Mrs. Linley recoiled from the message when the man offered it to her. Not usually a very demonstrative person, the feeling of alarm which had seized on her only expressed itself in a sudden change of color. “An accident!” she said faintly. “An accident on the railway!”
Mrs. Presty opened the telegram.
“If you had been the wife of a Cabinet Minister,” she said to her daughter, “you would have been too well used to telegrams to let them frighten you. Mr. Presty (who received his telegrams at his office) was not quite just to the memory of my first husband. He used to blame Mr. Norman for letting me see his telegrams. But Mr. Presty’s nature had all the poetry in which Mr. Norman’s nature was deficient. He saw the angelic side of women—and thought telegrams and business, and all that sort of thing, unworthy of our mission. I don’t exactly understand what our mission is—”
“Mamma! mamma! is Herbert hurt?”
“Stuff and nonsense! Nobody is hurt; there has been no accident.”
“They why does he telegraph to me?”
Hitherto, Mrs. Presty had only looked at the message. She now read it through attentively to the end. Her face assumed an expression of stern distrust. She shook her head.
“Read it yourself,” she answered; “and remember what I told you, when you trusted your husband to find a governess for my grandchild. I said: ‘You do not know men as I do.’ I hope you may not live to repent it.”
Mrs. Linley was too fond of her husband to let this pass. “Why shouldn’t I trust him?” she asked. “He was going to London on business—and it was an excellent opportunity.”
Mrs. Presty disposed of this weak defense of her daughter’s conduct by waving her hand. “Read your telegram,” she repeated with dignity, “and judge for yourself.”
Mrs. Linley read:
“I have engaged a governess. She will travel in the same train with me. I think I ought to prepare you to receive a person whom you may be surprised to see. She is very young, and very inexperienced; quite unlike the ordinary run of governesses. When you hear how cruelly the poor girl has been used, I am sure you will sympathize with her as I do.”
Mrs. Linley laid down the message, with a smile.
“Poor dear Herbert!” she said tenderly. “After we have been eight years married, is he really afraid that I shall be jealous? Mamma! Why are you looking so serious?”
Mrs. Presty took the telegram from her daughter and read extracts from it with indignant emphasis of voice and manner.
“Travels in the same train with him. Very young, and very inexperienced. And he sympathizes with her. Ha! I know the men, Catherine—I know the men!”
The Governess Enters.
Mr. Herbert Linley arrived at his own house in the forenoon of the next day. Mrs. Linley, running out to the head of the stairs to meet her husband, saw him approaching her without a traveling companion. “Where is the governess?” she asked—when the first salutes allowed her the opportunity of speaking.