Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 13

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What ought she now to do? She believed that her grandfather's last days were coming, and she knew that others of the family should be with him besides herself. For their sakes, for his, and for her own, it would be proper that she should not be alone there when he died. But for whom should she send? Her brother was the natural heir, and would be the head of the family. Her duty to him was clear, and the more so as her grandfather was at this moment speaking of changes in his will. But it was a question to her whether George's presence at Vavasor, even if he would come, would not at this moment do more harm than good to his own interests. It would make some prejudicial change in the old man's will more probable instead of less so. George would not become soft and mild-spoken even by a death-bed side, and it would be likely enough that the Squire would curse his heir with his dying breath. She might send for her uncle John; but if she did so without telling George she would be treating George unfairly; and she knew that it was improbable that her uncle and her brother should act together in anything. Her aunt Greenow, she thought, would come to her, and her presence would not influence the Squire in any way with reference to the property. So she made up her mind at last that she would ask her aunt to come to Vavasor, and that she would tell her brother accurately all that she could tell,—leaving him to come or stay, as he might think. Alice would, no doubt, learn all the facts from him, and her uncle John would hear them from Alice. Then they could do as they pleased. As soon as Mr Gogram had been there she would write her letters, and they should be sent over to Shap early on the following morning.

Mr Gogram came and was closeted with the Squire, and the doctor also came. The doctor saw Kate, and, shaking his head, told her that her grandfather was sinking lower and lower every hour. It would be infinitely better for him if he would take that port wine at four doses in the day, or even at two, instead of taking it all together. Kate promised to try again, but stated her conviction that the trial would be useless. The doctor, when pressed on the matter, said that his patient might probably live a week, not improbably a fortnight,—perhaps a month, if he would be obedient,—and so forth. Gogram went away without seeing Kate; and Kate, who looked upon a will as an awful and somewhat tedious ceremony, was in doubt whether her grandfather would live to complete any new operation. But, in truth, the will had been made and signed and witnessed,—the parish clerk and one of the tenants having been had up into the room as witnesses. Kate knew that the men had been there, but still did not think that a new will had been perfected.

That evening when it was dusk the Squire came into the dining-room, having been shuffling about the grand sweep before the house for a quarter of an hour. The day was cold and the wind bleak, but still he would go out, and Kate had wrapped him up carefully in mufflers and great-coats. Now he came in to what he called dinner, and Kate sat down with him. He had drank no wine that day, although she had brought it to him twice during the morning. Now he attempted to swallow a little soup, but failed; and after that, while Kate was eating her bit of chicken, had the decanter put before him. "I can't eat, and I suppose it won't hurt you if I take my wine at once," he said. It went against the grain with him, even yet, that he could not wait till the cloth was gone from the table, but his impatience for the only sustenance that he could take was too much for him.

"But you should eat something, sir; will you have a bit of toast to sop in your wine?"

The word "sop" was badly chosen, and made the old Squire angry. "Sopped toast! why am I to spoil the only thing I can enjoy?"

"But the wine would do you more good if you would take something with it."

"Good! Nothing will do me any good any more. As for eating, you know I can't eat. What's the use of bothering me?" Then he filled his second glass, and paused awhile before he put it to his lips. He never exceeded four glasses, but the four he was determined that he would have, as long as he could lift them to his mouth.

Kate finished, or pretended to finish, her dinner within five minutes, in order that the table might be made to look comfortable for him. Then she poked the fire, and brushed up the hearth, and closed the old curtains with her own hands, moving about silently. As she moved his eye followed her, and when she came behind his chair, and pushed the decanter a little more within his reach, he put out his rough, hairy hand, and laid it upon one of hers which she had rested on the table, with a tenderness that was unusual with him. "You are a good girl, Kate. I wish you had been a boy, that's all."