She dropped the basket and screamed instinctively. A harsh voice rasped behind her.
“Schweigen ihr, Fritz!”
The stillness was broken by the sweet chiming of multiple bells. Ivy thought that she had died, but when she opened her eyes her skewed vision met the pattern of the carpet. Ivy hated that carpet. Surely there was nothing like that in Heaven.
Glockner slid his grasp from her wrist to her hand as she pulled violently away. Between the opposite force they exerted, the latches on the violin case gave way. Released, Ivy plummeted backwards over the kerb towards the oncoming traffic, her arms outstretched for the instrument. She could not save it. The lid fell open, the case hit the ground, and the next instant the valuable antique violin was in a dozen splinters of wood and curling strings.
Paris and the treasured violin were awhirl before her eyes, but she was aware of the man who set her on her feet and spoke in broken French. He was a very young Englishman, about twenty, Ivy thought. He had a smart little moustache and gentle gray eyes.
Peter shook himself from his reverie “As will I—miss you, that is. Do—” he blushed.
Ivy looked back at him innocently; Mr. Byrne looked away very hard. “Mmm?”
“The doctor doesn’t give him more than a few days. I’m not gifted with eloquence, so I can’t wax poetic, and I shan’t be hypocritical. I can’t say how many times that I’ve said ‘I’m sorry’ recently, but I really mean it. I am sorry. Sorrier than I can say.”
“Well? Go on. He’s waiting.”
Bracing himself, Peter entered the dim room and approached the bed. Was that his father? Peter blinked. Very much altered? Was it even the same person? Guilt thrust a dagger through his heart, and Peter hated himself with a vengeance. How had he dared stayed away? Had he not realized how his family loved him?
“You like her?” Lady Bertram asked frankly.
“Well, Mum,” said Peter, blushing, “We were together a great deal, and when you have a pleasant, charming companion, and you don’t dislike her, it is difficult not to like her.”
“You will keep in mind, my lord, that that ‘paltry little detective’ is responsible for the safe return of your grandson, something which three of the best of his trade and all of Scotland Yard failed—” Walter’s voice broke off as the door opened.
“Insult? Bah!” retorted The Earl. “My son is like his late mother. Roger can be fanciful at times. Don’t think for a moment that I am partial to him over Heinrich! I would at any given time disown him, and give the rights to the business to his brother who would be more grateful for it!”
Walter bounced up. Peter looked as though he had raised a ghost.
“How could you, sir? After all I’ve just told you! Did you even hear a word I said?”
The Earl rose and turned to Peter exactly as if he had not.
His father was unfit to fight for him; it would be unkind to make him do so. He would have to bear this burden himself. The sudden weight of adulthood fell upon him, and he saw what he was undertaking. It was not a manly thing to cry—but to never play the violin, his dear instrument! Ever! He could not bear it! It was as though he was being punished for coming home. Choking on a cry, Peter sprang up, out of the room, and into his own chamber, where he threw himself on to his bed and wept.