On the Saturday Daniel was at the Serjeant’s chambers early in the morning — long before the hour at which the Serjeant himself was wont to attend. No time had in fact been named, and the tailor had chosen to suppose that as he had been desired to be early in Bedford Square, so had it also been intended that he should be early in the Temple. For two hours he walked about the passages and the courts, thinking ill of the lawyer for being so late at his business, and endeavouring to determine what he would do with himself. He had not a friend in the world, unless Lady Anna were a friend — hardly an acquaintance. And yet, remembering what his father had done, what he himself had helped to do, he thought that he ought to have had many friends. Those very persons who were now his bitterest enemies, the Countess and all they who had supported her, should have been bound to him by close ties. Yet he knew that it was impossible that they should not hate him. He could understand their feelings with reference to their own rank, though to him that rank was contemptible. Of course he was alone. Of course he would fail. He was almost prepared to acknowledge as much to the Serjeant. He had heard of a certain vessel that would start in three days for the rising colony called New South Wales, and he almost wished that he had taken his passage in her.
At ten o’clock he had been desired to call at eleven, and as the clock struck eleven he knocked at the Serjeant’s door. “Serjeant Bluestone is not here yet,” said the clerk, who was disposed to be annoyed by the man’s pertinacity.
“He told me to come early in the morning, and this is not early.”
“He is not here yet, sir.”
“You told me to come at eleven, and it is past eleven.”
“It is one minute past, and you can sit down and wait for him if you please.” Daniel refused to wait, and was again about to depart in his wrath, when the Serjeant appeared upon the stairs. He introduced himself, and expressed regret that he should have found his visitor there before him. Daniel muttering something, followed the lawyer into his room, and then the door was closed. He stood till he was invited to sit, and was determined to make himself disagreeable. This man was one of his enemies — was one who no doubt thought little of him because he was a tailor, who suspected his motives, and was anxious to rob him of his bride. The Serjeant retired for a moment to an inner room, while the tailor girded up his loins and prepared himself for battle.
“Mr Thwaite,” said the Serjeant, as he reentered the room, “you probably know that I have been counsel for Lady Lovel and her daughter in the late trial.” Daniel assented by a nod of his head. “My connection with the Countess would naturally have been closed. We have gained our cause, and there would be an end of it. But as things have turned out it has been otherwise. Lady Anna Lovel has been staying with Mrs Bluestone.”
“In Bedford Square?”
“Yes, at my house.”
“I did not know. The Countess told me she was not in Keppel Street, but refused to inform me where she was staying. I should not have interfered with her ladyship’s plans, had she been less secret with me.”
“Surely it was unnecessary that she should tell you.”
“Quite unnecessary — but hardly unnatural after all that has occurred. As the Countess is with you only a friend of late date, you are probably unaware of the former friendship which existed between us. There was a time in which I certainly did not think that Lady Lovel would ever decline to speak to me about her daughter. But all this is nothing to you, Serjeant Bluestone.”
“It is something to me, Mr Thwaite, as her friend. Is there no reason why she should have treated you thus? Ask your own conscience.”
“My conscience is clear in the matter.”
“I have sent for you here, Mr Thwaite, to ask you whether you cannot yourself understand that this which you have proposed to do must make you an enemy to the Countess, and annul and set aside all that kindness which you have shown her? I put it to your own reason. Do you think it possible that the Countess should be otherwise than outraged at the proposition you have made to her?”
“I have made no proposition to her ladyship.”
“Have you made none to her daughter?”
“Certainly I have. I have asked her to be my wife.”
“Come, Mr Thwaite, do not palter with me.”
“Palter with you! Who dares to say that I palter? I have never paltered. Paltering is — lying, as I take it. Let the Countess be my enemy. I have not said that she should not be so. She might have answered my letter, I think, when the old man died. In our rank of life we should have done so. It may be different with lords and titled ladies. Let it pass, however. I did not mean to make any complaint. I came here because you sent for me.”
“Yes — I did send for you,” said the Serjeant, wishing with all his heart that he had never been persuaded to take a step which imposed upon him so great a difficulty. “I did send for you. Lady Anna Lovel has expressed a wish to see you, before she leaves London.”
“I will wait upon Lady Anna Lovel.”
“I need hardly tell you that her wish has been opposed by her friends.”
“No doubt it was.”
“But she said with so much earnestness that she cannot consider herself to be absolved from the promise which she made to you when she was a child — ”
“She was no child when she made it.”
“It does not signify. She cannot be absolved from the promise which I suppose she did make — ”
“She certainly made it, Serjeant Bluestone.”
“Will you allow me to continue my statement? It will not occupy you long. She assures her mother that she cannot consider herself to be absolved from the promise without your sanction. She has been living in my house for some weeks, and I do not myself doubt in the least that were she thus freed an alliance would soon be arranged between her and her cousin.”
“I have heard of that — alliance.”
“It would be in every respect a most satisfactory and happy marriage. The young Earl has behaved with great consideration and forbearance in abstaining from pushing his claims.”
“In abstaining from asking for that which he did not believe to be his own.”
“You had better hear me to the end, Mr Thwaite. All the friends of the two young people desire it. The Earl himself is warmly attached to his cousin.”
“So am I— and have been for many years.”
“We all believe that she loves him.”
“Let her say so to me, Serjeant Bluestone, and there shall be an end of it all. It seems to me that Lord Lovel and I have different ideas about a woman. I would not take the hand of a girl who told me that she loved another man, even though she was as dear to me as — as Lady Anna is dear to me now. And as for what she might have in her hand, it would go for naught with me, though I might have to face beggary without her. It seems to me that Lord Lovel is less particular in this matter.”
“I do not see that you and I have anything to do with that,” replied the Serjeant, hardly knowing what to say.
“I have nothing to do with Lord Lovel, certainly — nor has he with me. As to his cousin — it is for her to choose.”
“We think — I am only telling you what we think — but we think, Mr Thwaite, that the young lady’s affections are fixed on her cousin. It is natural that they should be so; and watching her as closely as we can, we believe such to be the case. I will be quite on the square with you, Mr Thwaite.”
“With me and with everybody else, I hope, Serjeant Bluestone.”
“I hope so,” said the Serjeant, laughing; but at any rate I will be so with you now. We have been unable to get from Lady Anna any certain reply — any assurance of her own wishes. She has told her mother that she cannot accept Lord Lovel’s addresses till she has seen you.” The Serjeant in this was not quite on the square, as Lady Anna had never said so. “We believe that she considers it necessary, to her conscience, to be made free by your permission, before she can follow her own inclinations and accede to those of all her friends.”
“She shall have my permission in a moment — if she will ask for it.”
“Could you not be more generous even than that?”
“How more generous, Serjeant Bluestone?”
“Offer it to her unasked. You have already said that you would not accept her hand if you did not believe that you had her heart also — and the sentiment did you honour. Think of her condition, and be generous to her.”
“Generous to her! You mean generous to Lady Lovel — generous to Lord Lovel — generous to all the Lovels except her. It seems to me that all the generosity is to be on one side.”
“By no means. We can be generous too.”
“If that be generosity, I will be generous. I will offer her that permission. I will not wait till she asks for it. I will beg her to tell me if it be true that she loves her cousin, and if she can say that it is true, she shall want no permission from me to be free. She shall be free.”
“It is not a question, you see, between yourself and Lord Lovel. It is quite out of the question that she should in any event become your wife. Even had she power to do it —
“She has the power.”
“Practically she has no such power, Mr Thwaite. A young person such as Lady Anna Lovel is and must be under the control of her natural guardian. She is so altogether. Her mother could not — and would not — constrain her to any marriage; but has quite sufficient power over her to prevent any marriage. Lady Anna has never for a moment supposed that she could become your wife since she learned what were the feelings of her mother and her family.” The Serjeant certainly did not keep his promise of being “on the square’. But your generosity is necessary to enable Lady Lovel to bring to a happy termination all those sufferings with which her life has been afflicted.”
“I do not owe much to the Countess; but if it be generous to do as I have said I would do — I will be generous. I will tell her daughter, without any question asked from her, that she is free to marry her cousin if she wishes.”
So far the Serjeant, though he had not been altogether as truthful as he had promised, had been discreet. He had said nothing to set the tailor vehemently against the Lovel interest, and had succeeded in obtaining a useful pledge. But, in his next attempt, he was less wise. “I think, you know, Mr Thwaite, that the Countess also has been generous.”
“You have received £9,000 already, I believe.”
“I have received what I presume to be my own. If I have had more it shall be refunded.”
“No — no; by no means. Taking a liberal view of the matter, as the Countess was bound to do in honour, she was, I think, right in paying you what she has paid.”
“I want nothing from her in what you call honour. I want nothing liberal. If the money be not mine in common honesty she shall have it back again. I want nothing but my own.”
“I think you are a little high flown, Mr Thwaite.”
“I dare say I may be — to the thinking of a lawyer.”
“The Countess, who is in truth your friend — and will always be your friend if you will only be amenable to reason — has been delighted to think that you are now in possession of a sum of money which will place you above want.”
“The Countess is very kind.”
“And I can say more than that. She and all her friends are aware how much is due to your father’s son. If you will only aid us in our present project, if you will enable Lady Anna to become the wife of her cousin the Earl, much more shall be done than the mere payment of the debt which was due to you. It has been proposed to settle on you for life an annuity of four hundred pounds a year. To this the Countess, Earl Lovel and Lady Anna will all agree.”
“Has the consent of Lady Anna been asked?” demanded the tailor, in a voice which was low, but which the Serjeant felt at the moment to be dangerous.
“You may take my word that it shall be forthcoming, said the Serjeant.
“I will take your word for nothing, Serjeant Bluestone. I do not think that among you all, you would dare to make such a proposition to Lady Anna Lovel, and I wonder that you should dare to make it to me. What have you seen in me to lead you to suppose that I would sell myself for a bribe? And how can you have been so unwise as to offer it after I have told you that she shall be free — if she chooses to be free? But it is all one. You deal in subterfuges till you think it impossible that a man should be honest. You mine underground till your eyes see nothing in the open daylight. You walk crookedly till a straight path is an abomination to you. Four hundred a year is nothing to me for such a purpose as this — would have been nothing to me even though no penny had been paid to me of the money which is my own. I can easily understand what it is that makes the Earl so devoted a lover. His devotion began when he had been told that the money was hers, and not his — and that in no other way could he get it. Mine began when no one believed that she would ever have a shilling for her fortune — when all who bore her name and her mother’s ridiculed their claim. Mine was growing when my father asked me whether I grudged that he should spend all that he had in their behalf. Mine came from giving. His springs from the desire to get. Make the four hundred, four thousand — make it eight thousand, Serjeant Bluestone, and offer it to him. I also will agree. With him you may succeed. Good morning, Serjeant Bluestone. On Monday next I will not be worse than my word — even though you have offered me a bribe.”
The Serjeant let the tailor go without a word further — not, indeed, having a word to say. He had been insulted in his own chambers — told that his word was worthless, and his honesty questionable. But he had been so told, that at the moment he had been unable to stop the speaker. He had sat, and smiled, and stroked his chin, and looked at the tailor as though he had been endeavouring to comfort himself with the idea that the man addressing him was merely an ignorant, half-mad, enthusiastic tailor, from whom decent conduct could not be expected. He was still smiling when Daniel Thwaite closed the door, and he almost laughed as he asked his clerk whether that energetic gentleman had taken himself downstairs. “Oh, yes, sir; he glared at me when I opened the door, and rushed down four steps at a time.” But, on the whole, the Serjeant was contented with the interview. It would, no doubt, have been better had he said nothing of the four hundred a year. But in offering of bribes there is always that danger. One can never be sure who will swallow his douceur at an easy gulp, so as hardly to betray an effort, and who will refuse even to open his lips. And then the latter man has the briber so much at advantage. When the luscious morsel has been refused, it is so easy to be indignant, so pleasant to be enthusiastically virtuous! The bribe had been refused, and so far the Serjeant had failed — but the desired promise had been made, and the Serjeant felt certain that it would be kept. He did not doubt but that Daniel Thwaite would himself offer the girl her freedom. But there was something in the man, though he was a tailor. He had an eye and a voice, and it might be that freedom offered, as he could offer it, would not be accepted.
Daniel, as he went into the court from the lawyer’s presence, was less satisfied than the lawyer. He had told the lawyer that his word was worth nothing, and yet he had believed much that the lawyer had said to him. The lawyer had told him that the girl loved her cousin, and only wanted his permission to be free that she might give her hand and her heart together to the young lord. Was it not natural that she should wish to do so? Within each hour, almost within each minute, he regarded the matter in lights that were perfectly antagonistic to each other. It was natural that she should wish to be a Countess, and that she should love a young lord who was gentle and beautiful — and she should have his permission accorded freely. But then, again, it was most unnatural, bestial, and almost monstrous, that a girl should change her love for a man, going from one to another simply because the latter man was gilt with gold, and decked with jewels, and sweet with perfume from a hairdresser’s. The poet must have been wrong there. If love be anything but a dream, surely it must adhere to the person, and not be liable to change at every offered vantage of name or birth, of rank or wealth.
But she should have the offer. She should certainly have the offer.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55