Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 24

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Chapter LXIV: The Rocks and Valleys 

During these days Mrs Greenow was mistress of the old Hall down in Westmoreland, and was nursing Kate assiduously through the calamity of her broken arm. There had come to be a considerable amount of confidence between the aunt and the niece. Kate had acknowledged to her aunt that her brother had behaved badly,—very badly; and the aunt had confessed to the niece that she regarded Captain Bellfield as a fit subject for compassion.

"And he was violent to you, and broke your arm? I always knew it was so," Mrs Greenow had said, speaking with reference to her nephew. But this Kate had denied. "No," said she; "that was an accident. When he went away and left me, he knew nothing about it. And if he had broken both my arms I should not have cared much. I could have forgiven him that." But that which Kate could not forgive him was the fault which she had herself committed. For his sake she had done her best to separate Alice and John Grey, and George had shown himself to be unworthy of the kindness of her treachery. "I would give all I have in the world to bring them together again," Kate said. "They'll come together fast enough if they like each other," said Mrs Greenow. "Alice is young still, and they tell me she's as good looking as ever. A girl with her money won't have far to seek for a husband, even if this paragon from Cambridgeshire should not turn up again."

"You don't know Alice, aunt."

"No, I don't. But I know what young women are, and I know what young men are. All this nonsense about her cousin George,—what difference will it make? A man like Mr Grey won't care about that,—especially not if she tells him all about it. My belief is that a girl can have anything forgiven her, if she'll only tell it herself."

But Kate preferred the other subject, and so, I think, did Mrs Greenow herself. "Of course, my dear," she would say, "marriage with me, if I should marry again, would be a very different thing to your marriage, or that of any other young person. As for love, that has been all over for me since poor Greenow died. I have known nothing of the softness of affection since I laid him in his cold grave, and never can again. 'Captain Bellfield,' I said to him, 'if you were to kneel at my feet for years, it would not make me care for you in the way of love.'"

"And what did he say to that?"

"How am I to tell you what he said? He talked nonsense about my beauty, as all the men do. If a woman were hump-backed, and had only one eye, they wouldn't be ashamed to tell her she was a Venus."

"But, aunt, you are a handsome woman, you know."

"Laws, my dear, as if I didn't understand all about it; as if I didn't know what makes a woman run after? It isn't beauty,—and it isn't money altogether. I've seen women who had plenty of both, and not a man would come nigh them. They didn't dare. There are some of them, a man would as soon think of putting his arm round a poplar tree, they are so hard and so stiff. You know you're a little that way yourself, Kate, and I've always told you it won't do."

"I'm afraid I'm too old to mend, aunt."

"Not at all, if you'll only set your wits to work and try. You've plenty of money now, and you're good-looking enough, too, when you take the trouble to get yourself up. But, as I said before, it isn't that that's wanted. There's a stand-off about some women,—what the men call a 'nollimy tangere,' that a man must be quite a furious Orlando to attempt to get the better of it. They look as though matrimony itself were improper, and as if they believed that little babies were found about in the hedges and ditches. They talk of women being forward! There are some of them a deal too backward, according to my way of thinking."