There was of course much commotion among all circles of society in London as soon as it was known to have been decided that the Countess Lovel was the Countess Lovel, and that Lady Anna was the heiress of the late Earl. Bets were paid — and bets no doubt were left unpaid — to a great amount. Men at the clubs talked more about the Lovels than they had done even during the month preceding the trial. The Countess became on a sudden very popular. Exaggerated stories were told of the romance of her past life — though it would have been well nigh impossible to exaggerate her sufferings. Her patience, her long endurance and persistency were extolled by all. The wealth that would accrue to her and to her daughter was of course doubled. Had anybody seen her? Did anybody know her? Even the Murrays began to be proud of her, and old Lady Jemima Magtaggart, who had been a Murray before she married General Mag, as he was called, went at once and called upon the Countess in Keppel Street. Being the first that did so, before the Countess had suspected any invasion, she was admitted — and came away declaring that sorrow must have driven the Countess mad. The Countess, no doubt, did not receive her distant relative with any gentle courtesy. She had sworn to herself often, that come what come might, she would never cross the threshold of a Murray. Old Lord Swanage, who had married some very distant Lovel, wrote to her a letter full of very proper feeling. It had been, he said, quite impossible for him to know the truth before the truth had come to light, and therefore he made no apology for not having before this made overtures of friendship to his connection. He now begged to express his great delight that she who had so well deserved success had been successful, and to offer her his hand in friendship, should she be inclined to accept it. The Countess answered him in a strain which certainly showed that she was not mad. It was not her policy to quarrel with any Lovel, and her letter was very courteous. She was greatly obliged to him for his kindness, and had felt as strongly as he could do that she could have no claim on her husband’s relations till she should succeed in establishing her rights. She accepted his hand in the spirit in which it had been offered, and hoped that his Lordship might yet become a friend of her daughter. For herself — she feared that all that she had suffered had made her unfit for much social intercourse. Her strength, she said, had been sufficient to carry her thus far, but was now failing her.
Then, too, there came to her that great glory for which the lawyer had given her a hint. She received a letter from the private secretary of His Majesty the King, telling her that His Majesty had heard her story with great interest, and now congratulated her heartily on the re-establishment of her rank and position. She wrote a very curt note, begging that her thanks might be given to His Majesty — and then she burned the private secretary’s letter. No congratulations were anything to her till she should see her daughter freed from the debasement of her engagement to the tailor.
Speculation was rife as to the kind of life which the Countess would lead. That she would have wealth sufficient to blaze forth in London with all the glories of Countess-ship, there was no doubt. Her own share of the estate was put down as worth at least ten thousand a year for her life, and this she would enjoy without deductions, and with no other expenditure than that needed for herself. Her age was ascertained to a day, and it was known that she was as yet only forty-five. Was it not probable that some happy man might share her wealth with her? What an excellent thing it would be for old Lundy — the Marquis of Lundy — who had run through every shilling of his property! Before a week was over, the suggestion had been made to old Lundy. “They say she is mad, but she can’t be mad enough for that,” said the Marquis.
The rector hurried home full of indignation, but he had a word or two with his nephew before he started. “What do you mean to do now, Frederic?” asked the rector with a very grave demeanour.
“Do? I don’t know that I shall do anything.”
“You give up the girl, then?”
“My dear uncle; that is a sort of question that I don’t think a man ever likes to be asked.”
“But I suppose I may ask how you intend to live?”
“I trust, Uncle Charles, that I shall not, at any rate, be a burden to my relatives.”
“Oh; very well; very well. Of course I have nothing more to say. I think it right, all the same, to express my opinion that you have been grossly misused by Sir William Patterson. Of course what I say will have no weight with you; but that is my opinion.”
“I do not agree with you, Uncle Charles.”
“Very well; I have nothing more to say. It is right that I should let you know that I do not believe that this woman was ever Lord Lovel’s wife. I never did believe it, and I never will believe it. All that about marrying the girl has been a take-in from beginning to end — all planned to induce you to do just what you have done. No word in courtesy should ever have been spoken to either of them.”
“I am as sure that she is the Countess as I am that I am the Earl.”
“Very well. It costs me nothing, but it costs you thirty thousand a year. Do you mean to come down to Yoxham this winter?”
“Are the horses to be kept there?” Now hitherto the rich rector had kept the poor lord’s hunters without charging his nephew aught for their expense. He was a man so constituted that it would have been a misery to him that the head of his family should not have horses to ride. But now he could not but remember all that he had done, all that he was doing, and the return that was made to him. Nevertheless he could have bit the tongue out of his mouth for asking the question as soon as the words were spoken.
“I will have them sold immediately,” said the Earl. “They shall come up to Tattersall’s before the week is over.”
“I didn’t mean that.
“I am glad that you thought of it, Uncle Charles. They shall be taken away at once.”
“They are quite welcome to remain at Yoxham.”
“They shall be removed — and sold,” said the Earl. “Remember me to my aunts. Good bye.” Then the rector went down to Yoxham an angry and a miserable man.
There were very many who still agreed with the rector in thinking that the Earl’s case had been mismanaged. There was surely enough of ground for a prolonged fight to have enabled the Lovel party to have driven their opponents to a compromise. There was a feeling that the Solicitor-General had been carried away by some romantic idea of abstract right, and had acted in direct opposition to all the usages of forensic advocacy as established in England. What was it to him whether the Countess were or were not a real Countess? It had been his duty to get what he could for the Earl, his client. There had been much to get, and with patience no doubt something might have been got. But he had got nothing. Many thought that he had altogether cut his own throat, and that he would have to take the first “puny” judgeship vacant. He is a great man — a very great man indeed,” said the Attorney-General, in answer to someone who was abusing Sir William. “There is not one of us can hold a candle to him. But, then, as I have always said, he ought to have been a poet!”
In discussing the Solicitor-General’s conduct men thought more of Lady Anna than her mother. The truth about Lady Anna and her engagement was generally known in a misty, hazy, half-truthful manner. That she was engaged to marry Daniel Thwaite, who was now becoming famous and the cause of a greatly increased business in Wigmore Street, was certain. It was certain also that the Earl had desired to marry her. But as to the condition in which the matter stood at present there was a very divided opinion. Not a few were positive that a written engagement had been given to the Earl that he should have the heiress before the Solicitor-General had made his speech — but according to these, the tailor’s hold over the young lady was so strong, that she now refused to abide by her own compact. She was in the tailor’s hands and the tailor could do what he liked with her. It was known that Lady Anna was in Bedford Square, and not a few walked before the Serjeant’s house in the hopes of seeing her. The romance at any rate was not over, and possibly there might even yet be a compromise. If the Earl could get even five thousand a year out of the property, it was thought that the Solicitor-General might hold his own and in due time become at any rate a Chief Baron.
In the mean time Daniel Thwaite remained in moody silence among the workmen in Wigmore Street, unseen of any of those who rushed there for new liveries in order that they might catch a glimpse of the successful hero — till one morning, about five days after the trial was over, when he received a letter from Messrs Goffe and Goffe. Messrs Goffe and Goffe had the pleasure of informing him that an accurate account of all money transactions between Countess Lovel and his father had been kept by the Countess — that the Countess on behalf of herself and Lady Anna Lovel acknowledged a debt due to the estate of the late Mr Thomas Thwaite, amounting to £9,109 3 s . 4 d ., and that a cheque to that amount should be at once handed to him — Daniel Thwaite the son — if he would call at the chambers of Messrs Goffe and Goffe, with a certified copy of the probate of the will of Thomas Thwaite the father.
Nine thousand pounds — and that to be paid to him immediately — on that very day if he chose to call for it! The copy of the probate of the will he had in his pocket at that moment. But he worked out his day’s work without going near Goffe and Goffe. And yet he thought much of his money; and once, when one of his employers spoke to him somewhat roughly, he remembered that he was probably a better man than his master. What should he now do with himself and his money — how bestow himself — how use it so that he might be of service to the world? He would go no doubt to some country in which there were no earls and no countesses — but he could go nowhere till he should know what might be his fate with the Earl’s daughter, who at present was his destiny. His mind was absolutely divided. In one hour he would say to himself that the poet was certainly right — and in the next he was sure that the poet must have been wrong. As regarded money, nine thousand pounds were as good to him as any sum that could be named. He could do with that all that he required that money should do for him. Could he at this time have had his own way absolutely, he would have left all the remainder of the wealth behind him, to be shared as they pleased to share it between the Earl and the Countess, and he would have gone at once, taking with him the girl whom he loved. He would have revelled in the pride of thinking that all of them should say that he had wanted and won the girl only — and not the wealth of the Lovels; that he had taken only what was his own, and that his wife would be dependent on him, not he on her. But this was not possible. It was now months since he had heard the girl’s voice, or had received any assurance from her that she was still true to him. But, in lieu of this, he had the assurance that she was in possession of enormous wealth, and that she was the recognised cousin of lords and ladies by the dozen.
When the evening came he saw one of his employers and told the man that he wished that his place might be filled. Why was he going? Did he expect to better himself? When was he going? Was he in earnest? Daniel told the truth at once as far as the payment of the money was concerned. He was to receive on the following day a sum of money which had been due to his father, and, when that should have been paid him, it would not suit him to work longer for weekly wages. The tailor grumbled, but there was nothing else to be said. Thwaite might leave them tomorrow if he wished. Thwaite took him at his word and never returned to the shop in Wigmore Street after that night.
On reaching his lodgings he found another letter — from Serjeant Bluestone. The Countess had so far given way to accede to the proposition that there should be a meeting between her daughter and the tailor, and then there had arisen the question as to the manner in which this meeting should be arranged. The Countess would not write herself, nor would she allow her daughter to do so. It was desirable, she thought, that as few people should know of the meeting as possible, and at last, most unwillingly, the Serjeant undertook the task of arranging it. He wrote therefore as follows:
Mr Serjeant Bluestone presents his compliments to Mr Daniel Thwaite. Mr Thwaite has no doubt heard of the result of the trial by which the Countess Lovel and her daughter have succeeded in obtaining the recognition of their rank. It is in contemplation with the Countess and Lady Anna Lovel to go abroad, but Lady Anna is desirous before she goes of seeing the son of the man who was her mother’s staunch friend during many years of suffering. Lady Anna will be at home, at No. — Keppel Street, at eleven o’clock on Monday, 23rd instant, if Mr Thwaite can make it convenient to call then and there.
Bedford Square 17th November 18 —
If Mr Daniel Thwaite could call on the Serjeant before that date, either in the morning at his house, or on Saturday at his chambers, — Inner Temple, it might perhaps be serviceable.
The postscript had not been added without much consideration. What would the tailor think of this invitation? Would he not be disposed to take it as encouragement in his pernicious suit? Would he not go to Keppel Street with a determination to insist upon the girl’s promise? The Serjeant thought that it would be best to let the thing take its chance. But the Serjeant’s wife, and the Serjeant’s daughters, and the Countess, too, had all agreed that something if possible should be said to disabuse him of this idea. He was to have nine thousand pounds paid to him. Surely that might be sufficient. But if he was greedy and wanted more money, more money should be given to him. Only he must be made to understand that the marriage was out of the question. So the Serjeant again gave way, and proposed the interview. Daniel sent back his compliments to the Serjeant and begged to say he would do as he was bid. He would call at the Serjeant’s chambers on the Saturday, and in Keppel Street on the following Monday, at the hours named.
On the next morning — the first morning of his freedom from the servitude of Wigmore Street — he went to Messrs Goffe and Goffe. He got up late and breakfasted late, in order that he might feel what it is to be an idle man. “I might now be as idle as the young Earl,” he said to himself; “but, were I to attempt it, what should I do with myself? How should I make the hours pass by?” He felt that he was lauding himself as the idea passed through his mind, and struggled to quench his own pride. “And yet,” said he in his thoughts, is it not fit that I should know myself to be better than he is? If I have no self-confidence how can I be bold to persevere? The man that works is to him that is idle as light is to darkness.
He was admitted at once to Mr Goffe’s private room, and was received with a smiling welcome, and an outstretched hand. “I am delighted, Mr Thwaite, to be able to settle your claim on Lady Lovel with so little delay. I hope you are satisfied with her ladyship’s statement of the account.”
“Much more than satisfied with the amount. It appeared to me that I had no legal claim for more than a few hundred pounds.”
“We knew better than that, Mr Thwaite. We should have seen that no great injury was done. But luckily the Countess has been careful, and has put down each sum advanced, item by item. Full interest has been allowed at five per cent., as is proper. The Countess is an excellent woman of business.”
“No doubt, Mr Goffe. I could have wished that she would have condescended to honour me with a line — but that is a matter of feeling.”
“Oh, Mr Thwaite; there are reasons — you must know that there are reasons.”
“There may be good reasons or bad reasons.”
“And there may be good judgment in such matters and bad judgment. But, however — . You will like to have this money by a cheque, no doubt. There it is, £9,109 3 s . 4 d . It is not often that we write one cheque for a bigger sum than that, Mr Thwaite. Shall I cross it on your bankers? No bankers! With such a sum as that let me recommend you to open an account at once.” And Mr Goffe absolutely walked down to Fleet Street with Daniel Thwaite the tailor, and introduced him at his own bank. The business was soon transacted, and Daniel Thwaite went away westward, a capitalist, with a cheque book in his pocket. What was he to do with himself? He walked east again before the day was over, and made inquiries at various offices as to vessels sailing for Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Quebec. Or how would it be with him if he should be minded to go east instead of go west? So he supplied himself also with information as to the vessels for Sydney. And what should he do when he got to the new country? He did not mean to be a tailor. He was astonished to find how little he had as yet realised in his mind the details of the exodus which he had proposed to himself.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14