The Two Destinies
30. The Prospect Darkens
THREE days after my mother and I had established ourselves at Torquay, I received Mrs.
Van Brandt's answer to my letter. After the opening sentences (informing me that Van
Brandt had been set at liberty, under circumstances painfully suggestive to the writer of
some unacknowledged sacrifice on my part), the letter proceeded in these terms:
"The new employment which Mr. Van Brandt is to undertake secures to us the comforts,
if not the luxuries, of life. For the first time since my troubles began, I have the prospect
before me of a peaceful existence, among a foreign people from whom all that is false in
my position may be concealed--not for my sake, but for the sake of my child. To more
than this, to the happiness which some women enjoy, I must not, I dare not, aspire.
"We leave England for the Continent early tomorrow morning. Shall I tell you in what
part of Europe my new residence is to be?
"No! You might write to me again; and I might write back. The one poor return I can
make to the good angel of my life is to help him to forget me. What right have I to cling
to my usurped place in your regard? The time will come when you will give your heart to
a woman who is worthier of it than I am. Let me drop out of your life--except as an
occasional remembrance, when you sometimes think of the days that have gone forever.
"I shall not be without some consolation on my side, when I too look back at the past. I
have been a better woman since I met with you. Live as long as I may, I shall always
"Yes! The influence that you have had over me has been from first to last an influence for
good. Allowing that I have done wrong (in my position) to love you, and, worse even
than that, to own it, still the love has been innocent, and the effort to control it has been
an honest effort at least. But, apart from this, my heart tells me that I am the better for the
sympathy which has united us. I may confess to you what I have never yet
acknowledged--now that we are so widely parted, and so little likely to meet again--
whenever I have given myself up unrestrainedly to my own better impulses, they have
always seemed to lead me to you. Whenever my mind has been most truly at peace, and I
have been able to pray with a pure and a penitent heart, I have felt as if there was some
unseen tie that was drawing us nearer and nearer together. And, strange to say, this has
always happened (just as my dreams of you have always come to me) when I have been
separated from Van Brandt. At such times, thinking or dreaming, it has always appeared
to me that I knew you far more familiarly than I know you when we meet face to face. Is
there really such a thing, I wonder, as a former state of existence? And were we once
constant companions in some other sphere, thousands of years since? These are idle
guesses. Let it be enough for me to remember that I have been the better for knowing
you--without inquiring how or why.