It must not be thought that the Countess was unmoved when she received Daniel Thwaite’s letter from Keswick enclosing the copy of his father’s will. She was all alone, and she sat long in her solitude, thinking of the friend who was gone and who had been always true to her. She herself would have done for old Thomas Thwaite any service which a woman could render to a man, so strongly did she feel all that the man had done for her. As she had once said, no menial office performed by her on behalf of the old tailor would have been degrading to her. She had eaten his bread, and she never for a moment forgot the obligation. The slow tears stood in her eyes as she thought of the long long hours which she had passed in his company, while, almost desponding herself, she had received courage from his persistency. And her feeling for the son would have been the same, had not the future position of her daughter and the standing of the house of Lovel been at stake. It was not in her nature to be ungrateful; but neither was it in her nature to postpone the whole object of her existence to her gratitude. Even though she should appear to the world as a monster of ingratitude, she must treat the surviving Thwaite as her bitterest enemy as long as he maintained his pretensions to her daughter’s hand. She could have no friendly communication with him. She herself would hold no communication with him at all, if she might possibly avoid it, lest she should be drawn into some renewed relation of friendship with him. He was her enemy — her enemy in such fierce degree that she was always plotting the means of ridding herself altogether of his presence and influence. To her thinking the man had turned upon her most treacherously, and was using, for his own purposes and his own aggrandisement, that familiarity with her affairs which he had acquired by reason of his father’s generosity. She believed but little in his love; but whether he loved the girl or merely sought her money was all one to her. Her whole life had been passed in an effort to prove her daughter to be a lady of rank, and she would rather sacrifice her life in the basest manner than live to see all her efforts annulled by a low marriage. Love, indeed, and romance! What was the love of one individual, what was the romance of a childish girl, to the honour and well-being of an ancient and noble family? It was her ambition to see her girl become the Countess Lovel, and no feeling of gratitude should stand in her way. She would rather slay that low-born artisan with her own hand than know that he had the right to claim her as his mother-in-law. Nevertheless, the slow tears crept down her cheeks as she thought of former days, and of the little parlour behind the tailor’s shop at Keswick, in which the two children had been wont to play.
But the money must be paid; or, at least, the debt must be acknowledged. As soon as she had somewhat recovered herself she opened the old desk which had for years been the receptacle of all her papers, and taking out sundry scribbled documents, went to work at a sum in addition. It cannot be said of her that she was a good accountant, but she had been so far careful as to have kept entries of all the monies she had received from Thomas Thwaite. She had once carried in her head a correct idea of the entire sum she owed him; but now she set down the items with dates, and made the account fair on a sheet of note paper. So much money she certainly did owe to Daniel Thwaite, and so much she would certainly pay if ever the means of paying it should be hers. Then she went off with her account to Mr Goffe.
Mr Goffe did not think that the matter pressed. The payment of large sums which have been long due never is pressing in the eyes of lawyers. Men are always supposed to have a hundred pounds in their waistcoat pockets; but arrangements have to be made for the settling of thousands. “You had better let me write him a line and tell him that it shall be looked to as soon as the question as to the property is decided,” said Mr Goffe. But this did not suit the views of the Countess. She spoke out very openly as to all she owed to the father, and as to her eternal enmity to the son. It behoved her to pay the debt, if only that she might be able to treat the man altogether as an enemy. She had understood that, even pending the trial, a portion of the income would be allowed by the courts for her use and for the expenses of the trial. It was assented that this money should be paid. Could steps be taken by which it might be settled at once? Mr Goffe, taking the memorandum, said that he would see what could be done, and then wrote his short note to Daniel Thwaite. When he had computed the interest which must undoubtedly be paid on the borrowed money he found that a sum of about £9,000 was due to the tailor. “Nine thousand pounds!” said one Mr Goffe to another. “That will be better to him than marrying the daughter of an earl.” Could Daniel have heard the words he would have taken the lawyer by the throat and have endeavoured to teach him what love is.
Then the trial came on. Before the day fixed had come round, but only just before it, Mr Goffe showed the account to Serjeant Bluestone. “God bless my soul!” said the Serjeant. “There should be some vouchers for such an amount as that.” Mr Goffe declared that there were no vouchers, except for a very trifling part of it; but still thought that the amount should be allowed. The Countess was quite willing to make oath, if need be, that the money had been supplied to her. Then the further consideration of the question was for the moment postponed, and the trial came on.
On the Tuesday, which had been left a vacant day as regarded the trial, there was a meeting — like all other proceedings in this cause, very irregular in its nature — at the chambers of the Solicitor-General, at which Serjeant Bluestone attended with Messrs Hardy, Mainsail, Flick, and Goffe; and at this meeting, among other matters of business, mention was made of the debt due by the Countess to Daniel Thwaite. Of this debt the Solicitor-General had not as yet heard — though he had heard of the devoted friendship of the old tailor. That support had been afforded to some extent — that for a period the shelter of old Thwaite’s roof had been lent to the Countess — that the man had been generous and trusting, he did know. He had learned, of course, that thence had sprung that early familiarity which had enabled the younger Thwaite to make his engagement with Lady Anna. That something should be paid when the ladies came by their own he was aware. But the ladies were not his clients, and into the circumstances he had not inquired. Now he was astounded and almost scandalised by the amount of the debt.
“Do you mean to say that he advanced £9,000 in hard cash?” said the Solicitor-General.
“That includes interest at five per cent., Sir William, and also a small sum for bills paid by Thomas Thwaite on her behalf. She has had in actual cash about £7,000.”
“And where has it gone?”
“A good deal of it through my hands,” said Mr Goffe boldly. “During two or three years she had no income at all, and during the last twenty years she has been at law for her rights. He advanced all the money when that trial for bigamy took place.”
“God bless my soul!” said Mr Serjeant Bluestone.
“Did he leave a will?” asked the Solicitor-General.
“Oh, yes; a will which has been proved, and of which I have a copy. There was nothing else to leave but this debt, and that is left to the son.”
“It should certainly be paid without delay,” said Mr Hardy. Mr Mainsail questioned whether they could get the money. Mr Goffe doubted whether it could be had before the whole affair was settled. Mr Flick was sure that on due representation the amount would be advanced at once. The income of the property was already accumulating in the hands of the court, and there was an anxiety that all just demands — demands which might be considered to be justly made on the family property — should be paid without delay. “I think there would hardly be a question,” said Mr Hardy.
“Seven thousand pounds advanced by these two small tradesmen to the Countess Lovel,” said the Solicitor-General, “and that done at a time when no relation of her own or of her husband would lend her a penny! I wish I had known that when I went into court yesterday.”
“It would hardly have done any good,” said the Serjeant.
“It would have enabled one at any rate to give credit where credit is due. And this son is the man who claims to be affianced to the Lady Anna?”
“The same man, Sir William,” said Mr Goffe. One is almost inclined to think that he deserves her.”
“I can’t agree with you there at all,” said the Serjeant angrily.
“One at any rate is not astonished that the young lady should think so,” continued the Solicitor-General. “Upon my word, I don’t know how we are to expect that she should throw her early lover overboard after such evidence of devotion.”
“The marriage would be too incongruous,” said Mr Hardy.
“Quite horrible,” said the Serjeant.
“It distresses one to think of it,” said Mr Goffe.
“It would be much better that she should not be Lady Anna at all, if she is to do that,” said Mr Mainsail.
“Very much better,” said Mr Flick, shaking his head, and remembering that he was employed by Lord Lovel and not by the Countess — a fact of which it seemed to him that the Solicitor-General altogether forgot the importance.
“Gentlemen, you have no romance among you,” said Sir William. “Have not generosity and valour always prevailed over wealth and rank with ladies in story?”
“I do not remember any valorous tailors who have succeeded with ladies of high degree,” said Mr Hardy.
“Did not the lady of the Strachy marry the yeoman of the wardrobe?” asked the Solicitor-General.
“I don’t know that we care much about romance here,” said the Serjeant. “The marriage would be so abominable, that it is not to be thought of.”
“The tailor should at any rate get his money,” said the Solicitor-General, “and I will undertake to say that if the case be as represented by Mr Goffe — ”
“It certainly is,” said the attorney.
“Then there will be no difficulty in raising the funds for paying it. If he is not to have his wife, at any rate let him have his money. I think, Mr Flick, that intimation should be made to him that Earl Lovel will join the Countess in immediate application to the court for means to settle his claim. Circumstanced as we are at present, there can be no doubt that such application will have the desired result. It should, of course, be intimated that Serjeant Bluestone and myself are both of opinion that the money should be allowed for the purpose.”
As the immediate result of this conversation, Daniel Thwaite received on the following morning letters both from Mr Goffe and Mr Flick. The former intimated to him that a sum of nine thousand odd pounds was held to be due to him by the Countess, and that immediate steps would be taken for its payment. That from Mr Flick, which was much shorter than the letter from his brother attorney, merely stated that as a very large sum of money appeared to be due by the Countess Lovel to the estate of the late Thomas Thwaite, for sums advanced to the Countess during the last twenty years, the present Earl Lovel had been advised to join the Countess in application to the courts, that the amount due might be paid out of the income of the property left by the late Earl; and that that application would be made “ immediately ‘. Mr Goffe in his letter, went on to make certain suggestions, and to give much advice. As this very large debt, of which no proof was extant, freely admitted by the Countess, and as steps were being at once taken to ensure payment of the whole sum named to Daniel Thwaite, as father’s heir, it was hoped that Daniel Thwaite would at once abandon his preposterous claim to the hand of Lady Anna Lovel. Then Mr Goffe put forward in glowing colours the iniquity of which Daniel Thwaite would be guilty should he continue his fruitless endeavours to postpone the re-establishment of a noble family which was thus showing its united benevolence by paying to him the money which it owed him.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01