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

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Chapter LIV: Showing How Alice Was Punished 

Poor Kate's condition at the old Hall on that night was very sad. The presence of death is always a source of sorrow, even though the circumstances of the case are of a kind to create no agony of grief. The old man who had just passed away up-stairs was fully due to go. He had lived his span all out, and had himself known that to die was the one thing left for him to do. Kate also had expected his death, and had felt that the time had come in which it would be foolish even to wish that it should be arrested. But death close to one is always sad as it is solemn.

And she was quite alone at Vavasor Hall. She had no acquaintance within some miles of her. From the young vicar, though she herself had not quarrelled with him, she could receive no comfort, as she hardly knew him; nor was she of a temperament which would dispose her to turn to a clergyman at such a time for comfort, unless to one who might have been an old friend. Her aunt and brother would probably both come to her, but they could hardly be with her for a day or two, and during that day or two it would be needful that orders should be given which it is disagreeable for a woman to have to give. The servants, moreover, in the house were hardly fit to assist her much. There was an old butler, or footman, who had lived at the Hall for more than fifty years, but he was crippled with rheumatism, and so laden with maladies, that he rarely crept out of his own room. He was simply an additional burden on the others. There was a boy who had lately done all the work which the other should have done, and ever so much more beside. There is no knowing how much work such a boy will do when properly drilled, and he was now Kate's best minister in her distress. There was the old nurse,—but she had been simply good for nursing, and there were two rough Westmoreland girls who called themselves cook and housemaid.

On that first evening,—the very day on which her grandfather had died,—Kate would have been more comfortable had she really found something that she could do. But there was in truth nothing. She hovered for an hour or two in and out of the room, conscious of the letter which she had in her pocket, and very desirous in heart of reading it, but restrained by a feeling that at such a moment she ought to think only of the dead. In this she was wrong. Let the living think of the dead, when their thoughts will travel that way whether the thinker wish it or no. Grief taken up because grief is supposed to be proper, is only one degree better than pretended grief. When one sees it, one cannot but think of the lady who asked her friend, in confidence, whether hot roast fowl and bread-sauce were compatible with the earliest state of weeds; or of that other lady,—a royal lady she,—who was much comforted in the tedium of her trouble when assured by one of the lords about the Court that piquet was mourning.

It was late at night, near eleven, before Kate took out her letter and read it. As something of my story hangs upon it, I will give it at length, though it was a long letter. It had been written with great struggles, and with many tears, and Kate, as she read it to the end, almost forgot that her grandfather was lying dead in the room above her.