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The Evil Genius

33. Mrs. Romsey
The one hotel in Sandyseal was full, from the topmost story to the ground floor; and by
far the larger half of the landlord's guests were invalids sent to him by the doctors.
To persons of excitable temperament, in search of amusement, the place offered no
attractions. Situated at the innermost end of a dull little bay, Sandyseal--so far as any
view of the shipping in the Channel was concerned--might have been built on a remote
island in the Pacific Ocean. Vessels of any importance kept well out of the way of
treacherous shoals and currents lurking at the entrance of the bay. The anchorage ground
was good; but the depth of water was suited to small vessels only--to shabby old fishing-
smacks which seldom paid their expenses, and to dirty little coasters carrying coals and
potatoes. At the back of the hotel, two slovenly rows of cottages took their crooked
course inland. Sailing masters of yachts, off duty, sat and yawned at the windows; lazy
fishermen looked wearily at the weather over their garden gates; and superfluous
coastguards gathered together in a wooden observatory, and leveled useless telescopes at
an empty sea. The flat open country, with its few dwarf trees and its mangy hedges, lay
prostrate under the sky in all the desolation of solitary space, and left the famous
restorative air free to build up dilapidated nerves, without an object to hinder its passage
at any point of the compass. The lonely drab-colored road that led to the nearest town
offered to visitors, taking airings, a view of a low brown object in the distance, said to be
the convent in which the Nuns lived, secluded from mortal eyes. At one side of the hotel,
the windows looked on a little wooden pier, sadly in want of repair. On the other side, a
walled inclosure accommodated yachts of light tonnage, stripped of their rigging, and
sitting solitary on a bank of mud until their owners wanted them. In this neighborhood
there was a small outlying colony of shops: one that sold fruit and fish; one that dealt in
groceries and tobacco; one shut up, with a bill in the window inviting a tenant; and one,
behind the Methodist Chapel, answering the double purpose of a post-office and a
storehouse for ropes and coals. Beyond these objects there was nothing (and this was the
great charm of the place) to distract the attention of invalids, following the doctor's
directions, and from morning to night taking care of their health.
The time was evening; the scene was one of the private sitting-rooms in the hotel; and the
purpose in view was a little tea-party.
Rich Mrs. Romsey, connected with commerce as wife of the chief partner in the firm of
Romsey & Renshaw, was staying at the hotel in the interests of her three children. They
were of delicate constitution; their complete recovery, after severe illness which had
passed from one to the other, was less speedy than had been anticipated; and the doctor
had declared that the nervous system was, in each case, more or less in need of repair. To
arrive at this conclusion, and to recommend a visit to Sandyseal, were events which
followed each other (medically speaking) as a matter of course.
The health of the children had greatly improved; the famous air had agreed with them,
and the discovery of new playfellows had agreed with them. They had made acquaintance