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The Two Destinies

14. Mrs. Van Brandt At Home
As I lifted my hand to ring the house bell, the door was opened from within, and no less a
person than Mr. Van Brandt himself stood before me. He had his hat on. We had
evidently met just as he was going out.
"My dear sir, how good this is of you! You present the best of all replies to my letter in
presenting yourself. Mrs. Van Brandt is at home. Mrs. Van Brandt will be delighted. Pray
walk in."
He threw open the door of a room on the ground-floor. His politeness was (if possible)
even more offensive than his insolence. "Be seated, Mr. Germaine, I beg of you." He
turned to the open door, and called up the stairs, in a loud and confident voice:
"Mary! come down directly."
"Mary"! I knew her Christian name at last, and knew it through Van Brandt. No words
can tell how the name jarred on me, spoken by his lips. For the first time for years past
my mind went back to Mary Dermody and Greenwater Broad. The next moment I heard
the rustling of Mrs. Van Brandt's dress on the stairs. As the sound caught my ear, the old
times and the old faces vanished again from my thoughts as completely as if they had
never existed. What had she in common with the frail, shy little child, her namesake, of
other days? What similarity was perceivable in the sooty London lodging-house to
remind me of the bailiff's flower-scented cottage by the shores of the lake?
Van Brandt took off his hat, and bowed to me with sickening servility.
"I have a business appointment," he said, "which it is impossible to put off. Pray excuse
me. Mrs. Van Brandt will do the honors. Good morning."
The house door opened and closed again. The rustling of the dress came slowly nearer
and nearer. She stood before me.
"Mr. Germaine!" she exclaimed, starting back, as if the bare sight of me repelled her. "Is
this honorable? Is this worthy of you? You allow me to be entrapped into receiving you,
and you accept as your accomplice Mr. Van Brandt! Oh, sir, I have accustomed myself to
look up to you as a high-minded man. How bitterly you have disappointed me!"
Her reproaches passed by me unheeded. They only heightened her color; they only added
a new rapture to the luxury of looking at her.
"If you loved me as faithfully as I love you," I said, "you would understand why I am
here. No sacrifice is too great if it brings me into your presence again after two years of
absence."
 
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