved him who had always been my friend. And when Lord Lovel came to me at Bolton, and said that I must give my answer then,—I told him all the truth. I am glad I told him the truth. He should not have come again after that. If Daniel is so poor a creature because he is a tailor,—must not I be poor who love him? And what must he be when he comes to me again after that?"
When Mrs. Bluestone descended from the room she was quite sure that the girl would become Lady Anna Thwaite, and told the Countess that such was her opinion. "By the God above me," said the Countess rising from her chair;—"by the God above me, she never shall." But after that the Countess gave up her project of forcing her daughter to go abroad. The old lady of the house was told that the rooms would still be required for some weeks to come,—perhaps for months; and having had a conference on the subject with Mrs. Bluestone, did not refuse her consent.
At last Sir William returned to town, and was besieged on all sides, as though in his hands lay the power of deciding what should become of all the Lovel family. Mr. Goffe was as confidential with him as Mr. Flick, and even Serjeant Bluestone condescended to appeal to him. The young Earl was closeted with him on the day of his return, and he had found on his desk the following note from the Countess;—
"The Countess Lovel presents her compliments to the Solicitor-General. The Countess is very anxious to leave England with her daughter, but has hitherto been prevented by her child's obstinacy. Sir William Patterson is so well aware of all the circumstances that he no doubt can give the Countess advice as to the manner in which she should proceed to enforce the obedience of her daughter. The Countess Lovel would feel herself unwarranted in thus trespassing on the Solicitor-General, were it not that it is her chief anxiety to do everything for the good of Earl Lovel and the family."
"Look at that, my lord," said the Solicitor-General, showing the Earl the letter. "I can do nothing for her."
"What does she want to have done?"
"She wants to carry her daughter away beyond the reach of Mr. Thwaite. I am not a bit surprised; but she can't do it. The days are gone by when a mother could lock her daughter up, or carry her away,—at any rate in this country."
"It is very sad."
"It might have been much worse. Why should she not marry Mr. Thwaite? Let them make the settlement as they propose, and then let the young lady have her way. She will have her way,—whether her mother lets her or no."
"It will be a disgrace to the family, Sir William."
"No disgrace at all! How many peers' daughters marry commoners in England. It is not with us as it is with some German countries in which noble blood is separated as by a barrier from blood that is not noble. The man I am told is clever and honest. He will have great means at his command, and I do not see why he should not make as good a gentleman as the best of us. At any rate she must not be persecuted."
Sir William answered the Countess's letter as a matter of course, but there was no comfort in his answer. "The Solicitor-General presents his compliments to the Countess Lovel. With all the will in the world to be of service, he fears that he can do no good by interfering between the Countess and Lady Anna Lovel. If, however, he may venture to give advice, he would suggest to the Countess that as Lady Anna will be of age in a short time, no attempt should now be made to exercise a control which must cease when that time shall arrive." "They are all joined against me," said the Countess, when she read the letter;—"every one of them! But still it shall never be. I will not live to see it."
Then there was a meeting between Mr. Flick and Sir William. Mr. Flick must inform the ladies that nothing could be done till Lady Anna was of age;—that not even could any instructions be taken from her before that time as to what should subsequently be done. If, when that time came, she should still be of a mind to share with her cousin the property, she could then instruct Mr. Goffe to make out the necessary deeds.
All this was communicated by letter to the Countess, but Mr. Goffe especially requested that the letter might be shown to Lady Anna, and that he might receive a reply intimating that Lady Anna understood its purport. If necessary he would call upon Lady Anna in Keppel Street. After some delay and much consideration, the Countess sent the attorney's letter to her daughter, and Lady Anna herself wrote a reply. She perfectly understood the purport of Mr. Goffe's letter, and would thank Mr. Goffe to call upon her on the 10th of May, when the matter might, she hoped, be settled.
NEARER AND NEARER.
So they went on living in utter misery till the month of May had come round, and Lady Anna was at last pronounced to be convalescent.
Late one night, long after midnight, the Countess crept into her daughter's room and sat down by the bedside. Lady Anna was asleep, and the Countess sat there and watched. At this time the girl had passed her birthday, and was of age. Mr. Goffe had been closeted with her and with her mother for two mornings running, Sir William Patterson had also been with them, and instructions had been given as to the property, upon which action was to be at once taken. Of that proportion of the estate which fell to Lady Anna, one entire moiety was to be made over to the Earl. While this was being arranged no word was said as to Daniel Thwaite, or as to the marriage with the lord. The settlement was made as though it were a thing of itself; and they all had been much surprised,—the mother, the Solicitor-General, and the attorney,—at the determination of purpose and full comprehension of the whole affair which Lady Anna displayed. When it came to the absolute doing of the matter,—the abandonment of all this money,—the Countess became uneasy and discontented. She also had wished that Lord Lovel should have the property,—but her wish had been founded on a certain object to be attained, which object was now farther from her than ever. But the property in question was not hers, but her daughter's, and she made no loud objection to the proceeding. The instructions were given, and the deeds were to be forthcoming some time before the end of the month.
It was on the night of the 11th of May that the Countess sat at her child's bedside. She had brought up a taper with her, and there she sat watching the sleeping girl. Thoughts wondrously at variance with each other, and feelings thoroughly antagonistic, ran through her brain and heart. This was her only child,—the one thing that there was for her to love,—the only tie to the world that she possessed. But for her girl, it would be good that she should be dead. And if her girl should do this thing, which would make her life a burden to her,—how good it would be for her to die! She did not fear to die, and she feared nothing after death;—but with a coward's dread she did fear the torment of her failure if this girl should become the wife of Daniel Thwaite. In such case most certainly would she never see the girl again,—and life then would be all a blank to her. But she understood that though she should separate herself from the world altogether, men would know of her failure, and would know that she was devouring her own heart in the depth of her misery. If the girl would but have done as her mother had proposed, would have followed after her kind, and taken herself to those pleasant paths which had been opened for her, with what a fond caressing worship, with what infinite kisses and blessings, would she, the mother, have tended the young Countess and assisted in making the world bright for the high-born bride. But a tailor! Foh! What a degraded creature was her child to cling to so base a love!