Suddenly her heart was filled with resolution. When would there be a better time than now in which to tell him her sweet secret? It could not be that he would be so very angry. His love for her, his longing that she might be happy, were, she knew, too great for that. And, later, when he knew Jack Vanderlyn as well as she had come to know him, he would realize, as she did, that nowhere in the world, not in the castles of the barons on the Rhine, not in the palaces of kings, could he or anyone find more genuine gentility than in this free-born unpretending young American.
“Father!” she said timidly.
“My girl,” said he, without the least suspicion that her heart could, really, be touched by anyone in this cold land of crude democracy, “you must always come and tell me if your heart begins to flutter like a little bird. You—”
“Of—course, my father.”
The matter had not in the least impressed him. As she turned and re-turned something in her hand beneath the table, and tried to rouse her courage to the point of making full confession, the old man quietly dismissed the subject.
“Now, a health to you, my Anna,” he said gaily and raised high his glassful of cheap wine. “May the good God give you all the happiness your father wishes for you! More than that I cannot say, for I wish you all the happiness in all the world. Ah, when I look at you I am so full of joy! It is as if sweet birds were singing in my heart. Wait—you shall hear!”
Forgetting the great feast, as, seized by the impulse to express himself in the completest way he knew he turned from her with a bright smile, he crossed the tiny room and took down from the mantlepiece his flute.
“Ah, play for me!” she cried, delighted, both at the prospect of the music, which she loved with a real passion, and at the prospect of the brief reprieve the diversion would afford her from the revelation which she had to make.
[Illustration: It was as if the “sweet birds singing in his heart” had risen and were perched, all twittering and cooing, chirping, carolling upon his lips]
He pretended shy reluctance. “No; in your heart you do not really wish to hear. You have grown tired of the old flute, long ago.”
She laughed and rose and went to him. “Bad boy! He must be teased! I am not tired of it. To me it is in all the world, the sweetest music. Must I say more? Come, come, for me!”
“Ah, then—for you!”
He raised the old flute to his lips and settled it beneath the thatch of whitened hair which covered his large, sensitive mouth. He took a little breath of preparation. Then he closed his eyes and played.