“I suppose so,” she said grudgingly. “But any attempt at escape will be useless. You—”
He looked at her with a sad dignity.
“I shall not try to escape,” he said. “I only ask that if it can be done, as long as it may be possible to do it, my Anna shall not know about my sin, discovery, disgrace. Let her think, please, Madame, if you will, that I have gone on a long journey.”
This, too, she granted grudgingly. “Oh, very well, if you imagine such things can be hidden. I won’t tell her. Just as you wish.”
“You will wait here for me while I say goodbye to her?”
“Well, don’t be long.”
The old flute-player was turning towards the kitchen door, when a loud rap upon the hall door halted him.
“I suppose the officer has grown tired of waiting,” Mrs. Vanderlyn explained.
“Come in,” said Kreutzer, wonderingly. Few visitors had ever knocked at his door since he had moved to that tenement.
To Mrs. Vanderlyn’s amazement, and his own, the door, when it had opened, revealed John Vanderlyn. He was very plainly worried. He did not even stop for greetings, but said, immediately, to his mother:
“Well, mother, what are you doing here?”
Mrs. Vanderlyn was quite as much surprised, apparently, to see him there, as he was to discover her in the old flute-player’s rooms.
“My dear boy!” she cried. “How in the world did you learn that I had come here? What do you want? Has something happened at the house?”
Her son advanced into the room with a low bow to his host. It was quite plain that, for some reason, he wished to show Herr Kreutzer every courtesy; it was plain that he had reason to suspect that, possibly, his mother had not done so and that this fact worried him.
“The butler heard you give the order to the chauffeur to drive you to Herr Kreutzer’s home,” he told his mother briefly. Then, turning to Herr Kreutzer, he said earnestly: “My dear sir, if my mother has said anything harsh or disagreeable to you—”
Kreutzer was astonished, but had no complaint to make. His only wish was, now, to have his opportunity to bid his girl farewell and then to go to prison, where, as quickly as was possible, he might serve out whatever sentence was imposed on him. After his release, if the sentence was not of such duration that it spanned the few short years of life remaining to him, he would once again work for his Anna and endeavor to atone to her for the misfortunes which his own incompetence, he argued, had oppressed her with.
“Your mother,” he assured the youth, so that the situation might not be prolonged, “has been polite. Your mother has been most polite.”
The young man, with an expression of relief upon his face, turned then, to his mother. “Tell me, mother, what has brought you here,” he said.
She did not hesitate. The situation did not in the least depress her. Rather was she somewhat proud of her own part in it. “It’s really painful, my dear boy,” said she, “but I flatter myself that I’ve been quite a Sherlock Holmes. I suppose you haven’t even discovered, yet, that the diamond ring is gone—is stolen.”