The Two Destinies HTML version

27. Conversation With Mrs. Van Brandt
THE landlady was taking the air at her own door when I reached the house. Her reply to
my inquiries justified my most hopeful anticipations. The poor lodger looked already
"like another woman"; and the child was at that moment posted on the stairs, watching
for the return of her "new papa."
"There's one thing I should wish to say to you, sir, before you go upstairs," the woman
went on. "Don't trust the lady with more money at a time than the money that is wanted
for the day's housekeeping. If she has any to spare, it's as likely as not to be wasted on her
good-for-nothing husband."
Absorbed in the higher and dearer interests that filled my mind, I had thus far forgotten
the very existence of Mr. Van Brandt.
"Where is he?" I asked.
"Where he ought to be," was the answer. "In prison for debt."
In those days a man imprisoned for debt was not infrequently a man imprisoned for life.
There was little fear of my visit being shortened by the appearance on the scene of Mr.
Van Brandt.
Ascending the stairs, I found the child waiting for me on the upper landing, with a ragged
doll in her arms. I had bought a cake for her on my way to the house. She forthwith
turned over the doll to my care, and, trotting before me into the room with her cake in her
arms, announced my arrival in these words:
"Mamma, I like this papa better than the other. You like him better, too."
The mother's wasted face reddened for a moment, then turned pale again, as she held out
her hand to me. I looked at her anxiously, and discerned the welcome signs of recovery,
clearly revealed. Her grand gray eyes rested on me again with a glimmer of their old
light. The hand that had lain so cold in mine on the past night had life and warmth in it
"Should I have died before the morning if you had not come here?" she asked, softly.
"Have you saved my life for the second time? I can well believe it."
Before I was aware of her, she bent her head over my hand, and touched it tenderly with
her lips. "I am not an ungrateful woman," she murmured--"and yet I don't know how to
thank you."
The child looked up quickly from her cake. "Why don't you kiss him?" the quaint little
creature asked, with a broad stare of astonishment.