The Evil Genius
31. Mr. Herbert Linley
Of the friends and neighbors who had associated with Herbert Linley, in bygone days, not
more than two or three kept up their intimacy with him at the later time of his disgrace.
Those few, it is needless to say, were men.
One of the faithful companions, who had not shrunk from him yet, had just left the
London hotel at which Linley had taken rooms for Sydney Westerfield and himself--in
the name of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert. This old friend had been shocked by the change for
the worse which he had perceived in the fugitive master of Mount Morven. Linley's stout
figure of former times had fallen away, as if he had suffered under long illness; his
healthy color had faded; he made an effort to assume the hearty manner that had once
been natural to him which was simply pitiable to see. "After sacrificing all that makes life
truly decent and truly enjoyable for a woman, he has got nothing, not even false
happiness, in return!" With that dreary conclusion the retiring visitor descended the hotel
steps, and went his way along the street.
Linley returned to the newspaper which he had been reading when his friend was shown
into the room
Line by line he followed the progress of the law report, which informed its thousands of
readers that his wife had divorced him, and had taken lawful possession of his child.
Word by word, he dwelt with morbid attention on the terms of crushing severity in which
the Lord President had spoken of Sydney Westerfield and of himself. Sentence by
sentence he read the reproof inflicted on the unhappy woman whom he had vowed to
love and cherish. And then--even then--urged by his own self-tormenting suspicion, he
looked for more. On the opposite page there was a leading article, presenting comments
on the trial, written in the tone of lofty and virtuous regret; taking the wife's side against
the judge, but declaring, at the same time, that no condemnation of the conduct of the
husband and the governess could be too merciless, and no misery that might overtake
them in the future more than they had deserved.
He threw the newspaper on the table at his side, and thought over what he had read.
If he had done nothing else, he had drained the bitter cup to the dregs. When he looked
back, he saw nothing but the life that he had wasted. When his thoughts turned to the
future, they confronted a prospect empty of all promise to a man still in the prime of life.
Wife and child were as completely lost to him as if they had been dead--and it was the
wife's doing. Had he any right to complain? Not the shadow of a right. As the newspapers
said, he had deserved it.
The clock roused him, striking the hour.
He rose hurriedly, and advanced toward the window. As he crossed the room, he passed
by a mirror. His own sullen despair looked at him in the reflection of his face. "She will