In the mean time the week had gone round, and Lady Anna’s letter to the Earl had not yet been written. An army was arrayed against the girl to induce her to write such a letter as might make it almost impossible for her afterwards to deny that she was engaged to the lord, but the army had not as yet succeeded. The Countess had not seen her daughter — had been persistent in her refusal to let her daughter come to her till she had at any rate repudiated her other suitor; but she had written a strongly worded but short letter, urging it as a great duty that Lady Anna Lovel was bound to support her family and to defend her rank. Mrs Bluestone, from day to day, with soft loving words taught the same lesson. Alice Bluestone in their daily conversations spoke of the tailor, or rather of this promise to the tailor, with a horror which at any rate was not affected. The Serjeant, almost with tears in his eyes, implored her to put an end to the lawsuit. Even the Solicitor-General sent her tender messages — expressing his great hope that she might enable them to have this matter adjusted early in November. All the details of the case as it now stood had been explained to her over and over again. If, when the day fixed for the trial should come round, it could be said that she and the young Earl were engaged to each other, the Earl would altogether abandon his claim — and no further statement would be made. The fact of the marriage in Cumberland would then be proved — the circumstances of the trial for bigamy would be given in evidence — and all the persons concerned would be together anxious that the demands of the two ladies should be admitted in full. It was the opinion of the united lawyers that were this done, the rank of the Countess would be allowed, and that the property left behind him by the old lord would be at once given up to those who would inherit it under the order of things as thus established. The Countess would receive that to which she would be entitled as widow, the daughter would be the heir-at-law to the bulk of the personal property, and the Earl would merely claim any real estate, if — as was very doubtful — any real estate had been left in question. In this case the disposition of the property would be just what they would all desire, and the question of rank would be settled for ever. But if the young lady should not have then agreed to this very pleasant compromise, the Earl indeed would make no further endeavours to invalidate the Cumberland marriage, and would retire from the suit. But it would then be stated that there was a claimant in Sicily — or at least evidence in Italy, which if sifted might possibly bar the claim of the Countess. The Solicitor-General did not hesitate to say that he believed the living woman to be a weak impostor, who had been first used by the Earl and had then put forward a falsehood to get an income out of the property; but he was by no means convinced that the other foreign woman, whom the Earl had undoubtedly made his first wife, might not have been alive when the second marriage was contracted. If it were so, the Countess would be no Countess, Anna Lovel would simply be Anna Murray, penniless, baseborn, and a fit wife for the tailor, should the tailor think fit to take her. “If it be so,” said Lady Anna through her tears, “let it be so; and he will take me.”
It may have been that the army was too strong for its own purpose — too much of an army to gain a victory on that field — that a weaker combination of forces would have prevailed when all this array failed. No one had a word to say for the tailor; no one admitted that he had been a generous friend; no feeling was expressed for him. It seemed to be taken for granted that he, from the beginning, had laid his plans for obtaining possession of an enormous income in the event of the Countess being proved to be a Countess. There was no admission that he had done aught for love. Now, in all these matters, Lady Anna was sure of but one thing alone, and that was of the tailor’s truth. Had they acknowledged that he was good and noble, they might perhaps have persuaded her — as the poet had almost persuaded her lover — that the fitness of things demanded that they should be separated.
But she had promised that she would write the letter by the end of the week, and when the end of a fortnight had come she knew that it must be written. She had declared over and over again to Mrs Bluestone that she must go away from Bedford Square. She could not live there always, she said. She knew that she was in the way of everybody. Why should she not go back to her own mother? “Does mamma mean to say that I am never to live with her any more?” Mrs Bluestone promised that if she would write her letter and tell her cousin that she would try to love him, she should go back to her mother at once. “But I cannot live here always,” persisted Lady Anna. Mrs Bluestone would not admit that there was any reason why her visitor should not continue to live in Bedford Square as long as the arrangement suited Lady Lovel.
Various letters were written for her. The Countess wrote one which was an unqualified acceptance of the Earl’s offer, and which was very short. Alice Bluestone wrote one which was full of poetry. Mrs Bluestone wrote a third, in which a great many ambiguous words were used — in which there was no definite promise, and no poetry. But had this letter been sent it would have been almost impossible for the girl afterwards to extricate herself from its obligations. The Serjeant, perhaps, had lent a word or two, for the letter was undoubtedly very clever. In this letter Lady Anna was made to say that she would always have the greatest pleasure in receiving her cousin’s visits, and that she trusted that she might be able to co-operate with her cousins in bringing the lawsuit to a close — that she certainly would not marry anyone without her mother’s consent, but that she did not find herself able at the present to say more than that. “It won’t stop the Solicitor-General, you know,” the Serjeant had remarked, as he read it. “Bother the Solicitor-General!” Mrs Bluestone had answered, and had then gone on to show that it would lead to that which would stop the learned gentleman. The Serjeant had added a word or two, and great persuasion was used to induce Lady Anna to use this epistle.
But she would have none of it. “Oh, I couldn’t, Mrs Bluestone — he would know that I hadn’t written all that.”
“You have promised to write, and you are bound to keep your promise,” said Mrs Bluestone.
“I believe I am bound to keep all my promises,” said Lady Anna, thinking of those which she had made to Daniel Thwaite.
But at last she sat down and did write a letter for herself, specially premising that no one should see it. When she had made her promise, she certainly had not intended to write that which should be shown to all the world. Mrs Bluestone had begged that at any rate the Countess might see it. “If mamma will let me go to her, of course I will show it her,” said Lady Anna. At last it was thought best to allow her to write her own letter and to send it unseen. After many struggles and with many tears she wrote her letter as follows:
Bedford Square, Tuesday
MY DEAR COUSIN,
I am sorry that I have been so long in doing what I said I would do. I don’t think I ought to have promised, for I find it very difficult to say anything, and I think that it is wrong that I should write at all. It is not my fault that there should be a lawsuit. I do not want to take anything away from anybody, or to get anything for myself. I think papa was very wicked when he said that mamma was not his wife, and of course I wish it may all go as she wishes. But I don’t think anybody ought to ask me to do what I feel to be wrong.
Mr Daniel Thwaite is not at all such a person as they say. He and his father have been mamma’s best friends, and I shall never forget that. Old Mr Thwaite is dead, and I am very sorry to hear it. If you had known them as we did, you would understand what I feel. Of course he is not your friend; but he is my friend, and I daresay that makes me unfit to be friends with you. You are a nobleman and he is a tradesman; but when we knew him first he was quite as good as we, and I believe we owe him a great deal of money which mamma can’t pay him. I have heard mamma say before she was angry with him that she would have been in the workhouse but for them, and that Mr Daniel Thwaite might now be very well off and not a working tailor at all, as Mrs Bluestone calls him, if they hadn’t given all they had to help us. I cannot bear after that to hear them speak of him as they do.
Of course I should like to do what mamma wants; but how would you feel if you had promised somebody else? I do so wish that all this might be stopped altogether. My dear mamma will not allow me to see her; and though everybody is very kind, I feel that I ought not to be here with Mrs Bluestone. Mamma talked of going abroad somewhere. I wish she would, and take me away. I should see nobody then, and there would be no trouble. But I suppose she hasn’t got enough money. This is a very poor letter, but I do not know what else I can say.
Believe me to be, My dear cousin, Yours affectionately, ANNA LOVEL
Then came, in a postscript, the one thing that she had to say — “I think that I ought to be allowed to see Mr Daniel Thwaite.”
Lord Lovel, after receiving this letter, called in Bedford Square and saw Mrs Bluestone — but he did not show the letter. His cousin was out with the girls and he did not wait to see her. He merely said that he had received a letter which had not given him much comfort. “But I shall answer it” he said — and the reader who has seen the one letter shall see also the other.
Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, 4th November, 183 —
I have received your letter and am obliged to you for it, though there is so little in it to flatter or to satisfy me. I will begin by assuring you that, as far as I am concerned, I do not wish to keep you from seeing Mr Daniel Thwaite. I believe in my heart of hearts that if you were now to see him often you would feel aware that a union between you and him could not make either of you happy. You do not even say that you think it would do so.
You defend him, as though I had accused him. I grant all that you say in his favour. I do not doubt that his father behaved to you and to your mother with true friendship. But that will not make him fit to be the husband of Anna Lovel. You do not even say that you think that he would be fit. I fancy I understand it all, and I love you better for the pride with which you cling to so firm a friend.
But, dearest, it is different when we talk of marriage. I imagine that you hardly dare now to think of becoming his wife. I doubt whether you say even to yourself that you love him with that kind of love. Do not suppose me vain enough to believe that therefore you must love me. It is not that. But if you would once tell yourself that he is unfit to be your husband, then you might come to love me, and would not be the less willing to do so because all your friends wish it. It must be something to you that you should be able to put an end to all this trouble.
Yours, dearest Anna, Most affectionately, L
“I called in Bedford Square this morning, but you were not at home!”
“But I do dare,” she said to herself, when she had read the letter. “Why should I not dare? And I do say to myself that I love him. Why should I not love him now, when I was not ashamed to love him before?” She was being persecuted; and as the step of the wayfarer brings out the sweet scent of the herb which he crushes with his heel, so did persecution with her extract from her heart that strength of character which had hitherto been latent. Had they left her at Yoxham, and said never a word to her about the tailor; had the rector and the two aunts showered soft courtesies on her head — they might have vanquished her. But now the spirit of opposition was stronger within her than ever.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14