Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 17

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Chapter LVII: Showing How the Wild Beast Got Himself Back from the Mountains 

About eleven o'clock on that night,—the night of the day on which Kate Vavasor's arm had been broken,—there came a gentle knock at Kate's bedroom door. There was nothing surprising in this, as of all the household Kate only was in bed. Her aunt was sitting at this time by her bedside, and the doctor, who had been summoned from Penrith and who had set her broken arm, was still in the house, talking over the accident with John Vavasor in the dining-room, before he proceeded back on his journey home.

"She will do very well," said the doctor. "It's only a simple fracture. I'll see her the day after to-morrow."

"Is it not odd that such an accident should come from a fall whilst walking?" asked Mr Vavasor.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. "One never can say how anything may occur," said he. "I know a young woman who broke the os femoris by just kicking her cat;—at least, she said she did."

"Indeed! I suppose you didn't take any trouble to inquire?"

"Not much. My business was with the injury, not with the way she got it. Somebody did make inquiry, but she stuck to her story and nothing came of it. Good night, Mr Vavasor. Don't trouble her with questions till she has had some hours' sleep, at any rate." Then the doctor went, and John Vavasor was left alone, standing with his back to the dining-room fire.

There had been so much trouble and confusion in the house since Kate had fainted, almost immediately upon her reaching home, that Mr Vavasor had not yet had time to make up his mind as to the nature of the accident which had occurred. Mrs Greenow had at once ascertained that the bone was broken, and the doctor had been sent for. Luckily he had been found at home, and had reached the Hall a little before ten o'clock. In the meantime, as soon as Kate recovered her senses, she volunteered her account of what had occurred.

Her brother had quarrelled with her about the will, she said, and had left her abruptly on the mountain. She had fallen, she went on to say, as she turned from him, and had at once found that she had hurt herself. But she had been too angry with him to let him know it; and, indeed, she had not known the extent herself till he had passed out of her sight. This was her story; and there was nothing in it that was false by the letter, though there was much that was false in the spirit. It was certainly true that George had not known that she was injured. It was true that she had asked him for no help. It was true, in one sense, that she had fallen, and it was true that she had not herself known how severe had been the injury done to her till he had gone beyond the reach of her voice. But she repressed all mention of his violence, and when she was pressed as to the nature of the quarrel, she declined to speak further on that matter.

Neither her uncle nor her aunt believed her. That was a matter of course, and she knew that they did not believe her. George's absence, their recent experience of his moods, and the violence by which her arm must have been broken, made them certain that Kate had more to tell if she chose to tell it. But in her present condition they could not question her. Mrs Greenow did ask as to the probability of her nephew's return.

"I can only tell you," said Kate, "that he went away across the Fell in the direction of Bampton. Perhaps he has gone on to Penrith. He was very angry with us all; and as the house is not his own, he has probably resolved that he will not stay another night under the roof. But, who can say? He is not in his senses when he is angered."

John Vavasor, as he stood alone after the doctor's departure, endeavoured to ascertain the truth by thinking of it. "I am sure," he said to himself, "that the doctor suspects that there has been violence. I know it from his tone, and I can see it in his eye. But how to prove it? and would there be good in proving it? Poor girl! Will it not be better for her to let it pass as though we believed her story?" He made up his mind that it would be better. Why should he take upon himself the terrible task of calling this insane relation to account for an act which he could not prove? The will itself, without that trouble, would give him trouble enough. Then he began to long that he was back at his club, and to think that the signing-room in Chancery Lane was not so bad. And so he went up to his bed, calling at Kate's door to ask after the patient.