Lady Anna, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 32

Will you Promise?

The news of the verdict was communicated the same evening to Lady Anna — as to whose name there could now no longer be any dispute. “I congratulate you, Lady Anna,” said the Serjeant, holding her hand, “that everything as far as this trial is concerned has gone just as we could wish.”

“We owe it all to you,” said the girl.

“Not at all. My work has been very easy. In fact I have some feeling of regret that I have not been placed in a position that would enable me to earn my wages. The case was too good — so that a poor aspiring lawyer has not been able to add to his reputation. But as far as you are concerned, my dear, everything has gone as you should wish. You are now a very wealthy heiress and the great duty devolves upon you of disposing of your wealth in a fitting manner.” Lady Anna understood well what was meant, and was silent. Even when she was alone her success did not make her triumphant. She could anticipate that the efforts of all her friends to make her false to her word would be redoubled. Unless she could see Daniel Thwaite, it would be impossible that she should not be conquered.

The Serjeant told his wife the promise which he had made on her behalf, and she, of course, undertook to go to Keppel Street on the following morning. “You had better bring her here,” said the Serjeant. Mrs Bluestone remarked that that might be sooner said than done. “She’ll be glad of an excuse to come,” answered the Serjeant. “On such an occasion as this, of course they must see each other. Something must be arranged about the property. In a month or two, when she is of age, she will have the undisputed right to do what she pleases with about three hundred thousand pounds. It is a most remarkable position for a young girl who has never yet had the command of a penny, and who professes that she is engaged to marry a working tailor. Of course her mother must see her.”

Mrs Bluestone did call in Keppel Street, and sat with the Countess a long time, undergoing a perfect hailstorm of passion. For a long time Lady Lovel declared that she would never see her daughter again till the girl had given a solemn promise that she would not marry Daniel Thwaite. “Love her! Of course I love her. She is all that I have in the world. But of what good is my love to me, if she disgraces me? She has disgraced me already. When she could bring herself to tell her cousin that she was engaged to this man, we were already disgraced. When she once allowed the man to speak to her in that strain, without withering him with her scorn, she disgraced us both. For what have I done it all, if this is to be the end of it?” But at last she assented and promised that she would come. No — it would not be necessary to send a carriage for her. The habits of her own life need not be at all altered because she was now a Countess beyond dispute, and also wealthy. She would be content to live as she had ever lived. It had gone on too long for her to desire personal comfort — luxury for herself, or even social rank. The only pleasure that she had anticipated, the only triumph that she desired, was to be found in the splendour of her child. She would walk to Bedford Square, and then walk back to her lodgings in Keppel Street. She wanted no carriage.

Early on the following day there was heard the knock at the door which Lady Anna had been taught to expect. The coming visit had been discussed in all its bearings, and it had been settled that Mrs Bluestone should be with the daughter when the mother arrived. It was thought that in this way the first severity of the Countess would be mitigated, and that the chance of some agreement between them might be increased. Both the Serjeant and Mrs Bluestone now conceived that the young lady had a stronger will of her own than might have been expected from her looks, her language, and her manners. She had not as yet yielded an inch, though she would not argue the matter at all when she was told that it was her positive duty to abandon the tailor. She would sit quite silent; and if silence does give consent, she consented to this doctrine. Mrs Bluestone, with a diligence which was equalled only by her good humour, insisted on the misery which must come upon her young friend should she quarrel with the Countess, and with all the Lovels — on the unfitness of the tailor, and the impossibility that such a marriage should make a lady happy — on the sacred duty which Lady Anna’s rank imposed upon her to support her order, and on the general blessedness of a well-preserved and exclusive aristocracy. “I don’t mean to say that nobly born people are a bit better than commoners,” said Mrs Bluestone. “Neither I nor my children have a drop of noble blood in our veins. It is not that. But God Almighty has chosen that there should be different ranks to carry out His purposes, and we have His word to tell us that we should all do our duties in that state of life to which it has pleased Him to call us.” The excellent lady was somewhat among the clouds in her theology, and apt to mingle the different sources of religious instruction from which she was wont to draw lessons for her own and her children’s guidance; but she meant to say that the proper state of life for an earl’s daughter could not include an attachment to a tailor; and Lady Anna took it as it was meant. The nobly born young lady did not in heart deny the truth of the lesson — but she had learned another lesson, and did not know how to make the two compatible. That other lesson taught her to believe that she ought to be true to her word — that she specially ought to be true to one who had ever been specially true to her. And latterly there had grown upon her a feeling less favourable to the Earl than that which he had inspired when she first saw him and which he had increased when they were together at Yoxham. It is hard to say why the Earl had ceased to charm her, or by what acts or words he had lowered himself in her eyes. He was as handsome as ever, as much like a young Apollo, as gracious in his manner, and as gentle in his gait. And he had been constant to her. Perhaps it was that she had expected that one so godlike should have ceased to adore a woman who had degraded herself to the level of a tailor, and that, so conceiving, she had begun to think that his motives merely human, and perhaps sordid. He ought to have abstained and seen her no more after she had owned her own degradation. But she said nothing of all this to Mrs Bluestone. She made no answer to the sermons preached to her. She certainly said no word tending to make that lady think that the sermons had been of any avail. “She looks as soft as butter,” Mrs Bluestone said that morning to her husband; “but she is obstinate as a pig all the time.”

“I suppose her father was the same way before her,” said the Serjeant, “and God knows her mother is obstinate enough.”

When the Countess was shown into the room Lady Anna was trembling with fear and emotion. Lady Lovel, during the last few weeks since her daughter had seen her, had changed the nature of her dress. Hitherto, for years past, she had worn a brown stuff gown, hardly ever varying even the shade of the sombre colour — so that her daughter had perhaps never seen her otherwise clad. No woman that ever breathed was less subject to personal vanity than had been the so-called Countess who lived in the little cottage outside Keswick. Her own dress had been as nothing to her, and in the days of her close familiarity with old Thomas Thwaite she had rebuked her friend when he had besought her to attire herself in silk. “We’ll go into Keswick and get Anna a new ribbon,” she would say, “and that will be grandeur enough for her and me too.” In this brown dress she had come up to London, and so she had been clothed when her daughter last saw her. But now she wore a new, full, black silk dress, which, plain as it was, befitted her rank and gave an increased authority to her commanding figure. Lady Anna trembled all the more, and her heart sank still lower within her, because her mother no longer wore the old brown gown. When the Countess entered the room she took no immediate notice of Mrs Bluestone, but went up to her child and kissed her. “I am comforted, Anna, in seeing you once again,” she said.

“Dear, dearest mamma!”

“You have heard, I suppose, that the trial has been decided in your favour?”

“In yours, mamma.”

“We have explained it all to her, Lady Lovel, as well as we could. The Serjeant yesterday evening gave us a little history of what occurred. It seems to have been quite a triumph.”

“It may become a triumph,” said the Countess — a triumph so complete and glorious that I shall desire nothing further in this world. It has been my work to win the prize; it is for her to wear it — if she will do so.”

“I hope you will both live to enjoy it many years,” said Mrs Bluestone. “You will have much to say to each other, and I will leave you now. We shall have lunch, Lady Lovel, at half past one, and I hope that you will join us.”

Then they were alone together. Lady Anna had not moved from her chair since she had embraced her mother, but the Countess had stood during the whole time that Mrs Bluestone had been in the room. When the room door was closed they both remained silent for a few moments, and then the girl rushed across the room and threw herself on her knees at her mother’s feet. “Oh, mamma, mamma, tell me that you love me. Oh, mamma, why have you not let me come to you? Oh, mamma, we never were parted before.”

“My child never before was wilfully disobedient to me.”

“Oh, mamma — tell me that you love me.”

“Love you! Yes, I love you. You do not doubt that, Anna. How could it be possible that you should doubt it after twenty years of a mother’s care? You know I love you.”

“I know that I love you, mamma, and that it kills me to be sent away from you. You will take me home with you now — will you not?”

“Home! You shall make your own home, and I will take you whither you will. I will be a servant to minister to every whim; all the world shall be a Paradise to you; you shall have every joy that wealth, and love, and sweet friends can procure for you — if you will obey me in one thing.” Lady Anna, still crouching upon the ground, hid her face in her mother’s dress, but she was silent. “It is not much that I ask after a life spent in winning for you all that has now been won. I only demand of you that you shall not disgrace yourself.”

“Oh, mamma, I am not disgraced.”

“Say that you will marry Lord Lovel, and all that shall be forgotten. It shall at any rate be forgiven, or remembered only as the folly of a child. Will you say that you will become Lord Lovel’s wife?”

“Oh, mamma!”

“Answer me, Anna — will you say that you will receive Lord Lovel as your accepted lover? Get up, girl, and look me in the face. Of what use is it to grovel there, while your spirit is in rebellion? Will you do this? Will you save us all from destruction, misery, and disgrace? Will you remember who you are — what blood you have in your veins — what name it is that you bear? Stand up, and look me in the face, if you dare.”

Lady Anna did stand up, and did look her mother in the face. “Mamma,” she said, we should understand each other better if we were living together as we ought to do.”

“I will never live with you till you have promised obedience. Will you, at any rate, pledge to me your word that you will never become the wife of Daniel Thwaite?” Then she paused, and stood looking at the girl, perhaps for a minute. Lady Anna stood before her, with her eyes turned upon the ground. “Answer me the question that I have asked you. Will you promise me that you will never become the wife of Daniel Thwaite?”

“I have promised him that I would.”

“What is that to me? Is your duty to him higher than your duty to me? Can you be bound by any promise to so great a crime as that would be? I will ask you the question once more, and I will be governed by your answer. If you will promise to discard this man, you shall return home with me, and shall then choose everything for yourself. We will go abroad and travel if you wish it, and all things shall be prepared to give you pleasure. You shall have at once the full enjoyment of all that has been won for you; and as for your cousin — you shall not for a while be troubled even by his name. It is the dear wish of my heart that you should be the wife of Earl Lovel — but I have one wish dearer even than that — one to which that shall be altogether postponed. If you will save yourself, and me, and all your family from the terrible disgrace with which you have threatened us — I will not again mention your cousin’s name to you till it shall please you to hear it. Anna, you knelt to me,just now. Shall I kneel to you?”

“No, mamma, no — I should die.”

“Then, my love, give me the promise that I have asked.”

“Mamma, he has been so good to us!”

“And we will be good to him — good to him in his degree. Of what avail to me will have been his goodness, if he is to rob me of the very treasure which his goodness helped to save? Is he to have all, because he gave some aid? Is he to take from me my heart’s blood, because he bound up my arm when it was bruised? Because he helped me some steps on earth, is he to imprison me afterwards in hell? Good! No, he is not good in wishing so to destroy us. He is bad, greedy, covetous, self-seeking, a very dog, and by the living God he shall die like a dog unless you will free me from his fangs. You have not answered me. Will you tell me that you will discard him as a suitor for your hand? If you will say so, he shall receive tenfold reward for his — goodness. Answer me, Anna — I claim an answer from you.”


“Speak, if you have anything to say. And remember the commandment, Honour thy — “ But she broke down, when she too remembered it, and bore in mind that the precept would have called upon her daughter to honour the memory of the deceased Earl. “But if you cannot do it for love, you will never do it for duty.”

“Mamma, I am sure of one thing.”

“Of what are you sure?”

“That I ought to be allowed to see him before I give him up.”

“You shall never be allowed to see him.”

“Listen to me, mamma, for a moment. When he asked me to — love him, we were equals.”

“I deny it. You were never equals.”

“We lived as such — except in this, that they had money for our wants, and we had none to repay them.”

“Money can have nothing to do with it.”

“Only that we took it. And then he was everything to us. It seemed as though it would be impossible to refuse anything that he asked. It was impossible to me. As to being noble, I am sure that he was noble. You always used to say that nobody else ever was so good as those two. Did you not say so, mamma?”

“If I praise my horse or my dog, do I say that they are of the same nature as myself?”

“But he is a man; quite as much a man as — as any man could be.”

“You mean that you will not do as I bid you.”

“Let me see him, mamma. Let me see him but once. If I might see him, perhaps I might do as you wish — about him. I cannot say anything more unless I may see him.”

The Countess still stormed and still threatened but she could not move her daughter. She also found that the child had inherited particles of the nature of her parents. But it was necessary that some arrangement should be made as to the future life, both of Lady Anna and of herself. She might bury herself where she would, in the most desolate corner of the earth, but she could not leave Lady Anna in Bedford Square. In a few months Lady Anna might choose any residence she pleased for herself, and there could be no doubt whose house she would share, if she were not still kept in subjection. The two parted then in deep grief — the mother almost cursing her child in her anger, and Lady Anna overwhelmed with tears. “Will you not kiss me, mamma, before you go?”

“No, I will not kiss you again till you have shown me that you are my child.”

But before she left the house, the Countess was closeted for a while with Mrs Bluestone, and, in spite of all that she had said, it was agreed between them that it would be better to permit an interview between the girl and Daniel Thwaite. “Let him say what he will,” argued Mrs Bluestone, “she will not be more headstrong than she is now. You will still be able to take her away with you to some foreign country.”

“But he will treat her as though he were her lover,” said the Countess, unable to conceal the infinite disgust with which the idea overwhelmed her.

“What does it matter, Lady Lovel? We have got to get a promise from her, somehow. Since she was much with him, she has seen people of another sort, and she will feel the difference. It may be that she wants to ask him to release her. At any rate she speaks as though she might be released by what he would say to her. Unless she thought it might be so herself, she would not make a conditional promise. I would let them meet.”

“But where?”

“In Keppel Street.”

“In my presence?”

“No, not that; but you will, of course, be in the house — so that she cannot leave it with him. Let her come to you. It will be an excuse for her doing so, and then she can remain. If she does not give the promise, take her abroad, and teach her to forget it by degrees.” So it was arranged, and on that evening Mrs Bluestone told Lady Anna that she was to be allowed to meet Daniel Thwaite.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01