The Evil Genius
32. Miss Westerfield
She locked the door of her bedchamber, and threw off her walking-dress; light as it was,
she felt as if it would stifle her. Even the ribbon round her neck was more than she could
endure and breathe freely. Her overburdened heart found no relief in tears. In the solitude
of her room she thought of the future. The dreary foreboding of what it might be, filled
her with a superstitious dread from which she recoiled. One of the windows was open
already; she threw up the other to get more air. In the cooler atmosphere her memory
recovered itself; she recollected the newspaper, that Herbert had taken from her. Instantly
she rang for the maid. "Ask the first waiter you see downstairs for today's newspaper; any
one will do, so long as I don't wait for it." The report of the Divorce--she was in a frenzy
of impatience to read what he had read--the report of the Divorce.
When her wish had been gratified, when she had read it from beginning to end, one vivid
impression only was left on her mind. She could think of nothing but what the judge had
said, in speaking of Mrs. Linley.
A cruel reproof, and worse than cruel, a public reproof, administered to the generous
friend, the true wife, the devoted mother--and for what? For having been too ready to
forgive the wretch who had taken her husband from her, and had repaid a hundred acts of
kindness by unpardonable ingratitude.
She fell on her knees; she tried wildly to pray for inspiration that should tell her what to
do. "Oh, God, how can I give that woman back the happiness of which I have robbed
The composing influence of prayer on a troubled mind was something that she had heard
of. It was not something that she experienced now. An overpowering impatience to make
the speediest and completest atonement possessed her. Must she wait till Herbert Linley
no longer concealed that he was weary of her, and cast her off? No! It should be her own
act that parted them, and that did it at once. She threw open the door, and hurried half-
way down the stairs before she remembered the one terrible obstacle in her way--the
Slowly and sadly she submitted, and went back to her room.
There was no disguising it; the two who had once been husband and wife were parted
irrevocably--by the wife's own act. Let him repent ever so sincerely, let him be ever so
ready to return, would the woman whose faith Herbert Linley had betrayed take him
back? The Divorce, the merciless Divorce, answered:--No!
She paused, thinking of the marriage that was now a marriage no more. The toilet-table
was close to her; she looked absently at her haggard face in the glass. What a lost wretch
she saw! The generous impulses which other women were free to feel were forbidden
luxuries to her. She was ashamed of her wickedness; she was eager to sacrifice herself,