During all this time Daniel Thwaite had been living alone, working day after day and hour after hour among the men in Wigmore Street, trusted by his employer, disliked by those over whom he was set in some sort of authority, and befriended by none. He had too heavy a weight on his spirits to be light of heart, even had his nature been given to lightness. How could he even hope that the girl would resist all the temptation that would be thrown in her way, all the arguments that would be used to her, the natural entreaties that would be showered upon her from all her friends? Nor did he so think of himself, as to believe that his own personal gifts would bind her to him when opposed by those other personal gifts which he knew belonged to the lord. Measuring himself by his own standard, regarding that man to be most manly who could be most useful in the world, he did think himself to be infinitely superior to the Earl. He was the working bee, whereas the Earl was the drone. And he was one who used to the best of his abilities the mental faculties which had been given to him; whereas the Earl — so he believed — was himself hardly conscious of having had mental faculties bestowed upon him. The Earl was, to his thinking, as were all earls, an excrescence upon society, which had been produced by the evil habits and tendencies of mankind; a thing to be got rid of before any near approach could be made to that social perfection in the future coming of which he fully believed. But, though useless, the Earl was beautiful to the eye. Though purposeless, as regarded any true purpose of speech, his voice was of silver and sweet to the ears. His hands, which could never help him to a morsel of bread, were soft to the touch. He was sweet with perfumes and idleness, and never reeked of the sweat of labour. Was it possible that such a girl as Anna Lovel should resist the popinjay, backed as he would be by her own instincts and by the prayers of everyone of her race? And then from time to time another thought would strike him. Using his judgment as best he might on her behalf, ought he to wish that she should do so? The idleness of an earl might be bad, and equally bad the idleness of a countess. To be the busy wife of a busy man, to be the mother of many children who should be all taught to be busy on behalf of mankind, was, to his thinking, the highest lot of woman. But there was a question with him whether the accidents of her birth and fortune had not removed her from the possibility of such joy as that. How would it be with her, and him too, if, in after life, she should rebuke him because he had not allowed her to be the wife of a nobleman? And how would it be with him if hereafter men said of him that he held her to an oath extracted from her in her childhood because of her wealth? He had been able to answer Mr Flick on that head, but he had more difficulty in answering himself.
He had written to his father after the Countess had left the house in which he lodged, and his father had answered him. The old man was not much given to the writing of letters. “About Lady Lovel and her daughter,” said he, I won’t take no more trouble, nor shouldn’t you. She and you is different, and must be.” And that was all he said. Yes — he and Lady Anna were different, and must remain so. Of a morning, when he went fresh to his work, he would resolve that he would send her word that she was entirely free from him, and would bid her do according to the nature of the Lovels. But in the evening, as he would wander back, slowly, all alone, tired of his work, tired of the black solitude of the life he was leading, longing for some softness to break the harsh monotony of his labour, he would remember all her prettinesses, and would, above all, remember the pretty oaths with which she had sworn that she, Anna Lovel, loved him, Daniel Thwaite, with all the woman’s love which a woman could give. He would remember the warm kiss which had seemed to make fresh for hours his dry lips, and would try to believe that the bliss of which he had thought so much might still be his own. Had she abandoned him, had she assented to a marriage with the Earl, he would assuredly have heard of it. He also knew well the day fixed for the trial, and understood the importance which would be attached to an early marriage, should that be possible — or at least to a public declaration of an engagement. At any rate she had not as yet been false to him.
One day he received at his place of work the following note:
DEAR MR THWAITE,
I wish to speak to you on most important business. Could you call on me tomorrow at eight o’clock in the evening — here?
Yours very faithfully and always grateful, J . LOVEL
And then the Countess had added her address in Keppel Street — the very address which, about a month back, she had refused to give him. Of course he went to the Countess — fully believing that Lady Anna would also be at the house, though believing also that he would not be allowed to see her. But at this time Lady Anna was still staying with Mrs Bluestone in Bedford Square.
It was no doubt natural that every advantage should be taken of the strong position which Lord Lovel held. When he had extracted a promise from Lady Anna that she would write to him at the end of a week, he told Sir William, Sir William told his wife, Lady Patterson told Mrs Bluestone, and Mrs Bluestone told the Countess. They were all now in league against the tailor. If they could only get a promise from the girl before the cause came on — anything that they could even call a promise — then the thing might be easy. United together they would not be afraid of what the Italian woman might do. And this undertaking to write to Lord Lovel was almost as good as a promise. When a girl once hesitates with a lover, she has as good as surrendered. To say even that she will think of it, is to accept the man. Then Mrs Bluestone and the Countess, putting their heads together, determined that an appeal should be made to the tailor. Had Sir William or the Serjeant been consulted, either would have been probably strong against the measure. But the ladies acted on their own judgment, and Daniel Thwaite presented himself in Keppel Street. “It is very kind of you to come,” said the Countess.
“There is no great kindness in that,” said Daniel, thinking perhaps of those twenty years of service which had been given by him and by his father.
“I know you think that I have been ungrateful for all that you have done for me.” He did think so, and was silent. “But you would hardly wish me to repay you for helping me in my struggle by giving up all for which I have struggled.”
“I have asked for nothing, Lady Lovel.”
“Have you not?”
“I have asked you for nothing.”
“But my daughter is all that I have in the world. Have you asked nothing of her?”
“Yes, Lady Lovel. I have asked much from her, and she has given me all that I have asked. But I have asked nothing, and now claim nothing, as payment for service done. If Lady Anna thinks she is in my debt after such fashion as that, I will soon make her free.”
“She does think so, Mr Thwaite.”
“Let her tell me so with her own lips.”
“You will not think that I am lying to you.”
“And yet men do lie, and women too, without remorse, when the stakes are high. I will believe no one but herself in this. Let her come down and stand before me and look me in the face and tell me that it is so — and I promise you that there shall be no further difficulty. I will not even ask to be alone with her. I will speak but a dozen words to her, and you shall hear them.”
“She is not here, Mr Thwaite. She is not living in this house.”
“Where is she then?”
“She is staying with friends.”
“With the Lovels — in Yorkshire?”
“I do not think that good can be done by my telling you where she is.”
“Do you mean me to understand that she is engaged to the Earl?”
“I tell you this — that she acknowledges herself to be bound to you, but bound to you simply by gratitude. It seems that there was a promise.”
“Oh yes — there was a promise, Lady Lovel; a promise as firmly spoken as when you told the late lord that you would be his wife.”
“I know that there was a promise — though I, her mother, living with her at the time, had no dream of such wickedness. There was a promise, and by that she feels herself to be in some measure bound.”
“She should do so — if words can ever mean anything.”
“I say she does — but it is only by a feeling of gratitude. What — is it probable that she should wish to mate so much below her degree, if she were now left to her own choice? Does it seem natural to you? She loves the young Earl — as why should she not? She has been thrown into his company on purpose that she might learn to love him — when no one knew of this horrid promise which had been exacted from her before she had seen any in the world from whom to choose.”
“She has seen two now, him and me, and she can choose as she pleases. Let us both agree to take her at her word, and let us both be present when that word is spoken. If she goes to him and offers him her hand in my presence, I would not take it then though she were a princess, in lieu of being Lady Anna Lovel. Will he treat me as fairly? Will he be as bold to abide by her choice?”
“You can never marry her, Mr Thwaite.”
“Why can I never marry her? Would not my ring be as binding on her finger as his? Would not the parson’s word make me and her one flesh and one bone as irretrievably as though I were ten times an earl? I am a man and she a woman. What law of God, or of man — what law of nature can prevent us from being man and wife? I say that I can marry her — and with her consent, I will.”
“Never! You shall never live to call yourself the husband of my daughter. I have striven and suffered — as never woman strove and suffered before, to give to my child the name and the rank which belong to her. I did not do so that she might throw them away on such a one as you. If you will deal honestly by us — ”
“I have dealt by you more than honestly.”
“If you will at once free her from this thraldom in which you hold her, and allow her to act in accordance with the dictates of her own heart — ”
“That she shall do.”
“If you will not hinder us in building up again the honour of the family, which was nigh ruined by the iniquities of my husband, we will bless you.”
“I want but one blessing, Lady Lovel.”
“And in regard to her money — ”
“I do not expect you to believe me, Countess; but her money counts as nothing with me. If it becomes hers and she becomes my wife, as her husband I will protect it for her. But there shall be no dealing between you and me in regard to money.”
“There is money due to your father, Mr Thwaite.”
“If so, that can be paid when you come by your own. It was not lent for the sake of a reward.”
“And you will not liberate that poor girl from her thraldom.”
“She can liberate herself if she will. I have told you what I will do. Let her tell me to my face what she wishes.”
“That she shall never do, Mr Thwaite — no, by heavens. It is not necessary that she should have your consent to make such an alliance as her friends think proper for her. You have entangled her by a promise, foolish on her part, and very wicked on yours, and you may work us much trouble. You may delay the settlement of all this question — perhaps for years; and half ruin the estate by prolonged lawsuits; you may make it impossible for me to pay your father what I owe him till he, and I also, shall be no more; but you cannot, and shall not, have access to my daughter.”
Daniel Thwaite, as he returned home, tried to think it all over dispassionately. Was it as the Countess had represented? Was he acting the part of the dog in the manger, robbing others of happiness without the power of achieving his own? He loved the girl, and was he making her miserable by his love? He was almost inclined to think that the Countess had spoken truth in this respect.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01