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THE TWO DESTINIES by Wilkie Collins

Part 6 out of 6

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"Certainly not." I turned to Mrs. Van Brandt. "Tell Elfie if I am
angry with you," I said.

She was perfectly aware, in her critical position, of the
necessity of humoring me. Between us, we succeeded in composing
the child. She turned away to examine, in high delight, the new
and strange objects which surrounded her. Meanwhile her mother
and I stood together, looking at each other by the light of the
lamp, with an assumed composure which hid our true faces like a
mask. In that horrible situation, the grotesque and the terrible,
always together in this strange life of ours, came together now.
On either side of us, the one sound that broke the si nister and
threatening silence was the lumpish snoring of the sleeping
captain and crew.

She was the first to speak.

"If you wish to give me the money," she said, trying to
propitiate me in that way, "I am ready to take it now."

I unlocked my traveling-bag. As I looked into it for the leather
case which held my money, my overpowering desire to get her on
deck again, my mad impatience to commit the fatal act, became too
strong to be controlled.

"We shall be cooler on deck," I said. "Let us take the bag up

She showed wonderful courage. I could almost see the cry for help
rising to her lips. She repressed it; she had still presence of
mind enough to foresee what might happen before she could rouse
the sleeping men.

"We have a light here to count the money by," she answered. "I
don't feel at all too warm in the cabin. Let us stay here a
little longer. See how Elfie is amusing herself!"

Her eyes rested on me as she spoke. Something in the expression
of them quieted me for the time. I was able to pause and think. I
might take her on deck by force before the men could interfere.
But her cries would rouse them; they would hear the splash in the
water, and they might be quick enough to rescue us. It would be
wiser, perhaps, to wait a little and trust to my cunning to
delude her into leaving the cabin of her own accord. I put the
bag back on the table, and began to search for the leather
money-case. My hands were strangely clumsy and helpless. I could
only find the case after scattering half the contents of the bag
on the table. The child was near me at the time, and noticed what
I was doing.

"Oh, how awkward you are!" she burst out, in her frankly fearless
way. "Let me put your bag tidy. Do, please!"

I granted the request impatiently. Elfie's restless desire to be
always doing something, instead of amusing me, as usual,
irritated me now. The interest that I had once felt in the
charming little creature was all gone. An innocent love was a
feeling that was stifled in the poisoned atmosphere of my mind
that night.

The money I had with me was mostly composed of notes of the Bank
of England. Carefully keeping up appearances, I set aside the sum
that would probably be required to take a traveler back to
London; and I put all that remained into the hands of Mrs. Van
Brandt. Could she suspect me of a design on her life now?

"That will do for the present," I said. "I can communicate with
you in the future through Messrs. Van Brandt, of Amsterdam."

She took the money mechanically. Her hand trembled; her eyes met
mine with a look of piteous entreaty. She tried to revive my old
tenderness for her; she made a last appeal to my forbearance and

"We may part friends," she said, in low, trembling tones. "And as
friends we may meet again, when time has taught you to think
forgivingly of what has passed between us, to-night."

She offered me her hand. I looked at her without taking it. I
penetrated her motive in appealing to my old regard for her.
Still suspecting me, she had tried her last chance of getting
safely on shore.

"The less we say of the past, the better," I answered, with
ironical politeness. "It is getting late. And you will agree with
me that Elfie ought to be in her bed." I looked round at the
child. "Be quick, Elfie," I said; "your mamma is going away." I
opened the cabin door, and offered my arm to Mrs. Van Brandt.
"This boat is my house for the time being," I resumed. "When
ladies take leave of me after a visit, I escort them to the deck.
Pray take my arm.

She started back. For the second time she was on the point of
crying for help, and for the second time she kept that last
desperate alternative in reserve.

"I haven't seen your cabin yet," she said, her eyes wild with
fear, a forced smile on her lips, as she spoke. "There are
several little things here that interest me. Give me another
minute or two to look at them."

She turned away to get nearer to the child, under pretense of
looking round the cabin. I stood on guard before the open door,
watching her. She made a second pretense: she noisily overthrew a
chair as if by accident, and then waited to discover whether her
trick had succeeded in waking the men.

The heavy snoring went on; not a sound of a person moving was
audible on either side of us.

"My men are heavy sleepers," I said, smiling significantly.
"Don't be alarmed; you have not disturbed them. Nothing wakes
these Dutch sailors when they are once safe in port."

She made no reply. My patience was exhausted. I left the door and
advanced toward her. She retreated in speechless terror, passing
behind the table to the other end of the cabin. I followed her
until she had reached the extremity of the room and could get no
further. She met the look I fixed on her; she shrunk into a
corner, and called for help. In the deadly terror that possessed
her, she lost the use of her voice. A low moaning, hardly louder
than a whisper, was all that passed her lips. Already, in
imagination, I stood with her on the gunwale, already I felt the
cold contact of the water--when I was startled by a cry behind
me. I turned round. The cry had come from Elfie. She had
apparently just discovered some new object in the bag, and she
was holding it up in admiration, high above her head. "Mamma!
mamma!" the child cried, excitedly, "look at this pretty thing!
Oh, do, do ask him if I may have it!"

Her mother ran to her, eager to seize the poorest excuse for
getting away from me. I followed; I stretched out my hands to
seize her. She suddenly turned round on me, a woman transformed.
A bright flush was on her face, an eager wonder sparkled in her
eyes. Snatching Elfie's coveted object out of the child's hand,
she held it up before me. I saw it under the lamp-light. It was
my little forgotten keepsake--the Green Flag!

"How came you by this?" she asked, in breathless anticipation of
my reply. Not the slightest trace was left in her face of the
terror that had convulsed it barely a minute since! "How came you
by this?" she repeated, seizing me by the arm and shaking me, in
the ungovernable impatience that possessed her.

My head turned giddy, my heart beat furiously under the conflict
of emotions that she had roused in me. My eyes were riveted on
the green flag. The words that I wanted to speak were words that
refused to come to me. I answered, mechanically: "I have had it
since I was a boy."

She dropped her hold on me, and lifted her hands with a gesture
of ecstatic gratitude. A lovely, angelic brightness flowed like
light from heaven over her face. For one moment she stood
enraptured. The next she clasped me passionately to her bosom,
and whispered in my ear: "I am Mary Dermody! I made it for You!"

The shock of discovery, following so closely on all that I had
suffered before it, was too much for me. I sank, fainting, in her

When I came to myself I was lying on my bed in the cabin. Elfie
was playing with the green flag, and Mary was sitting by me with
my hand in hers. One long look of love passed silently from her
eyes to mine--from mine to hers. In that look the kindred spirits
were united; The Two Destinies were fulfilled.


The Finale.


THERE was a little introductory narrative prefixed to "The Two
Destinies," which you may possibly have forgotten by this time.

The narrative was written by myself--a citizen of the United
States, visiting England with his wife. It described a
dinner-party at which we were present, given by Mr. and Mrs.
Germaine, in celebration of their marriage; and it mentioned the
circumstances under which we were intrusted with the story which
has just come to an end in these pages. Having read the
manuscript, Mr. and Mrs. Germaine left it to us to decide whether
we should continue our friendly intercourse with them or not.

At 3 o'clock P.M. we closed the last leaf of the story. Five
minutes later I sealed it up in its cover; my wife put her bonnet
on, and there we were, bound straight for Mr. Germaine's house,
when the servant brought a letter into the room, addressed to my

She opened it, looked at the signature, and discovered
that it was "Mary Germaine." Seeing this, we sat down side by
side to read the letter before we did anything else.

On reflection, it strikes me that you may do well to read it,
too. Mrs. Germaine is surely by this time a person in whom you
feel some interest. And she is on that account, as I think, the
fittest person to close the story. Here is her letter:

"DEAR MADAM (or may I say- 'dear friend'?)--Be prepared, if you
please, for a little surprise. When you read these lines we shall
have left London for the Continent.

"After you went away last night, my husband decided on taking
this journey. Seeing how keenly he felt the insult offered to me
by the ladies whom we had asked to our table, I willingly
prepared for our sudden departure. When Mr. Germaine is far away
from his false friends, my experience of him tells me that he
will recover his tranquillity. That is enough for me.

"My little daughter goes with us, of course. Early this morning I
drove to the school in the suburbs at which she is being
educated, and took her away with me. It is needless to say that
she was delighted at the prospect of traveling. She shocked the
schoolmistress by waving her hat over her head and crying
'Hooray,' like a boy. The good lady was very careful to inform me
that my daughter could not possibly have learned to cry 'Hooray'
in _her_ house.

"You have probably by this time read the narrative which I have
committed to your care. I hardly dare ask how I stand in your
estimation now. Is it possible that I might have seen you and
your good husband if we had not left London so suddenly? As
things are, I must now tell you in writing what I should
infinitely have preferred saying to you with your friendly hand
in mine.

"Your knowledge of the world has no doubt already attributed the
absence of the ladies at our dinner-table to some report
affecting my character. You are quite right. While I was taking
Elfie away from her school, my husband called on one of his
friends who dined with us (Mr. Waring), and insisted on an
explanation. Mr. Waring referred him to the woman who is known to
you by this time as Mr. Van Brandt's lawful wife. In her
intervals of sobriety she possesses some musical talent; Mrs.
Waring had met with her at a concert for a charity, and had been
interested in the story of her wrongs, as she called them. My
name was, of course, mentioned. I was described as a 'cast-off
mistress' of Van Brandt, who had persuaded Mr. Germaine into
disgracing himself by marrying her, and becoming the step-father
of her child. Mrs. Waring thereupon communicated what she had
heard to other ladies who were her friends. The result you saw
for yourselves when you dined at our house.

"I inform you of what has happened without making any comment.
Mr. Germaine's narrative has already told you that I foresaw the
deplorable consequences which might follow our marriage, and that
I over and over again (God knows at what cost of misery to
myself) refused to be his wife. It was only when my poor little
green flag had revealed us to each other that I lost all control
over myself. The old time on the banks of the lake came back to
me; my heart hungered for its darling of happier days; and I said
Yes, when (as you may think) I ought to have still said No. Will
you take poor old Dame Dermody's view of it, and believe that the
kindred spirits, once reunited, could be parted no more? Or will
you take my view, which is simpler still? I do love him so
dearly, and he is so fond of me!

"In the meantime, our departure from England seems to be the
wisest course that we can adopt. As long as this woman lives she
will say again of me what she has said already, whenever she can
find the opportunity. My child might hear the reports about her
mother, and might be injured by them when she gets older. We
propose to take up our abode, for a time at least, in the
neighborhood of Naples. Here, or further away yet, we may hope to
live without annoyance among a people whose social law is the law
of mercy. Whatever may happen, we have always one last
consolation to sustain us--we have love.

"You talked of traveling on the Continent when you dined with us.
If you should wander our way, the English consul at Naples is a
friend of my husband's, and he will have our address. I wonder
whether we shall ever meet again? It does seem hard to charge the
misfortunes of my life on me, as if they were my faults.

"Speaking of my misfortunes, I may say, before I close this
letter, that the man to whom I owe them is never likely to cross
my path again. The Van Brandts of Amsterdam have received certain
information that he is now on his way to New Zealand. They are
determined to prosecute him if he returns. He is little likely to
give them the opportunity.

"The traveling-carriage is at the door: I must say good-by. My
husband sends to you both his kindest regards and best wishes.
His manuscript will be quite safe (when you leave London) if you
send it to his bankers, at the address inclosed. Think of me
sometimes--and think of me kindly. I appeal confidently to _your_
kindness, for I don't forget that you kissed me at parting. Your
grateful friend (if you will let her be your friend),


We are rather impulsive people in the United States, and we
decide on long journeys by sea or land without making the
slightest fuss about it. My wife and I looked at each other when
we had read Mrs. Germaine's letter.

"London is dull," I remarked, and waited to see what came of it.

My wife read my remark the right way directly.

"Suppose we try Naples?" she said.

That is all. Permit us to wish you good-by. We are off to Naples.

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