The Evil Genius
In a cottage on the banks of one of the Cumberland Lakes, two ladies were seated at the
breakfast-table. The windows of the room opened on a garden which extended to the
water's edge, and on a boat-house and wooden pier beyond. On the pier a little girl was
fishing, under the care of her maid. After a prevalence of rainy weather, the sun was
warm this morning for the time of year; and the broad sheet of water alternately darkened
and brightened as the moving masses of cloud now gathered and now parted over the
blue beauty of the sky.
The ladies had finished their breakfast; the elder of the two--that is to say, Mrs. Presty--
took up her knitting and eyed her silent daughter with an expression of impatient surprise.
"Another bad night, Catherine?"
The personal attractions that distinguished Mrs. Linley were not derived from the short-
lived beauty which depends on youth and health. Pale as she was, her face preserved its
fine outline; her features had not lost their grace and symmetry of form. Presenting the
appearance of a woman who had suffered acutely, she would have been more than ever
(in the eyes of some men) a woman to be admired and loved.
"I seldom sleep well now," she answered, patiently.
"You don't give yourself a chance," Mrs. Presty remonstrated. "Here's a fine morning--
come out for a sail on the lake. To-morrow there's a concert in the town--let's take tickets.
There's a want of what I call elastic power in your mind, Catherine--the very quality for
which your father was so remarkable; the very quality which Mr. Presty used to say made
him envy Mr. Norman. Look at your dress! Where's the common-sense, at your age, of
wearing nothing but black? Nobody's dead who belongs to us, and yet you do your best to
look as if you were in mourning."
"I have no heart, mamma, to wear colors."
Mrs. Presty considered this reply to be unworthy of notice. She went on with her knitting,
and only laid it down when the servant brought in the letters which had arrived by the
morning's post. They were but two in number--and both were for Mrs. Linley. In the
absence of any correspondence of her own, Mrs. Presty took possession of her daughter's
"One addressed in the lawyer's handwriting," she announced; "and one from Randal.
Which shall I open for you first?"
"Randal's letter, if you please."