The Evil Genius
36. Mr. and Mrs. Herbert
The stealthy influence of distrust fastens its hold on the mind by slow degrees. Little by
little it reaches its fatal end, and disguises delusion successfully under the garb of truth.
Day after day, the false conviction grew on Sydney's mind that Herbert Linley was
comparing the life he led now with the happier life which he remembered at Mount
Morven. Day after day, her unreasoning fear contemplated the time when Herbert Linley
would leave her friendless, in the world that had no place in it for women like herself.
Delusion--fatal delusion that looked like truth! Morally weak as he might be, the man
whom she feared to trust had not yet entirely lost the sense which birth and breeding had
firmly fastened in him--the sense of honor. Acting under that influence, he was (if the
expression may be permitted) consistent even in inconsistency. With equal sincerity of
feeling, he reproached himself for his infidelity toward the woman whom he had
deserted, and devoted himself to his duty toward the woman whom he had misled. In
Sydney's presence--suffer as he might under the struggle to maintain his resolution when
he was alone--he kept his intercourse with her studiously gentle in manner, and
considerate in language; his conduct offered assurances for the future which she could
only see through the falsifying medium of her own distrust.
In the delusion that now possessed her she read, over and over again, the letter which
Captain Bennydeck had addressed to her father; she saw, more and more clearly, the
circumstances which associated her situation with the situation of the poor girl who had
closed her wasted life among the nuns in a French convent.
Two results followed on this state of things.
When Herbert asked to what part of England they should go, on leaving London, she
mentioned Sandyseal as a place that she had heard of, and felt some curiosity to see. The
same day--bent on pleasing her, careless where he lived now, at home or abroad--he
wrote to engage rooms at the hotel
A time followed, during which they were obliged to wait until rooms were free. In this
interval, brooding over the melancholy absence of a friend or relative in whom she could
confide, her morbid dread of the future decided her on completing the parallel between
herself and that other lost creature of whom she had read. Sydney opened communication
anonymously with the Benedictine community at Sandyseal.
She addressed the Mother Superior; telling the truth about herself with but one
concealment, the concealment of names. She revealed her isolated position among her
fellow-creatures; she declared her fervent desire to repent of her wickedness, and to lead
a religious life; she acknowledged her misfortune in having been brought up by persons
careless of religion, and she confessed to having attended a Protestant place of worship,
as a mere matter of form connected with the duties of a teacher at a school. "The religion
of any Christian woman who will help me to be more like herself," she wrote, "is the