The Two Destinies
29. Our Destinies Part Us
DESCENDING to the ground-floor of the house, I sent to request a moment's interview
with the landlady. I had yet to learn in which of the London prisons Van Brandt was
confined; and she was the only person to whom I could venture to address the question.
Having answered my inquiries, the woman put her own sordid construction on my motive
for visiting the prisoner.
"Has the money you left upstairs gone into his greedy pockets already?" she asked. "If I
was as rich as you are, I should let it go. In your place, I wouldn't touch him with a pair
The woman's coarse warning actually proved useful to me; it started a new idea in my
mind! Before she spoke, I had been too dull or too preoccupied to see that it was quite
needless to degrade myself by personally communicating with Van Brandt in his prison.
It only now occurred to me that my legal advisers were, as a matter of course, the proper
persons to represent me in the matter--with this additional advantage, that they could
keep my share in the transaction a secret even from Van Brandt himself.
I drove at once to the office of my lawyers. The senior partner--the tried friend and
adviser of our family--received me.
My instructions, naturally enough, astonished him. He was immediately to satisfy the
prisoner's creditors, on my behalf, without mentioning my name to any one. And he was
gravely to accept as security for repayment--Mr. Van Brandt's note of hand!
"I thought I was well acquainted with the various methods by which a gentleman can
throw away his money," the senior partner remarked. "I congratulate you, Mr. Germaine,
on having discovered an entirely new way of effectually emptying your purse. Founding
a newspaper, taking a theater, keeping race-horses, gambling at Monaco, are highly
efficient as modes of losing money. But they all yield, sir, to paying the debts of Mr. Van
I left him, and went home.
The servant who opened the door had a message for me from my mother. She wished to
see me as soon as I was at leisure to speak to her.
I presented myself at once in my mother's sitting-room.
"Well, George?" she said, without a word to prepare me for what was coming. "How
have you left Mrs. Van Brandt?"
I was completely thrown off my guard.