Even the Bluestones were now convinced that Lady Anna Lovel must be allowed to marry the Keswick tailor, and that it would be expedient that no further impediment should be thrown in her way. Mrs Bluestone had been told, while walking to Keppel Street with the young lady, of the purport of the letter and of the invitation given to Daniel Thwaite. The Serjeant at once declared that the girl must have her own way — and the Solicitor-General, who also heard of it, expressed himself very strongly. It was absurd to oppose her. She was her own mistress. She had shown herself competent to manage her own affairs. The Countess must be made to understand that she had better yield at once with what best grace she could. Then it was that he made that prophecy to the Earl as to the future success of the fortunate tailor, and then too he wrote at great length to the Countess, urging many reasons why her daughter should be allowed to receive Mr Daniel Thwaite. “Your ladyship has succeeded in very much,” wrote the Solicitor-General, “and even in respect of this marriage you will have the satisfaction of feeling that the man is in every way respectable and well-behaved. I hear that he is an educated man, with culture much higher than is generally found in the state of life which he has till lately filled, and that he is a man of high feeling and noble purpose. The manner in which he has been persistent in his attachment to your daughter is in itself evidence of this. And I think that your ladyship is bound to remember that the sphere of life in which he has hitherto been a labourer would not have been so humble in its nature had not the means which should have started him in the world been applied to support and succour your own cause. I am well aware of your feelings of warm gratitude to the father — but I think you should bear in mind, on the son’s behalf, that he has been what he has been because his father was so staunch a friend to your ladyship. There was very much more of it, all expressing the opinion of Sir William that the Countess should at once open her doors to Daniel Thwaite.
The reader need hardly be told that this was wormwood to the Countess. It did not in the least touch her heart and had but little effect on her purpose. Gratitude — yes! But if the whole result of the exertion for which the receiver is bound to be grateful, is to be neutralised by the greed of the conferrer of the favour — if all is to be taken that has been given, and much more also — what ground will there be left for gratitude? If I save a man’s purse from a thief, and then demand for my work twice what that purse contained, the man had better have been left with the robbers. But she was told, not only that she ought to accept the tailor as a son-in-law, but also that she could not help herself. They should see whether she could not help herself. They should be made to acknowledge that she at any rate was in earnest in her endeavours to preserve pure and unspotted the honour of the family.
But what should she do? That she should put on a gala dress and a smiling face and be carried off to church with a troop of lawyers and their wives to see her daughter become the bride of a low journeyman, was of course out of the question. By no act, by no word, by no sign would she give aught of a mother’s authority to nuptials so disgraceful. Should her daughter become Lady Anna Thwaite, they two, mother and daughter, would never see each other again. Of so much at any rate she was sure. But could she be sure of nothing beyond that? She could at any rate make an effort.
Then there came upon her a mad idea — an idea which was itself evidence of insanity — of the glory which would be hers if by any means she could prevent the marriage. There would be a halo round her name were she to perish in such a cause, let the destruction come upon her in what form it might. She sat for hours meditating — and at every pause in her thoughts she assured herself that she could still make an effort.
She received Sir William’s letter late on the Tuesday — and during that night she did not lie down or once fall asleep. The man, as she knew, had been told to come at one on that day, and she had been prepared; but he did not come, and she then thought that the letter, which had been addressed to his late residence, had failed to reach him. During the night she wrote a very long answer to Sir William pleading her own cause, expatiating on her own feelings, and palliating any desperate deed which she might be tempted to perform. But, when the letter had been copied and folded, and duly sealed with the Lovel arms, she locked it in her desk, and did not send it on its way even on the following morning. When the morning came, shortly after eight o’clock, Mrs Richards brought up the message which Daniel had left at the door. “Be we to let him in, my lady?” said Mrs Richards with supplicating hands upraised. Her sympathies were all with Lady Anna, but she feared the Countess, and did not dare in such a matter to act without the mother’s sanction. The Countess begged the woman to come to her in an hour for further instructions, and at the time named Mrs Richards, full of the importance of her work, divided between terror and pleasurable excitement, again toddled upstairs. “Be we to let him in, my lady? God, he knows it’s hard upon the likes of me, who for the last three months doesn’t know whether I’m on my head or heels.” The Countess very quietly requested that when Mr Thwaite should call he might be shown into the parlour.
“I will see Mr Thwaite myself, Mrs Richards; but it will be better that my daughter should not be disturbed by any intimation of his coming.”
Then there was a consultation below stairs as to what should be done. There had been many such consultations, but they had all ended in favour of the Countess. Mrs Richards from fear, and the lady’s maid from favour, were disposed to assist the elder lady. Poor Lady Anna throughout had been forced to fight her battles with no friend near her. Now she had many friends — many who were anxious to support her, even the Bluestones, who had been so hard upon her while she was along with them — but they who were now her friends were never near her to assist her with a word.
So it came to pass that when Daniel Thwaite called at the house exactly at one o’clock Lady Anna was not expecting him. On the previous day at that hour she had sat waiting with anxious ears for the knock at the door which might announce his coming. But she had waited in vain. From one to two — even till seven in the evening, she had waited. But he had not come, and she had feared that some scheme had been used against her. The people at the Post Office had been bribed — or the women in Wyndham Street had been false. But she would not be hindered. She would go out alone and find him — if he were to be found in London.
When he did come, she was not thinking of his coming. He was shown into the dining-room, and within a minute afterwards the Countess entered with stately step. She was well dressed, even to the adjustment of her hair; and she was a woman so changed that he would hardly have known her as that dear and valued friend whose slightest word used to be a law to his father — but who in those days never seemed to waste a thought upon her attire. She had been out that morning walking through the streets, and the blood had mounted to her cheeks. He acknowledged to himself that she looked like a noble and high-born dame. There was a fire in her eye, and a look of scorn about her mouth and nostrils, which had even for him a certain fascination — odious to him as were the pretensions of the so-called great. She was the first to speak. “You have called to see my daughter,” she said.
“Yes, Lady Lovel — I have.”
“You cannot see her.”
“I came at her request.”
“I know you did, but you cannot see her. You can be hardly so ignorant of the ways of the world, Mr Thwaite, as to suppose that a young lady can receive what visitors she pleases without the sanction of her guardians.”
“Lady Anna Lovel has no guardian, my lady. She is of age, and is at present her own guardian.”
“I am her mother, and shall exercise the authority of a mother over her. You cannot see her. You had better go.”
“I shall not be stopped in this way, Lady Lovel.”
“Do you mean that you will force your way up to her? To do so you will have to trample over me — and there are constables in the street. You cannot see her. You had better go.”
“Is she a prisoner?”
“That is between her and me, and is no affair of yours. You are intruding here, Mr Thwaite, and cannot possibly gain anything by your intrusion.” Then she strode out in the passage, and motioned him to the front door. “Mr Thwaite, I will beg you to leave this house, which for the present is mine. If you have any proper feeling you will not stay after I have told you that you are not welcome.”
But Lady Anna, though she had not expected the coming of her lover, had heard the sound of voices, and then became aware that the man was below. As her mother was speaking she rushed downstairs and threw herself into her lover’s arms. “It shall never be so in my presence,” said the Countess, trying to drag the girl from his embrace by the shoulders.
“Anna — my own Anna,” said Daniel in an ecstasy of bliss. It was not only that his sweetheart was his own, but that her spirit was so high.
“Daniel!” she said, still struggling in his arms.
By this time they were all in the parlour, whither the Countess had been satisfied to retreat to escape the eyes of the women who clustered at the top of the kitchen stairs. “Daniel Thwaite,” said the Countess, if you do not leave this, the blood which will be shed shall rest on your head,” and so saying, she drew nigh to the window and pulled down the blind. She then crossed over and did the same to the other blind, and having done so, took her place close to a heavy upright desk, which stood between the fireplace and the window. When the two ladies first came to the house they had occupied only the first and second floors — but, since the success of their cause, the whole had been taken, including the parlour in which this scene was being acted; and the Countess spent many hours daily sitting at the heavy desk in this dark gloomy chamber.
“Whose blood shall be shed?” said Lady Anna, turning to her mother.
“It is the raving of madness,” said Daniel.
“Whether it be madness or not, you shall find, sir, that it is true. Take your hands from her. Would you disgrace the child in the presence of her mother?”
“There is no disgrace, mamma. He is my own, and I am his. Why should you try to part us?”
But now they were parted. He was not a man to linger much over the sweetness of a caress when sterner work was in his hands to be done. “Lady Lovel,” he said, you must see that this opposition is fruitless. Ask your cousin, Lord Lovel, and he will tell you that it is so.”
“I care nothing for my cousin. If he be false, I am true. Though all the world be false, still will I be true. I do not ask her to marry her cousin. I simply demand that she shall relinquish one who is infinitely beneath her — who is unfit to tie her very shoe-string.”
“He is my equal in all things’, said Lady Anna, and he shall be my lord and husband.”
“I know of no inequalities such as those you speak of, Lady Lovel,” said the tailor. “The excellence of your daughter’s merits I admit, and am almost disposed to claim some goodness for myself, finding that one so good can love me. But, Lady Lovel, I do not wish to remain here now. You are disturbed.”
“I am disturbed, and you had better go.”
“I will go at once if you will let me name some early day on which I may be allowed to meet Lady Anna — alone. And I tell her here that if she be not permitted so to see me, it will be her duty to leave her mother’s house, and come to me. There is my address, dear.” Then he handed her a paper on which he had written the name of the street and number at which he was now living. “You are free to come and go as you list, and if you will send to me there, I will find you here or elsewhere as you may command me. It is but a short five minutes’ walk beyond the house at which you were staying in Bedford Square.”
The Countess stood silent for a moment or two, looking at them, during which neither the girl spoke nor her lover. “You will not even allow her six months to think of it?” said the Countess.
“I will allow her six years if she says that she requires time to think of it.”
“I do not want an hour — not a minute,” said Lady Anna.
The mother flashed round upon her daughter. “Poor vain, degraded wretch,” she said.
“She is a true woman, honest to the heart’s core,” said the lover.
“You shall come tomorrow,” said the Countess. Do you hear me, Anna? — he shall come tomorrow. There shall be an end of this in some way, and I am broken-hearted. My life is over for me, and I may as well lay me down and die. I hope God in his mercy may never send upon another woman — upon another wife, or another mother — trouble such as that with which I have been afflicted. But I tell you this, Anna; that what evil a husband can do — even let him be evil-minded as was your father — is nothing — nothing — nothing to the cruelty of a cruel child. Go now, Mr Thwaite; if you please. If you will return at the same hour tomorrow she shall speak with you — alone. And then she must do as she pleases.”
“Anna, I will come again tomorrow,” said the tailor. But Lady Anna did not answer him. She did not speak, but stayed looking at him till he was gone.
“Tomorrow shall end it all. I can stand this no longer. I have prayed to you — a mother to her daughter; I have prayed to you for mercy, and you will show me none. I have knelt to you.”
“I will kneel again if it may avail.” And the Countess did kneel. “Will you not spare me?”
“Get up, mamma; get up. What am I doing — what have I done that you should speak to me like this?”
“I ask you from my very soul — lest I commit some terrible crime. I have sworn that I would not see this marriage — and I will not see it.”
“If he will consent I will delay it,” said the girl, trembling.
“Must I beg to him then? Must I kneel to him? Must I ask him to save me from the wrath to come? No, my child, I will not do that. If it must come, let it come. When you were a little thing at my knees, the gentlest babe that ever mother kissed, I did not think that you would live to be so hard to me. You have your mother’s brow, my child, but you have your father’s heart.”
“I will ask him to delay it,” said Anna.
“No — if it be to come to that I will have no dealings with you. What; that he — he who has come between me and all my peace, he who with his pretended friendship has robbed me of my all, that he is to be asked to grant me a few weeks’ delay before this pollution comes upon me — during which the whole world will know that Lady Anna Lovel is to be the tailor’s wife! Leave me. When he comes tomorrow, you shall be sent for; but I will see him first. Leave me, now. I would be alone.”
Lady Anna made an attempt to take her mother’s hand, but the Countess repulsed her rudely. “Oh, mamma!”
“We must be bitter enemies or loving friends, my child. As it is we are bitter enemies; yes, the bitterest. Leave me now. There is no room for further words between us.” Then Lady Anna slunk up to her own room.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55