The Evil Genius
35. Captain Bennydeck
For some time, Catherine and her mother had been left together undisturbed.
Mrs. Presty had read (and destroyed) the letters of Lady Myrie and Mrs. Romsey, with
the most unfeigned contempt for the writers--had repeated what the judge had really said,
as distinguished from Lady Myrie's malicious version of it--and had expressed her
intention of giving Catherine a word of advice, when she was sufficiently composed to
profit by it. "You have recovered your good looks, after that fit of crying," Mrs. Presty
admitted, "but not your good spirits. What is worrying you now?"
"I can't help thinking of poor Kitty."
"My dear, the child wants nobody's pity. She's blowing away all her troubles by a ride in
the fresh air, on the favorite donkey that she feeds every morning. Yes, yes, you needn't
tell me you are in a false position; and nobody can deny that it's shameful to make the
child feel it. Now listen to me. Properly understood, those two spiteful women have done
you a kindness. They have as good as told you how to protect yourself in the time to
come. Deceive the vile world, Catherine, as it deserves to be deceived. Shelter yourself
behind a respectable character that will spare you these insults in the future." In the
energy of her conviction, Mrs. Presty struck her fist on the table, and finished in three
audacious words: "Be a Widow!"
It was plainly said--and yet Catherine seemed to be at a loss to understand what her
"Don't doubt about it," Mrs. Presty went on; "do it. Think of Kitty if you won't think of
yourself. In a few years more she will be a young lady. She may have an offer of
marriage which may be everything we desire. Suppose her sweetheart's family is a
religious family; and suppose your Divorce, and the judge's remarks on it, are discovered.
What will happen then?"
"Is it possible that you are in earnest?" Catherine asked. "Have you seriously thought of
the advice that you are giving me? Setting aside the deceit, you know as well as I do that
Kitty would ask questions. Do you think I can tell my child that her father is dead? A lie--
and such a dreadful lie as that?"
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Presty..
"Nonsense?" Catherine repeated indignantly.
"Rank nonsense," her mother persisted. "Hasn't your situation forced you to lie already?
When the child asks why her father and her governess have left us, haven't you been
obliged to invent excuses which are lies? If the man who was once your husband isn't as
good as dead to you, I should like to know what your Divorce means! My poor dear, do