The old flute-player, after a scared glance into the hallway, where he had thought he saw the flash of brazen buttons, bowed low and handsomely. Among all the millionaire male friends of Mrs. Vanderlyn was not one who was half capable of such a bow, and, in a dim way she appreciated this. She did not for a moment, though, think it marked the aged man before her as a gentleman, and worthy, therefore, of consideration from a lady. She was trying to feel certain, now, that what she had believed an evidence of really high breeding, was, really, mere clever sham. The old musician had lost all the glamor of his mystery for her. Surely, had he really been what she suspected, then his daughter would have been incapable of the offense which she, its victim, had come there to punish. Now the old man’s courtly grace upon the ship, by which she had been fooled into believing him a person of real eminence, was openly revealed to her as counterfeit and worthless—he was a swindler, almost, indeed, as viciously dishonest as the thing his daughter had been guilty of. Now his manner merely sent a vague reflection through her brain that upon the ocean’s other side their peasants were well trained. Now she was bitterly resentful of the fact that, on the ship, she had been fooled into thinking him a person, possibly, of eminence.
“So,” said Kreutzer, offering her, with graceful courtesy which made her falter in her new conviction, and a perfect ease, withal, which much astonished her, the best chair in the room. “And you, Madame, are Mrs. Vanderlyn?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Vanderlyn replied. “I’m Mrs. Vanderlyn. Your daughter, till to-day, was—my companion.”
“Ah, Madame; I know,” said the old man. “You wish to see her? Is that the reason why you honor my so humble home, Madame?”
Mrs. Vanderlyn, who had come to bluster, was a bit nonplussed, even a bit abashed by the superb and easy manner of the man. Never in her life had she been privileged, indeed, to meet with a reception so graceful and so courteous. Could she, after all, be wrong? Here, at last, in an apartment on the top floor of a New York tenement, had she encountered what she had vainly searched for, elsewhere, even on her travels in the European countries. This was the grace and courtesy which she had read about. She really was much impressed, and, in her heart, would have been pleased if she had had an errand there less disagreeable. She wondered why she had not remembered with more accuracy, the superb demeanor of this aged man on shipboard. If she had only realized—she even might have dressed him up, she speculated, and had him at her house for dinner! She could have introduced him to her climbing friends as a musician of great eminence, abroad (she remembered with regret, now, that he really played the flute magnificently—so everyone on shipboard had exclaimed), and made them envious to a degree. But now that she had started on this task, she would not falter. She assured herself, indeed, that duty as a citizen demanded that she should not falter.