Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 14

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Queen Anne Street, April, 186––.

Dearest Kate,

I hardly know how to write to you—what I have to tell, and yet I must tell it. I must tell it to you, but I shall never repeat the story to any one else. I should have written yesterday, when it occurred, but I was so ill that I felt myself unable to make the exertion. Indeed, at one time, after your brother had left me, I almost doubted whether I should ever be able to collect my thoughts again. My dismay was at first so great that my reason for a time deserted me, and I could only sit and cry like an idiot.

Dear Kate, I hope you will not be angry with me for telling you. I have endeavoured to think about it as calmly as I can, and I believe that I have no alternative. The fact that your brother has quarrelled with me cannot be concealed from you, and I must not leave him to tell you of the manner of it. He came to me yesterday in great anger. His anger then was nothing to what it became afterwards; but even when he first came in he was full of wrath. He stood up before me, and asked me how it had come to pass that I had sent him the money which he had asked of me through the hands of Mr Grey. Of course I had not done this, and so I told him at once. I had spoken of the matter to no one but papa, and he had managed it for me. Even now I know nothing of it, and as I have not yet spoken to papa I cannot understand it. George at once told me that he disbelieved me, and when I sat quiet under this insult, he used harsher words, and said that I had conspired to lower him before the world.

He then asked me whether I loved him. Oh, Kate, I must tell it you all, though it is dreadful to me that I should have to write it. You remember how it came to pass when we were in Westmoreland together at Christmas? Do not think that I am blaming you, but I was very rash then in the answers which I made to him. I thought that I could be useful to him as his wife, and I had told myself that it would be good that I should be of use in some way. When he asked me that question yesterday, I sat silent. Indeed, how could I have answered it in the affirmative, when he had just used such language to me,—while he was standing opposite to me, looking at me in that way which he has when he is enraged? Then he spoke again and demanded of me that I should at once send back to Mr Grey all presents of his which I had kept, and at the same time took up and threw across the table on to the sofa near me, a little paper knife which Mr Grey once gave me. I could not allow myself to be so ordered by him; so I said nothing, but put the knife back upon the table. He then took it again and threw it beneath the grate. "I have a right to look upon you as my wife," he said, "and, as such, I will not allow you to keep that man's things about you." I think I told him then that I should never become his wife, but though I remember many of his words, I remember none of my own. He swore, I know, with a great oath, that if I went back a second time from my word to him he would leave me no peace,—that he would punish me for my perfidy with some fearful punishment. Oh, Kate, I cannot tell you what he looked like. He had then come quite close to me, and I know that I trembled before him as though he were going to strike me. Of course I said nothing. What could I say to a man who behaved to me in such a manner? Then, as far as I can remember it, he sat down and began to talk about money. I forget what he said at first, but I know that I assured him that he might take what he wanted so long as enough was left to prevent my being absolutely a burden on papa. "That, madam, is a matter of course," he said. I remember those words so well. Then he explained that after what had passed between us, I had no right to ruin him by keeping back from him money which had been promised to him, and which was essential to his success. In this, dear Kate, I think he was mainly right. But he could not have been right in putting it to me in that hard, cruel manner, especially as I had never refused anything that he had asked of me in respect of money. The money he may have while it lasts; but then there must be an end of it all between us, even though he should have the power of punishing me, as he says he will do. Punishing me, indeed! What punishment can be so hard as that which he has already inflicted?

He then desired me to write a letter to him which he might show to the lawyer,—to our own lawyer, I think he meant,—in order that money might be raised to pay back what Mr Grey had advanced, and give him what he now required. I think he said it was to be five thousand pounds. When he asked this I did not move. Indeed, I was unable to move. Then he spoke very loud, and swore at me again, and brought me pen and ink, demanding that I should write the letter. I was so frightened that I thought of running to the door to escape, and I would have done so had I not distrusted my own power. Had it been to save my life I could not have written the letter. I believe I was now crying,—at any rate I threw myself back and covered my face with my hands. Then he came and sat by me, and took hold of my arms. Oh, Kate; I cannot tell it you all. He put his mouth close to my ear, and said words which were terrible, though I did not understand them. I do not know what it was he said, but he was threatening me with his anger if I did not obey him. Before he left me, I believe I found my voice to tell him that he should certainly have the money which he required. And so he shall. I will go to Mr Round myself, and insist on its being done. My money is my own, and I may do with it as I please. But I hope,—I am obliged to hope, that I may never be made to see my cousin again.

I will not pretend to express any opinion as to the cause of all this. It is very possible that you will not believe all I say,—that you will think that I am mad and have deluded myself. Of course your heart will prompt you to accuse me rather than him. If it is so, and if there must therefore be a division between us, my grief will be greatly increased; but I do not know that I can help it. I cannot keep all this back from you. He has cruelly ill-used me and insulted me. He has treated me as I should have thought no man could have treated a woman. As regards money, I did all that I could do to show that I trusted him thoroughly, and my confidence has only led to suspicion. I do not know whether he understands that everything must be over between us; but, if not, I must ask you to tell him so. And I must ask you to explain to him that he must not come again to Queen Anne Street. If he does, nothing shall induce me to see him. Tell him also that the money that he wants shall assuredly be sent to him as soon as I can make Mr Round get it.

Dearest Kate, good-bye. I hope you will feel for me. If you do not answer me I shall presume that you think yourself bound to support his side, and to believe me to have been wrong. It will make me very unhappy; but I shall remember that you are his sister, and I shall not be angry with you.

Yours always affectionately,

Alice Vavasor.