The Two Destinies
20. The Green Flag
"I CONGRATULATE you, Mr. Germaine, on your power of painting in words. Your
description gives me a vivid idea of Mrs. Van Brandt."
"Does the portrait please you, Miss Dunross?"
"May I speak as plainly as usual?"
"Well, then, plainly, I don't like your Mrs. Van Brandt."
Ten days had passed; and thus far Miss Dunross had made her way into my confidence
By what means had she induced me to trust her with those secret and sacred sorrows of
my life which I had hitherto kept for my mother's ear alone? I can easily recall the rapid
and subtle manner in which her sympathies twined themselves round mine; but I fail
entirely to trace the infinite gradations of approach by which she surprised and conquered
my habitual reserve. The strongest influence of all, the influence of the eye, was not hers.
When the light was admitted into the room she was shrouded in her veil. At all other
times the curtains were drawn, the screen was before the fire--I could see dimly the
outline of her face, and I could see no more. The secret of her influence was perhaps
partly attributable to the simple and sisterly manner in which she spoke to me, and partly
to the indescribable interest which associated itself with her mere presence in the room.
Her father had told me that she "carried the air of heaven with her." In my experience, I
can only say that she carried something with her which softly and inscrutably possessed
itself of my will, and made me as unconsciously obedient to her wishes as if I had been
her dog. The love-story of my boyhood, in all its particulars, down even to the gift of the
green flag; the mystic predictions of Dame Dermody; the loss of every trace of my little
Mary of former days; the rescue of Mrs. Van Brandt from the river; the apparition of her
in the summer-house; the after-meetings with her in Edinburgh and in London; the final
parting which had left its mark of sorrow on my face--all these events, all these sufferi
ngs, I confided to her as unreservedly as I have confided them to these pages. And the
result, as she sat by me in the darkened room, was summed up, with a woman's headlong
impetuosity of judgment, in the words that I have just written--"I don't like your Mrs. Van
"Why not?" I asked.
She answered instantly, "Because you ought to love nobody but Mary."
"But Mary has been lost to me since I was a boy of thirteen."