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The Evil Genius

40. Keep Your Temper
On the next day but one, Randal arranged his departure for Sydenham, so as to arrive at
the hotel an hour before the time appointed for the dinner. His prospects of success, in
pleading for a favorable reception of his brother's message, were so uncertain that he
refrained--in fear of raising hopes which he might not be able to justify--from taking
Herbert into his confidence. No one knew on what errand he was bent, when he left the
house. As he took his place in the carriage, the newspaper boy appeared at the window as
usual. The new number of a popular weekly journal had that day been published. Randal
bought it.
After reading one or two of the political articles, he arrived at the columns specially
devoted to "Fashionable Intelligence." Caring nothing for that sort of news, he was
turning over the pages in search of the literary and dramatic articles, when a name not
unfamiliar to him caught his eye. He read the paragraph in which it appeared.
"The charming widow, Mrs. Norman, is, we hear, among the distinguished guests staying
at Buck's Hotel. It is whispered that the lady is to be shortly united to a retired naval
officer of Arctic fame; now better known, perhaps, as one of our leading philanthropists."
The allusion to Bennydeck was too plain to be mistaken. Randal looked again at the first
words in the paragraph. "The charming widow!" Was it possible that this last word
referred to Catherine? To suppose her capable of assuming to be a widow, and--if the
child asked questions--of telling Kitty that her father was dead, was, in Randal's
estimation, to wrong her cruelly. With his own suspicions steadily contradicting him, he
arrived at the hotel, obstinately believing that "the charming widow" would prove to be a
stranger.
A first disappointment was in store for him when he entered the house. Mrs. Norman and
her little daughter were out driving with a friend, and were expected to return in good
time for dinner. Mrs. Presty was at home; she was reported to be in the garden of the
hotel.
Randal found her comfortably established in a summerhouse, with her knitting in her
hands, and a newspaper on her lap. She advanced to meet him, all smiles and amiability.
"How nice of you to come so soon!" she began. Her keen penetration discovered
something in his face which checked the gayety of her welcome. "You don't mean to say
that you are going to spoil our pleasant little dinner by bringing bad news!" she added,
looking at him suspiciously.
"It depends on you to decide that," Randal replied.
"How very complimentary to a poor useless old woman! Don't be mysterious, my dear. I
don't belong to the generation which raises storms in tea-cups, and calls skirmishes with
savages battles. Out with it!"
 
 
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