The Evil Genius
34. Mrs. Presty
Belonging to the generation which has lived to see the Age of Hurry, and has no
sympathy with it, Mrs. Presty entered the sitting-room at the hotel, two hours before the
time that had been fixed for leaving Sandyseal, with her mind at ease on the subject of
her luggage. "My boxes are locked, strapped and labeled; I hate being hurried. What's
that you're reading?" she asked, discovering a book on her daughter's lap,; and a hasty
action on her daughter's part, which looked like trying to hide it.
Mrs. Norman made the most common, and--where the object is to baffle curiosity--the
most useless of prevaricating replies. When her mother asked her what she was reading
she answered: "Nothing."
"Nothing!" Mrs. Presty repeated with an ironical assumption of interest. "The work of all
others, Catherine, that I most want to read." She snatched up the book; opened it at the
first page, and discovered an inscription in faded ink which roused her indignation. "To
dear Catherine, from Herbert, on the anniversary of our marriage." What unintended
mockery in those words, read by the later light of the Divorce! "Well, this is mean," said
Mrs. Presty. "Keeping that wretch's present, after the public exposure which he has
forced on you. Oh, Catherine!"
Catherine was not quite so patient with her mother as usual. "Keeping my best
remembrance of the happy time of my life," she answered.
"Misplaced sentiment," Mrs. Presty declared; "I shall put the book out of the way. Your
brain is softening, my dear, under the influence of this stupefying place."
Catherine asserted her own opinion against her mother's opinion, for the second time. "I
have recovered my health at Sandyseal," she said. "I like the place, and I am sorry to
"Give me the shop windows, the streets, the life, the racket, and the smoke of London,"
cried Mrs. Presty. "Thank Heaven, these rooms are let over our heads, and out we must
go, whether we like it or not."
This expression of gratitude was followed by a knock at the door, and by a voice outside
asking leave to come in, which was, beyond all doubt, the voice of Randal Linley. With
Catherine's book still in her possession, Mrs. Presty opened the table-drawer, threw it in,
and closed the drawer with a bang. Discovering the two ladies, Randal stopped in the
doorway, and stared at them in astonishment.
"Didn't you expect to see us?" Mrs. Presty inquired.