Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 1, Ch. 7

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Chapter VII: Aunt Greenow 

Kate Vavasor remained only three days in London before she started for Yarmouth; and during those three days she was not much with her cousin. "I'm my aunt's, body and soul, for the next six weeks," she said to Alice, when she did come to Queen Anne Street on the morning after her arrival. "And she is exigeant in a manner I can't at all explain to you. You mustn't be surprised if I don't even write a line. I've escaped by stealth now. She went up-stairs to try on some new weeds for the seaside, and then I bolted." She did not say a word about George; nor during those three days, nor for some days afterwards, did George show himself. As it turned out afterwards, he had gone off to Scotland, and had remained a week among the grouse. Thus, at least, he had accounted for himself and his movements; but all George Vavasor's friends knew that his goings out and comings in were seldom accounted for openly like those of other men.

It will perhaps be as well to say a few words about Mrs Greenow before we go with her to Yarmouth. Mrs Greenow was the only daughter and the youngest child of the old squire at Vavasor Hall. She was just ten years younger than her brother John, and I am inclined to think that she was almost justified in her repeated assertion that the difference was much greater than ten years, by the freshness of her colour, and by the general juvenility of her appearance. She certainly did not look forty, and who can expect a woman to proclaim herself to be older than her looks? In early life she had been taken from her father's house, and had lived with relatives in one of the large towns in the north of England. It is certain she had not been quite successful as a girl. Though she had enjoyed the name of being a beauty, she had not the usual success which comes from such repute. At thirty-four she was still unmarried. She had, moreover, acquired the character of being a flirt; and I fear that the stories which were told of her, though doubtless more than half false, had in them sufficient of truth to justify the character. Now this was very sad, seeing that Arabella Vavasor had no fortune, and that she had offended her father and brothers by declining to comply with their advice at certain periods of her career. There was, indeed, considerable trouble in the minds of the various male Vavasors with reference to Arabella, when tidings suddenly reached the Hall that she was going to be married to an old man.

She was married to the old man; and the marriage fortunately turned out satisfactorily, at any rate for the old man and for her family. The Vavasors were relieved from all further trouble, and were as much surprised as gratified when they heard that she did her duty well in her new position. Arabella had long been a thorn in their side, never having really done anything which they could pronounce to be absolutely wrong, but always giving them cause for fear. Now they feared no longer. Her husband was a retired merchant, very rich, not very strong in health, and devoted to his bride. Rumours soon made their way to Vavasor Hall, and to Queen Anne Street, that Mrs Greenow was quite a pattern wife, and that Mr Greenow considered himself to be the happiest old man in Lancashire. And now in her prosperity she quite forgave the former slights which had been put upon her by her relatives. She wrote to her dear niece Alice, and to her dearest niece Kate, and sent little presents to her father. On one occasion she took her husband to Vavasor Hall, and there was a regular renewal of all the old family feelings. Arabella's husband was an old man, and was very old for his age; but the whole thing was quite respectable, and there was, at any rate, no doubt about the money. Then Mr Greenow died; and the widow, having proved the will, came up to London and claimed the commiseration of her nieces.

"Why not go to Yarmouth with her for a month?" George had said to Kate. "Of course it will be a bore. But an aunt with forty thousand pounds has a right to claim attention." Kate acknowledged the truth of the argument and agreed to go to Yarmouth for a month. "Your aunt Arabella has shown herself to be a very sensible woman," the old squire had written; "much more sensible than anybody thought her before her marriage. Of course you should go with her if she asks you." What aunt, uncle, or cousin, in the uncontrolled possession of forty thousand pounds was ever unpopular in the family?