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

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Alice, when she received this, was at the first moment so much struck, and indeed surprised, by the tidings of her grandfather's death, that she was forced, in spite of the still existing violence of her own feelings, to think and act chiefly with reference to that event. Her father had not then left his room. She therefore went to him, and handed him Kate's letter. "Papa," she said, "there is news from Westmoreland; bad news, which you hardly expected yet." "My father is dead," said John Vavasor. Whereupon Alice gave him Kate's letter, that he might read it. "Of course I shall go down," he said, as he came to that part in which Kate had spoken of him. "Does she think I shall not follow my father to the grave, because I dislike her brother? What does she mean by saying that there shall be no quarrel between you and her?" "I will explain that at another time," said Alice. John Vavasor asked no further questions then, but declared at first that he should go to Westmoreland on the following day. Then he altered his purpose. "I'll go by the mail train to-night," he said. "It will be very disagreeable, but I ought to be there when the will is opened." There was very little more said in Queen Anne Street on the subject till the evening,—till a few moments before Mr Vavasor left his house. He indeed had thought nothing more about that quarrelling, or rather that promise that there should be no quarrelling, between the girls. He still regarded his nephew George as the man who, unfortunately, was to be his son-in-law, and now, during this tedious sad day, in which he felt himself compelled to remain at home, he busied his mind in thinking of George and Alice, as living together at the old Hall. At six, the father and daughter dined, and soon after dinner Mr Vavasor went up to his own room to prepare himself for his journey. After a while Alice followed him,—but she did not do so till she knew that if anything was to be told before the journey no further time could be lost. "Papa," she said, as soon as she had shut the door behind her, "I think I ought to tell you before you go that everything is over between me and George."

"Have you quarrelled with him too?" said her father, with uncontrolled surprise.

"I should perhaps say that he has quarrelled with me. But, dear papa, pray do not question me at present. I will tell you all when you come back, but I thought it right that you should know this before you went."

"It has been his doing then?"

"I cannot explain it to you in a hurry like this. Papa, you may understand something of the shame which I feel, and you should not question me now."

"And John Grey?"

"There is nothing different in regard to him."

"I'll be shot if I can understand you. George, you know, has had two thousand pounds of your money,—of yours or somebody else's. Well, we can't talk about it now, as I must be off. Thinking as I do of George, I'm glad of it,—that's all." Then he went, and Alice was left alone, to comfort herself as best she might by her own reflections.

George Vavasor had received the message on the day previous to that on which Alice's letter had reached her, but it had not come to him till late in the day. He might have gone down by the mail train of that night, but there were one or two persons, his own attorney especially, whom he wished to see before the reading of his grandfather's will. He remained in town, therefore, on the following day, and went down by the same train as that which took his uncle. Walking along the platform, looking for a seat, he peered into a carriage and met his uncle's eye. The two saw each other, but did not speak, and George passed on to another carriage. On the following morning, before the break of day, they met again in the refreshment room, at the station at Lancaster. "So my father has gone, George," said the uncle, speaking to the nephew. They must go to the same house, and Mr Vavasor felt that it would be better that they should be on speaking terms when they reached it. "Yes," said George; "he has gone at last. I wonder what we shall find to have been his latest act of injustice." The reader will remember that he had received Kate's first letter, in which she had told him of the Squire's altered will. John Vavasor turned away disgusted. His finer feelings were perhaps not very strong, but he had no thoughts or hopes in reference to the matter which were mean. He expected nothing himself, and did not begrudge his nephew the inheritance. At this moment he was thinking of the old Squire as a father who had ever been kind to him. It might be natural that George should have no such old affection at his heart, but it was unnatural that he should express himself as he had done at such a moment.

The uncle turned away, but said nothing. George followed him with a little proposition of his own. "We shan't get any conveyance at Shap," he said. "Hadn't we better go over in a chaise from Kendal?" To this the uncle assented, and so they finished their journey together. George smoked all the time that they were in the carriage, and very few words were spoken. As they drove up to the old house, they found that another arrival had taken place before them,—Mrs Greenow having reached the house in some vehicle from the Shap station. She had come across from Norwich to Manchester, where she had joined the train which had brought the uncle and nephew from London.