On Sunday they all went to church, and not a word was said about the tailor. Alice Bluestone was tender and valedictory; Mrs Bluestone was courteous and careful; the Serjeant was solemn and civil. Before the day was over Lady Anna was quite sure that it was not intended that she should come back to Bedford Square. Words were said by the two girls, and by Sarah the waiting-maid, which made it certain that the packing up was to be a real packing up. No hindrance was offered to her when she busied herself about her own dresses and folded up her stock of gloves and ribbons. On Monday morning after breakfast, Mrs Bluestone nearly broke down. “I am sure, my dear,” she said, “we have liked you very much, and if there has been anything uncomfortable it has been from unfortunate circumstances.” The Serjeant bade God bless her when he walked off half an hour before the carriage came to take her, and she knew that she was to sit no longer as a guest at the Serjeant’s table. She kissed the girls, was kissed by Mrs Bluestone, got into the carriage with the maid, and in her heart said goodbye to Bedford Square for ever.
It was but three minutes’ drive from the Serjeant’s house to that in which her mother lived, and in that moment of time, she was hardly able to realise the fact that within half an hour she would be once more in the presence of Daniel Thwaite. She did not at present at all understand why this thing was to be done. When last she had seen her mother, the Countess had solemnly declared, had almost sworn, that they two should never see each other again. And now the meeting was so close at hand that the man must already be near her. She put up her face to the carriage window as though she almost expected to see him on the pavement. And how would the meeting be arranged? Would her mother be present? She took it for granted that her mother would be present. She certainly anticipated no pleasure from the meeting — though she would be glad, very glad, to see Daniel Thwaite once again. Before she had time to answer herself a question the carriage had stopped, and she could see her mother at the drawing-room window. She trembled as she went upstairs, and hardly could speak when she found herself in her mother’s presence. If her mother had worn the old brown gown it would have been better, but there she was, arrayed in black silk — in silk that was new and stiff and broad and solemn — a parent rather than a mother, and every inch a Countess. “I am so glad to be with you again, mamma.”
“I shall not be less glad to have you with me, Anna — if you will behave yourself with propriety.”
“Give me a kiss, mamma.” Then the Countess bent her head and allowed her daughter’s lips to touch her cheeks. In old days — days that were not so very old — she would kiss her child as though such embraces were the only food that nourished her.
“Come upstairs, and I will show you your room.” Then the daughter followed the mother in solemn silence. “You have heard that Mr Daniel Thwaite is coming here, to see you, at your own request. It will not be many minutes before he is here. Take off your bonnet.” Again Lady Anna did as she was bid. “It would have been better — very much better — that you should have done as you were desired without subjecting me to this indignity. But as you have taken into your head an idea that you cannot be absolved from an impossible engagement without his permission, I have submitted. Do not let it be long, and let me hear then that all this nonsense is over. He has got what he desires, as a very large sum of money has been paid to him.” Then there came a knock at the door from Sarah, who just showed her face to say that Mr Thwaite was in the room below. “Now go down. In ten minutes I shall expect to see you here again — or, after that, I shall come down to you.” Lady Anna took her mother by the hand, looking up with beseeching eyes into her mother’s face. “Go, my dear, and let this be done as quickly as possible. I believe that you have too great a sense of propriety to let him do more than speak to you. Remember — you are the daughter of an earl; and remember also all that I have done to establish your right for you.”
“Mamma, I do not know what to do. I am afraid.”
“Shall I go with you, Anna?”
“No, mamma — it will be better without you. You do not know how good he is.”
“If he will abandon this madness he shall be my friend of friends.”
“Oh, mamma, I am afraid. But I had better go.” Then, trembling, she left the room and slowly descended the stairs. She had certainly spoken the truth in saying that she was afraid. Up to this moment she had not positively made up her mind whether she would or would not yield to the entreaties of her friends. She had decided upon nothing — leaving in fact the arbitrament of her faith in the hands of the man who had now come to see her. Throughout all that had been said and done her sympathies had been with him, and had become the stronger the more her friends had reviled him. She knew that they had spoken evil of him, not because he was evil — but with the unholy view of making her believe what was false. She had seen through all this, and had been aroused by it to a degree of firmness of which her mother had not imagined her to be capable. Had they confined themselves to the argument of present fitness, admitting the truth and honesty of the man — and admitting also that his love for her and hers for him had been the natural growth of the familiar friendship of their childhood and youth, their chance of moulding her to their purposes would have been better. As it was they had never argued with her on the subject without putting forward some statement which she found herself bound to combat. She was told continually that she had degraded herself; and she could understand that another Lady Anna might degrade herself most thoroughly by listening to the suit of a tailor. But she had not disgraced herself. Of that she was sure, though she could not well explain to them her reasons when they accused her. Circumstances, and her mother’s mode of living, had thrown her into intimacy with this man. For all practical purposes of life he had been her equal — and being so had become her dearest friend. To take his hand, to lean on his arm, to ask his assistance, to go to him in her troubles, to listen to his words and to believe them, to think of him as one who might always be trusted, had become a second nature to her. Of course she loved him. And now the martyrdom through which she had passed in Bedford Square had changed — unconsciously as regarded her own thoughts — but still had changed her feelings in regard to her cousin. He was not to her now the bright and shining thing, the godlike Phoebus, which he had been in Wyndham Street and at Yoxham. In all their lectures to her about her title and grandeur they had succeeded in inculcating an idea of the solemnity of rank, but had robbed it in her eyes of all its grace. She had only been the more tormented because the fact of her being Lady Anna Lovel had been fully established. The feeling in her bosom which was most hostile to the tailor’s claim upon her was her pity for her mother.
She entered the room very gently, and found him standing by the table, with his hands clasped together. “Sweetheart!” he said, as soon as he saw her, calling her by a name which he used to use when they were out in the fields together in Cumberland.
“Daniel!” Then he came to her and took her hand. “If you have anything to say, Daniel, you must be very quick, because mamma will come in ten minutes.”
“Have you anything to say, sweetheart?” She had much to say if she only knew how to say it; but she was silent. “Do you love me, Anna?” Still she was silent. “If you have ceased to love me pray tell me so — in all honesty.” But yet she was silent. “If you are true to me — as I am to you, with all my heart — will you not tell me so?”
“Yes,” she murmured.
He heard her, though no other could have done so.
“A lover’s ears will hear the lowest sound When the suspicious head of theft is stopped.’
“If so,” said he, again taking her hand, this story they have told me is untrue.”
“What story, Daniel?” But she withdrew her hand quickly as she asked him.
“Nay — it is mine; it shall be mine if you love me, dear. I will tell you what story. They have said that you love your cousin, Earl Lovel.”
“No;” said she scornfully, I have never said so. It is not true.”
“You cannot love us both.” His eye was fixed upon hers, that eye to which in past years she had been accustomed to look for guidance, sometimes in joy and sometimes in fear, and which she had always obeyed. “Is not that true?”
“Oh yes — that is true of course.”
“You have never told him that you loved him.”
“But you have told me so — more than once; eh, sweetheart?”
“And it was true?”
She paused a moment, and then gave him the same answer, “Yes.”
“And it is still true?”
She repeated the word a third time. “Yes.” But she again so spoke that none but a lover’s ear could have heard it.
“If it be so, nothing but the hand of God shall separate us. You know that they sent for me to come here.” She nodded her head. “Do you know why? In order that I might abandon my claim to your hand. I will never give it up. But I made them a promise, and I will keep it. I told them that if you preferred Lord Lovel to me, I would at once make you free of your promise — that I would offer you such freedom, if it would be freedom. I do offer it to you — or rather, Anna, I would have offered it, had you not already answered the question. How can I offer it now?” Then he paused, and stood regarding her with fixed eyes. “But there — there; take back your word if you will. If you think that it is better to be the wife of a lord, because he is a lord, though you do not love him, than to lie upon the breast of the man you do love — you are free from me.” Now was the moment in which she must obey her mother, and satisfy her friends, and support her rank, and decide that she would be one of the noble ladies of England if such decision were to be made at all. She looked up into his face, and thought that after all it was handsomer than that of the young Earl. He stood thus with dilated nostrils, and fire in his eyes, and his lips just parted, and his head erect — a very man. Had she been so minded she would not have dared to take his offer. They surely had not known the man when they allowed him to have his interview. He repeated his words. “You are free if you will say so — but you must answer me.”
“I did answer you, Daniel.”
“My noble girl! And now, my heart’s only treasure, I may speak out and tell you what I think. It cannot be good that a woman should purchase rank and wealth by giving herself to a man she does not love. It must be bad — monstrously bad. I never believed it when they told it me of you. And yet when I did not hear of you or see you for months — ”
“It was not my fault.”
“No, sweetheart — and I tried to find comfort by so saying to myself. “If she really loves me, she will be true,” I said. And yet who was I that I should think that you would suffer so much for me? But I will repay you — if the truth and service of a life may repay such a debt as that. At any rate hear this from me — I will never doubt again.” And as he spoke he was moving towards her, thinking to take her in his arms, when the door was opened and Countess Lovel was within the room. The tailor was the first to speak. “Lady Lovel, I have asked your daughter, and I find that it is her wish to adhere to the engagement which she made with me in Cumberland. I need hardly say that it is my wish also.”
“Anna! Is this true?”
“Mamma; mamma! Oh, mamma!”
“If it be so I will never speak word to you more.
“You will; you will! Do not look at me like that. You will speak to me!”
“You shall never again be child of mine.” But in saying this she had forgotten herself, and now she remembered her proper cue. “I do not believe a word of it. The man has come here and has insulted and frightened you. He knows — he must know — that such a marriage is impossible. It can never take place. It shall never take place. Mr Thwaite, as you are a living man, you shall never live to marry my daughter.”
“My lady, in this matter of marriage your daughter must no doubt decide for herself. Even now, by all the laws of God — and I believe of man too — she is beyond your control either to give her in marriage or to withhold her. In a few months she will be as much her own mistress as you now are yours.”
“Sir, I am not asking you about my child. You are insolent.”
“I came here, Lady Lovel, because I was sent for.”
“And now you had better leave us. You made a promise which you have broken.”
“By heavens, no. I made a promise and I have kept it. I said that I would offer her her freedom, and I have done so. I told her, and I tell her again now, that if she will say that she prefers her cousin to me, I will retire.” The Countess looked at him and also recognised the strength of his face, almost feeling that the man had grown in personal dignity since he had received the money that was due to him. “She does not prefer the Earl. She has given her heart to me; and I hold it — and will hold it. Look up, dear, and tell your mother whether what I say be true.”
“It is true,” said Lady Anna.
“Then may the blight of hell rest upon you both!” said the Countess, rushing to the door. But she returned. “Mr Thwaite,” she said, “I will trouble you at once to leave the house, and never more return to it.”
“I will leave it certainly. Goodbye, my own love.” He attempted again to take the girl by the hand, but the Countess, with violence, rushed at them and separated them. “If you but touch him, I will strike you,” she said to her daughter. “As for you, it is her money that you want. If it be necessary, you shall have, not hers, but mine. Now go.”
“That is a slander, Lady Lovel. I want no one’s money. I want the girl I love — whose heart I have won; and I will have her. Good morning, Lady Lovel. Dear, dear Anna, for this time goodbye. Do not let anyone make you think that I can ever be untrue to you.” The girl only looked at him. Then he left the room; and the mother and the daughter were alone together. The Countess stood erect, looking at her child, while Lady Anna, standing also, kept her eyes fixed upon the ground. “Am I to believe it all — as that man says?” asked the Countess.
“Do you mean to say that you have renewed your engagement to that low-born wretch?”
“Mamma — he is not a wretch.”
“Do you contradict me? After all, is it come to this?”
“Mamma — you, you — cursed me.”
“And you will be cursed. Do you think that you will do such wickedness as this, that you can destroy all that I have done for you, that you make yourself the cause of ruin to a whole family, and that you will not be punished for it? You say that you love me.”
“You know that I love you, mamma.”
“And yet you do not scruple to drive me mad.”
“Mamma, it was you who brought us together.”
“Ungrateful child! Where else could I take you then?”
“But I was there — and of course I loved him. I could not cease to love him because — because they say that I am a grand lady.”
“Listen to me, Anna. You shall never marry him; never. With my own hands I will kill him first — or you.” The girl stood looking into her mother’s face, and trembling. “Do you understand that?”
“You do not mean it, mamma.”
“By the God above me, I do! Do you think that I will stop at anything now — after having done so much? Do you think that I will live to see my daughter the wife of a foul, sweltering tailor? No, by heavens! He tells you that when you are twenty-one, you will not be subject to my control. I warn you to look to it. I will not lose my control, unless when I see you married to some husband fitting your condition in life. For the present you will live in your own room, as I will live in mine. I will hold no intercourse whatever with you, till I have constrained you to obey me.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14