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

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Chapter LIII: The Last Will of the Old Squire 

In the meantime Kate Vavasor was living down in Westmoreland, with no other society than that of her grandfather, and did not altogether have a very pleasant life of it. George had been apt to represent the old man to himself as being as strong as an old tower, which, though it be but a ruin, shows no sign of falling. To his eyes the Squire had always seemed to be full of life and power. He could be violent on occasions, and was hardly ever without violence in his eyes and voice. But George's opinion was formed by his wish, or rather by the reverses of his wish. For years he had been longing that his grandfather should die,—had been accusing Fate of gross injustice in that she did not snap the thread; and with such thoughts in his mind he had grudged every ounce which the Squire's vigour had been able to sustain. He had almost taught himself to believe that it would be a good deed to squeeze what remained of life out of that violent old throat. But, indeed, the embers of life were burning low; and had George known all the truth, he would hardly have inclined his mind to thoughts of murder.

He was, indeed, very weak with age, and tottering with unsteady steps on the brink of his grave, though he would still come down early from his room, and would, if possible, creep out about the garden and into the farmyard. He would still sit down to dinner, and would drink his allotted portion of port wine, in the doctor's teeth. The doctor by no means desired to rob him of his last luxury, or even to stint his quantity; but he recommended certain changes in the mode and time of taking it. Against this, however, the old Squire indignantly rebelled, and scolded Kate almost off her legs when she attempted to enforce the doctor's orders. "What the mischief does it signify," the old man said to her one evening;—"what difference will it make whether I am dead or alive, unless it is that George would turn you out of the house directly he gets it."

"I was not thinking of any one but yourself, sir," said Kate, with a tear in her eye.

"You won't be troubled to think of me much longer," said the Squire; and then he gulped down the remaining half of his glass of wine.

Kate was, in truth, very good to him. Women always are good under such circumstances; and Kate Vavasor was one who would certainly stick to such duties as now fell to her lot. She was eminently true and loyal to her friends, though she could be as false on their behalf as most false people can be on their own. She was very good to the old man, tending all his wants, taking his violence with good-humour rather than with submission, not opposing him with direct contradiction when he abused his grandson, but saying little words to mitigate his wrath, if it were possible. At such times the Squire would tell her that she also would learn to know her brother's character some day. "You'll live to be robbed by him, and turned out as naked as you were born," he said to her one day. Then Kate fired up and declared that she fully trusted her brother's love. Whatever faults he might have, he had been staunch to her, So she said, and the old man sneered at her for saying so.

One morning, soon after this, when she brought him up to his bedroom some mixture of thin porridge, which he still endeavoured to swallow for his breakfast, he bade her sit down, and began to talk to her about the property. "I know you are a fool," he said, "about all matters of business;—more of a fool than even women generally are." To this Kate acceded with a little smile,—acknowledging that her understanding was limited. "I want to see Gogram," he said. "Do you write to him a line, telling him to come here to-day,—he or one of his men,—and send it at once by Peter." Gogram was an attorney who lived at Penrith, and who was never summoned to Vavasor Hall unless the Squire had something to say about his will. "Don't you think you'd better put it off till you are a little stronger?" said Kate. Whereupon the Squire fired at her such a volley of oaths that she sprang off the chair on which she was sitting, and darted across to a little table at which there was pen and ink, and wrote her note to Mr Gogram, before she had recovered from the shaking which the battery had given her. She wrote the note, and ran away with it to Peter, and saw Peter on the pony on his way to Penrith, before she dared to return to her grandfather's bedside.