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The Tailor of Keswick


Old Thomas Thwaite was at this time up in London about the business of the Countess, but had no intention of residing there. He still kept his shop in Keswick, and still made coats and trousers for Cumberland statesmen. He was by no means in a condition to retire from business, having spent the savings of his life in the cause of the Countess and her daughter. Men had told him that, had he not struck the Earl in the yard of the Crown at Keswick, as horses were being brought out for the lord's travelling carriage, ample provision would have been made by the rich old sinner for his daughter. That might have been so, or might not, but the saying instigated the tailor to further zeal and increased generosity. To oppose an Earl, even though it might be on behalf of a Countess, was a joy to him; to set wrong right, and to put down cruelty and to relieve distressed women was the pride of his heart--especially when his efforts were made in antagonism to one of high rank. And he was a man who would certainly be thorough in his work, though his thoroughness should be ruinous to himself. He had despised the Murrays, who ought to have stuck to their distant cousin, and had exulted in his heart at thinking that the world would say how much better and truer had been the Keswick tailor than the well-born and comparatively wealthy Scotch relations. And the poets of the lakes, who had not as yet become altogether Tories, had taken him by the hand and praised him. The rights of the Countess and the wrongs of the Countess had become his life. But he still kept on a diminished business in the north, and it was now needful that he should return to Cumberland. He had heard that renewed offers of compromise were to be made--though no idea of the proposed marriage between the distant cousins had been suggested to him. He had been discussing the question of some compromise with the Countess when she spoke to him respecting his son; and had recommended that certain terms should, if possible, be effected. Let the money be divided, on condition that the marriage were allowed. There could be no difficulty in this if the young lord would accede to such an arrangement, as the marriage must be acknowledged unless an adverse party should bring home proof from Italy to the contrary. The sufficiency of the ceremony in Applethwaite Church was incontestable. Let the money be divided, and the Countess be Countess Lovel, and Lady Anna be the Lady Anna to all the world. Old Thomas Thwaite himself had seemed to think that there would be enough of triumph in such a settlement. "But the woman might afterwards be bribed to come over and renew her claim," said the Countess. "Unless it be absolutely settled now, they will say when I am dead and gone that my daughter has no right to her name." Then the tailor said that he would make further inquiry how that might be. He was inclined to think that there might be a decision which should be absolute, even though that decision should be reached by compromise between the now contending parties.

  • The negative completes the positive. During the heydays of aristocracy, society trying to work for a whole, a social whole uniting two classes picks the loose ends and tries to patch one with the other. Josephine by her poverty belongs not to the aristocracy. How the fight goes on, how threads seek the opposite ones, how they are generated is for the social scientist to study. As a personal study and an illustration of the above principle, this is great example. Thomas the tailor is a fine example of men who sacrifice for a cause. His losing the money, the indifference of the world to it as a fact, when it comes back their audacity in treating it as a gift are all excellent examples of impersonal public service and the callous public sentiment.

The Countess would not accept the money without the rank. Anna would not accept the rank without Daniel. The Countess, in opposing Anna, opposes herself.

  • “certainly be thorough…” A truism of life. Thoroughness prevails, regardless of the result.
  • “He had despised the Murrays…” The world has not said it. If occasion arises, the world would refuse to speak it.
  • “poets of the lakes,” These are his own admirers, not the world.

Then the Countess had said her word about Daniel Thwaite the son, and Thomas Thwaite the father had heard it with ill-concealed anger. To fight against an Earl on behalf of the Earl's injured wife had been very sweet to him, but to be checked in his fight because he and his were unfit to associate with the child of that injured wife was very bitter. And yet he had sense to know that what the Countess said to him was true. As far as words went, he admitted the truth; but his face was more eloquent than his words, and his face showed plainly his displeasure.

  • “with ill-concealed anger” Help given must be returned as insult. This is a rule, an absolute rule.

"It is not of you that I am speaking," said the Countess, laying her hand upon the old man's sleeve.

"Daniel is, at any rate, fitter than I," said the tailor. "He has been educated, and I never was."

"He is as good as gold. It is not of that I speak. You know what I mean."

"I know very well what you mean, Lady Lovel."

"I have no friend like you, Mr Thwaite--none whom I love as I do you. And next to you is your son. For myself, there is nothing that I would not do for him or you--no service, however menial, that I would not render you with my own hands. There is no limit to the gratitude which I owe you. But my girl is young, and if this burden of rank and wealth is to be hers--it is proper that she do honour to it."

"And it is not honourable that she should be seen speaking--to a tailor?"

"Ah--if you choose to take it so!"

"How should I take it? What I say is true. And what you say is true also. I will speak to Daniel." But she knew well, as he left her, that his heart was bitter against her.

  • “his heart was bitter…” She did not see him dying. His bitterness is enough to spoil her ambition.

The old man did speak to his son, sitting with him up in the bedroom over that which the Countess occupied. Old Thomas Thwaite was a strong man, but his son was in some respects stronger. As his father had said of him, he had been educated--or rather instructed; and instruction leads to the power of thinking. He looked deeper into things than did his father, and was governed by wider and greater motives. His father had been a Radical all his life, guided thereto probably by some early training, and made steadfast in his creed by feelings which induced him to hate the pretensions of an assumed superiority. Old Thwaite could not endure to think that one man should be considered to be worthier than another because he was richer. He would admit the riches, and even the justice of the riches--having been himself, during much of his life, a rich man in his own sphere; but would deny the worthiness; and would adduce, in proof of his creed, the unworthiness of certain exalted sinners. The career of the Earl Lovel had been to him a sure proof of the baseness of English aristocracy generally. He had dreams of a republic in which a tailor might be president or senator, or something almost noble. But no rational scheme of governance among mankind had ever entered his mind, and of pure politics he knew no more than the journeyman who sat stitching upon his board.

But Daniel Thwaite was a thoughtful man who had read many books. More's Utopia and Harrington's Oceana, with many a tale written in the same spirit, had taught him to believe that a perfect form of government, or rather of policy, under which all men might be happy and satisfied, was practicable on earth and was to be achieved not merely by the slow amelioration of mankind under God's fostering ordinances, but by the continued efforts of good and wise men who, by their goodness and wisdom, should be able to make the multitude believe in them. To diminish the distances, not only between the rich and the poor but between the high and the low, was the grand political theory upon which his mind was always running. His father was ever thinking of himself and of Earl Lovel; while Daniel Thwaite was considering the injustice of the difference between ten thousand aristocrats and thirty million of people, who were for the most part ignorant and hungry. But it was not that he also had not thoughts of himself. Gradually he had come to learn that he need not have been a tailor's foreman in Wigmore Street had not his father spent on behalf of the Countess Lovel the means by which he, the son, might already have become a master tradesman. And yet he had never begrudged it. He had been as keen as his father in the cause. It had been the romance of his life, since his life had been capable of romance--but with him it had been no respect for the rank to which his father was so anxious to restore the Countess, no value which he attached to the names claimed by the mother and the daughter. He hated the Countess-ship of the Countess, and the ladyship of the Lady Anna. He would fain that they should have abandoned them. They were to him odious signs of iniquitous pretensions. But he was keen enough to punish and to remedy the wickedness of the wicked Earl. He reverenced his father because he assaulted the wicked Earl and struck him to the ground. He was heart and soul in the cause of the injured wife. And then the one thing on earth that was really dear to him was the Lady Anna.

  • “God’s fostering ordinances…” Wherever God occurs in this book, it means ‘What is beyond me, but according to my wish.’
  • “he had never begrudged it.” Generous
  • “respect for the rank…” He hated them means subconsciously adored.
  • “Boys had jeered him…” This is the example of a sweet accusation. He is to defend what he hates because he really respects it.
  • “was fond of power.” He fights for power.
  • “possession of the girl…” Another reason why Lord Lovel was paid.

It had been the romance of his life. They had grown up together as playmates in Cumberland. He had fought scores of battles on her behalf with those who had denied that she was the Lady Anna--even though he had then hated the title. Boys had jeered him because of his noble little sweetheart, and he had exulted at hearing her so called. His only sister and his mother had died when he was young, and there had been none in the house but his father and himself. As a boy he had ever been at the cottage of the Countess, and he had sworn to Lady Anna a thousand times that he would do and die in her service. Now he was a strong man, and was more devoted to her than ever. It was the great romance of his life. How could it be brought to pass that the acknowledged daughter of an Earl, dowered with enormous wealth, should become the wife of a tailor? And yet such was his ambition and such his purpose. It was not that he cared for her dower. It was not, at any rate, the hope of her dower that had induced him to love her. His passion had grown and his purpose had been formed before the old Earl had returned for the last time to Lovel Grange--when nothing was known of the manner in which his wealth might be distributed. That her prospect of riches now joined itself to his aspirations it would be an affectation to deny. The man who is insensible to the power which money brings with it must be a dolt; and Daniel Thwaite was not a dolt, and was fond of power. But he was proud of heart, and he said to himself over and over again that should it ever come to pass that the possession of the girl was to depend on the abandonment of the wealth, the wealth should be abandoned without a further thought.

It may be imagined that with such a man the words which his father would speak to him about the Lady Anna, suggesting the respectful distance with which she should be approached by a tailor's foreman, would be very bitter. They were bitter to the speaker and very bitter to him who heard them. "Daniel," said the father, "this is a queer life you are leading with the Countess and Lady Anna just beneath you, in the same house."

"It was a quiet house for them to come to--and cheap."

"Quiet enough, and as cheap as any, I dare say--but I don't know whether it is well that you should be thrown so much with them. They are different from us." The son looked at his father, but made no immediate reply. "Our lot has been cast with theirs because of their difficulties," continued the old man, "but the time is coming when we had better stand aloof."

"What do you mean, father?"

"I mean that we are tailors, and these people are born nobles."

"They have taken our help, father."

"Well; yes, they have. But it is not for us to say anything of that. It has been given with a heart."

"Certainly with a heart."

"And shall be given to the end. But the end of it will come soon now. One will be a Countess and the other will be the Lady Anna. Are they fit associates for such as you and me?"

"If you ask me, father, I think they are."

"They don't think so. You may be sure of that."

"Have they said so, father?"

"The Countess has said so. She has complained that you call her daughter simply Anna. In future you must give her a handle to her name." Daniel Thwaite was a dark brown man, with no tinge of ruddiness about him, a thin spare man, almost swarthy, whose hands were as brown as a nut, and whose cheeks and forehead were brown. But now he blushed up to his eyes. The hue of the blood as it rushed to his face forced itself through the darkness of his visage, and he blushed, as such men do blush--with a look of indignation on his face. "Just call her Lady Anna," said the father.

"The Countess has been complaining of me then?"

"She has hinted that her daughter will be injured by your familiarity, and she is right. I suppose that the Lady Anna Lovel ought to be treated with deference by a tailor--even though the tailor may have spent his last farthing in her service."

"Do not let us talk about the money, father."

"Well; no. I'd as lief not think about the money either. The world is not ripe yet, Daniel."

"No--the world is not ripe."

"There must be earls and countesses."

"I see no must in it. There are earls and countesses as there used to be mastodons and other senseless, overgrown brutes roaming miserable and hungry through the undrained woods--cold, comfortless, unwieldy things, which have perished in the general progress. The big things have all to give way to the intellect of those which are more finely made."

"I hope men and women will not give way to bugs and fleas," said the tailor, who was wont to ridicule his son's philosophy.

The son was about to explain his theory of the perfected mean size of intellectual created beings, when his heart was at the present moment full of Anna Lovel. "Father," he said, "I think that the Countess might have spared her observations."

"I thought so too--but as she said it, it was best that I should tell you. You'll have to marry some day, and it wouldn't do that you should look there for your sweetheart." When the matter was thus brought home to him, Daniel Thwaite would argue it no further. "It will all come to an end soon," continued the old man, "and it may be that they had better not move till it is settled. They'll divide the money, and there will be enough for both in all conscience. The Countess will be the Countess, and the Lady Anna will be the Lady Anna; and then there will be no more need of the old tailor from Keswick. They will go into another world, and we shall hear from them perhaps about Christmas time with a hamper of game, and may be a little wine, as a gift."

"You do not think that of them, father."

"What else can they do? The lawyers will pay the money, and they will be carried away. They cannot come to our house, nor can we go to theirs. I shall leave tomorrow, my boy, at six o'clock; and my advice to you is to trouble them with your presence as little as possible. You may be sure that they do not want it."

Daniel Thwaite was certainly not disposed to take his father's advice, but then he knew much more than did his father. The above scene took place in the evening, when the son's work was done. As he crept down on the following morning by the door of the room in which the two ladies slept, he could not but think of his father's words, "It wouldn't do that you should look there for your sweetheart." Why should it not do? But any such advice as that was now too late. He had looked there for his sweetheart. He had spoken, and the girl had answered him. He had held her close to his heart, and had pressed her lips to his own, and had called her his Anna, his well-beloved, his pearl, his treasure; and she--she had only sighed in his arms, and yielded to his embrace. She had wept alone when she thought of it, with a conscious feeling that as she was the Lady Anna there could be no happy love between herself and the only youth whom she had known. But when he had spoken, and had clasped her to his heart, she had never dreamed of rebuking him. She had known nothing better than he, and desired nothing better than to live with him and to be loved by him. She did not think that it could be possible to know anyone better. This weary, weary title filled her with dismay. Daniel, as he walked along thinking of her embrace, thinking of those kisses, and thinking also of his father's caution, swore to himself that the difficulties in his way should never stop him in his course.

  • Men and women act in their life as if they KNOW what to do. Do we know anything beyond the merest needs of survival? When an issue or a crisis comes, the best of us know absolutely nothing as Nehru did not know what to do with the refugees. The rules are 1) You know your earlier life or routine, 2) In new issues what acts is not your thought, as thought cannot have any reference. It is the emotional impulse. Gandhiji’s satyagraha worked as long as the spiritual force of Sri Aurobindo was there. Calcutta was the end. Beyond he was a failure. Jinnah would not listen, nor the Muslims. Sri Aurobindo expressed negatively through Gandhiji.

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