The Two Destinies
22. She Claims Me Again
THE moments passed; the silence between us continued. Miss Dunross made an attempt
to rouse me.
"Have you decided to go back to Scotland with your friends at Lerwick?" she asked.
"It is no easy matter," I replied, "to decide on leaving my friends in this house."
Her head drooped lower on her bosom; her voice sunk as she answered me.
"Think of your mother," she said. "The first duty you owe is your duty to her. Your long
absence is a heavy trial to her--your mother is suffering."
"Suffering?" I repeated. "Her letters say nothing--"
"You forget that you have allowed me to read her letters," Miss Dunross interposed. "I
see the unwritten and unconscious confession of anxiety in every line that she writes to
you. You know, as well as I do, that there is cause for her anxiety. Make her happy by
telling her that you sail for home with your friends. Make her happier still by telling her
that you grieve no more over the loss of Mrs. Van Brandt. May I write it, in your name
and in those words?"
I felt the strangest reluctance to permit her to write in those terms, or in any terms, of
Mrs. Van Brandt. The unhappy love-story of my manhood had never been a forbidden
subject between us on former occasions. Why did I feel as if it had become a forbidden
subject now? Why did I evade giving her a direct reply?
"We have plenty of time before us," I said. "I want to speak to you about yourself."
She lifted her hand in the obscurity that surrounded her, as if to protest against the topic
to which I had returned. I persisted, nevertheless, in returning to it.
"If I must go back," I went on, "I may venture to say to you at parting what I have not
said yet. I cannot, and will not, believe that you are an incurable invalid. My education,
as I have told you, has been the education of a medical man. I am well acquainted with
some of the greatest living physicians, in Edinburgh as well as in London. Will you allow
me to describe your malady (as I understand it) to men who are accustomed to treat cases
of intricate nervous disorder? And will you let me write and tell you the result?"
I waited for her reply. Neither by word nor sign did she encourage the idea of any future
communication with her. I ventured to suggest another motive which might induce her to
receive a letter from me.