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Lady Anna: Chapter 35

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The Serjeant and Mrs Bluestone at home


Commentary


Lady Anna was not told till the Saturday that she was to meet her lover, the tailor, on the following Monday. She was living at this time, as it were, in chains, though the chains were gilded. It was possible that she might be off at any moment with Daniel Thwaite--and now the more possible because he had money at his command. If this should occur, then would the game which the Countess and her friends were playing be altogether lost. Then would the checkmate have been absolute. The reader will have known that such a step had never been contemplated by the man, and will also have perceived that it would have been altogether opposed to the girl's character; but it is hoped that the reader has looked more closely into the man's motives and the girl's character than even her mother was able to do. The Countess had thought that she had known her daughter. She had been mistaken, and now there was hardly anything of which she could not suspect her girl to be capable. Lady Anna was watched, therefore, during every minute of the four and twenty hours. A policeman was told off to protect the house at night from rope ladders or any other less cumbrous ingenuity. The servants were set on guard. Sarah, the lady's maid, followed her mistress almost like a ghost when the poor young lady went to her bedroom. Mrs Bluestone, or one of the girls, was always with her, either indoors or out of doors. Out of doors, indeed, she never went without more guards than one. A carriage had been hired--a luxury with which Mrs Bluestone had hitherto dispensed--and the carriage was always there when Lady Anna suggested that she should like to leave the house. She was warmly invited to go shopping, and made to understand that in the way of ordinary shopping she could buy what she pleased. But her life was inexpressibly miserable. "What does mamma mean to do?" she said to Mrs Bluestone on the Saturday morning.

  • "She had been mistaken, and now there was hardly anything of which she could not suspect her girl to be capable." Suspicions and doubts are valid when based on the right assessment of one's character. Beyond that, it will be wild speculation on which gossip mostly feeds.

Why does the lawyer evince this great interest?

"In what way, my dear?"

"Where does she mean to go? She won't live always in Keppel Street?"

"No--I do not think that she will live always in Keppel Street. It depends a good deal upon you, I think."

"I will go wherever she pleases to take me. The lawsuit is over now, and I don't know why we should stay here. I am sure you can't like it."

  • "I am sure you can't like it." To tell the truth, Mrs. Bluestone did not like it at all." A clear early symptom of the later debacle. Symptoms are indicative, not determinative. We should study the symptoms from this point of view.

To tell the truth, Mrs Bluestone did not like it at all. Circumstances had made her a gaoler, but by nature she was very ill constituted for that office. The harshness of it was detestable to her, and then there was no reason whatever why she should sacrifice her domestic comfort for the Lovels. The thing had grown upon them, till the Lovels had become an incubus to her. Personally, she liked Lady Anna, but she was unable to treat Lady Anna as she would treat any other girl that she liked. She had told the Serjeant more than once that she could not endure it much longer. And the Serjeant did not like it better than did his wife. It was all a labour of love, and a most unpleasant labour. "The Countess must take her away," the Serjeant had said. And now the Serjeant had been told by the tailor, in his own chambers, that his word was worth nothing!

  • "The harshness of it was detestable to her," Josephine is harsh. Her harshness does not find an instrument in Mrs. Bluestone. A symptom of the ploy giving way.
  • "She had told the Serjeant more than once that she could not endure it much longer." She is a shallow character which when taxed with a heavy work recoils on itself.

"To tell you the truth, Lady Anna, we none of us like it--not because we do not like you, but because the whole thing is disagreeable. You are creating very great misery, my dear, because you are obstinate."

"Because I won't marry my cousin?"

"No, my dear; not because you won't marry your cousin. I have never advised you to marry your cousin, unless you could love him. I don't think girls should ever be told to marry this man or that. But it is very proper that they should be told not to marry this man or that. You are making everybody about you miserable, because you will not give up a most improper engagement, made with a man who is in every respect beneath you."

  • "I don't think girls should ever be told to marry this man or that." A great fact in England. Law cannot compel you to be kind, but it can compel you not to be cruel. Law is a code. It can ensure a minimum good, a negative good. Today Law is a negative instrument, preventing us from crimes. In a future society Law must be positive, compel us to do good. Just now fashion does it. It is said in heaven Love and Compassion have the force of ordinance. It is a measure of culture.

"I wish I were dead," said Lady Anna.

  • "I wish I were dead," said Lady Anna." One wishes to die when one is incapable of doing what he most desires. It only means he would die for his cause.

"It is very easy to say that, my dear; but what you ought to wish is, to do your duty."

"I do wish to do my duty, Mrs Bluestone."

"It can't be dutiful to stand out against your mother in this way. You are breaking your mother's heart. And if you were to do this thing, you would soon find that you had broken your own. It is downright obstinacy. I don't like to be harsh, but as you are here, in my charge, I am bound to tell you the truth."

  • "You are breaking your Mother's heart." She has none. It is the mother who breaks Anna's heart. Selfishness, when it has the strength, is ALWAYS capable of this cruelty. It is worth asking oneself whether he will do it himself.

"I wish mamma would let me go away," said Lady Anna, bursting into tears.

  • "I wish mamma would .............. bursting into tears." Tears are a minor version of wanting to die.

"She will let you go at once, if you will only make the promise that she asks of you." In saying this, Mrs Bluestone was hardly more upon the square than her husband had been, for she knew very well, at the moment, that Lady Anna was to go to Keppel Street early on the Monday morning, and she had quite made up her mind that her guest should not come back to Bedford Square. She had now been moved to the special severity which she had shown by certain annoyances of her own to which she had been subjected by the presence of Lady Anna in her house. She could neither entertain her friends nor go out to be entertained by them, and had told the Serjeant more than once that a great mistake had been made in having the girl there at all. But judgment had operated with her as well as feeling. It was necessary that Lady Anna should be made to understand before she saw the tailor that she could not be happy, could not be comfortable, could not be other than very wretched--till she had altogether dismissed her low-born lover.

  • "She will let you go at once, if you make the promise that she asks of you." To them a promise will be kept. In India any promise will be broken. Only physical confinement is the remedy.
  • "that her guest should not come back to Bedford," a presentiment.
  • "be made to understand before she saw the tailor that she could not he ............. low-born lover.” Cruelties at all times were the same, the process was the same. Severity has changed. Society is civilised only when the WAYS of cruelty are changed. The motive should be NOT to be cruel. It is not enough you do not beat. That is freedom.

"I did not think you would be so unkind to me," sobbed Lady Anna through her tears.

"I do not mean to be unkind, but you must be told the truth. Every minute that you spend in thinking of that man is a disgrace to you."

  • "I do not mean to be unkind, but you must be told the truth. ........... disgrace to you." When all persuade a man not to ruin himself by dissipation or wilfulness, these same methods are used. When you do not want one to be ruined, there is compassion in you. That will not allow you this language of threat. Higher ends cannot be reached by lower means. Here they are trying to get lower ends by lower means.

"Then I shall be disgraced all my life," said Lady Anna, bursting out of the room.

  • "Then I shall be disgraced all my life." said Lady Anna." True.

On that day the Serjeant dined at his club, but came home about nine o'clock. It had all been planned so that the information might be given in the most solemn manner possible. The two girls were sitting up in the drawing-room with the guest who, since the conversation in the morning, had only seen Mrs Bluestone during dinner. First there was the knock at the door, and then, after a quarter of an hour, which was spent upstairs in perfect silence, there came a message. Would Lady Anna have the kindness to go to the Serjeant in the dining-room? In silence she left the room, and in silence descended the broad staircase. The Serjeant and Mrs Bluestone were sitting on one side of the fireplace, the Serjeant in his own peculiar arm chair, and the lady close to the fender, while a seat opposite them had been placed for Lady Anna. The room was gloomy with dark red curtains and dark flock paper. On the table there burned two candles, and no more. The Serjeant got up and motioned Lady Anna to a chair. As soon as she had seated herself, he began his speech. "My dear young lady, you must be no doubt aware that you are at present causing a great deal of trouble to your best friends."

"I don't want to cause anybody trouble," said Lady Anna, thinking that the Serjeant in speaking of her best friends alluded to himself and his wife. "I only want to go away."

"I am coming to that directly, my dear. I cannot suppose that you do not understand the extent of the sorrow that you have inflicted on your parent by--by the declaration which you made to Lord Lovel in regard to Mr Daniel Thwaite." There is nothing, perhaps, in the way of exhortation and scolding which the ordinary daughter--or son--dislikes so much as to be told of her, or his, "parent'. "My dear fellow, your father will be annoyed," is taken in good part. "What will mamma say?" is seldom received amiss. But when young people have their "parents" thrown at them, they feel themselves to be aggrieved, and become at once antagonistic. Lady Anna became strongly antagonistic. If her mother, who had always been to her her "own, own mamma', was going to be her parent, there must be an end of all hope of happiness. She said nothing, but compressed her lips together. She would not allow herself to be led an inch anyway by a man who talked to her of her parent. "The very idea of such a marriage as this man had suggested to you under the guise of friendship was dreadful to her. It could be no more than an idea--but that you should have entertained it was dreadful. She has since asked you again and again to repudiate the idea, and hitherto you have refused to obey."

  • "dislike so much as to be told of her, or his, parent." The word carries the connotation of social authority.
  • "She would not allow her to be led an inch any .......... her parent." Josephine would rather be a parent or even a policeman than show any kindness.

"I can never know what mamma really wants till I go and live with her again."

"I am coming to that, Lady Anna. The Countess has informed Mrs Bluestone that you refused to give the desired promise unless you should be allowed to see Mr Daniel Thwaite, intimating, I presume, that his permission would be necessary to free you from your imaginary bond to him."

"It would be necessary."

"Very well. The Countess naturally felt an abhorrence at allowing you again to be in the presence of one so much beneath you--who had ventured to address you as he has done. It was a most natural feeling. But it has occurred to Mrs Bluestone and myself that, as you entertain this idea of an obligation, you should be allowed to extricate yourself from it after your own fashion. You are to meet Mr Thwaite--on Monday--at eleven o'clock--in Keppel Street."

"And I am not to come back again?"

  • "And I am not to come back again?" The lawyer's house is more odious to her than the surprise of meeting Daniel.

When one executes the office of gaoler without fee or reward, giving up to one's prisoner one's best bedroom, and having a company dinner, more or less, cooked for one's prisoner every day, one does not like to be told too plainly of the anticipated joys of enfranchisement. Mrs Bluestone, who had done her best for the mother and the girl, and had done it all from pure motherly sympathy, was a little hurt. "I am sure, Lady Anna, we shall not wish you to return," she said.

"Oh, Mrs Bluestone, you don't understand me. I don't think you know how unhappy I am because of mamma."

Mrs Bluestone relented at once. "If you will only do as your mamma wishes, everything will be made happy for you."

"Mr Thwaite will be in Keppel Street at eleven o'clock on Monday," continued the Serjeant, "and an opportunity will then be given you of obtaining from him a release from that unfortunate promise which I believe you once made him. I may tell you that he has expressed himself willing to give you that release. The debt due to him, or rather to his late father, has now been paid by the estate, and I think that you will find that he will make no difficulty. After that anything that he may require shall be done to forward his views."

"Am I to take my things?" she asked.

  • "Am I to take my things?" Her mind is not on Daniel, but how to get out.

"Sarah shall pack them up, and they shall be sent after you if it be decided that you are to stay with Lady Lovel." They then went to bed.

In all this neither the Serjeant nor his wife had been "on the square'. Neither of them had spoken truly to the girl. Mrs Bluestone had let the Countess know that with all her desire to assist her ladyship, and her ladyship's daughter, she could not receive Lady Anna back in Bedford Square. As for that sending of her things upon certain conditions--it was a simple falsehood. The things would certainly be sent. And the Serjeant, without uttering an actual lie, had endeavoured to make the girl think that the tailor was in pursuit of money--and of money only, though he must have known that it was not so. The Serjeant no doubt hated a lie--as most of us do hate lies; and had a strong conviction that the devil is the father of them. But then the lies which he hated and as to the parentage of which he was quite certain, were lies told to him. Who yet ever met a man who did not in his heart of hearts despise an attempt made by others to deceive--himself? They whom we have found to be gentler in their judgment towards attempts made in another direction have been more than one or two. The object which the Serjeant had in view was so good that it seemed to him to warrant some slight deviation from parallelogrammatic squareness--though he held it as one of his first rules of life that the end cannot justify the means.

  • "Neither of them had spoken truly to the girl." So false a pretence cannot find right words nor right emotions.
  • "without uttering an actual lie," To utter an actual lie is abhorrent to them all.
  • "The Serjeant no doubt hated a lie, - as most of us do hate lies;"
  • "Serjeant had in view was so good that it seemed to him to warrant some slight deviation," No object, however good, can be served by lies.

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