But the Countess never gave way an inch. The following was the answer which she returned to the note written to her by Aunt Julia--
The Countess Lovel presents her compliments to Miss Lovel. The Countess disapproves altogether of the marriage which is about to take place between Lady Anna Lovel and Mr Daniel Thwaite, and will take no part in the ceremony.
"By heavens--she is the best Lovel of us all," said the rector when he read the letter.
This reply was received at Yoxham three days before any answer came either from Lady Anna or from the tailor. Daniel had received his communication from the young lord, who had called him "Dear Mr Thwaite," who had written quite familiarly about the coming nuptials with "his cousin Anna'--had bade him come down and join the family "like a good fellow'--and had signed himself, "Yours always most sincerely, Lovel." "It almost takes my breath away," said the tailor to his sweetheart, laughing.
"They are cousins, you know," said Lady Anna. "And there was a little girl there I loved so much."
"They can't but despise me, you know," said the tailor.
"Why should anyone despise you?"
"No one should--unless I be mean and despicable. But they do--you may be sure. It is only human nature that they should. We are made of different fabric--though the stuff was originally the same. I don't think I should be at my ease with them. I should be half afraid of their gilt and their gingerbread, and should be ashamed of myself because I was so. I should not know how to drink wine with them, and should do a hundred things which would make them think me a beast."
"I don't see why you shouldn't hold up your head with any man in England," said Lady Anna.
"And so I ought--but I shouldn't. I should be awed by those whom I feel to be my inferiors. I had rather not. We had better keep to ourselves, dear!" But the girl begged for some delay. It was a matter that required to be considered. If it were necessary for her to quarrel with all her cousins for the sake of her husband -- with the bright fainéant young Earl, with Aunts Jane and Julia, with her darling Minnie, she would do so. The husband should be to her in all respects the first and foremost. For his sake, now that she had resolved that she would be his, she would if necessary separate herself from all the world. She had withstood the prayers of her mother, and she was sure that nothing else could move her. But if the cousins were willing to accept her husband, why should he not be willing to be accepted? Pride in him might be as weak as pride in them. If they would put out their hands to him, why should he refuse to put out his own? "Give me a day, Daniel, to think about it." He gave her the day, and then that great decider of all things, Sir William, came to him, congratulating him, bidding him be of good cheer, and saying fine things of the Lovel family generally. Our tailor received him courteously, having learned to like the man, understanding that he had behaved with honesty and wisdom in regard to his client, and respecting him as one of the workers of the day; but he declared that for the Lovel family, as a family--he "did not care for them particularly'. "They are poles asunder from me," he said.
"Not so," replied Sir William. "They were poles asunder, if you will. But by your good fortune and merit, if you will allow me to say so, you have travelled from the one pole very far towards the other."
"I like my own pole a deal the best, Sir William."
"I am an older man than you, Mr Thwaite, and allow me to assure you that you are wrong."
"Wrong in preferring those who work for their bread to those who eat it in idleness?"
"Not that--but wrong in thinking that there is not hard work done at the one pole as well as the other; and wrong also in not having perceived that the best men who come up from age to age are always migrating from that pole which you say you prefer, to the antipodean pole to which you are tending yourself. I can understand your feeling of contempt for an idle lordling, but you should remember that lords have been made lords in nine cases out of ten for good work done by them for the benefit of their country."
"Why should the children of lords be such to the tenth and twentieth generation?"
"Come into parliament, Mr Thwaite, and if you have views on that subject opposed to hereditary peerages, express them there. It is a fair subject for argument. At present, I think that the sense of the country is in favour of an aristocracy of birth. But be that as it may, do not allow yourself to despise that condition of society which it is the ambition of all men to enter."
"It is not my ambition."
"Pardon me. When you were a workman among workmen, did you not wish to be their leader? When you were foremost among them, did you not wish to be their master? If you were a master tradesman, would you not wish to lead and guide your brother tradesmen? Would you not desire wealth in order that you might be assisted by it in your views of ambition? If you were an alderman in your borough, would you not wish to be the mayor? If mayor, would you not wish to be its representative in Parliament? If in Parliament, would you not wish to be heard there? Would you not then clothe yourself as those among whom you lived, eat as they ate, drink as they drank, keep their hours, fall into their habits, and be one of them? The theory of equality is very grand."
"The grandest thing in the world, Sir William."
"It is one to which all legislative and all human efforts should and must tend. All that is said and all that is done among people that have emancipated themselves from the thraldom of individual aggrandisement, serve to diminish in some degree the distance between the high and the low. But could you establish absolute equality in England tomorrow, as it was to have been established in France some half century ago, the inequality of men's minds and character would re-establish an aristocracy within twenty years. The energetic, the talented, the honest, and the unselfish will always be moving towards an aristocratic side of society, because their virtues will beget esteem, and esteem will beget wealth--and wealth gives power for good offices."
"As when one man throws away forty thousand a year on racecourses."
"When you make much water boil, Mr Thwaite, some of it will probably boil over. When two men run a race, some strength must be wasted in fruitless steps beyond the goal. It is the fault of many patriotic men that, in their desire to put down the evils which exist, they will see only the power that is wasted, and have no eyes for the good work done. The subject is so large that I should like to discuss it with you when we have more time. For the present let me beg of you, for your own sake as well as for her who is to be your wife, that you will not repudiate civility offered to you by her family. It will show a higher manliness in you to go among them, and accept among them the position which your wife's wealth and your own acquirements will give you, than to stand aloof moodily because they are aristocrats."
"You can make yourself understood when you speak, Sir William."
"I am glad to hear you say so," said the lawyer, smiling.
"I cannot, and so you have the best of me. But you can't make me like a lord, or think that a young man ought to wear a silk gown."
"I quite agree with you that the silk gowns should be kept for their elders," and so the conversation was ended.
Daniel Thwaite had not been made to like a lord, but the eloquence of the urbane lawyer was not wasted on him. Thinking of it all as he wandered alone through the streets, he began to believe that it would be more manly to do as he was advised than to abstain because the doing of the thing would in itself be disagreeable to him. On the following day, Lady Anna was with him as usual; for the pretext of his wound still afforded to her the means of paying to him those daily visits which in happier circumstances he would naturally have paid to her. "Would you like to go to Yoxham?" he said. She looked wistfully up into his face. With her there was a real wish that the poles might be joined together by her future husband. She had found, as she had thought of it, that she could not make herself either happy or contented except by marrying him, but it had not been without regret that she had consented to destroy altogether the link which bound her to the noble blood of the Lovels. She had been made to appreciate the sweet flavour of aristocratic influences, and now that the Lovels were willing to receive her in spite of her marriage, she was more than willing to accept their offered friendship. "If you really wish it, you shall go," he said.
"But you must go also."
"Yes--for one day. And I must have a pair of gloves and a black coat."
"And a blue one--to be married in."
"Alas me! Must I have a pink silk gown to walk about in, early in the morning?"
"You shall if you like, and I'll make it for you."
"I'd sooner see you darning my worsted stockings, sweetheart."
"I can do that too."
"And I shall have to go to church in a coach, and come back in another, and all the people will smell sweet, and make eyes at me behind my back, and wonder among themselves how the tailor will behave himself."
"The tailor must behave himself properly," said Lady Anna.
"That's just what he won't do--and can't do. I know you'll be ashamed of me, and then we shall both be unhappy."
"I won't be ashamed of you. I will never be ashamed of you. I will be ashamed of them if they are not good to you. But, Daniel, you shall not go if you do not like it. What does it all signify, if you are not happy?"
"I will go," said he. "And now I'll sit down and write a letter to my lord."
Two letters were written accepting the invitation. As that from the tailor to the lord was short and characteristic it shall be given.
My Dear Lord,
I am much obliged to you for your lordship's invitation to Yoxham, and if accepting it will make me a good fellow, I will accept it. I fear, however, that I can never be a proper fellow to your lordship. Not the less do I feel your courtesy, and I am,
With all sincerity,
Your Lordship's very obedient servant,
Lady Anna's reply to Aunt Julia was longer and less sententious, but it signified her intention of going down to Yoxham a week before the day settled for the marriage, which was now the 10th of July. She was much obliged, she said, to the rector for his goodness in promising to marry them; and as she had no friends of her own she hoped that Minnie Lovel would be her bridesmaid. There were, however, sundry other letters before the ceremony was performed, and among them was one in which she was asked to bring Miss Alice Bluestone down with her--so that she might have one bridesmaid over and beyond those provided by the Yoxham aristocracy. To this arrangement Miss Alice Bluestone acceded joyfully--in spite of that gulf, of which she had spoken--and, so accompanied, but without her lady's maid, Lady Anna returned to Yoxham that she might be there bound in holy matrimony to Daniel Thwaite the tailor, by the hands of her cousin, the Rev Charles Lovel.