The Evil Genius
10. Kitty Mentions Her Birthday
A clever old lady, possessed of the inestimable advantages of worldly experience, must
submit nevertheless to the laws of Nature. Time and Sleep together--powerful agents in
the small hours of the morning--had got the better of Mrs. Presty's resolution to keep
awake. Free from discovery, Sydney ascended the stairs. Free from discovery, Sydney
entered her own room.
Half-an-hour later, Linley opened the door of his dressing-room. His wife was still
sleeping. His mother-in-law woke two hours later; looked at her watch; and discovered
that she had lost her opportunity. Other old women, under similar circumstances, might
have felt discouraged. This old woman believed in her own suspicions more devoutly
than ever. When the breakfast-bell rang, Sydney found Mrs. Presty in the corridor,
waiting to say good m orning.
"I wonder what you were doing last night, when you ought to have been in bed?" the old
lady began, with a treacherous amiability of manner. "Oh, I am not mistaken! your door
was open, my dear, and I looked in."
"Why did you look in, Mrs. Presty?"
"My young friend, I was naturally anxious about you. I am anxious still. Were you in the
house? or out of the house?"
"I was walking in the garden," Sydney replied.
"Admiring the moonlight?"
"Yes; admiring the moonlight."
"Alone, of course?" Sydney's friend suggested.
And Sydney took refuge in prevarication. "Why should you doubt it?" she said.
Mrs. Presty wasted no more time in asking questions. She was pleasantly reminded of the
words of worldly wisdom which she had addressed to her daughter on the day of
Sydney's arrival at Mount Morven. "The good qualities of that unfortunate young
creature" (she had said) "can not have always resisted the horrid temptations and
contaminations about her. Hundreds of times she must have lied through ungovernable
fear." Elevated a little higher than ever in her own estimation, Mrs. Presty took Sydney's
arm, and led her down to breakfast with motherly familiarity. Linley met them at the foot
of the stairs. His mother-in-law first stole a look at Sydney, and then shook hands with
him cordially. "My dear Herbert, how pale you are! That horrid smoking. You look as if
you had been up all night."