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Lady Anna
by Anthony Trollope
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She did, however, acknowledge to herself that the girl's clinging was of a kind she had no power to lessen. The ivy to its standard tree is not more loyal than was her daughter to this wretched man. But the girl might die,—or the tailor might die,—or she, the miserable mother, might die; and so this misery might be at an end. Nothing but death could end it. Thoughts and dreams of other violence had crossed her brain,—of carrying the girl away, of secluding her, of frightening her from day to day into some childish, half-idiotic submission. But for that the tame obedience of the girl would have been necessary,—or that external assistance which she had sought, in vain, to obtain among the lawyers. Such hopes were now gone, and nothing remained but death.

Why had not the girl gone when she was so like to go? Why had she not died when it had seemed to be God's pleasure to take her? A little indifference, some slight absence of careful tending, any chance accident would have made that natural which was now,—which was now so desirable and yet beyond reach! Yes;—so desirable! For whose sake could it be wished that a life so degraded should be prolonged? But there could be no such escape. With her eyes fixed on vacancy, revolving it in her mind, she thought that she could kill herself;—but she knew that she could not kill her child.

But, should she destroy herself, there would be no vengeance in that. Could she be alone, far out at sea, in some small skiff with that low-born tailor, and then pull out the plug, and let him know what he had done to her as they both went down together beneath the water, that would be such a cure of the evil as would now best suit her wishes. But there was no such sea, and no such boat. Death, however, might still be within her grasp.

Then she laid her hand on the girl's shoulder, and Lady Anna awoke. "Oh, mamma;—is that you?"

"It is I, my child."

"Mamma, mamma; is anything the matter? Oh, mamma, kiss me." Then the Countess stooped down and kissed the girl passionately. "Dear mamma,—dearest mamma!"

"Anna, will you do one thing for me? If I never speak to you of Lord Lovel again, will you forget Daniel Thwaite?" She paused, but Lady Anna had no answer ready. "Will you not say as much as that for me? Say that you will forget him till I am gone."

"Gone, mamma? You are not going!"

"Till I am dead. I shall not live long, Anna. Say at least that you will not see him or mention his name for twelve months. Surely, Anna, you will do as much as that for a mother who has done so much for you." But Lady Anna would make no promise. She turned her face to the pillow and was dumb. "Answer me, my child. I may at least demand an answer."

"I will answer you to-morrow, mamma." Then the Countess fell on her knees at the bedside and uttered a long, incoherent prayer, addressed partly to the God of heaven, and partly to the poor girl who was lying there in bed, supplicating with mad, passionate eagerness that this evil thing might be turned away from her. Then she seized the girl in her embrace and nearly smothered her with kisses. "My own, my darling, my beauty, my all; save your mother from worse than death, if you can;—if you can!"

Had such tenderness come sooner it might have had deeper effect. As it was, though the daughter was affected and harassed,—though she was left panting with sobs and drowned in tears,—she could not but remember the treatment she had suffered from her mother during the last six months. Had the request for a year's delay come sooner, it would have been granted; but now it was made after all measures of cruelty had failed. Ten times during the night did she say that she would yield,—and ten times again did she tell herself that were she to yield now, she would be a slave all her life. She had resolved,—whether right or wrong,—still, with a strong mind and a great purpose, that she would not be turned from her way, and when she arose in the morning she was resolved again. She went into her mother's room and at once declared her purpose. "Mamma, it cannot be. I am his, and I must not forget him or be ashamed of his name;—no, not for a day."

"Then go from me, thou ungrateful one, hard of heart, unnatural child, base, cruel, and polluted. Go from me, if it be possible, for ever!"

Then did they live for some days separated for a second time, each taking her meals in her own room; and Mrs. Richards, the owner of the lodgings, went again to Mrs. Bluestone, declaring that she was afraid of what might happen, and that she must pray to be relieved from the presence of the ladies. Mrs. Bluestone had to explain that the lodgings had been taken for the quarter, and that a mother and daughter could not be put out into the street merely because they lived on bad terms with each other. The old woman, as was natural, increased her bills;—but that had no effect.

On the 15th of May Lady Anna wrote a note to Daniel Thwaite, and sent a copy of it to her mother before she had posted it. It was in two lines;—

DEAR DANIEL,

Pray come and see me here. If you get this soon enough, pray come on Tuesday about one.

Yours affectionately,

ANNA.

"Tell mamma," said she to Sarah, "that I intend to go out and put that in the post to-day." The letter was addressed to Wyndham Street. Now the Countess knew that Daniel Thwaite had left Wyndham Street.

"Tell her," said the Countess, "tell her—; but, of what use to tell her anything? Let the door be closed upon her. She shall never return to me any more." The message was given to Lady Anna as she went forth:—but she posted the letter, and then called in Bedford Square. Mrs. Bluestone returned with her to Keppel Street; but as the door was opened by Mrs. Richards, and as no difficulty was made as to Lady Anna's entrance, Mrs. Bluestone returned home without asking to see the Countess.

This happened on a Saturday, but when Tuesday came Daniel Thwaite did not come to Keppel Street. The note was delivered in course of post at his old abode, and was redirected from Wyndham Street late on Monday evening,—having no doubt given cause there for much curiosity and inspection. Late on the Tuesday it did reach Daniel Thwaite's residence in Great Russell Street, but he was then out, wandering about the streets as was his wont, telling himself of all the horrors of an idle life, and thinking what steps he should take next as to the gaining of his bride. He had known to a day when she was of age, and had determined that he would allow her one month from thence before he would call upon her to say what should be their mutual fate. She had reached that age but a few days, and now she had written to him herself.

On returning home he received the girl's letter, and when the early morning had come,—the Wednesday morning, the day after that fixed by Lady Anna,—he made up his mind as to his course of action. He breakfasted at eight, knowing how useless it would be to stir early, and then called in Keppel Street, leaving word with Mrs. Richards herself that he would be there again at one o'clock to see Lady Anna. "You can tell Lady Anna that I only got her note last night very late." Then he went off to the hotel in Albemarle Street at which he knew that Lord Lovel was living. It was something after nine when he reached the house, and the Earl was not yet out of his bedroom. Daniel, however, sent up his name, and the Earl begged that he would go into the sitting-room and wait. "Tell Mr. Thwaite that I will not keep him above a quarter of an hour." Then the tailor was shown into the room where the breakfast things were laid, and there he waited.

Within the last few weeks very much had been said to the Earl about Daniel Thwaite by many people, and especially by the Solicitor-General. "You may be sure that she will become his wife," Sir William had said, "and I would advise you to accept him as her husband. She is not a girl such as we at first conceived her to be. She is firm of purpose, and very honest. Obstinate, if you will, and,—if you will,—obstinate to a bad end. But she is generous, and let her marry whom she will, you cannot cast her out. You will owe everything to her high sense of honour;—and I am much mistaken if you will not owe much to him. Accept them both, and make the best of them. In five years he'll be in Parliament as likely as not. In ten years he'll be Sir Daniel Thwaite,—if he cares for it. And in fifteen years Lady Anna will be supposed by everybody to have made a very happy marriage." Lord Lovel was at this time inclined to be submissive in everything to his great adviser, and was now ready to take Mr. Daniel Thwaite by the hand.

He did take him by the hand as he entered the sitting-room, radiant from his bath, clad in a short bright-coloured dressing-gown such as young men then wore o' mornings, with embroidered slippers on his feet, and a smile on his face. "I have heard much of you, Mr. Thwaite," he said, "and am glad to meet you at last. Pray sit down. I hope you have not breakfasted."

Poor Daniel was hardly equal to the occasion. The young lord had been to him always an enemy,—an enemy because the lord had been the adversary of the Countess and her daughter, an enemy because the lord was an earl and idle, an enemy because the lord was his rival. Though he now was nearly sure that this last ground of enmity was at an end, and though he had come to the Earl for certain purposes of his own, he could not bring himself to feel that there should be good fellowship between them. He took the hand that was offered to him, but took it awkwardly, and sat down as he was bidden. "Thank your lordship, but I breakfasted long since. If it will suit you, I will walk about and call again."

"Not at all. I can eat, and you can talk to me. Take a cup of tea at any rate." The Earl rang for another teacup, and began to butter his toast.

"I believe your lordship knows that I have long been engaged to marry your lordship's cousin,—Lady Anna Lovel."

"Indeed I have been told so."

"By herself."

"Well;—yes; by herself."

"I have been allowed to see her but once during the last eight or nine months."

"That has not been my fault, Mr. Thwaite."

"I want you to understand, my lord, that it is not for her money that I have sought her."

"I have not accused you, surely."

"But I have been accused. I am going to see her now,—if I can get admittance to her. I shall press her to fix a day for our marriage, and if she will do so, I shall leave no stone unturned to accomplish it. She has a right to do with herself as she pleases, and no consideration shall stop me but her wishes."

"I shall not interfere."

"I am glad of that, my lord."

"But I will not answer for her mother. You cannot be surprised, Mr. Thwaite, that Lady Lovel should be averse to such a marriage."

"She was not averse to my father's company nor to mine a few years since;—no nor twelve months since. But I say nothing about that. Let her be averse. We cannot help it. I have come to you to say that I hope something may be done about the money before she becomes my wife. People say that you should have it."

"Who says so?"

"I cannot say who;—perhaps everybody. Should every shilling of it be yours I should marry her as willingly to-morrow. They have given me what is my own, and that is enough for me. For what is now hers and, perhaps, should be yours, I will not interfere with it. When she is my wife, I will guard for her and for those who may come after her what belongs to her then; but as to what may be done before that, I care nothing."

On hearing this the Earl told him the whole story of the arrangement which was then in progress;—how the property would in fact be divided into three parts, of which the Countess would have one, he one, and Lady Anna one. "There will be enough for us all," said the Earl.

"And much more than enough for me," said Daniel as he got up to take his leave. "And now I am going to Keppel Street."

"You have all my good wishes," said the Earl. The two men again shook hands;—again the lord was radiant and good humoured;—and again the tailor was ashamed and almost sullen. He knew that the young nobleman had behaved well to him, and it was a disappointment to him that any nobleman should behave well.

Nevertheless as he walked away slowly towards Keppel Street,—for the time still hung on his hands,—he began to feel that the great prize of prizes was coming nearer within his grasp.



CHAPTER XLII.

DANIEL THWAITE COMES TO KEPPEL STREET.

Even the Bluestones were now convinced that Lady Anna Lovel must be allowed to marry the Keswick tailor, and that it would be expedient that no further impediment should be thrown in her way. Mrs. Bluestone had been told, while walking to Keppel Street with the young lady, of the purport of the letter and of the invitation given to Daniel Thwaite. The Serjeant at once declared that the girl must have her own way,—and the Solicitor-General, who also heard of it, expressed himself very strongly. It was absurd to oppose her. She was her own mistress. She had shown herself competent to manage her own affairs. The Countess must be made to understand that she had better yield at once with what best grace she could. Then it was that he made that prophecy to the Earl as to the future success of the fortunate tailor, and then too he wrote at great length to the Countess, urging many reasons why her daughter should be allowed to receive Mr. Daniel Thwaite. "Your ladyship has succeeded in very much," wrote the Solicitor-General, "and even in respect of this marriage you will have the satisfaction of feeling that the man is in every way respectable and well-behaved. I hear that he is an educated man, with culture much higher than is generally found in the state of life which he has till lately filled, and that he is a man of high feeling and noble purpose. The manner in which he has been persistent in his attachment to your daughter is in itself evidence of this. And I think that your ladyship is bound to remember that the sphere of life in which he has hitherto been a labourer, would not have been so humble in its nature had not the means which should have started him in the world been applied to support and succour your own cause. I am well aware of your feelings of warm gratitude to the father; but I think you should bear in mind, on the son's behalf, that he has been what he has been because his father was so staunch a friend to your ladyship." There was very much more of it, all expressing the opinion of Sir William that the Countess should at once open her doors to Daniel Thwaite.

The reader need hardly be told that this was wormwood to the Countess. It did not in the least touch her heart and had but little effect on her purpose. Gratitude;—yes! But if the whole result of the exertion for which the receiver is bound to be grateful, is to be neutralised by the greed of the conferrer of the favour,—if all is to be taken that has been given, and much more also,—what ground will there be left for gratitude? If I save a man's purse from a thief, and then demand for my work twice what that purse contained, the man had better have been left with the robbers. But she was told, not only that she ought to accept the tailor as a son-in-law, but also that she could not help herself. They should see whether she could not help herself. They should be made to acknowledge that she at any rate was in earnest in her endeavours to preserve pure and unspotted the honour of the family.

But what should she do? That she should put on a gala dress and a smiling face and be carried off to church with a troop of lawyers and their wives to see her daughter become the bride of a low journeyman, was of course out of the question. By no act, by no word, by no sign would she give aught of a mother's authority to nuptials so disgraceful. Should her daughter become Lady Anna Thwaite, they two, mother and daughter, would never see each other again. Of so much at any rate she was sure. But could she be sure of nothing beyond that? She could at any rate make an effort.

Then there came upon her a mad idea,—an idea which was itself evidence of insanity,—of the glory which would be hers if by any means she could prevent the marriage. There would be a halo round her name were she to perish in such a cause, let the destruction come upon her in what form it might. She sat for hours meditating,—and at every pause in her thoughts she assured herself that she could still make an effort.

She received Sir William's letter late on the Tuesday,—and during that night she did not lie down or once fall asleep. The man, as she knew, had been told to come at one on that day, and she had been prepared; but he did not come, and she then thought that the letter, which had been addressed to his late residence, had failed to reach him. During the night she wrote a very long answer to Sir William pleading her own cause, expatiating on her own feelings, and palliating any desperate deed which she might be tempted to perform. But, when the letter had been copied and folded, and duly sealed with the Lovel arms, she locked it in her desk, and did not send it on its way even on the following morning. When the morning came, shortly after eight o'clock, Mrs. Richards brought up the message which Daniel had left at the door. "Be we to let him in, my lady?" said Mrs. Richards with supplicating hands upraised. Her sympathies were all with Lady Anna, but she feared the Countess, and did not dare in such a matter to act without the mother's sanction. The Countess begged the woman to come to her in an hour for further instructions, and at the time named Mrs. Richards, full of the importance of her work, divided between terror and pleasurable excitement, again toddled up-stairs. "Be we to let him in, my lady? God, he knows it's hard upon the likes of me, who for the last three months doesn't know whether I'm on my head or heels." The Countess very quietly requested that when Mr. Thwaite should call he might be shown into the parlour.

"I will see Mr. Thwaite myself, Mrs. Richards; but it will be better that my daughter should not be disturbed by any intimation of his coming."

Then there was a consultation below stairs as to what should be done. There had been many such consultations, but they had all ended in favour of the Countess. Mrs. Richards from fear, and the lady's-maid from favour, were disposed to assist the elder lady. Poor Lady Anna throughout had been forced to fight her battles with no friend near her. Now she had many friends,—many who were anxious to support her, even the Bluestones, who had been so hard upon her while she was along with them;—but they who were now her friends were never near her to assist her with a word.

So it came to pass that when Daniel Thwaite called at the house exactly at one o'clock Lady Anna was not expecting him. On the previous day at that hour she had sat waiting with anxious ears for the knock at the door which might announce his coming. But she had waited in vain. From one to two,—even till seven in the evening, she had waited. But he had not come, and she had feared that some scheme had been used against her. The people at the Post Office had been bribed,—or the women in Wyndham Street had been false. But she would not be hindered. She would go out alone and find him,—if he were to be found in London.

When he did come, she was not thinking of his coming. He was shown into the dining-room, and within a minute afterwards the Countess entered with stately step. She was well dressed, even to the adjustment of her hair; and she was a woman so changed that he would hardly have known her as that dear and valued friend whose slightest word used to be a law to his father,—but who in those days never seemed to waste a thought upon her attire. She had been out that morning walking through the streets, and the blood had mounted to her cheeks He acknowledged to himself that she looked like a noble and high-born dame. There was a fire in her eye, and a look of scorn about her mouth and nostrils, which had even for him a certain fascination,—odious to him as were the pretensions of the so-called great. She was the first to speak. "You have called to see my daughter," she said.

"Yes, Lady Lovel,—I have."

"You cannot see her."

"I came at her request."

"I know you did, but you cannot see her. You can be hardly so ignorant of the ways of the world, Mr. Thwaite, as to suppose that a young lady can receive what visitors she pleases without the sanction of her guardians."

"Lady Anna Lovel has no guardian, my lady. She is of age, and is at present her own guardian."

"I am her mother, and shall exercise the authority of a mother over her. You cannot see her. You had better go."

"I shall not be stopped in this way, Lady Lovel."

"Do you mean that you will force your way up to her? To do so you will have to trample over me;—and there are constables in the street. You cannot see her. You had better go."

"Is she a prisoner?"

"That is between her and me, and is no affair of yours. You are intruding here, Mr. Thwaite, and cannot possibly gain anything by your intrusion." Then she strode out in the passage, and motioned him to the front door. "Mr. Thwaite, I will beg you to leave this house, which for the present is mine. If you have any proper feeling you will not stay after I have told you that you are not welcome."

But Lady Anna, though she had not expected the coming of her lover, had heard the sound of voices, and then became aware that the man was below. As her mother was speaking she rushed down-stairs and threw herself into her lover's arms. "It shall never be so in my presence," said the Countess, trying to drag the girl from his embrace by the shoulders.

"Anna;—my own Anna," said Daniel in an ecstacy of bliss. It was not only that his sweetheart was his own, but that her spirit was so high.

"Daniel!" she said, still struggling in his arms.

By this time they were all in the parlour, whither the Countess had been satisfied to retreat to escape the eyes of the women who clustered at the top of the kitchen stairs. "Daniel Thwaite," said the Countess, "if you do not leave this, the blood which will be shed shall rest on your head," and so saying, she drew nigh to the window and pulled down the blind. She then crossed over and did the same to the other blind, and having done so, took her place close to a heavy upright desk, which stood between the fireplace and the window. When the two ladies first came to the house they had occupied only the first and second floors;—but, since the success of their cause, the whole had been taken, including the parlour in which this scene was being acted; and the Countess spent many hours daily sitting at the heavy desk in this dark gloomy chamber.

"Whose blood shall be shed?" said Lady Anna, turning to her mother.

"It is the raving of madness," said Daniel.

"Whether it be madness or not, you shall find, sir, that it is true. Take your hands from her. Would you disgrace the child in the presence of her mother?"

"There is no disgrace, mamma. He is my own, and I am his. Why should you try to part us?"

But now they were parted. He was not a man to linger much over the sweetness of a caress when sterner work was in his hands to be done. "Lady Lovel," he said, "you must see that this opposition is fruitless. Ask your cousin, Lord Lovel, and he will tell you that it is so."

"I care nothing for my cousin. If he be false, I am true. Though all the world be false, still will I be true. I do not ask her to marry her cousin. I simply demand that she shall relinquish one who is infinitely beneath her,—who is unfit to tie her very shoe-string."

"He is my equal in all things," said Lady Anna, "and he shall be my lord and husband."

"I know of no inequalities such as those you speak of, Lady Lovel," said the tailor. "The excellence of your daughter's merits I admit, and am almost disposed to claim some goodness for myself, finding that one so good can love me. But, Lady Lovel, I do not wish to remain here now. You are disturbed."

"I am disturbed, and you had better go."

"I will go at once if you will let me name some early day on which I may be allowed to meet Lady Anna,—alone. And I tell her here that if she be not permitted so to see me, it will be her duty to leave her mother's house, and come to me. There is my address, dear." Then he handed to her a paper on which he had written the name of the street and number at which he was now living. "You are free to come and go as you list, and if you will send to me there, I will find you here or elsewhere as you may command me. It is but a short five minutes' walk beyond the house at which you were staying in Bedford Square."

The Countess stood silent for a moment or two, looking at them, during which neither the girl spoke nor her lover. "You will not even allow her six months to think of it?" said the Countess. "I will allow her six years if she says that she requires time to think of it."

"I do not want an hour,—not a minute," said Lady Anna.

The mother flashed round upon her daughter. "Poor vain, degraded wretch," she said.

"She is a true woman, honest to the heart's core," said the lover.

"You shall come to-morrow," said the Countess. "Do you hear me, Anna?—he shall come to-morrow. There shall be an end of this in some way, and I am broken-hearted. My life is over for me, and I may as well lay me down and die. I hope God in his mercy may never send upon another woman,—upon another wife, or another mother,—trouble such as that with which I have been afflicted. But I tell you this, Anna; that what evil a husband can do,—even let him be evil-minded as was your father,—is nothing,—nothing,—nothing to the cruelty of a cruel child. Go now, Mr. Thwaite; if you please. If you will return at the same hour to-morrow she shall speak with you—alone. And then she must do as she pleases."

"Anna, I will come again to-morrow," said the tailor. But Lady Anna did not answer him. She did not speak, but stayed looking at him till he was gone.

"To-morrow shall end it all. I can stand this no longer. I have prayed to you,—a mother to her daughter; I have prayed to you for mercy, and you will show me none. I have knelt to you."

"Mamma!"

"I will kneel again if it may avail." And the Countess did kneel. "Will you not spare me?"

"Get up, mamma; get up. What am I doing,—what have I done that you should speak to me like this?"

"I ask you from my very soul,—lest I commit some terrible crime. I have sworn that I would not see this marriage,—and I will not see it."

"If he will consent I will delay it," said the girl trembling.

"Must I beg to him then? Must I kneel to him? Must I ask him to save me from the wrath to come? No, my child, I will not do that. If it must come, let it come. When you were a little thing at my knees, the gentlest babe that ever mother kissed, I did not think that you would live to be so hard to me. You have your mother's brow, my child, but you have your father's heart."

"I will ask him to delay it," said Anna.

"No;—if it be to come to that I will have no dealings with you. What; that he,—he who has come between me and all my peace, he who with his pretended friendship has robbed me of my all, that he is to be asked to grant me a few weeks' delay before this pollution comes upon me,—during which the whole world will know that Lady Anna Lovel is to be the tailor's wife! Leave me. When he comes to-morrow, you shall be sent for;—but I will see him first. Leave me, now. I would be alone."

Lady Anna made an attempt to take her mother's hand, but the Countess repulsed her rudely. "Oh, mamma!"

"We must be bitter enemies or loving friends, my child. As it is we are bitter enemies; yes, the bitterest. Leave me now. There is no room for further words between us." Then Lady Anna slunk up to her own room.



CHAPTER XLIII.

DANIEL THWAITE COMES AGAIN.

The Countess Lovel had prepared herself on that morning for the doing of a deed, but her heart had failed her. How she might have carried herself through it had not her daughter came down to them,—how far she might have been able to persevere, cannot be said now. But it was certain that she had so far relented that even while the hated man was there in her presence, she determined that she would once again submit herself to make entreaties to her child, once again to speak of all that she had endured, and to pray at least for delay if nothing else could be accorded to her. If her girl would but promise to remain with her for six months, then they might go abroad,—and the chances afforded them by time and distance would be before her. In that case she would lavish such love upon the girl, so many indulgences, such sweets of wealth and ease, such store of caresses and soft luxury, that surely the young heart might thus be turned to the things which were fit for rank, and high blood, and splendid possessions. It could not be but that her own child,—the child who a few months since had been as gentle with her and as obedient as an infant,—should give way to her as far as that. She tried it, and her daughter had referred her prayer,—or had said that she would refer it,—to the decision of her hated lover; and the mother had at once lost all command of her temper. She had become fierce,—nay, ferocious; and had lacked the guile and the self-command necessary to carry out her purpose. Had she persevered Lady Anna must have granted her the small boon that she then asked. But she had given way to her wrath, and had declared that her daughter was her bitterest enemy. As she seated herself at the old desk where Lady Anna left her, she swore within her own bosom that the deed must be done.

Even at the moment when she was resolving that she would kneel once more at her daughter's knees, she prepared herself for the work that she must do, should the daughter still be as hard as stone to her. "Come again at one to-morrow," she said to the tailor; and the tailor said that he would come.

When she was alone she seated herself on her accustomed chair and opened the old desk with a key that had now become familiar to her hand. It was a huge piece of furniture,—such as is never made in these days, but is found among every congregation of old household goods,—with numberless drawers clustering below, with a vast body, full of receptacles for bills, wills, deeds, and waste-paper, and a tower of shelves above, ascending almost to the ceiling. In the centre of the centre body was a square compartment, but this had been left unlocked, so that its contents might be ready to her hand. Now she opened it and took from it a pistol; and, looking warily over her shoulder to see that the door was closed, and cautiously up at the windows, lest some eye might be spying her action even through the thick blinds, she took the weapon in her hand and held it up so that she might feel, if possible, how it would be with her when she should attempt the deed. She looked very narrowly at the lock, of which the trigger was already back at its place, so that no exertion of arrangement might be necessary for her at the fatal moment. Never as yet had she fired a pistol;—never before had she held such a weapon in her hand;—but she thought that she could do it when her passion ran high.

Then for the twentieth time she asked herself whether it would not be easier to turn it against her own bosom,—against her own brain; so that all might be over at once. Ah, yes;—so much easier! But how then would it be with this man who had driven her, by his subtle courage and persistent audacity, to utter destruction? Could he and she be made to go down together in that boat which her fancy had built for them, then indeed it might be well that she should seek her own death. But were she now to destroy herself,—herself and only herself,—then would her enemy be left to enjoy his rich prize, a prize only the richer because she would have disappeared from the world! And of her, if such had been her last deed, men would only say that the mad Countess had gone on in her madness. With looks of sad solemnity, but heartfelt satisfaction, all the Lovels, and that wretched tailor, and her own daughter, would bestow some mock grief on her funeral, and there would be an end for ever of Josephine Countess Lovel,—and no one would remember her, or her deeds, or her sufferings. When she wandered out from the house on that morning, after hearing that Daniel Thwaite would be there at one, and had walked nearly into the mid city so that she might not be watched, and had bought her pistol and powder and bullets, and had then with patience gone to work and taught herself how to prepare the weapon for use, she certainly had not intended simply to make the triumph of her enemy more easy.

And yet she knew well what was the penalty of murder, and she knew also that there could be no chance of escape. Very often had she turned it in her mind, whether she could not destroy the man so that the hand of the destroyer might be hidden. But it could not be so. She could not dog him in the streets. She could not get at him in his meals to poison him. She could not creep to his bedside and strangle him in the silent watches of the night. And this woman's heart, even while from day to day she was meditating murder,—while she was telling herself that it would be a worthy deed to cut off from life one whose life was a bar to her own success,—even then revolted from the shrinking stealthy step, from the low cowardice of the hidden murderer. To look him in the face and then to slay him,—when no escape for herself would be possible, that would have in it something that was almost noble; something at any rate bold,—something that would not shame her. They would hang her for such a deed! Let them do so. It was not hanging that she feared, but the tongues of those who should speak of her when she was gone. They should not speak of her as one who had utterly failed. They should tell of a woman who, cruelly misused throughout her life, maligned, scorned, and tortured, robbed of her own, neglected by her kindred, deserted and damned by her husband, had still struggled through it all till she had proved herself to be that which it was her right to call herself;—of a woman who, though thwarted in her ambition by her own child, and cheated of her triumph at the very moment of her success, had dared rather to face an ignominious death than see all her efforts frustrated by the maudlin fancy of a girl. Yes! She would face it all. Let them do what they would with her. She hardly knew what might be the mode of death adjudged to a Countess who had murdered. Let them kill her as they would, they would kill a Countess;—and the whole world would know her story.

That day and night were very dreadful to her. She never asked a question about her daughter. They had brought her food to her in that lonely parlour, and she hardly heeded them as they laid the things before her, and then removed them. Again and again did she unlock the old desk, and see that the weapon was ready to her hand. Then she opened that letter to Sir William Patterson, and added a postscript to it. "What I have since done will explain everything." That was all she added, and on the following morning, about noon, she put the letter on the mantelshelf. Late at night she took herself to bed, and was surprised to find that she slept. The key of the old desk was under her pillow, and she placed her hand on it the moment that she awoke. On leaving her own room she stood for a moment at her daughter's door. It might be, if she killed the man, that she would never see her child again. At that moment she was tempted to rush into her daughter's room, to throw herself upon her daughter's bed, and once again to beg for mercy and grace. She listened, and she knew that her daughter slept. Then she went silently down to the dark room and the old desk. Of what use would it be to abase herself? Her daughter was the only thing that she could love; but her daughter's heart was filled with the image of that low-born artisan.

"Is Lady Anna up?" she asked the maid about ten o'clock.

"Yes, my lady; she is breakfasting now."

"Tell her that when—when Mr. Thwaite comes, I will send for her as soon as I wish to see her."

"I think Lady Anna understands that already, my lady."

"Tell her what I say."

"Yes, my lady. I will, my lady." Then the Countess spoke no further word till, punctually at one o'clock, Daniel Thwaite was shown into the room. "You keep your time, Mr. Thwaite," she said.

"Working men should always do that, Lady Lovel," he replied, as though anxious to irritate her by reminding her how humble was the man who could aspire to be the son-in-law of a Countess.

"All men should do so, I presume. I also am punctual. Well sir;—have you anything else to say?"

"Much to say,—to your daughter, Lady Lovel."

"I do not know that you will ever see my daughter again."

"Do you mean to say that she has been taken away from this?" The Countess was silent, but moved away from the spot on which she stood to receive him towards the old desk, which stood open,—with the door of the centre space just ajar. "If it be so, you have deceived me most grossly, Lady Lovel. But it can avail you nothing, for I know that she will be true to me. Do you tell me that she has been removed?"

"I have told you no such thing."

"Bid her come then,—as you promised me."

"I have a word to say to you first. What if she should refuse to come?"

"I do not believe that she will refuse. You yourself heard what she said yesterday. All earth and all heaven should not make me doubt her, and certainly not your word, Lady Lovel. You know how it is, and you know how it must be."

"Yes,—I do; I do; I do." She was facing him with her back to the window, and she put forth her left hand upon the open desk, and thrust it forward as though to open the square door which stood ajar;—but he did not notice her hand; he had his eye fixed upon her, and suspected only deceit,—not violence. "Yes, I know how it must be," she said, while her fingers approached nearer to the little door.

"Then let her come to me."

"Will nothing turn you from it?"

"Nothing will turn me from it."

Then suddenly she withdrew her hand and confronted him more closely. "Mine has been a hard life, Mr. Thwaite;—no life could have been harder. But I have always had something before me for which to long, and for which to hope;—something which I might reach if justice should at length prevail."

"You have got money and rank."

"They are nothing—nothing. In all those many years, the thing that I have looked for has been the splendour and glory of another, and the satisfaction I might feel in having bestowed upon her all that she owned. Do you think that I will stand by, after such a struggle, and see you rob me of it all,—you,—you, who were one of the tools which came to my hand to work with? From what you know of me, do you think that my spirit could stoop so low? Answer me, if you have ever thought of that. Let the eagles alone, and do not force yourself into our nest. You will find, if you do, that you will be rent to pieces."

"This is nothing, Lady Lovel. I came here,—at your bidding, to see your daughter. Let me see her."

"You will not go?"

"Certainly I will not go."

She looked at him as she slowly receded to her former standing-ground, but he never for a moment suspected the nature of her purpose. He began to think that some actual insanity had befallen her, and was doubtful how he should act. But no fear of personal violence affected him. He was merely questioning with himself whether it would not be well for him to walk up-stairs into the upper room, and seek Lady Anna there, as he stood watching the motion of her eyes.

"You had better go," said she, as she again put her left hand on the flat board of the open desk.

"You trifle with me, Lady Lovel," he answered. "As you will not allow Lady Anna to come to me here, I will go to her elsewhere. I do not doubt but that I shall find her in the house." Then he turned to the door, intending to leave the room. He had been very near to her while they were talking, so that he had some paces to traverse before he could put his hand upon the lock,—but in doing so his back was turned on her. In one respect it was better for her purpose that it should be so. She could open the door of the compartment and put her hand upon the pistol without having his eye upon her. But, as it seemed to her at the moment, the chance of bringing her purpose to its intended conclusion was less than it would have been had she been able to fire at his face. She had let the moment go by,—the first moment,—when he was close to her, and now there would be half the room between them. But she was very quick. She seized the pistol, and, transferring it to her right hand, she rushed after him, and when the door was already half open she pulled the trigger. In the agony of that moment she heard no sound, though she saw the flash. She saw him shrink and pass the door, which he left unclosed, and then she heard a scuffle in the passage, as though he had fallen against the wall. She had provided herself especially with a second barrel,—but that was now absolutely useless to her. There was no power left to her wherewith to follow him and complete the work which she had begun. She did not think that she had killed him, though she was sure that he was struck. She did not believe that she had accomplished anything of her wishes,—but had she held in her hand a six-barrelled revolver, as of the present day, she could have done no more with it. She was overwhelmed with so great a tremor at her own violence that she was almost incapable of moving. She stood glaring at the door, listening for what should come, and the moments seemed to be hours. But she heard no sound whatever. A minute passed away perhaps, and the man did not move. She looked around as if seeking some way of escape,—as though, were it possible, she would get to the street through the window. There was no mode of escape, unless she would pass out through the door to the man who, as she knew, must still be there. Then she heard him move. She heard him rise,—from what posture she knew not, and step towards the stairs. She was still standing with the pistol in her hand, but was almost unconscious that she held it. At last her eye glanced upon it, and she was aware that she was still armed. Should she rush after him, and try what she could do with that other bullet? The thought crossed her mind, but she knew that she could do nothing. Had all the Lovels depended upon it, she could not have drawn that other trigger. She took the pistol, put it back into its former hiding-place, mechanically locked the little door, and then seated herself in her chair.



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE ATTEMPT AND NOT THE DEED CONFOUNDS US.

The tailor's hand was on the lock of the door when he first saw the flash of the fire, and then felt that he was wounded. Though his back was turned to the woman he distinctly saw the flash, but he never could remember that he had heard the report. He knew nothing of the nature of the injury he had received, and was hardly aware of the place in which he had been struck, when he half closed the door behind him and then staggered against the opposite wall. For a moment he was sick, almost to fainting, but yet he did not believe that he had been grievously hurt. He was, however, disabled, weak, and almost incapable of any action. He seated himself on the lowest stair, and began to think. The woman had intended to murder him! She had lured him there with the premeditated intention of destroying him! And this was the mother of his bride,—the woman whom he intended to call his mother-in-law! He was not dead, nor did he believe that he was like to die; but had she killed him,—what must have been the fate of the murderess! As it was, would it not be necessary that she should be handed over to the law, and dealt with for the offence? He did not know that they might not even hang her for the attempt.

He said afterwards that he thought that he sat there for a quarter of an hour. Three minutes, however, had not passed before Mrs. Richards, ascending from the kitchen, found him upon the stairs. "What is it, Mr. Thwaite?" said she.

"Is anything the matter?" he asked with a faint smile.

"The place is full of smoke," she said, "and there is a smell of gunpowder."

"There is no harm done at any rate," he answered.

"I thought I heard a something go off," said Sarah, who was behind Mrs. Richards.

"Did you?" said he. "I heard nothing; but there certainly is a smoke," and he still smiled.

"What are you sitting there for, Mr. Thwaite?" asked Mrs. Richards.

"You ain't no business to sit there, Mr. Thwaite," said Sarah.

"You've been and done something to the Countess," said Mrs. Richards.

"The Countess is all right. I'm going up-stairs to see Lady Anna;—that's all. But I've hurt myself a little. I'm bad in my left shoulder, and I sat down just to get a rest." As he spoke he was still smiling.

Then the woman looked at him and saw that he was very pale. At that instant he was in great pain, though he felt that as the sense of intense sickness was leaving him he would be able to go up-stairs and say a word or two to his sweetheart, should he find her. "You ain't just as you ought to be, Mr. Thwaite," said Mrs. Richards. He was very haggard, and perspiration was on his brow, and she thought that he had been drinking.

"I am well enough," said he rising,—"only that I am much troubled by a hurt in my arm. At any rate I will go up-stairs." Then he mounted slowly, leaving the two women standing in the passage.

Mrs. Richards gently opened the parlour door, and entered the room, which was still reeking with smoke and the smell of the powder, and there she found the Countess seated at the old desk, but with her body and face turned round towards the door. "Is anything the matter, my lady?" asked the woman.

"Where has he gone?"

"Mr. Thwaite has just stepped up-stairs,—this moment. He was very queer like, my lady."

"Is he hurt?"

"We think he's been drinking, my lady," said Sarah.

"He says that his shoulder is ever so bad," said Mrs. Richards.

Then for the first time it occurred to the Countess that perhaps the deed which she had done,—the attempt in which she had failed,—might never be known. Instinctively she had hidden the pistol and had locked the little door, and concealed the key within her bosom as soon as she was alone. Then she thought that she would open the window; but she had been afraid to move, and she had sat there waiting while she heard the sound of voices in the passage. "Oh,—his shoulder!" said she. "No,—he has not been drinking. He never drinks. He has been very violent, but he never drinks. Well,—why do you wait?"

"There is such a smell of something," said Mrs. Richards.

"Yes;—you had better open the windows. There was an accident. Thank you;—that will do."

"And is he to be alone,—with Lady Anna, up-stairs?" asked the maid.

"He is to be alone with her. How can I help it? If she chooses to be a scullion she must follow her bent. I have done all I could. Why do you wait? I tell you that he is to be with her. Go away, and leave me." Then they went and left her, wondering much, but guessing nothing of the truth. She watched them till they had closed the door, and then instantly opened the other window wide. It was now May, but the weather was still cold. There had been rain the night before, and it had been showery all the morning. She had come in from her walk damp and chilled, and there was a fire in the grate. But she cared nothing for the weather. Looking round the room she saw a morsel of wadding near the floor, and she instantly burned it. She longed to look at the pistol, but she did not dare to take it from its hiding-place lest she should be discovered in the act. Every energy of her mind was now strained to the effort of avoiding detection. Should he choose to tell what had been done, then, indeed, all would be over. But had he not resolved to be silent he would hardly have borne the agony of the wound and gone up-stairs without speaking of it. She almost forgot now the misery of the last year in the intensity of her desire to escape the disgrace of punishment. A sudden nervousness, a desire to do something by which she might help to preserve herself, seized upon her. But there was nothing which she could do. She could not follow him lest he should accuse her to her face. It would be vain for her to leave the house till he should have gone. Should she do so, she knew that she would not dare return to it. So she sat, thinking, dreaming, plotting, crushed by an agony of fear, looking anxiously at the door, listening for every footfall within the house; and she watched too for the well-known click of the area gate, dreading lest any one should go out to seek the intervention of the constables.

In the meantime Daniel Thwaite had gone up-stairs, and had knocked at the drawing-room door. It was instantly opened by Lady Anna herself. "I heard you come;—what a time you have been here!—I thought that I should never see you." As she spoke she stood close to him that he might embrace her. But the pain of his wound affected his whole body, and he felt that he could hardly raise even his right arm. He was aware now that the bullet had entered his back, somewhere on his left shoulder. "Oh, Daniel;—are you ill?" she said, looking at him.

"Yes, dear;—I am ill;—not very ill. Did you hear nothing?"

"No!"

"Nor yet see anything?"

"No!"

"I will tell you all another time;—only do not ask me now." She had seated herself beside him and wound her arm round his back as though to support him. "You must not touch me, dearest."

"You have been hurt."

"Yes;—I have been hurt. I am in pain, though I do not think that it signifies. I had better go to a surgeon, and then you shall hear from me."

"Tell me, Daniel;—what is it, Daniel?"

"I will tell you,—but not now. You shall know all, but I should do harm were I to say it now. Say not a word to any one, sweetheart,—unless your mother ask you."

"What shall I tell her?"

"That I am hurt,—but not seriously hurt;—and that the less said the sooner mended. Tell her also that I shall expect no further interruption to my letters when I write to you,—or to my visits when I can come. God bless you, dearest;—one kiss, and now I will go."

"You will send for me if you are ill, Daniel?"

"If I am really ill, I will send for you." So saying, he left her, went down-stairs, with great difficulty opened for himself the front door, and departed.

Lady Anna, though she had been told nothing of what had happened, except that her lover was hurt, at once surmised something of what had been done. Daniel Thwaite had suffered some hurt from her mother's wrath. She sat for a while thinking what it might have been. She had seen no sign of blood. Could it be that her mother had struck him in her anger with some chance weapon that had come to hand? That there had been violence she was sure,—and sure also that her mother had been in fault. When Daniel had been some few minutes gone she went down, that she might deliver his message. At the foot of the stairs, and near the door of the parlour, she met Mrs. Richards. "I suppose the young man has gone, my lady?" asked the woman.

"Mr. Thwaite has gone."

"And I make so bold, my lady, as to say that he ought not to come here. There has been a doing of some kind, but I don't know what. He says as how he's been hurt, and I'm sure I don't know how he should be hurt here,—unless he brought it with him. I never had nothing of the kind here before, long as I've been here. Of course your title and that is all right, my lady; but the young man isn't fit;—that's the truth of it. My belief is he'd been a drinking; and I won't have it in my house."

Lady Anna passed by her without a word and went into her mother's room. The Countess was still seated in her chair, and neither rose nor spoke when her daughter entered. "Mamma, Mr. Thwaite is hurt."

"Well;—what of it? Is it much that ails him?"

"He is in pain. What has been done, mamma?" The Countess looked at her, striving to learn from the girl's face and manner what had been told and what concealed. "Did you—strike him?"

"Has he said that I struck him?"

"No, mamma;—but something has been done that should not have been done. I know it. He has sent you a message, mamma."

"What was it?" asked the Countess, in a hoarse voice.

"That he was hurt, but not seriously."

"Oh;—he said that."

"I fear he is hurt seriously."

"But he said that he was not?"

"Yes;—and that the less said the sooner mended."

"Did he say that too?"

"That was his message."

The Countess gave a long sigh, then sobbed, and at last broke out into hysteric tears. It was evident to her now that the man was sparing her,—was endeavouring to spare her. He had told no one as yet. "The least said the soonest mended." Oh yes;—if he would say never a word to any one of what had occurred between them that day, that would be best for her. But how could he not tell? When some doctor should ask him how he had come by that wound, surely he would tell then! It could not be possible that such a deed should have been done there, in that little room, and that no one should know it! And why should he not tell,—he who was her enemy? Had she caught him at advantage, would she not have smote him, hip and thigh? And then she reflected what it would be to owe perhaps her life to the mercy of Daniel Thwaite,—to the mercy of her enemy, of him who knew,—if no one else should know,—that she had attempted to murder him. It would be better for her, should she be spared to do so, to go away to some distant land, where she might hide her head for ever.

"May I go to him, mamma, to see him?" Lady Anna asked. The Countess, full of her own thoughts, sat silent, answering not a word. "I know where he lives, mamma, and I fear that he is much hurt."

"He will not—die," muttered the Countess.

"God forbid that he should die;—but I will go to him." Then she returned up-stairs without a word of opposition from her mother, put on her bonnet, and sallied forth. No one stopped her or said a word to her now, and she seemed to herself to be as free as air. She walked up to the corner of Gower Street, and turned down into Bedford Square, passing the house of the Serjeant. Then she asked her way into Great Russell Street, which she found to be hardly more than a stone's throw from the Serjeant's door, and soon found the number at which her lover lived. No;—Mr. Thwaite was not at home. Yes;—she might wait for him;—but he had no room but his bedroom. Then she became very bold. "I am engaged to be his wife," she said. "Are you the Lady Anna?" asked the woman, who had heard the story. Then she was received with great distinction, and invited to sit down in a parlour on the ground-floor. There she sat for three hours, motionless, alone,—waiting,—waiting,—waiting. When it was quite dark, at about six o'clock, Daniel Thwaite entered the room with his left arm bound up. "My girl!" he said, with so much joy in his tone that she could not but rejoice to hear him. "So you have found me out, and have come to me!"

"Yes, I have come. Tell me what it is. I know that you are hurt."

"I have been hurt certainly. The doctor wanted me to go into a hospital, but I trust that I may escape that. But I must take care of myself. I had to come back here in a coach, because the man told me not to walk."

"How was it, Daniel? Oh, Daniel, you will tell me everything?"

Then she sat beside him as he lay upon the couch, and listened to him while he told her the whole story. He hid nothing from her, but as he went on he made her understand that it was his intention to conceal the whole deed, to say nothing of it, so that the perpetrator should escape punishment, if it might be possible. She listened in awe-struck silence as she heard the tale of her mother's guilt. And he, with wonderful skill, with hearty love for the girl, and in true mercy to her feelings, palliated the crime of the would-be murderess. "She was beside herself with grief and emotion," he said, "and has hardly surprised me by what she has done. Had I thought of it, I should almost have expected it."

"She may do it again, Daniel."

"I think not. She will be cowed now, and quieter. She did not interfere when you told her that you were coming to me? It will be a lesson to her, and so it may be good for us." Then he bade her to tell her mother that he, as far as he was concerned, would hold his peace. If she would forget all past injuries, so would he. If she would hold out her hand to him, he would take it. If she could not bring herself to this,—could not bring herself as yet,—then let her go apart. No notice should be taken of what she had done. "But she must not again stand between us," he said.

"Nothing shall stand between us," said Lady Anna.

Then he told her, laughing as he did so, how hard it had been for him to keep the story of his wound secret from the doctor, who had already extracted the ball, and who was to visit him on the morrow. The practitioner to whom he had gone, knowing nothing of gunshot wounds, had taken him to a first-class surgeon, and the surgeon had of course asked as to the cause of the wound. Daniel had said that it was an accident as to which he could not explain the cause. "You mean you will not tell," said the surgeon. "Exactly so. I will not tell. It is my secret. That I did not do it myself you may judge from the spot in which I was shot." To this the surgeon assented; and, though he pressed the question, and said something as to the necessity for an investigation, he could get no satisfaction. However, he had learned Daniel's name and address. He was to call on the morrow, and would then perhaps succeed in learning something of the mystery. "In the meantime, my darling, I must go to bed, for it seems as though every bone in my body was sore. I have brought an old woman with me who is to look after me."

Then she left him, promising that she would come on the morrow and would nurse him. "Unless they lock me up, I will be here," she said. Daniel Thwaite thought that in the present circumstances no further attempt would be made to constrain her actions.



CHAPTER XLV.

THE LAWYERS AGREE.

When a month had passed by a great many people knew how Mr. Daniel Thwaite had come by the wound in his back, but nobody knew it "officially." There is a wide difference in the qualities of knowledge regarding such matters. In affairs of public interest we often know, or fancy that we know, down to every exact detail, how a thing has been done,—who have given the bribes and who have taken them,—who has told the lie and who has pretended to believe it,—who has peculated and how the public purse has suffered,—who was in love with such a one's wife and how the matter was detected, then smothered up, and condoned; but there is no official knowledge, and nothing can be done. The tailor and the Earl, the Countess and her daughter, had become public property since the great trial had been commenced, and many eyes were on them. Before a week had gone by it was known in every club and in every great drawing-room that the tailor had been shot in the shoulder,—and it was almost known that the pistol had been fired by the hands of the Countess. The very eminent surgeon into whose hands Daniel had luckily fallen did not press his questions very far when his patient told him that it would be for the welfare of many people that nothing further should be asked on the matter. "An accident has occurred," said Daniel, "as to which I do not intend to say anything further. I can assure you that no injury has been done beyond that which I suffer." The eminent surgeon no doubt spoke of the matter among his friends, but he always declared that he had no certain knowledge as to the hand which fired the pistol.

The women in Keppel Street of course talked. There had certainly been a smoke and a smell of gunpowder. Mrs. Richards had heard nothing. Sarah thought that she had heard a noise. They both were sure that Daniel Thwaite had been much the worse for drink,—a statement which led to considerable confusion. No pistol was ever seen,—though the weapon remained in the old desk for some days, and was at last conveyed out of the house when the Countess left it with all her belongings. She had been afraid to hide it more stealthily or even throw it away, lest her doing so should be discovered. Had the law interfered,—had any search-warrant been granted,—the pistol would, of course, have been found. As it was, no one asked the Countess a question on the subject. The lawyers who had been her friends, and had endeavoured to guide her through her difficulties, became afraid of her, and kept aloof from her. They had all gone over to the opinion that Lady Anna should be allowed to marry the tailor, and had on that account become her enemies. She was completely isolated, and was now spoken of mysteriously,—as a woman who had suffered much, and was nearly mad with grief, as a violent, determined, dangerous being, who was interesting as a subject for conversation, but one not at all desirable as an acquaintance. During the whole of this month the Countess remained in Keppel Street, and was hardly ever seen by any but the inmates of that house.

Lady Anna had returned home all alone, on the evening of the day on which the deed had been done, after leaving her lover in the hands of the old nurse with whose services he had been furnished. The rain was still falling as she came through Russell Square. The distance was indeed short, but she was wet and cold and draggled when she returned; and the criminality of the deed which her mother had committed had come fully home to her mind during the short journey. The door was opened to her by Mrs. Richards, and she at once asked for the Countess. "Lady Anna, where have you been?" asked Mrs. Richards, who was learning to take upon herself, during these troubles, something of the privilege of finding fault. But Lady Anna put her aside without a word, and went into the parlour. There sat the Countess just as she had been left,—except that a pair of candles stood upon the table, and that the tea-things had been laid there. "You are all wet," she said. "Where have you been?"

"He has told me all," the girl replied, without answering the question. "Oh, mamma;—how could you do it?"

"Who has driven me to it? It has been you,—you, you. Well;—what else?"

"Mamma, he has forgiven you."

"Forgiven me! I will not have his forgiveness."

"Oh, mamma;—if I forgive you, will you not be friends with us?" She stooped over her mother, and kissed her, and then went on and told what she had to tell. She stood and told it all in a low voice, so that no ear but that of her mother should hear her,—how the ball had hit him, how it had been extracted, how nothing had been and nothing should be told, how Daniel would forgive it all and be her friend, if she would let him. "But, mamma, I hope you will be sorry." The Countess sat silent, moody, grim, with her eyes fixed on the table. She would say nothing. "And, mamma,—I must go to him every day,—to do things for him and to help to nurse him. Of course he will be my husband now." Still the Countess said not a word, either of approval or of dissent. Lady Anna sat down for a moment or two, hoping that her mother would allow her to eat and drink in the room, and that thus they might again begin to live together. But not a word was spoken nor a motion made, and the silence became awful, so that the girl did not dare to keep her seat. "Shall I go, mamma?" she said.

"Yes;—you had better go." After that they did not see each other again on that evening, and during the week or ten days following they lived apart.

On the following morning, after an early breakfast, Lady Anna went to Great Russell Street, and there she remained the greater part of the day. The people of the house understood that the couple were to be married as soon as their lodger should be well, and had heard much of the magnificence of the marriage. They were kind and good, and the tailor declared very often that this was the happiest period of his existence. Of all the good turns ever done to him, he said, the wound in his back had been the best. As his sweetheart sat by his bedside they planned their future life. They would still go to the distant land on which his heart was set, though it might be only for awhile; and she, with playfulness, declared that she would go there as Mrs. Thwaite. "I suppose they can't prevent me calling myself Mrs. Thwaite, if I please."

"I am not so sure of that," said the tailor. "Evil burs stick fast."

It would be vain now to tell of all the sweet lovers' words that were spoken between them during those long hours;—but the man believed that no girl had ever been so true to her lover through so many difficulties as Lady Anna had been to him, and she was sure that she had never varied in her wish to become the wife of the man who had first asked her for her love. She thought much and she thought often of the young lord; but she took the impress of her lover's mind, and learned to regard her cousin, the Earl, as an idle, pretty popinjay, born to eat, to drink, and to carry sweet perfumes. "Just a butterfly," said the tailor.

"One of the brightest butterflies," said the girl.

"A woman should not be a butterfly,—not altogether a butterfly," he answered. "But for a man it is surely a contemptible part. Do you remember the young man who comes to Hotspur on the battlefield, or him whom the king sent to Hamlet about the wager? When I saw Lord Lovel at his breakfast table, I thought of them. I said to myself that spermaceti was the 'sovereignest thing on earth for an inward wound,' and I told myself that he was of 'very soft society, and great showing.'" She smiled, though she did not know the words he quoted, and assured him that her poor cousin Lord Lovel would not trouble him much in the days that were to come. "He will not trouble me at all, but as he is your cousin I would fain that he could be a man. He had a sort of gown on which would have made a grand frock for you, sweetheart;—only too smart I fear for my wife." She laughed and was pleased,—and remembered without a shade either of regret or remorse the manner in which the popinjay had helped her over the stepping-stones at Bolton Abbey.

But the tailor, though he thus scorned the lord, was quite willing that a share of the property should be given up to him. "Unless you did, how on earth could he wear such grand gowns as that? I can understand that he wants it more than I do, and if there are to be earls, I suppose they should be rich. We do not want it, my girl."

"You will have half, Daniel," she said.

"As far as that goes, I do not want a doit of it,—not a penny-piece. When they paid me what became my own by my father's will, I was rich enough,—rich enough for you and me too, my girl, if that was all. But it is better that it should be divided. If he had it all he would buy too many gowns; and it may be that with us some good will come of it. As far as I can see, no good comes of money spent on race-courses, and in gorgeous gowns."

This went on from day to day throughout a month, and every day Lady Anna took her place with her lover. After a while her mother came up into the drawing-room in Keppel Street, and then the two ladies again lived together. Little or nothing, however, was said between them as to their future lives. The Countess was quiet, sullen,—and to a bystander would have appeared to be indifferent. She had been utterly vanquished by the awe inspired by her own deed, and by the fear which had lasted for some days that she might be dragged to trial for the offence. As that dread subsided she was unable to recover her former spirits. She spoke no more of what she had done and what she had suffered, but seemed to submit to the inevitable. She said nothing of any future life that might be in store for her, and, as far as her daughter could perceive, had no plans formed for the coming time. At last Lady Anna found it necessary to speak of her own plans. "Mamma," she said, "Mr. Thwaite wishes that banns should be read in church for our marriage."

"Banns!" exclaimed the Countess.

"Yes, mamma; he thinks it best." The Countess made no further observation. If the thing was to be, it mattered little to her whether they were to be married by banns or by licence,—whether her girl should walk down to church like a maid-servant, or be married with all the pomp and magnificence to which her rank and wealth might entitle her. How could there be splendour, how even decency, in such a marriage as this? She at any rate would not be present, let them be married in what way they would. On the fourth Sunday after the shot had been fired the banns were read for the first time in Bloomsbury Church, and the future bride was described as Anna Lovel,—commonly called Lady Anna Lovel,—spinster. Neither on that occasion, or on either of the two further callings, did any one get up in church to declare that impediment existed why Daniel Thwaite the tailor and Lady Anna Lovel should not be joined together in holy matrimony.

In the mean time the lawyers had been at work dividing the property, and in the process of doing so it had been necessary that Mr. Goffe should have various interviews with the Countess. She also, as the undisputed widow of the late intestate Earl, was now a very rich woman, with an immense income at her control. But no one wanted assistance from her. There was her revenue, and she was doomed to live apart with it in her solitude,—with no fellow-creature to rejoice with her in her triumph, with no dependant whom she could make happy with her wealth. She was a woman with many faults,—but covetousness was not one of them. If she could have given it all to the young Earl,—and her daughter with it, she would have been a happy woman. Had she been permitted to dream that it was all so settled that her grandchild would become of all Earl Lovels the most wealthy and most splendid, she would have triumphed indeed. But, as it was, there was no spot in her future career brighter to her than those long years of suffering which she had passed in the hope that some day her child might be successful. Triumph indeed! There was nothing before her but solitude and shame.

Nevertheless she listened to Mr. Goffe, and signed the papers that were put before her. When, however, he spoke to her of what was necessary for the marriage,—as to the settlement, which must, Mr. Goffe said, be made as to the remaining moiety of her daughter's property,—she answered curtly that she knew nothing of that. Her daughter's affairs were no concern of hers. She had, indeed, worked hard to establish her daughter's rights, but her daughter was now of age, and could do as she pleased with her own. She would not even remain in the room while the matter was being discussed. "Lady Anna and I have separate interests," she said haughtily.

Lady Anna herself simply declared that half of her estate should be made over to her cousin, and that the other half should go to her husband. But the attorney was not satisfied to take instructions on a matter of such moment from one so young. As to all that was to appertain to the Earl, the matter was settled. The Solicitor-General and Serjeant Bluestone had acceded to the arrangement, and the Countess herself had given her assent before she had utterly separated her own interests from those of her daughter. In regard to so much, Mr. Goffe could go to work in conjunction with Mr. Flick without a scruple; but as to that other matter there must be consultations, conferences, and solemn debate. The young lady, no doubt, might do as she pleased; but lawyers can be very powerful. Sir William was asked for his opinion, and suggested that Daniel Thwaite himself should be invited to attend at Mr. Goffe's chambers, as soon as his wound would allow him to do so. Daniel, who did not care for his wound so much as he should have done, was with Mr. Goffe on the following morning, and heard a lengthy explanation from the attorney. The Solicitor-General had been consulted;—this Mr. Goffe said, feeling that a tailor would not have a word to say against so high an authority;—the Solicitor-General had been consulted, and was of opinion that Lady Anna's interests should be guarded with great care. A very large property, he might say a splendid estate, was concerned. Mr. Thwaite of course understood that the family had been averse to this marriage,—naturally very averse. Now, however, they were prepared to yield.

The tailor interrupted the attorney at this period of his speech. "We don't want anybody to yield, Mr. Goffe. We are going to do what we please, and don't know anything about yielding."

Mr. Goffe remarked that all that might be very well, but that, as so large a property was at stake, the friends of the lady, according to all usage, were bound to interfere. A settlement had already been made in regard to the Earl.

"You mean, Mr. Goffe, that Lady Anna has given her cousin half her money?"

The attorney went on to say that Mr. Thwaite might put it in that way if he pleased. The deeds had already been executed. With regard to the other moiety Mr. Thwaite would no doubt not object to a trust-deed, by which it should be arranged that the money should be invested in land, the interest to be appropriated to the use of Lady Anna, and the property be settled on the eldest son. Mr. Thwaite would, of course, have the advantage of the income during his wife's life. The attorney, in explaining all this, made an exceedingly good legal exposition, and then waited for the tailor's assent.

"Are those Lady Anna's instructions?"

Mr. Goffe replied that the proposal was made in accordance with the advice of the Solicitor-General.

"I'll have nothing to do with such a settlement," said the tailor. "Lady Anna has given away half her money, and may give away the whole if she pleases. She will be the same to me whether she comes full-handed or empty. But when she is my wife her property shall be my property,—and when I die there shall be no such abomination as an eldest son." Mr. Goffe was persuasive, eloquent, indignant, and very wise. All experience, all usage, all justice, all tradition, required that there should be some such settlement as he had suggested. But it was in vain. "I don't want my wife to have anything of her own before marriage," said he; "but she certainly shall have nothing after marriage,—independent of me." For a man with sound views of domestic power and marital rights always choose a Radical! In this case there was no staying him. The girl was all on his side, and Mr. Goffe, with infinite grief, was obliged to content himself with binding up a certain portion of the property to make an income for the widow, should the tailor die before his wife. And thus the tailor's marriage received the sanction of all the lawyers.

A day or two after this Daniel Thwaite called upon the Countess. It was now arranged that they should be married early in July, and questions had arisen as to the manner of the ceremony. Who should give away the bride? Of what nature should the marriage be? Should there be any festival? Should there be bridesmaids? Where should they go when they were married? What dresses should be bought? After what fashion should they be prepared to live? Those, and questions of a like nature, required to be answered, and Lady Anna felt that these matters should not be fixed without some reference to her mother. It had been her most heartfelt desire to reconcile the Countess to the marriage,—to obtain, at any rate, so much recognition as would enable her mother to be present in the church. But the Countess had altogether refused to speak on the subject, and had remained silent, gloomy, and impenetrable. Then Daniel had himself proposed that he would see her, and on a certain morning he called. He sent up his name, with his compliments, and the Countess allowed him to be shown into her room. Lady Anna had begged that it might be so, and she had yielded,—yielded without positive assent, as she had now done in all matters relating to this disastrous marriage. On that morning, however, she had spoken a word. "If Mr. Thwaite chooses to see me, I must be alone." And she was alone when the tailor was shown into the room. Up to that day he had worn his arm in a sling,—and should then have continued to do so; but, on this visit of peace to her who had attempted to be his murderer, he put aside this outward sign of the injury she had inflicted on him. He smiled as he entered the room, and she rose to receive him. She was no longer a young woman;—and no woman of her age or of any other had gone through rougher usage;—but she could not keep the blood out of her cheeks as her eyes met his, nor could she summon to her support that hard persistency of outward demeanour with which she had intended to arm herself for the occasion. "So you have come to see me, Mr. Thwaite?" she said.

"I have come, Lady Lovel, to shake hands with you, if it may be so, before my marriage with your daughter. It is her wish that we should be friends,—and mine also." So saying, he put out his hand, and the Countess slowly gave him hers. "I hope the time may come, Lady Lovel, when all animosity may be forgotten between you and me, and nothing be borne in mind but the old friendship of former years."

"I do not know that that can be," she said.

"I hope it may be so. Time cures all things,—and I hope it may be so."

"There are sorrows, Mr. Thwaite, which no time can cure. You have triumphed, and can look forward to the pleasures of success. I have been foiled, and beaten, and broken to pieces. With me the last is worse even than the first. I do not know that I can ever have another friend. Your father was my friend."

"And I would be so also."

"You have been my enemy. All that he did to help me,—all that others have done since to forward me on my way, has been brought to nothing—by you! My joys have been turned to grief, my rank has been made a disgrace, my wealth has become like ashes between my teeth;—and it has been your doing. They tell me that you will be my daughter's husband. I know that it must be so. But I do not see that you can be my friend."

"I had hoped to find you softer, Lady Lovel."

"It is not my nature to be soft. All this has not tended to make me soft. If my daughter will let me know from time to time that she is alive, that is all that I shall require of her. As to her future career, I cannot interest myself in it as I had hoped to do. Good-bye, Mr. Thwaite. You need fear no further interference from me."

So the interview was over, and not a word had been said about the attempt at murder.



CHAPTER XLVI.

HARD LINES.

At the time that the murder was attempted Lord Lovel was in London,—and had seen Daniel Thwaite on that morning; but before any confirmed rumour had reached his ears he had left London again on his road to Yoxham. He knew now that he would be endowed with something like ten thousand a year out of the wealth of the late Earl, but that he would not have the hand of his fair cousin, the late Earl's daughter. Perhaps it was as well as it was. The girl had never loved him, and he could now choose for himself;—and need not choose till it should be his pleasure to settle himself as a married man. After all, his marriage with Lady Anna would have been a constrained marriage,—a marriage which he would have accepted as the means of making his fortune. The girl certainly had pleased him;—but it might be that a girl who preferred a tailor would not have continued to please him. At any rate he could not be unhappy with his newly-acquired fortune, and he went down to Yoxham to receive the congratulation of his friends, thinking that it would become him now to make some exertion towards reconciling his uncle and aunt to the coming marriage.

"Have you heard anything about Mr. Thwaite?" Mr. Flick said to him the day before he started. The Earl had heard nothing. "They say that he has been wounded by a pistol-ball." Lord Lovel stayed some days at a friend's house on his road into Yorkshire, and when he reached the rectory, the rector had received news from London. Mr. Thwaite the tailor had been murdered, and it was surmised that the deed had been done by the Countess. "I trust the papers were signed before you left London," said the anxious rector. The documents making over the property were all right, but the Earl would believe nothing of the murder. Mr. Thwaite might have been wounded. He had heard so much before,—but he was quite sure that it had not been done by the Countess. On the following day further tidings came. Mr. Thwaite was doing well, but everybody said that the attempt had been made by Lady Lovel. Thus by degrees some idea of the facts as they had occurred was received at the rectory.

"You don't mean that you want us to have Mr. Thwaite here?" said the rector, holding up his hands, upon hearing a proposition made to him by his nephew a day or two later.

"Why not, uncle Charles?"

"I couldn't do it. I really don't think your aunt could bring herself to sit down to table with him."

"Aunt Jane?"

"Yes, your aunt Jane,—or your aunt Julia either." Now a quieter lady than aunt Jane, or one less likely to turn up her nose at any guest whom her husband should choose to entertain, did not exist.

"May I ask my aunts?"

"What good can it do, Frederic?"

"He's going to marry our cousin. He's not at all such a man as you seem to think."

"He has been a journeyman tailor all his life."

"You'll find he'll make a very good sort of gentleman. Sir William Patterson says that he'll be in Parliament before long."

"Sir William! Sir William is always meddling. I have never thought much about Sir William."

"Come, uncle Charles,—you should be fair. If we had gone on quarrelling and going to law, where should I have been now? I should never have got a shilling out of the property. Everybody says so. No doubt Sir William acted very wisely."

"I am no lawyer. I can't say how it might have been. But I may have my doubts if I like. I have always understood that Lady Lovel, as you choose to call her, was never Lord Lovel's wife. For twenty years I have been sure of it, and I can't change so quickly as some other people."

"She is Lady Lovel now. The King and Queen would receive her as such if she went to Court. Her daughter is Lady Anna Lovel."

"It may be so. It is possible."

"If it be not so," said the young lord thumping the table, "where have I got the money from?" This was an argument that the rector could not answer;—so he merely shook his head. "I am bound to acknowledge them after taking her money."

"But not him. You haven't had any of his money. You needn't acknowledge him."

"We had better make the best of it, uncle Charles. He is going to marry our cousin, and we should stand by her. Sir William very strongly advises me to be present at the marriage, and to offer to give her away."

"The girl you were going to marry yourself!"

"Or else that you should do it. That of course would be better."

The rector of Yoxham groaned when the proposition was made to him. What infinite vexation of spirit and degradation had come to him from these spurious Lovels during the last twelve months! He had been made to have the girl in his house and to give her precedence as Lady Anna, though he did not believe in her; he had been constrained to treat her as the desired bride of his august nephew the Earl,—till she had refused the Earl's hand; after he had again repudiated her and her mother because of her base attachment to a low-born artisan, he had been made to re-accept her in spirit, because she had been generous to his nephew;—and now he was asked to stand at the altar and give her away to the tailor! And there could come to him neither pleasure nor profit from the concern. All that he had endured he had borne simply for the sake of his family and his nephew. "She is degrading us all,—as far as she belongs to us," said the rector. "I can't see why I should be asked to give her my countenance in doing it."

"Everybody says that it is very good of her to be true to the man she loved when she was poor and in obscurity. Sir William says—"

"—— Sir William!" muttered the rector between his teeth, as he turned away in disgust. What had been the first word of that minatory speech Lord Lovel did not clearly hear. He had been brought up as a boy by his uncle, and had never known his uncle to offend by swearing. No one in Yoxham would have believed it possible that the parson of the parish should have done so. Mrs. Grimes would have given evidence in any court in Yorkshire that it was absolutely impossible. The archbishop would not have believed it though his archdeacon had himself heard the word. All the man's known antecedents since he had been at Yoxham were against the probability. The entire close at York would have been indignant had such an accusation been made. But his nephew in his heart of hearts believed that the rector of Yoxham had damned the Solicitor-General.

There was, however, more cause for malediction, and further provocations to wrath, in store for the rector. The Earl had not as yet opened all his budget, or let his uncle know the extent of the sacrifice that was to be demanded from him. Sir William had been very urgent with the young nobleman to accord everything that could be accorded to his cousin. "It is not of course for me to dictate," he had said, "but as I have been allowed so far to give advice somewhat beyond the scope of my profession, perhaps you will let me say that in mere honesty you owe her all that you can give. She has shared everything with you, and need have given nothing. And he, my lord, had he been so minded, might no doubt have hindered her from doing what she has done. You owe it to your honour to accept her and her husband with an open hand. Unless you can treat her with cousinly regard you should not have taken what has been given to you as a cousin. She has recognised you to your great advantage as the head of her family, and you should certainly recognise her as belonging to it. Let the marriage be held down at Yoxham. Get your uncle and aunt to ask her down. Do you give her away, and let your uncle marry them. If you can put me up for a night in some neighbouring farm-house, I will come and be a spectator. It will be for your honour to treat her after that fashion." The programme was a large one, and the Earl felt that there might be some difficulty.

But in the teeth of that dubious malediction he persevered, and his next attack was upon aunt Julia. "You liked her;—did you not?"

"Yes;—I liked her." The tone implied great doubt. "I liked her, till I found that she had forgotten herself."

"But she didn't forget herself. She just did what any girl would have done, living as she was living. She has behaved nobly to me."

"She has behaved no doubt conscientiously."

"Come, aunt Julia! Did you ever know any other woman to give away ten thousand a-year to a fellow simply because he was her cousin? We should do something for her. Why should you not ask her down here again?"

"I don't think my brother would like it."

"He will if you tell him. And we must make a gentleman of him."

"My dear Frederic, you can never wash a blackamoor white."

"Let us try. Don't you oppose it. It behoves me, for my honour, to show her some regard after what she has done for me."

Aunt Julia shook her head, and muttered to herself some further remark about negroes. The inhabitants of the Yoxham rectory,—who were well born, ladies and gentlemen without a stain, who were hitherto free from all base intermarriages, and had nothing among their male cousins below soldiers and sailors, parsons and lawyers, who had successfully opposed an intended marriage between a cousin in the third degree and an attorney because the alliance was below the level of the Lovels, were peculiarly averse to any intermingling of ranks. They were descended from ancient earls, and their chief was an earl of the present day. There was but one titled young lady now among them,—and she had only just won her right to be so considered. There was but one Lady Anna,—and she was going to marry a tailor! "Duty is duty," said aunt Julia as she hurried away. She meant her nephew to understand that duty commanded her to shut her heart against any cousin who could marry a tailor.

The lord next attacked aunt Jane. "You wouldn't mind having her here?"

"Not if your uncle thought well of it," said Mrs. Lovel.

"I'll tell you what my scheme is." Then he told it all. Lady Anna was to be invited to the rectory. The tailor was to be entertained somewhere near on the night preceding his wedding. The marriage was to be celebrated by his uncle in Yoxham Church. Sir William was to be asked to join them. And the whole thing was to be done exactly as though they were all proud of the connection.

"Does your uncle know?" asked Mrs. Lovel, who had been nearly stunned by the proposition.

"Not quite. I want you to suggest it. Only think, aunt Jane, what she has done for us all!" Aunt Jane couldn't think that very much had been done for her. They were not to be enriched by the cousin's money. They had never been interested in the matter on their own account. They wanted nothing. And yet they were to be called upon to have a tailor at their board,—because Lord Lovel was the head of their family. But the Earl was the Earl; and poor Mrs. Lovel knew how much she owed to his position. "If you wish it of course I'll tell him, Frederic."

"I do wish it;—and I'll be so much obliged to you."

The next morning the parson had been told all that was required of him, and he came down to prayers as black as a thunder-cloud. It had been before suggested to him that he should give the bride away, and though he had grievously complained of the request, he knew that he must do it should the Earl still demand it. He had no power to oppose the head of the family. But he had never thought then that he would be asked to pollute his own rectory by the presence of that odious tailor. While he was shaving that morning very religious ideas had filled his mind. What a horrible thing was wickedness! All this evil had come upon him and his because the late Earl had been so very wicked a man! He had sworn to his wife that he would not bear it. He had done and was ready to do more almost than any other uncle in England. But this he could not endure. Yet when he was shaving, and thinking with religious horror of the iniquities of that iniquitous old lord, he knew that he would have to yield. "I dare say they wouldn't come," said aunt Julia. "He won't like to be with us any more than we shall like to have him." There was some comfort in that hope; and trusting to it the rector had yielded everything before the third day was over.

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