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The Evil Genius

24. Hostility
When she was not eating her meals or asleep in her bed, absolute silence on Mrs. Presty's
part was a circumstance without precedent in the experience of her daughter. Mrs. Presty
was absolutely silent now. Mrs. Linley looked up.
She at once perceived the change in her mother's face and asked what it meant. "Mamma,
you look as if something had frightened you. Is it anything in that letter?" She bent over
the table, and looked a little closer at the letter. Mrs. Presty had turned it so that the
address was underneath; and the closed envelope was visible still intact. "Why don't you
open it?" Mrs. Linley asked.
Mrs. Presty made a strange reply. " I am thinking of throwing it into the fire."
"My letter?"
"Yes; your letter."
"Let me look at it first."
"You had better not look at it, Catherine."
Naturally enough, Mrs. Linley remonstrated. "Surely I ought to read a letter forwarded by
my lawyer. Why are you hiding the address from me? Is it from some person whose
handwriting we both know?" She looked again at her silent mother--reflected--and
guessed the truth. "Give it to me directly," she said; "my husband has written to me."
Mrs. Presty's heavy eyebrows gathered into a frown. "Is it possible," she asked sternly,
"that you are still fond enough of that man to care about what he writes to you?" Mrs.
Linley held out her hand for the letter. Her wise mother found it desirable to try
persuasion next. "If you really won't give way, my dear, humor me for once. Will you let
me read it to you?"
"Yes--if you promise to read every word of it."
Mrs. Presty promised (with a mental reservation), and opened the letter.
At the two first words, she stopped and began to clean her spectacles. Had her own eyes
deceived her? Or had Herbert Linley actually addressed her daughter--after having been
guilty of the cruelest wrong that a husband can inflict on a wife--as "Dear Catherine"?
Yes: there were the words, when she put her spectacles on again. Was he in his right
senses? or had he written in a state of intoxication?
Mrs. Linley waited, with a preoccupied mind: she showed no signs of impatience or
surprise. As it presently appeared, she was not thinking of the letter addressed to her by