So they went on living in utter misery till the month of May had come round, and Lady Anna was at last pronounced to be convalescent.
Late one night, long after midnight, the Countess crept into her daughter’s room and sat down by the bedside. Lady Anna was asleep, and the Countess sat there and watched. At this time the girl had passed her birthday, and was of age. Mr Goffe had been closeted with her and with her mother for two mornings running, Sir William Patterson had also been with them, and instructions had been given as to the property, upon which action was to be at once taken. Of that proportion of the estate which fell to Lady Anna, one entire moiety was to be made over to the Earl. While this was being arranged no word was said as to Daniel Thwaite, or as to the marriage with the lord. The settlement was made as though it were a thing of itself; and they all had been much surprised — the mother, the Solicitor-General, and the attorney — at the determination of purpose and full comprehension of the whole affair which Lady Anna displayed. When it came to the absolute doing of the matter — the abandonment of all this money — the Countess became uneasy and discontented. She also had wished that Lord Lovel should have the property — but her wish had been founded on a certain object to be attained, which object was now farther from her than ever. But the property in question was not hers, but her daughter’s, and she made no loud objection to the proceeding. The instructions were given, and the deeds were to be forthcoming some time before the end of the month.
It was on the night of the 11th of May that the Countess sat at her child’s bedside. She had brought up a taper with her, and there she sat watching the sleeping girl. Thoughts wondrously at variance with each other, and feelings thoroughly antagonistic, ran through her brain and heart. This was her only child — the one thing that there was for her to love — the only tie to the world that she possessed. But for her girl, it would be good that she should be dead. And if her girl should do this thing, which would make her life a burden to her — how good it would be for her to die! She did not fear to die, and she feared nothing after death — but with a coward’s dread she did fear the torment of her failure if this girl should become the wife of Daniel Thwaite. In such case most certainly would she never see the girl again — and life then would be all a blank to her. But she understood that though she should separate herself from the world altogether, men would know of her failure, and would know that she was devouring her own heart in the depth of her misery. If the girl would but have done as her mother had proposed, would have followed after her kind, and taken herself to those pleasant paths which had been opened for her, with what a fond caressing worship, with what infinite kisses and blessings, would she, the mother, have tended the young Countess and assisted in making the world bright for the high-born bride. But a tailor! Foh! What a degraded creature was her child to cling to so base a love!
She did, however, acknowledge to herself that the girl’s clinging was of a kind she had no power to lessen. The ivy to its standard tree is not more loyal than was her daughter to this wretched man. But the girl might die — or the tailor might die — or she, the miserable mother, might die; and so this misery might be at an end. Nothing but death could end it. Thoughts and dreams of other violence had crossed her brain — of carrying the girl away, of secluding her, of frightening her from day to day into some childish, half-idiotic submission. But for that the tame obedience of the girl would have been necessary — or that external assistance which she had sought, in vain, to obtain among the lawyers. Such hopes were now gone, and nothing remained but death.
Why had not the girl gone when she was so like to go? Why had she not died when it had seemed to be God’s pleasure to take her? A little indifference, some slight absence of careful tending, any chance accident would have made that natural which was now — which was now so desirable and yet beyond reach! Yes — so desirable! For whose sake could it be wished that a life so degraded should be prolonged? But there could be no such escape. With her eyes fixed on vacancy, revolving it in her mind, she thought that she could kill herself — but she knew that she could not kill her child.
But, should she destroy herself, there would be no vengeance in that. Could she be alone, far out at sea, in some small skiff with that low-born tailor, and then pull out the plug, and let him know what he had done to her as they both went down together beneath the water, that would be such a cure of the evil as would now best suit her wishes. But there was no such sea, and no such boat. Death, however, might still be within her grasp.
Then she laid her hand on the girl’s shoulder, and Lady Anna awoke. “Oh, mamma — is that you?”
“It is I, my child.”
“Mamma, mamma; is anything the matter? Oh, mamma, kiss me.” Then the Countess stooped down and kissed the girl passionately. “Dear mamma — dearest mamma!”
“Anna, will you do one thing for me? If I never speak to you of Lord Lovel again, will you forget Daniel Thwaite?” She paused, but Lady Anna had no answer ready. “Will you not say as much as that for me? Say that you will forget him till I am gone.”
“Gone, mamma? You are not going!”
“Till I am dead. I shall not live long, Anna. Say at least that you will not see him or mention his name for twelve months. Surely, Anna, you will do as much as that for a mother who has done so much for you.” But Lady Anna would make no promise. She turned her face to the pillow and was dumb. “Answer me, my child. I may at least demand an answer.”
“I will answer you tomorrow, mamma.” Then the Countess fell on her knees at the bedside and uttered a long, incoherent prayer, addressed partly to the God of heaven, and partly to the poor girl who was lying there in bed, supplicating with mad, passionate eagerness that this evil thing might be turned away from her. Then she seized the girl in her embrace and nearly smothered her with kisses. “My own, my darling, my beauty, my all; save your mother from worse than death, if you can — if you can!”
Had such tenderness come sooner it might have had deeper effect. As it was, though the daughter was affected and harassed — though she was left panting with sobs and drowned in tears — she could not but remember the treatment she had suffered from her mother during the last six months. Had the request for a year’s delay come sooner, it would have been granted;, but now it was made after all measures of cruelty had failed. Ten times during the night did she say that she would yield — and ten times again did she tell herself that were she to yield now, she would be a slave all her life. She had resolved — whether right or wrong — still, with a strong mind and a great purpose, that she would not be turned from her way, and when she arose in the morning she was resolved again. She went into her mother’s room and at once declared her purpose. “Mamma, it cannot be. I am his, and I must not forget him or be ashamed of his name — no, not for a day.”
“Then go from me, thou ungrateful one, hard of heart, unnatural child, base, cruel, and polluted. Go from me, if it be possible, for ever!”
Then did they live for some days separated for a second time, each taking her meals in her own room; and Mrs Richards, the owner of the lodgings, went again to Mrs Bluestone, declaring that she was afraid of what might happen, and that she must pray to be relieved from the presence of the ladies. Mrs Bluestone had to explain that the lodgings had been taken for the quarter, and that a mother and daughter could not be put out into the street merely because they lived on bad terms with each other. The old woman, as was natural, increased her bills — but that had no effect.
On the 15th of May Lady Anna wrote a note to Daniel Thwaite, and sent a copy of it to her mother before she had posted it. It was in two lines:
Pray come and see me here. If you get this soon enough, pray come on Tuesday about one.
Yours affectionately, ANNA
“Tell mamma’, said she to Sarah, that I intend to go out and put that in the post today.” The letter was addressed to Wyndham Street. Now the Countess knew that Daniel Thwaite had left Wyndham Street.
“Tell her,” said the Countess, tell her — but, of what use to tell her anything? Let the door be closed upon her. She shall never return to me any more.” The message was given to Lady Anna as she went forth: but she posted the letter, and then called in Bedford Square. Mrs Bluestone returned with her to Keppel Street; but as the door was opened by Mrs Richards, and as no difficulty was made as to Lady Anna’s entrance, Mrs Bluestone returned home without asking to see the Countess.
This happened on a Saturday, but when Tuesday came Daniel Thwaite did not come to Keppel Street. The note was delivered in course of post at his old abode, and was redirected from Wyndham Street late on Monday evening — having no doubt given cause there for much curiosity and inspection. Late on the Tuesday it did reach Daniel Thwaite’s residence in Great Russell Street, but he was then out, wandering about the streets as was his wont, telling himself of all the horrors of an idle life, and thinking what steps he should take next as to the gaining of his bride. He had known to a day when she was of age, and had determined that he would allow her one month from thence before he would call upon her to say what should be their mutual fate. She had reached that age but a few days, and now she had written to him herself.
On returning home he received the girl’s letter, and when the early morning had come — the Wednesday morning, the day after that fixed by Lady Anna — he made up his mind as to his course of action. He breakfasted at eight, knowing how useless it would be to stir early, and then called in Keppel Street, leaving word with Mrs Richards herself that he would be there again at one o’clock to see Lady Anna. “You can tell Lady Anna that I only got her note last night very late.” Then he went off to the hotel in Albemarle Street at which he knew that Lord Lovel was living. It was something after nine when he reached the house, and the Earl was not yet out of his bedroom. Daniel, however, sent up his name, and the Earl begged that he would go into the sitting-room and wait. “Tell Mr Thwaite that I will not keep him above a quarter of an hour.” Then the tailor was shown into the room where the breakfast things were laid, and there he waited.
Within the last few weeks very much had been said to the Earl about Daniel Thwaite by many people, and especially by the Solicitor-General. “You may be sure that she will become his wife,” Sir William had said, “and I would advise you to accept him as her husband. She is not a girl such as we at first conceived her to be. She is firm of purpose, and very honest. Obstinate, if you will, and — if you will — obstinate to a bad end. But she is generous, and let her marry whom she will, you cannot cast her out. You will owe everything to her high sense of honour — and I am much mistaken if you will not owe much to him. Accept them both, and make the best of them. In five years he’ll be in Parliament as likely as not. In ten years he’ll be Sir Daniel Thwaite — if he cares for it. And in fifteen years Lady Anna will be supposed by everybody to have made a very happy marriage.” Lord Lovel was at this time inclined to be submissive in everything to his great adviser, and was now ready to take Mr Daniel Thwaite by the hand.
He did take him by the hand as he entered the sitting-room, radiant from his bath, clad in a short bright-coloured dressing-gown such as young men then wore o’ mornings, with embroidered slippers on his feet, and a smile on his face. “I have heard much of you, Mr Thwaite,” he said, and am glad to meet you at last. Pray sit down. I hope you have not breakfasted.”
Poor Daniel was hardly equal to the occasion. The young lord had been to him always an enemy — an enemy because the lord had been the adversary of the Countess and her daughter, an enemy because the lord was an earl and idle, an enemy because the lord was his rival. Though he now was nearly sure that this last ground of enmity was at an end, and though he had come to the Earl for certain purposes of his own, he could not bring himself to feel that there should be good fellowship between them. He took the hand that was offered to him, but took it awkwardly, and sat down as he was bidden. “Thank your lordship, but I breakfasted long since. If it will suit you, I will walk about and call again.”
“Not at all. I can eat, and you can talk to me. Take a cup of tea at any rate.” The Earl rang for another teacup, and began to butter his toast.
“I believe your lordship knows that I have long been engaged to marry your lordship’s cousin — Lady Anna Lovel.”
“Indeed I have been told so.”
“Well — yes; by herself.”
“I have been allowed to see her but once during the last eight or nine months.”
“That has not been my fault, Mr Thwaite.”
“I want you to understand, my lord, that it is not for her money that I have sought her.”
“I have not accused you, surely.”
“But I have been accused. I am going to see her now — if I can get admittance to her. I shall press her to fix a day for our marriage, and if she will do so, I shall leave no stone unturned to accomplish it. She has a right to do with herself as she pleases, and no consideration shall stop me but her wishes.”
“I shall not interfere.”
“I am glad of that, my lord.”
“But I will not answer for her mother. You cannot be surprised, Mr Thwaite, that Lady Lovel should be averse to such a marriage.”
“She was not averse to my father’s company nor to mine a few years since — no nor twelve months since. But I say nothing about that. Let her be averse. We cannot help it. I have come to you to say that I hope something may be done about the money before she becomes my wife. People say that you should have it.”
“Who says so?”
“I cannot say who — perhaps everybody. Should every shilling of it be yours I should marry her as willingly tomorrow. They have given me what is my own, and that is enough for me. For what is now hers and, perhaps, should be yours, I will not interfere with it. When she is my wife, I will guard for her and for those who may come after her what belongs to her then; but as to what may be done before that, I care nothing.”
On hearing this the Earl told him the whole story of the arrangement which was then in progress — how the property would in fact be divided into three parts, of which the Countess would have one, he one, and Lady Anna one. “There will be enough for us all,” said the Earl.
“And much more than enough for me,” said Daniel as he got up to take his leave. “And now I am going to Keppel Street.”
“You have all my good wishes,” said the Earl. The two men again shook hands — again the lord was radiant and good humoured — and again the tailor was ashamed and almost sullen. He knew that the young nobleman had behaved well to him, and it was a disappointment to him that any nobleman should behave well.
Nevertheless as he walked away slowly towards Keppel Street — for the time still hung on his hands — he began to feel that the great prize of prizes was coming nearer within his grasp.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01