“I am very, very poor, Madame,” he said. “I am only a poor flute-player. Things have not gone well with me since I have been in your so great, so glorious country. No; they have gone very far from well with me. If they had not gone most ill do you imagine that I ever would have let my Anna go to you as your companion? Do you not imagine that it cut my soul to have her separate from me, that it cut my pride to have to tacitly admit that I was quite unable to provide for her? Yes, Madame; it cut both soul and pride. But I am very poor. What could I do? I am so poor that always I have little to wear—see, Madame, this old suit is all that I possess! It prevents me, possibly, from getting better wages than I might get if I were not so shabby. Often, also, I do not have enough to eat. That, Madame, is true, although my Anna does not know it. Well, glittering in that little box upon the dresser, when I was there at your house, I saw so much comfort, so much happiness.”
The old man’s art had won, indeed. He had quite convinced the woman that it had been he and not his daughter who had stolen the diamond.
She was not exactly disappointed, although it robbed the crime of one of its most dramatic elements—ingratitude. She was being quite as well diverted by the old man’s dignity and calm as she would have been by his poor Anna’s wild, hysterical grief. She was, perhaps, she thought, a very lucky woman. She had not only had a valuable diamond stolen, which, of itself, was entertaining, in a way, but she had recovered it through such a strange experience as would furnish food for tales to be told in boudoirs and over tea-cups for three months.
“So it really was you!”
“Yes, yes; have I not told you?”
There was an inconsistency in this affair, however, and Mrs. Vanderlyn thought herself a veritable Sherlock Holmes as she pounced on it. “But that note from Anna?” she protested.
Kreutzer had been thinking of that note from Anna, and, for a time, had found the obstacle a hard one to surmount. At length, and in good time to meet the question, he had, however, arranged an explanation, which, if not too carefully looked into, would seem reasonable.
“Oh, of course,” said he. “You mean the note about her going away? Why, that is easily to be understood. When she came I told her that I have had luck. I told her that we have much money and we go to Germany, at once. I was afraid that if she went back to your house there would arise suspicions, so I said she must not go, but must be content with just the note, alone, for her goodbyes. She did not wish to do this, but consented, at the last, because I ordered her to do it.”
Mrs. Vanderlyn was now entirely convinced. He had made the case against himself so black she could not doubt it; but she determined that if he thought he would gain clemency in payment for the frankness of his full confession he would find himself to be mistaken. It was her duty as a member of society, she told herself, to see to it that the guilty poor who prey upon the helpless rich should not pass on unpunished.