The Evil Genius
8. Mrs. Presty Makes a Discovery
The dinner-party had come to an end; the neighbors had taken their departure; and the
ladies at Mount Morven had retired for the night.
On the way to her room Mrs. Presty knocked at her daughter's door. "I want to speak to
you, Catherine. Are you in bed?"
"No, mamma. Come in."
Robed in a dressing-gown of delicately-mingled white and blue, and luxuriously
accommodated on the softest pillows that could be placed in an armchair, Mrs. Linley
was meditating on the events of the evening. "This has been the most successful party we
have ever given," she said to her mother. "And did you notice how charmingly pretty
Miss Westerfield looked in her new dress?"
"It's about that girl I want to speak to you," Mrs. Presty answered, severely. "I had a
higher opinion of her when she first came here than I have now."
Mrs. Linley pointed to an open door, communicating with a second and smaller bed-
chamber. "Not quite so loud," she answered, "or you might wake Kitty. What has Miss
Westerfield done to forfeit your good opinion?"
Discreet Mrs. Presty asked leave to return to the subject at a future opportunity.
"I will merely allude now," she said, "to a change for the worse in your governess, which
you might have noticed when she left the drawing-room this evening. She had a word or
two with Herbert at the door; and she left him looking as black as thunder."
Mrs. Linley laid herself back on her pillows and burst out laughing. "Black as thunder?
Poor little Sydney, what a ridiculous description of her! I beg your pardon, mamma; don't
"On the contrary, my dear, I am agreeably surprised. Your poor father--a man of
remarkable judgment on most subjects--never thought much of your intelligence. He
appears to have been wrong; you have evidently inherited some of my sense of humor.
However, that is not what I wanted to say; I am the bearer of good news. When we find it
necessary to get rid of Miss Westerfield--"
Mrs. Linley's indignation expressed itself by a look which, for the moment at least,
reduced her mother to silence. Always equal to the occasion, however, Mrs. Presty's face
assumed an expression of innocent amazement, which would have produced a round of
applause on the stage. "What have I said to make you angry?" she inquired. "Surely, my
dear, you and your husband are extraordinary people."