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The Two Destinies

28. Love And Money
FEELING the embarrassment of the moment most painfully on her side, Mrs. Van Brandt
spoke first.
"You have said nothing to me about yourself," she began. "Is your life a happier one than
it was when we last met?"
"I cannot honestly say that it is," I answered.
"Is there any prospect of your being married?"
"My prospect of being married still rests with you."
"Don't say that!" she exclaimed, with an entreating look at me. "Don't spoil my pleasure
in seeing you again by speaking of what can never be! Have you still to be told how it is
that you find me here alone with my child?"
I forced myself to mention Van Brandt's name, rather than hear it pass her lips.
"I have been told that Mr. Van Brandt is in prison for debt," I said. "And I saw for myself
last night that he had left you helpless."
"He left me the little money he had with him when he was arrested," she rejoined, sadly.
"His cruel creditors are more to blame than he is for the poverty that has fallen on us."
Even this negative defense of Van Brandt stung me to the quick.
"I ought to have spoken more guardedly of him," I said, bitterly. "I ought to have
remembered that a woman can forgive almost any wrong that a man can inflict on her--
when he is the man whom she loves."
She put her hand on my mouth, and stopped me before I could say any more.
"How can you speak so cruelly to me?" she asked. "You know--to my shame I confessed
it to you the last time we met--you know that my heart, in secret, is all yours. What
'wrong' are you talking of? Is it the wrong I suffered when Van Brandt married me, with a
wife living at the time (and living still)? Do you think I can ever forget the great
misfortune of my life--the misfortune that has made me unworthy of you? It is no fault of
mine, God knows; but it is not the less true that I am not married, and that the little
darling who is playing out there with her doll is my child. And you talk of my being your
wife--knowing that!"
"The child accepts me as her second father," I said. "It would be better and happier for us
both if you had as little pride as the child."
 
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