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The Evil Genius

30. The Lord President
Mrs. Linley's application for a Divorce was heard in the first division of the Court of
Session at Edinburgh, the Lord President being the judge.
To the disappointment of the large audience assembled, no defense was attempted on the
part of the husband--a wise decision, seeing that the evidence of the wife and her
witnesses was beyond dispute. But one exciting incident occurred toward the close of the
proceedings. Sudden illness made Mrs. Linley's removal necessary, at the moment of all
others most interesting to herself--the moment before the judge's decision was
But, as the event proved, the poor lady's withdrawal was the most fortunate circumstance
that could have occurred, in her own interests. After condemning the husband's conduct
with unsparing severity, the Lord President surprised most of the persons present by
speaking of the wife in these terms:
"Grievously as Mrs. Linley has been injured, the evidence shows that she was herself by
no means free from blame. She has been guilty, to say the least of it, of acts of
indiscretion. When the criminal attachment which had grown up between Mr. Herbert
Linley and Miss Westerfield had been confessed to her, she appears to have most
unreasonably overrated whatever merit there might have been in their resistance to the
final temptation. She was indeed so impulsively ready to forgive (without waiting to see
if the event justified the exercise of mercy) that she owns to having given her hand to
Miss Westerfield, at parting, not half an hour after that young person's shameless
forgetfulness of the claims of modesty, duty and gratitude had been first communicated to
her. To say that this was the act of an inconsiderate woman, culpably indiscreet and, I had
almost added, culpably indelicate, is only to say what she has deserved. On the next
occasion to which I feel bound to advert, her conduct was even more deserving of
censure. She herself appears to have placed the temptation under which he fell in her
husband's way, and so (in some degree at least) to have provoked the catastrophe which
has brought her before this court. I allude, it is needless to say, to her having invited the
governess--then out of harm's way; then employed elsewhere--to return to her house, and
to risk (what actually occurred) a meeting with Mr. Herbert Linley when no third person
happened to be present. I know that the maternal motive which animated Mrs. Linley is
considered, by many persons, to excuse and even to justify that most regrettable act; and I
have myself allowed (I fear weakly allowed) more than due weight to this consideration
in pronouncing for the Divorce. Let me express the earnest hope that Mrs. Linley will
take warning by what has happened; and, if she finds herself hereafter placed in other
circumstances of difficulty, let me advise her to exercise more control over impulses
which one might expect perhaps to find in a young girl, but which are neither natural nor
excusable in a woman of her age."