The Evil Genius
37. Mrs. Norman
With a heart lightened by reconciliation (not the first reconciliation unhappily), with
hopes revived, and sweet content restored, Sydney's serenity of mind was not quite
unruffled. Her thoughts were not dwelling on the evil life which she had honestly
deplored, or on the wronged wife to whom she had been eager to make atonement. Where
is the woman whose sorrows are not thrown into the shade by the bright renewal of love?
The one anxiety that troubled Sydney was caused by remembrance of the letter which she
had sent to the convent at Sandyseal.
As her better mind now viewed it, she had doubly injured Herbert--first in distrusting
him; then by appealing from him to the compassion of strangers.
If the reply for which she had rashly asked was waiting for her at that moment--if the
mercy of the Mother Superior was ready to comfort and guide her--what return could she
make? how could she excuse herself from accepting what was offered in kindly reply to
her own petition? She had placed herself, for all she knew to the contrary, between two
alternatives of ingratitude equally unendurable, equally degrading. To feel this was to feel
the suspense which, to persons of excitable temperament, is of all trials the hardest to
bear. The chambermaid was still in her room--Sydney asked if the post-office was near to
The woman smiled. "Everything is near us, ma'am, in this little place. Can we send to the
post-office for you?"
Sydney wrote her initials. "Ask, if you please, for a letter addressed in that way." She
handed the memorandum to the chambermaid. "Corresponding with her lover under her
husband's nose!" That was how the chambermaid explained it below stairs, when the
porter remarked that initials looked mysterious.
The Mother Superior had replied. Sydney trembled as she opened the letter. It began
"I believe you, my child, and I am anxious to help you. But I cannot correspond with an
unknown person. If you decide to reveal yourself, it is only right to add that I have shown
your letter to the Reverend Father who, in temporal as in spiritual things, is our counselor
and guide. To him I must refer you, in the first instance. His wisdom will decide the
serious question of receiving you into our Holy Church, and will discover, in due time, if
you have a true vocation to a religious life. With the Father's sanction, you may be sure of
my affectionate desire to serve you."
Sydney put the letter back in the envelope, feeling gratefully toward the Mother Superior,
but determined by the conditions imposed on her to make no further advance toward the