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The Two Destinies

36. Love And Pride
A CRY of terror from the room told me that I had been heard. For a moment more
nothing happened. Then the child's voice reached me, wild and shrill: "Open the shutters,
mamma! I said he was coming--I want to see him!"
There was still an interval of hesitation before the mother opened the shutters. She did it
at last. I saw her darkly at the window, with the light behind her, and the child's head just
visible above the lower part of the window-frame. The quaint little face moved rapidly up
and down, as if my self-appointed daughter were dancing for joy!
"Can I trust my own senses?" said Mrs. Van Brandt. "Is it really Mr. Germaine?"
"How do you do, new papa?" cried the child. "Push open the big door and come in. I
want to kiss you."
There was a world of difference between the coldly doubtful tone of the mother and the
joyous greeting of the child. Had I forced myself too suddenly on Mrs. Van Brandt? Like
all sensitively organized persons, she possessed that inbred sense of self-respect which is
pride under another name. Was her pride wounded at the bare idea of my seeing her,
deserted as well as deceived--abandoned contemptuously, a helpless burden on strangers-
-by the man for whom she had sacrificed and suffered so much? And that man a thief,
flying from the employers whom he had cheated! I pushed open the heavy oaken street-
door, fearing that this might be the true explanation of the change which I had already
remarked in her. My apprehensions were confirmed when she unlocked the inner door,
leading from the courtyard to the sitting-room, and let me in.
As I took her by both hands and kissed her, she turned her head, so that my lips touched
her cheek only. She flushed deeply; her eyes looked away from me as she spoke her few
formal words of welcome. When the child flew into my arms, she cried out, irritably,
"Don't trouble Mr. Germaine!" I took a chair, with the little one on my knee. Mrs. Van
Brandt seated herself at a distance from me. "It is needless, I suppose, to ask you if you
know what has happened," she said, turning pale again as suddenly as she had turned red,
and keeping her eyes fixed obstinately on the floor.
Before I could answer, the child burst out with the news of her father's disappearance in
these words:
"My other papa has run away! My other papa has stolen money! It's time I had a new one,
isn't it?" She put her arms round my neck. "And now I've got him!" she cried, at the
shrillest pitch of her voice.
The mother looked at us. For a while, the proud, sensitive woman struggled successfully
with herself; but the pang that wrung her was not to be endured in silence. With a low cry
 
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