“I will tell you, Madame, why I made confession. It may be that you will not understand, but so it is. I told you that it had been I who stole the ring because I love my little girl so much that I would go to prison—ah, Madame, I would die!—rather than permit that she should suffer. For a mad moment, overborne by your amazing claims, I did believe that she had taken that ring. I thought that she had taken it to help her poor old father—the old flute-player who never has been able to give to his daughter what he wished to give, or what she deserved to have. I thought, perhaps, that Anna, swept away by sorrow for my struggling, had yielded to temptation to help me—the mistaken impulse of a loving child. No crime—no crime! I understand, now, what she meant when she was speaking with me. Her ‘secret!’ Her ‘temptation!’”
He turned to John, now, and addressed him, solely. “Her ‘temptation’ was to be your wife when I had made her promise that she would not think of men until I came to her and told her that I had picked out the one for her. I see it, now; I see it. Her ’temptation’—it was only to become your wife!”
John laughed. “I’m mighty glad it was!” said he. “Yes; that was it; and it’s all settled.”
Mrs. Vanderlyn now rose in wrath. Was it credible that her own son, whom she had reared, as she had thought, to worship all the things she worshiped, wealth, position, rank, could have conceived an actual affection for this penniless, positionless, impossible flute-player’s daughter?
“Settled that you marry her?” she cried. “The daughter of this old musician? It’s impossible! Impossible!”
Her son looked at her deprecatingly. There was not a sign of yielding on his face, but there was plainly written there a keen desire to win her to his side. “Don’t say that, mother,” he implored, “I love—”
But she was not so easily to be placated. She had an argument to use, which, in her wrath, she fancied might be an effective one—and this showed that the poor lady did not even know her son.
“Your father left me all his money,” she said viciously. “If you are fool enough to marry this girl, you shall have nothing—nothing!”
It did not seem to have, on the young man, the instantaneous effect which she had thought it would have. He merely looked at her with a grieved little frown, and, bending towards her, said with earnest emphasis: “That wouldn’t make the slightest difference. I’m young and strong. We’ll get along somehow—and we shall be together.”
“You’ll starve together!” she said viciously.
For a moment the two men remained in an embarrassed silence. Young Vanderlyn, with downcast eyes, was feeling greater mortification than he ever in his life had known before. Just then the loss of millions did not matter to him—what really distressed him was that his mother should make such an exhibition of cold-hearted snobbery before the father of the girl he loved.