Lady Anna, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 25

Daniel Thwaite’s Letter

On the day following that on which Daniel Thwaite had visited Lady Lovel in Keppel Street, the Countess received from him a packet containing a short note to herself, and the following letter addressed to Lady Anna. The enclosure was open, and in the letter addressed to the Countess the tailor simply asked her to read and to send on to her daughter that which he had written, adding that if she would do so he would promise to abide by any answer which might come to him in Lady Anna’s own handwriting. Daniel Thwaite, when he made this offer, felt that he was giving up everything. Even though the words might be written by the girl, they would be dictated by the girl’s mother, or by those lawyers who were now leagued together to force her into a marriage with the Earl. But it was right, he thought — and upon the whole best for all parties — that he should give up everything. He could not bring himself to say so to the Countess or to any of those lawyers, when he was sent for and told that because of the lowliness of his position a marriage between him and the highly born heiress was impossible. On such occasions he revolted from the authority of those who endeavoured to extinguish him. But, when alone, he could see at any rate as clearly as they did, the difficulties which lay in his way. He also knew that there was a great gulf fixed, as Miss Alice Bluestone had said — though he differed from the young lady as to the side of the gulf on which lay heaven, and on which heaven’s opposite. The letter to Lady Anna was as follows:

MY DEAREST,

This letter, if it reaches you at all, will be given to you by your mother, who will have read it. It is sent to her open that she may see what I say to you. She sent for me and I went to her this evening, and she told me that it was impossible that I should ever be your husband. I was so bold as to tell her ladyship that there could be no impossibility. When you are of age you can walk out from your mother’s house and marry me, as can I you; and no one can hinder us. There is nothing in the law, either of God or man, that can prevent you from becoming my wife — if it be your wish to be so. But your mother also said that it was not your wish, and she went on to say that were you not bound to me by ties of gratitude you would willingly marry your cousin, Lord Lovel. Then I offered to meet you in the presence of your mother — and in the presence, too, of Lord Lovel — and to ask you then before all of us to which of us two your heart was given. And I promised that if in my presence you would stretch out your right hand to the Earl neither you nor your mother should be troubled further by Daniel Thwaite. But her ladyship swore to me, with an oath, that I should never be allowed to see you again.

I therefore write to you, and bid you think much of what I say to you before you answer me. You know well that I love you. You do not suspect that I am trying to win you because you are rich. You will remember that I loved you when no one thought that you would be rich. I do love you in my heart of hearts. I think of you in my dreams and fancy then that all the world has become bright to me, because we are walking together, hand in hand, where none can come between to separate us. But I would not wish you to be my wife, just because you have promised. If you do not love me — above all, if you love this other man — say so, and I will have done with it. Your mother says that you are bound to me by gratitude. I do not wish you to be my wife unless you are bound to me by love. Tell me, then, how it is — but, as you value my happiness and your own, tell me the truth.

I will not say that I shall think well of you, if you have been carried away by this young man’s nobility. I would have you give me a fair chance. Ask yourself what has brought him as a lover to your feet. How it came to pass that I was your lover you cannot but remember. But, for you, it is your first duty not to marry a man unless you love him. If you go to him because he can make you a countess you will be vile indeed. If you go to him because you find that he is in truth dearer to you than I am, because you prefer his arm to mine, because he has wound himself into your heart of hearts — I shall think your heart indeed hardly worth the having; but according to your lights you will be doing right. In that case you shall have no further word from me to trouble you.

But I desire that I may have an answer to this in your own handwriting.

Your own sincere lover, DANIEL THWAITE

In composing and copying and recopying this letter the tailor sat up half the night, and then very early in the morning he himself carried it to Keppel Street, thus adding nearly three miles to his usual walk to Wigmore Street. The servant at the lodging-house was not up, and could hardly be made to rise by the modest appeals which Daniel made to the bell; but at last the delivery was effected, and the forlorn lover hurried back to his work.

The Countess as she sat at breakfast read the letter over and over again, and could not bring herself to decide whether it was right that it should be given to her daughter. She had not yet seen Lady Anna since she had sent the poor offender away from the house in anger, and had more than once repeated her assurance through Mrs Bluestone that she would not do so till a promise had been given that the tailor should be repudiated. Should she make this letter an excuse for going to the house in Bedford Square, and of seeing her child, towards whom her very bowels were yearning? At this time, though she was a countess, with the prospect of great wealth, her condition was not enviable. From morning to night she was alone, unless when she would sit for an hour in Mr Goffe’s office, or on rarer occasions of a visit to the chambers of Serjeant Bluestone. She had no acquaintances in London whatever. She knew that she was unfitted for London society even if it should be open to her. She had spent her life in struggling with poverty and powerful enemies — almost alone — taking comfort in her happiest moments in the strength and goodness of her old friend Thomas Thwaite. She now found that those old days had been happier than these later days. Her girl had been with her and had been — or had at any rate seemed to be — true to her. She had something then to hope, something to expect, some happiness of glory to which she could look forward. But now she was beginning to learn — nay had already learned, that there was nothing for her to expect. Her rank was allowed to her. She no longer suffered from want of money. Her cause was about to triumph — as the lawyers on both sides had seemed to say. But in what respect could the triumph be sweet to her? Even should her girl become the Countess Lovel, she would not be the less isolated. None of the Lovels wanted her society. She had banished her daughter to Bedford Square, and the only effect of the banishment was that her daughter was less miserable in Bedford Square than she would have been with her mother in Keppel Street.

She did not dare to act without advice, and therefore she took the letter to Mr Goffe. Had it not been for a few words towards the end of the letter she would have sent it to her daughter at once. But the man had said that her girl would be vile indeed if she married the Earl for the sake of becoming a countess, and the widow of the late Earl did not like to put such doctrine into the hands of Lady Anna. If she delivered the letter of course she would endeavour to dictate the answer — but her girl could be stubborn as her mother; and how would it be with them if quite another letter should be written than that which the Countess would have dictated?

Mr Goffe read the letter and said that he would like to consider it for a day. The letter was left with Mr Goffe, and Mr Goffe consulted the Serjeant. The Serjeant took the letter home to Mrs. Bluestone, and then another consultation was held. It found its way to the very house in which the girl was living for whom it was intended, but was not at last allowed to reach her hand. “It’s a fine manly letter,” said the Serjeant.

“Then the less proper to give it to her,” said Mrs. Bluestone, whose heart was all softness towards Lady Anna, but as hard as a millstone towards the tailor.

“If she does like this young lord the best, why shouldn’t she tell the man the truth?” said the Serjeant.

“Of course she likes the young lord the best — as is natural.”

“Then in God’s name let her say so, and put an end to all this trouble.”

“You see, my dear, it isn’t always easy to understand a girl’s mind in such matters. I haven’t a doubt which she likes best. She is not at all the girl to have a vitiated taste about young men. But you see this other man came first, and had the advantage of being her only friend at the time. She has felt very grateful to him, and as yet she is only beginning to learn the difference between gratitude and love. I don’t at all agree with her mother as to being severe with her. I can’t bear severity to young people, who ought to be made happy. But I am quite sure that this tailor should be kept away from her altogether. She must not see him or his handwriting. What would she say to herself if she got that letter? “If he is generous, I can be generous too;” and if she ever wrote him a letter pledging herself to him, all would be over. As it is, she has promised to write to Lord Lovel. We will hold her to that; and then, when she has given a sort of a promise to the Earl, we will take care that the tailor shall know it. It will be best for all parties. What we have got to do is to save her from this man, who has been both her best friend and her worst enemy.” Mrs Bluestone was an excellent woman, and in this emergency was endeavouring to do her duty at considerable trouble to herself and with no hope of any reward. The future Countess when she should become a Countess would be nothing to her. She was a good woman — but she did not care what evil she inflicted on the tailor, in her endeavours to befriend the daughter of the Countess.

The tailor’s letter, unseen and undreamt of by Lady Anna, was sent back through the Serjeant and Mr Goffe to Lady Lovel, with strong advice from Mr Goffe that Lady Anna should not be allowed to see it. “I don’t hesitate to tell you, Lady Lovel, that I have consulted the Serjeant, and that we are both of opinion that no intercourse whatever should be permitted between Lady Anna Lovel and Mr Daniel Thwaite.” The unfortunate letter was therefore sent back to the writer with the following note — “The Countess Lovel presents her compliments to Mr Daniel Thwaite, and thinks it best to return the enclosed. The Countess is of opinion that no intercourse whatever should take place between her daughter and Mr Daniel Thwaite.”

Then Daniel swore an oath to himself that the intercourse between them should not thus be made to cease. He had acted as he thought not only fairly but very honourably. Nay — he was by no means sure that that which had been intended for fairness and honour might not have been sheer simplicity. He had purposely abstained from any clandestine communication with the girl he loved, even though she was one to whom he had had access all his life, with whom he had been allowed to grow up together — who had eaten of his bread and drank of his cup. Now her new friends — and his own old friend the Countess — would keep no measures with him. There was to be no intercourse whatever! But, by the God of Heaven, there should be intercourse!

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43