“The week’s list of insolvent traders includes an Englishman named James Bellbridge, formerly connected with a disreputable saloon in this city. Bellbridge is under suspicion of having caused the death of his wife in a fit of delirium tremens. The unfortunate woman had been married, for the first time, to one of the English aristocracy—the Honorable Roderick Westerfield—whose trial for casting away a ship under his command excited considerable interest in London some years since. The melancholy circumstances of the case are complicated by the disappearance, on the day of the murder, of the woman’s young son by her first husband. The poor boy is supposed to have run away in terror from his miserable home, and the police are endeavoring to discover some trace of him. It is reported that another child of the first marriage (a daughter) is living in England. But nothing is known about her.”
“Has your governess any relations in England?” Randal asked.
“Only an aunt, who has treated her in the most inhuman manner.”
“Serious news for Miss Westerfield, as you say,” Randal resumed. “And, as I think, serious news for us. Here is a mere girl—a poor friendless creature—absolutely dependent on our protection. What are we to do if anything happens, in the future, to alter our present opinion of her?”
“Nothing of the sort is likely to happen,” Mrs. Linley declared.
“Let us hope not,” Randal said, gravely.
Randal Writes to New York.
The members of the family at Mount Morven consulted together, before Sydney Westerfield was informed of her brother’s disappearance and of her mother’s death.
Speaking first, as master of the house, Herbert Linley offered his opinion without hesitation. His impulsive kindness shrank from the prospect of reviving the melancholy recollections associated with Sydney’s domestic life. “Why distress the poor child, just as she is beginning to feel happy among us?” he asked. “Give me the newspaper; I shan’t feel easy till I have torn it up.”
His wife drew the newspaper out of his reach. “Wait a little,” she said, quietly; “some of us may feel that it is no part of our duty to conceal the truth.”
Mrs. Presty spoke next. To the surprise of the family council, she agreed with her son-in-law.
“Somebody must speak out,” the old lady began; “and I mean to set the example. Telling the truth,” she declared, turning severely to her daughter, “is a more complicated affair than you seem to think. It’s a question of morality, of course; but—in family circles, my dear—it’s sometimes a question of convenience as well. Is it convenient to upset my granddaughter’s governess, just as she is entering on her new duties? Certainly not! Good heavens, what does it matter to my young friend Sydney whether her unnatural mother lives or dies? Herbert, I second your proposal to tear up the paper with the greatest pleasure.”